Explore 20 Weird Things to Do In NYC at Night,... If You Dare!
“Come with me and you will see/A late-night freak show jubilee!” – Dave Attell, Insomniac theme song
French writer and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir once remarked, “There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless.” Indeed, visitors to “The City That Never Sleeps” will find no shortage of things to do in NYC no matter what hour of the night they are out wandering around the Big Apple – from catching a midnight showing of Eraserhead and going out for a slice of pizza at 3 AM to sitting in on a session of night court and playing pinball in the back of a laundromat. In fact, one of the best attributes of New York City is that you can pretty much do whatever you want whenever you want (within reason, of course!). So, what are you waiting for? Here are some weird things to do in NYC at night:
1 | Enjoy Your Favorite Cocktail in a Bank Vault | Billed as “A Unique NYC Experience,” Trinity Place is an American eatery in the heart of the Wall Street Financial District in Lower Manhattan located within a converted bank vault dating from 1904. Originally commissioned by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie and the New York Realty Bank, the vault consists of five-inch steel walls and two vault doors weighing 35 tons each. Trinity Place boasts a 40-foot-long mahogany bar that features signature cocktails, craft beers and an extensive wine selection (an old bank elevator serves as the wine cellar). Bottom line, you can take this recommendation 'to the bank' if you're looking for a midtown wine bar,... that's a little lower than midtown!
WHERE: 115 Broadway, New York, NY 10006 | WHO: (212) 964-0939
2 | Play Pinball in a Laundromat | From outside appearances, Sunshine Laundromat looks just like any other conventional NYC laundromat. However, the stacked washers in back actually serve as a hidden door that leads to a secret beer bar and pinball arcade. A paradise for pinball enthusiasts, the arcade boasts such pinball machine classics as Safe Cracker, Big Bang Bar, Addams Family, AC/DC Limited Edition, The Big Lebowski and many more. In addition, it’s the only laundromat in NYC that can legally serve alcohol. Serving rotating beers on draft, the pinball arcade/bar is open daily until 2 AM (4 AM on Fridays and Saturdays).
WHERE: 860 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222 | WHO: (718) 475-2055
3 | Take a Macabre Walking Tour of Haunted Landmarks | A boutique tour company in NYC devoted to “strange, dark and unusual walking tours of New York City,” Boroughs of the Dead has been called one of the “World’s Top 10 Ghost Tours” by none other than the TODAY show. Featured Boroughs of the Dead tours include The Ultimate Greenwich Village Ghost Tour, The Forgotten Dark Histories of Lower Manhattan, West Village Ghosts and the ever-popular Island of Lost Souls: A History of Madness and Medicine on Roosevelt Island. The philosophy of Boroughs of the Dead is summed up by a quote from legendary writer of Gothic tales Edgar Allan Poe: “We should pass over all biographies of ‘the good and the great,’ while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam or upon the gallows.”
WHERE: Various NYC Locales | WHO: (917) 409-8533
4 | Embark on a Personal Pizza Crawl | Take a culinary adventure on a quest to discover the best pizza slices and pies in New York City during a self-guided late-night pizza crawl. Quality pizza joints simply abound in NYC and many offer late hours (with some even open until 4 AM). Some of the best NYC pizza can be found at Bleecker Street Pizza and Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village, Famous Ben’s Pizza in SoHo, Prince Street Pizza and Lombardi’s Pizza in Nolita, Scarr’s Pizza on the Lower East Side, Rosario’s Pizza in the East Village, Vinnie’s Pizza in the Upper East Side, Louie & Ernie’s Pizza in the Bronx, and Grimmaldi’s Pizza and Nino’s Pizza in Brooklyn, among many others that you have on your midtown restaurant list of Pizza plenty!
