New York City

New Yorkers are fond of the "work hard, play hard" maxim, but the truth is, Gothamites don't need much of an excuse to hit the town. Any day of the week could easily be mistaken for a Friday or Saturday; the bottom line is that when the the mood strikes, there are always plenty of choices in this 24-hour city. Whether it's raising a glass in a historic saloon, a dimly lit cocktail den, or a swanky rooftop lounge; checking out the latest band; or laughing it up at a comedy show, it isn't hard for visitors to get a piece of the action.

The nightlife scene still resides largely downtown—in the dives and speakeasies of the East Village and Lower East Side, the classic jazz joints and piano bars of the West Village, and the Meatpacking District's and Chelsea's "see-and-be-seen" clubs. Midtown, especially around Hell's Kitchen, has developed a vibrant scene, too, and plenty of upscale hangouts dot the Upper East and Upper West Sides. Brooklyn and Harlem are go-to destinations for in-the-know locals.

Keep in mind that when you go is just as important as where you go. A club that is packed at 11 pm might empty out by midnight, and a bar that raged last night may be completely empty tonight. Time Out New York magazine has a good list of roving parties (www.timeout.com/newyork), as does Urban Daddy (www.urbandaddy.com/new-york). Scour industry-centric websites, too, like Eater and Grub Street, which catalog the comings and goings of many a nightlife impresario. New York magazine and the New York Times have listings of cabaret and jazz shows, the latter mainly in its Friday and Sunday Arts sections. Bear in mind that a venue's life span is often measured in months, not years. Phone ahead or check online to make sure your target hasn't closed or turned into a polka hall (although, you never know—that could be fun, too).

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  • 1. Barbès

    Park Slope | Live Music

    Outstanding regulars like the Django Reinhardt mantle-bearer Stephane Wrembel, western-swingers Brain Cloud, and Slavic Soul Party spin threads...Read More

  • 2. Blue Note

    Greenwich Village | Live Music

    Considered by many (not least its current owners) to be "the jazz capital of the world," the Blue Note was once the stomping ground for such...Read More

  • 3. Bowery Ballroom

    Lower East Side | Live Music

    This legendary theater with Art Deco accents is probably the city's top midsize concert venue. Packing in the crowds here is a rite of passage...Read More

  • 4. Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola

    Midtown West | Live Music

    For a night of jazz with big names and talent but without the pretension, turn to Dizzy's, an intimate club with Manhattan-skyline and Central...Read More

  • 5. Irving Plaza

    Gramercy | Live Music

    A relatively intimate venue that holds about 1,000 people on two levels, Irving Plaza is known for its packed lineup of both indie and more...Read More

  • 6. Jazz Standard

    Gramercy | Live Music

    The Standard's sizable underground room draws top names in the business, and as part of Danny Meyer's southern-food restaurant Blue Smoke, it...Read More

  • 7. St. Mazie Bar & Supper Club

    Live Music

    On Grand Street nearly abutting the highway is the 1920s-style St. Mazie, which presents excellent gypsy jazz and flamenco music to a crowd...Read More

  • 8. The Bell House

    Live Music

    One of the top music venues in the borough, the Bell House hosts big-name rock musicians, cult comedy acts and live podcast recordings, and...Read More

  • 9. Village Vanguard

    West Village | Live Music

    This prototypical jazz club, tucked into a cellar in the Village since the 1940s, has been the haunt of legends like Thelonious Monk and Barbra...Read More

  • 10. (Le) Poisson Rouge

    Greenwich Village | Live Music

    Head into the street-level or underground entrances to behold this cutting-edge, multipurpose entertainment and dance emporium, whose name means...Read More

  • 11. Arlene's Grocery

    Lower East Side | Live Music

    Crowds of youngsters and longtime New Yorkers pack into this former Puerto Rican bodega that's now a downtown staple for local bands, variety...Read More

  • 12. Baby's All Right

    Live Music

    You'd be hard-pressed to categorize this eclectic place. With a diner up front, a '70s German disco–inspired music venue in the back, and a...Read More

  • 13. Bar Next Door

    Greenwich Village | Live Music

    It doesn't get more intimate than this dark, inviting music den downstairs from the Italian café La Lanterna. An ever-changing roster of musicians...Read More

  • 14. Birdland

    Midtown West | Live Music

    This place gets its name from saxophone great Charlie "Yardbird" (or just "Bird") Parker, so expect serious musicians such as John Pizzarelli...Read More

  • 15. Bitter End

    Greenwich Village | Live Music

    On a fabled bohemian block, this Greenwich Village standby has served its share of talent since 1961, with Billy Joel, David Crosby, and Dr...Read More

  • 16. Bizarre

    Bushwick | Live Music

    Live music and theatrical performances at this appropriately named bar range from burlesque to circus to all kinds of quirky performance art...Read More

  • 17. City Winery

    SoHo | Live Music

    A combination wine bar and concert space, matched with great food and a calendar packed with great shows, makes this a go-to for a semi-sophisticated...Read More

  • 18. Iridium

    Midtown West | Live Music

    This cozy, elite jazz venue is a sure bet for big-name talent like the David Murray Black Saint Quartet and pianist Michael Wolff. The sight...Read More

  • 19. Knitting Factory

    Live Music

    Rock, indie, and underground hip-hop performances draw crowds at this well-established concert venue that does double duty as a neighborhood...Read More

  • 20. Mercury Lounge

    Lower East Side | Live Music

    You have to squeeze past the sardine-packed hipsters in the front bar to reach the stage, but it's worth it. Not only does this top-quality...Read More

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