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New York City nightlife

New York nightlife is currently in the midst of a 1920s flashback, with covert, speakeasy-style bars popping up left and right—think dark-lit basement spaces complete with unmarked entrances, absinthe-laced cocktails, and reservations requirements. Some of these spots are legitimately difficult to find and get into; others, like PDT and the Box, are not prohibitively expensive or exclusive and view the mystique as part of the fun.

In general, most of the nightlife worth going out for in New York City takes place below 34th Street, and the super-chic crowd that once descended upon the Meatpacking District (MPD) and Chelsea has left their bottle service behind for the less-mega clubs of the East Village, West Village, and the Lower East Side. That's not to say that the MPD and Chelsea have become ghost towns—quite the opposite. Weeknights are still jumping, but weekends are so overrun with out-of-towners and the much-derided bridge-and-tunnel crowd that crossing Ninth Avenue at Gansevoort Street on a Saturday night can feel like walking through Grand Central Station. On the opposite side of town, Avenues A, B, and C and the side streets surrounding them—plus the Lower East Side's Clinton, Ludlow, and Rivington streets—are drenched in bars, both divey and upscale, and make for prime hopping territory. The stretch of the Bowery from Soho up through Cooper Square has recently undergone a major transformation, with restaurants, bars, and clubs dominating the strip historically known for its halfway houses and dirty rocker bars. Similarly, the once-sleepy Chinatown has awakened as a haven for under-the-radar bars and nightspots.

Most weekend nights, expect things to get jumping around 11 or 11:30 and keep going until last call at 4 am: New York isn't called the city that never sleeps for nothing. In fact, most bars are open seven days a week, with Thursdays, Sundays, and recently Tuesdays becoming serious party nights. Some say that Friday nights are when the real New Yorkers stay in, and catch up on their TV shows and order takeout, but that's only partially true. No matter their age and occupation, everyone in New York likes to party; so wherever you are, expect to mingle with a mix of just-legal New York University kids, Wall Street banker types (there are still plenty of them), downtown artists, and uptown socialites. Since New York nightlife is constantly in a state of flux—clubs change their names and owners on a weekly basis—get a copy of Time Out New York, which has an encyclopedic, up-to-date list of all New York's after-dark happenings.

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Mercury Lounge, Lower East Side

This tiny Lower East Side spot has been the first New York stop for many a now-famous band. Because music booking titans Bowery Presents are in charge of...more

Editors' Pick
PDT, East Village

There seem to be more speakeasies in New York these days than there were during Prohibition. So it's nice to see PDT—or "Please Don't Tell"—have some...more

Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Pegu Club, Soho

This suave, romantic second floor bar seems a world away from the bustle of Houston Street below. Named after the famed British officers club in Rangoon, it...more

Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Riff Raff's, Midtown East

The look of Riff Raff's, a subterranean bar/nightclub located underneath the Polynesian megarestaurant Hurricane Club, is equal parts tropical (tribal masks and...more

Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Rose Bar, Gramercy

New York has never lacked for swank hotel bars, but the Rose Bar, located in the Gramercy Park Hotel, takes things to a whole new level. Though the bar's $19...more

Editors' Pick
Russian Vodka Room, Midtown West

This dimly lit, windowless hideaway transports you from Midtown to old-world Moscow. A portrait of Lenin hangs on the wall overseeing a lively piano player and...more

Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Rusty Knot, West Village

An upscale take on a nautical-themed dive bar could be utterly obnoxious, but Rusty Knot manages to pull it off with endearing style. This is likely due to the...more

Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Salon de Ning, Midtown East

Named for fictional 1930s Shanghai jet-setress Madame Ning, the lounge atop the Peninsula Hotel is inspired by a time when the Chinese city was known as "the...more

Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Santos Party House, Chinatown

You don't go to Santos Party House to perch on a banquette while looking cute—you go to Santos Party House to seriously get down while looking cute. Helmed...more

Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Spitzer's Corner, Lower East Side

The buzz surrounding this downtown "gastropub" shouldn't give the Spotted Pig too much pause: With dozens of hard-to-find artisanal brews on draft, nobody's...more

Editors' Pick
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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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