photo credit: Spilled Milk Creative
The Most Fun Bars In NYC Right Now
Call them what you want. Happening. Cool. Busy. Lit. These are the most fun bars in NYC right now.
Transparently, we could not agree on a title for this bar guide. “The Coolest Bars In NYC?” No. (What does “cool” mean, anyway?) “NYC’s Hottest Bars For Girls Who Just Want To Have Fun?” Obviously, that didn’t get very far in the editorial process. Plainly speaking, use this list of NYC bars whenever you’re looking for an exceptionally good time.
photo credit: Spilled Milk Creative
The cool thing about Wiggle Room is that you can use it in a couple different ways. The main floor has a few nooks surrounding a long bar where you can sit with a date and explain why you think marriage is antiquated—but the basement has a whole different vibe. It has squiggly pink neon lights, a disco ball, and a dance floor, although you should know that the DJ doesn’t get going until after 10pm. It’s also legitimately freezing downstairs, which you’ll appreciate when the room gets packed and you work up a sweat. If you’re planning to stay until this place shuts down at 4am, get a few of the espresso martinis they have on draft.
You can show up to Club Cumming on any given night and get something different: open mic night, drag show, musical comedy, or celebrity appearances. Don’t let the super popular, overcrowded 8pm shows discourage you from trying to get in here. It might just look like a tiny East Village dive, but this is actually a place where anything is possible. You could come at 11pm on a Sunday and make a bunch of new drag queen friends, or end up singing Bohemian Rhapsody with a bunch of shirtless men while one accompanies you on the piano.
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Swingers is an over-the-top mini golf chain from London, and their first NYC location is in a huge subterranean space in Nomad filled with astroturf, chandeliers, and enough fake flowers to throw 20 influencer weddings. If all of this sounds cheesy, that’s because it is. But between the complementary frozen margarita shots and extravagant set-up, it’s hard to have a bad time here. The space feels like a fun, post-apocalyptic underground city with a DJ booth and more bars than you can count.
You know a bar is committed to making sure you have a good time when they have Happy Hour every day, free popcorn on deck, and a bring-your-own-food policy. That's what you'll find at Judy & Punch, a cocktail and craft beer bar in Astoria that’s intent on being your neighborhood haunt. Making conversation with the stranger next to you is totally kosher here, just be aware that this place could turn into a dance party at any moment, should the right song come on.
If you’re looking for a bar that has house-party energy, frozen dole whip cocktails, and a playlist that feels like it was made by your friend who’s a self-described “crate-digger,” head to Lullaby on the LES. It’s in a basement on Rivington (below a sushi spot), and it has couches, low ceilings, and lots of people dancing even though there’s no formal dance floor. Lullaby is the kind of place that feels like a compromise between going out to a club and going to a cocktail bar. You can drink something better than a watery vodka soda, but you can also hang out in a space that feels like a B-list celebrity’s birthday party that you happened to stumble in on.
photo credit: Tim Saccenti
Considering how many bars there are in the neighborhood, you would think that Williamsburg would be stuffed with places where you can dance. Not the case. Cafe Balearica is a great new option, though. This two-story spot on the corner of 11th and Berry has a ground-floor space with tropical plants, high ceilings, and a big vibrant mural in addition to a clubby downstairs room where you can dance beneath a disco ball with a bunch of people you’ve probably seen at the local Trader Joe’s. The downstairs is only open on Fridays and Saturdays (starting at 9pm), so that’s when you should stop by if you’re looking for a scene.
