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What to do on Friday in New York City: 50 great ideas

Toast the end of the workweek with happy-hour craft brews, concerts, karaoke jams, shindigs and more ideas for what to do on Friday.


1. Browse art and watch movies for free at MoMA

Photograph: Courtesy of Jo Murray

2. Do the monkey at Shakin’ All Over Under Sideways Down


3. Slurp $1 oysters at Littleneck

Photograph: Ben Cerf

4. Ride your steed at Critical Mass

Photograph: Nerd Nite

5. Meet that special, geeky someone

Photograph: Jolie Ruben

6. Enjoy a high-end happy hour at Donna

Photograph: Virginia Rollison

7. Enjoy a high-end happy hour at Corkbuzz


8. Watch a midnight movie


9. Pay what you wish at the Whitney Museum of American Art

Photograph: Kathleen McCarthy

10. Pay what you wish at the International Center of Photography

Browse art and watch movies for free at MoMA

Critics' pick

Duck out of work early and save $25 by visiting the Museum of Modern Art between 4 and 8pm on Fridays. Tickets for film screenings (the institution constantly books excellent retrospectives) are included. Naturally, lines form fast, but if you get there as the clock strikes four, you’ll be fine.

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Midtown West

Do the monkey at Shakin’ All Over Under Sideways Down

Rock & roll DJ-impresario Mr. Jonathan Toubin is back at the helm of his weekly evening of soul, garage rock, girl-group material, glam, punk, rockabilly and more. He and guest spinners (many of them stars of the underground-rock scene) work the decks for a sweaty crowd until 4am. $5.

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Home Sweet Home Fri at 11pm

Ride your steed at Critical Mass

Join other pedal pushers for a public bike ride, to assert your rights as a cyclist and your right to have an enjoyable cycle with a friendly crew. The Manhattan event happens the last Friday of every month at 7pm, and the more open, less traffic-clogged Brooklyn ride is on the second Friday of every month. Visit times-up.org for details.

Meet that special, geeky someone

Brainiacs unite at the monthly, mingling-friendly series Nerd Nite. Many evenings commence with a Nerd Nite Quizo Trivia challenge (7:30pm), at which you can flaunt your knowledge of Star Trek and Piers Anthony novels without incurring withering looks. Stick around for a trio of presentations (9:15pm) on topics such as video games, human limitations and tween phenoms. nyc.nerdnite.com. $14, presentations only $10.

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Enjoy a high-end happy hour at Donna…

Make an early-evening beeline to Donna, the whitewashed South Williamsburg lounge that proved to be one of 2012’s hottest new bars. Before 7pm, the cocktails from bar manager Jeremy Oertel (Dram, Mayahuel) are $3 off, including the pleasingly bitter Artichoke Hold ($7), composed of Cynar, Smith & Cross rum, St. Germain, orgeat and lime juice; as well as the Manhattan-like Morgan Town ($7), a velvety mix of bourbon and amaro lightened with mole bitters and Dolin blanc vermouth.

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...or Corkbuzz

Laura Maniec’s tony Union Square wine bar is known for both its eclectic selection of international vinos (there are 30 by the glass) and its weekly wine workshops and classes. Between 5 and 6pm, get a taste of both with a happy-hour special that offers a blind flight of three wines ($15), presented with a tasting grid to help you break down the flavors and figure out which wine is which (previous selections have included the dry Australian Pewsey Vale riesling and the plummy Argentine Catena malbec).

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Greenwich Village

Pay what you wish at the Whitney Museum of American Art

Critics' pick

From 6 to 9pm, admission is whatever the hell you choose at this architectural standout. Which is a bargain, considering that you can spend those hours staring at new exhibitions or the Whitney’s excellent permanent collection of modern art, which includes Edward Hopper’s entire estate.

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Meatpacking District

Sing your heart out during Karaoke Killed the Cat…

Cohost Chris Goldteeth (who corrals the crowd along with Lord Easy) describes this weekly shindig as a “karaoke dance party,” but there’s more to the show than that. Brave souls can select a song from the duo’s more than 18,000 available tracks; Goldteeth and Easy keep the crowd pumped by acting as backup dancers or instigating water-gun fights. “We do our best to rev the crowd up so everyone feels like a star,” explains Goldteeth. Duly noted. Free.

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Park Slope

…or with Arlene’s World Famous Live Rock ’n’ Roll Karaoke…

The Strokes played some of their first gigs at LES mainstay Arlene’s Grocery, so you can take comfort in the fact that you’re rocking out where a rowdy Jules & Co. did likewise. Just make sure you bring it—cuts by Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC and other tried-and-true rock staples (the more anthemic, the better) require some serious wailing. $10.

