There are many reasons why NYC is the greatest city in the world—its famous attractions are known all over the globe. But what if you want to find out what's going on under the radar? There are tons of things New Yorkers do better than anyone else, and throwing the coolest secret parties and cultural happenings are among them. If you dig deep, you'll discover a whole world of deliciously secret events in New York City, ranging from the sublime to the silly and way beyond that—good thing we're here to show you exactly where to find 'em.
A Razor, a Shiny Knife
While providing great food is certainly an objective for the three men behind this supper club, it’s their flair for culinary theatrics that has really turned heads. Past stunts have included creating popcorn ice cream with liquid nitrogen, serving an upscale dinner on a moving L train and hosting a 125th-birthday party for pizza, complete with a leaning tower of pizza made from Manhattan and Brooklyn’s most famous pie slingers.
How to get in: The only way to find out about upcoming events is by getting on the mailing list (arazorashinyknife.com). Of the people who R.S.V.P., only a few are picked for these typically free gatherings.
Spring Street Social Society
Don’t let the stuffy-sounding society in the title fool you: This crew is all about just having a good time. Take a recent brunch, in which pro clown Jeff Seal served hors d’oeuvres (hilariously, we assume), an unannounced jazz band blasted tunes, and Society director Patrick Janelle and artistic director Amy Virginia Buchanan choreographed a dance routine.
How to get in: Join its mailing list through ssssociety.com to find out about upcoming meals. In January, the society will take membership applications for those looking to learn about events before the general public, receive special discounts and enjoy exclusive meet-ups.
Jeff Stark is behind these feasts, which take place in outlandish spaces around the city. Days before the potluck events, 40 selected lucky diners are given instructions on where to meet, what to wear (one example: formal attire with hiking boots) and what food item to bring. From the first location, they set off to the true destination, known only to the leaders. If you have any qualms about trespassing, don’t bother with this one: Past meals have been held in a deserted grain silo and an abandoned subway station.
How to get in: Subscribe to nonsensenyc.com to receive instructions on how to be considered. Private secret dinners for two, also held at unusual locations, are available by special request. Those lucky enough to attend one of the more intimate affairs will also receive a portrait painting created by Stark.
Have you ever wanted to go to a cool ’20s-era club in Paris or New Orleans (or, yes, Shanghai)? This gathering might be as close as you can get without hopping into a time machine. Partygoers dress meticulously as flappers and their Jazz Age contemporaries to watch all-night burlesque, drag and aerial acts. Be warned: Organizers are known to turn away guests at the door (even after payment) who are not wearing wow-worthy-enough getups.
How to get in: Get added to the mailing list at shanghaimermaid.com.
ReSolute has been throwing epic dance parties in warehouses and on rooftops for a few years. Come prepared to rage: Some DJ sets don’t even begin until 6am, and at least one party went on for 28 hours.
How to get in: Follow facebook.com/ReSoluteEventsNYC for tickets, but don’t expect a venue name to appear until a few hours before the gig.
For the past eight years, the DJs of Blkmarket Membership have been hosting parties in Brooklyn warehouses, on rooftops and in lofts and have become a go-to for late-night techno- and house-heads. Expect big names like Ben Klock and Michael Mayer.
How to get in: Sign up through residentadvisor.net. Only those they wish to come will be contacted back with the location, so try to seem cool when you R.S.V.P., whatever that means.
Ladyfag Presents Holy Mountain
Club mainstay Ladyfag aims to throw batshit-crazy bashes worthy of being named after Alejandro Jodorowsky’s cult film The Holy Mountain. At the monthly gathering, dolled-up denizens walk through two stories’ and four rooms’ worth of curated craziness. Each room has a completely different sound, vibe and theme. (A recent soiree’s chambers were labeled “witches,” “alchemists,” “godesses” and “night crawlers.”)
How to get in: R.S.V.P. via holymountain.club.
Why just watch a movie when you can experience it, man? This successful British-born program, which throws stealthy screenings in odd locales with fully committed actors, props and sets, launched an NYC chapter in August with a three-venue screening of Dead Poets Society. Proceeds went to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and one event was hosted by pop-culture power couple Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman. Secret Cinema plans to host another showing in the coming months, and you can expect the affair, in which you must dress up in costume, to get intense: A recent London screening of The Shawshank Redemption had attendees trading their clothes for prison-ready jumpsuits beforehand, and the actors played guards.
How to get in: Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org inquiring about the next event and follow facebook.com/SecretCinemaNY. Location and theme will be disclosed a few days before.
Live @ the Apt
Screw overpriced covers, two-drink minimums and big-box comedy clubs. This project, started by local comedian Drew Miller, brings names both big, such as Broad City’s Hannibal Buress, Last Comic Standing’s Sarah Tollemache, and small to living rooms across the city. Each series is filmed, and videos are promoted on Twitter (@liveapt) to give up-and-comers exposure.
How to get in: You can attend a live taping by emailing email@example.com. Locations are announced a few days before, and you should R.S.V.P. quickly—space can be limited to a dozen or so. (We mentioned these happen in New York apartments, right?)
The Trash Museum
A whole neighborhood’s trash became the city sanitation department’s treasure when one of East Harlem’s workers, Nelson Molina, displayed discarded objects he’d been collecting for 30 years on the garage’s second floor. Over time, the collection has grown so large, trucks aren’t even allowed to park on that level anymore, though the space remains operational.
How to get in: Since the gallery is in a working sanitation garage, it’s not normally open to the general public. This year’s Open House New York did offer a tour of the space, and the department can authorize special visits. In other words, make friends with your garbage collectors, people.
Adventure Gift Services
The folks from Wanderlust Productions have made a career out of trespassing in artful ways. (Just consider their 80-person scavenger hunt in the Waldorf Astoria and their much-hyped Night Heron experiences, better known as “those water-tower parties.”) With their brand-new venture, Adventure Gift Services, you can surprise a pal with one of these escapades in categories like “destination kidnapping” and “urban rabbit hole.”
How to get in: Hit up wanderlustprojects.com/email.