The Oldest Bars In America You Can Still Visit Today

From the American Revolution in the 1700s to the Prohibition-era alcohol ban in the early 1900s, and even the recent financial strain from the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. bar industry has experienced and survived its fair share of volatility. But while the States may not have the thousand-year-old pubs like those you'll find in Europe, there are plenty of examples of U.S. establishments facing the brutal test of time with open doors. 

To present a definitive list of the oldest bars in America is an impossible feat, as scholars are perpetually debating these details. However, each of the nominees has one major factor in common: they are always set along the Eastern seaboard due to the arrival of the original 13 colonies. Here, these drinking holes played imperative roles in shaping the country's yore, where the clinking of glasses formed crucial relationships and influential decisions were made. So, if you're into historic American sites, pull up a chair, order a beer, and quench your thirst for knowledge as you learn about those formative centuries bonded by the universal love for booze.

Fraunces Tavern, New York, New York (1762)

This establishment may be the youngest on this list, but it is arguably more famous than any other. Situated in New York, the Fraunces Tavern is officially the longest-standing bar in the United States' most populous city. Additionally, it also proclaims itself to be "Manhattan's oldest building", dating back to 1719 as a residential house. However, this is disputed due to decades of extreme restoration, leading many to hand that honor to St. Paul's Chapel.

Regardless, Fraunces Tavern boasts a rich past filled with noteworthy incidents. For example, in 1783, a week after New York's Evacuation Day, when British Troops departed from the city and marked the end of the Revolutionary War, General George Washington met his officers in this tavern, thanking them for their service and inviting each man to individually "come and take me by the hand." Because of this triumphant moment in American history, part of the Fraunces Tavern is a dedicated museum, but if you're just here for the booze, one of its three bars will be happy to serve you. 

Reynolds Tavern, Annapolis, Maryland (1747)

Reynolds Tavern consists of four levels. The lowest is officially named the Pub in the Cellar but is better known as the 1747 Pub, referring to its founding year. Interestingly, the stairwell leading to this basement space is even older, constructed in 1737. But this drinking spot does not depend on its aging amenities to pull regulars. Instead, people keep returning thanks to its ever-updating list of craft beers, so refresh Reynolds Tavern's menu regularly to ensure you don't miss any recent additions.

The venue is open for business every day of the week. However, the best time to visit is during spring, summer, and early fall because that is when their celebrated beer garden is accessible. Here, you can listen to live music, watch outdoor movie screenings, or simply marvel over their gorgeous magnolia tree sitting in the corner. Check out Reynolds Tavern's full events timetable for more information. Considering the establishment's age and impressively preserved construction, it's no wonder that the tavern has been protected by multiple preservation societies over the years. 

Blue Bell Inn, Blue Bell, Pennsylvania (1743)

When bar-hopping across the country, it's common to land in a venue that takes its name from the surrounding town. However, you know there's something special in the air when the town takes its name from the bar! That is precisely the case for Blue Bell's Blue Bell Inn. Initially, this area was known as Pigeontown to reflect the carrier pigeons that dominated the region. Back then, this establishment was called The White House and became a frequent feature in the American Revolutionary War. For example, George Washington often rested here, most famously in 1777 after his defeat in Philadelphia's Battle of Germantown.

Two decades later, a tower was erected with a blue bell swinging at the top, and The Blue Bell Inn's name change was soon to follow. Due to its momentous backstory, the town happily embraced the same Blue Bell title. In the past, Blue Bell has also been ranked as one of the best places to live in America, so if you're around, you may as well stay a while. Even if you get bored, Pennsylvania's most populous city, Philadelphia, is only a 30-minute drive away, and it is recognized as one of the best U.S. cities for beer lovers

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Red Fox Tavern, Middleburg, Virginia (1728)

One theme that sticks to America's oldest bars is how many proudly announce their associations with Founding Father ​​George Washington. The Red Fox Tavern is no different, except their story predates most others, with a teenaged Washington stopping by in 1748. However, the Red Fox's tally of notable figures does not end there, with the website name-dropping such A-list celebrities as Elizabeth Taylor, Tom Cruise, and Robert Duvall.

