Hidden Gems: 50 Non-Touristy Things to Do in NYC
Want to have a truly original New York holiday? Embrace this guide to the best non-touristy things to do in NYC and you’ll fit right in with the locals.
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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.
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 or even score some killer last-minute deals through StubHub.
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@example.com 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.
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.
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.
Sofar Sounds is super popular, so book your tickets early!
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.
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.
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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.
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:
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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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.
Check out some of these popular evening cruises around the city!
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:
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.
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.
Pre-book one of these popular and spooky night tours!
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.
If you’re in the city during the summer, there’s nothing better than catching a flick under the stars.
Local’s Tip: Book tickets ahead of time and arrive early to free events. They fill up fast.
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.
These are some of the most popular helicopter tours available!
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.
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
Plan ahead and book one of these popular tours!
“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.
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.
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.
Head to Greenpoint and board the Brooklyn Barge for a great time.
You can have a drink or
They have live music and even games. The best part is you can order all your food and drinks online through their app!
Tap into your competitive side with a game of mini-golf. The city has a bunch of different courses to choose from.
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.
Brighten up your evening at The Color Factory. It’s an interactive art exhibition.
I recently got to explore this place, and it was an absolute blast!
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.
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.
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.
Here are some of my favorite spots to grab a bite:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Oh, and the best part is they have a bar and feature a different food truck every night.
Skip the line with one of these highly rated tours!
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.
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:
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:
Chances are you’ve probably seen The Summit featured on Instagram by now, since bloggers are obsessed with the mirrored details of this observation deck.
The mirrored walls, flooring, and ceiling make the room extra stunning at night, since they reflect the city lights.
You’ll absolutely by dying to take photos of the skyline, especially if you go at sunset.
My favorite part (besides how pretty it is), is that they’re home to Danny Meyer’s latest bar/cafe called APRÈS.
Grabbing a drink with this view is super romantic, and the perfect way to start off any date night!
Get your tickets early for this popular destination!
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.
Many museums stay open late a few times a week. Amuse yourself late into the night wandering around their collections.
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:
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:
The Edge is NYC’s newest observation deck, and the only one offering a champagne bar along with an incredible view.
Make the most most of your time and go near sunset so you get the beautiful sky plus the opportunity to watch as the city lights up under the night sky.
The Edge is open until midnight, so you’ll be able to enjoy this epic view almost all night long!
Book your tickets early to this popular observation deck!
Seeing Company XIV's production of Seven Sins was an absolute pleasure. I loved it so much that it's quickly become my top recommendation if you're planning a date night in the city. Use code AllyTravels and receive 10% off ticket prices!
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.
Check out some of these popular night tours while you’re in NYC!
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