Hawaiian Luaus on a Nut Farm, 'Astounding' Magic Shows, Bible Stories on Stage: America's 15 Favorite Local Entertainment Experiences Around the country, these local arts and entertainment businesses never fail to inspire and amuse.
Entrepreneur asked Yelp to dig into its data, to reveal which ones America loved the most. Together we created America's Favorite Mom & Pop Shops, a list of 150 local, independently owned and operated businesses across 10 categories — including, yes, arts and entertainment.
To see every category, as well as the methodology behind the list, click here. Below are the 15 companies included in the arts and entertainment category.
Note: Some businesses may have multiple locations. Only one location is listed for each.
1. Spectra Art Space
Spectra Art Space is owned and operated by three young women in the heart of Denver's creativity-fueled and millennial-/Gen X-rich South Denver neighborhood. This combination of gallery, studio and event space is host to a correspondingly wide-ranging palette of events. Calendar recents include the "Vibrant Accessibility" group show (featuring artwork for low-vision and blind audiences) and Novo Ita: Propagation (an "immersive art, botanical, augmented reality, virtually theatrical and highly interactive experience").
Referencing a 2022 exhibit, one Yelp reviewer made particular mention of its "3D animation art and QR codes." Then they wrote: "What I enjoyed most was that everything was a unique contribution by several artists. We [also] browsed their local art gallery and there are some very cool and beautiful pieces, all for sale, which supports local artists!"
2. Illusions Bar & Theater
This wonderfully odd gem in Federal Hill-Montgomery is Charm City's longest running magic bar and theater, and just a couple of blocks away from make-a-day-of-it draws like the American Visionary Art Museum and Maryland Science Center. And you can feel the pedigree: Founder Spencer Horsman's mom and dad were Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus clowns, and Spencer began his magic training at age 4. Now he's joined by his partner in life and business, Nicole Bailey, who runs the craft cocktail program that accompanies the show.
One Yelp review summarized things particularly neatly: "Spencer is amazing, funny, and genuine. His magic is mesmerizing." Another wrote: "Not your typical magic show. Super entertaining and amusing. He's hilarious and even adds some psychological mind reading element which was fun."
3. Cheaper Than Therapy
San Francisco, CA
Cheaper Than Therapy is a comedy show that also happens a lot more often than therapy. Every show (Wednesday through Sunday at 8:00 p.m., with additional 10:00 p.m. shows on Friday and Saturday) features five to six comedians, along with "an occasional guest drop-in."
The show is celebrating its 10th anniversary and is housed the Shelton Theater, which has been an incubator for Bay Area artists since 1961. You must be 18 to buy a ticket, and there's a full bar (with no drink minimum!) for those 21 and older. "Super cute intimate space," offered one Yelper, "and you'll see the comedians before the show checking people in and seating people. You can hang out with the performers after the show in the bar and everyone is super friendly."
4. Pinballz Arcade
This Wooten neighborhood business's tag line is "Eat, Drink, Party, Play." That's a tidy summation of what's in store — with a particular emphasis on play, as there are hundreds of both modern and classic arcade, pinball and other machines on hand. From UFO Catcher Crane to Centaur, Big Buck Hunter HD to Aliens Armageddon, the curation here is equal parts stupefying and thrilling.
When carpal tunnel sets in, hit Mikki's Replay Café food truck, which dishes out candy, small snacks and full meals (the Classic Frito Pie, with sour cream and jalapenos, will conure your spirit animal). A BYOB alcohol policy is also hugely appreciated by the slightly older crowd, with one reviewer Yelping that "you've got plenty of shooters, fighters, old-school games like Super Mario… There's also air hockey, a dance system, Guitar Hero, hoops [and] Skee-Ball."
5. Martin Auto Museum & Event Center
Mel Martin, who founded this four-wheeled mecca in 2005 (recently expanded and refurbished in 2022), really gets to rev things up in a space that can now house more than 160 vehicles, along with antique gas pumps, memorabilia and signage.
The categories are a whirlwind, and feature hot rods, cruisers, 1960s/'70s luxo-barges and formative early-20th-century designs. It's hard to pick standouts, but the 1886 Benz Patent-Motorwagen, a 1922 Chevrolet Boattail race car and the 1965 Shelby Cobra are jaw dropping. Should the kids' eyes start to glaze over, just direct them to the carousel and/or Martin's selection of driving and racing games.
6. The Theatre
The Theatre is a performance and event space with accommodations for shows, rehearsals, art exhibitions, weddings and other private parties, located just west of the city's Riverwalk District. Its anchor show (at least through December, 2023) is "Magique," featuring illusionists Kevin & Caruso, who have, over a 22-year professional partnership, honed a performance that combines old-school illusions (levitation, swordcraft, Houdini-esque homages) with both wry irreverence and multimedia savvy.
There's also a dash of audience participation, with one Yelper detailing that, "I found myself on stage after Kevin came up looking for a female volunteer to help him with a magic trick. He was funny, [and] although I can be a bit bashful at times, I had a good time up there."
7. The Black Fedora Comedy Mystery Theatre
Just over ten years ago, Sherry and Darryl Wade decamped from Atlanta to Charleston, after spending decades honing live entertainment producing skills. Now, in a city richly steeped in legends, ghost sightings and intrigue, they offer "comic mystery" shows and whodunnits — from "Inspector NoClue's Murder Mystery Show" to "Murder at the Redneck Reunion."
