There are no set number of ‘ways’ people in New York City1 party. There are millionaires and models on rooftops, but there are also underground ping-pong lairs filled with the ‘awkward’ college crowd; there are cramped apartment house parties, but there are also gigantic outdoor beer gardens with fake beaches and glowing couches overlooking three bridges at the same time. There is a bar selling five shots of absolutely anything for ten bucks; there are (many) others where the minimum price for one (sometimes mind-blowing) cocktail is $20.
And for every hipster kid or under-dressed college girl or rich European or crew of guys in from Jersey rolling 10 deep down 2nd Avenue or through Meatpacking or across the street in Williamsburg, there’s another person of the exact same person-type but of the exact opposite stereotype somewhere else; and there are definitely always just a few thousand people chilling in their rooms, no more than a few dozen feet from you, ordering delivery food and watching reruns of Pawn Stars for the 15th time.
So as you read these ground rules for spending time in New York City between the hours of dusk and…well, pretty much any time, really, keep all the exceptions in mind, and remember that the instances where rules are broken — which happens pretty much always — are the times that cement your relationship with this place the strongest.
1Oh, and remember all of this pretty much only applies to Manhattan, below 34nd Street — because trying to factor in the rest of the city would be a joke. And that’s probably the only place you’re headed if you’re not from NYC, anyway.
1. Don’t worry about the money.
You won’t have enough of it. Don’t worry about that, though — neither does anyone else. Nobody spending $1,300 a month on a room smaller than most dormitories is saving a nice little nest egg or wakes up the next day not feeling like somebody messed up the numbers on their bank account. But just the same, those with the least often end up being the most eager to spend that money they don’t have on a Thursday night.
You’ll get here, see that most beers are around seven bucks — hey, they’ve got cans of Tecate for $5, pretty solid deal — and maybe feel like going somewhere else. And then you will. And then you’ll just start getting used to intentionally not looking at your bar receipt. And by the end of your trip, you might even feel like a $16 cocktail seems reasonable.
2. Don’t not talk to strangers.
It’s strange how unintuitive talking to people you’ve never met before can be, especially at a place that was created solely for the purpose of many people coming to drink in one place. But maybe that initial weirdness of saying what’s up to the person next to you is what makes the whole experience all the more gratifying.
Maybe you’ll find out they’re just in from DC; you’ll discover you’re both from the same obscure hometown; maybe you’ll decide 20 seconds into meeting them that they’re an asshole but their friend over there looks pretty good so maybe you can ride this initial interaction out and just see what happens; or maybe they’ll ignore you entirely. What is certain: it’ll make standing on top of each other in line and battling for the bartender’s attention less annoying.
3. Don’t go home.
Manhattan has one of the latest “curfews” for serving alcohol at 4am — and if you look hard enough, you can usually find a place or two that stays open even later. Assuming you’re having dinner at 8, that’s an entire workday’s worth of potential activity.
Unless you’re here to primarily sightsee (which you’re kind of doing while partying in New York anyway), resist any urge to head home because this place just isn’t doing it for you anymore. Walk somewhere. See a place whose character and feeling just somehow changes when it’s lit by artificial means and the outlines of neon signs and the glows of window fronts are what’s keeping you from stumbling in the dark.
Get a taco. Find a new bar. Find the bar you’d never visit otherwise and order a drink by yourself and try not to look at your cellphone for 5 minutes. Unless it’s freezing out, in which case, just find a diner and a table by the window, which should really be everything anybody needs around here.
And with this, don’t worry about sleep. Stay hydrated while you’re out drinking (most bartenders will respect anyone who asks for a water between drinks) to keep from having a soul-crippling hangover the next morning. Which should also help you with rule #4.
4. Don’t sleep in.
You’ll want to sleep in — oh, God, you’ll want to — but don’t. Don’t throw a pillow over your face and lie there half asleep until you’re forced out of bed by the sheer fact that it’s 2 o’clock. Get up.
If it’s winter, you’ll be lucky to have the cold face-smack you awake while you walk to get coffee and pass a couple hundred other tourists, construction workers, police officers, dogwalkers, kids on field trips, and a bunch of other people who in no way resemble the congregation of people drinking en masse you were with a few hours ago.
Get an egg sandwich and sit on a bench and pull out your phone. Bring up the Maps app, locate yourself, and feel absolutely certain of where you are geographically in the universe — directly in the center.
***Explore the world party scene with Matador’s own nightlife guide 101 PLACES TO GET F*CKED UP BEFORE YOU DIE.
Part travel guide, part drunken social commentary, 101 Places may have some of the most hilarious scenes and straight-up observations of youth culture of any book you’ve ever read.***