It isn’t a boast but a plain fact: from opera to jazz, from nightclubs to bars, from concert recitals to theater and dance, New York offers the greatest variety and sheer quantity of evening entertainment in America.
It’s a dizzying but important subject because most visitors enjoy New York’s nightlife to the same extent they enjoy its daytime sightseeing. And in New York, unlike most other American cities, the sidewalks aren’t “rolled up” when darkness descends. In the Big Apple (one of the only cities in the country that operates its public transportation throughout the night), the bright lights stay on until 4am and you owe it to yourself to take in all the after-dark excitement.
Beyond what you find listed on this website (we tried to cherry pick only the very best), you'll find listings for changing nightlife at the following sources:The latest, most comprehensive event, music, and nightlife listings are in Time Out New York (www.timeoutny.com), published every Thursday, listing the week’s theater, dance, comedy, music, and other options. It also notes free and cheap events, has a full gay and lesbian section, and whole separate edition for kids. For a little more selectivity, grab New York magazine (new every Monday) for their latest listings in “Agenda,” or check out the thorough venue and show reviews as well as invaluable reader comments at www.nymag.com.
As the hometown paper, the New York Times (www.nytimes.com), of course, is a staple and consistently offers thoughtful reviews and to-dos in its two-part Friday “Weekend” section. It’s a great source of cabaret, classical, and theater information, with daily listings and forecasts. Another reliable source is the New Yorker (www.newyorker.com), in its weekly “Goings on About Town” section. But no matter what, to find the shows you most want to catch, do check listings and calendars as soon as you get to town, or even before you arrive.
As for bars and lounges, in addition to places listed in this guide, there’s also Shecky’s NYC Nightlife (www.sheckysnightlife.com), a website that’s supercurrent and searchable by some two dozen criteria, from dive to karaoke to swanky and neighborhood bars. Another good online bar source is www.murphguide.com. This website has all the latest happy-hour info by neighborhood and is especially big on Irish pubs—just be wary of being led to noisy sports bars.
To find the latest gay and lesbian goings-on, pick up free copies of Next (www.nextmagazine.com) and GO (www.gomag.com) magazines at the Center (www.gaycenter.org), Bluestockings, or virtually any gay bar in town.
For theater, the folks behind the TKTS Discount Booths operate the Theatre Development Fund (tel. 212/912-9770; www.tdf.org). You can subscribe to a daily newsletter that alerts you to what tickets will be discounted at its three booths. There’s also a full list of Broadway shows at www.ilovenytheater.com, compliments of the Broadway League.
And beware, when it comes to New York nightlife, many cocktail lounges have decided to capitalize on the profit margins behind $20-plus drinks. Usually you’re paying for the atmosphere more than the cocktail. So if that scene isn’t worth blowing your budget, there are plenty of more affordable, friendlier places to try.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.