The youth in New York are among the most fun-loving individuals in the world, and they know how to go out in style. But although the city has all the nightclubs and lounges you could ever dream of, it’s a bit tough for the under 21 set to get past the door without being hounded for an ID check. So what’s an 18, 19, or 20 year old to do until they’re legal? Here’s some ideas for how to get down without getting carded.
The problem with attempting to enter a club when you’re underage is that everyone else whose underage is trying to do the same…and the bouncers can spot you from a mile away. Sure, if you have the right connections entry can be gained no matter what, but most clubs have a strict policy of scanning IDs before entry, and getting all dolled up to get turned away at the door is no fun.
The best thing to do is to make your own entertainment, or search for some PG-13 style fun. There are loads of shows, both on and off Broadway, but if musicals aren’t exactly your thing, you can check out youth-oriented areas like St. Marks place and the rest of the East Village for some gritty bars that may let you sit around while your of-age friends enjoy their alcoholic beverages (and maybe they’ll let you sneak in some sips here and there).
If you like to get down on the dance floor, concerts are the best way to get out and boogie in New York if you don’t have an ID. Venues like the Beacon Theatre, Bowery Ballroom, The Knitting Factory, Webster Hall, Roseland Ballroom and Fillmore: Irving Plaza provide a huge range of artists performing, and you’ll always find something you like (pop, electronic, indie-rock, punk, etc.) Most venues don’t require you to be over 21, although selected parties at these spots can be tough to get into, so make sure you check the ticket before you buy.
Also, let us assure you…there's a party on in New York every night of the year. You just need to find it. Even the streets and subway stations are alive with buskers and dance troops. Drop by Tompkins Square Park in the East Village on a Sunday afternoon and you're sure to be entertained by a Puerto Rican jam session or a disheveled singer-songwriter. There are always a ton of bands coming through and in some cases though they may not perform an under 21's gig, they will do a short set at Virgin and follow up with a signing session. You never know who you might rub shoulders with…
One of the best parts about being young in New York is that everyone is just hanging out everywhere. If you’re walking around Washington Square Park or Union Square, the central hubs of NYC universities, there’s no chance you’ll be on your own. Skate culture is alive and well in NY and the northern end of Union Square Park after dark is a good place to start. If you allow yourself to drift down Broadway to West Fourth Street, you’ll pass lots of cool stores and places to eat. Or go right down Astor Place to St. Marks Place and shop some more.
If all else fails and you need to summon some buddies to help you stay entertained, grab your laptop or iPhone and head to one of New York's zillion WiFi hot spots, many of which are located in cool places to hang out. But unless you’re really lame you shouldn’t get bored…just go check out the famous parks, stores, top sightseeing attractions, museums, galleries, restaurants and cafes and you’ll realize that there’s enough going on here to keep you busy for months!