- You are vacationing in a city, and have a free day but no clue what to do.
- You are a resident of a city, but are bored with your typical activities and want to mix it up.
- You like to go drinking in the city, but are tired of spending money on Uber or parking.
Fret no more! I have a fun solution that is both entertaining and economical, which I like to refer to as The Public Transit Bar Crawl. Here are the three main requirements you need in order to participate:
- You know how to use a smartphone and map app
- The city has some form of public transportation, be it subway, metro, buses, tram, trolley, etc.
- The city has places that sell alcohol by the glass, like a wine bar, brewpub, distillery, restaurant, etc.
What Is It
The Public Transit Bar Crawl is simple: You (and your travel buddies) use local public transit to travel to different areas of the city. You use your smartphone to find a bar at your chosen stop (random or planned). You have a drink and snack, then get back on the public transit. Repeat this process throughout the day.
How to Do It
I just recently explored the wonderful city of St. Louis via their MetroLink and Google Maps, and it was pretty phenomenal. Below I’ve broken down the concept into the steps I took, along with tips and tricks I picked up along the way. Note: This activity is a great spontaneous adventure, but a little planning and prep can go a long way.
Step 1: Selecting Your Transportation Method
The method of transportation matters, but can work with personal preferences. My favorite option is using the metro or subway because they tend to travel to highly-populated areas which have many nearby bars. Comparably, buses may spend more time in the suburbs and trolleys often have a limited travel route, but each option can still work well. City tour buses often have hop-on-hop-off capabilities which can offer added fun because you get to learn about the city while you ride, and they take you to the best tourist sites, but can also be significantly pricier (five to 10 times more). When considering ticket prices for your chosen transportation method, always check for available day passes.
Step 2: Selecting Your Drinking Buddy
When picking your drinking buddy for this adventure, remember you can do this with anyone who enjoys drinking and spontaneity. For obvious reasons, those under 21 may not be the best partner for hitting adult-beverage locations in your city, unless you know of several spots where they can have fun without supervision and you can throw back a drink while the kids play. Also, there is a lot of walking involved (I racked up twice my normal daily step count on my trip), so you may need to incorporate extra breaks for friends who don’t enjoy or can’t walk more than a couple blocks at a time.
Step 3: Selecting the Day
This activity can be done any day of the week. Just make sure to acquaint yourself with the general hours of operation for bars and the city’s liquor serving hours – the last thing you want is to head out at 10am on a Sunday morning only to discover the bars can’t serve you until 1pm.
Step 4: Preparing Your Equipment
The term “equipment” sounds intense, but these basic items can help ensure a better experience throughout the day:
- Comfortable footwear – I can’t stress this enough, because you will walk a lot. Wearing shoes that give you blisters after an hour of walking will likely cut your adventure short.
- Seasonally-appropriate clothing – If the weather is below 40 degrees, wear a heavy jacket or coat, so you can bundle up while travelling outside. In 40-60-degree weather, layers will be your friend. If it’s a sunny day, don’t forget the sunglasses and sunscreen.
- Fully-charged smartphone(s) – Smartphones are another key factor in minimizing the need to plan too far ahead. This, along with a mapping tool such as Google Maps, allows you to find the bars near public transit stops. Plus, then you can chronicle your adventure with photos or social media updates as you go. If you know your phone doesn’t hold a charge when used all day, be sure to have a couple in your group, or bring a charging cord – many places allow customers to charge their phones while drinking or eating at their establishment.
- Bottle of water – This is not as necessary since you can always order water alongside your adult-beverages, but I find it handy when traveling.
Step 5: Picking Stops & Getting There
Picking stops on your route can be completely random, completely planned, or somewhere in between (the option I prefer). I set out with some idea of the direction I wanted to head, and then I began using Google Maps to identify wine bars as I traveled.
First, I used my smartphone to search “wine bars”, and then used the map to find clusters in different areas so I had multiple options to pick from. Next, I checked when those bars opened, looked at their locations (just to see how far we had to go) and mapped from our current location to the bar. Here are detailed instructions for using Google Maps:
- If you already have the location pulled up in the maps app, click on the car icon. (Alternately, you can enter the destination in the search bar and click the car icon.)
- On the next screen, select the public transportation option (instead of driving), which is the train icon.
- Select the route you want to take, if there are multiple options listed (I normally choose the quickest option). Once you select a route, it will show detailed route info, bus numbers or metro lines, departure time, number of stops, how much walking time, etc. You can even click on the metro details for a list of the stops between you and where you need to get off.
- Once you get to the walking portion, the app will alert you when you are supposed to turn, etc.
Step 6: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
This is step is fairly self-explanatory, but here are a couple tips:
- Be sure to eat periodically to avoid ‘falling down drunk’. After all, it’s harder to get from stop-to-stop if you are crawling around. Ask the staff about the most popular appetizer or small plate – you usually discover something tasty!
- Drink water regularly to avoid dehydration.
- Use the bathroom before you leave each stop. Trust me.
- Always be cognizant of your surroundings while travelling. If you have to walk down a sketchy alley to get to your next destination, find a way around it or pick a new place to go.
- Be aware of running times for the public transportation you selected. If the buses don’t run after 8pm, be sure wrap up your adventure before then.
I hope you get the opportunity to do your own Public Transit Bar Crawl. I’d love to hear about your experiences – post in the comments below!
About the Author
Megan Vogel is an enthusiastic wine and beer marketing specialist living in Rolla, Missouri. She works for a large Missouri winery and brewery, and is ecstatic to learn about and share her findings on all things alcohol. For more information about her career, visit www.meganvogel.com.