NYC at Night: Tours, Bars, and Observation Decks

The Big Apple might be stunning by day, but if you don’t plan on visiting NYC at night, don’t bother visiting at all!

Nighttime is when this city comes to life, and there’s plenty to see and do at all hours. From the bright lights of Times Square to the soaring arches of the Brooklyn Bridge, this city truly doesn’t ever sleep, and you won’t want to either. There are also some activities that were practically made for nighttime fun, including rooftop bars, Broadway shows and observation decks. Check out some of the coolest NYC nighttime activities.

Brooklyn Bridge

New York is full of iconic sights, but the Brooklyn Bridge is without a doubt one of the most talked about, filmed and visited places in the entire city. Luckily, it’s even more beautiful by night than it is during the day.

Running from lower Manhattan to the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn, the bridge was built between 1869 and 1883 — and took 14 years to complete. It’s just under a mile in length and you can walk the distance from one borough to the other in less than an hour, depending on how many times you stop for a photograph.

You’ll get great views of both Manhattan and Brooklyn from over the East River and can enjoy the lovely architecture of the bridge itself. Once you’re in Brooklyn, make sure to head over to Brooklyn Bridge Park for even more stunning views of the Manhattan skyline. Get ready to check out a wall of lights from the old Fulton Ferry Pier. You may want to even stop at 1 Hotel for a drink on the rooftop.

If you don’t want to walk, you can always enjoy the bridge by riding the B, D, Q or N trains across the Manhattan Bridge. As the train crosses over the bridge, you’ll get a great view of the twinkly lights of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Brooklyn Bridge Night

Brooklyn Bridge – Credit: Shutterstock

Times Square

You’re probably already familiar with Times Square – most people would recognize it right away.

It’s a famous intersection in midtown Manhattan that is filled with cool attractions, shops, hotels, entertainment and of course the bright lights and Broadway show marquees that make it such a glitzy place to visit.

Head here either day or night, the lights shine for 24 hours a day, and there is plenty to see, eat and enjoy no matter what time you come.

Start at the area where 7th Avenue and Broadway intersect. Wander over onto some of the side streets to check out shops and the famous theaters. There are also plenty of spots to grab a seat on the outdoor sidewalks and just watch the crowds float by.

If sneaking in a little shopping is your thing, you’ve come to the right place. Shops are open late here – some until after midnight! From American Eagle to the M&M Store, you’ll be able to snag great deals on all of your favorite goods until the wee-small hours of the morning.

While you’re here, don’t forget to check out a Broadway show!

nyc at night

Times Square – Credit: Shutterstock

Nighttime Cruises

One of the best ways to see the city is by boat. Several companies offer nighttime cruises that sail underneath the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges. You can catch one on the East River downtown in Manhattan and cruise on the water over to one of the neighborhoods in Brooklyn, including Greenpoint, Williamsburg and DUMBO.

Tourist Cruises

You get to see gorgeous views of the skyscrapers in lower Manhattan as well as the Brooklyn Bridge, Williamsburg Bridge and Manhattan Bridge. Some cruises even sail past the Statue of Liberty, so you can see Lady Liberty all lit up by night.

If you’re on a budget, the Staten Island Ferry and East River Ferry offer two other nighttime boating options.

East River Ferry

The East River Ferry starts at Wall Street and heads up the East River to DUMBO, Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Midtown East. It’s also much quicker and more beautiful than taking the subway back and forth between boroughs. The best part? It only costs $2.75 – though you won’t get the awesome narration and history that some of the tourist boats offer.

Staten Island Ferry

The Staten Island Ferry is totally free and runs every hour on the hour all night long. You’ll get a great view of the Statue of Liberty from the right-side of the boat on the way to Staten Island and beautiful views of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge (the longest suspension bridge in the Americas) on the way back to Manhattan – not to mention the amazing views of the Manhattan skyline throughout the trip.

Chrysler building

Skyline Panorama – Credit: Shutterstock

Observation Decks

Manhattan is famous for its observation decks, and the best time to head up the elevators is after dark. Sadly, the new One World Trade Center closes earlier than most of the other tall buildings in New York City, but you can still see some stunning views from Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building.

Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock has become one of the most famous observation decks in New York City. You can see all of Manhattan, Central Park and parts of Brooklyn, Queens and New Jersey from the viewing platform. The best part? You can also snag great views of the Empire State Building here too.

One of the best times to visit Top of the Rock is at night. The crowds are sparser and the lights burn brighter. Visit during the holidays, and you’ll walk right past the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree to get to the ticket office.

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building was once the tallest building in the world. Though it has been dwarfed by many other tall buildings, it’s still one of the tallest in the Manhattan skyline. Most visitors are surprised to discover that the ESB was not always the shining star it is today. In fact, most of the offices remained empty for decades. Only the release of “King Kong” made the building as famous as it is today. Its fame was solidified thanks to movies such as “An Affair to Remember,” “Sleepless in Seattle” and “Elf.”

