Entertainment & Nightlife in New York

From cocktail lounges and dive bars to amusement parks and sports stadiums, New York City boasts more entertainment options within its five boroughs than many of the world’s smaller countries have within their borders. Whether you’re searching for family entertainment or late-night parties, New York City is rarely disappointing.

As the largest city in North America and one of the world’s most important financial hubs, New York City attracts a population that works hard and likes to party harder. From vibrant nightspots to fun daytime activities, this massive city offers something for every taste, budget, and lifestyle.

Read on to learn more about New York City’s best daytime entertainment options for individuals and families, as well as the city’s most exciting and inspiring clubs, bars, and other nightlife destinations.

Daytime Entertainment in New York City

Daytime Entertainment in New York City
New York City is home to two ultra-completive baseball teams: The New York Mets and the world famous New York Yankees. Photo by JeffreyPutman

While New York City may be known as The City That Never Sleeps, this vibrant city is home to as many daytime entertainment options as it is nighttime performances and party spots. From sports to evening shows, New York City is home to hundreds of great entertainment opportunities for visitors and locals alike.

Home to two Major League Baseball teams, New York City is one of the world’s sport hotspots. If you’re interested in seeing New York City’s fiercely competitive baseball community in person, try to catch a Mets or Yankees baseball game during your stay in the city.

The Mets play out of Citi Field in Queens, while the Yankees typically play at the new Yankee Stadium in The Bronx. Both teams play frequent home games against out-of-state opponents. For the best experience, avoid the expensive seats in favor of a mid-range seat in the center of the action.

Daytime Entertainment in New York City
An oasis of nature surrounded by dense skyscrapers, Central Park is New York City’s best place to enjoy summer and winter sports. Photo by Michael McDonough

If you prefer to take part in sports yourself instead of merely watching, make sure you visit Manhattan’s iconic Central Park. One of the largest inner city parks in the world, Central Park is a welcome refuge of green space in one of the world’s most dense city centers.

While most visitors to Central Park opt to make their way around on foot, the park is home to a variety of sports and leisure attractions. In summer, the park is home to a large public swimming pool that attracts thousands of people daily, as well as a lake that’s open for public boating, with boats available from just $12 per hour.

In summer, one of New York City’s most iconic lakes is open for fishing. The Harlem Meer, a charming lake in northeast corner of Central Park, allows visitors to enjoy a relaxing day of catch and release fishing. Visitors can rent fishing rods and bait from a small shop alongside the meer, making this an ideal summer activity for visitors.

Along with fishing and boating, Central Park is New York City’s best place to run or ride a bicycle. The park is home to several running trails, as well as a bike loop that takes visitors around the park’s best attractions. Bikes can be rented within Central Park, making it easy for visitors to the city to enjoy the park to its fullest.

In winter, Central Park transforms into the city’s best place for ice-skating. Home to two ice rinks – the Woolman Ice Rink in the center of the park, and the Lasker Pool, a swimming pool near the Harlem Meer – visitors can enjoy excellent views of the Upper Manhattan skyline from the park while enjoying the winter breeze.

For couples, one of the best ways to enjoy Central Park is by traveling on a horse-drawn carriage. Carriage rides can be booked within the park in both summer and winter, and are a particularly romantic way to view the local scenery. Priced range from $50 upwards for an hour-long guided tour of the park’s major landmarks.

Broadway Shows, Movies, and Evening Entertainment in New York City

Broadway Shows, Movies, and Evening Entertainment in New York City
Broadway is home to New York City’s biggest theaters. Drop in to catch a show or visit an Off Broadway theater for a smaller performance. Photo by Ryan Hoard

Along with London, New York City is one of the English-speaking world’s dramatic hotspots. Home to a huge range of theaters showing both live entertainment and a huge selection of art house films, New York City is one of the best places in the world to catch a live show or private film screening.

The Theater District, known primarily for the perennially crowded Times Square, is New York City’s capital of live theater performances. Broadway, a street that it well known to all theater fans, is New York’s local center for major performances, with a huge selection of large theaters making it a magnet for international performances.

