Under 21: Nightlife in NYC

New York City is the city of dreams… when you have a 21+ ID. Of course it’s so much fun no matter what, but you have to get a little more creative with nightlife under the age of 21.

I grew up coming into the city with my Mom and Aunt for broadway shows and wholesome fun. I moved here after I turned 21 and it was more about the bars. So what do you do when you’re not a child, but not quite 21 yet? My picks below.

Broadway show

Duh. I mean it’s what New York is all about. Grab your tickets in line at the box office when it opens for cheaper, student rush tickets, then come back for an evening show. It lasts usually from 8-10:30 or so, then you wait at the stage door for autographs, maybe hit up a diner and head home/to the hotel.

Mean girls playbill

Night Shopping

Come hungry to the Queens Night Market, open seasonally. You can try all the latest treat straight outta Queens (some seriously good stuff), and browse for the occasional knickknack vendors that crop up. Make a day of it and hit up the old World’s Fair grounds and Queens Museum first.

Follow the Stars

There’s a famous “frozen hot chocolate” that everyone loves to try at a place called Serendipity on the Upper East Side. It was made famous by a movie with John Cusack in 2001. Then, pull a Blair Waldorf and hit up Dylan’s Candy Bar afterward for some more sugary goodness. (*psst, full disclosure; I work for Dylan’s!) xoxo 💋 Gossip Mary

Cotton candy Nyc

Dinner and a Movie

Brooklyn is a haven for foodies and film buffs. At Alamo Draft House or Nitehawk Cinemas, you can get dinner while watching the latest action movie, or indie flick.

Night Walk

Do a night walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Go from Manhattan to Brooklyn then grab an ice cream cone when you get to Brooklyn. Take pics the whole way across.

Nyc skyline from Brooklyn

Escape the Room

Get a fun group of friends and get locked in a room together… then get out of it. Try Escape Entertainment, or if you want to be scared out of your mind, try Komnata Quest!

Komnata Quest escape the room

Games and Jazz

Head to Fat Cat For board games, pool, shuffleboard, ping pong and jazz music. It’s over 21 on Fridays and Saturday’s but all yours every other night. There are a few other board games shops like The Uncommons. Grab a tea and some pastries and game till you tire.

Night at the Museum

The Brooklyn Museum (and others) have late night tickets available. A ticket usually includes music, bites, and of course artsy fartsy-ness. For a spin on museums you know and love, try Museum Hack – they do super cool tours and give you a whole new appreciation for the art.

Brooklyn museum

Holiday Cheer

Bryant Park is a winter wonderland when it gets cold. Hang out in the park for hot chocolate, or strap on some skates and get out on the ice.

The Soda Bar

The Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain is a spot to hang out and chat with a friend over ice cream treats and is open till 10 most nights. The decor is old timey and cute.

All Night Laughs

UCB and The Magnet Theater have shows that run all night. Magnet is where I’ve been taking improv classes so I go a lot to see the shows. They have everything from musical improv to group improv, to talk shows and storytelling. UCB has a ton of locations, so there’s bound to be a show going on right NOW.


K-town is the street that doesn’t sleep. With Karaoke and Korean food all night, you won’t have any issue having fun till the sun comes up. Try 5-Bar Karaoke Lounge, Gagopa Karaoke or just search “under 21 k-town karaoke,” because there’s a TON. Then for late night munchies, head to Bangia.

Ktown Karaoke


An underground and affordable music scene where the concert venue is revealed the day of the event. It’s bring your own food/drinks and usually consists of 3-4 acts in a cool apartment.


Of course some venues only allow 21+, but there are plenty that have shows with no age restrictions. Try Terminal 5, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Bowery Ballroom, Elsewhere, King’s Theater, The Bell House and more.

Kings theater vulfpeck

Sports in the City

Bowlmor lanes or Chelsea Piers have amazing venues to get your bowl on. Reserve online, spots run out fast! Chelsea Piers also has a driving range. Check out Pier 25 minigolf too!

What’s your go-to nightlife activity that doesn’t include a bar? HMU: @maryinmanhattan


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