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Lower East Side

Watch an oldie at Film Forum

This cinephile haven has arguably the best roster of classic films in town—it’s almost as if the Criterion Collection opened its own theater. Many of FF’s revival screenings are presented in spiffy new prints and are occasionally introduced by the stars. The lineup of new international indies is top-notch, too. If you view moviegoing as a nonchatty—or even solo—endeavor, this is the place for you. 212-727-8110, filmforum.org

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East Village

Drink on rooftops

Take advantage of New York’s enviable views by getting an aboveground buzz. Among Manhattan’s wealth of hotel toppers, we recommend Upstairs, on the 31st floor of the Kimberly, which has a retractable glass roof. The urbane setting, with ivy-covered walls and nary a cabana in sight, is best experienced at night, when the canopy of lightbulbs strung above the terrace sets off the sight of the Chrysler Building. For more great vistas, check out our guide to rooftop bars in New York.

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Midtown East

Venuehop in Williamsburg

Three of the city’s coolest, best-booked indie-rock spaces—Death by Audio (49 South 2nd St between Kent and Wythe Aves, Williamsburg, Brooklyn), Glasslands (289 Kent Ave between South 1st and 2nd Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-599-1450, glasslands.blogspot.com) and 285 Kent (285 Kent Ave at South 1st St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn)—are all within a block of each other. So catching a few buzzy bands in one evening (especially since you don’t have to work in the morning) just got a whole lot easier. In 2012, these venues hosted big rock names like King Tuff, Ty Segall, the Men and Cloud Nothings—and rising groups are on their stages often.

Get Trash!-ed…

For more than ten years, New Yorkers have toasted the end of the workweek at this steamy, down-and-dirty bash, where DJ Jess mans the decks, pumping out indie-electro and new-wave cuts, while a bevy of freaky Trash! regulars add to the delightfully seedy vibe. How? By almost any sexed-up means necessary—so don’t rule out witnessing topless ladies careening around a stripper pole. Go to iwannabetrash.com to get on the reduced-admission list. $10, on reduced-admission list $5.

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The Studio at Webster Hall Fri at 11pm

…and head upstairs to the Girls & Boys throwdown

One of the biggest regular parties in the city also offers one of the biggest discounts. The Girls & Boys affair, which draws high-profile international acts like Simian Mobile Disco, Justice and Hot Chip, allows you to sign up via the Webster Hall website and receive a Dollar Daze voucher. Print it out and present it at the door before 11pm to gain admission for only five bucks. Prices vary.

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Belt out show tunes at Marie’s Crisis Café

If you like how people in musicals can go without warning from normal conversation to singing their hearts out, this is the West Village bar for you. One minute the cute waiter is serving you a drink, the next he’s launching into “Wig in a Box.” The main attraction of this basement joint is the piano, around which show-tune lovers gather nightly to sing faves from musicals both classic and contemporary, starting at 5:30pm.

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Get spooked at Sleep No More

A multitude of searing sights crowd the spectator’s gaze at this bedazzling and uncanny theater installation, a combination of Macbeth and Hitchcock’s Rebecca. Your sense of space and depth—already compromised by the half-mask that audience members must don—is further blurred as you wend your way through more than 90 discrete spaces, ranging from a cloistral chapel to a vast ballroom floor. Our advice? Wander solo; you’ll see more that way. $75–$162.50.

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McKittrick Hotel Until Thursday December 31 2015

Relax (deeply) at the Integral Yoga Institute

Wind down your Friday with a peaceful, gratis 45-minute deep-relaxation class. The session begins with gentle stretching, then moves on to a long period of yoga nidra (deep relaxation) and concludes with breathing practices and a brief meditation. Arrive early—the class fills up fast.

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West Village

Double up at Tacos Matamoros

Have a little cash and an unlimited MetroCard, will travel for tacos: If this describes you (and if it doesn’t, you should take a long, hard look at yourself), head to Sunset Park and the vast Tacos Matamoros. Grab a couple of Vegetarianos ($1.50 each) and take the tacos—stuffed with rice, beans, cilantro and onions, topped with creamy cheese and with a side of bracing tomatillo salsa—to Sunset Park to watch the sun go down. Mull over which is better, the tacos or a view of the sky changing colors behind a sublime panoramic view of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. 718-871-7627

Bowl at the Gutter…

Laid-back Williamsburg alley the Gutter has early-1980s Milwaukee decor and boasts a dozen killer microbrews on tap, plus a  happy hour ($1 off drafts and $3 off pitchers) before 8pm. Also, early-weekend warriors can play two games for the price of one ($7) between 2 and 6pm.

