New York City

The streets of New York alone are stageworthy. With so many people faking it 'til they make it, daily life can take on the feeling of performance—to exhausting, and inspiring, effect. No wonder that the city draws a constant influx of actors, singers, dancers, and musicians from around the globe, all striving for their big break and infusing the city with a crackling creative energy. This fiercely competitive scene produces an unrivaled wealth of culture and art that many New Yorkers cite as the reason they're here, and that millions more are determined to travel for.

Although costly ticket prices can make attending a Broadway show a less common outing for even the most devout theater-loving New Yorkers, that's not true of many other kinds of more affordable performances. Whether the audiences are primarily local or not, it's their discernment that helps drive the arts scene, whether they are flocking to a concert hall to hear a world-class soprano deliver a flawless performance, or crowding into a cramped café to support fledgling writers reading from their own work.

New York has upward of 200 "legitimate" theaters (meaning those with theatrical performances, not movies), and many more ad hoc venues—parks, churches, lofts, galleries, rooftops, even parking lots. The city is also a revolving door of special events: summer jazz, one-act-play marathons, film festivals, and music and dance celebrations from the classical to the avant-garde, to name just a few.

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  • 1. Anthology Film Archives

    East Village

    Dedicated to preserving and exhibiting independent and avant-garde film, the Anthology Film Archives has two screening rooms (seating about 200 and 100, respectively) as well as a film repository and a library, all inside a 1919 redbrick courthouse. Cofounded in 1970 by the downtown legend and filmmaker Jonas Mekas, Anthology remains a major destination for adventurous and unusual movies, new as well as old. The Essential Cinema series delves into the works of canonized groundbreaking directors; the frequent festivals are more eclectic.

    32 2nd Ave., New York, New York, 10003, USA
  • 2. Apollo Theater


    Michael Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald, and James Brown are just a few of the world-class performers who have appeared on this equally famed stage, which first opened back in 1934. If the Apollo's Amateur Night doesn't get you up to 125th Street on a Wednesday, consider the theater's Thursday comedy night. Or come for the intimate, late-night music series, Apollo Music Café, which is held on select Fridays and Saturdays and features a variety of jazz, pop, hip-hop, and rock performers.

    253 W. 125th St., New York, New York, 10027, USA

    Arts/Entertainment Details

    Rate Includes: $29
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  • 3. Brooklyn Academy of Music

    Fort Greene

    Founded in 1861 and operating at its current location since 1908, BAM is a multidisciplinary performing arts center that now encompasses three edifices, including the Beaux-Arts, seven-story Peter Jay Sharp building. It's known for innovative performances of many types, and the facilities include an unadorned "black box" theater, dance venues, a four-screen movie theater, an opera house, a gallery, and an open-plan performance and restaurant space.

    30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn, New York, 11217, USA
  • 4. Carnegie Hall

    Midtown West

    Internationally renowned Carnegie Hall has incomparable acoustics that make it one of the world's best venues for music—classical as well as jazz, pop, cabaret, and folk. Since the opening-night concert on May 5, 1891, which Tchaikovsky conducted, virtually every important musician in the world has appeared in this Italian Renaissance–style building. The world's top orchestras perform in the grand and fabulously steep 2,804-seat Isaac Stern Auditorium; the 268-seat Weill Recital Hall often features young talents making their New York debuts; and the subterranean 599-seat Judy and Arthur Zankel Hall attracts big-name artists such as the Kronos Quartet and Milton Nascimento to its stylish modern space. A noted roster of family concerts is also part of Carnegie's programming. The box office releases $10 rush tickets for some shows on the day of performance, or you can buy partial-view seating in advance at 50% off the full ticket price. Head to the second-floor Rose Museum (open by appointment) to learn more about the famous hall's history through its archival treasures.

    881 7th Ave., New York, New York, 10019, USA
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  • 5. David Geffen Hall

    Upper West Side

    Formerly known as Philharmonic Hall and Avery Fisher Hall, David Geffen Hall is the residence of the New York Philharmonic (; the orchestra's season is September to June. The hall reopened in late 2022 after a two-year, $550 million renovation to its acoustics and public areas, including a new welcome center that is part ticket office, part lounge. The orchestra's Open Rehearsals are available to the public on selected weekday mornings at 9:45 am ($22 plus fees; usually Wednesday or Thursday) and select performances from inside the concert hall are streamed live, free of charge. A popular Young People's Concert series is on Saturday afternoons at 2 pm four times throughout the season. Lincoln Center presents Great Performers, Mostly Mozart Festival, and White Light Festival in this hall, too.