WHERE: Various NYC Locales | WHO: N/A
5 | Attend a Performance of the Drunk Shakespeare Society | “Drink, sir, is a great provoker …” Tucked away in a hidden library speakeasy that boasts more than 15,000 books, the Drunk Shakespeare Society hosts Shakespearean plays performed by five classically trained actors (one of whom downs at least five shots of whiskey before each performance!). As you might expect, “hilarity and mayhem ensues” as the four sober actors try valiantly to keep the play on track. Oh yeah, craft cocktails are served during the show so audience members can join in the revelry. Any way you cut it, this is a great 'off script' addition if you're planning a pub crawl amongst the dives and rooftop bars near Grand Central!
WHERE: 711 7th Avenue New York, NY 10036 | WHO: (914) 713-7865
6 | Sit in On a Session of Night Court | If you’ve ever binge-watched episodes of Night Court or Law & Order then you may consider adding a session of Manhattan night court to your NYC travel itinerary. Witness the American justice system in action at the Manhattan Criminal Court, which hears cases nightly until 1 AM and averages approximately 70 to 90 cases during the night session. According to NBC News, “To travelers, it’s gritty entertainment, hard-knocks education, or at least a chance to experience real-life law and order on a New York scale.”
WHERE: 100 Centre Street, New York, NY 10013 | WHO: (646) 386-4500
7 | Chill Out at an Authentic Speakeasy | Step back in time and experience Bill’s Place, Harlem’s only authentic speakeasy, which features “Harlem Jazz King” Bill Saxton and the Harlem All Stars on Friday and Saturday nights. Ironically, no alcohol is served (but you are welcome to bring your own booze if so inclined!). Described by Atlas Obscura as a “tiny basement cubbyhole,” Bill’s Place is located on fabled “Swing Street” in the former home of a jazz joint called Tillie’s that later morphed into Monette’s Supper Club (where the legendary Billie Holiday was reportedly discovered in 1933). Reservations are requested (don’t forget to bring cash for the cover).
WHERE: 148 W. 133rd Street, New York, NY 10030 | WHO: (212) 281-0777
8 | Play a Relaxing Game of Indoor Shuffleboard | The idea for Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club in Brooklyn was spawned from the owners’ visit to a shuffleboard facility in St. Petersburg, Florida. NYC’s first-ever shuffleboard facility features 10 regulation-sized shuffleboard courts and a cocktail bar specializing in tropical drinks, as well as a rotating lineup of food trucks such as Morris Grilled Cheese and Luke’s Lobster. Although Royal Palms is primarily a walk-in shuffleboard club, private cabanas can be reserved for larger group gatherings.
WHERE: 514 Union Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215 | WHO: (347) 223-4410
9 | Take a Trapeze Lesson | Dedicated to the aerial art of flying trapeze, Trapeze School New York (TSNY) offers classes in flying trapeze, trampoline, static trapeze and silks. In addition, unique parties, events and teambuilding workshops are available. One of NYC’s most unique activities, TSNY, which features expert instructors and a state-of-the-art trapeze apparatus, is geared to all skill levels – ranging from beginner to advanced.
WHERE: 30 Tompkins Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11206 | WHO: (212) 242-8769
10 | Check Out the “Handprints of the Stars” | Classic Hollywood movie buffs will want to take a nighttime stroll to the East Village and view the “Handprints of the Stars” in front of Theatre 80 St. Marks (known as “A Jewel of Off-Broadway Theater”). The mixed bag of celebrities who have left their names and handprints in the cement over the years include the likes of Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Fifi D’Orsay (an actress known for popularizing the phrase, “Ooh La La”), Dom DeLuise and Joan Rivers. Think of it as NYC’s version of the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre sidewalk in Hollywood on a much, much smaller scale - just the thing to get your cinemaphile juices flowing before opting into some outdoor movies of your own around town!
WHERE: 80 Saint Marks Place, New York, NY 10003 | WHO: (212) 388-0388
11 | Party at a Certified Nerd Bar | Nestled in the Propect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, The Way Station serves as a lively music venue and nerdvana (“A place or state of happiness and fulfillment for nerds,” according to Wiktionary). Decorated with sci-fi artifacts (including a re-creation of the Doctor Who TARDIS time machine that doubles as the bar’s restroom) and steampunk-inspired art, the Way Station offers eclectic live music, comedy, astronomy trivia nights and the best karaoke NYC (AKA “nerdeoke”) has to offer. The bar serves craft beers and cocktails at this veritable paradise for nerds.
