In the infamous city that never sleeps, there is a huge choice to get a real feel for New York City at night within a week or few days’ visits, so to help you experience the Full Monty without having to pack in 10 venues a night, here’s our pick of the best. Whether you’re a romancing couple or a group of friends or students, we’ve covered all the bases: dining, drinking, dancing, Broadway shows, attractions (and distractions!), the liveliest districts to experience the street life; the best night city bus tours, where to catch a rooftop summer flick and the very best live music, to give any New York holiday a boost.
New York City from up high
So, taking it from the top; the very best way to get your bearings is to view the expanse of the New York skyline from one of its many lofty rooftop bars and restaurants and nowhere does sky-high hospitality like The Big Apple! From the sumptuous luxury of Manhattan’s top hotels to budget hideaways, here are our top 3 picks of awesome year-round rooftops where you can drink in the spectacular city vistas.
The Sky Room
On the 33rd and 34th floors of the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Times Square, The Sky Room is the highest rooftop bar in the city with 360-degree views of Manhattan and over the Hudson River. Spacious and modern it’s also at the top end of the budget, but worth the treat!
One of the most atmospheric and startling rooftop bars to take in New York City at night, this Mexican-themed cocktail bar and restaurant positioned at the top of Pod 39 Hotel in the heart of Manhattan is designed like a South American piazza with ivy-clad stone archways and Mexican tile-topped tables all lit up with fiesta-like fairy lights. Here you can take in breath-taking views of the Chrysler Building, the Empire State and beyond while sipping margaritas and munching Pod 39’s signature Salvation Tacos.
If you like your sweeping views of New York City at night set to sounds, then drop onto Chinatown’s Dale Talde rooftop bar. Here’s where visitors and young locals like to take in the summer vibe spread out on funky, comfy furnishings. It’s more clubby than the average rooftop bar but friendly, lively and relatively inexpensive.
Related: NEW YORK HOLIDAY ITINERARY GUIDE
New York City night walking tours
If you prefer your exploration more down to earth, get onto the sidewalks of New York City at night by taking one of the many nights walking tours on offer. As twilight falls this magnificent city begins to light up with some of the most spectacular displays in lower Manhattan like the bright lights of Brooklyn Bridge, the hauntingly atmospheric 911 Memorial and the shimmering grandeur of buildings such as City Hall and the truly impressive Woolworth Building.
You get a real sense of ‘Gotham City’ life, its history, culture, architecture and people from the ground up! Many walking tours are free to join, or ‘pay what it’s worth’. Of course, private tours can be tailor-made but are pretty pricey.
New York bus tours at night
Whilst a leisurely guided stroll along the city sidewalks is rich in depth and greater cultural understanding, time is often of the essence, so visitors can pack in many more sights and sounds of New York City at night aboard a Big Apple Bus tour. There are many variations of open-top double decker’s on offer, hop-on-hop-off, multi-stop top attractions routes and themed tours of famous film sites, historic landmarks or trips around lesser explored outer boroughs.
As well as covering more sights, bus tours have the added benefit of conserving physical energy(!) whilst giving passengers an informative narration along the way. The Hop-on-hop-off tours are the most popular among visitors, taking in some 30 key attractions whilst facilitating individual itineraries; boarding and leaving as required. The main terminus is in Times Square where there’s a choice of routes, including the uptown loop, which includes Rockefeller and Lincoln Centres and the Apollo Theatre; the midtown loop, stopping at the Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden and United Nations Headquarters and a downtown loop, taking in Little Italy, Chinatown and the 911 Memorial.
New York Broadway Shows
Nothing epitomises ‘the city that doesn’t sleep’ like the bright lights of Broadway, so once you’ve booked a show, take time to stroll the ‘white strip’ and revel in the glitz ‘n’ glamour in the hub of New York City at night before taking your seats. Your biggest problem is going to be deciding which to see! 2018 is shaping up to be a record year for Broadway successes, with some of the world’s biggest hits launching and returning to Gotham’s great stage. Visit our top 10 guides for more information (link to top 10 broadway shows blog)
Pre-theatre dining is another tricky choice. Thankfully the district is packed with a taste for every wallet; from the lowly, but abundant, diner to five-star restaurants, ethnic cuisine to bagels and hot dogs, so you’ll be sure to find something to suit.
