by Ally Gibson | Last Updated: Jul 16, 2020

New York comes alive as darkness descends and the lights flicker to life. 

There’s an energy in the city that never stops, even deep into the night. 

It’s very much a city full of night owls. I should know, I used to be one of them. 

I can’t help but smile as I think back on all the crazy evenings that I’ve had in the city. The nights spent out dancing until 4 am, and the beautiful cab rides home along the East River watching the sunrise. 

The friends I’ve made and adventures I’ve had will always hold a special place in my heart. There’s a fresh opportunity around every corner to discover something or someone new, at any hour. 

Venture out to see some of my favorite things to do in NYC at night.


1. See a Broadway Show


To me, Broadway productions are unlike anything else. As a theater nerd, seeing a show is and always will be at the top of my fun-things-to-do-at-night list. 

You’ll see top-notch performers, epic sets, and beautiful lighting. Depending on the show you select, you may even see a celebrity performing. 

To save money (and see more shows!), you can test your luck playing lotteries or rushes (I love doing this). I always check Broadway For Broke People for the most up-to-date info on rushes.

Also, download TodayTix—a lot of the digital lotteries and rushes go through them. Don’t stress if you lose. You can also buy full-priced or discounted tickets through them.



2. Live From New York…


It’s Saturday Night!

SNL is the city’s most well known late show. They always have A-list hosts and performers, you never know who may show up.

People wait in the standby line sometimes for days to get the chance to be a part of their studio audience.

I was lucky enough to get to be an audience member this past season when Adam Driver and Halsey hosted. My mom and I were both fascinated by the behind-the-scenes vantage point we experienced.

To score tickets, you’ve got two options. The easier is to apply during their lottery each August. You send an email to [email protected] and explain why you want to be in the audience (make sure to include that you’re a fan).  

You can’t request a specific date. If you win, be grateful and do whatever it takes to get to the city on your assigned Saturday. 

If you didn’t win or forgot to enter in August, don’t stress because there’s another way to get in. Unfortunately, it involves waiting in that massive standby line that I mentioned earlier.



3. Head to The Moth


I know what you’re thinking—what the hell is “The Moth”? 

I thought the same thing when I heard about it. The Moth is a society that hosts story competitions.

Members of the audience can put their name in a hat if they have a true on-topic story.

If they pick you, you’ve got 5 minutes to get on stage and tell your story. At the end of the night, a panel of judges (pulled from the audience) will pick a winner. 

They now even have a podcast and YouTube channel with some of their best stories streaming on them.



4. Catch a Hidden Concert


Shhh….. It’s a secret! 

Imagine being in the know about a secret concert taking place tonight in a random office, or rooftop.

There’s no way of knowing where the next one will be or who the performer is. Most evenings it’s probably a band you’ve never heard of, but occasionally it’s someone like Ed Sheeran.

The only way to find out the secret to getting into Sofar Sounds’ hidden concerts is to win tickets.



5. Drink at a Historic Bar


Ever think you’d drink in the same bar as George Washington?

Raise a glass to freedom at Fraunces Tavern. It’s one of the oldest bars in the city where a lot of the Founding Fathers partied back in the day. 

McSorely’s is the oldest Irish Saloon. Okay, so they don’t have bragging rights about our forefathers.

They can gloat that Houdini used to drink there. Keep an eye out for a pair of Houdini’s old handcuffs that are still connected to the bar rail.



6. Not Your Standard Bingo


The Standard Hotel hosts an epic party every Sunday night. Notable past guests have included Rhianna, Zac Efron, and Cameron Diaz.

You’ll play Bingo, sing “Balls” karaoke (you replace words in the song with the word “balls”), and dance the evening away.



7. Catch a Cabaret Show


“What good is sitting alone In your room? Come hear the music play. Life is a Cabaret, old chum, Come to the Cabaret.”

CABARET

Cabaret shows in New York make for a fun-filled intimate night out in the city. You can see some amazing talent at some of these popular spots:



8. Go to Luna Park


Luna Park at Coney Island is open late and is just a subway ride away from the city. It’s a mix of modern and old school amusements.

You’ll be spending the evening riding roller coasters and racing go-karts. Not to mention all the delicious fried food on the boardwalk you can have for dinner.

Local’s Tip: Skip the Sideshow. When I went last, the acts weren’t that fascinating and it felt like a sad cabaret.

It’s not worth the price of admission. I’d still stop by the building for a quick drink and to browse their souvenirs.



9. Learn to Swing Dance


Foxtrot into your Friday night at Swing 46 in midtown. Every evening at 9 pm they host a dance class in the dining room.

You’ll learn dances from the Swing Era like the Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, Waltz, and Foxtrot. 

One of my best friends used to bartend here, and we always had a brilliant time learning new steps over cocktails.



