NYC Nightlife 101

Alyson Penn

(Updated 11/08/2019)

Late at night, the City that Never Sleeps isn’t only not sleeping—it’s having a blast. So after you’ve walked around The Met, shot to the top of the Empire State Building, ferried to the Statue of Liberty and seen a Broadway show, don’t just go back to your hotel. Hit the bars. Or jazz clubs. Or comedy clubs, cabarets or beer gardens. If you need some ideas, check out some of the essentials below. You can sleep on the flight home.


Cut loose at NYC’s flashy nightclubs, many in the Meatpacking District and Williamsburg, where DJs can spin until 6am.

Le Bain
The club on top of The Standard has floor-to-ceiling windows, an Astroturf-covered roof and, yes, a hot tub in the middle of the dance floor.
Dance to: Clubby European tunes.

Bossa Nova Civic Club
In-the-know EDM fans in Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood gather around this impossibly cool, tropically themed spot that has no attitude and a fog machine.
Dance to: House and techno.

PHD at Dream
If you want to feel like a true VIP, head up the elevators to the Penthouse at Dream Downtown. The ceilings are high, the chandeliers are shiny, the crowd is beautiful and the skyline views are outstanding.
Dance to: EDM and hip-hop spun live by DJs.

Bemelman's Bar, Carlyle Hotel. Photo: Seth Smoot

Upscale Drinks

Beautiful decor, sophisticated drinks and an elegant crowd distinguish these bars from the rest.

King Cole Bar and Salon
Drink like royalty at the St. Regis Hotel’s 1948 bar, which is known for its opulent, buttoned-up atmosphere. Take note of the oversize Maxfield Parrish mural of Old King Cole.
Bloody delicious: The St. Regis claims that the Bloody Mary (aka the Red Snapper) was invented there. Try one and see if they’re the masters.

Bemelmans Bar
The Carlyle Hotel houses this upscale, elegant bar with famous murals by the illustrator of the Madeline children’s books.
Celebrity sighting: The bar's nightly jazz sets often feature guest performances from A-listers like Mariah Carey, Bono and Cyndi Lauper.


Rose Bar
It’s not easy to get into the Rose Bar—the door is super restrictive, reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance and getting there requires a trip through the Gramercy Hotel’s lobby and Jade Bar—but it’s well worth the effort. Fashionistas flock to the place because it somehow manages to be trendy and under the radar at the same time.
Work of art: The space’s art collection includes works by Warhol, Hirst, Basquiat and Haring.

The Campbell
Located uptairs in Grand Central, with soaring ceilings, leaded-glass windows and an old-fashioned elegance, this retro-luxe bar serves exquisite cocktails with catchy names like The Stackhouse Sour and Grand Central Spritz.
One-stop shop: You can enter the place straight from Grand Central Terminal for your first drink after getting off the train to New York City.

Brandy Library
The bartenders here take their cocktails seriously. With liquor as the main décor, an extensive drink menu and a Tribeca address you’ll feel like you scored a seat at the adults’ table.
What’s distinctive: It’s not called a “library” for nothing. The bar has a collection of books—mainly on the subject of spirits—so guests can study what they’re drinking.

Dutch Kills. Photo: Julienne Schaer


Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the streets and escape into these quiet hideaways that serve libations on the down-low.

Death & Co.
This dimly lit speakeasy in the East Village sorts its menu of strong cocktails by type of liquor and also gets points for its servers old-timey outfits.
How secretive? The place is hidden behind big wooden doors, but there’s a small sign and a bouncer on the street.

Angel’s Share
This Asian-themed den concocts expertly crafted cocktails in a gothic, old-world setting.
How secretive? There’s no signage out front. To get in, you have to climb the stairs to the Village Yokocho restaurant—where you enter via an unmarked door.

This may be the City’s most well-known speakeasy, so call and make a reservation first. Each cocktail has a little story detailed on the menu.
How secretive? The entrance is through a phone booth at the divey restaurant Crif Dogs.

Dutch Kills
An unpretentious but chic Long Island City bar, Dutch Kills is known for its seasonal cocktails and hand-cut ice.
How secretive? There is a neon-lit sign that says “Bar” outside a rundown-looking former engineering services building.


Hotel Delmano
It's not actually in a hotel, but this upscale bar oozes old NYC with vintage-style trimmings and seasonal drinks that riff off the classics.
How secretive? There’s no signage out front, so make sure you know the address.

The Standard Biergarten. Photo: Alexander Thompson

Beer Hall and Bars

Sometimes you just want to kick back with friends and drink some suds. These hoppy options have you covered.

