No fake, no problem: Nightlife for the under 21 crowd

So, you finally think you’ve mastered the frat---and dorm---party scene, and you want to go downtown like all of your cool, worldly friends. But you have a problem. While all of your friends bar hop downtown and go clubbing, you’re stuck trying to sneak in behind them and hope the bouncer doesn’t notice. Life can be tough in NYC without a fake, that golden ticket to the forbidden world. But with a bit of planning, you can have just as much fun downtown. 

Improv Theater and Comedy

  • Upright Citizens Brigade, started by the great Amy Poehler, is a staple of the downtown comedy scene. Watching the surprise comedian (almost always famous) arrive at Whiplash on Mondays or getting into AssssCat 3000 by arriving early on Sundays (bring a book---if you’re in CC, we know you have reading) is the type of experience that you’ll remember for a long time.
  • A few blocks north lies the Magnet Theater, with a laid-back, local feel, and by Madison Square Park, you can find the PIT, known as the People’s Improv Theater, which gets very creative with its improv contest ideas. Try taking a walk-in class at the Magnet, or throw your hat in the ring for an improv jam.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for special shows, like when writers from the Colbert Report do improv, or UCB’s annual Del Close Marathon, which has 24 hours of the best improv from around the world.

Music Clubs

Ok, maybe comedy isn’t your thing, and you just want to party with your friends. Under 21 clubs may sound like a drag, but going to a club with people mostly your own age usually means a break from the 40-year old dude giving you the eye. If you want to meet someone, they’re probably a better bet.

  • Webster Hall has a bit of everything, with multiple floors of dance and performance spaces. They drag in a ton of good acts (like the legendary Neutral Milk Hotel on Jan. 27-28 and Earl Sweatshirt on Feb. 20), and the dance floors are usually filled with people, especially for Girls and Boys Fridays (19+).
  • The Knitting Factory in Williamsburg is also a great place to go on Fridays because their shows are free! They’ve got a good mix of comedy, bands, and DJs. It’s a good way to get into the more off-beat and wallet-friendly Brooklyn music scene.
  • Pacha and New York City Parties 18+ are your more DJ-focused party club, and they market heavily to Columbia students. While the ads and aggressive marketing (usually in ALL CAPS WITH 5 EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!) may be tacky, people keep coming back with positive reviews. Just be careful and enjoy the hordes of teenage bodies.
Photo of Webster Hall courtesy of Greg Chow / flickr

Poets’ Cafés

  • The Nuyorican Poets Café and Bowery Poetry Club are great places to see the finest in New York slam and traditional poetry spit. They both have a distinctly jazz air about them, and they’re an experience in themselves. Listen to some poets and then maybe throw yourself into a competition to try and make your mark on the NY poetry scene.


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kevin posted on

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