Neon lights, custom gnome sculptures, and a state-of-the-art sound system all contribute to the EDM-festival feel at Somewhere Nowhere, a two-story indoor lounge and open-air rooftop on the 38th and 39th floors of the Renaissance New York Chelsea Hotel. Bottle service and very loud DJ sets start at 10pm—but if you stop by on the earlier side, you might be able to catch a live jazz band, some aerial performances, or burlesque for no extra cover charge. The actual rooftop is a bit more sleek than the indoor space (less neon, more neutrals), and it has a pool for you to enjoy cocktails around.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
The Crown is the type of place where you might see someone walk in dressed in a full puffy NASA spacesuit (which is something we've actually witnessed). Pretty much anything goes at this rooftop bar on the 21st floor of the Hotel 50 Bowery in Chinatown. This spot has two outdoor areas with a huge indoor space in between where you can dance while a DJ spins some Southern hip hop. If it's a time of year when your parka is tucked away under your bed and you're routinely wearing footwear without socks, head to The Crown with a few friends to get 360-degree outdoor views of Manhattan while blowing your relatively pathetic bonus on a bottle of Henny.
There isn't any dancing at Temple Bar. And there aren't any board games either, as those simply aren't chic enough for a newly-resurrected cocktail den a block above Houston. The fun that you have here is a passive sort of fun. You sit at a small table, pick at some complimentary popcorn, and try to see if you can recognize anyone you've seen on TV (or the screen of your phone). The challenge is: This place is dark. So unless you have superb night vision, you probably won't see much. Start with a Blue Negroni, enjoy a shrimp cocktail in a martini glass, and chase your shellfish with a few of the house shots.
photo credit: Ms. Kim's
The next time you want to go out or celebrate your birthday with a small group, and possibly rap “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” reserve a private karaoke room at Ms. Kim’s in Flatiron. Each room costs $120 per hour, fits up to 10 people, and has a special air filter that ensures you’re not sharing air with any other rooms. We had a dizzying amount of fun on a recent trip, in which we belted out ballads such as “Mr. Brightside” and “Just the Two of Us” while eating delicious karaage and tender garlic soy chicken wings. Ms. Kim’s is one of the best places to celebrate your birthday in NYC right now, especially if your friend group is roughly the size of a small brass band.
If you’re someone who often finds themselves drinking in Brooklyn, we suggest you add Palmetto to your personal list of fun bars in Bushwick. This Knickerbocker Avenue spot near Maria Hernandez Park mostly focuses on cocktails (although there’s a natural wine list as well). We quickly slurped down an herbaceous play on a mezcal negroni called the “Garden Variety” that’s made with cumin and a ton of cucumber. Keep in mind that Palmetto stays fairly calm during the day—in case you ever want to get a quiet drink in a chic leather booth. Come here starting around 11pm for a rowdier experience.
In our heads, most people’s idea of a fun night out in Park Slope plays out in the backyard of a brownstone. But ever since this gay bar from the people behind C’mon Everybody opened in July 2020, the number of exciting things you can do late at night in this neighborhood has drastically increased. Good Judy has two floors with several booths, banquettes, and high-top tables where you can take jello shots and speak several octaves higher than usual with a group of friends. Plus, their event calendar is packed with weekly drag shows, watch parties for Rupaul’s Drag Race, karaoke nights, and other events where you’ll likely end up embarrassing yourself on the dance floor.
This West Harlem cocktail bar is owned by the same team that runs Harlem Public and At The Wallace, and it’s the kind of place where you’ll want to bring a date and sit until it’s far later than you realized. The back garden looks like a music video set, complete with string lights and mismatched outdoor furniture, and the inside space has big retro booths, soft lighting, and fun patterned wallpaper. Make a reservation here, and go drink a cocktail served in one of those bear-shaped honey dispensers.
For anyone who believes activities are intrinsically linked to fun nights out, Madame Marie’s should be your default destination in Astoria. Hanging out here feels like witnessing a dive bar meet a beer bar and figure out they both love Trivia, Drag Nights, and Musical Bingo. Plus, you can bring your dog to their massive backyard space, or simply admire an array of fluffy companions from your dog-less table.
Heaven Or Las Vegas is the ideal venue for those red hotpants you stress-bought at some point during the last year. This queer-friendly spot is from the same team behind another historically fun bar in Bushwick, Mood Ring. The dimly-lit space has umbrellas stuck to the ceiling, neon accents, and sultry red lighting to make you feel like the protagonist in an early 2000s music video. See if you can snag one of the booths inside, and stop by for karaoke before 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays.