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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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Cielo, West Village

Hip locals no longer congregate in the Meatpacking District—they moved on when word got out. But that doesn't mean this liquor-fueled playground should be...more

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Ear Inn, Tribeca

A vestige of old New York, this bar, which opened in the early 19th century, has been known by various names. The current moniker—said to be taken from a...more

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Feinstein's, Upper East Side

Grammy winner, singer, and pianist Michael Feinstein's cabaret lounge, located at the Loews Regency Hotel (aka "540 Park"), is as much a New York institution as...more

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Gay Nightlife, New York City

New York City gay nightlife is as much about the stereotyped scene as it is driven by novelty. For guys, at least, choices abound: East Village dive, or Hell's...more

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Joe's Pub, East Village

Named in honor of Public Theater founder Joe Papp (212-539-8500;, this intimate performance space feels like a living room, with velvet...more

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Le Poisson Rouge, West Village

Its location may be somewhat inauspicious (on a stretch of Bleecker Street typically overrun with tipsy NYU freshmen), yet Le Poisson Rouge hosts some of the...more

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Little Branch, West Village

This discreet hideaway in the West Village could easily coast on nostalgia alone, with jazz trios, vintage portraiture, and a waitstaff clad in flapper attire....more

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The Lobby Bar at the The Ace Hotel, Midtown West

The Lobby Bar at the Ace Hotel has achieved the impossible: enticed hipsters to hang out in the middling, no-name area near Madison Square Park. Williamsburgers...more

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Marquee, Chelsea

Dozens of other clubs have hit the West Chelsea scene since this celebrity hangout opened its doors, but Marquee's famous fans have remained...more

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Mayahuel, East Village

Adding Mexican spice to Downtown's hefty portfolio of cocktail dens, Mayahuel is a two-level lounge behind an unmarked door in the East Village that proves...more

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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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