WHERE: 683 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11238 | WHO: (347) 627-4949
12 | Whisper in Grand Central Terminal | A fascinating acoustical phenomenon that lies within bustling Grand Central Terminal, the Whispering Gallery is located in a passageway on the lower level near the entrance to Grand Central Oyster Bar. When two individuals stand in opposite corners of the vaulted archway and whisper among themselves, they can easily hear each other clearly as if they were standing right next to one another. By the way, as you might expect, the Whispering Gallery is a popular locale for marriage proposals.
WHERE: 89 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017 | WHO: (212) 340-2583
13 | Take a Selfie at the Ghostbusters Firehouse | “Who you gonna call?” A fully functional New York City Fire Department (FDNY) fire station, Firehouse, Hook & Ladder Company 8 served as the filming site for exterior scenes of the firehouse that appeared as the headquarters for the eccentric parapsychologists in the classic 1984 comedy Ghostbusters, which starred Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. Fans of the Ghostbusters franchise will definitely want to take a photo of the 1903 Beaux Arts-style building, which is located in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan and underwent extensive renovations in 2018.
WHERE: 14 N. Moore Street, New York, NY 10013 | WHO: N/A
14 | Enjoy a “Fully Immersive” Theater Experience | Inspired by the life and writings of English writer Lewis Carroll, Then She Fell offers a fully immersive, multisensory theater experience like no other! Presented by Third Rail Projects, Then She Fell takes place within a three-story former school building and lets you explore an Alice in Wonderland-like dreamscape “where every alcove, corner and corridor has been transformed into a lushly designed world.” The New Yorker calls Then She Fell a “wildly imaginative multimedia theatre-dance piece.” Don’t miss it!
WHERE: 195 Maujer Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211 | WHO: (347) 687-0203
15 | Ride a Classic 1927 Wooden Roller Coaster | Nothing captures the storied history of Coney Island (AKA “America’s Playground”) quite like the Coney Island Cyclone, a classic wooden roller coaster at Luna Park that first opened here in 1927. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and billed as the “Big Momma” of Coney Island, the Cyclone features 2,640 feet of track and 12 drops (including an 85-foot plunge at speeds of 60 miles per hour!). Other popular not-to-be-missed Luna Park thrill rides include Thunderbolt, Zenobio and Sling Shot.
WHERE: 1000 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11224 | WHO: (718) 373-5862
16 | Order a Batch of Insomnia Cookies | Specializing in late-night cookie deliveries (with some locations delivering until 3 AM), Insomnia Cookies was started in 2003 and features more than 100 locations throughout New York City and Philadelphia. The Midtown East location of Insomnia Cookies delivers to such NYC landmarks as the United Nations, Grand Central Terminal, Chrysler Building and The Rockefeller University. Assorted cookie flavors include Chocolate Chunk, Classic with M&M’s, Double Chocolate Chunk, Double Chocolate Mint, Oatmeal Raisin, Peanut Butter Cup, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup and Triple Chocolate.
WHERE: 237 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022 | WHO: (929) 333-4032
17 | Experience New York City’s Smallest Bar | Somewhere within Brooklyn’s East Williamsburg neighborhood lies the Threesome Tollbooth, New York City’s smallest bar – with room for just two invited guests to experience an exclusive cocktail hour hosted by a skilled bartender (extreme claustrophobics need not apply). The location is a mystery because the Threesome Tollbooth is not just any NYC bar – it’s an eclectic experience that you and your loved one will never forget! After you order your tickets online (at $100 to $120 each), you will receive an email detailing the exact location of the Threesome Tollbooth, as well as the name of your bartender and other contact information. Note that new tickets are released only at a certain time every month and you will probably have to spend some time on a waitlist. And don’t even bother trying to find photos of the inside of Threesome Tollbooth online – taking pictures is strictly prohibited in order to keep the mystery alive!