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…or at Brooklyn Bowl…

Nearby, this popular space takes its design cues from Coney Island, with old freak-show posters and carnival-game relics, and all of the beer sold inside—by Sixpoint, Kelso and the Brooklyn Brewery—is made in the borough. You can tackle a pitcher ($20–$30) and the stoner-food menu from the Blue Ribbon team (delicious fatty brisket, fried chicken) laneside between frames (games are 30mins for $25). The plush tufted couches  are the most luxurious alley seating we’ve ever seen.

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Sweat it out at Body by Brooklyn

Weekends are all about new beginnings, and there’s no better place to achieve catharsis than in a spa. At Body by Brooklyn, you can spend Friday nights until 9pm savoring through a Swedish dry sauna, a Turkish steam room, pools galore and a lounge. Visit bodybybrooklyn.com for details.

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Midtown East

Drink on the waterfront

Sun-deprived city slickers can pretend they’re boozing oceanside at Beekman Beer Garden Beach Club. The former Water Taxi Beach location has kept the 300 tons of sand left by its onetime occupant, but the rejiggered drinkery now features a menu from Buddakan alum Jason Mayer. Settle into a communal wood table with a wurst, burger or lobster roll, or hit up one of the game tables for a round of Ping-Pong, pool or foosball. Beer lovers can grab one of eight drafts—such as Sixpoint Crisp Lager, Ommegang Witte Ale and Magic Hat #9—at two long driftwood bars.

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Financial District

See scantily clad babes on the LES

The busy burlesque star Calamity Chang hosts the weekly parade of pulchritude Room 69: The Hotel Chantelle Way, held on the hotel’s posh street-level floor. Sip your cocktail while she and her guests strutting their stuff. Free.

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Hotel Chantelle Fri at 9:30pm Free

Laugh to the Stepfathers

Seven of the theater’s best players (including TONY’s resident hack Silvija Ozols) create smart, patient improv in the comedy mecca’s flagship show. $10.

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Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre Friday July 31 2015 - Friday December 25 2015

Watch poets battle in slam night at Nuyorican Poets Cafe

At this nearly 40-year-old joint, poetry is a contact sport—especially on Friday’s slam night. Lyricists from the boroughs and beyond square off, and the winner is determined by four judges from the audience, chosen by the host. Reserved seats $20, at the door $10.

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East Village

Join a good old-fashioned danceathon

At the Freedom Party, DJs—Marc Smooth, Cosi and Herbert Holler—spin dance music from the ’70s through the present day (everything from classic R&B and house to Afrobeat and dancehall). This is one of the least pretentious, fun wingdings you’ll find on the weekend in Manhattan. Men $20, before 2am $10; women $10, before midnight free.

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Le Poisson Rouge 11pm–4am Free

Sip vino at City Winery

For 48 bones, you can kick off your weekend with a paired tasting at this Soho restaurant, bar and music venue. Tours include your choice of three vinos (made on-site) and crostini covered with chickpea puree, shaved cucumber, baby fennel and toasted cumin-orange vinaigrette, among other toppings. $48. E-mail tours@citywinery.com for reservations.

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Sing your favorite musical song en masse at the Duplex

Wanna-be Broadway belters, take note: Inside the city’s oldest cabaret theater, the jaunty Ben Cameron and the vivacious Emily McNamara host this spirited, appropriately titled Mostly Sondheim  open-mike show-tune night, joined by the perpetually puckish Brian Nash at the piano. Two-drink minimum.

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West Village

Catch a cheap flick at Cobble Hill Cinemas

If you’re looking to watch a new blockbuster or awards-season contender, this five-screen throwback is a nice alternative to those maddening multiplexes. Crowds are noticeably more respectful, and retro touches like prescreening announcements to turn off your pagers and refrain from smoking add to the old-school charm. And best of all? Admission is reduced to seven bones before 5pm on Fridays. 718-596-9113, cobblehilltheatre.com

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Catch performances by avant-garde musicians at the Stone

No bar? No advance tickets? No promoters? No phone number? No specific address? This is still a Manhattan music venue, right? John Zorn’s small East Village space is so no-frills that it’s, by necessity, only about the music—hobnobbing, partying and tweeting that the bands are, in fact, “killing it” are not in the cards here. Envelope-pushing acts (think free jazz, experimental classical music, droney guitar work), however, are. thestonenyc.com. $10 unless otherwise noted.

