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.