    10 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, New York, 10023, USA
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  • 6. Film Forum

    West Village

    In addition to premiering new international features and documentaries that are otherwise hard to catch on the big screen, this nonprofit with four theaters hosts movies by canonized directors such as Hitchcock, Godard, and Bertolucci; in-depth film series devoted to particular actors or genres; and newly restored prints of classic works. The small concession stand in the lobby serves tasty cakes and freshly popped popcorn. This is no megaplex, but updates in 2018 included new seats with more legroom and a higher slope for better views.

    209 W. Houston St., New York, New York, 10014, USA
  • 7. Jazz at Lincoln Center

    Upper West Side

    A few blocks south of Lincoln Center itself, this Columbus Circle venue is almost completely devoted to jazz, with a sprinkling of other genres mixed in. Stages in Rafael Viñoly's crisply modern Frederick P. Rose Hall include the 1,200-seat Rose Theater, where up-and-coming artists as well as jazz world fixtures like composer and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis (the organization’s managing and artistic director), perform several times a year. Also here is The Appel Room, an elegant theater with a glass wall overlooking Columbus Circle. In the smaller Dizzy's Club, there are often multiple sets nightly, plus late-night sessions Tuesday through Saturday, all accompanied by a full bar and restaurant with a New Orleans–inspired menu.

    10 Columbus Circle, 5th fl., New York, New York, 10019, USA
  • 8. Joyce Theater


    Set within a former art deco movie house, the 472-seat Joyce Theater has superb sight lines and presents a wide range of classical and contemporary dance. Its 48-week season includes a rotating roster of international, national, and New York–based companies.

    175 8th Ave., New York, New York, 10011, USA
  • 9. Kings Theatre

    Dormant since 1977, this grand and opulent 1929 movie palace reopened as a 3,000-seat performing-arts venue in 2015, with an exciting schedule of music, theater, dance, and other live performances. One of the Loew’s Wonder Theatres from the beginning of Hollywood’s Golden Age, the renovated space is quite true to the original. The ornate, French Renaissance–style building’s original art deco chandeliers have been restored; the colors on the 70-foot arched ceiling were replicated; and even the original carpeting was re-created.

    1027 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn, New York, 11226, USA
    800-745–3000-for tickets
  • 10. Metrograph

    Lower East Side

    Exclusive premieres and retro screenings, often with celebrity guest speakers, and an ever-changing calendar of both classic and obscure films lure patrons to this boutique movie theater, where six films are usually shown on the two screens each day. There's also a restaurant and a bar in which to hang before or after the show, a small bookstore for browsing, and a retro candy counter with exotic albeit expensive treats.

    7 Ludlow St., New York, New York, 10002, USA
  • 11. Metropolitan Opera House

    Upper West Side

    The largest hall in Lincoln Center, the almost 3,800-seat Met is notable for its dramatic arched entrance, as well as its lobby's immense Swarovski crystal chandeliers and Marc Chagall paintings. The titan of American opera companies and an institution since its founding in 1883, the Metropolitan Opera brings the world's leading singers to its vast stage. All performances, including those sung in English, are subtitled on small screens on the back of the seat in front of you. A frequent resident of the Met (and sometimes, of the David H. Koch Theater) is the American Ballet Theatre (, renowned for its gorgeous full-program renditions of 19th-century classics (Swan Lake,Giselle,The Sleeping Beauty) with choreography re-envisioned by 20th-century or contemporary masters.  A limited number of same-day $25 rush orchestra seats are available at the Met's website. These tickets go on sale for weeknight performances at noon, for matinees four hours before curtain, and for Saturday evenings at 2 pm. There's also an annual free outdoor HD Festival, with screenings of recorded operas on an immense screen covering the facade, and thousands of chairs in the plaza area. Backstage tours of the Met ($35), when available, are held during the performance season, and require advance online reservation.

    30 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, New York, 10023, USA
  • 12. Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) films

    Midtown West

    You'll find a truly engaging and uncommon repertory of American and international film at the Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters 1 and 2, on the MoMA's lower level, and at the Celeste Bartos Theater, in the lower level of the Cullman Education and Research Building on the museum campus. Sometimes the films tie in with current art exhibitions. The Contenders series, which starts each fall, is a chance to catch up on the past year's releases that are likely to win awards—or at least stand the test of time. Movie tickets go on sale two weeks prior to each screening, online or in person at the museum; limited same-day tickets are available, too. Museum admission is discounted if you have purchased cinema tickets ($12), though a separate ticket is required.

    11 W. 53rd St., New York, New York, 10019, USA
  • 13. New York City Center

    Midtown West

    Pause as you enter this neo-Moorish building, built in 1923 for the Shriners (an offshoot of the Freemasons), and admire the ornate decorative details in the lobby and theater. City Center's 2,200-seat main stage is perfectly suited for dance and special theatrical events. Among its varied performances and showcases, the Tony Award–honored Encores! series, generally held in spring, revisits musicals of the past in a concert format—an event that has led to shows returning to Broadway, with the long-running Chicago among them. During summer, Encores! Off-Center features concert versions of off-Broadway musicals. Tickets for City Center's annual Fall for Dance festival sell out quickly.

