50 Exciting Things to Do in NYC at Night: The City Made for Night Owls
New York City comes alive as darkness descends and the lights flicker to life. Check out my go-to list of things to do in NYC at night.
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I can’t even count the number of times I’ve found myself without an umbrella in New York City.
Sure, you can always buy an umbrella for $20 off a random vendor on the street, but let’s be real—most of the time you never see them when you’re really in need.
Instead, you’ll end up totally drenched, typically running really late since transportation quickly becomes unreliable anytime there’s precipitation.
I’ll never forget the time I got stuck underground, then had to run fifteen blocks in a torrential downpour to make it to the theater before the show began.
I took my seat just as the lights were going down. According to my friend, I looked like someone who had gone swimming in their clothes before coming to see a Broadway play—he couldn’t quit laughing.
Even at intermission my clothes were still totally soaked, as was my seat!
Trust me, this is one place where you’ll absolutely want to have an umbrella in your purse anytime the weather channel says rain is a possibility.
You’ll also want to have a solid string of indoor pastimes to keep you busy and dry.
So, when you know wet weather is on the horizon, check out one of my favorite rainy day activities in NYC. I’ve listed them all out below, so now all you have to do is grab an umbrella, pick your favorite, and brave the rain.
New York has a pretty solid offering of food halls these days.
If you didn’t already know, a food hall is basically a giant center with a bunch of different food stalls to choose from.
One of my favorite things to do with friends is to pick a hall and then spend the afternoon sampling all the delicious booths.
These are some of my go-to food markets in the city:
I bet if you added up all the museums in NYC, you’d easily count over 50.
The city seriously has no shortage of museums. So just pick one you’ve never been to and spend the rainy afternoon exploring.
These are some of my favorites to visit:
If you know me well, you know going to the theater is one of my favorite things to do in the city.
I’ve easily seen over 500 performances since moving to New York. There were some weeks where I’d see three or four shows a week thanks to work (I used to work for a theatrical company).
There is truly nothing better than being transported to a new place for a few hours—especially when the weather outside isn’t appealing.
If you need recommendations, shoot me an e-mail. I’m always thrilled when I get the chance to talk theater!
Okay, so obviously snagging concert tickets at the last minute can be tricky, especially if it’s a popular artist.
You can either bite the bullet and buy the expensive tickets, or try chilling near the venue and waiting to see if prices drop minutes before the concert starts—I’ve been lucky using this strategy in the past.
Or you could just opt to check out a show at one of the city’s many low key music venues. They have better last minute availability, and occasionally you’ll luck out and see the next superstar performing before they hit it big.
When I want to catch a last-minute concert, these are the venues I always check first:
Shopping is one of my favorite ways to pass time in New York.
Since the city is basically one of the major fashion capitals of the world, there’s no shortage in original vintage and designer duds.
If you’re looking to score a major deal, check out 260 Sample Sale. They have three locations and a rotating list of discount designer goods. I’m low key obsessed with hitting up their sales.
If you want to spend the afternoon in a department store, head to either Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Saks, or Bergdorf’s for the best in fashion.
For a day of vintage shopping, hit up some places on my list of best vintage stores around the city.
Everyone should check out the starry ceiling of Grand Central Station at least once.
Besides the epic ceiling, the station itself is truly a work of art that’s worth admiring. The Beaux-Arts detailing, vaulted ceilings, gorgeous light fixtures, and whispering wall are all truly must-see for anyone who admires architecture.
After you’re done checking out the scenery, you can either hop on a train to another location, or grab a bite to eat at their famous oyster bar.
This was the very first thing my mom and I did on our first visit to NYC—mainly because it was too cold outside to walk around.
The NBC Studio Tour is a must for anyone who wants to learn about the network’s history.
You’ll get to check out the world-famous studio 8H where SNL films, plus the studio Jimmy Fallon tapes in, and see behind the scenes where they film the nightly news.
Local’s Tip: If you want to score tickets to a taping, check out this guide on how to apply early for your chance to win tickets. You’ll want to apply well ahead of your visit to the city for most tapings.
Since I’m afraid of singing in front of people, I typically only think karaoke is a good idea after way too many drinks. Until then, I prefer to be a spectator.
If you’re one of those people that don’t require a bit of liquid courage, karaoke is a solid way to pass a rainy afternoon or evening.
If you’re like me and need a few drinks first, don’t worry, these places have them available:
If you want to get in a fun workout while you wait out the rainy weather, head to a rock climbing gym.
It’s such a fun activity that it almost doesn’t even feel like you’re exercising.
