Bright Lights Bigger City: The Rules of Night Life

Oh, to be 21 in New York City. I've only been 21 in America for a grand total of about a month, so I'm still not quite over it - there's something so satisfying about walking into a bar and flashing my horizontal ID at the bouncer without a care or concern in the world. And could there be a better place to be 21 for the first time? That said, with only a handful of weekends under my belt, I am far from a New York Night Life veteran. The following is what I've learned thus far about how to have a successful night out in the city that never sleeps.

Rule Number 1:

When in doubt, head to Meatpacking. I quickly learned that the Meatpacking district is widely considered the "best" and the "coolest" place to go out in New York. Swanky locations include the Griffin, the Gaansevoort roof top bar, the Standard Biergarten, the Sugar Factory and, my personal favorite, the Brass Monkey.

Meatpacking district in the daylight

Meatpacking district in the daylight

Rule Number 2:

Take Meatpacking with a grain of salt. In New York, "best" and "cool" mean long lines, high cover charges and expensive drinks. Sometimes it's fun to go out for a fancy night on the town, but you have to be in the mood to deal with the overheard. Plus, sometimes the worst thing that can happen to a place is that it becomes popular.

My friend from home has worked right by the Brass Monkey for the past three summers, and I've been there a couple times with her before this summer (for dinner only of course). Imagine my horror when I found out that my favorite, not to mention one of the only bars I knew in New York, has a line that wraps around the block on Friday and Saturday nights!

Gaansevoort Rooftop Bar

Gaansevoort Rooftop Bar

The Brass Monkey

The Brass Monkey

Rule Number 3:

Remember that patience is a virtue. Standing in line might seem like the worst buzz kill in the world, but I have found that, usually, lines move, and usually, you’ll get in the bar of your choice, as long as you’re willing to give it ten minutes. And if you really can’t stand the idea of waiting, head to places where there are no lines. So far I’ve also explored Hell’s Kitchen, Bleecker Street, and Third Avenue, and discovered a variety of fun but less well-known bars.

gavel3-300x300Rule Number 4:

Bring cash. And lots of it. Many bars in New York want you to buy a certain amount of drinks or spend a certain amount of money before they let you pay with a card. My friends and I have found that the bar tab is the most dangerous thing in the world for our wallets, and unless you constantly want to split bills, it’s easier to just bring cash.

Rule Number 5:

Shoes matter. For guys and girls. In my handful of weekends here, I’ve never seen so many women wearing heels (and I’ve never felt so short and self-conscious in my flats). I’ve also never experienced so many complicated dress codes. Some bars have no flip-flop rules, but allow you to wear sandals. Some bars don’t let guys wear sneakers. Some bars let guys wear sneakers if they are wearing a collared shirt, but not if they are wearing a t-shirt. And some bars couldn’t care less. Your best bet is to check online ahead of time.

Rule Number 6:

Use the birthday card. But do so carefully. Telling the bartender it's your friend's birthday may result in a round of free shots. Telling the bouncer it’s your friend’s birthday to try and cut the line may result in you and your friends getting kicked out of said line.

Birthday perks

Birthday perks

Photos By Jillian Timko/Gavel Media