I probably don’t have to be the one to tell you this but New York City is full of weird personalities and strange sightings. I remember just after a few weeks of living here, I was wandering down 6th Avenue when I saw a guy in a spandex body suit riding his bike, holding a large boom box, and blasting some 80s tune. Maybe that sounds a little too on the nose, something right out of a Hollywood movie – but I knew then that I moved to a city that has seen it all. There’s no shocking New York.
So of course it’s no surprise that there’s a long list of unique bars in New York City. We need a wide variety of spaces to fit all the different personalities that make up this crazy place. You can say that I love seeking out unusual spots that take on weird and sometimes even spooky themes.
Some of my favorite bars serve drinks with interesting surroundings and ambience that you can’t find at just any bar you go to. If you are looking for just a little extra something to take your night out to the next (sometimes strange) level, here’s a list of bars you’re going to want to check out.
Find more tips for a night out in New York City:
- For the best bars in Midtown right near Times Square click here.
- My favorite bar in the city is a country bar in Hell’s Kitchen and you can read why here.
Trailer Park Lounge
Location: 271 W 23rd Street, New York, NY 10011
I was raised by a very redneck grandmother. She still lives in a trailer park in Corona, California, so this bar feels like home to me. When you walk by the toilet bowl ashtray in front and through the screen door, be prepared for one of the most unique bars in New York City. The Trailer Park Lounge in Chelsea instantly transports you to Central California or somewhere in Florida.
There isn’t a corner of the bar untouched by white trash decor. Some ambience highlights include an old jukebox that’s out of order and Christmas decorations up all year long. Cans and bottles of beer are kept in backyard coolers and a large claw footed bathtub in the center of the bar. You may also see the bartender occasionally switching out the cassette tapes that provide the house music.
When you visit this place I must insist that you order their frozen margaritas. In fact, bring a few other people and get a pitcher. Even though $44 might seem steep, it’s well worth it. It only takes a few sips to knock you on your ass. If you bring enough people to share you can get a pretty good buzz on for little money.
You’ll find a great food menu to satisfy the taste buds of anyone who grew up a little redneck, like Sloppy Joe’s and Moon Pies. But really, just look how cute it is.
House of Wax
Location: 445 Albee Square W #4410, Brooklyn, NY 11201 (in the lobby of the Alamo Drafthouse theater)
Part museum and part bar, the House of Wax is one of my favorite bars period. I consider it one of those great hidden gems that houses mostly locals, so you’ll rarely find it on a popular travel site. That makes it my go to recommendation for a unique experience for visitors. I recently met some lovely girls from London and sent them there, selling it hard as one of the best unique bars in New York City. I’m sure you can guess that they loved it.
This bar/museum is tucked away at the back of the Alamo Drafthouse lobby and deserves to be experienced with minimal spoilers. So I won’t give too much away. Just a fair warning though: it may feel like you’ve stepped into the mansion from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I’ll also warn you that the wax figures on display throughout the bar just get weirder and weirder as you get deeper in.
As far as the bar part is concerned, it carries an insanely good beer selection full of some of the greatest local breweries in the city. There’s also plenty of specialty cocktails worth a sip and a small food menu for snacks. Don’t fill up too much though if you’re catching a movie. The theater attached has a full menu with awesome food. There’s also a stage in the back of the bar home to some live entertainment, making it easy to waste an entire evening here.
You should also see a movie.
The Alamo Drafthouse is probably the only theater I will go to in the city, so I feel like it deserves it’s own little section here. When it comes to the full movie theater experience, they are in a league of their own. The service is insanely good, the staff is friendly and the quality of everything that comes out is consistent.
They also kick people out for talking during the movie and you get to reserve your seat before hand. Why not catch a new release or one of their classic viewing parties?
Keep in mind if you’re having a pre movie drink at the bar, you can just walk up to the theater with your unfinished cocktail. The staff will come through the bar to let you know when your theater is open for seating so there’s no need to to even check the time.
Read about other things to do in this area of Brooklyn in my post about Prospect Park.
Jekyll and Hyde Club
Location: 91 7th Avenue South, New York NY 10014
Full disclosure, the Jekyll and Hyde Club is weird, and it’s awesomeness doesn’t always translate. My boyfriend originally told me about this place he happened to stumble across with some coworkers, where the staff stayed in character and weird skits would just happen out of nowhere. He sold it well enough that I felt like I had to try it. So we took some of my friends there when they were in town and we had a blast.
The entire vibe of the bar is like a creepy old haunted house. The bathrooms are hidden behind bookcases and the atmosphere actually comes to life. It’s not a place I would spend a lot of time at. It is however worth going with a few of your quirky friends, ordering a drink at the bar, and waiting to see what happens. There’s a photo booth to have a little fun in too!
The best part is that it’s in a great location. It’s right around the corner form Joe’s Pizza, the Comedy Cellar and the famous Marie Crisis piano bar. You’re better off going on a Saturday when it’s at it’s busiest and they will pull out all the stops. However, you can still see a skit or two during the week when it’s less busy.
The Dead Poet
450 Amsterdam Ave 2, New York, NY 10024
Even though I was an English minor in college, I was never able to get into poetry. I enjoyed learning about it but never got into reading it for pleasure. With the exception of a few Emily Dickinson poems, I know next to nothing about poetry. That didn’t stop me however from falling in love with the Dead Poet.
This has become one of my favorite local bars to hang out in now that I live on the Upper West Side, just a few blocks north of this literary themed Irish pub. Opened by a former High School English teacher, it has become one of the neighborhoods favorite bars. I find it humorously poetic for a former High School English teacher to have opened up a bar. I think it’s an appropriate career transition and the fact that he took his love of literature with him makes it all the more amazing.
The menu is full of literary themed cocktails, the walls are adorned with photos of famous authors, and there are plenty of notable quotes about life to read while you sip on a Midsummer Night’s Dream or a J.D Salinger.
*Although this list is far from complete, it captures a wide variety of unique bars in New York City. I’ll definitely be updating this list as I come across more appropriate bars.*