Nightlife can take many forms, but for New Yorkers and visitors looking to let off a little steam, nothing quite does the job like a night of dancing. While the city’s mega dance clubs used to be synonymous with Manhattan, recent years have given rise to a new kind of club that’s happy to call Brooklyn home.
Spots like Black Flamingo cater to grown-up hipsters who aren’t about to wait on line behind a velvet rope to shake their booties.
Or what about outlier Mehanata, a Lower East Side gem that’s often unfairly overlooked even though it has the energy, soul and funk to lift you right off their basement stripper pole and on to the wild and rowdy dance floor?
But before we get too far off the beaten path, rest assured that those of you looking for the ultimate VIP experience won’t be disappointed with what you’ll find below. The new kids on the block may be stealing some thunder, but Manhattan’s club scene still reigns supreme at places like Marquee, where you can just as easily fist-pump the night away as spend the evening gawking at celebrity royalty. Not that you’d want to do that anyway, right? No, you came to dance.
Those looking for a weird, over-the-top, Burning Man-esque romp in dance party form should look no further than House of Yes. This once illicit venue is now perfectly legal, though your mouth will still likely hit the floor upon walking in. Some have called it the best party in New York. Others refuse to try to explain it. And they’re right – House of Yes is best experienced rather than talked about. Expect loud beats, twirling circus performers, men in pseudo-drag and costumed women dancing next to guys in flannel drinking a beer. The theme? It changes depending on the night, but it’s anything goes and everyone’s welcome, which is refreshing, to say the least.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: If there were ever a dance club to let your freak flag fly, this is it.
Andrea’s expert tip: Wear whatever, bring whomever, be totally, unapologetically you.
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Though the Jane Hotel Ballroom has slipped a bit from its days of glory, it’s still a great place to visit if you’re looking for the kind of night that includes dancing on tables and couches. The hotel used to be a haven for sailors looking for a place to rest their weary bones, but we’d be willing to bet there’s not much rest taking place here on the weekends. From high-fashion models bopping to the beats to tech superstars throwing back vodka martinis, The Jane Hotel caters to a youthful crowd looking for a good time. Keep in mind that you’re in New York, so don’t be surprised if the party doesn’t get popping until late.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: The Jane is where to go when you want to dance on the furniture.
Andrea’s expert tip: This door has gotten significantly easier in recent years, but that still doesn’t mean you should go expecting to definitely get in. A smile and some style help.
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Photo courtesy of Lavo
Lavo’s DJs mash up hip-hop, pop, house and EDM to create an atmosphere that’s excessively over the top in the best possible way. Not at all for the faint of heart, don’t be surprised when you’re swept up into the chaos and bounced around the dance floor only to find yourself stumbling out into the street at the first signs of daylight. From scantily dressed girls dancing on tables to Europeans fist-pumping along to Tiesto, Lavo is all energy, all opulence, all the time. Planning to drink? Stack your wallet with cash and be prepared to walk out empty-handed – this spot is one of the priciest on the list.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: A whirlwind of activity and sound, Lavo is everything you think a dance club should be.
Andrea’s expert tip: If you don’t want to deal with the bouncers, go for brunch – it’s nearly as wild as the night.
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A wild card on the list that’s too-often overlooked is Mehanata, a Bulgarian club that’s home to what seems like a band of traveling gypsies and a wicked vodka ice room. Skip the ice room but don’t waste any time jumping into the downright dirty dancing that’s surely taking place across Mehanata’s two floors. Trippy gypsy punk (the kind that gave birth to Gogol Bordello) collides with a blatant disregard for anything that doesn’t resemble a good time. A hidden party house in plain view, your friends will think you’ve smuggled them to the Eastern Bloc for a night unlike any they’ve ever seen.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: Where else can you sit on swings at the bar, dance to gypsy punk and travel to Bulgaria without leaving the city?
Andrea’s expert tip: Skip the overpriced ice room and buy a drink at the bar instead.