The gem in Fox's political crown was the Kennedy couple, JFK and Jacqueline Onassis, who frequently stayed at the inn. Then-President John F. Kennedy once held a press conference here while Jackie O loved the Red Fox Tavern so much that she penned the owners more than one thank you letter. So when you soak up your drink, pause to soak up the history, too. This includes the actual bar itself, as it's carved out of an operating table used during the Civil War.

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Logan Inn, New Hope, Pennsylvania (1727)

The National Register of Historic Places added the entire New Hope Village District to its list in 1985, paying respects to multiple consequential buildings within the region. This includes the Bucks County's longest-running inn, the Logan Inn. However, this distinction is largely overshadowed by its legendary tales of ghost hauntings.

Without a doubt, the inn's most popular area for paranormal activities is Room 6, which is otherwise referred to as "Emily's Room." Emily is said to be the mother of a former Logan Inn owner, and she loves to interact with guests, from stroking their arms to moving their stuff around during the night. But don't worry if you can't find her, as there are plenty of other entities that emerge in random places, such as the two children who appear within mirrors and the Revolutionary War soldier marching the hallways. However, if you prefer to keep your spirits in alcohol form, stick to their Whiskey Lounge or enjoy the bar's numerous beers and cocktails.

Jessop's Tavern, New Castle, Delaware (1724)

With its 300th birthday fast approaching, Jessop's Tavern has successfully sealed in its aged American mood, decorating its walls with classic Colonial-style paintings and dusty muskets. And while the bar is old, the building is even older, dating to 1674. In fact, the only indication that you haven't tumbled backward through a time machine is the menu, where this kitchen promises to adhere to modern tastes with Jessop's Tavern's ever-evolving lineup of dishes.

If these features do not impress you, then the beer choices will. Believe it or not, this pub is home to a whopping 200 Belgian beers! It's no surprise, then, that they won the Delaware Reader's Choice Best Beer Selection award. And even though it would take many revisits to sample every drink on offer, you may fare better if you line your stomach with their Imperial Stuffed Flounder dish, which is so popular that Rick Browne details the meal in his book "A Century of Restaurants."

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Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, New Orleans, Louisiana (1722)

The history behind Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop is shrouded in such mystery that it's challenging to know who to believe. According to some sources, this was originally a blacksmith establishment owned by the Lafitte Brothers, Jean and Pierre, who used the business to hide their secret smuggling operation. It is said between 1772 and 1791, many stolen items from ships passed through these walls to avoid taxes. The boys were eventually caught but escaped imprisonment by offering insider information on a British attack. They then earned their pardon by fighting in the 1814 Battle of New Orleans.

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop is often cited as the oldest structure in the state and is most definitely Louisiana's oldest bar. Here, customers can enjoy the old-timey candlelit atmosphere while sipping from signature plastic cups. And if you're lucky, someone may even be playing the antique piano at the back. Just be careful of the ghosts who are said to dwell here, as this building is widely reported as one of the most haunted hotels in New Orleans.

Barnsboro Inn, Sewell, New Jersey (1720)

Despite having over 300 years tucked in its belt, The Barnsboro Inn is not as well-known as it should be. This neglect could result from its many alterations throughout its history, including name changes and fields of business. Originally a log cabin, it was known as the Spread Eagle and the Crooked Billet Inn before they settled on The Barnsboro Hotel. In 1973, New Jersey's National Register of Historic Places acknowledged it for its historical significance.

Not long after this recognition, they changed their name once again, dropping the "Hotel" in favor of the current "Inn." Their reason is that they ceased offering overnight stays, instead focusing on the Barnsboro Inn's food and drinks menu. Furthermore, Barnsboro Inn has sold liquor since 1776, meaning it's something they do best. That said, they were forced to take a break during Prohibition, but like the true business entrepreneurs they are, the trade never stopped, and they opted to deal with ice cream instead.

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The Wayside Inn, Sudbury, Massachusetts (1716)

Opened in 1716, The Wayside Inn has a claim to be the longest-uninterrupted-running inn in the United States. However, detractors are quick to dispute this claim due to several closures the inn has undergone, including when landlord Lyman Howe passed away. The change in ownership and the lengthy restoration process that followed meant that these doors were shut for business from 1861 to 1897.