The Standard Biergarten
The popular spot at the bottom of The Standard Hotel is jam-packed at pretty much all hours—for good reason. The large space is perfect for big groups. It has Ping-Pong tables, stacks of seating and, in summer, an open roof.
On tap: Franziskaner Weissbier, Bitburger, Köstritzer

Brooklyn Brewery
Visit the Williamsburg home of the ubiquitous Brooklyn Lager. Take a tour, drink at their picnic tables and bring in your own food.
On tap: Brooklyn Lager, Sorachi Ace Saison, Defender IPA

Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden
This Astoria spot has a large outdoor, tree-filled space with Czech and Slovenian beer and food. Pitchers are cheap, and the bar also hosts live performances.
On tap: Hoegaarden, Schofferhofer, Czechvar

Bronx Beer Hall
The Bronx Beer Hall, in Arthur Avenue Retail Market, is a relative newcomer—it opened in 2013. It serves local craft brews, has friendly owners and is popular with locals on their lunch breaks.
On tap: Torch& Crown, Gun Hill, Grimm

Travel the world in Staten Island by sampling beers from 16 countries at this historic spot that also has great soft pretzels, Sauerbraten and sausage.
On tap: Samichlaus (strongest beer in the world, according to website), Beck’s, Schneider Weisse

Old Town Bar. Photo: Alexander Thompson

Classics and Old-Time Bars

If we could tuuuurn back tiiime … we would go to these long-standing watering holes.


McSorley’s Old Ale House
This Lower East Side bar is known for its colorful history, sawdust on the floor, and choice of only two ales (dark and light).
Just how old? The bar claims it’s been open since 1854, though there are some who disagree. It used to be a bar for men only—women weren’t allowed inside until 1970.

Turkey’s Nest
It doesn't get divier than this long-standing bar on the edge of McCarren Park. The drinks are large, strong and cheap, if not original. And served in Styrofoam cups.
Just how old? It’s been open since 1980.

Ear Inn
One of the City’s oldest bars, Ear Inn doesn’t get by on its age alone: the live music and friendly atmosphere make the federal-style building a fun place to hang out.
Just how old? The building, an official New York City landmark, was built sometime in the late 18th century.

Old Town Bar
Another oldie but goodie, this Flatiron bar has a dumbwaiter to transport food and drinks between levels. Don’t miss the tin ceiling or oversize urinals (sorry, ladies) either.
Just how old? Old Town Bar has been open since 1892 and was even a Tammany Hall–backed speakeasy (a real one) during Prohibition.

White Horse Tavern
A mix of locals and students descend upon this West Village watering hole, which gets serious literary cred from its association with Dylan Thomas and others. Take advantage of its outdoor seating in the warmer months.
Just how old? It has been open since 1880 and was a popular gathering place for bohemians and writers in the 1950s and 60s.

Bowery Ballroom. Photo: Joe Buglewicz

Live Music

Catch major pop acts belting out top 40 hits, obscure local indie artists playing what they hope will become hits, and everything in between at these live rock, pop and hip-hop venues.

Bowery Ballroom
This art deco concert hall on the Lower East Side was built in 1929, right before the Great Depression. It books a mix of obscure and mainstream acts.
Bonus track: The building only became a concert venue nearly 70 years into its life—in the 1930s, it was a shoe store.

Music Hall of Williamsburg
The Bowery Ballroom folks also own this intimate, laid-back space that hosts mid-size touring acts.
Bonus track: Tired of standing? You can usually find some seating in the balcony upstairs.


Webster Hall
This historic venue—opened in 1886—draws a younger, harder-partying crowd for club nights, but also hosts live music.
Bonus track: As part of its recent renovation, the venue gained the Ritz Room, a spacious bar and lounge to relax in between sets.

The Bell House
This renovated Gowanus warehouse hosts events like Beatles tribute shows, comedy nights, live DJs and sets by well-known touring bands.
Bonus track: The shape of the Bell House’s ballroom makes for great sightlines during concerts, in our humble opinion.

Minton's. Photo: Julienne Schaer

Jazz Clubs

New York City still has jazz clubs from the genre’s heyday, along with some glitzier, newer ones.

Charlie “Bird” Parker inspired this club’s name—he was the headliner when it opened in 1949. But he wasn’t the only big name attached to the white-tablecloth establishment: Count Basie and his band made it their headquarters, and patrons such as Marilyn Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra stopped by.
Go here if: You want to be transported back in time.

Village Vanguard
Village Vanguard opened in 1935, and it’s now one of the oldest continuously running jazz clubs in the City. There have been over 100 albums recorded there, and the quaint, unchanged decor in the basement is peak nostalgia.
Go here if: You’re super serious about jazz.

Blue Note
Blue Note is a relatively new, glitzy jazz club in Greenwich Village with clear acoustics and big stars dropping by.
Go here if: You like your shows big, loud and buzzy.

This revived Harlem jazz club is also an elegant, welcoming supper club. Order southern favorites like fried chicken, mac and cheese and gumbo, and keep in mind that jackets are required for men.
Go here if: You’re celebrating a special occasion.

Jazz at Lincoln Center
Large windows overlook Columbus Circle and Central Park in Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola and the Appel Room (two of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s three rooms—the Rose Theater is the third).
Go here if: You like your jazz with a side of amazing views.