Top 10 New York nightclubs
Almost every borough in The Big Apple has a club-hub which springs into life from 10/11pm into the small hours. The clubbing experience of New York at night reaches out to all tastes, ages and wallets, so even if you’re only planning to pop in for a nightcap, there’s little doubt you’ll stay for two or three to enjoy the vibe of these lively night spots.
There are hundreds of dance hubs to choose from; some considerably better than others; some only for hip-hop or funk fanatics, so allow us to steer you to the pick of the bunch with our Top 10 New York nightclub picks:
For our money, Bembe is one of the most authentic, sexy, samba style club experiences anywhere in the city. Somewhat hidden below Williamsburg Bridge, Bembe is very much a local steam outlet, often packed on a Friday and Saturday night, but worth the squeeze as much for the DJ’s Latin-infused beats as for its signature ‘dish’ of distinctive tequila shots.
Bossa Nova Civic Club
If edgy house and techno is your scene, then Bossa’s Bushwick residency is your kind of place! Bushwick is rapidly up-and-coming as a bohemian area of Brooklyn with pioneering new food and music venues gaining popularity among young New Yorkers. It’s lively, unpretentious and free to get in Sun-Thurs and before midnight on Friday and Saturday nights.
When New York does funk ‘n’ soul, it’s never going to be the Manchester Northern soul scene! This slice of Bulgaria in the heart of the wild Williamsburg Bridge area has carved a unique ‘brand’ of Eastern European mayhem. Here you can sit on swings at the bar swigging ‘wild vodka’ then swing onto the dance floor to gipsy punk, funk and soul!
Whilst we’re under the Williamsburg Bridge, we’d urge you to check out the sound system purists’ haven at the increasingly notorious Output. A hipster’s heaven, this eclectic space comfortably accommodates hot electronic beat heatseekers as well as those looking for a more chilled out club, with its cooling rooftop lounge and Panther listening room. Get in before 11pm to avoid the queues!
Shrine World Music Venue
A truly lively and popular ‘drop-in’ dance club. Fun, affordable and accessible to all! Groove to live vibes with bands playing funk, soul, jazz and afro beats; guest DJs spin the discs all week, so you’re guaranteed a great night, even if you hadn’t planned ahead! Coupled with no cover charge, great food and an affordable bar, it’s little wonder ‘The Shrine’ is one of Harlem’s hottest boogie bars!
Summer in New York at night is often best experienced under a marquee, and the notorious Marquee NYC is back in the limelight after a couple of decades in the wilderness. Increasingly one of the most revered clubs in central Manhattan, Marquee had a complete overhaul in 2012 and is now a huge draw for some of America’s best loved electronic DJs and sweaty New Yorkers alike! Get your ticket in advance at around $60 and dress to impress!
If a spot of mash up hip-hop, pop, house and EDM are more your style, then head to Lavo on 58th and Park for a full force party night, be warned this is not for the faint-hearted! Lavo is a high energy, opulent club for hard-core clubbers. However, they also lay on far more chilled brunch… at night! Buy your tickets in advance to avoid queuing, they can be up to $70 depending who’s spinning and again you need to dress to impress for this one.
This lively cocktail bar offers a basement of 1970’s funky vibes on the weekends (vinyl included!) while upstairs you can enjoy a menu of vegan Mexican food! Try and get there before midnight to avoid queuing and an entry fee.
Le Bain at The Standard
Back in the Meatpacking District, one of the chicest clubs in NYC is ‘Le Bain’ – it’s also one of the most notoriously hardest doors in the city. Ever fancied dipping into a hot tub on the dance floor? Well here’s your chance. This vibrant, top-notch club is connected to The Boom Boom Room, one of Manhattan's exclusive celebrity watering holes. No beanies and sneakers here – dress to impress!
If you’re looking for a solid, sound system with fairly traditional dance music and reasonably priced drinks and friendly service, then Good Room is good for you. Housing an ample dance floor with a stage for performers and an interesting chill room, Good Room has got something for everyone.