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Group at Doggies Pub
Group at Doggies Pub
Original photo by Macy Miskiewicz
Life > Experiences

Penn State’s Back to School Bar Crawl: A Day in Review

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at PSU chapter.

I turned 21 two weeks before the start of classes. So you better believe I was going to LineLeap’s Back to School Bar Crawl at Penn State.

The lineup:

  • Doggie’s Pub
  • Cafe 210 West
  • Pickles 
  • Phyrst
  • Jax
  • Primanti Bros.
  • Stage West
  • Shandygaff
  • Lion’s Den 
  • Champs Downtown

My roommate Carson and I were determined to go to them all.

Leg 1: An “Early” Rise and a Drink with a View

Carson and I are chronic late sleepers. I work nearly every day of the week in addition to class — Saturday is my only true day off. I like to use it to sleep in.

Nevertheless, we persisted. We woke up at 11 a.m. and set out on our grand quest.

Our first bar: Champs Downtown.

As we rounded the corner of South Allen Street and East Calder Way, we were disheartened to see the line wrapped around the building. We decided to jump in anyways. All of the nearby bars had long lines, too.

For any future bar crawlers, bring your own Sharpie. I thought they would be provided, or maybe the bouncer at each bar would check your shirt off (to avoid cheaters).

Wrong. Sharpies will not be provided.

To keep ourselves occupied, Carson and I decided to take turns decorating each other’s shirts. We went letter by letter until the entire phrase “Back to School Bar Crawl” was filled.

Macy\'s Bar Crawl Shirt
Original photo by Macy Miskiewicz

Carson is a hardcore Swiftie, so I made sure to pay homage to his girl Taylor with the letter A (inspired by “You Belong with Me”) and the letter S (an attempt at a snake from the “Reputation” Era).

The line moved surprisingly fast — we only waited about 20 minutes.

The bouncer took a solid five minutes to check Carson’s ID. I was so scared (for absolutely no reason).

View from Champs Downtown
Original photo by Macy Miskiewicz

The bouncers finally gave us the OK to head in. We kicked off our day with Champs’ famous dirty sprite (which is actually a purple Gatorade) while sitting on the balcony. It was a beautiful day and I really enjoyed people watching.

Leg 2: The Waiting Game

We were feeling quite chipper after our first stop at Champs. These lines weren’t that bad to wait in after all!


We traveled across the street to Bill Pickle’s Tap Room. The line went down the block and wrapped around the corner.

We joined the line and figured it would be a short wait. We got back to work on our t-shirt doodles, playing a game of tic-tac-toe whenever inspiration tapered.

We waited an unfortunate amount of time (probably close to two hours) and were nearly cut by a group of 10 people. It was terrible, but luckily, Carson confronted the line-cutters.

Once we headed in, we had to wait a bit for Carson’s drink. The bartender somehow managed to skip over him a few times. Once she finally took his order, she forgot it.

It was silly. Being a waitress has definitely taught me to be patient.

He and I sipped on my vodka cranberry as we waited. He finally got his lemon drop shot, then we took them together.

It was the best lemon drop shot I ever had.

Next, we headed to Cafe 210 to find a insanely long line. My friend Teaghan waved from her spot on the deck and came over to the fence to share her fries with us.

Since she was leaving soon, we decided to skip out on Cafe (for now) and join her group for the next bar.

We headed to Doggie’s Pub and waited two hours. The wait was a little more fun with a big group. Here, I got a green tea shot and had two raspberry lemonade drinks. It was super refreshing and I couldn’t even taste the liquor.

Teaghan’s cousin and I found an abandoned slice of pizza on the floor in the outdoor seating area. We ate it (not my proudest moment).

Finally, we set off to Pman’s for the next stretch.

Leg 3: A Series of Unfortunate Events

We headed to Pman’s (as a Pittsburgher, I do have to make the disclaimer that I prefer restaurant’s proper title, Primanti’s, over Pman’s) and were pleasantly surprised to see a very short line.

