As a 22-year resident of Kansas City, I feel like I know the city well. Since starting this cocktail blog, I frequent its bars often enough that my friends text me when they’re looking for a place to go. While I definitely have some favorite places for a craft cocktail, sometimes I am looking for something unique. When my friend Jill opened a saloon in the Crossroads, it seemed like the perfect occasion to share more about all the themed bars in Kansas City. And of course, these days, you can’t overlook the incredible pop-up bars hitting the city. Some of them are seasonal and others just open for a night or two. I want you to know about them too so you don’t miss out and can grab reservations in time.
Updated in September 2023.
Themed Bars in Kansas City
A good themed bar makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a different place or time. Some may have a few touches that hint to the theme, while others are an immersive experience. Although there are some other themed bars in Kansas City, the ones listed here also serve great cocktails.
Located in the heart of Crossroads, you’ll find Chartreuse Saloon, one of Kansas City’s newest bars. Brought to life by the legendary Jill Cockson, who also owns my favorite bar in Kansas City, this place is a real vibe. Brightly decorated in its namesake color and Western decor, the saloon is a welcoming place to stay awhile. Whether your game is billiards, darts, or chess, you’ll find something to keep yourself busy while you quench your thirst. They serve craft cocktails in Mason jars, like the Chandelier (pictured). Made with Uncle Val’s botanical gin, jalapeno simple syrup, lime, and electric dust. If you’re feeling hungry, order up some custom-made nachos.
2. The Ship
The Ship is a bit of a secret hideaway. Since it’s tucked away in the West Bottoms, you wouldn’t just pass by, unless you are part of the Saturday antiquing crowd. It’s just as well because that’s part of what adds to the charm of this cocktail bar. When you step inside this nautical environment you are about as far away from Kansas City as you can get. The bar opened in downtown Kansas City in the 1950s, closed in 1995, was put into storage, and was then rebuilt and reopened in a new location in 2014. (Read the full history here.)
Besides the kitschy vibe, The Ship also offers excellent pub food and entertainment. I once enjoyed a throwback vinyl night there that I will never forget. They recently expanded into the space next door and now have an event space called “All Else the Sea”. Do yourself a favor and sail away with The Ship sometime soon.
3. Electric Park Garden Bar at J. Rieger & Co.
Step outside one of the most beautiful distilleries, which already houses two bars, and you’ll find the brand new Electric Park Garden Bar. Named after the amusement park located in the neighborhood from 1899-1906, this one-of-a-kind outdoor bar and restaurant is already a popular spot to hang out. Complete with fire pits, a swing set table, and lounge seating, this park-like space offers an unparalleled outdoor patio bar experience. You can reserve larger spaces with a food and beverage minimum paid up front. Playful menus inspired by nostalgic theme parks and soda parlors bring guests boozy snow cones, frozen cocktails, and delectable food. I enjoyed the Electric Park Punch and the Giddy-up and Draw (pictured) which is made with salted peanut KC whiskey, vanilla, and Andy’s Root Beer. While they do have heaters, this bar is only open between April and November.
4. Tiki Huna
Located in the two year-old shipping container village of the Iron District in North Kansas City, Tiki Huna is a rum-centric safe haven. Now that Tiki Cat is no longer (see theSeasonal Pop-Up Bars in Kansas City section below), this bar fills an important niche and does it well. This bar offers a place to hideout and enjoy all of the mysterious, exotic flavors of the tropics. The outdoor setting is a bit limited as it shares seating with the other restaurants in the Iron District. As the temperatures drop, it gets a bit cold to enjoy ice-cold drinks but they do have heaters and the tiki drinks are worth it. Both drinks I tried were balanced and delicious. The Sunset at Sea (pictured) is made with rums, cacao, orange caraçao, coconut, fresh lemon, guava, and cinnamon.
5. The Fall
Although I have yet to visit The Fall, I didn’t want to leave it off my list. Located under the Westport Ale House (which is known as a rotating themed bar for beer lovers), you’ll find this Alice in Wonderland themed bar. Guests can choose between sipping craft cocktails at a glowing amber bar or hanging out in one of the uniquely decorated VIP rooms, complete with bottle service. If you’ve been, leave your thoughts in the comments!
Year-Round Pop-Up Bars in Kansas City
Traditionally, pop-up bars, stores, or restaurants are temporary. This is the case for these two bars but in different ways. The first pop-up bar keeps its theme consistent but pops up in different locations around the city. And the second one keeps its location the same but the theme is always changing.