You can get one of the best nighttime views from the Empire State Building. On some nights, the observation deck stays open until 2 AM!

nyc at night

Credit: ESB Professional / Shutterstock

Rooftop Bars

New York is known for its nightlife. Luckily, this city would never expect you to drink your cocktail in a drab setting. These bars offer delicious libations on rooftops that embrace the city’s nighttime charm.

Bar SixtyFive

Some visitors head to the Top of the Rock for stunning views; New Yorkers know better to head to Bar SixtyFive at the Rainbow Room. This rooftop bar serves up some seriously swanky cocktails – that’ll run you $25 a pop. That’s pricey for even New York standards. Yet the price is worth it because this bar is located one floor lower than the observation deck at the Top of the Rock. You’ll get a great view and a drink to boot.

The Wythe Hotel

Who wants to hang out on a Manhattan rooftop and get a “great” view of New Jersey? If you hang out in Brooklyn, you’ll get all the best views of Manhattan. The Wythe Hotel’s rooftop features a saltwater pool, bar and plenty of music.

The Standard

This Manhattan hotel offers one of the best views of the city at night. Straddling the High Line Park, the Standard offers great views of the Hudson, New York Harbor (including the Statue of Liberty) and Midtown. It’s also one of the trendiest rooftop bars in the city.

Press Lounge Rooftop NYC at night

Rooftop Bar – Credit: Shutterstock

NYC Parks

Even New York City’s parks offer nighttime fun. Whether you’re here to party or simply want to enjoy some views, you can’t miss NYC parks after dark.

Central Park Carriage Rides

What’s a trip to Central Park without a carriage ride? Enjoy a 15-to-45-minute ride past some of the most famous sights in Central Park. These rides are offered year-round and sometimes include hot cocoa and warm blankets in the wintertime and adult libations in the summertime.

Shakespeare in the Park

If you’re on a budget, sign up to see a free performance of Shakespeare in the Park in the summertime. Held at Delacorte Theater in Central Park, these performances feature famous actors and several different shows per season.

Walk the High Line

The best time to experience the High Line is at night. Walk over two miles of abandoned railroad tracks-turned-park while you get great views of the Hudson River, famous NYC buildings – and even the Statue of Liberty. The High Line was designed to embrace the city (not block it out as Central Park does) so you won’t get a bad view here.

Free Concerts in Prospect Park

Brooklyn’s Central Park, Prospect Park, offers free concerts by famous artists nearly every weekend in the summer. You can also catch free performances by the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera. These performances only happen at night, so you’ll need to bring a blanket and head over early (around 6 PM) to get a good spot.

Free Movies in the Summertime

They say that nothing in New York is free, but you can bet one thing is: free movies in the summertime. Bryant Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park and Prospect Park all offer outdoor free nighttime movies all summer. You can buy a bag of popcorn on the way or purchase drinks and food when you arrive.

High Line Sunset NYC at nigth

High Line Park – Credit: PitK / Shutterstock.com

Entertainment

There’s no lack of nighttime entertainment in New York City – and that includes shows. Visitors flock here to both laugh and cry. While you’re checking out Times Square after dark, don’t forget to take in a Broadway show.

Or, if comedy is more your thing, head to the Comedy Cellar, the Upright Citizens Brigade or Caroline’s on Broadway to bust a gut. If you’re excited to check out some of the city’s hottest up-and-coming comics, head over the QED or the Cave and the Creek to check out a few open mics.

Nighttime NYC Tours

There are a lot of great night tours that you can take to learn more about the city and see it in its beautiful nighttime splendor. Some of these tours are nighttime equivalents to each company’s daytime tours, yet some of them offer insight into a side of the city you won’t find during the day…

Gray Line Night Tour

The Gray Line hop-on, hop-off buses offer a nighttime tour of Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. The tour is only two-hours long but offers views of plenty of beautiful sites, including the Brooklyn Bridge, the One World Trade Center and Times Square. You’ll also learn all about the history of New York through the guided narration on this NYC at night tour.

Midtown Manhattan Night Tour

This Midtown Manhattan Night tour is a free way to explore some of New York City’s famous skyscrapers. Walk around and observe the giant monuments of stone, steel and glass illuminated by electric lights throughout one of the city’s busiest neighborhoods.

Some of the stops include Times Square, Bryant Park, the Empire State Building, the New York Public Library, the Flatiron Building, Grand Central Terminal, Radio City Music Hall and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Your tour guide will also give you a tutorial on how to use the subway should you need a little extra help getting around nyc at night.

NYC Spots to Check Out at Night

Chrysler Building – Credit: I. Primitz

Ghost Tours

In addition to the city sights tours, many companies offer ghost tours of the city from March through October. You can get spooked after dark while you learn a little about the city’s seedy history. You might even meet a few New York City’s dear departed residents for yourself – including Mark Twain, Dillon Thomas and Sid Vicious.

There are so many nighttime activities in NYC that you may just want to sleep during the day. From Manhattan to Brooklyn and every borough in between, you’ll snag the best photos and the most breathtaking views in New York City at night – as long as you can manage to stay awake!

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