Thirteen iconic NYC rooms we missed the most this year

These rooms have defined our experiences of the city—and we can't wait to get back to them.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver
Editor, Time Out New York
The Frick Gallery
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Paul Gorbould

This week marks one year since the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic. To mark what we’re calling the Pandemiversary, Time Out is looking back at the past year in cities around the world, and ahead to what the future may hold.

It's been a long year without our favorite New York City haunts—music venues, bars, libraries, and clubs have been closed for what feels like an eternity and our jaunts around the city for fun are now few and far between.

Our lives look a lot different than they did back then when we were allowed to gather and experience live shows, knock back a couple of drinks together and just be in NYC's classic spaces, from its transit terminals to its libraries.

These are 13 iconic NYC rooms that we've missed over the past year.

1. The downstairs bar at Music Hall of Williamsburg

We never thought we'd miss a windowless basement bar as much as we do, but here we are. We miss thumping downstairs for a cold $5 beer with a throng of music-loving New Yorkers before we all funnel upstairs for an indie show. Nothing was better than the electric energy that buzzed around us on those nights. And we never worried about being too close to one another in front of the bar or in front of the stage.

2. NYPL's Rose Main Reading Room

Every time we entered this amazing room, it was with hushed reverence. The serene reading room, which takes up two city blocks, always dwarfed us, which helped remind us just how small we are in the grand scheme of things and that great thinkers—writers, journalists, historians, Nobel Laureates, and Pulitzer Prize winners—also sat at these tables to put down their thoughts and fill their minds with knowledge. We miss looking up at the ornate ceiling of clouds and sky and feeling like we were in a special place.

3. The Algonquin Hotel Round Table restaurant

The Round Table Restaurant has a storied past—during the 1920s, literary luminaries like Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and George S. Kaufman would gather here every day for lunch, earning them the moniker, "The Algonquin Round Table" and "The Vicious Circle." By 1925, the Round Table was famous and their witty banter was legendary. In 2002, a painting by Natalie Ascencios depicting the table's members was placed in the restaurant. Sitting in that room, you could almost feel the gravity it once held for these literary giants. 

4. Bemelmans Bar

Bemelman’s Bar at the Carlyle Hotel is one of the rare places that you can go to in New York and still feel like you’re a part of the city’s storied, glamorous history. From its iconic wall mural by Ludwig Bemelmans (the author of the Madeline books) to its live piano music and warm lighting, it’s a classic New York experience that is impossible to replicate at home (though this Spotify playlist helps a little) and one we can’t wait to experience again.

5. Village Vanguard

We miss cozy nights at the Village Vanguard, one of the city's most beloved jazz landmarks. After finding our seat among closely-packed music lovers, we'd be able to be basically front row and center to some of the best jazz musicians out there. Hearing the sounds of these talented players sing out through their instruments in a room with unmatched acoustics has been sorely missed.

6. Radio City Music Hall

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Taking in a show at the Radio City Music Hall was always like revisiting an old friend who just happens to be a gorgeous NYC celebrity. Her majestic grand foyer and the lavish main auditorium are some of the prettiest spaces in the city. Whether we came here for the Rockettes or Britney, the grand Art Deco fixtures always made us feel like we were in for an extra special treat. We miss that feeling.

7. The Met Opera House lobby

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There aren't many places in New York City that are quite as lavish feeling as the Met Opera House lobby at Lincoln Center. A night out at the opera is swanky in itself, but standing in its lobby before the show is always a highlight. The lobby is surrounded by beauty, from its two Marc Chagall murals to its cantilevered stairway and 11 crystal chandeliers that evoke constellations. It's one of those iconic rooms that make us feel like the main characters of our own stories, and we miss feeling that way.

8. House of Yes

We have been craving the creative, wacky and almost-anything-goes atmosphere of House of Yes. It's been a long year that we'd give anything to dance the night away with strangers dressed up as sparkly aliens or scantily-clad creatures. We miss looking up to see acrobats and twisting entertainers writhing away to bumping music. There's no other room like the dance floor at House of Yes and we're here for it — waiting.

9. The dance floor at Nowadays

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Nowadays is loved for its outdoor space for sure, but its dance floor is what we miss right now. It was a guaranteed good time with its ample space, good vibes and DJ nights. We love the sound system, the safe environment and the no-cellphone (while dancing) policy.  

10. Al Hirschfeld Theatre

Before the pandemic shut Broadway down, Moulin Rouge had transformed the Al Hirschfeld Theatre into a glowing, sumptuous model of the Parisian nightclub. It was truly a spectacular-spectacular and the show was regularly selling out. But the theater has housed many of our favorite shows, Kinky Boots, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Kiss Me, Kate and Annie, among many others. So many memories have taken place in this room and we want to make so many more here.

11. The Frick’s Garden court

There are few places that carry the same peaceful atmosphere at The Frick Collection's garden court. Hidden at the heart of the museum, this special room is decorated with ionic columns, symmetrical plantings, a small reflecting pool and an arched ceiling that lets in natural sunlight. We miss the calm that comes when stepping into this room and watching artists study and draw their own garden court rooms in pencil. Unfortunately, we won't be able to return to this room for a couple of years. The Frick has temporarily moved to the former Whitney Museum building on Madison Avenue while it renovates its mansion on 79th Street. For now, we'll have to rely on this 3D tour of the room to get our fix...sort of.

12. Grand Central Terminal

Since many of us aren't commuting to the office yet, we've missed out on some of the city's more lofty transportation hubs this past year—mainly Grand Central Terminal. Traveling through this once-crowded terminal, even if we didn't always acknowledge it, made us feel like New Yorkers. The iconic room and its celestial ceiling has been depicted in so many films and TV shows that for a split second when we walked into its expanse, we felt a part of its legend.

13. Lucy's

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Lucy's is the mother of all dive bars. It's everything you'd expect it to be—a dim, gritty room with pool tables, a jukebox and a room of patrons dedicated to supporting its owner/bartender/manager/namesake Lucy. The East Village haunt is authentic, and these days, that means a heck of a lot. We miss Lucy and the space she's created for nights when we just want to hang out and be ourselves in the big city.

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