Things to do in New York at Night
By George Jack, an expert on all things related to New York City after 60 years of living here
Edited by Matthew Wears
So, you’re coming to New York? Well that’s already a step in the right direction, that’s for sure, there’s just nowhere in the world like it - and I should know, I’ve spent my entire life living here. You might have a rough plan of what you want to see during the day, but now you’re looking for some things to do in New York at night, which is a pretty big task. The New York nightlife is known to be the best in the world. You’ve got an endless supply of food joints, bars, clubs and just general activities that are all totally unique to the city; after all, it’s the city that never sleeps! There’s nothing us New Yorkers love more than going out to eat in our favourite restaurants or having a night out in one of the cities many districts, all of which are like little cities in themselves. Everyone has their own idea of what New York nightlife is, so if you speak to anyone, you’re probably going to get totally different answers, that’s the beauty of it. So, this little list contains just some of the things to do in NYC at night that I love personally, there’s a real mixture here because I love to do different things all the time, variety is the spice of life, afterall.
Go to a Broadway Show
Let’s start off with one of the oldest streets in the city; Broadway, a street that’s been a staple of New York nightlife for over one-hundred years, so I guess it knows a thing or two about entertainment. Here you’ve got all the classics such as Chicago, Phantom of the Opera, Wicked and The Lion King, so if you’ve not already seen these, go and try them out first. But if you’re looking for New York City night attractions that are a little bit unknown, you have to try out one of the ‘Off-Broadway’ theatres, small, intimate venues that are usually just a couple of blocks off the main Broadway strip. Check out the Orpheum Theatre, the venue that first premiered the now-famous Little Shop of Horrors, or New World Stages, a huge five stage complex that’s sure to be showing something for absolutely everyone.
Bryant Park Outdoor Cinema
Sure, Manhattan nightlife has a ton of outdoor cinemas, but I’d say the Bryant Park one just off Broadway on 22nd Street is the best. I mean for a start, you’re right in the centre of the city, you’ve got Time Square just a few blocks away, then on the other side you’ve got Grand Central Terminal and the Chrysler Building. Importantly, it’s got an excellent selection of films because it’s run by HBO, so even if you’ve got the most specific preference, you’re going to find something you love here, that’s for sure. Great food and drinks are served here as well, all you have to bring is your own blanket, just don’t forget this or you’ll end up sitting on the grass. This is one of the New York City night attractions that only takes place during summertime though, usually June, July and August, but the 2019 schedule hasn’t been released yet so keep track on their website.
Dine on Union Square
There’s a whole load of squares that are worth visiting in New York City at night, but it’s the historic Union Square that wins it for me. Broadway runs straight through it, so it’s become a super popular spot for New Yorkers to eat out and socialise, it’s just one of those places that’s always got a buzz to it, you know? I’d say it’s definitely one of the best places to eat in New York because you’ve got loads of choice in a really small area, from quick eats all the way to fancier, sit down dining experiences. Some of my first choices would be the unassuming Pete’s Tavern, which is an old-style bar that serves great burgers, or Patsy’s Pizzeria, an excellent place that serves some of the best New York style pizza you’re going to get. Also, just a couple of blocks up at Madison Square is the original Shake Shack, so check that out if you’re in that area.
Go to a Yankees Game
I mean come on, are you really planning on coming to this city and not seeing a Yankees game? Things to do in New York at night don’t come better than this, even if you’re not a big sports fan you’re going to want to experience this, that’s for sure. The season officially kicks off in March, but you’re going to be paying a bit more for one of these games, so what I’d recommend is to try and catch one of the Spring training games instead, you can see the full schedule on their website. Games start at different times pretty much every game, just make sure you go when it’s dark because seeing the Yankees Stadium lit up is one of the all-time greatest New York City night attractions. Forget Time Square, this is what it’s all about. To reach the stadium, just take the subway lines 4, B or D northbound from Manhattan and get off at East 161 Street, it’s really that easy.
Late-night shopping in Dumbo
Dumbo might not sound too familiar at first, but it’s where you can find that famous picture spot of George Washington Bridge from underneath, you know the one. Aside from photos though, Dumbo is a maze of excellent shops and boutique stores that are perfect for exploring with a friend, it’s definitely one of the late-night NYC activities that I find myself coming back to because there’s just so many places opening up all the time. The Powerhouse Arena is a super quirky bookshop that’s bound to have a little gem for you to find, or there’s a ton of clothes shops like Front General Store or Brooklyn Industries with all the latest fashion trends. It’s also great for eating out, don’t get me started on the Jacques Torres Chocolate and Ice Cream store, it’s one of the very best places to eat in New York for dessert lovers like me, you just have to check it out!
Top of the Rock viewing platform
Most people go to the Empire State Building to get their fix of city views, but I don’t see the point, wouldn’t you rather go somewhere where you can actually see the Empire State Building? That’s why I choose the Top of the Rock, it’s just one of those things to do in NYC at night that I don’t think gets the praise it deserves. You get the best views of the city, period. I know one thing, there’s nothing quite like looking down on New York City at night, whatever time you go up there’s always going to be so much action going on down below, it’s just nice to sit and look out over the Chrysler Building, the One World Trade Centre and even the Statue of Liberty in the distance! Tickets cost thirty-six dollars, or you have the option of paying an extra ten dollars to go up for sunset, but if you do that just make sure the weather's going to be good.
Ride the Staten Island Ferry
Maybe it’s not the first thing you’d think of when someone says New York nightlife, I know, but stay with me. If you’re short on money and can’t decide what to do in NYC at night, taking a scenic ride on the Staten Island ferry from Whitehall Street to St. George down past the Statue of Liberty is totally one of the best things you can do, because for one, it’s free, and two, it’s got some of the greatest views of the city. You’re going to see the entire Manhattan skyline from out in the harbour, all the bridges in the lower half of the city, as well as Ellis Island and of course the Statue of Liberty which I mentioned before. This is a true gem amongst the New York City night attractions, it’s even said to be one of the best boat journeys in the entire world by some people and if I’m honest, I’d probably have to agree. See for yourself.
Stand and admire Time Square
Look, I know I said before to forget about Time Square, but obviously that’s just not going to happen, the place is the most visited tourist attraction we have in the entire city and it looks incredible after dark. Aside from the obvious illuminated signs though, there’s so many more things to do in Time Square at night, there’s the Disney Store, the M&M Store and the Hard Rock Café which I think is well worth a visit. There’s also a great Italian called Bond 45 that you’re going to want to visit for some great pasta, pizza and steak, in the morning it’s got excellent brunch too! Be warned though, you know how the Manhattan nightlife is expensive? Well Time Square is going to cost you even more, so make sure you’ve got a bit of cash to spend before you go. As well as this, I’d say to go any time before 10PM, because after that it just gets too busy to enjoy in my opinion.
Walk the streets of the Meat Packers District
There’s a lot in this area to do to try and fit into one paragraph, but here it goes. The Meat Packing District NYC is fast becoming a favourite within the New York nightlife, it’s got a really quirky vibe to it and it’s producing some of the city’s most exciting bars, such as The Standard Biergarten and the Brass Monkey which has a pretty excellent roof deck up top. There’s also Chelsea Market where you’re going to find a ton of really top-notch food vendors selling all kinds of good stuff, as well as an industrial styled bar hidden underneath
called The Tippler, which I’d say is one of the most outstanding bars to visit in New York city at night due to its awesome cocktails. Just a bit further up-town, you’ve also got Chelsea Piers, a huge sports and dining complex that’s one of the best places to eat in New York.