Another unfortunate closure occurred around 1955 when a fire decimated the building's interior. So much was lost, most tragically, an exhibition of valuable antiques that the previous private owner, Henry Ford, had collected. Ford often expressed his attachment to the place, and while he died almost a decade before the disaster, his family knew the incident would have upset the man immensely. That is why the Ford Foundation agreed to finance the entire rebuild, and thanks to them, we can all enjoy tasty beverages at the aptly named Old Bar.

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Robert Morris Inn, Oxford, Maryland (1710)

The Robert Morris Inn was originally a private residence for the Morris family, which included Robert Morris, Sr. and his son, Robert Morris, Jr. The youngest of the two is best known as a Founding Father, who played a tremendous part in developing the United States financial system. In the 1800s, they turned the house into an inn, which has expanded in size several times over the centuries. However, the inn has managed to stay true to its traditional atmosphere, which includes an Elizabethan-period staircase that predates its 1710 construction.

So if you wish to get a taste of that fancy lifestyle, the Robert Morris Inn is the perfect place to pretend you are a nobleperson while dining on modern British cooking with a drink at the bar. And if you're feeling weary, you can always sleep in one of their 300 rooms, some of which were frequented by the Founding Fathers themselves.

Old Yarmouth Inn, Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts (1696)

There is no question that the Old Yarmouth Inn has some wild stories to tell. Founded four years before the 18th century, it has seen many uses, including a school teachers' boarding house, a dentist's office, and even a station for soldiers fighting in the Revolutionary War. Throughout this long period, they offered rooms for travelers to rest their heads, but in early 2023, they abruptly stopped this service. Some say this was due to a change in ownership. But others hypothesize they had no choice after a flood of paranormal reports.

Often deemed one of the most haunted places in Massachusetts, the complaints are usually about the spirits of former lodgers. Ghosts have awoken people, asking why they are sleeping in their beds, and if the response was not satisfactory, these phantoms would aggressively shake the bedposts. Perhaps it's safer, then, that everyone sticks to the dining area, enjoying the large bar and two cozy fireplaces instead.

King George II Inn, Bristol, Pennsylvania (1681)

Understandably, any reminders of the British royal family were a sore spot during the American Revolution. Hence, when patriots came across this tavern that exhibited the image of King George II, they were highly offended, even shooting down the sign. These troubles reached boiling point in 1781 as George Washington's army approached the area. The inn's owners acted quickly, cleverly refashioning their brand to replace King George's face with George Washington instead.

The Inn went through several name changes after that time, including The Fountain House and Ye Olde Delaware House, but they eventually came full circle and reinstated the King George II Inn around the mid-1900s. Yet, irrespective of shifting titles, the inn's identity has remained intact, often touted as the oldest continually operated American inn (even if it temporarily closed its doors in 2010). Its bar is particularly interesting, as it features the same wood from inception, built using pieces of a ship called Lafayette.

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White Horse Tavern, Newport, Rhode Island (1673)

According to the majority of similar lists, the White Horse Tavern is officially the oldest tavern in the United States. It's so ancient that their website even claims that the White Horse is the 10th oldest active pub in the world! Some (potentially jealous) sources reject such proposals, but regardless, the venue's fascinating history speaks for itself.

In the 1670s, this tavern was a favored meeting place for various influential people to make decisions. This included members of the Colony's General Assembly, the Criminal Court, and the City Council, who were known to charge their business lunches to the public treasury. In 1702, the bar acquired a license to sell "all sorts of strong drink", and while the political nature of this location has since waned, their alcohol service remains as popular as ever. So enjoy your historically infused beverage, and while you're here, you may as well dabble in their renowned selection of artisan cheese, honey, and prime beef, too.

The '76 House, Tappan, New York (1668)

The '76 House is a controversial top-slot entry because its bold claims are far from authenticated. The establishment insists that it is America's oldest tavern, dating its foundations to 1686. However, the earliest confirmed documentation we have is its liquor license application, which places them at 1705. Who to believe is an impossible deduction, but irrespective of the truth, it is undoubtedly one of the oldest U.S. bars you'll drink in.

With centuries of stories, the tale that captures everyone's imagination is about Major John André. Known as the Revolution's most infamous spy, the British Major was ultimately caught by the Americans. They promptly imprisoned the man in The '76 House, which is why many refer to the venue as "André's Prison." Major John was subsequently executed, and the tavern's place in the war was immortalized. But for those who prefer their culture a little more modern, you can also find this bar in the fifth episode of "The Sopranos."