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Drinking under the shadow of the dome

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It’s no secret that UIS has subpar college nightlife. Due to the location of the school, students’ choices are limited around campus; however, downtown Springfield offers fun and excitement just a cab ride away.

Springfield has dozens of watering holes, from clubs to pubs, and can make for a great night out. These bars below are just a few of my favorites, but there are plenty of other great holes in the wall worth checking out.

Boones Saloon

If you have ever wanted to drink with a public official, Boones Saloon is your best chance to do so. Boones is probably where most Illinois laws were born, between two frosted mugs and a cigar (when you could still have one inside).

Inside, you’ll find legislators, bureaucrats, lawyers, staffers, reporters (like me!)  and lobbyists, lobbyists, and more lobbyists. When heading for a drink, and you’ve found the miniature Clydesdales outside, you’ve found the Statehouse workers’ favorite watering hole.

And if you start to get the munchies, Boones has a full-service grill, with some of the best pub burgers in Springfield, and of course  – horseshoes.

Boones has an open-air beer garden, and during the warm months has a stage to host local bands and acts. The saloon is located next to the Capitol visitor center on College Street.

Marly’s Pub

If you’re looking for an Irish pub, Marly’s has what you’re looking for. Across the street from the Old State Capitol, Marly’s smells of Guinness as you walk in the door.

However, Marly’s atmosphere changes as it gets later in the evening. If you’re interested in a sit-down, enjoy-a-stout type of pub, go to Marly’s after dinner. If you’re up for a more rowdy time, stick around and you’ll get what you desire.

After a long night of drinking, you’re probably going to need some food. Marly’s pizza is that perfect, greasy type of pie that helps soak up that extra Bud Light you slammed. And of course, if you’re up for something a little more adventurous, they know how to make an Irish Car Bomb.

Craft Beer Bar

Craft Beer Bar opened this past Halloween, and it has been one of the hottest places in town since. The bar calls the old firehouse home, right in the heart of the downtown.

Craft Beer Bar offers specialty and microbrew beers from across the country and the state. They also have in-house brews available. Feel free to try them and order their sampler platter.

On weekends the bar offers live music and other acts, and is a great place to expand your horizons. Just be careful because craft beer gets you messed up a lot quicker than normal light beer. Also, the hang over is about twice as bad.

Craft Beer Bar has couches for you to lounge with your friends, tables and of course bar seating. Just be careful when nature calls. The bathrooms in the basement have not yet been completely renovated, and the stairs are almost always soaked in suds, so watch your step!

Bar None

Don’t be fooled by the Euro disco inspired sign. Bar None is a sporty bar that offers underground music every weekend. The modern-styled watering hole across Monroe Street from Craft Beer Bar also has a full-service grill.

However, you won’t find the usual items on their menu. Instead, you can order a turkey pesto flatbread pizza or a Cuban Panini. Talk about classy!

Though they have a full selection of beer, Bar None is the place in Springfield where you can find every bottle of liquor under the sun. Chances are, if a specialty drink exists, they can make it for you, especially is it has Jägermeister in it.

If you like shoulder-to-shoulder bar shows, Bar None is probably going to be your favorite spot. If you prefer your personal space, like me, go a little early and  grab a table.

J. P. Kelly’s

My group of friends’ go-to spot is on the right side of the tracks – literally. Just a block off Monroe, J. P. Kelly’s is another hot spot for those who work at the Capitol.

Kelly’s is littered with old photos of our state’s capital and offers a great Irish pub atmosphere, without the rowdiness of Marly’s. Despite not being known as a craft beer place, Kelly’s selection of beer is as good as Craft Beer Bar, including one of my personal favorites, Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale.

Kelly’s gets a little tight at times, but it’s perfect for our weekly Wednesday night rendezvous. Kelly’s is great because at times it can be sporty, other times is can be bumping, but it’s always a lot of fun.

A bar is only as good as the people you’re out with, so make sure you’re going out with people you can handle. These are five examples of the fun you can have downtown. Plenty of bars, including the five above, have great specials so you can enjoy even when you’re on a budget.

Also, since you’ll have to drive out there, be sure you always have a designated driver. They don’t serve beer in jail, so make sure you drink responsibly.


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