There's something special about a great themed bar, one that takes you out of the world you're in and transports you to somewhere else entirely. In Austin, you'll find a couple of these decked-out watering holes, like a dive bar that's constantly decorated for Christmas or a cocktail bar rocking a '70s Palm Springs vibe. The next time you're looking for something to do in town, head to one of these quirky spots for a drink and some serious ’gramming.
Visit these themed bars in Austin
Take a trip back in time at Kitty Cohen's, a 1970's-inspired cocktail bar in East Austin that will have you dreaming of Palm Springs pool parties. A mini pool graces the center of the bar's courtyard, where tipsy imbibers sip on frozen gin and tonics, punches and Singapore Slings. And yes, you can get into the pool, if only for a dip. Ladies, keep an eye out for the photo of Burt Reynolds in his birthday suit.
It’s always Christmas at Lala’s. Located in a quiet, outdated shopping strip, Lala’s is a kitschy homage to the holiday season. Upon entering the space, you’ll hear the sweet crooning of Frank Sinatra or Nat King Cole emanating from the jukebox. Also expect lots of Christmas lights, gold foil decorations hanging from the ceiling and a motley crew of regulars perched at the bar. Order a Manhattan or an old-fashioned, take a seat and proceed to tell the glowing, plastic Santa what you want for Christmas.
As if Rainey Street isn't enough of a circus, Unbarlievable is embracing the Big Top with a circus-themed bar (and a name so punny it might make a clown roll its eyes). The watering hole could be considered a sports bar, with a handful of TVs mounted both inside and on the back patio, but the menu here fully embraces the Ringling Bros. vibe. Order funnel cakes that range from traditional to a breakfast version (topped with a fried egg, sausage gravy and bacon), along with jumbo-size drinks like a Moscow mule that could satisfy five. The decor could play into the theme a little more—some circus stripes inside are as close as it gets to resembling a tent—but you'll have a blast if you're with a solid crew.
Painted in circus murals and boasting a David Lynch-ian vibe, the Carousel Lounge is quite possibly Austin’s strangest watering hole. Opened in 1963, the theme was inspired by New Orleans’ famous Carousel Lounge, which one donned a giant circus tent and massive pink elephant. The tent is gone and the massive elephant has been replaced with one that is merely large one but everything else has remained untouched. Despite the eccentric atmosphere, the warmth of the staff and regulars is unmatched and you may just fall in love with this quirky, circus-themed relic of a dive bar found in an unremarkable part of town.
Kung Fu Saloon recently relocated to its new location on West 6th, but the watering hole's vintage arcade theme has remained the same. Skee Ball, Ms. Pacman, Street Fighter II, Giant Jenga and more are on offer to challenge your friends (or maybe that cute date you're meeting up with for the first time), plus an expansive food menu allows for smoky queso breaks. The beer list here is impressive, but there's also a sake bomb menu to continue with the Kung Fu theme. Who knows—maybe your Street Fighter game will get better the more you drink.
If a bar that takes its decorative cues from A Clockwork Orange seems a little creepy—well, it is. But Moloko has proven itself to be a steady neighborhood watering hole, one where the theme is primarily relegated to the decor. The name is derived from a fictional cocktail from the film, while the oudoor drinking patio is lined with a black-and-white–striped fence that alludes to Stanley Kubrick's cult hit. Stop by during their generous happy hour (Sun-Tue all day, Wed-Sat 5-10pm) for $6 classic cocktails and $4 sangria.