You want to go out with your friends. You want to socialize, relax, and unwind. Your options just got more interactive. Several creative bar owners are now offering unique experiences along with the craft beers, specialty cocktails, and wine list. Whether your tastes run to enjoying a beer while you play fetch with Fido, sipping wine while you paint, or nursing a Donkey Kong cocktail during a pinball match, welcome to a whole new world of entertaining nightlife.

Westport Social

Westport Social • St. Louis

910 Westport Plaza Drive • 314-548-2876 •

This lively establishment is not your typical watering hole. It’s located in a 42-acre business and entertainment district in the city’s Maryland Heights suburb, and it serves up beer, wine, and handcrafted cocktails seven days a week with a side of friendly competition. Visitors have access to an expansive selection of free games, including indoor bocce ball, shuffleboard, Pop-A-Shot, table tennis, darts, foosball, and a soccer/pool combo called snookball. Game instructions and murals, hand-painted by local artist Phil Jarvis, hang throughout the bar. Guests can lounge inside or around a fire pit on the open patio as they munch on upscale pub foods such as smoked wings, burnt-end nachos, bison chili, and lobster ravioli. There are stages for live music, private karaoke rooms for rent, and large TVs broadcasting sporting events. With so much to see and do, Westport Social represents the rising trend of activity-driven bars that provide alternatives to traditional nightlife choices.

“The millennial crowd, and even older generations, don’t just want to sit on a bar stool and drink a beer,” says Todd Hotaling, vice president of revenue and marketing for Lodging Hospitality Management, the company that owns Westport Social. “People want to go out with a group of friends and have a shared experience in a fun and approachable environment.”

RSVPaint • Springfield and Joplin

Springfield: 440 South Campbell Avenue • 417-413-4331 • • Joplin: 223 West Third Street • 417-680-5434 •

This sip-and-create studio offers diverse projects, such as wood designs, personalized wineglasses, and canvas paintings. Owners Fred and Amanda Carper are the owners of RSVPaint. The husband-and-wife duo bought the business from its original founder in 2013 and moved it from a 700-square-foot space to a 4,000-square-foot location. The Carpers opened a second RSVPaint in downtown Joplin in 2014.

The couple invested $12,000 to build a full bar made from reclaimed barn wood. The bar, which overlooks the art studio, offers mixed drinks and Missouri-made wines and craft beers from Ste. Genevieve Winery, Mother’s Brewing Company, Lost Signal Brewing Company, and Boulevard Brewing Company. Fred says sweet drinks—moscato and fruit wines—are the most requested among his customers. People can also bring their own beverages for a $5 fee.

“Our culture is inundated with technology,” Fred says. “People want a way to unwind without the screens and interact with their friends and family. The bar adds to the social atmosphere and provides liquid courage. People have a drink and it helps to settle their nervousness about exploring their creative side.”

Silverball • Columbia

122 South Ninth Street • •

A selection of premium frozen drinks and more than 40 arcade favorites attract crowds to Silverball in downtown Columbia. Proprietor Nic Parks opened the venue in September 2017 after more than a decade of owning a pinball machine company. In recent years, Nic noticed that many of his customers across the country were opening bars with arcades, also known as barcades.

“I am 39 years old,” Nic says. “I don’t want to go to a bar and listen to loud music or just sit there and stare at sports on a TV. There needs to be something fun for people to do while they drink to make it worth them coming out instead of just staying at home. When you come here, people are laughing and cheering each other on in the games. It’s a different energy than what you find at other bars.”

Nic says most of the barcades he has toured emphasize craft and on-tap beers, and video games from the ’80s and ’90s. He decided to go a different direction for Silverball by installing 12 frozen drink machines and a mix of modern and vintage pinball, video arcade, Skee-Ball, air hockey, Pop-A-Shot, and foosball games. Some have a small pay-as-you-play charge, but all the pinball machines and some of the classic arcade games on the main level are free. Beer and wine are available at the bar, but the most popular drink is the Silverballer, a slushy mixture of 190-proof grain alcohol and orange juice. Other icy concoctions, such as the Donkey Kong (white rum, banana liqueur, cacao-flavored liqueur, and vanilla soft serve) and the Princess Peach (white rum with fresh peach puree) take their names from characters in the bar’s featured games.

