Generations of artists from the bohemians to punk-rockers have come of age thanks to all the kick-ass things to do in the East Village. NYC has no shortage of badass destinations, but this nabe excels with its wide-range of jukebox playing dives with excellent happy hours, killer tattoo shops and vintage clothing stores galore. So, where should you start? We’ve got you covered with this comprehensive rundown of the best things to do in the ’hood right now.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the East Village in NYC
Things to do in the East Village, NYC
Bars that call themselves speakeasies might be a popular trend in this city, but learn about the seedy, underground crime that made the phenomenon a reality back in the 1920s during Prohibition. This museum, which is housed in a real former speakeasy at 80 St. Mark's Place, exhibits photographs and illustrations of many of the most famous gangsters of the 20th century as well as the weapons used by mafia members and stories about the lives and heists of these criminals.
Founded in 1976 by the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, this East Village gem features one of the largest collections of Ukrainian art and archival material in the U.S. The museum presents regular gallery talks, concerts and film screenings, as well as traditional folk-art workshops.
The nattily attired bartenders are deadly serious about drinks at this Gothic saloon, a pioneer in the current mania for craft cocktails. Behind the imposing wooden door, black walls and cushy booths combine with chandeliers to set the luxuriously somber mood. The barkeeps here are consistently among the city's best, turning out inventive and classic drinks such as the Sweet Hereafter, a Latin American martini riff made with floral pisco, St.-Germain, Dolin Blanc vermouth and Cocchi Americano.
What was once a hotbed of crime and drugs has transformed in the past decade into the crown jewel of the East Village. The 10.5-acre green space underwent a $2.1 million renovation in the ’90s, and the result is a cleaner, greener park—one that's especially dog-friendly, with fenced-off areas for pooches big and small, and three bone-shaped doggy swimming pools. The park also contains several monuments, including an elm tree that serves as a memorial to Hare Krishnas.
This red-brick building feels a bit like a fortress—and in a sense, it is one, protecting the legacy of NYC’s fiercest experimenters. Anthology is committed to screening the world’s most adventurous fare, from 16mm found-footage works to digital video dreams. It also houses a gallery and film museum.
Remember when your so-called friends dared you to eat a bug in preschool? Reconnect with your inner daredevil and consume tacos and guacamole dusted with grasshoppers, worms and the namesake ant at this Mexican eatery specializing in tribal delicacies. Trust us, the grub is not hard to swallow.
Formerly the dance club Opaline, this space now houses a bar and lounge. Relax in the candlelit front room, or take in live music—sounds range from bossa nova to Romany—in the back area. Raki (an anise-flavored spirit) is on hand, along with tapas and meze.
Vegetarians, vegans and raw-foodists, unite! This longtime East Village hangout offers both regular meat-free dishes and “live foods” made from uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Naturally, there are loads of salads and some macrobiotically balanced quinoa-and-seaweed combos.
Get the taste and feel of the beach, minus the sand and surf, at this postmodern Polynesian tiki bar that is known for its Instagrammable Shark Eye cocktail (mixed with passion fruit, lemon, curaçao, bourbon, rye and tiki bitters). It’s served in a shark glass and doused with “blood.” Cue the Jaws theme music.
Consider yourself vinyl-curious? You’ll feel comfortable flicking through LPs at this nonjudgemental shop at which the owners proudly provide excellent recommendations for amateur record collectors. Check the store’s social pages for news on album-release concerts. Last time we went, we saw indie band the Shacks and drank free beer!
This branch of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, which replaced the old Two Boots Pioneer Theater, brings the same sort of cheap, raw and rowdy shows featured on the West Side, though this space focuses more on sketch and stand-up than improv.
You might ask à la South Park, “What the fuck is a Bavarian beer garden doing in Alphabet City?” Upon entering, you’d have your answer: It’s schvimming mit kustomers. In addition to the trees and checkered tablecloths, there’s a guy in a ski suit doing the chicken dance near the bar. A dozen German brews are on tap, four in the bottle. After knocking back a few, you too will be shaking a tail feather.
Ella owner Joshua Boyd has teamed up with Adam Kirsch and Jeff Laub (a former manager at Ted Gibson Salon) to open this dual-purpose hair salon and lounge. In the front, an old-timey barbershop provides cuts and shaves for men; a back area is decorated with couches and a bar that serves thematically appropriate cocktails, like the Sweeney Todd (Jameson, lemon juice, honey syrup, grenadineand egg white). If you're hungry, nearby Italian restaurant Gnocco will deliver its Roman-style pizza.