Dangerfield's. Photo: Alex Lopez

Comedy Clubs

New York is a funny place, as long as you don’t take it too seriously. It’s no wonder that so many comedians get their start here and some of the funniest movies and TV shows are set here (such as Seinfeld, Sex and the City and 30 Rock). And if you want to see live comedy, this is the place.

Comedy Cellar
You'll often see people lining up on MacDougal Street to see big names like Louis CK, Chris Rock and Wanda Sykes at this underground, exposed-brick space. Most nights there are three shows, and the showcase format means you’ll see shorter sets from more acts.
Tickets or drinks? Both. Tickets range from $14 to $24, and there’s a two-drink minimum.

Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre
Amy Poehler’s old comedy troupe founded this theater, which has NYC locations in Chelsea and the East Village. The UCB’s focus remains long-form improvisation—which is what made it famous—but these days you can also catch plenty of sketch and stand-up there.
Tickets or drinks? Tickets cost $7 to $17, and some shows are free. There’s no drink minimum, and the beer is cheap.

Carolines on Broadway
This Times Square club usually hosts full-length headline sets from big names. The space feels a little more upscale than some of the other NYC comedy clubs.
Tickets or drinks? Both. Wide range for ticket prices, two drink minimum.

Dangerfield’s has more of an old-school NYC feel. The dated decor feels authentic because it’s one of the longest running clubs in the City (open since 1969). Some of the comedians who have come to perform include Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock.
Tickets or drinks? Tickets are $20 at all shows, two-drink minimum nightly.

The Creek and the Cave
Don’t underestimate this under-the-radar spot in Long Island City. While not strictly a comedy club, it’s become a magnet for young stand-up, sketch and improv talent.
Tickets or drinks? Tickets average around $5. Beer and snacks are cheap.

The Stonewall Inn. Photo: Christopher Postlewaite

Gay Bars and Clubs

The gay nightlife in NYC is divey, dancey and everything in between.

Stonewall Inn
This West Village spot is an emblem of the gay rights movement and lent its name to the Stonewall Riots of 1969.
Go here if: You want to experience a little bit of history.


This popular little West Village bar is friendly to gay, lesbian and straight folk and is consequently jam-packed on the weekends. Funky tchotchkes— like kites, snowflakes, stars and paper umbrellas—line the ceiling.
Go here if: You’re in the mood for a very social, high-energy dive bar.

Happyfun Hideaway
A cheap dive bar in Bushwick with a back patio and a hipster-y crowd. It’s more gay-friendly than strictly a gay bar.
Go here if: You’re looking to hang out with some friends in a relaxed environment.

Club Evolution
This Jackson Heights Latin club has two dance floors, a different DJ every night and regular theme parties.
Go here if: You’re itching to dance to some steamy Latin tunes.

Brooklyn Bowl. Photo: Julienne Schaer

Bars with Games and Other Novelties

If you’re looking to “drink and …” we can help fill in the blank with these bars.

Ramp up the nostalgia with old-school video games like Donkey Kong and Ms. Pac-Man at this bar that’s become a mini chain. It combines classic arcade cabinets with a wide variety of American craft beers.
Fame and fortune: Barcade keeps a list of the high scores from each game on its website.

Brooklyn Bowl
This place rocks and rolls: visitors can bowl, listen to live music from touring acts, drink and eat food from Blue Ribbon.
Strike a blow for the environment: Brooklyn Bowl was the first bowling alley specifically built for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

Susan Sarandon's chic Ping-Pong lounge has 17 tables and live music on the weekends.
Pong party: The venue hosts tournaments, ping-pong leagues and DJ nights.

Royal Palms
Play shuffleboard like a trendy grandpa at this massive Florida-themed bar in Gowanus. Then snap some goofy pics at their free photo booth stocked with props.
Checkmate: There are a ton of other games up for grabs in the bar, including oversize Jenga and Connect Four.


230 Fifth Avenue. Photo: Joel Fisher

Booze with Views

Head to these bars and enjoy the great outdoors (or views thereof).

230 Fifth
The massive patio here—filled with wooden benches and garden chairs—can hold up to 1,200 revelers, who savor classic cocktails while enjoying unobstructed looks at the Empire State Building, the MetLife building and, yes, New Jersey.
When is it open? Year-round. It even erects “igloos” in the winter.

Frying Pan
Looking for a novel place to host happy hour or spend a summer Saturday hangout? Head for the Hudson River, where this reconstructed ship serves full meals and buckets of beer.
When is it open? Regular season is May 1–October 1. In April and October, it’s open when the temperature is 65 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

This rooftop bar-restaurant is the cherry on top of Flatiron culinary mega-attraction Eataly. It has house-brewed ales on tap, a full food menu and great views of Madison Square Park and the Flatiron and Empire State Buildings.
When is it open? Year-round

Rusty Knot
This nautically themed bar on the Hudson River is known for tiki drinks, pretzel dogs and a neighborhood feel.
When is it open? Year-round

Top of The Standard
Everything about the Top of The Standard (aka Boom Boom Room) is opulent. Think gold, shimmering decor with a well-heeled crowd, a tough door and some of the best views in Manhattan.
When is it open? Year-round