10. Head to a Piano Bar


“The piano ain’t got no wrong notes.”

Thelonious Monk

There’s something about a piano bar that just oozes a delightful time. It’s one of my favorite things to do with friends.

By the end of the evening, we always end up singing along (typically to show tunes).

Some piano bars that we like to hit up are:



11. Listen to the Symphony


Honestly, I always thought the symphony was a bit pretentious and dull until a few years ago. 

I know it isn’t for everyone, but it’s become one of my favorite ways to escape for a few hours. 

Grab a dinner and drinks on the Upper West Side then get lost in the beautiful music of the NY Philharmonic.

Let your mind wander with the music—it’s super relaxing!



12. Go Glamping


How many people can say they’ve been glamping in “The Big Apple”?

Head to Governors Island Collective Retreats and be among the few who can brag about it.

They have live music on the weekends, plus complimentary breakfast and yoga. Most hotels don’t even offer this many perks.

Not to mention the killer view of the city—go ahead and book it, you know you want to.



13. Go to a Comedy Club


When I was living in New York, my boyfriend and I used to see comedy at least once a month as a date night.

Our favorite spot was The Stand. They have delicious cocktails and snacks. We love getting the Spicy Pepperoni Pizza and their “One-Liner” cocktail. 



14. Relax on a Rooftop


What could be better than a rooftop with a view? The answer is a rooftop with a view and a bar.

Spend your evening at one of these bars, drinking and taking in the stunning city lights:



15. Stroll the Brooklyn Bridge


The Brooklyn Bridge is magical at night. You’ll see all the city lights and spot Lady Liberty lit up in the distance.

I love to start my stroll across around dusk. By the time you arrive in Brooklyn, you can gaze across the entire cityscape all lit up.

Local’s Tip: Plan ahead and book a lovely late dinner in Brooklyn near the bridge. My personal favorites are The Osprey and The River Cafe.



16. Witness Law and Order


Are you one of those people who’s obsessed with TV shows about the New York legal system? Well, you might be into the real thing, too. 

If you find the thrill of watching our legal system in action too good to pass up,  sit in on a case at the Manhattan Criminal Court (Night Court). 

After sitting in as a jury member, I can tell you the cases this court listens to are rarely dull. It’s engrossing to watch how they unfold. Who knows, you may even catch a famous face.

Either way, you’ll walk away with an interesting story. Night Court is in session between 5 pm and 1 am and members of the public have a full entry.



17. Head to a Drag Show


Adele and Jennifer Lawrence made headlines having a girls’ night out at Pieces Bar.

Take a page out of their playbook and plan an evening at a drag show. 

The best spots to catch a show include:



18. Sail Around the City


Champagne and city lights on a 1920s inspired motor yacht, what could be better?

Book a ticket, and set sail at sunset to see the city as it lights up and comes alive.

You’ll even sail by The Statue of Liberty. Classic Harbour Line even has a jazz option if you want to make it an extra moody evening.



19. Belt Out Some Karaoke


“True love is singing karaoke “under pressure” and letting the other person sing the Freddie Mercury part.”

MINDY KALING

You can tell a lot about a person by what song they pick at karaoke. What will your song say about you? 

The city has lots of cool karaoke bars, but my favorite is Maru in K-town. I like the opportunity to dig into some quality Korean BBQ before singing the night away. 

The city offers plenty of opportunities for karaoke. Some of my favorite spots include:



20. Immersive Yourself in Theater


Spend your evening following Alice down the rabbit in Then She Fell.

Or pop on a mask and lose yourself in the world of Shakespeare’s Macbeth at Sleep No More. 

My favorite is Sleep No More. It’s different every night since you choose which characters to chase.

Either way, you’ll be spending your evening lost in another world.



21. Go on a Ghost Tour


In the city’s almost 400-year-old history, it’s had its fair share of ghosts.

You never know what’s around the corner in this city. It could be the dead poets at The White House Tavern or the ghost train at Astor Place station.

Book a walking tour with Haunted Manhattan to hear all the city’s ghost stories. They have 4 different tours to choose from. Each one focuses on a different city neighborhood.



22. See a Ballet


New York City is home to the American Ballet Theater School. Which means we have some of the best ballet in North America.

If you’re visiting the holiday day season, you should make sure to see The Nutcracker. It’s one of their most popular productions.

Local’s Tip: Plan dinner across the street at Michelin starred Daniel for a fancy evening out on the town.



23. Head to an Outdoor Film


If you’re in the city during the summer, there’s nothing better than catching a flick under the stars.

One of my favorite things to do is grab a bottle of wine and snacks and head to a free movie night in Central Park. These are my favorite outdoor movie spots:

Local’s Tip: Book tickets ahead of time and arrive early to free events. They fill up fast.



24. Take a Helicopter Tour


Take in the city lights with a bird’s eye view from a helicopter tour. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for ages.