Pieces Bar and Restaurant • St. Louis

1535 South Eighth Street • 314-230-5184 •

More than 750 board games are the draw in this Soulard neighborhood establishment, along with local craft beers, wine, and specialty libations. It costs customers $5 per person to play the games, but patrons get $1 off the fee for each food or drink item they purchase. Cocktails such as the After School Snack (vodka, lemonade, and club soda garnished with a rocket pop), the Floating Yoda (coffee-flavored liqueur, vodka, splash of milk, and mint chocolate chip ice cream) and the Creamsicle (whipped cream vodka, orange liqueur, orange juice, and lemon-lime soda) are part of the lighthearted drink menu. Pieces also serves dinner Tuesday to Sunday and brunch on weekends.

“I used to love loud bars,” says co-owner Laura Leister. “But now, I like to be able to talk and have nice conversations without having to compete with loud music. You can come here to have a good time in a bar atmosphere without all the noise and heavy drinking.”

Chicken N Pickle • North Kansas City

1761 Burlington Street • 816-537-1400 •

Pickleball and more than 30 craft beers are changing the face of nightlife here. Pickleball is a fast-paced paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and Ping-Pong. Chicken N Pickle is a complex that has eight pickleball courts available for casual play, lessons, leagues, and tournaments. “Pickleball is a game for all ages and skill levels, and it is easy to learn,” says marketing manager Amanda Unruh.

But diners can find more than pickleball at the eatery; games such as giant Jenga, giant Battleship, hula hoops, cornhole, and washers round out the options. The on-site restaurant specializes in wood-fired rotisserie chicken, salads, sandwiches, and sides made from high-quality, local ingredients. Handcrafted cocktails and the craft beers are served at the main bar inside the restaurant, at the heated rooftop bar, and in the covered beer garden. Chicken N Pickle is always family-friendly, but it also offers weekday happy hours and 21-and-over events, such as spirit tastings, open-mic nights, and beer-pairing dinners, a few times a month.

Bar K Lab • Kansas City

515 Liberty Street • 816-599-3656 •

If your dog is your best friend, take it with you. The 16,000-square-foot bar and indoor dog park hybrid is housed in a former warehouse in the West Bottoms neighborhood. Co-founders Leib Dodell and Dave Hensley launched the venture because they struggled to find places that welcomed both their human and canine companions.

“We love our dogs, and we enjoy taking them out,” Leib says. “Options for where we could go with them were limited, so we set out to solve the problem. In the process, we ended up solving a problem for a lot of other people too.”

Bar K Lab has craft beer and kegged cocktails for humans. Pooches can have Beer Paws, a Kansas City-made, nonalcoholic doggy beer with a beef base, malt extract, and vegetarian K9 glucosamine.

The dog park—membership-based and professionally staffed—features games, custom play equipment made from wood pallets, a bone-shaped swimming pool, and an automatic ball launcher. Leib says 450 members have joined Bar K Lab since it opened in January 2017.

The current location is a practice run for Leib and Dave’s permanent vision; new construction is underway at Berkley Riverfront Park. When the new location opens this spring, it will be a seven-day-a-week, 80,000-square-foot destination with a bar, a two-acre, off-leash dog park, full-service restaurant, and a coffee shop. Leib believes specialty bars like his and others provide a much-needed retreat.

“People want to focus on the simpler things and share a common experience,” he says. “We can already see the success of this model. Dogs are natural social icebreakers. Friendships are being formed, and everyone is having a great time.”

Paint the Town • Columbia

2703 East Broadway, #127 • 573-777-7795 •

Paint-and-sip bars, which combine arts and crafts with adult beverages, were pioneers of the activity-bar trend. Entrepreneurs Monty and Kim Murphy opened Paint the Town in Columbia in 2013. The establishment, which is open seven days a week, has a full bar with mixed drinks, 20 wines, and 15 craft beers. The signature cocktail is the RumChata Colada, a blend of RumChata liqueur, piña colada mixer, Malibu rum, and vanilla ice cream. Patrons can paint on their own or as part of a guided class. Murphy says Paint the Town is a popular spot for date nights, girls’ nights out, and bachelorette parties.

“This gives adults an opportunity to go out, away from the college student crowd, and not just sit and drink,” Monty says. “They can come in and experience doing art in a relaxed environment, and they have something they can take home with them at the end of the night.”