Nightlife in the city: How to have fun when you’re under 21

A list of legal and booze-free activities to enhance your evening for our young ones.


Alex Tey

(Alex Tey for WSN)

Linsey Liao, Contributing Writer

Living in New York City seems like quite the dream — until you realize the inconvenience of still being labeled underage by the law. Most conventional nightlife activities in the city, including drinking or clubbing with your friends, have strict age policies that can limit the choices for going out at night. Here are a few other ways you can spend a fun evening amid Manhattan’s lovely chaos.

he facade of a warmly lit shop with white walls and a sign with text “Gelateria.” The storefront window reads “Gentile” and “GELATIERI DAL 1880.” There is one person standing in the shop and two people sitting outside.
(Alison Yang for WSN)

Gelateria Gentile

Don’t feel like heading home after a late dinner, but don’t know what to do? Check out Gelateria Gentile, a local gelato chain with locations in Williamsburg, SoHo, Greenwich Village and the West Village. Open every day until midnight, this shop is the perfect spot to grab some late-night dessert without stressing about closing times. Offering a wide range of flavors — the yogurt and cheesecake flavors are must-tries, and gelato scoops with little waffle cones perched on top — this is definitely the place to hit for those who have a sweet tooth.

The entrance of a restaurant at nighttime with outdoor seating and people passing by. The entrance is surrounded with neon light signs with text “SHANGHAI MONG” and “Authentic Asian Cuisine.”
Shanghai Mong is an Asian restaurant in Koreatown. (Betty Chen for WSN)


Do you have a huge appetite just when the clock ticks past midnight? If so, don’t worry — Koreatown’s got you. Walk by at 3 a.m. on a weeknight and you’ll find the streets still bustling with people. K-town is home to some of the best Asian restaurants, dessert shops and karaoke spots you’re going to find in New York City. If you’re looking for Korean barbeque, get in the queue for Antoya Korean BBQ (formerly Samwon Garden). If you’re craving a hot tofu stew or some japchae, walk through the doors of Gammeeok or Shanghai Mong. Finish eating and head into one of the many karaoke spots and sing or dance your heart out.

A building with a green accent color with large signs reading “GOLF” and “SNACKS” on the rooftop.
A mini golf course at Pier 25. (Manasa Gudavalli for WSN)

The piers

Do you want a chill night but don’t particularly feel like staying in? The city’s piers might be the perfect place to hang around. Bring a few friends, a speaker and a blanket, and enjoy the nighttime cityscape beside the water. Every pier is easily accessible by subway, and each one has a variety of activities to offer. Go to the giant swings at Pier 35 to watch the Manhattan Bridge light up at dusk, play 18-hole mini golf at Pier 25 or enjoy the off-shore park at Little Island at Pier 55. These waterside spots are great for people-watching and spending quality time with friends, as the clearings are large, comfortable and filled with others relaxing after a long day. 

The facade of a building with walls painted red and a light sign with white text “Bowlero” striking through a white circle.
(Kevin Wu for WSN)

Bowlero Chelsea Piers is the perfect late-night spot if you’re feeling particularly adventurous. Though some arcades have a strict 21+ policy due to bar services, others are more lenient with their patrons’ ages. Bowlero Chelsea Piers welcomes people of all ages and is a personal favorite. With bowling lanes, laser tag and a deluxe arcade featuring old-school games like Pac-Man and Mario Kart, it’s easy to lose track of time in this labyrinth of adrenaline and fun. Immerse yourself in the retro lights and sound effects of classic ’90s arcade action, and challenge your friends to a competition. In addition to extended operating hours — the arcade closes at 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights — special deals are offered almost every day, including $6.99 games of bowling, half-price arcade cards and more. 

A collage of three photos: the left photo shows a male with shoulder-length hair in a white T-shirt holding a standing microphone. The middle photo shows a female in a red dress playing a guitar and singing. The right photo shows two people with shoulder-length hair: the person on the left holds a microphone and wears a blue T-shirt and dark pants, and the person on right wears a tan T-shirt and dark pants.
(Andy Lee for WSN)

Sofar Sounds

If you enjoy surprises and listening to live music in cozy settings, buy tickets to a Sofar concert in the city. When you browse their website, you’re only going to find an event’s date, time and general location. The exact address is kept secret until 36 hours before the performance, and you often don’t know who’s performing until you get there. Every venue is intimate and comfortable, with each performance consisting of two to three short sets. Lie on the venue’s bean bags and sofas to enjoy an anxiety-free, laid-back concert experience.

Contact Linsey Liao at [email protected]