College finals week is filled with studying, writing, and reading on top of managing all the other aspects of your busy life. It’s important to take breaks from schoolwork, as time away from your desk can actually increase your motivation and prevent burnout.
You work hard all semester, so go easy on yourself during finals week. It can be helpful to create a schedule with your list of tasks and assignments to make sure you can work everything in. At the same time, be sure to schedule in breaks and time to visit friends, get a workout in, go out to eat, visit your favorite bar, or spend an hour at a location that feeds your soul and takes your mind off of work for a bit.
While you probably already have some late-night eats locations and spots for leisure in mind, here’s a look at 10 of the best places to take a break during finals week across the U.S. Even if you don’t live near one of these spots, there might be an establishment close by that offers similar comforts or relaxation.
1. Insomnia Cookies
This New York/Philadelphia-based chain has more than 200 stores throughout the U.S., many of which are close to major college campuses. If sweets are your thing and you need a late-night sugar rush during finals, Insomnia Cookies has you covered. You can choose from cookies, cakes, ice cream, brownies, and many others. Most of its locations are open until 3:00 am and offer delivery right to your door.
2. Golden Dagger
Located at 2447 North Halsted Street in Chicago, Golden Dagger (formerly Tonic Room) brings you a tasteful selection of cocktails AND coffee in one cozy venue. The establishment is also locally known as one of the most musical artist-friendly locations around, so you might be able to take your mind off those last-minute papers by seeing a great touring or local band up close and personal. Golden Dagger is also verry COVID-concious, so you can enjoy your coffee and cocktails knowing that the owner, Donnie Biggins, has your best interests in mind. Keep an eye out for performances by the great Chicago band, The Shams Band. Open until 10:00 PM (special COVID hours), normally open until 2:00 AM on the weekends.
3. Thirsty Crow
Does finals week have you in the mood for a tasty cocktail? Located in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake, Thirsty Crow is an old-school drinking establishment specializing in craft cocktails and bourbon. There’s also beers on tap, along with good people-watching. Grab a barstool any time before 2:00 AM, Monday-Saturday, and before 12:00 AM on Sundays. 2939 West Sunset Boulevard.
4. Torchy’s Tacos
Started in Austin, TX, Torchy’s Tacos now has locations in eleven states. You’ll find some of the best modern takes on traditional tacos here, along with great salads and sides. This might be a little more expensive than your usual taco joint, but they’re worth it. Most locations offer a 3:00-6:00 PM happy hour, with specials on margaritas and bottled or draft beer. Hours of operation vary among locations, but you’re likely to find one open until 10:00 or 11:00 PM most nights. You can also get Torchy’s delivered straight to your door with DoorDash.
5. Pinewood Social
Nashville, TN’s Pinewood Social offers up some excellent opportunities to get your mind off of school for a moment. How about dinner, bowling, and drinks all in one spot? This isn’t a divey bowling alley with a snack bar in the back, however. This spot is really hip, with decor and design that’s as thoughtful as their menu. It’s a busy spot, so you might need to make reservations in advance. But if you’re looking to cool out after that big exam on Tuesday morning, consider evening reservations later on with some good friends.
6. Waffle House
Trying to study but have savory diner foods on your mind? Waffle House has you covered. Based in Georgia, Waffle House has more than 2,100 locations across 25 states. Aside from a giant menu (there’s also a secret menu you can ask your server for), every Waffle House is open all day, every day of the year. That’s right. Sundays, New Year’s Day, Christmas, the day before your last final, you name it, Waffle House will be open. You can order just about any type of diner-style meal here, including waffles, eggs, burgers, steak, hash browns, pies, and beyond. For a close look at the classic American Waffle House, check out Michah Cash’s photography and essays here.
7. New York City Museums
Many of the country’s best museums are located in NYC. There are museums that are always free to visitors, as well as others that offer free days or pay-what-you-can entry fees. These are a great way to take a break from studying during the day or to help you unwind after an exam. You’ll also avoid spending cash at a bar or restaurant with this option. If you haven’t been yet, maybe check out museums like the American Folk Art Museum, American Museum of Natural History, National Museum of the American Indian, or El Museo del Barrio.
8. Ground Kontrol
Located at 115 NW 5th Avenue in Portland, OR, Ground Kontrol has some of the best cheap thrill distractions from finals week you can find. How about an arcade with over 100 video games and pinball machines, plus a full-service bar? Exactly. This venue also has special events like comedy shows, karaoke, and high-score competitions. Open until midnight every night, it’s a great place for a late-night study break.
9. Walk Newbury Street to Boston Common
One great way to get out and about for Bostonians living near the Back Bay neighborhood is a hike down Newbury Street through Boston Common. Students needing to get some exercise can get a lot out of a brisk walk, too. Newbury Street will be either be hopping with Christmas shoppers or people enjoying beautiful Boston weather in the springtime, depending on which semester you’re in. Even if you’re not stopping at any of the amazing shops on Newbury, it’s great people-watching and leads directly into the historic Boston Common–50 beautiful acres carefully protected by the city and the site of many major events in American history.
10. Nitehawk Cinema
There might be a comparable movie theater in your area, but it’s hard to beat the Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn, NY. There are two locations: one in Williamsburg and another in Prospect Park. The Nitehawk was the first movie theater in the state to get a liquor license. Today, you can order amazing cocktails and food that’s carefully paired with whichever film you’re there to see. If you’re just looking to wind down after a busy day of finals, it’s a great spot to zone out and treat yourself. Go with friends or go it alone, you’re bound to have a stress-free night away from your desk.