The term “happy hour” seems to have been used originally to describe a weekly opportunity for sailors in the U.S. Navy to relax and let off steam during World War I. There may have been alcohol involved at first, but the Navy soon issued an order banning drinking on shipboard, so instead, these periods were spent listening to music, watching movies, and otherwise laying back.
Happy hour in the sense we know it today developed in the years after World War II, and by the 1970s, had become a widespread phenomenon. This was a way for bars and restaurants to boost their early-evening sales, luring customers with discounts on alcohol and often food and possibly subtly inveigling them into sticking around for a proper dinner (or at least some regular-price drinking) afterwards.
One thing is sure: Happy hours – most of which last longer than an hour – are extremely popular today. However, at least in part because they are believed to encourage binge drinking, they are currently banned in eight states – Alaska, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, and Vermont. In most of these places, there have been movements to end the bans, but they have been unsuccessful so far.
To assemble a list of the best happy hour in (almost) every state, 24/7 Tempo consulted reviews and scores on Yelp and Tripadvisor and listings on regional and local websites, as well as the individual sites of more than 250 bars and restaurants. Our final choices were made editorially, based on these sources. We favored places with the most interesting and/or most extensive happy hour specials and the most appealing prices, with a focus on those establishments known for the quality of their food and/or drinks when possible. (They may not all offer happy hours, but here’s a list of the best bar in every state.)
It might be noted that our list is substantially different from the version of this story we published in 2019, both because numerous establishments in that version closed permanently during the pandemic while several others, perhaps responding to staff shortages or the changing drinking habits of consumers, have eliminated their happy hours.
While all the bars and restaurants on our list offer drinks, and usually food, at discounted prices during their happy hour, the selections they offer and the way they price them vary greatly. Some offer across-the-board discounts on everything they serve, while others tag specific beers, wines, liquors, and/or cocktails with a bargain price. Food selections range from the non-existent or minimal to the equivalent of full meals. Not surprisingly, classic bar food like dips, sliders, and wings are prevalent. (If you’re a fan of the last of these, you’ll be interested in this list of the best chicken wings in America.)
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