Obviously this is a bit of a splurge, but why not go all out for a special night in the city.  It’ll be a tour you’ll never forget.

There are many companies in the city. Some of the most popular are:



25. Make a Great Escape


Spend your evening locked in a room. I know what you’re thinking, but it’s more fun than it sounds.

I had never done an escape room before and ended up having a wonderful time at The Escape Room.

My friends and I did the Gold Rush room and all agreed we’d be planning another night out there again soon.



26. “Sneak” into a Speakeasy


Can you keep a secret? Some of the best cocktail bars in the city are hiding in plain sight.

Pretend like it’s still Prohibition at one of these hidden bars:



27. See the Sunset at One World Trade


Anyone who knows me can tell you that I’m obsessed with a stunning sunset.

The view you get from the observation deck at One World Trade is out of this world.

Seriously, it will take your breath away.

The elevator ride even gives you an historic overview as it climbs up to the 94th floor. It’s all animated and shows the transformation of the city from the ground up.

Local’s Tip: Plan to get there about 30 minutes before sunset. You’ll arrive at the top in time to see nightfall and the city light up.



28. Enjoy a Jazz Show


“Life is a lot like jazz… it’s best when you improvise.”

GEORGE GERSHWIN

The best thing about the city is you’re pretty much guaranteed to hear talented musicians.

The Jazz Age in New York is legendary.  You can’t go wrong with any of these venues:



29. Go Dancing


“The City That “Never Sleeps” naturally has a happening club scene.

If you want to get lost in a performance fueled nightclub head to The House of Yes. They throw epic parties that’ll make you feel like you’re in another world. 

Local’s Tip: Check ahead to see if they have a ticketed themed night planned.



30. Play Pinball in a Laundromat


Yes, you read that right — you can play pinball in a laundromat.

At Sunshine Laundromat and Pinball you can drink beer and play pinball all night.

Don’t worry if pinball isn’t your thing (it isn’t mine), they also have plenty of board games.



31. Head to a Poetry Slam


For an edgy night out on the town, look no further than The Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

I know some of you may be rolling your eyes. I used to be one of you but after seeing a show here, I can say it’s fun.

The vibes are welcoming and the poets are a blast to watch and listen to.



32. Play Broadway Roulette


Want to see a show but don’t know where to start? Then play Broadway Roulette

First, you let their website know the date and number of tickets you’re looking for.

Then select your preference for a play, musical, or no preference.

Last, let them know up to 4 shows that you don’t want to see. 

From there, you’ll get a text morning that lets you know what show you’ve landed on along with the address of the theater.

Pick up your tickets and you’ll be good to go.



33. Party on a Barge


Head to Greenpoint and board the Brooklyn Barge for a great time.

You can have a drink or snack while partying with a stunning view of Manhattan’s skyline.

They have live music and even games. The best part is you can order all your food and drinks online through their app!



34. Play a Round of Mini Golf


Tap into your competitive side with a game of mini-golf. The city has a bunch of different courses to choose from.

You can play on Pier 25 with a beautiful view of the Hudson. Or indoors in Brooklyn at an island-themed Shipwrecked.

If you’re a movie buff, go to Turtle Cove. It’s the same location that Jake LaMotta takes his soon to be wife Vikki in “Raging Bull”.

The Moxy Hotel even has a rooftop mini-golf course called Foreplay, I am sure you can guess the theme.



35. Take the Perfect Photo


Brighten up your evening at The Color Factory. It’s an interactive art exhibition.

Full disclosure—I haven’t been but I can’t wait to check this out. My friends have been raving about it.

You’ll wander through about a dozen colorful rooms. In each room, you get the opportunity to take photos via their pre-set photo booths.

All photos taken get emailed to you after your visit. You’ll be sure to leave with lots of Instagram options



36. See Shakespeare in the Park


I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll say it again. There’s nothing better than watching a well-acted play.

Shakespeare in the Park is easily my all-time favorite activity during the summer. It’s a magical experience as the sun is setting and the night sky is taking over.

Tickets are available in person the day of each show (go early) and via TodayTix online lottery.

Local’s Tip: Plan ahead and bring a bottle of wine and snacks for an impromptu picnic on the Great Lawn before the show.



37. Have a Delightful Dinner


If you’re even half a foodie, you’ll know that New York is well known for its array of dining options.

Seriously, it’s heaven with so many delicious restaurants around every corner.

If you’re looking for a chill spot with fun music and indulgent food, check out The Beatrice Inn. They do a duck flambe that’s out of this world. Plus, their bar is always a happening spot. 

In case you’re craving another cuisine, here are some of my other favorites: 



38. Attend a Concert in a Catacomb

Why just tour the catacombs of New York, when you could be having burgers while listening to Bach in them? 

