Nightlife - How to find the right bars, music clubs, and night clubs

Frank Sinatra famous called New York City “The City that never sleeps.”   With 24 hour public transportation, and bars and night clubs that remain open to 4 am, New York City definitely lives up to the reputation bestowed on it.  New York City has some of the world’s most famous bars, music clubs, and night clubs. 

The main challenge that travelers face when coming to New York City is that the best nightlife venues lie outside the main hotel district in midtown in areas such as Chelsea, the meatpacking district, and Greenwich Village. Therefore, most travelers never find the best bars and night clubs that New York City has to offer.  An additional challenge that travelers face is that night many bars and night clubs open and close and rise and fall quickly in popularity. 

So if a traveler has asked a friend who has visited New York City where to go, they can often go to an establishment that is no longer open or the hot spot that it was just six months ago.  In some bars, and especially night clubs, one night can see a completely different type of music and crowd from night to night.  Even though the New York City night life scene is so confusing, it is definitely worth the effort.  You just need to evaluate the options below and see which one works best for you. 

* Nightlife Promotional Companies.  The nightlife scene is so confusing in New York City that most local New Yorkers literally outsource their nightlife entertainment choices to promotional companies.  These companies hire thousands of promoters that develop their lists of friends based on their music preferences and styles ( i.e house music, rap music, top 40, hipster, etc.) and direct their list of loyal socialites to different night clubs based on the types of parties at each club that night.  In New York City, most social groups travel together to different venues every night.  So if locals use local promotional companies to help them in their nightlife choices, it is a MUST for a traveler to get local advice. 

Talk to your concierge so they can recommend what club best suits your music tastes, demographics, and style.  The worst thing you can do is show up at a club where you do not fit into the crowd and after spending 30 – 45 minutes in line have the doorman turn you away for not being the type of person they want at the club.  Show up to a night club early (generally shortly after they open at 11 pm) so that you have a better chance of getting in early – locals generally know people and are afforded the luxury of showing up fashionably late. 

Ask your concierge which local promotional company they recommend to use to get on the guest list.  If you have a group of over 2 – 3 people, you should definitely consider getting table service generally (costs between around $450 - $700 to get into the club). While this sounds expensive, drinks at the bar generally cost up to $20 a drink in a night club.  Table Service is the ultimate symbol of status in New York City nightlife, and many times at the more exclusive night clubs you can find models, celebrities, and sports stars.  When you buy table service, you are really renting status and access to the crowd around you.  The more you are willing to pay, the higher your quality experience.

* Night Club Tours: In New York City Nightlife, even if you talk to your concierge and you get on a guest list, there are no guarantees. If you show up at a New York City night club, EVEN if you are on the Guest List, and you have the wrong look or don’t meet the dress code for that particular party, or if you have more guys than girls in your group (this is the most common reason for denial of entry), the doorman will not let you in. It all depends on the party that night and how the doorman feels. 

The best way to get in the door is to be part of a group where the doorman knows the promoter bringing the people in.  For tourists, you are not going to be part of any of these local social groups, but there are tour companies that offer night club tours that allow you to get into night clubs as part of the tour group.  While getting into a night club is always at the doorman’s discretion, these tour companies will generally ensure that you get into the club as long as you adhere to the published dress code and you have proper identification. 

You can also sign up for private guided limousine nightlife tours that give you that extra exclusivity when you show up at the door and can make for VIP entry into the night club.  When doing your research on any night club tour, make sure you consult with your concierge and also read relevant online reviews at Yelp and to ensure you use a reputable company.

* New York City Bars.  If you are not into the pressures of the night club scene and want a more mellow, down to earth New York City experience, you have plenty of bars to choose from. Just like night clubs, there are plenty of different types of bars in New York City to meet any taste. You can typically find these bars based on the neighborhood.  If you are looking for some of the classic old bars of New York City, including bars from the time of Abraham Lincoln, go to the East Village. 

If you are looking for the classic writer and musician bars of New York City, go to the West Village.  If you are looking for the trendy younger crowd bars, either go to Greenwich Village and the NYU area, or Hell’s Kitchen.  If you want to go to the hipster, dive bar scene, go to the Lower East Side. 

If you want the young urban professional scene, especially on a week night, go to the Upper East Side or Murray Hill.  If you are traveling alone or in a small group, and you want to meet other travelers, or if you want to learn about the best bars in New York City, there are tour companies that offer pub crawls and bar tours through some of the best bars in New York City.  Consult your concierge for their recommendation of a bar you should go to, or a pub crawl or bar tour you should take.
* Live Music and Comedy.  Most Rock musicians or Comedians in the United States have spent their formative years in New York City before they were discovered.  Whether you like Jazz performances, vocal performances, comedians, or live cover bands, New York City is full of options. 

These venues change on a nightly basis, and you will want to talk to your concierge or a local tour company that deals with bars and night clubs to find the right venue for you on any given night.  You can look for a tour company that might have a tour of these type of venues, or you can hire a private guided tour through some of these venues either by SUV or limousine or by foot, depending on your budget.