A Local's Guide To Geek Culture In New York City

27 February 2020
A Local's Guide To Geek Culture In New York City

By Ross Horowitz, a proud geek working in publishing. Originally from New Jersey, Ross has been a resident of NYC for almost thirty years and has a comprehensive knowledge of all things nerd in NYC.

Edited by Jess Wright

The home of global firms, corporations and nonprofits, NYC occupies a position on the global stage quite unlike any other city. A cultural hub, NYC is also a global trendsetter with regard to fashion, food and art. The city that has it all, it is almost impossible to experience everything that New York has to offer. So, who would say that NYC is for Geeks? In fact, amidst all the glamour and bustle thrives a Geek culture that is unparalleled by any other city. Board games, comics, conventions – whatever your flavor of Geek, you will find not only stores, social gatherings and Geek-friendly restaurants, but also like-minded people. Geek culture is celebrated in New York in a way that most Geeks out there wouldn't think is possible. Here it’s a part of everyday life and the sheer number of stores and hangouts dedicated to nerdy endeavors give the impression that NYC is the site of a revolution in which everything ordinary and boring is being replaced by fiction and fantasy. If you’re looking for a comprehensive geek guide to NYC, then you have come to the right place, because this guide is overflowing with geeky things to do in NYC – nerd heaven (stores, bars and events) at NYC’s finest nerd-worthy spots!

Midtown Comics is a must

Midtown Comics is one of the more conventional comic book stores. Different stores will impart different experiences, each unique and special in its own way, but Midtown is reliably good. The stores are all located near areas that are easy to get to. The format is pretty typical of a comic book store, but the selection is so well curated that you’ll struggle to stick to your budget. The staff are very knowledgeable, and will gladly relate the histories and nuances of any number of fictional characters. The store is open from 8am to Midnight. Midtown Comics is well known for its rare editions and collectibles. Certainly one of the better New York Geek attractions. There are three, at the following locations: Times Square, Grand Central, and Downtown, 64 Fulton St, Fl 2.

The Compleat Strategist

One of the oldest New York geek attractions, the Compleat Strategist has been around for over four decades - longer than most of its patrons. It is a traditionalist store that stocks the classics like Settlers of Catan or Call of Cthulhu, but also has a great selection of newer gaming systems. This store is not only limited to its extensive collections of games, expansions and models, but also hosts regular game nights for all different kinds of games, including the more popular Warhammer, D&D and the like. To get the full experience, you’ll need to spend at least an hour here, but if you manage to happen on a games night, stick around a little longer. It is a pretty compact store, but every inch is crammed with games, so don’t be fooled by its size. The narrow shelves will delight any geek with the vast array of rpg books, board games, figurines and trinkets and collectibles that you may not find anywhere else. You can find it at 11 E, 33rd St.


The Brooklyn Games Lab

The Brooklyn Games Lab is one of a few stores of its kind, all part of a growing trend in getting kids to go to board gaming clubs to  . This is great for parents wanting to get their kids away from those pesky iPhones. Here kids can play boardgames ad nauseum, socialize and even develop their own board games. The Lab runs after-school programs, summer camps and other impromptu events. Kids are some of the most creative humans around, and the Lab provides a great opportunity to let their imaginations run wild in a safe and constructive environment. If you’re a little bit too long in the tooth to be attending kids events, not to worry. The Lab has many adult game nights and events that are great fun. The Lab offers kids a choice of four different Lab formats: The Tabletop Lab; strictly analog (no TV games allowed!) and Masterminds Lab which introduces kids to the latest and greatest board games. Quest Lab is all about role-playing, and Design Lab lets kids experiment with and develop their own board games with support for those who wish to attempt launching their own game!


The Forbidden Planet

Similar to Midtown Comics, Forbidden Planet has a huge of comics. Unlike Midtown Comics though, you can also find an equally huge range of sci-fi paraphernalia, DVDs, books, toys, statues and other items. With another branch in London – another world-renowned fantasy destination for nerd – they have a wide selection of imported and unusual items and are especially well-known for all manner of offbeat, quirky paraphernalia. This store only employs people who are as equally enthusiastic about all things geek as the patrons are, and they are super helpful. Oh, and its one of the biggest stores of its kind in the world. Check it out at 832 Broadway, b/t 13th St & 12th St.

