New York neighborhoods off the beaten path of Times Square and midtown Manhattan surrounding Central Park offer a wealth of entertainment options for the curious and adventurous. Beyond the bright lights and theaters of Times Square are many neighborhoods with nightclubs, lounges, and art galleries that culturally stimulate young professionals the city over. Be it taking in a jazz set in Greenwich Village, surveying the art scene in one of Chelsea’s bohemian art galleries or dancing the night away in a lounge on the Lower East Side with one of New York’s hottest bands like The Strokes or the phenomenal DJ Lindsey, New York City Nightlife has a lot to offer.
West Village & Greenwich Village
The Village is host to a number of hot jazz clubs in which the great American musical form is performed with immense passion and aplomb. The celebrated Blue Note is one of the world’s most famous jazz nightclubs having held court for Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles, and recently hip-hop impresario Mos Def’s pop excursions into jazz. Located in the heart of Greenwich Village, Sweet Rhythm presents a wide spectrum of musical genres from jazz, blues, salsa, and high life to flamenco. The basement Village Vanguard, a legendary club on 7th Avenue that in the sixties was the site of live recordings by Miles Davis and John Coltrane, continues to exhibit the world’s most cutting edge jazz talent. The relatively new Jazz Gallery is a not-for-profit cultural center that presents an expanded understanding of jazz as a cultural tradition, presenting nightly performances with hot new talent like Jaleel Shaw and Jeremy Pelt.
In addition to jazz this area of lower Manhattan is home to a number of spirited rock clubs. The original Café Wha? was a “beat” club of the 1960s at which one could find Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, and Richard Pryor, and to this day remains one of the best venues in New York to hear live music. Lion’s Den possesses a killer sound system and presents an eclectic roster of all encompassing jam bands. A stroll along McDougal Street presents a number of cafes, Middle Eastern eateries, and restaurant staples like Blue Ribbon.
Chelsea has developed into the new art gallery district frequented by the fashionable art set at the likes of the museum-like Gagosian Gallery, featuring modern and contemporary paintings, sculpture, photography, and mixed-media installations. Cheim & Read recently held a showing of the infamous painter Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work and Tia Pol, a splendid Spanish tapas and wine bar for the chic just opened around the corner. Serena, site of a former speakeasy located in the basement of the legendary Chelsea Hotel, and neighborhood staple Park, serve cocktails for those in search of late-night intrigue.
The Zinc Bar features world beat and afro-Cuban jazz for the musically sophisticated. Fanelli’s on Prince has served up drinks and cheap eats since 1922, long before Soho became an art and shopping conclave. Café Noir serves up French/Moroccan fare while neighborhood hipsters listen to hip-hop, world beat, and dance music.
East Village / Lower East Side
The recently opened Pianos has become one the Lower East Side’s cutting edge performance spaces for rock bands (The Futureheads), DJs (Sergio Vega), stage and comedic performers (members of Broadway’s Spamalot). Stanton Social is an ultra-chic “tasting” restaurant and lounge replete with DJs and dancing. Crash Mansion on Bowery is housed in the basement of the terminally hip BLVD and has quickly become requisite home to many downtown musical performers like Chocolate Genius.
A one-stop subway ride from the East Village across the East River, Williamsburg has become one of the most fashionable neighborhoods in all of New York, overrun with artists of all stripes and recent graduates from across the globe. Bedford teems with restaurants, cafes, and clubs of all persuasions. Thai bistro and generally fabulous establishment SEA on North 6th sports disco balls, an indoor pool with greenery, and nightly DJs. A couple of blocks away lies the multidisciplinary arts lounge Galapagos, hosting theater, performance, live music, and film, lively cocktails, and an even bigger indoor “mood pool.”
by Douglas Singleton