Turning 21 at the University of Wyoming is a big day for any student. Until this point, you’ve probably struggled to occupy your time with activities that make you think “I could really use a drink right now,” or perhaps you’ve even attended a party or two where you know someone who knows someone who knows the host. Either way, you don’t need to be in Laramie for long to figure out that there isn’t much to do if you’re not of legal drinking age. Now that you’re 21 (or you’re about to turn), no more! Go now boldly into the glorious world of adult beverages and slate thine boredom! And for those who didn’t spend their first few years taking notes on where everything is in Laramie and need a point in the right direction, look no further than this article!
Hit the Liquor Store
As obvious as it might seem, go to the liquor store! There’s hardly any liquor stores in Laramie that aren’t within walking distance of the University of Wyoming campus. Nearly every bar and grocery store in town has one attached (and more often than not, there’s even a drive-through window attached to said liquor stores). Experiment, get a feel for what you like and what you don’t like, not to mention your tolerance. What’s more, you should always come to any soiree with your own booze. It’s just rude to show up empty handed, so unless you want to risk potential conflict, don’t do it. If you’re just picking up for a party, whiskey is always a cost-efficient crowd pleaser, and UW students do so love their IPAs too.
As I have previously stated, you may have already been to a house party or two in town prior to turning 21. Now that the turn is complete however, you will have access to far more parties for one simple reason: your newly acquired access to the liquor store. If you know where the party’s at (or know someone who knows someone), you can usually just show up with some drank and a friendly attitude, and you’ll be invited in. Granted this is not the case with every party, but definitely the ragers that are so big that everyone couldn’t possibly know everyone. Every now and again, you can even stumble upon a REAL house party, with hired security, DJs, and everything. House parties are always a good time for those out to meet new people, or who are just generally charismatic. That said, I must caution you: if you go into a house party and you start to notice that it’s extremely loud and there are numerous people there who are younger than 21, RUN. Laramie and campus police are expert delinquent-busters, and if you like myself prefer to stay as far away from law-related issues as possible, you’d better scoota’loot out of that noise-complaint-minor-in-possession cocktail of trouble ASAP.
House Parties are all well and good, but there’s really nothing like going on a camping trip after turning 21. Like with house parties, you may have already been getting your outdoors on prior to turning, maybe even had a beer or something. When you finally do turn however, you can BYOB and really contribute to the festivities, not to mention securing your own supply of adult beverages. Not to mention, there’s really nothing like having a couple drinkypoos around the campfire with some good friends. Couple of tips though: set up the tents BEFORE drinking, and for god’s sake DO NOT drive over the grass – you will be fined $350.
There is another significant Laramie tradition, and it’s a big one: football, or rather, tailgating. The University of Wyoming sinks a gargantuan amount of money on the football team and sports events. In turn, Laramie is often flooded during football season with college football fans, alumni, and students. Sure, you can pick up a few beers for the stands, but the tailgate parties are where the fun’s at. The biggest ones are at the start of the season during homecoming. They start in the morning and go on all day up until the game. Breweries and other stands set up shop all throughout the area around the stadium, which are flanked by droves of parked cars and people dawning yellow cowboy t-shirts and foam fingers, all drinking and barbequing in the parking lots. If this old-school parking lot tailgating isn’t your schtick though, every bar in Laramie will surely be participating
One of the most well-known of the bars that surround the University of Wyoming is called The Buckhorn Bar & Parlor. It’s quite often packed to the brim with people from Thirsty Thursday to Sunday. They have two dance areas, one flanking the rear of the bar and one in the ballroom upstairs, both of which feature one live music event or another all through the school year. Overall, it’s a great place to get a drink, have a dance, and just have a great time being over the age of 21. That said, be weary with the stairs – they’re old, warped and slanted. That plus numerous strong beverages can tend to result in taking a long, hard tumble; otherwise infamously known as “The Buckhorn Roll.”
Now we come to my personal favorite: O’Dwyers Public House. In the front, it’s an Irish-American restaurant, with pretty decent food at that. In the back however, a patio leading to a liquor store leading to a full bar area. Drinks aside (which are good and well-priced by the way), the bar also features the usual pool tables and darts, as well as the occasional live band and even trivia nights. It’s a solid place to get a drink and have a good time with friends. Plus, if you tell the bartender that you’re 21, they might even give you their very own 21st birthday special: a “steak shot,” which is part Wild Turkey whiskey, part A-1 steak sauce, and part Worcestershire sauce. Doesn’t sound appealing? Well, it’s not. But you have to do it for experience sake.
The Ruffed Up Duck
The Ruffed Up Duck Saloon is a bar that operates beside Reed’s Package Liquors. It’s a smaller, local pub that features great drinks, good vibes, live music, and even has a lovely little heated patio. It’s a great place to meet new people, both locals and University of Wyoming students, and a have-to stop for you or your friend’s 21st birthday bar-hop through Laramie. You have to (or have to make your friend) try their 21st birthday special: “the fucked up duck.” It may be better if you didn’t know what this cocktail is made of. However if you’re a fan of spoilers, here it is: a party cup with Jaeger and a pickled egg. If you won’t do it for that delectable pickled egg and black licorice taste, just do it to say you did. The college experience and what have you…
Mingle’s Lounge is extremely popular with students of the University of Wyoming, and with good reason. They have a plethora of space, so there’s aplenty of room for dancing and live music. More importantly however, this space has allowed the installation of numerous pool tables, ping-pong tables, beer-pong tables, and dart targets. As one can tell from this, Mingles is a great place for large groups and to meet one’s fellow students. For your 21st, simply tell the bartender that it’s your birthday and you will be presented with a “green martian” shot. Mingles employees aren’t allowed to disclose the recipe, but they’ll be the first to assure you that it is not pleasant. Also heads up: the bathroom stalls don’t have doors… so… do with that information as you will.
Okay, so maybe jumping head-first into the University of Wyoming’s defining bar scene doesn’t sound that appealing to you. Maybe you have good friends that won’t drag you from bar to bar force-feeding you one putrid 21st birthday concoction after the next until you’re puking in a rather unsanitary public toilet. Or maybe you’ve been 21 for awhile and bar-hopping every weekend has just lost its luster and you need to calm down and start focusing on midterms or finals. The place for you might be The Gardens at the University of Wyoming Union. Located at the bottom floor of the building, it’s the perfect way to power-study and drink simultaneously (literally everything you need for school-work is right upstairs), or just to have a quiet beer after a long day of class. That is, unless you decide to go during one of their live music performances (or a nearby live music performance), in which case if you like live music, numerous craft beers, and appetizers all in one place on campus, this is also a place you’ll want to be.
Last but certainly not least, we’ve got the Cavalryman Steakhouse! It’s real old school; literally steak and potatoes… and seafood… and lamb… and several burgers. Alas, as much as I’d love to keep talking about food, that isn’t what this article is about. Why include a steakhouse on an article about celebrating being able to drink? Because parents. Family and what have you. Surely some will have visitors from home on this most momentous birthday, and what better way to celebrate with family than by having dinner at a classy country-western steakhouse with an equally classy local cocktail? However if it’s younger family or hometown friends that you don’t really need to impress as much and that you’re just going to get into 21+ shenanigans, I’d recommend Almanza’s burritos at 3am.