Tickets to Broadway shows are available online from a variety of discount retailers, and also in-person from many of the city’s Broadway theaters. With tickets for some of the major shows priced at $150 or more, most locals make use of a discount ticket agent to purchase seats for major shows.

TKTS, a discount ticketing booth based in Times Square, is one of the best places to get discounted tickets for major Broadway shows. Show up early and buy tickets as soon as possible, as many of the most popular shows attract two-hour lines later in the day.

While Broadway may be the biggest name in New York’s performance scene, the city is home to a variety of other great theater areas. Smaller shows, typically known as being ‘Off Broadway,’ are just as entertaining as their big-theater counterparts, but lack the huge scale – and equally huge ticket prices – of a major Broadway show.

The city’s best locations for Off Broadway shows are Greenwich Village, which is home to several small theaters, and SoHo, which is the local base for New York’s best theater groups and improve comedy troupes. The Performing Garage in SoHo puts on frequent shows, and is conveniently located for visitors in Manhattan.

Despite being known for its live performances, New York City is also a great place to catch a movie. The Theater District is home to some of the best cinemas in the world and is arguably the United States’ best place to catch a new blockbuster. The AMC on 42nd Street is one of the city’s largest cinemas and is popular amongst New Yorkers.

Finally, the Times Square area is home to some of New York City’s best exhibits and traveling attractions. Discovery Times Square Exposition, located in Times Square, is one of the best places in the city to view major exhibits focusing on pop culture and mass media.

Sightseeing, Museums, and Cultural Attractions in New York City

Sightseeing, Museums, and Cultural Attractions in New York City
The Museum of Modern Art’s unique design makes it just as much of an attraction as the masterpieces it houses. Photo by joe holmes

New York City is the United States’ undisputed capital of high culture. Home to some of the world’s finest museums, New York City is home to museums covering modern art, prehistoric history, and American politics alike.

Federal Hall, located close to Wall Street in Downtown Manhattan, is the location of George Washington’s 18th century inauguration as United States President. Now one of the city’s finest political museums, it’s a great place to learn more about New York City’s role in the United States’ early political development.

The Museum of Modern Art, located in Midtown Manhattan, is one of the world’s top art museums. Home to masterpieces from Picasso, Monet, and Salvador Dali, a visit to this remarkable museum is a must-do activity for any modern art gurus. Arrive early, as lines for the museum can grow to several hours in the afternoon.

Urban design enthusiasts will want to visit the Skyscraper Museum in Downtown. A detailed museum showcasing the early development of New York City’s impressive skyline, this museum is a great early morning sight before departing for New York City’s offshore attractions.

Sightseeing, Museums, and Cultural Attractions in New York City
For a beautiful view of Midtown and Downtown Manhattan, make your way to the top floor of the Empire State Building’s observatory. Photo by dkshots

To view New York City’s stunning skyline in person, make your may to Midtown and visit the Rockefeller Center. The 70-floor GE Building is home to an observatory that offers panoramic views of New York City’s skyline. Try to arrive early, as queues for tickets can result in hours spent standing in line. The observatory closes at 11PM.

The city’s highest observatory is found in the iconic Empire State Building. Due to the building’s immense popularity amongst both locals and tourists, lines to reach the observatory are very long. Expect to queue for hours to reach the observatory unless you arrive late at night before the building’s 2AM closing time.

No visit to New York City is complete without a photo of the Statue of Liberty. One of the Western world’s most iconic monuments, the Statue of Liberty is accessible from Downtown Manhattan on the Statue Cruise boat. It’s best to arrive early as lines can reach cartoonish proportions due to the tight security on the boat trip.

If you’d prefer to view the statue from afar, consider catching the Staten Island Ferry to New York City’s most remote borough. The ferry travels past the statue on its way to Staten Island, making it an inexpensive and far less time consuming option for visitors that want to snap a picture of the statue without visiting Liberty Island.

Nightlife in New York City

Nightlife in New York City
Greenwich Village is home to some of New York City’s most fashionable nightlife without the pretentious atmosphere of other districts. Photo by ChrisGoldNY

New York City is home to some of North America’s finest nightlife. With late closing times, a diverse range of nightlife areas, and some of the country’s most vibrant and enticing nightspots, New York City is far ahead of any other East Coast city when it comes to delivering fantastic nightlife experiences.