Play video games at Barcade

Serious old-school gamers can revisit Donkey KOng, Punch Out!!, Pac-Man and 35 other classic video games at this cavernous Williamsburg drinkery, which has a daily-changing list of 24 American brews on tap. 25¢ per play.

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Head to First Fridays at the Bronx Museum of the Arts

The Bronx Museum’s free program is perfect for culture hounds looking for an intimate gathering with top-notch performers. Genre-spanning guests have included the Charlie Porter Jazz Quartet, pianist Valerie Capers and hip-hop pioneer DJ Ralph McDaniels. Free.

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The Bronx Free

Explore the city’s literary bars

Booze and books have had a long, well-documented relationship—especially in New York. Nab a stool at Kettle of Fish (59 Christopher St between Seventh Ave South and Waverly Pl; 212-414-2278, kettleoffishnyc.com), where Beat Generation heavyweights Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac tipped back a few in the ’50s and ’60s. Or grab a pint at Old Town Bar (5 E 18th St between Broadway and Park Ave South; 212-529-6732, oldtownbar.com), a favorite watering hole of Frank McCourt and Nick Hornby. For more of the best literary bars in town, check out our roundup.

Pop a quarter into the jukebox at Commonwealth

Prepare to spend at least half an hour scrolling through the selections on this low-key bar’s juke. Many of the curated tracks date back to owner Ray Gish’s days as a bartender at Park Slope’s much-missed Great Lakes; he brought the mix-CDs over when he opened Commonwealth in 2004. Expect to see plenty of indie rock (such as Guided by Voices, Pixies and Pavement), along with Britpop, classic rock and old-school punk. Early birds can guzzle $4 happy-hour brews until 7pm. 718-768-2040, commonwealthbar.com. 25¢ per song.

...or at the Sackett

The topic of conversation along the small wooden bar at this friendly, no-frills pub often revolves around the tunes playing overhead. So choose wisely—not that you can really go wrong; Sackett’s indie-rock selection is solid, hitting Modest Mouse’s raw This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About, Belle and Sebastian, Pavement and the late garage-punk legend Jay Reatard, and is peppered with rock-snob favorites such as Syd Barrett and the Velvets. Three songs $1, seven songs $2, 18 songs $5.

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Park Slope

Play bingo at XL…

Downtown bingo vet Linda Simpson and DJ Formika take over this midtown gay playground for a few hours of games and two-for-one drinks during Drag Bingo. Bingo card $2.

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XL Nightclub, Cabaret & Lounge Fri at 7:30pm Free

Down craft brews on the cheap at Bierkraft

Buying a round of brews (at least good ones) is an expensive endeavor in Park Slope. So thank heavens for this beer-snob haven, which pours 64-ounce growlers (four pints’ worth of suds) for as low as $9.95.

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Park Slope

Headbang at Saint Vitus

Need to let off some steam after a rough workweek? This dark, booze-fueled Greenpoint rock club  has your number, boasting hard-hitting shows throughout the week in its roomy back venue and a black-and-red decor that’s so identifiable with the genre you love so. Nosh on delicious steamed buns ($4 each, two $7, three $10) between moshing sessions.

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Check out MoMI for free

Critics' pick

Explore Astoria institution Museum of the Moving Image’s exhibits, including the ongoing “Behind the Screen,” where you can insert your voice into a part of The Wizard of Oz, make a short animated film and e-mail it to yourself and learn about live video editing in the TV control room.

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Get down at Blkmarket Membership

This underground-electronic shindig has been held in a score of clubs, warehouse venues and makeshift spaces throughout the city. The brainchild of Taimur Agha and Fahad Haider, the six-years-and-running affair attracts a range of house and techno all-stars. 11pm. $TBA. Advance tickets and schedule available at residentadvisor.net/blkmarket.

Take a free 90-minute Grand Central tour with Justin Ferate

Acclaimed guide Justin Ferate not only dissects the lore and legends of Grand Central Terminal, which hit the 100-year mark in 2012, but also places them within the context of its lesser-known neighborhood. Meet inside the lobby of the Altria Building, Park Ave at 42nd St (grandcentralterminal.com). Free.

Hear traditional Russian tunes

Enjoy three-piece outfits throughout the evening at the Russian Samovar. Trust us: The lamps with gold mesh shades grow more gorgeous with every shot of 20 house-infused vodkas—and the music tends to sound better too. Free.

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Midtown West