This is one example of the many events “Angel’s Share” at Greenwood Cemetery hosts.

It’s located in one of the oldest structures in the cemetery from the 1850s. Seriously, this might be one of the coolest things to do in the city. 

Local’s Tip: Book tickets early, I’ve yet to score tickets for this because it sells out quickly.


39. Go to an Interactive Magic Show


Chamber Magic is a show that’s hosted by a man known as the “Millionaire’s Magician”

He’ll have you believing in magic as soon as you see his “think a drink” illusion.

During this trick, he’ll pour any drink you name out of his magic silver kettle. Everything from iced coffee to cocktails has poured out of it. 

He always hosts these in hotels, so arrive early and grab a cheeky pre-show cocktail in the hotel bar. It’s a formal event, so wear a cocktail dress.



40. Relax at the Spa


Spend your evening relaxing in a wine bath or getting a massage with ancient argan oil.

It’s the perfect way to recharge after a day of sightseeing. Aire Ancient Baths until 11 pm every evening so you’ve got plenty of time to unwind.

They offer a selection of massages and rituals based on Roman bathing traditions.

Services include:



41. Play Shuffleboard


Don’t worry if you have no idea how to play shuffleboard. I had never even heard of it until my friends brought me here.

It’s easy to pick up, and there are plenty of people there willing to help you learn.

The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club in Brooklyn is chic and has plenty of courts.

Oh, and the best part is they have a bar and feature a different food truck every night.



42. Head to the Top of The Empire State


Is there anything more iconic than the Empire State Building?

I’ll never forget my first time traveling to the top. It’s one of the best views in the city.

Be prepared to wait at least an hour unless you splurge on Express Pass tickets.



43. Head to Riviera Sundays


Imagine having supper while belly dancers and people on stilts circulate around you. LAVO hosts these crazy dinner parties every Sunday.

Guest of a Guest even called it “One of the 10 Most unique dining experiences in NYC.”

The party begins as you’re eating your dinner and will get wilder as the evening goes on.



44. Play a Game of Billiards


“If at first you don’t succeed … try, try, try again.”

WILLIAM HICKSON

That is my motto every time I attempt to play billiards.

One day I’ll win on my first try, but until I do practice makes perfect.

My friends and I love playing on teams when we go out. Losers have to buy the group a round of shots. 

Some of our favorite spots to play are:


45. Hear Some Live Music


When in doubt, live music is always a good decision for a night out. The city has tons of different music venues. 

I’ve seen some amazing concerts while living in the city.

From large venues to small ones “The Big Apple” offers plenty of options for some live music. Some of my go-to venues to keep an eye on are:




46. See a Burlesque Show


Company XIV in Brooklyn hosts epic baroque burlesque shows. It’s a seriously unique NYC experience.

They are all based on either fairy tales or ballets and are nothing short of creative. The shows are popular with locals, and always sell out.



47. Attend a Sports Game


Okay, so this is something I’ve yet to do, but I hear our sports games can be a great time.

Apparently basketball and hockey games both take place in the evening. I think football may even be a nighttime thing?

Either way, I hear we have wonderful teams. So if you’re a sports fan, maybe check them out.



48. Check out a Museum


Many museums stay open late a few times a week. Amuse yourself late into the night wandering around their collections. 

  • MoMA has “Free Fridays” starting at 5:30 and stays open until 9 pm. 
  • The Met stays open until 9 pm Thursdays and Fridays. Keep an eye on their late-night concerts, drawing classes—and cocktails!
  • The Whitney stays open until 10 pm on Fridays. If you’re there during the summer, you can walk The High Line afterward until it closes at 11 pm.


49. See a Show at The Apollo


Venture up to Harlem and attend a show at The Apollo. It’s been around for 85 years and is a world-renowned landmarked theater.

Plenty of legends have gotten their starts at the Apollo, including:

  • Ella Fitzgerald 
  • Billie Holiday
  • Sammy Davis Jr. 
  • Etta James
  • Nat “King” Cole
  • Ray Charles


50. Throw an Axe


Learn how to throw an axe like a badass.

Some locations even offer archery—you know, just in case you want to channel your inner Katniss Everdeen.

My friends and I had a wonderful time when we went.

Check out one of the following for a fun night out:


Conclusion

When the lights of the city flick on as the sun is setting, the real New York emerges. 

There’s laughter in the streets, dancing in clubs, and lots of conversations in our bars and restaurants. 

The beginning of a night out in this city is always filled with endless possibilities. New York has a magic all its own—magic that will transport you if you let it. 

Save Money With Airbnb

Want to save money on your next trip? I easily save thousands of dollars a year using Airbnb instead of hotels. Plus, if you're anything like me, it'll make you feel like more of a local.

Explore Airbnb
If you click this link and make a booking, I earn a commision at no additional cost to you.

Leave a Comment