Perhaps it’s a byproduct of Manhattan’s cramped quarters and high real estate prices, but New York is not a town of megaclubs.
Unlike big European party capitals, nightlife here is diffused across various smaller locales, which is exactly what makes it such a cool scene: underground lounges, intimate dance clubs, dive bars, Prohibition-style no sign joints, and restaurants that transform into chic after-hours spots. Plus there is not a single culture or scene which means you can choose your crowd nightly (or change them hourly according to your needs).
Kids in their 20s with skinny jeans and not a lot of cash might hang out in laid back spots in Williamsburg, while models - and the bankers who love to love them - fork out serious cash for table and bottle service just to get in to some Manhattan hotspots, while cool 30 year olds slip into speakeasy reinventions for a strong cocktail and alternative tunes.
To get the most out of the city, sample the mix that only New York can swing.
(61 Wythe Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn 11211; +1-718-963-3369; www.brooklynbowl.com)
Some of the city’s most creative nightlife options have sprung up in the hipster neighborhood of Williamsburg, just over the East River in Brooklyn. And Brooklyn Bowl is one of the most fun options in town: a one stop shop for a great night out with 16 lanes of bowling, a Blue Ribbon brasserie, a cocktail lounge and live rock venue all rolled into one.
The Boom Boom Room (or QT)
(The Standard Hotel, 848 Washington St, Meatpacking District, NYC 10014; +1- 212-645-4646)
On the 18th floor of the new Standard Hotel, this just-opened lounge is New York’s hottest arrival with spectacular views outside - of downtown Manhattan - and amazing people watching inside (Jude Law, Lindsay Lohan and Courtney Love have been among the recent guests). With no website and no mention in the hotel’s materials, the property isn’t exactly advertising the venue, which is exactly what makes it so appealing and why VIPs are arriving in droves. So watch for the parade of celebrities and plan to arrive at the door early.
(93 2 Ave, East Village, NYC 10003; +1-212-777-7987; www.litloungenyc.com)
Nine years is a lifetime in terms of the downtown nightlife scene, but the Lit Lounge has stayed at the center, year in and year out, attracting an arty indie rock crowd along with celebrity DJs. The intimate clubhouse is the perfect venue for listening to live music and even rock royalty like the White Stripes and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs come to chill and hear live performances from under the radar talent.
(108 Ave B, Alphabet City, NYC 10009; +1-212-473-8840)
Also known as “7B” to the hipsters who slum it here, this quintessential wood-paneled dive bar in the East Village has starred in its fair share of films (like The Godfather II for example) and its warm bar stools are the perfect perch to wile away the evening with cheap beer and good friends. Don’t miss the old-time photo booth (great for shooting your mates drunk) and the pinball machines in the back.
(The Carlyle Hotel, 35 East 76th St, Upper East Side, NYC 10021; +1-212-744-1600; www.thecarlyle.com)
This elegant Art Deco New York hotel bar in the lobby of the Carlyle hotel is a New York classic, and the best place in the city for a super dry $12.50 Martini and civilized conversation. The old-school waiters look straight out of central casting and the murals on the wall are one of the city’s most beloved fixtures. On Tuesday-Sunday evenings expect performances from top cabaret performers.
(129 East 18th St, Flatiron District, NYC 10003; +1-212-473-7676; www.petestavern.com)
Purported to be the oldest continually operating bar in New York City, Pete’s Tavern survived Prohibition disguised as a flower shop and now thrives as a clubby neighborhood watering hole. Belly up to the gorgeous wood bar and order a pint of their proprietary ale, and be transported to old New York.