    131 W. 55th St., New York, New York, 10019, USA
    212-581–1212-for tickets
  • 14. Nitehawk Cinema


    Nitehawk, which shows new and cult-favorite flicks in three theaters, makes going to the movies more fun with feature presentation–theme menu items and cocktails, served by the wait staff to your cabaret-style seat. (Staples, like popcorn, are also available on the full menu.) Movies often sell out on weekends, so buy tickets ($16) in advance, and make sure you get there half an hour before showtime for each film's offbeat preshow preceding the trailers. Nitehawk has second location at 188 Prospect Park West.

    136 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn, New York, 11249, USA

    Arts/Entertainment Details

    Rate Includes: Tickets $16
  • 15. Nuyorican Poets Cafe

    East Village

    The reigning arbiter of poetry slams, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe is known for hosting the influential granddaddy (b. 1989) of the spoken-word scene, the Wednesday and Friday Night Poetry Slams as well as a variety of open-mike nights, the latter of which have been mostly online during the pandemic. These days there are outdoor events on the schedule as well, but check the website for updates.

    236 E. 3rd St., New York, New York, 10009, USA
  • 16. Park Avenue Armory

    Upper East Side

    Completed in 1881 and occupying an entire city block, this Gothic-style brick building is now an arts center but was originally the headquarters, drill hall, and social club for the Seventh Regiment, a National Guard unit called the "Silk Stocking" regiment because its members were mainly drawn from wealthy Gilded Age families. The reception rooms on the first floor and Company Rooms on the second floor were designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, Stanford White, and other fashionable designers of the time. A major renovation included restoring the historic wood-paneled Tiffany and White rooms. These days the armory is used for trade shows, huge art installations, plays, and concerts, which take full advantage of the 55,000-square-foot drill hall. Intimate artist conversations, recitals, and experimental performances are held in the smaller, first- and second-floor spaces.

    643 Park Ave., New York, New York, 10065, USA
  • 17. Radio City Music Hall

    Midtown West

    This landmark was built shortly after the stock market crash of 1929, when John D. Rockefeller Jr. wanted to create a symbol of hope in what was a sad, broke city. When the hall opened, some said there was no need for performances, because people would get more than their money's worth simply by sitting there and enjoying the grand space. Despite being the largest indoor theater in the world, with its city-block-long marquee and nearly 6,000 seats, it feels warm and intimate. Hour-long Stage Door walking tours run year-round with limited availability.  There are big-name concerts and major events year-round, but the biggest draw is the Radio City Christmas Spectacular: more than a million visitors every year come to see the iconic Rockettes dance. Make reservations early, especially if you want to attend near Christmas or on a weekend (by October, many performances have sold out). Tickets start at $54 per person for the 90-minute show, although there are promotions and matinee deals.

    1260 6th Ave., New York, New York, 10020, USA
    866-858–0007-for tickets
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  • 18. St. Ann's Warehouse


    The latest iteration of this cutting-edge theater (originally established in Brooklyn Heights in 1980) occupies a stunningly refurbished tobacco warehouse from 1860 that sits beneath the Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The 24,000-square-foot space features original brick walls and archways, and has hosted Tony Award–winning productions. They also host weekly outdoor music concerts in the summer. Check their calendar for all upcoming performances.

    45 Water St., Brooklyn, New York, 11201, USA
  • 19. The Moth


    Dedicated to first-person storytelling, this roving series has spread far beyond New York, where it was founded in 1997 by the writer George Dawes Green, but it's still going strong here: the curated Mainstage shows feature both celebrities and everyday people who worked with The Moth directors to shape their stories. At the much looser, open-mike StorySLAMs, competitors are randomly selected and given just five minutes to tell a story, which must tie in with the night's theme. Moth tales get told at Housing Works and other venues downtown and throughout the boroughs.

    126 Crosby St., New York, New York, 10012, USA
  • 20. The New Victory Theater

    Midtown West

    In a magnificently restored space from 1900, The New Victory Theater presents an international roster of supremely kid-pleasing plays, music, dance, opera, puppetry, and circus performances. Through the organization's workshops and arts activities, children and their parents can also learn more about other parts of theater (writing, for instance) and kinds of performance, such as break dancing. Count on reasonable ticket prices, high-energy and high-class productions, and the opportunity for kids to chat with the artists after many performances.

    209 W. 42nd St., New York, New York, 10036, USA

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