Whether you're looking for the perfect way to wind down the workday, playing tourist, need some date ideas, or just a night out with friends, using the train may be the best way to barhop downtown Chicago. The L train in Chicago spins partygoers from drink to drink and dance floor to dance floor, all without having to worry about getting behind the wheel.
Hopping on and off the Red Line is an accessible way to visit a variety of bars and clubs in Chicago that offer a full range of nightlife venues to please any crowd. You can make new friends, sing along with live bands, or give your best-inebriated effort at breakdancing; whatever it is, there's a place to try it all before your friends decide that you've embarrassed yourself enough. The best part is the ease at which you can move from bar to bar -- especially when the scene grows stale, or you have an awkward encounter with a former bad date and need to hightail it outta there!
For a fun barhopping route, start on the north side of the city and work your way down the L's Red Line:
Gibson's Bar and Steak House
Start at the Clark/Division stop, jump off, and head down to this can't miss classic Chicago steak house on the north end of Rush Street. With celebrity headshots on the walls, a piano in the lounge, and cocktails that will knock down an elephant, this quintessential restaurant will start your night off strong. The staff here is also incredibly knowledgeable about the menu, cuts of meat, and vintage bottles of wine -- so take advantage of the knowhow, treat yourself to an upscale meal, and properly coat your stomach for all the imbibing that's ahead of you. One last tip, if you plan to head down to Gibson's on the weekend, call ahead to avoid the hour-long wait.
The Lodge Tavern
Just a few blocks up the street -- right next to the Clark/Division stop -- is The Lodge Tavern, which has been intoxicating Chicago residents since 1957. This little old spot on the famous Rush and Division strip is the perfect place to take the evening to the next level. It's a rowdy yet friendly pub with an old-school jukebox playing real 45s and memorabilia from the turn of the century adorning the walls. Less swanky than Gibson's, you won't feel guilty jumping into the booze-fest, munching on the free peanuts, and easing your way into the night.
After satiating your stomach and priming the night with some Lodge Tavern liquor, hop back on the L and get off at the Chicago stop. Just a short walk away is Pippin's Tavern, a cozy little Chicago bar on Rush Street with a lively vibe, killer music, and an eclectic crowd -- you might find yourself interacting with anyone from longtime locals and businessmen to hipsters, party girls and frat-boys rooting for the Cubs on the flat-screens. With obscure brews on tap and cheap drinks that won't bust your wallet, it's almost disrespectful not to sauce up at Pippin's. The patrons and the bartenders here are super friendly, so if you like getting to know strangers, this is definitely the place for you.
Howl at the Moon
Now that you're feeling toasty from your cheap craft beers, it's time to have a little old fashioned fun at Howl at the Moon, a dueling piano bar one stop away at Grand. Whether you just pop in for a song or two and a drink, or end up slurring along to "Benny and the Jets" while wobbling on a chair, you're guaranteed a full night of entertainment. Also, if you're a fan of New Orleans, they pay homage to the French Quarter by making a mean Hurricane. The atmosphere is loud and rowdy with a bevy of bachelorette parties and birthdays on any given night. Make sure to save a little cash, as there is typically a cover from $5-$10 depending on the day.
Blue Frog's Local 22
By your fifth stop, you'll hopefully be feeling the effects of a long night of boozing. There's no need to hop back on the L, simply stumble down a few blocks to Blue Frog's Local 22. Now that you've officially consumed enough liquid confidence and worked out your vocals at Howl at the Moon, it's time to step up to the mic for your best Bon Jovi karaoke rendition. Don't worry, heckling isn't allowed -- not that you should care, as you'll be liquored up enough to pretend you're back in your apartment singing in the shower. Best of all, if you're a local, flash your 60611 zip code for 10 percent off everything on the menu.
So instead of getting bent back at the same old places with the same old crowd or sitting at home drinking and listening to a tired playlist, hit the town instead. No more excuses about nothing to do when there is so much Chicago barhopping to be done. You don't need to drive, just take the Red Line. The best part -- the train never stops running -- so your designated driver is built in on both ends of the night.