Vintage New York: best retro events and activities in NYC

No matter what your scene, we’ve got a retro event for you: These parties, screenings and throwback events evoke the spirit of vintage New York.

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If you’re looking for an excuse to don a flapper dress or listen to nothing but ’90s R&B for a night, good news: Time Out has rounded up the city’s best retro events. Some channel the spirit of vintage New York (such as the annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island), while others hark back to the dance parties you may have attended if you went to school in the ’90s.


RECOMMENDED: All vintage New York coverage


  • Photograph: Ben Rosenzweig

    Vintage New York: best retro events and activities in NYC

    Ginger's Second Saturdays Retro Dance Party

  • Photograph: Kodi McKinney

    Vintage New York: best retro events and activities in NYC

    The ’90s Summer Jam Sing-Along

  • Photograph: Yale Goodman

    Vintage New York: best retro events and activities in NYC

    At Last I Am Born: A Morrissey Birthday Celebration

  • Vintage New York: best retro events and activities in NYC

    Live + Sound + Cinema: Vamps and Virgins

  • Photograph: Driely S.

    Vintage New York: best retro events and activities in NYC

    Jazz Age Lawn Party

  • Vintage New York: best retro events and activities in NYC

    I Love Vinyl

  • Photograph: Ahron R. Foster

    Vintage New York: best retro events and activities in NYC

    Brain Cloud

  • Photograph: Karen Sawicki/karensawicki.com

    Vintage New York: best retro events and activities in NYC

    Rebel Night

Photograph: Ben Rosenzweig

Vintage New York: best retro events and activities in NYC

Ginger's Second Saturdays Retro Dance Party

Ginger's Second Saturdays Retro Dance Party

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

DJ Mimi mans the decks at this nostalgia-fueled bash. Expect to hear pop hits from the late ’70s through the early ’90s, and thrill to burlesque performers throughout the night. And yes, you should come in costume: The bar posts event themes on its Facebook page—past parties have asked revelers to dress in neon colors or disco outfits. $5.

  1. Ginger’s Bar 363 Fifth Ave, between 5th and 6th Sts
  2. Sat May 11 at 5pm
More info

The ’90s Summer Jam Sing-Along

Celebrate the sunnier side of the not-so-bygone decade by belting tunes from Britney Spears, Ace of Base, Ricky Martin and more. Dig out your old skorts, Zubaz and butterfly clips; the best-dressed attendees win free drinks and other prizes in a totally dope costume contest. There’ll also be themed drinks, such as the MMMBop ($7), a riff on a whiskey sour.  718-638-4400, unionhallny.com. $8.

  1. Union Hall, 702 Union St between Fifth and Sixth Aves, Park Slope, Brooklyn
  2. Sat May 11 at 10pm

At Last I Am Born: A Morrissey Birthday Celebration

The Pope of Mope may be on a medically mandated touring hiatus, but you can still celebrate Moz’s 55th year in style. Sway broodingly to the Sons & Heirs, a Smiths cover band that imitates the angsty Manchester blokes right down to their grungy ’80s apparel and sardonic stage banter. Devoted Morrissey fan Tony Fletcher will also read an excerpt from his Smiths biography, A Light That Never Goes Out. 718-643-6510, thebellhouseny.com. $15, advance $12.

  1. The Bell House, 149 7th St between Second and Third Aves, Gowanus, Brooklyn
  2. Wed May 22 at 8pm

Live + Sound + Cinema: Vamps and Virgins

This new series pairs two femme-centric silent films with live tunes. On the “vamps” side is Pandora’s Box (1929), featuring murder, sex and more sex; “virgin” is repped by The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), about the French martyr. Each film will be accompanied by a soundtrack composed for the screening: Singer-songwriter Mary Alouette wrote the score for the former, while Blue Man Group member Clifton Hyde will play music for the latter with his band, Guizot. nitehawkcinema.com. Pandora’s Box: May 25, 26 at 11:30am. The Passion of Joan of Arc: June 29, 30 at 11:30am. Each $16.

  1. Nitehawk Cinema, 136 Metropolitan Ave between Berry St and Wythe Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Jazz Age Lawn Party

  • Critics choice

The Roaring ’20s are only a ferry ride away this summer, thanks to the latest installments of this Prohibition-era celebration. Wearing period duds (beaded dresses, bowlers and the like) is encouraged, although vintage vendors will be on hand for those who left their cloche hats at home. If you don’t know how to do the Charleston, fret not—dance lessons will be conducted to the swinging tunes of the Dreamland Orchestra, led by the dandyish Michael Arenella. dreamlandorchestra.com. $35, advance $30.

  1. Governors Island Governors Island
  2. June 15, 16, Aug 17, 18 11am–5pm
More info

I Love Vinyl

Leave your iPod (or iPad, or what have you) at home: NYC mixmaster DJ Scribe mines his massive collection of about 10,000 records (!) to get people moving at this MP3-free shindig. For each event, Scribe—along with DJs Amir Abdullah, Ge-ology, the Twilite Tone, OP! and Jon Oliver—curates a selection of hip-hop, funk, Afrobeat, disco and house; you might hear tunes from artists like Big Daddy Kane, Kraftwerk, Fatback and Tom Tom Club. 212-505-3474, ilovevinyl.org. $10, before 11pm with online R.S.V.P.  $5.

  1. The Gallery at LPR, 158 Bleecker St at Thompson St
  2. Fourth Saturday of the month 10pm

Brain Cloud

Led by multi-instrumentalist Dennis Lichtman, this sextet plies old-timey tunes of the quintessentially American variety, blending bluegrass, jazz, Western swing and more. The Dixieland band regularly plays cozy haunt Barbès (376 9th St at Sixth Ave, Park Slope, Brooklyn; barbesbrooklyn.com; Mon 7pm; suggested donation $10) and roadhouse Rodeo Bar (375 Third Ave at 27th St, rodeobar.com; first Wednesday of the month 9pm; free). braincloudwesternswing.com

  1. Various locations

Rebel Night

Mingle with modern-day pinups and cool cats at Otto’s Shrunken Head, which hosts this monthly rockabilly bash. DJs Sei, Jun and Hiromu pay tribute to the ’50s and ’60s by spinning original 45s; guest DJs also spin each month. Otto’s  ottosshrunkenhead.com. Free.

  1. Shrunken Head, 538 E 14th St between Aves A and B
  2. Third Friday of the month 10pm

Str8 West Coastin’

DJs Eleven, Still Life and Dopeshoes—all West Coast transplants—started this summer-only affair three years ago in the hopes of re-creating the chill backyard get-togethers of their youth. They set the mood with old-school and current Cali rap jams (2Pac, Dr. Dre), picnic-style grub and domino tables; a dance party and the occasional sing-along usually break out by evening’s end. The 2013 dates and location aren’t set just yet, but check str8westcoastinnyc.tumblr.com for updates.



Users say

1 comments
Ben Dorsey
Ben Dorsey

There are some great choices here, and I take part in several, but you missed a New York institution and Mecca for fans of vintage jazz and dance music. Every Monday and Tuesday night, Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks play the music of the 20's and 30's downstairs at Sofia's Ristorante, 221 East 46th Street. The club looks like a jazz-age time capsule and it's all the more reminiscent of the speakeasy because of the great hot music emanating from downstairs. It's next to the Edison Hotel, itself an art-deco gem of a building. And, at 15 bucks, It's also the cheapest evening of jazz in Manhattan, and you never know who's going to drop in, including Liza Minnelli and Bryan Ferry recently. Vince at Sofia's has been a "Best-kept secret" long enough!