America’s Must-See Historic Bars

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5. Red Key Tavern (Indianapolis)

Red Key Tavern (Indianapolis)

Notable Patron: Kurt Vonnegut

Die-hard Vonnegut fans will want to add this one to their next road trip. The no-nonsense bar — opened by a WWII Veteran and Prisoner of War, and decorated with model airplanes hanging from the ceiling — is rumored to have attracted Vonnegut. These claims have been disputed, but, according to some locals, he wasn’t a stranger to it. The tavern also made an appearance in Dan Wakefield’s 1970 novel Going All The Way.

 

4. Old Town Bar and Restaurant (New York City)

Old Town Bar and Restaurant (New York City)

Notable Patrons: Frank McCourt, Seamus Heaney, Nick Hornby, Billy Collins, Pete Hamill

This Flatiron District bar is a favorite of some of the best modern writers, and it’s got signed book jackets hanging on the walls to prove it. The writers who stop by not only drink there (Hamill wrote on the book jacket of A Drinking Life, “For the one bar that still makes me thirsty”) but also choose it as a venue for their book parties. Most of the bar’s furnishings and decor are unchanged since opening in 1892, but these days local beer, courtesy of Brooklyn Brewery, dominates the menu.

 

3. Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone (New Orleans)

Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone (New Orleans)

 

Notable Patrons: Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Eudora Welty, Truman Capote

Hotel Monteleone has hosted so many writers in its history that the Friends of the Library Association designated it an official literary landmark in 1999. Its impressive guest roster has included some of the South’s most influential writers, and Truman Capote famously claimed to have actually been born in a Hotel Monteleone room. (The hotel denies it, though Capote’s mother was living there during her pregnancy.)

The hotel and lounge are historic landmarks of the French Quarter and must-sees, but visitors can expect to spend a good amount of cash when doing so.

 

2. White Horse Tavern (New York City)

White Horse Tavern (New York City)

Notable Patrons: Dylan Thomas, James Baldwin, Anais Nin, Norman Mailer

The White Horse Tavern opened in 1880 and was known for being a longshoreman’s hangout until the 1950s, when Welsh poet Dylan Thomas started coming around. It is most famously (and morbidly) known as the place of Thomas’ last drink; in November of 1953, after downing eighteen shots of whiskey, he collapsed on the sidewalk and later died at St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Still, the West Village tavern remained a favorite spot for the literary set, attracting writers and poets to this day.

 

1. Vesuvio Cafe (San Francisco)

Vesuvio Cafe (San Francisco)

Notable Patrons: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady

This kitschy North Beach bar was the stomping grounds of some Beat generation heavy-hitters, and the alley behind it is even named after Kerouac. Sitting right across the street from the renowned City Lights Bookstore, it now serves as a monument to jazz, art, poetry, and the creative lifestyle. It also serves some pretty stiff drinks.

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Taylor Goldblatt

After years of research, travel, and dreams, I have created this website for people like you who want to experience the things that only America can offer. My passion is to explore and share America's greatest destinations and attractions. Follow me on Twitter @USCityTraveler for additional travel tips and ideas.

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