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The Barhopper

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From trendy hangouts to swanky lounges to neighborhood dives, New York is a drinker's city. There are almost countless watering holes here. With hundreds of bars in Manhattan alone, just open your ears and eyes while walking around and check out the scene or check out our comprehensive guide to New York bars and nightlife. Very few bars have a cover charge, so there is no harm in walking in and seeing what's going on. Of course, the price of drinks, like everything else in New York, is a bit steeper than elsewhere in the country. Don’t be surprised to find yourself turning down that 12 dollar cosmo in favor of a 4 dollar can of Pabst Blue Ribbon, but wherever the night takes you, know you’re bound to make a friend or at least meet a few characters, along your drunken way. Besides, think how jealous your friends back home to Omaha will be when you tell them about that cute DJ that kept flirting with you all night. Nope, you can’t put a price tag on that.

The hottest bars tend to change rapidly, and naming them all here is beyond the point. But the Meatpacking District, the East Village, and Greenwich Village are three areas of Manhattan worth walking around from place to place to find the trendiest, coolest and wildest options.

Perhaps you know you don’t stand a chance getting beyond the velvet ropes and are looking for a less elitist and more casual place to down a few beers. Depending on what you're looking for, whether a frat-party feel or college atmosphere, you might check out the bars near Columbia University or New York University. The Upper West Side’s Jake’s Dilemma is also a great choice. It features foosball, pool tables and a cozy library room in the back sure to bring you back to your undergrad days. Though it sits a little far east for NYU, Botanica draws a huge crowd of young people with thumping music and close quarters. A little closer to the collegiate base of the big purple pupils are Lit Lounge, a multi-level art and performance space coupled with a perfectly-lit bar, and the inimitable McSorley's, where the bitter flows in a rustic environ that seems to call out to college students like a siren on the rocks.

And then there's Willamsburg, a hipster haven packed with numerous glamorous and exciting places for the under-25 set. If you can tolerate the abundance of ironic t-shirts, asymmetrical haircuts and a couple of condescending stares, then this is the neighborhood for you. While there, grab a beer at Barcade, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a bar AND an arcade. For only a quarter you can blast the night away, as you try your hand at vintage video games like Space Invaders, Donkey Kong and Tetris. The super-trendy Zanzibar is another local favorite for cozy, dimly-lit rendezvous, although if shabby-chic is more your speed, you can't go wrong with the Bushwick Country Club. Williamsburg also offers music venues galore, for the hipster and non-hipster alike. The Music Hall of Williamsburg takes care of the mid-level touring bands that come to town, complete with a separate and sparse bar underneath the performance space. For more local fare and a much looser vibe, Union Pool is more than able to fit the bill.

Looking for dive bars in the East Village or Lower East Side? There is no shortage! Seriously, nearly every other storefront houses a cozy nook of affordable, tasty drinks (well by New York standards at least). Start your tour on St. Marks Place, going from Third Avenue to Avenue A. One place in between not to miss is the legendary Holiday Cocktail Lounge. When you get to Avenue A, check out the bars along this western edge of Tompkins Square Park, starting nearby at Doc Hollidays and Hi Fi, which has one of the best and most comprehensive jukeboxes in all NYC with over 31,000 songs to choose from. The aptly-named Skinny squeezes its dive-bar patrons in to drink cheap beer and watch TV; better yet, you can just watch the scene in the bar!

After impressing the hipsters with your impeccable musical selections, work your way down Avenue A to East Sixth Street, stopping along the way at whichever watering holes stand out. On both East Sixth and East Fifth Streets, you'll find a bevy of taverns as you head towards Avenues B and C. When you've had your fill there, head south of Houston Street for Ludlow Street, where you want to drink until you either make new friends for life or make a nuisance of yourself at a place like Max Fish. The area is also home to some of the best combination bar/live music venues in the city, like Piano's and their close neighbor Cake Shop, and especially the landmark-level coolness of Arlene's Grocery, where the live music is almost as good as the alcohol.
Ok, so maybe dives aren’t your thing. You might just be a displaced 1920's bootlegger in need of a familiar place, and so you'd do well to visit the Back Room, a stylized and honest-to-goodness former speakeasy, usually only noticeable if you're looking out for their "Lower Manhattan Toy Company" sign. Perhaps you're just nostalgic for Cold War-era Russia and need to share a drink with your comrades at Eastern Bloc?

Perhaps you’re older, or maybe you’re just seeking something a little more upscale. Few interiors are as glamorous as at the Rainbow Room, perched high atop Rockefeller Center, and featuring both bar and piano bar, as well as superior dining. If you love champagne, TriBeCa's Bubble Lounge has a phenomenal selection of champagnes and sparkling wines in an intimate and swanky setting. Half a block away is the svelte and dapper Brandy Library featuring an extraordinary cocktail menu plus a dazzling selection of brandy, scotch, and bourbon. The Meatpacking District's Pop Burger has that 70's meets new-millennium glam rock feel to them. Seeking some stand out choices for wine by the glass? For New York State wines, Vintage New York in SoHo has a phenomenal selection. For wines in a glamorous setting with a bevy of bottles attractively arranged across the length of the bar, try both the Brasserie in the Seagram Building and Chelsea's Bar Veloce.

Of course, if these three options don't dazzle you enough, there are a zillion other places in the Meatpacking District that sprout up (and get cut down) like weeds. In Chelsea, you might try the Highline Ballroom's great bar and live music offerings. Just a block away, the Hiro Ballroom at the Maritime Hotel is a likewise brilliant—and quite posh—place for a dark atmosphere and a massive dance floor. But if you need a good show and a beer to get you through the night, you can absolutely never go wrong with The Bowery Ballroom. Not to be outdone, SoHo's City Winery—the sole winery in our fair metropolis—combines the feeling of an upscale wine-tasting with a well-designed stage (and hand-picked talent, as well!).
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