NYC’s Best Clubs, Nightlife Spots For The Under-21 Crowd

June 2, 2016 2:50 PM

There was a time in New York when being underage didn’t stop teens from participating the city’s nightlife. Not only was the drinking age 18 until the late 1980s, but NYC clubs were notoriously lax on checking I.D.s (for better or worse). These days, going the legal route is the responsible thing to do. Here are a half-dozen totally legit ways to dance, party and mingle in the City of Angry Bouncers. Note: Weekly parties launch and shut down so quickly, it’s best to check with your favorite club or DJ to see what’s still happening. Rush, one of the best nightly parties in town for the 18+ gay-friendly crowd closed late last year. You will be missed, oh hectic dive bar!

The famous awning of the Village Vanguard legendary jazz club

The famous awning of the Village Vanguard legendary jazz club

Village Vanguard
178 7th Ave South
New York, NY 10014
(212) 255-4037

All ages are welcome at this West Village basement jazz club, a New York institution that celebrates its 80th year in its current location in 2015. Admission is $30 with a one drink minimum. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. for the first set and 10 p.m. for the second. A $25 student discount ticket is available for the second set Sunday through Thursday.

More: Best Dance Clubs In New York City

the knitting factory NYCs Best Clubs, Nightlife Spots For The Under 21 Crowd

Photo Credit: The Knitting Factory

The Knitting Factory
361 Metropolitan Ave (at Havenmeyer St)
Brooklyn NY 11211
(347) 529-6696

After relocating to Williamsburg from Manhattan a few years back, the flagship of this national mini-empire of music/performance venues and concert tours has redefined itself for the 21st century. Cutting edge techno, jazz, indie, experimental DJs, hip hop and more take the stage each night, guaranteeing a late-night dance party. You’ll also find poets, authors, burlesque, and the out-of-the-box, like skee-ball competitions. All shows are 18+. Under 18 may attend if accompanied by an adult.

More: Best Small Music Venues In NYC

Webster Hall
125th E 11th St (between 3rd and 4th Aves)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 353-1600

This concert venue sometimes gets a bad rap by serious club goers as being overly-touristy and populated with “amateur” party-goers, but the fact is, the megaspace brings in top-notch live acts and internationally-known DJs. And it is 18+ for most shows (note that alcohol policies are strictly enforced), with weekly Girls’ Night Out and Girls +Boys Night themes among their more popular regular events. Wander the floors of this multi-floored warren and you’ll find a wide variety of music, performances and dance spaces. On busy nights, do be prepared for aggressive security inspections at the door and crowded dance floors. Prices may vary by age and gender on certain nights. Check the website for discount seasonal and event passes.

More: NYC’s Most Exclusive Nightclubs

nightlife music under 21 nuyorican poets cafe NYCs Best Clubs, Nightlife Spots For The Under 21 Crowd

Photo Credit: Nuyorican Poets Cafe via Facebook

Nuyorican Poets Cafe
236 East 3rd St (Between Aves B & C)
New York, NY 10009
(212) 780-9386

This energetic LES hangout with a Latin edge has been delivering slam poetry, hip-hop, open mikes, jazz jams, author’s readings, comedy and more for two decades now. A small cafe up front provides a variety of drinks (alcoholic and otherwise) and small bites, while the young, urban art-driven crowd cheers on competitors and performers. While all of the cafe’s shows are all-ages, during the annual Nuyorican Neophyte Slam, poets under 21 years old can enter to compete for the title of Youth Poet of the Year.

bowlmor lanes NYCs Best Clubs, Nightlife Spots For The Under 21 Crowd

(credit: Will Ragozzino/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

Bowlmor Lanes Times Square
222 W 44th (between 7th and 8th Aves)
New York, NY 10036
(212) 680-0012

Like any bowling alley, this one is open to all. Unlike any other bowling alley, the Times Square spinoff of the downtown favorite offers up seven elaborately-decorated, New York City-themed spaces, any of which can be rented for private parties as well as regular bowling. Perfect for Sweet Sixteens, graduation parties or simply a night out with friends, you’ll find a better-than-average grill menu curated by chef David Burke and a variety of nonalcoholic and alcoholic libations. Though walk-ins are welcome, it’s a good idea to call ahead and reserve lanes for larger groups.

More: Best Bowling Alleys in NYC

nightlife music under 21 moma ps1 NYCs Best Clubs, Nightlife Spots For The Under 21 Crowd

Photo Credit:

MoMA PS 1 Warm Up
22-25 Jackson Ave (at 46th Ave)
Long Island City, NY 11101
(718) 784-2084

While not really nightlife, this is perhaps the largest all-ages summer dance party in the city. Each Saturday throughout the summer, you’ll find experimental live music, DJs, performance pieces and more to which you can bounce the day away under an artistic “urban landscape”. You’ll also have the opportunity to dine at the much-anticipated M. Wells Dinette inside the museum. Warm Up takes place each Saturday from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. and costs $22 (which also gives you admission to the museum). One ticket free for MoMA members and Long Island City residents with membership and proof of residence.

Robert Haynes-Peterson is an editor and freelance writer living in New York. He is certified by the American Sommelier Association through its 24-week Vinification and Viticulture program, and the government of Mexico through its Master Mezcalier program (continuing). His work can be found at

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