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Photo courtesy of Black Flamingo
Black Flamingo’s official designation on Google is “Vegan Restaurant.” Don’t let this confuse you. While it’s true that generally good meatless fare is served here, it’s the basement you should care about. Decked out in a pink-walled Miami Vice, 1970’s vibe, Black Flamingo is where people who don’t care to see or be seen come to get down. The music is funky house – more playful and lighthearted than heavy, thumping bass, and often features an expansive array of vinyl. It’s where the older hipsters – you know, the ones who’ve ditched their PBRs for high-end cocktails – come when they’re looking to bust a groove thang. And we’ve gotta admit, the neighborhood’s better for it.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: It’s the dance club to go to when you don’t want to go to the club.
Andrea’s expert tip: Don’t go too early – the party gets started after a late dinner.
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Marquee fell out of party people’s good graces for a few years but has bounced back with a vengeance after a complete overhaul in the early-2010s. With outposts in Sydney and Vegas, Marquee NYC is essentially one huge room and a balconied VIP area that pulls international electronic DJs on a weekly basis. After paying the cover, you’ll join forces with a mix of sweaty New Yorkers and curious out-of-towners. Marquee also does production better than anyone else, and their dedication to all things ‘nightlife’ is astounding. Break away from the dance floor to take in the dancers, the costumes and the clientele.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: Marquee’s 2012 renovation re-cemented its standing as one of the most revered clubs in the city.
Andrea’s expert tip: Buy a ticket in advance to avoid an hours-long wait behind the ropes.
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Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Bowl
Sure, you could come to Brooklyn Bowl to lace up a pair of slick shoes and hurl a couple rocks in the direction of a bunch of pins. But even if you’re not into a game of 10-frames, you should still add Brooklyn Bowl to your top list of nightlife joints to visit. In fact, most people at Brooklyn Bowl aren’t bowling. Instead, they’re catching up on their favorite musical acts or cutting a rug behind the lanes. In addition to the games, this venue has live shows every night of the week, from little known rising stars to musician royalty, including Talib Kweli, RJD2, The Hold Steady and St. Lucia.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: It’s a bowling alley, a live music venue and a dance spot all in one.
Andrea’s expert tip: The food is surprisingly good, so make time to grab a bite before heading down to party.
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At Bembe, lounge decor consists of found and recycled objects from all over NYC, lending a “lost-and-found” type vibe to the interior. The music also has remnants of this same style with live musicians and DJs playing everything from Latin beats to reggae and Arabic jams. It’s tiny and patrons don’t mind bumping and grinding with strangers, but if that’s not your style, Bembe probably isn’t your best bet. Unlike some spots on this list, drinks aren’t outrageously priced, but the bar only takes cash, so stack your wallet before walking in. On busy nights the club also charges a cover, so check the website to make sure the music is your speed before forking over your dough.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: It’s an eclectic crowd that only cares about getting down.
Andrea’s expert tip: It’s tiny, so try to show up on the earlier side. Before 11:30PM should suffice.
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With arguably the chicest bathrooms and sexiest views in NYC, Le Bain is notoriously one of the hardest doors in the city. Perhaps that’s because this lively club is connected to The Boom Boom Room, one of Manhattan’s exclusive celebrity watering holes, or maybe it’s the hot tubs built directly into the dance floor. Either way, dress to impress and try not to take it to heart if you’re turned away once (or more) before gaining entry. If you happen to arrive early, you’ll have better luck, but beware that the club stays fairly empty until the clock strikes midnight.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: Le Bain’s breathtaking views earn it a top spot on any nightlife list.
Andrea’s expert tip: There’s no way around it – this is a tough door. Go early (by 11:30PM) or risk waiting on line for hours.
Read more about Le Bain at the Standard →
Photo courtesy of Home Sweet Home
Subterranean Home Sweet Home is a classic Lower East Side haunt that isn’t *only* a dance spot. This is a great place to come if half of your crew would prefer to stand around while the other half wants to get grimy cutting a rug. Just be sure to let them know that they’ll likely be bowled over by the enthusiastic dancing crowd. On the most popular night of the week (Friday), a DJ spins the ’50s and ’60s hits amongst the hanging taxidermy and grandma-era couches. Between the music and the atmosphere, Home Sweet Home does a fantastic job of setting itself apart from the rest of the spots on this list.
Recommended for Dance Clubs because: It’s easy to get to and has a rocking dance floor every night of the week.
Andrea’s expert tip: Because of the well-attended 50s & 60s-themed party, Fridays are the nights to go.
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