There’s something about NYC at night that makes it so tantalizing. Bright lights and Broadway shows. Hipster bars and hole-in-the-wall pizza parlors. Hell, even the honking cabs and police sirens add to Big Apple’s chaotic charm.
It’s not dubbed the City That Never Sleeps for nothing, you know. In fact, America’s 24-hour metropolis is so alive after dark, it can be hard to know where to begin when planning a little night-time escapade.
Everyone’s idea of New York nightlife is different; one guy’s Brooklyn bar crawl is another gal’s after-hours museum visit. Below is a list of cool and casual things to do in New York at night that you can turn to throughout your stay, whatever you’re into.
Museums open late-night in NYC
So many things about the modern world suck: climate change, selfie sticks, Coldplay. Museums opening later does not fall under this category. In a bid to match their opening times with their visitors’ increasingly packed schedules, museums opening late in NYC is becoming commonplace.
Open Thursdays until 10pm
The city’s second-largest museum, housing masterful European and American artwork, is open until 10 pm. Take an evening stroll through the permanent collection, which includes artifacts from around the world dating back to ancient cultures.
Open Fridays until 9pm
If you’re not into modern and contemporary art, 53rd Street’s powerhouse of an art museum – blessed as it is with Van Goghs, Warhols, and Picassos – might just change your mind.
Open Tuesdays and Saturdays until 8pm
See the Guggenheim’s world-leading collection of modern art, including works by Cézanne, Picasso, Kandinsky, Monet. The building itself is a masterpiece.
Open Fridays and Saturdays until 8pm
Immerse yourself in New York’s vibrant hues with a sensory-overload experience that’ll add all the colors of the rainbow to your Instagram feed.
Open daily until 8pm
Immerse yourself in the shady world of the KGB, and delve into the history of an organization that had a far-reaching influence on world affairs. There’s even a poison-dart gun disguised as an umbrella. It really is like something out of a Johnny English movie!
Open daily until 9pm
Keeping with the espionage theme, Spyscape allows you to learn the tricks of the world’s most secret trade and apply them in your everyday life. Discover the stories of real-life spies and dodge lasers like a pro: Perfect if you’re looking for things to do in NYC at night with kids.
NYC Nightlife: Party on with fun bars in New York
NYC has dive bars and jive bars; pinball pubs and secret speakeasies; taphouses, terraces, and tavernas. Whatever you’re looking for in a watering hole, you’ll find it in the city, especially if you know where to look. The choices are endless but here are some tipple tips to get you started.
860 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn
Just a local laundromat, nothing to see here. Except, take a closer look at the tall washing machine at the back of Sunshine Laundromat, and you’ll realise it’s a doorway to something much more fun. Retro pinball machines, games, plus local and international beers. It’s all good, clean fun!
114 Kenmare St, New York
Judging by its facade, La Esquina is just a tasty taco shack in SoHo. Sit around a while, though, and you’ll start to notice well-dressed people disappearing through a side door. Downstairs and through the kitchen, the party rages on inside a Mexican reservation-only basement brasserie. PS: They make one of the best margaritas in town!
458 9th Ave, Manhattan
Raise a glass to the city… then smash it. Break Bar is a rage-room drinkery where you’re encouraged to send your drinking vessels to the recycling and release some stress at the same time. If you need to vent a little more, take a bat to some old junk by reserving half an hour at the Wrecking Club. It’s just another run-of-the-mill example of cool and unusual things to do in New York.
10. The Dead Rabbit
30 Water St, New York City
This list was never going to be complete without an Irish bar, but this isn’t your regular Dublin-styled dive. The Dead Rabbit describes itself as “everyday extraordinary”, delivering a hearty Emerald-Isle welcome with just enough sophistication to make sure everyone feels at home.
Try famed food, craft beers, and expertly crafted cocktails. There are more whiskeys than you could nurse over a lifetime!
113 St Marks Place, New York City
Unfortunately for the guys at Please Don’t Tell; we’re going to. This East Village speakeasy is reservation only, and your table can only be secured by calling on the day at 3pm. You know, with a telephone.
