Can’t get out of the 614 this summer but still craving a great escape? Here are some local bars that allow you to feel like you’re getting away without having to get your bathing suit areas scanned by the TSA. Most of these spots are family-friendly, but it’s best to call each directly for exact details.
Tequila Cowboy • 1069 Polaris Pkwy.
Travel south by heading to North Columbus. This Nashville staple has been featured on the hit ABC show of the same name, and last year it expanded its share of Honky Tonk Highway to Columbus by opening a 20,000-square-foot outpost in Polaris. Hiding behind an unassuming strip mall exterior is a complex of Southern Hospitality that includes an impressive live music stage and dance floor, an adjoining karaoke bar boasting a 250,000-song catalog, and a respectable bar selection to help give you enough liquid courage to saddle up on the mechanical bull. (Or fall off.) Tequila Cowboy also offers pub grub fare and pizza from Luigi’s Pizza, free line dancing every Wednesday night, and live music performances every Friday and Saturday nights (free before 10 p.m, $5 cover after).
Hofbrauhaus • 800 Goodale Blvd.
Columbus is no stranger to German bars and restaurants, but none tip its Alpine hat to Deutschland’s love for communal swill quite the way Hofbrauhaus in Grandview Yard does. This 18,000-square-foot bar-restaurant is modeled after the 400-plus-year-old Munich original (yep, it is older than our country), offering an impressive hall filled with rows of wooden picnic tables, steins of classic Bavarian biers all brewed on-site, and ample garden seating. Most days the hall is filled with accordion-fueled live performances of traditional German folk and drinking songs, including, of course, the Hofbrauhaus-Lied—a classic German oom-pah drinking song and the principal ode to the famed beer hall. The food menu boasts an impressive range of traditional Bavarian fare (try the Käsespätzle!), and die-hard drinkers can wash it down with their very own personal stein that will be kept on-site in a storage locker for a small fee.
Hollywood Casino • 200 Georgesville Rd.
You don’t have to travel 2,000 miles to Las Vegas to lose money, you can do that right here in Columbus! Hollywood Casino offers many of the same hallmarks as Sin City—a casino filled with beeps and boops and blinking lights, table games, restaurants, live music, and specialty shows—the only thing missing is shady men flicking cards of nude girls. The casino is even open 24 hours a day with limited clocks and windows so you can enjoy the same feeling of panic you do in Vegas when you realize you’ve accidentally been playing craps until 4 a.m. If your luck doesn’t shake out, you can always eat your feelings at the casino’s gut-busting buffet… which I call a win.
Flannagan’s • 6835 Caine Rd.
Somehow, one of the most tropical spots in Columbus is located off of one of its most congested roads. Flannagan’s, near Sawmill Road in Dublin, offers the opportunity to enjoy a beachy breakout without breaking the bank—just $5 ($7 on weekends) gives you first-come, first-served access to Elly Bay, a 2000-square-foot outdoor heated pool complete with a full-service swim-up bar and 100-plus chairs for lounging. Weekdays are your best bet if you prefer to get your vitamin D with a good book, as weekends are usually jam-packed and high-energy. The bar is famous for its nightly volleyball tournaments, which can be viewed from inside and outside the bar, and plays host to noteworthy live music performances, if getting sprayed with champagne by Steve Aoki is your thing.
FM All American Bar & Grill • 154 N Hamilton Rd., Gahanna
Can’t decide which of the countless American tourist attractions to visit? Well then DON’T and visit FM Bar & Grill in Gahanna instead. This spot takes its all-American description seriously, same with the “food and music,” the FM in the bar’s title stands for—walls are covered in Americana ranging from license plates from every state in the U.S. to classic album covers. Themes change room to room; one dubbed “The Tree Room” is lined with log cabin-inspired wood paneling and historical photographs, another pays tribute to the Rat Pack days of Las Vegas. The bar offers nightly food and drink specials, free live music every Friday and Saturday night, and “Boogie Nights” the last Friday of every month, at which you and your pointer finger can dance to disco favorites alongside the life-size montage of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever that graces the bar’s stage.