I know what you’re thinking.
Walking from one bar to another and drinking with a horde of your friends. How hard could it be to host a bar crawl?
But anyone who’s experienced a great bar crawl and a disastrous one knows that orchestrating a good pub crawl is no simple task.
It takes vision. Finesse. Savvy. Guts. People-management skills. And above all, some know-how.
Here are seven tips on how to host the perfect bar crawl:
1. Have a plan
Ok, it may seem obvious, but so many people skip this step. And it can be a major bummer for all involved.
Think about what bars you want to hit and come up with an order that makes sense. Check the bars’ websites to see if there’s some reason to eliminate them–covers, lame special events, etc.
Try to have the bars reflect your personality. It might seem obvious, but you’ll be happier if you choose spots that you actually WANT to go to. Exploring a neighborhood is nice, but you’re not just trying to check bars off the list–you’re trying to have a good time.
Also consider the ease of getting served when selecting bars to include. If you know a place is going to be packed at a certain time of day, it might be best to avoid it.
While you’re at it, make sure the bars are reasonably close together–while we all would theoretically walk three miles for our next beer, we’d universally prefer not to. Public transit can also be your friend in this situation–both during the event and after.
Since your friends won’t think of it until it’s too late, you may want to jot down what time any particular transit options stop running–there’s nothing like being drunk at 1AM and realizing you’ve just missed the last train home.
2. Share your itinerary
While you don’t need to run your event with military efficiency, having a schedule is a logistical must. Sure, you might end up straying from it, but it’s critical that your group know what bars you’re hitting in what order.
When you send out the invite, include the rough schedule. This will help make it easier for people to meet up with you throughout the night.
Inevitably, someone will have dinner plans and won’t be able to kick off the crawl with you. But if they know you’re planning to hit The Nag’s Head sometime between 8:45 and 9:30PM, they’ll probably be able to meet up with the group after their nosh.
3. Mind the pace
To maintain momentum, don’t stay in one place too long.
At a given establishment, you should have time for one, maybe two drinks at a reasonable pace of consumption. You can slow it up as the night progresses, but remember that deciding to “stop and stay a while” likely means you’re at your last bar.
Also remember to pace your consumption. As the organizer, you’re the glue holding the entire dubious enterprise together. If you end up drunk in the gutter outside the third bar, your friends will find themselves rudderless and alone and will probably wander out into the street where they’ll be hit by cars.
Beer is your friend here. Shots are your enemy. A glass of water now and then never hurt anybody either. Related to this,
4. For heaven’s sake, eat something
During the average 7-hour pub crawl, you’re going to want to eat twice. Schedule a stop for food (or a stop with food) early so your friends can lay down a good base for a night of drinking.
Make sure everyone knows that this is their opportunity and that proceeding without eating would be roughly as intelligent as going deep-sea diving without filling their air tanks.
Then, have another stop planned later, like 11 or 12, for people to choke down something greasy to soak up some of the alcohol.
5. Make friends, but don’t fuck with the locals
If done correctly, walking into a bar with a big group of people is a sure way to draw some attention and meet some new and interesting people.
It’s important, however, to achieve a balance between tending to your group and also appearing open to other people in the establishment. The last thing you want to do is come across like a high school clique that doesn’t want to talk to anyone outside their group.
If you hit a bar with a fair number of regulars, be sure to behave yourselves. Rolling in with a large group can be disruptive enough, so go out of your way not to be a dick.
6. Be prepared to call an audible
No matter how flawless your plan, things can change in the execution. Bars can have inconsistent patterns with respect to the crowds they draw and even their peak times. Don’t be afraid to skip a place if it isn’t working out.
Again, it’s not about “putting in your time” at each place, it’s about having fun. You can always pull out the phone and find something new on Yelp. Try looking for something that has one or two lousy reviews–a lot of times it won’t be that crowded, and you can actually find some hidden gems this way.
7. Start early, and know when to pack it in
Unlike a night of clubbing in España, the most successful bar crawls start in the early afternoon and finish up before the bars close.
Starting before dinner makes it more likely that you’ll at least pause for food within a couple hours of drinking, which does wonders for your endurance.
It’s also great to start the event when establishments aren’t that full and you can sometimes get happy hour specials. If started early enough, most bar crawls will naturally wind down after 6 or 7 hours of drinking. If you’re closing down the bars after a marathon crawl and think it’s a good idea to keep going, you might want to quit while you’re ahead.
There’s probably something to that old saying of “nothing good happens after x time.” It’s not clear what that cutoff is, but it seems the later you go, the more likely it is that you’ll end up in jail or wake up on the bus wearing only your underwear.
So, what other pub crawl tips or success (or failure) stories do you have to share? Share your thoughts below!
Thanks to Dave K. and Steve M. for their expert consultation for this post.