If you’re up for working every muscle in your body, hit up one of these climbing spots:
Sex and the City fans will recognize the NYPL as the location of Carrie’s ‘almost’ wedding.
The interior of this place is seriously stunning. Plus, they have a ton of wonderful books to peruse.
They offer free daily tours, so step inside to relax out of the dreary weather.
Speaking of books, if you’re wanting to chill somewhere a bit more low key than the public library, head to one of the city’s adorable bookshops.
My all-time favorite one to hang out in is The Drama Bookshop. They only sell scripts, biographies, and books relating to theater.
They just opened in their new location, and is now partly owned by Hamilton’s Lin Manuel Miranda, who stepped in to save this NY institution shortly before they were due to shut down thanks to rent hikes.
If you want to browse a bookshop that isn’t focused on theater, check out one of these shops:
Chelsea Piers is the ultimate destination for fun activities in the city. They’ve got an indoor ice skating rink, driving range, batting cages, and gymnasium with adult gymnastics classes available.
I’m a big fan of meeting friends here for a day of fun at either the skating rink or driving range.
If the weather clears up, the walkway along Chelsea Piers runs along the Hudson River. It’s a beautiful place to walk or ride bikes.
The Ride is a 75-minute interactive bus ride and show that takes you through the streets of Manhattan.
The tour guides are humorous and the “encounters” with locals are amusing yet cheesy.
Since it’s in a custom-built theater bus, you get to experience the best of Manhattan without getting wet.
One of my favorite rainy day activities in any city is to hit up the local movie theater.
Since NYC is a major cultural hub, it should come as no surprise that it offers some of the best cinemas around.
These are some of my favorite spots to catch the latest flick:
Does anyone else get super competitive after a few drinks?
I know I do, especially when the other people in my party get really into the game.
If you want to pass a few hours grabbing drinks and embracing a bit of competition, head to one of these popular bars that offer games:
I’ve been to a lot of brunches over the years in multiple cities, but NYC certainly puts on the best one.
If you want to pass the rainy day eating, drinking, and enjoying life, head to one of my favorite brunch spots:
If you’re looking for a delightful way to spend a rainy evening, consider attending the symphony.
The NY Philharmonic is truly out of this world. While I was living in the city, I attempted to go at least once a year.
If you’ve never been to the symphony before, this is the perfect city to book your first ever show in.
The Paley Center for Media is essentially a museum featuring things from radio and television.
Normally they’ll have at least one special exhibit having to do with TV. Recently they had an epic one featuring all the costumes from the NYC-based TV show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Besides the special exhibit, they also have a virtual reality area downstairs, video games you can play, and a massive video library of old TV shows and movies.
Radio City Music Hall is an art deco theater in midtown with quite a reputation thanks to the high kicking Rockettes.
If you want to take a peek behind the curtain, sign up for their 75-minute tour of the venue.
You’ll get to hear the fascinating tale of the theater’s history, check out the secret Roxy Suite, and even get a meet and greet with a Rockette!
When trying to find indoor plans for a group, escape rooms are a simple choice.
You’ll all bond while figuring out clues to escape whatever scenario they have placed you in. It’s a fun way to pass an hour while you wait out the rain.
These are some of the most popular escape rooms in the city:
For a more low-key activity without a countdown clock, hit up Painting Lounge.
Painting is super therapeutic, plus you’ll end up with a cool souvenir to take home.
The best part is that they have a few different locations around the city, making it super convenient as a last-minute plan.
Local’s Tip: My favorite is the BYOB paint and sip class. Keep an eye out for it on the schedule, it’s a ton of fun!
Okay, so full disclosure: I’ve never actually been to a sports game in the city.
I hear they can be pretty fun, especially if you’re into sports.
Apparently NYC has pretty solid teams for both sports!
If you’re feeling like a sophisticated afternoon avoiding the dreary rain, schedule an afternoon tea session.
You’ll sip tea or champagne, eat delicious petite sandwiches, and
Honestly, what could be better?
Just head to one of these spots to make it a reality:
Add a bit of humor to the rainy night by catching a comedy show.
New York is home to some of the best comedians around, so you’ll likely catch at least one or two wonderful acts and maybe even a celeb if you’re lucky.
Catch a show at one of these comedy hotspots:
A night at the opera is something I treat myself to about once a year. I always make a big night out of it and take myself to a big dinner before the performance.
If you haven’t been to the New York City Opera, just know that you’re in for a real treat. They have two giant Chagalls in the lobby and the chandelier in the theater is seriously stunning!
