NYC Nightlife: The Ultimate Guide to Going Out

New York is the city that never sleeps—what a cliche. But for a cliche to exist, there must be a lot of truth behind it!

New York City skyline lit up at night
NYC truly comes alive at night. Photo credit: Christopher Czermak

New York City has some of the best nightlife on this planet—to the point where it might even seem like a better idea to sleep during the day! Then, spend the night roaming the streets, dining with live music, drinking cocktails while enjoying a DJ set, and watching comedy shows, theater performances, and secret, hidden entertainment options.   

You’ll never get tired of experiencing what the night has to offer. In New York, there is always something new and unexpected that fits every taste and preference out there.   

Here, we’ll share the best ways to experience the best of NYC nightlife! 

Visit Exceptional Bars 

New York is one of the world’s gastronomic capitals, and that applies to the bar and cocktail scene as well.  

Over the years, the city has gathered enough history and influence to produce or attract some of the best mixologists and bartenders in the world. They, in turn, open their venues and create intriguing and provocative drinks with creative presentations and flavors.  

Three of the World’s 50 Best Bars are located in New York (Katana Kitten, Dante, and Attaboy). Death & Co and Dead Rabbit are also considered two of the best bars in the city. Aside from these, many other venues serve exceptional drinks in well-designed environments.

2 yellow cocktails in martini glasses garnished with herbs on a bar top.
Sipping on a tasty and creative cocktail is the perfect way to start a night in New York! Photo credit: Ralph (Ravi) Kayden

Club All Night Long 

New York City is known for its clubbing scene. Since the end of the Prohibition era in 1933, the city has been booming with music, drinks, and spaces where people can dance until the sun rises. Some of the clubs in New York are famous all over the world, becoming cultural landmarks even after they cease to exist.   

Today, House of Yes, Bossa Nova Civic, Elsewhere, Avant Gardner, and Nowadays are some of the best clubs in the city. There, you can find famous DJs playing their sets, gin and vodka combos, and lively crowds eager to enjoy the music and the environment. If you’re a party lover, definitely plan to visit a nightclub in the city!

Nightclub interior as seen from behind the DJ set.
New York is home to hundreds of clubs where you can party all night long. Photo credit: Daniel Robert Dinu

Listen to Live Music 

If you love to sit down with a drink, some food, and listen to music all night long, then you’ll love New York.  

The city is where many artists come to express their passion for music, and the public loves to listen to them perform. For jazz lovers, pay a visit to Mezzrow, Flatiron Room, or Birdland, three of the best jazz bars in the city.

There, you can comfortably sit at a small table, drink quality whiskey and listen to the sounds of the piano, saxophone, and trumpet all night long! A good plan for a relaxing night out. 

There are also plenty of small band performances across the city, playing all sorts of music at different establishments.  

A person holding up both hands while watching a rock concert at a crowded venue
See an unforgettable concert during your time in New York! Photo credit: Tijs van Leur

Go Bowling 

They say that the child inside of us never dies, and the vast array of bowling alleys in the city is proof of that. The Whitestone Bowling Alley is probably the only one that stays open overnight and the most famous of them all, running for 24 hours, where you can bowl at any time of the day.

The place has a vintage 1960s look, with not too much decoration and aesthetic effort. The main goal is to have fun! Located in Queens, they also host tournaments and corporate parties.  

Two bowling lanes pictured from above the ball machine
Late-night bowling is always a good idea. Photo credit: Jorik Kleen

Try Out Trivia Nights 

In New York, it’s common for bars to hold trivia nights for their customers on specific nights of the week, usually with a pretty cool prize for the winning team. People in the city love a challenge, especially in the form of questions you think you know the answer to. At spaces like B61 Bar, these nights happen very often, and you’ll see the place packed with groups of people testing their intellect.  

Different question categories can bring out the best on every single person in the group, and you’ll find yourself laughing with friends over beer, finger foods, cocktails, and intelligent guesses. Maybe you’ll even take the winning prize home—who knows! 

Go to the Top of The World 

Going to a rooftop while in New York is essential for having a better view of the city, and a picture-perfect option for NYC nightlife. The skyline here is one of the most recognizable in the world, so it’s evident that some of the most fun in the city happens sky-high. Many uniquely designed tall buildings shine light over the streets and hold unique bars, parties, and expositions.  