If you’re one of the lucky ones to get through, you’ll find yourself in the phone booth of a hot dog place later that evening, waiting to be let in through the secret door to one of the most exclusive spots in town.
Late-night NYC shows and entertainment
12. Laugh out loud at a Manhattan comedy club
If you walk around Times Square for longer than about 28 seconds, you’ll likely be accosted by a smiling street vendor, exuding an untrustworthy amount of goodwill, promising you the funniest evening of your life at one of the city’s numerous comedy clubs.
13. Avoid all that and buy in advance for LOL Comedy Club
LOL’s gifted gaggle of comics perform every night of the week in the heart of Times Square. The line-up consists of amateur and professional comics who’ve performed on networks like Comedy Central, FOX and MTV, among others. It’s the perfect place to hear the routines of the city’s up-and-coming funny women and men, with shows going on late into the night.
You’ll need to purchase two drinks per ticket, but no harm in loosening up for the laughs to come!
14. A knight like no other in New Jersey
Jousting knights, prancing horses, and flying falcons, on the grounds of a castle in – checks notes – New Jersey? If you’re looking for weird things to do in NYC, Medieval Times is just a bus ride away from Manhattan at the gorgeous Gothic Revival mansion of Lyndhurst Castle.
Get ready for a four-course, Game-of-Thrones-style banquet, without the threat of imminent death and betrayal. Eat with your hands like a true knight of the realm as you’re entertained by a two-hour jousting tournament. There’s even a flight of the royal falcon. How about that for NYC nightlife?
15. Gritty life stories told by New York natives
It’s little wonder that NYC’s nine-or-so-million people have stories to tell. The Moth’s StorySLAM events are a unique opportunity to sit down and hear them first hand. Average Joes and Janes volunteer to recite their near-death experiences, cringetastic dating tales, hilarious anecdotal mishaps, and moving personal trials and triumphs.
Each show has a one-word or phrasal theme; You’d be surprised how many people can form a funny or tear-jerking story from the vagueness of something like “dirt” or “worth”. If you’re feeling brave, you can sign-up to take the stage. Just remember: Your story must be true and it must be yours to tell.
The Moth’s StorySLAM evenings happen around four times a month at various NYC venues. Tickets go on sale a week in advance and can sell out fast, so best to be on the ball when it comes to securing your spot.
Go sports! Check out some live-action events
Americans love sports. From an early age, a separation is made between those destined for celebrity-status athletic success, and the rest of the population, who go on to become doctors, teachers, and other unglamorous things.
Sport is constant in NYC, and not a night goes by where the barstool debate doesn’t center around one of the big four pastimes. You’re never more than a home run away from a bar, but getting ahold of game tickets in New York ensures an altogether more exhilarating evening experience.
16. Batter-up! Catch a home game
Baseball: From April until October, the Yankees (mainly) and the Mets (not really) represent the city’s baseball hopes. If you want to get ya hotdogs and wear an obnoxiously large foam finger, take yourself out to the ball game. Tickets are cheap and relatively easy to come by during the regular season, which runs from March until September.
17. When pigskins fly
American Football: Throwing the pigskin in the backyard is an American rite of passage. Granted, backyards are hard to come by in the city, but American football still has a hold over its people. The city’s two great NFL contenders are the Giants (mainly) and the Jets (not really), both of which play out of New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium between September and December.
18. See the kings of the court up close
Basketball: If shopping for basketball gear at the NBA Store on 5th Avenue isn’t enough, your options for watching extremely tall men jump around are with the Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets from October to April. Neither of these sides are what you would call “successful”, but there’s still some exciting players on show.
19. Spend your bucks and watch pucks fly
Ice hockey: Guys on skates trying to hit a puck into a goal, with regular coordinated fighting to keep things interesting. If this sounds like your kind of New York nightlife, make a date with the NHL’s Islanders, Rangers, or New Jersey Devils between October and April.