WHERE: N/A | WHO: N/A (Yeah, it's THAT small... happy hunting!)
18 | Take in a Midnight Cult Movie | Opened in 2005 in the former Waverly Theater, the IFC Center is an arthouse move theater that offers an immensely popular Waverly Midnights series on Friday and Saturdays. Recent showings include such late-night favorites as The Shining, Aliens, Office Space, Raising Arizona, Repo Man, El Topo, A Clockwork Orange, The Big Lebowski and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
WHERE: 323 6th Avenue, New York, NY 10014 | WHO: (212) 924-7771
19 | Chow Down at the Real Seinfeld Diner | Although it might not make the list of the best christmas restaurants NYC has to offer, Tom’s Restaurant is a family-owned eatery with a classic diner-style menu (burgers, fries, shakes, etc.) which has appeared in exterior shots of the classic TV sitcom Seinfeld as the fictional Monk’s Café (named in tribute of jazz great Thelonious Monk). Fans of the show will immediately recognize the iconic blue and red neon sign at Tom’s (interior scenes were actually filmed on a Los Angeles set). The walls of the diner are covered with Seinfeld memorabilia. Open 24 hours and located in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, Tom’s also appeared in a 1978 episode of The Bionic Woman and inspired the 1987 Suzanne Vega song, “Tom’s Diner.”
WHERE: 2880 Broadway, New York, NY 10025 | WHO: (212) 864-6137
20 | Walk the Brooklyn Bridge at 3 AM | For the truly adventurous, a late-night jaunt across the impressive Brooklyn Bridge can be truly rewarding (as long as you use good judgment and never walk alone, of course!). In fact, access to the Bridge’s elevated promenade used by pedestrians and cyclists is open 24 hours a day. Enjoy spectacular nighttime views of the Manhattan skyline during your 1.3-mile stroll over the Bridge, which spans the East River and connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Designated as a National Historic Landmark and widely considered by many to be one of the most instagrammable places in NYC, National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and New York City Landmark, the Brooklyn Bridge was designed by John Augustus Roebling and completed in 1883 at a cost of $15 million. More than 4,000 pedestrians cross the Bridge each day. Note: Wear comfortable walking shoes, always keep out of the bike lane and never attempt to cross the Bridge in inclement weather.
WHERE: Brooklyn Bridge, New York, NY 10038 | WHO: N/A (It's a bridge people. You can't call it.)
Final Thoughts On NYC Nightlife And Other Oddities
Okay, so let's face it, some of the things on this list are,... hmm,.. shall we say, a departure from the norm? And really, that's the point right? Because after you've taken the United Nations Tour, walked up the 354 steps of the Statue of Liberty, attempted to wear your kids out at the best playgrounds in NYC (if your a parent), hit all the free museums in NYC, and thrown a fistful of dollars at these NYC fall festivals, you just might want to take a walk on the wild side for a change (after everyone's tucked back under the covers in your NYC hotel room and you're mentally wandering between a semi-exhausted state and itching to go out and down a few at Manhattan's top rooftop bars). So just in case you're in the mood, here's a few other things you might want to check off your big apple list while you're syncing up your self-induced insomnia with equal parts urban exploration and craft cocktail connoisseur!
UPDATE! LOOKING FOR THINGS TO DO IN NYC?
Check out these updated pages if you're looking for MORE things to do in New York City!
- Things To Do In NYC at Night
- Things To Do In Murray Hill
- Things To Do In Bryant Park
- Playgrounds In NYC
Other tagged pages of interest: hotels near Grand Central Station in NYC, things to do near Grand Central Station, NYC nightlife, best drinking in NYC, karaoke NYC, the best wine bars in midtown NYC, rooftop bars in Manhattan, hotels, staycations