Most of New York City’s best nightspots are found in Manhattan, although the outer boroughs certainly have their own appealing locations. As a city that’s obsessed with the latest and greatest places to be entertained, the best nightspots in New York are rarely long lasting – great places seem to come and go every single day.

Visitors to New York City seeking a scenic nightlife experience will enjoy any of the rooftop bars near Times Square. Despite being unapologetically touristy, they offer some of the best views of New York City. Try to the rooftop bar at The Peninsula on 5th Avenue for a panoramic view of Manhattan and enjoyably strong cocktails.

For a more authentic local experience, visit the Lower East Side. Fairly priced and lacking the ludicrously expensive bottle service temptations of the city’s exclusive dance clubs, the bars in the Lower East Side attract a young professional crowd in search of strong drinks, throbbing live music, and charming places to hang out.

New York City’s high-end nightlife is concentrated around the Meatpacking District in Manhattan. Home to some of the city’s most exclusive nightclubs, the Meatpacking District is a great place to party if your wallet is think and your dress sense right on the cutting edge. Large clubs and dance music make this a great late-night location.

Greenwich Village, located within walking distance of the Meatpacking District, is a great all-round nightspot for visitors searching for ‘normal New York.’ Home to one of the city’s most diverse crowds ranging from professionals to college students, this cultural hangout is the best place in the city to enjoy imported beers and live music.

New York City’s gay nightlife is found in Chelsea, a central area in Manhattan that’s rarely lacking large crowds. While Chelsea is regarded as New York City’s capital of gay nightlife, the area is also home to several large straight dance clubs, attracting a mixed crowd of professionals, students, and artistic types every night of the week.

Nightlife in New York City
Hipster mecca Williamsburg attracts indie bands and underground entertainment in big numbers, making it an excellent place for a night out. Photo by ChrisGoldNY

While Manhattan is unquestionably New York City’s nightlife epicenter, it’s easy to find great places to relax, party, and let loose in the city’s other boroughs. Brooklyn and Queens, in particular, are home to a wide variety of great places to drink and be merry, many of which cater to a specific subculture or local demographic.

Brooklyn is home to two of New York City’s most varied nightspots: hipster mecca Williamsburg and yuppie paradise Park Slope. Williamsburg is a hotspot for indie music, vintage denim, and budget beers. America’s undisputed hipster capital, it’s the best place in New York City to catch upcoming bands before they make it big.

Park Slope, on the other hand, is Brooklyn’s capital of new money culture. Enjoy an impressive range of imported beers and exotic foodie dishes in the area’s pubs and bars. Attracting a young, professional crowd, this area is the place to be if you want to chat about the latest Italian fashion or BMW convertible.

Brooklyn’s mainstream nightlife scene is found in Bay Ridge, a dense commercial neighborhood that’s home to Irish pubs and local dive bars. Idea for visitors that want to experience a taste of local New York nightlife, this area is inexpensive and charming, delivering an unquestionably Brooklyn experience for visitors.

Staying Safe in New York City’s Nightlife Districts

New York City is home to the most efficient public transportation network in North America, making the city remarkably easy to get around. With the subway open 24 hours per day, getting to and from nightlife areas is simple and straightforward for visitors that don’t wish to pay for an expensive cross-city taxi fare.

Despite a reputation for danger, New York City is a safe city to spend time in late at night. All of the city’s nightlife areas have a considerable police presence, making it exceedingly rare for petty crime or violence to break out. Despite this, petty crime inside nightspots is an issue, with bags and wallets often ‘going missing’ in bars.

New York City law requires that bars stop serving alcohol at 4AM, with most bars in Manhattan closely following the rules. The further from Manhattan you go, however, the more relaxed the rules become. Many Brooklyn bars ‘shut down’ at 4AM only to continue partying with their signs switched off for the night.

From yuppie wine bars to charming local jazz clubs, New York City’s nightlife scene is undoubtedly one of the world’s best. With a relaxed attitude, a reasonable budget, and a sense of adventure, you’ll have no trouble enjoying the best of New York City’s daytime and nighttime entertainment.