6. Condors Cove
Recently named “Bar of the Year” by Kansas City Magazine, Condor’s Cove is quickly becoming the place to be. But, getting there is a bit tricky because it’s a pop-up concept that you’ll have to act fast to get into (tickets for their May event sold out in 10 minutes). Started by Diana Condori, also known as Tiki D, this bar has a new way for Kansas City to enjoy some traditional and signature tropical drinks. The pop-up was supposed to be a one-time event to say goodbye to Tiki Cat (which closed in Westport in September 2020), but the response from attendees encouraged her to keep it going. Now the team behind Condor’s Cove takes over popular spots in the city, usually for a night, on slower evenings (like Sunday), decorates and starts slinging drinks. The drinks are great! If you want to experience this place, definitely join their mailing list so you can get first dibs on tickets.
What started out as a spirit tasting club during the pandemic has now turned into a permanent concept. Located on the third floor of Union Station, the Conductor Club is affiliated with Pierponts. With a rotating menu, the themes range from an experience around movies, like a Home Alone holiday pop-up, to holiday themes, like the current “Love Shack” theme for February 2022.
I had the pleasure of checking out the “Love Shack” pop-up. As you can see, it lives up to the name well and allows guests to be fully immersed in a fun Valentine’s Day environment. Best of all, the drinks play off of love songs. You can see the full menu above. I enjoyed I Would Do Anything for Love, La Vie en Rose, and Love Potion #9. New themes pop up throughout the year and they take reservations here.
Apparition (Halloween Pop-up at Vignettes)
This bar has operated as a spook-easy from mid-September through Halloween for the past three years. This past year, the concept was themed around Dracula and his Gothic manor. I am personally too chicken to check this place out, but I know some of you might love it! While you should definitely plan ahead for that next year, they are starting to offer themed pop-up bars in a permanent space in North Kansas City year-round.
Other Themes at Vignettes
I visited for the “Lord of the Drinks” which paid homage to Lord of the Rings. As with all of their pop-ups, you’ll find an immersive environment with costumes, live music, and theater-level decor. All of their cocktails feature spirits from Kansas City and cleverly fit into the theme of the moment. I enjoyed the “Old Toby” which featured bourbon, hazelnut liqueur, and chocolate and tobacco bitters. Edward, the owner, said he hopes to continue to delight guests with new concepts throughout the year, so keep an eye out here for updates. The current theme is Dunder Mifflin, Assistant to the Regional Pop Up Bar and runs through March 5.
Seasonal Pop-Up Bars in Kansas City
What’s better than enhancing a holiday or a season with a themed pop-up bar? From the Instagrammable decor to the themed cocktails, it makes a special time with friends even more fun. I’ve been enjoying one of the Christmas-themed bars with a group of friends for several years in a row. It’s always fun to go each year and see what’s changed.
9. Starlight Snow Globes at Hotel Kansas City
One of the most enjoyable cocktail experiences I had in 2021 was a cocktail-paired dinner in a Starlight Snow Globe. Located on the special event balcony in the Hotel Kansas City, the pop-up concept was a partnership between the hotel’s restaurant and three spirit brands. Each one of the three snow globes has a different menu that was paired with gin, tequila, vodka, or bourbon cocktails. The globes are generally available to book between December and the end of February. Keep your eye on their Facebook page for updates.
Lucky for you, there’s more than one winter pop-up themed bar in Kansas City in a private outdoor enclosure. Located around the pool deck at The Fontaine hotel on the Country Club Plaza, you’ll find the Nine Zero One Igloo Bar. It features not only the igloos, but also pays homage to Scandinavia through sights, smells, and flavors featured in the themed signature cocktails. This experience booked up fast last year so I wasn’t able to try it out, but they typically open in late-November and close in mid-March.
11. Miracle Kansas City (rotating locations)
The Miracle Pop-Up Bar is a concept that partners with local bars across the country to transform them into a holiday wonderland. You’ll find the same decor, glassware, and menu in each of the partnering bars. The cocktails are fun and festive and you can purchase the glassware. (I am still regretting not purchasing the tiki Santa T-Rex mug last time.) Each year, different bars in Kansas City have a chance at participating in this pop-up. You can find out more by checking out the locations each year here and following their Instagram or Facebook accounts.
12. Sippin’ Santa at Julep
From the same company behind Miracle Pop-Up Bars, comes a tiki-inspired Christmas pop-up called Sippin’ Santa. Double the themes, double the fun! This pop-up is located at one of my favorite bars in Kansas City, Julep, which is normally a whiskey bar. The space is transformed into a fun and kitschy island oasis of Christmas. The drinks are strong and delicious. They also serve some themed snacks. Sippin’ Santa is usually open for the month of December and reservations can be made here.
And there you have some incredible pop-ups and themed bars in Kansas City to check out the next time you’re in town. If you are looking for more great local places for a cocktail, I would suggest checking out the Mercury Room or John Brown’s Underground (Lawrence, KS). Cheers!