The Magic Hour at the Moxy Hotel is one of the most famous rooftop bars in the city, with a panoramic view of Times Square. Here you can enjoy dinner and cocktails white surrounded by pink lighting and eventful performances!

Want something even more exciting? Maybe go to Le Bain, a penthouse nightclub that hosts fantastic performers almost every weekend!

View of the Manhattan skyline lit up at night.
Rooftop bars provide a perfect photo op of Manhattan’s skyline. Photo credit: Karl Schultz

Play Video Games 

Going back to the concept that our inner child never dies, head to one of the best arcades in New York, where you can play games until late at night.  

Barcade is probably the most famous of them all, with many machines to play from and booze served all night long. Here you can try to beat the high scores—some of which are still the same since 2013!

Another popular option is Two-Bits Retro Arcade, with dozens of different games and colorful walls and floor patterns. All of your senses will be stimulated as you beat your friends at a pinball match.

Local’s Tip: Many arcades in the city are open overnight, but most of them don’t serve drinks and act as a joint bar (however, these two do).  

Interior of an arcade with retro video game machines and string lights
Playing retro video games can be a fun way to spend the night. Photo credit: Kyle Nieber

Laugh Out Loud  

Talented people have a way of finding their way to New York, and that applies to comedians. One of the best ways to experience NYC nightlife is to go to a comedy club and spend a couple hours laughing until your stomach hurts.  

The city is packed with places specializing in nightly comedy shows. Walk down MacDougal Street right below Washington Square Park and you’ll find underground cellars with casual and tight seating, perfect for a night of laughter and fun.  

Greenwich Village Comedy Club and Comedy Cellar are two popular ones there, with the typical brick walls and black stool over the stage. They usually charge an entrance fee, and inside, you can buy drinks and food.

Themed Bar Hopping  

New York can be an alcoholic playground for those who love theme parties. One of the best ways to experience NYC nightlife is to go on a barhopping adventure exploring bars of a specific type. You can choose to spend the night visiting different Irish pubs around the city or go on a speakeasy tour to see 1920s-themed venues, for example.  

You can join an official pub crawl tour, having a guide take you to these bars and show you around. Or plan your route on your own, mapping out the places you’d like to see and going at your own pace!  

Martini garnished with a lemon peel on a bar top
Spend an evening exploring the 20s-inspired speakeasies of Manhattan. Photo credit: Ambitious Creative Co. – Rick Barrett

Sing Karaoke 

There are plenty of karaoke bars all around the world, and you’ve probably been to some in your life. However, in New York, you can visit some incredible Korean-style karaoke bars, which are very different from the popular versions we see everywhere else. These bars are more exclusive, with dim lighting and private rooms. 

At Maru Karaoke Lounge, you will feel like you’ve entered a futuristic K-pop reality with purple and blue lighting all around, private chambers, and white seats. In Koreatown, you’ll find many other great places to experience authentic karaoke nights, such as Chorus Karaoke, K-One, or Gagopa Karaoke.

Watch a Show 

Oh, Broadway, the theatrical face of the city. Attending a Broadway show is a must for those who want to enjoy NYC nightlife. There are dozens of different performances occurring year-round, and you’ll always be mesmerized by their setup, music, and storyline.  

And it isn’t just Broadway—the city is also packed with other theater shows, circus performances, and concerts. Make sure to check the social calendars to see what will be happening during your visit, and guarantee your tickets to some of the best shows you’ll ever see!  

View looking down Broadway in NYC at night, with a marquee for Hamilton in the foreground
A Broadway show should be on everyone’s bucket list. Photo credit: Sudan Ouyang

Find Something Unique 

The best-kept secrets of a city are always the most fun. In New York, it’s hard to keep secrets for long, and most of them end up being discovered by the general population.  

There are plenty of secret bars and clubs around the city, hidden behind candy stores and laundromats. If you know who to ask, you’ll probably find some of them!  

Better-known unique experiences are also fun options for NYC nightlife. Although some of them may be a little pricy, they offer you something you won’t be able to find anywhere else. The Box is one of these experiences, where you pay for a table and watch an unpredictable performance, changing every time. At the Secret Loft, you’ll also find circus performances, stand-up comedy, or live music… you just never know.