The Brooklyn Strategist

Brooklyn strategist is a store as well as a cafe and is one of the newer geeky places to visit in NYC. For parents who don’t know what to do with their kids after school, the Brooklyn Strategist runs a set of after school programs. After dark though, it transforms into a gaming hangout for adults and best of all - its BYOB. They also serve French press coffee, teas, old fashioned sodas and snacks at the cafe. The Brooklyn Strategist is as unique as the team that runs it. It is proud to call a clinical psychologist/neuroscience researcher, a singer/actor, a writer/game designer, a cafe owner/nutrition expert, and a teacher its own. With over 350 games, the Brooklyn Strategist is a treasure trove and has some board games that have gone out of print -you may not find these anywhere else. The selection includes card games, role-playing, classic and modern board games - even chess. You can find it in Carroll Gardens.

The Uncommons

The Uncommons is a fairly unassuming cafe from outside, but once you step into it, you will find that it has a world of entertainment, namely the unfathomably large collection of board games! Tables are available to rent for a small fee, and after that, you are free to take your pick of the hundreds of games on offer while enjoying the beverages and snacks that they also provide, so that you are well supplied for hours of playtime! The kicker? Good coffee and free Wifi!


One of the best geeky things to do in New York must be to visit one of the many themed bars and cafes not dissimilar to the great geeky cafe culture in Paris. It is really difficult to say if the Barcade’s selection of craft beer or classic arcade games is more impressive. Whether you’re a fan of beer, arcade games or like most patrons both, this is sure to be a night to remember. A 90’s rock soundtrack gives a retro ambiance and you’ll find classics like Asteroids, Frogger, and Donkey Kong. Keeping it traditional, all you have to pay per game is the nominal fee of a quarter. Barcade claims to be ‘the original arcade bar.’ This amazing themed bar is located at four places: Chelsea, between 6th and 7th Ave, East Village, 6 St, in Williamsburg at 388 Union Ave and in Jersey City, 163 Newark Ave.

The Way Station

While NYC has many bars to entertain the over 21-year-old, not all are quite as cool as the Way Station. And of course, geek is the new cool. The drinks are all named after characters and events in the geek-verse, and the menu is a minefield of obscure references that only the most prolific nerd would get. The Way Station also has events weekly, which range from movie nights to quiz-nights and the odd bit of role-playing. And while this might sound strange, check out the bathrooms if you get a chance – especially if you’re a fan of Dr Who. Definitely one of the better nerdy bars in NYC!

Action Burger

One of the foremost nerdy restaurants in NYC, Action Burger is good for the whole family. It’s really popular, so expect to wait a little for the food. The food is definitely worth the wait though, and whether you're feeling heroically healthy or villainously indulgent, there is something on the menu for you. The servings are generous either way and being freshly made, the food is of a high standard. It’s best to come thirsty as well, as the selection of milkshakes (boozy or otherwise) is impressive. But you don’t just go to Action Burger for the food and milkshakes – it’s a whole experience. The tables are decked with comics and board games to entertain you, and it’s a great way to socialize. In fact, it’s so much fun that not only will you not mind the wait for the food, you’ll be upset when it interrupts you! True to form, the decor is all themed according to a variety of comic and fantasy characters. They screen films often, and you will more than likely catch a screening of a classic like Star Wars if you visit in the evening.

New York Comic-Con

New York Comic-Con is North America's largest comic book convention and the second largest pop-culture convention, which makes it one of the biggest in the world. Hosting around 130 000 people per day, Comic-Con is a whirlwind of all things Geek. Guests are encouraged to come in dress, and there are several competitions for the best dressed guests. People take this very seriously, but if it isn't for you, it is perfectly acceptable to come in everyday clothes. There is a good chance that you will run into a star from one of your favorite films, so be sure to ask for an autograph. Comic-Con is also the site of many a film launch, and there are typically film premiers which will be attended by multitudes of Hollywood stars, international stars and even manga directors and producers. Comic-Con is usually held at the Jacob Javitz Convention Centre. In terms of geeky things to do in New York, this is a must!