Don’t stress thinking you won’t understand anything, they have subtitles that display on the seatback in front of you.
Besides being a great place to take photos, the Oculus is a prime spot for some indoor shopping.
They have plenty of shops to choose from, including favorites like Reiss, & Other Stories, and Kate Spade, and Stuart Weitzman.
It’s also home to 12 different subway lines, so if you plan your journey there correctly you won’t even have to go outside.
While you’re downtown shopping, grab a ticket to head to the top of One World Observatory.
The entire experience is incredibly unique and moving. Plus the views are out of this world, especially at sunset.
I always plan my visit so that I arrive just as the sun is setting, that way I get to see the sky change colors, and I get to see the skyline of the city light up as darkness takes over.
I know some of you are thinking “seriously a rooftop bar on a rainy day?”.
New York bars are super innovative, most rooftop bars have indoor areas so that you can still enjoy the view and a drink even when the weather isn’t ideal.
These are some of my favorite indoor rooftop bars:
I’m a major dessert girl, so any excuse to indulge in something sweet is okay with me.
Use the awful weather as an excuse to conduct your own sweet taste testing tour through the city. These are the places that you shouldn’t pass up:
Who wouldn’t want to spend the afternoon tasting beers?
Brooklyn Brewery tours cover the brewing process, beer history, and their story. Plus, you obviously get to sample all their delicious beers on tap.
This will be one afternoon where you don’t mind the rainy weather.
Fun Fact: They distribute their beer in over 30 different countries, including most of the United States.
If you want a unique theatrical experience, head to an Off-Broadway show.
You may even get lucky and end up seeing the next big Broadway hit before it makes its debut on the Great White Way (shows like Hamilton and Rent started Off-Broadway).
These are my favorite Off-Broadway theaters:
Get away from the rainy day by transporting yourself somewhere new at VR World.
They have jet pack simulators, tours of Notre Dame, and you can walk a plank that’s 480 feet off the ground.
You will laugh a lot as you both lose yourselves (and if you’re like me, freak out) in the VR universe.
One of my favorite ways to pass extra time is to settle into a cafe and watch as the world goes by.
New York City seriously has some of the best people-watching ever.
Over the years I’ve seen everything from crazy street breakups to awkward first dates, and even an engagement.
I can’t guarantee you’ll see one of those things happen, but I can guarantee you’ll see some interesting people passing by.
These are my favorite cafes to people watch from:
Anyone else crave delicious comfort food when the weather outside is dreary?
I know I do!
Typically, in true New Yorker fashion, I’d just order some of my favorite food to my apartment and hole up for the day. The extra snuggle time always thrilled my cat, Zoey.
But since most of you are probably in the city for a short time, I suggest you venture out of those hotel rooms and into one of these cozy restaurants for some comfort food:
Another bad weather activity that’s sure to entertain you for a few hours is catching a show at the New York City Ballet.
I always take myself for Valentine’s Day. It’s a super dreamy experience even if you’re going solo, but bonus points to you if you can get a date to join the fun.
It’s a cool theater that offers lots of art in their lobby and an excellent little terrace to drink champagne on if the weather is agreeable during intermission.
My favorite thing to do is to grab dinner and drinks nearby at Cafe Fiorello, then head into the ballet. You’ll be dancing on cloud nine by the time it’s over.
Why drink at a normal bar when you could drink at a historical one?
NYC has quite a few older bars still in operation. You’ll absolutely want to hit up Fraunces Tavern, where George Washington downed a few pints.
Also, check out McSorely’s Old Ale House. They still have a pair of Houdini’s handcuffs attached to their bar!
White Horse Tavern is also a popular choice amongst the musical and literary history buffs. Famous imbibers include Dylan Thomas, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, and Jim Morrison.
Okay, so typically catching a panel at the 92Y involves a bit of planning, though depending on who the guest is you may get lucky and score a last-minute seat.
Past panel guests have included RBG, the cast of Schitt’s Creek, Amy Poehler, Kurt Vonnegut, Bill Gates, and Paul McCartney.
Even if you can’t score a ticket, I can guarantee you’ll easily spend a few hours listening to these epic interviews on their YouTube channel.
New York City is exciting in any weather, though it’s obviously best when it isn’t down-pouring out.
Since nobody has control over the weather, I hope you embrace these rainy day activities and enjoy the city despite the less than ideal weather.
Who knows, the rain may push you to discover a part of the city you would have never experienced.
Let me know in the comments below what your favorite rainy day activity in NYC is!
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