If you're keen, you can join the ranks of the "audience actors," and there's liquid courage on hand in the form of beer and wine, along with apps, desserts, sodas and teas. "Go. Have fun. Laugh," offered one Yelp reviewer. "[But] understand this is not an L.A. comedy club. Just good ol' boys (& girls) that want you to have an enjoyable evening (& at an extremely reasonable price)!"
In the vibrant Northalsted neighborhood and just a spit from Lake Michigan's Belmont Harbor, this venue is host some of the region's finest magic performances — and founder Aaron Rabkin is wont to bring a fair degree of outrageousness to the proceedings. Rabkin got into magic at the age of 5, when his aunt gave him his first magic set, and he's been bending reality ever since — creating a stage and space here intimate enough to make at least some degree of audience participation de rigueur.
Shows run Thursday through Sunday nights, and BYOB is a happy house plus. "Warn, fun, funny, and astounding," observed one Yelp reviewer. "You can bring your date. Heck, you can bring your date and your parents and you'll all go home mystified and happy."
9. Laughing Sun Brewing
At first blush, Laughing Sun is what you'd expect from a craft brewer/bar/restaurant — until you hit the ax throwing. Yes, after a bracing Mule Daze Cider, Sinister Belgian Strong Golden Ale or Feast Like A Sultan IPA (among at least a dozen additional tap options), patrons can wobble over and book a lane where you can turn various edged items (including ninja stars, spears, playing cards, and tomahawks) into missiles! (Participants have to 18 or older, thank the Great Pumpkin.)
MUG CLUB members get discounts on their first beer, along with 10% off food during Happy Hour. The BBQ fare is simply killer (pun intended), with the Chopped Brisket Sandwich and St. Louis Style Ribs particularly delish.
10. Experience Nutridge
Pu'u Ualaka'a State Wayside Park is a true jewel in a state already stuffed with natural wonders. It's on the island of Oahu, 1,000 feet above sea level, and offers jaw-dropping views in every direction. Hawaii's first macadamia nut plantation, Nutridge Estate, was founded there in 1921 — and now, guests can now visit and book luaus on the historic property.
The experience — with an emphasis on Hawaiian history and culture — includes interactive excursions, a kukui nut lei, primers on local protocols and traditions, workshops, games and a farm-to-table dinner. "Cannot recommend the Experience Nutridge Luau enough," offered one Yelper. "If you only do one thing on your trip to Oahu, make it this."
11. Imagine Museum
Saint Petersburg, FL
Imagine Museum is on a mission to "elevate American and international contemporary glass art and artists through exhibitions, education and research." Its founder, Trish Duggan, along with Habatat Galleries president Corey Hampson, have curated a vast and thrilling collection of contemporary glass art. There is a permanent collection from artists that span the globe, along with auctions, special events and a free night market for local makers to demonstrate their processes and present work for sale.
"This is a newer addition to the explosive art scene in Downtown St. Pete," wrote a Yelp reviewer and frequent local gallery visitor, "and is one not to be missed!"
12. Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits
New Orleans, LA
Only in a city like New Orleans — with its ineffably casual sophistication — can a combination of garden party, wine tasting and regional fare maker/server seem so effortless. You can find it in the Faubourg Marigny/Bywater neighborhood, a place with a pulsating art scene and various live music spaces and markets.
Bacchanal turned 20 in 2022, and is helmed in large part by founding chef and managing partner, Joaquin Rodas. His dishes include confit chicken leg, a coulotte steak, and the house-famous Build Your Own Cheese Plate, served with olives, pickles, toasted bread, chutney and mostarda. As a regular guest (or a member of the Bacchanal Wine Club), you'll get dreamy over an ever-rotating list — emphasizing Old World-style winemaking from smaller producers — all curated by Bacchanal pros.
13. Sight & Sound Theatres
Founded more then 40 years ago by Shirley and Glenn Eshelman, this performance venue and production company creates and presents Biblically-inspired live theatrical shows, along with films. Its 2,000-seat Pennsylvania venue, with a 300-foot stage that envelops the audience, became so consistently sold out that a second one was built in Branson, Missouri in 2008, with family members in a variety of management/support roles.
A signature show, "Moses," is scheduled to run into October of 2023, and includes immersive sets, a variety of multimedia special effects and live animals. In reference to another performance, one Yelp reviewer offered that, "I was so impressed and blessed by the play that Sight & Sound theater must now be in my yearly must-do list!"
14. Spring Haven Farm
Chapel Hill, NC
Ceiran Crihfield and his father opened their family farm to the public in 2016 with a simple intention — to connect humans and animals. Goats are the principal draw, and the farm gives people the opportunity to interact with them in a large central pen. But as that became a hit, the farm expanded to include Baby Goat Zen (50 minutes of "snuggling, hugging and playing with baby goats") and even Movies with Goats, in which the pasture is turned into an outdoor and animal-rich cinema.
Anyone 4 or older is welcome, and visitors are free to bring their own food and drink. (Animal treats are available at the concession stand.)
15. Tennessee Brew Works
After quitting a life in finance in 2013, Christian Spears chose this site — in the beating heart of Music City (and with Carter Vintage Guitars just two hundred yards away) — to brave his own statement in a whirlwind of brewpub competitors. To help, he partnered with Matt Simpson, a Colorado brew guru, and in 2018 the two created the first all-Tennessee grain beers.
The company's State Park Blonde Ale is now Tennessee State Parks' official beer. Walk the Lime, likewise made with local wheat, is another great summer choice, as is the Belgian-style Southern Wit. In all aspects of production, as well as in Executive Chef Alex Leibow's kitchen (seriously consider his Nashville Hot Chicken), the emphasis is on supporting other local brewers and farmers.