Summer Nightlife Guide
by Jane Lerner, 05/26/2010
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New York nightlife is a varied beast. Are you looking for a celebrity-studded hotel bar in Manhattan or a low-key dive in Brooklyn? Do you prefer spaced-out disco dancing at midnight on Monday nights or relaxing drinks on the beach? That's only the beginning of the multifaceted, ever-changing scene in New York City, where there's so much to do late at night you might as well stay up till dawn—or into the afternoon, when the party starts all over again.
Hit the Dance Floor
For honest-to-goodness dance-floor devotees, Cielo is the stalwart, the little club with the big sound system and a schedule of world-class DJs. One party there, Deep Space, has held down Monday nights for years and attracts an international crowd of dancers grooving to a mix of electronica, disco and dub. Santos Party House in Chinatown has a similarly unpretentious door policy and a roster of DJs and live bands that encourage good-time antics. Fridays at Santos are all about a hip-hop night called ReOPENed, and Sundays belong to the 718 Sessions for deep house. No matter what's on, the crowd is funky.
Webster Hall is a storied old venue that hosts some of the most popular parties in town—everything from girls'-night-out pop hits to banging techno is represented throughout the week. You know you're in the right place when you see the huge marquee and the line down the block. Another NYC institution is S.O.B.'s, where the music policy is decidedly international: Basement Bhangra is a long-running party dedicated to Indian music, and events showcasing soca, bossa nova and salsa are also superpopular. Just down the street from S.O.B.'s is Greenhouse, the first nightspot that can call itself an eco-club; drinking and dancing amid the moss and plant life feels so much healthier.
New Yorkers love to multitask—we're very busy!—so it makes sense that hotels and restaurants are in on the nightlife game. Start with the food at Kenmare, where a menu of Italian specialties gives you fortitude for a night spent drinking cocktails and ogling the pretty people in the downstairs lounge (Kenmare is run by some of the same people as the now-shuttered Beatrice Inn). For something even more sparkly, try your luck at the newly restored ballroom at The Jane Hotel or the 18th-floor penthouse of The Standard hotel. You probably won't be able to get in without some serious name-dropping or the outfit of a lifetime, but it's guaranteed to be fabulous if you do. Best wishes.
Also, look out for shows or special parties happening at a fresh venue called Good Units, which is in the basement of the stylish Hudson hotel (Erykah Badu played a recent show here). Or get yourself on the mailing list for the Tribeca Grand Hotel's parties, where a high-fashion crowd gets down to some of the City's favorite DJs.
Keep It Casual
Brooklyn is the borough for non-clubby clubbing—think of the following spots as cool bars with an emphasis on good tunes. Zebulon, Bembe and Public Assembly are all in Williamsburg and host hopping nights of dance-floor mayhem. Zebulon schedules a lot of live music, but it always looks like a dance party's about to break out. Bembe feels veritably tropical with its hot, crowded dance floor and rhythmic music, from reggae to Latin to full-on funk. And the offerings are varied at Public Assembly—you'll stumble across burlesque, comedy, live music and lectures—but the techno parties thrown by the Bunker crew on select Friday nights are downright off the hook.
Newcomer Littlefield is in an industrial section of Brooklyn between Cobble Hill and Park Slope; it might be hard to find, but a creative calendar of bands and DJ nights attract a crowd of more than just locals. For something more in the center of things, but quite literally underground, check out perennially hip Lit Lounge in the East Village. Descend the stairs into a world of "It" girls and downtown cool kids, tons of live bands and hipster DJs. The place never seems to go out of style.
Start the Party Early
Let's turn the term "nightlife" into an oxymoron! There are plenty of parties that don't take place at night at all—in addition to the mind-blowing lineups of free music festivals, some of the City's most exciting dancing options happen in the daylight hours in interesting locales throughout the five boroughs. The Frying Pan is an old lightship (like a movable lighthouse) docked at Pier 66 in the Hudson River; one-off parties and special events take place there regularly. Or you can just grab a drink and watch the sunset from the pier. Long Island City in Queens is one of summertime's hottest party neighborhoods: start your Saturday afternoon at MoMA PS1 Warm-Up, where thousands go to dance in the courtyard of the contemporary art museum. Afterward, walk or take the subway over to the Water Taxi Beach on the Long Island City waterfront, where a makeshift sandy shore offers sunbathing, barbecue and some amazing DJ talent.
Some final words of advice: remember that from night to night the same club might have a totally different kind of crowd or style of music. Call ahead or check the venue's website to confirm what's happening that evening. And always bring proper identification, such as a driver's license, national ID or passport (a student card will not suffice). You will be carded no matter how old you look, so be prepared; most clubs will deny you entry without proof of age.