Morale was high, spirits were up — until we got to the door. The bouncer, again, gave Carson a difficult time and we were starving.

My little nibble of floor pizza was not enough to satiate me. We had a hard time ordering food because it was so crowded.

Luckily, we got to change our drinks up (finally!) and we each had a pink Starburst shot (it was delish). For our glorious meals, I had an order of cheese fries and Carson snagged a slice of pizza.

We looked everywhere for a place to sit, but every time we settled into a chair, someone said “oh, I’m using that!” We were beyond annoyed.

After we finished up, we peeled off from Teaghan’s group and went to finish our mission.

We had a short wait and an anticlimactic visit to Stage West. I visited once before for a formal (I had to stay on the “under 21” level, though) and I’ve never been the biggest fan.

We moved on to the Shandygaff where we made friends in line. The wait was about 30 minutes. Right around this point, we were hitting the “I’ve been drinking all day and this is no longer fun” point.

The bouncer scanned our IDs and we shot off to the bar. We bought a set of green tea shots, threw them back, and headed right back out. We had a mission to complete.

The bouncer seemed to notice, too. He applauded us on our way out.

This put a little pep in my step.

We trekked off to the Phyrst. I think it may be my favorite bar in State College (it was the first I ever visited on my 21st birthday). There was no line and we were stoked. I grabbed a screwdriver (my favorite) and we headed out.

Next, we went to Jax. I’ve never even heard of Jax before the crawl. Again, no line. We went in and ordered another set of lemon drop shots.

After waiting a few minutes for our shots, a different bartender came over and asked if we got our shots yet. We said “no” and she served us.

“Where’s the lemon?” I asked Carson.

We both shrugged our shoulders. Maybe they ran out of lemons.

No, wrong.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Carson and I just threw back shots of well vodka. I was fighting for my life.

The other bartender came over with two shots topped with lemons in his hand. He quickly realized what had happened.

On the brightside, we got two free shots of vodka on the house.

In retrospect I wish we hadn’t got those two free shots of vodka. I’m sick thinking about it.

We stopped at Allen Street Pizza to eat (again). The mac and cheese pizza slices were reviving and abruptly ended the series of unfortunate events.

Leg 4: The Last Leg

Macy and Carson at the Bar
Original photo by Macy Miskiewicz

“It’s the final countdown (da na na na da na na na na)”

We were down to the final two bars on our list.

Cafe 210 West and Lion’s Den.

We headed to Cafe where there was absolutely no line. It was fantastic!

We ordered the Cafe Bajas (a spin on Taco Bell’s Baja Blast) and I was honestly disappointed.

We quickly turned the experience around by ordering the buffalo chicken dip. I was in heaven.

If I wasn’t so full from a day of drinking and my other little meals, I would have absolutely inhaled the whole thing.

We headed out and went to our final stop.

The Den line was wrapped around the block. We waited and waited and waited.

We both finished out the night with screwdrivers and that was that.

We won the day. Bar Crawl Champions.

The Overall Experience

The final overall rating: 7.2/10. We had a lot of fun, I walked a lot (over five miles) and we ate and drank really, really well.

However it was a really long day and I spent a little more money that I’d like to admit. The shirt was $30 plus fees and some bars had cover after a certain time.

I don’t regret the crawl at all. It was a great way to experience a lot of the bars, especially as a freshly 21-year-old. If you’re a Penn Stater, I suggest you participate just once before you graduate.

Always go out in a group and be sure to Uber. Just remember to stay safe and have fun.

Happy crawling!

Macy is a Pittsburgh, PA native with a passion for reading, writing, tree-hugging and music. She is pursuing a major in Biobehavioral Health, while double minoring in English and Sustainability Leadership on the Humanities Track. Outside of Her Campus, Macy spends her time with her golden retrievers and her camera.