The Top 10 Things To Do in the West Village

Washington Square Park attracts people year round
Washington Square Park attracts people year round | © Peter Horree / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Esme Benjamin
Wellness Editor10 December 2019

New York City’s rebel spirit is alive and well in the West Village. Here’s what to see, do and eat in the neighborhood known for its activism, bohemianism and art.

Smalls Jazz Club

Pub, Restaurant, Pub Grub, American, $$$
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Smalls Jazz Club In Greenwich Village
You’ll find a speakeasy vibe and plenty of live jazz at Smalls | © Jack Vartoogian / Getty Images
When Smalls opened in a tiny bare-bones space in 1994, it was a BYOB club offering $10 shows that stretched until daybreak. These days it stands out among the jazz clubs populating Greenwich Village for its speakeasy atmosphere and live recordings (Smalls is filming all its performances to create a historical archive of jazz). Hunker down with a dirty martini and watch shows from the likes of Sherman Irby, Norah Jones, Howard Alden and JD Allen.

The Stonewall Inn

Bar, Gay Bar, LGBTQ Bar, American, $$$
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The Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Manhattan New York City, USA
The historic Stonewall Inn draws visitors from around the world to have a drink, watch a drag performance and relish a strong LGBTQ community | © Tracey Whitefoot / Alamy Stock Photo

The West Village has a long history of human rights advocacy. In 1969, The Stonewall Inn was the site of the Stonewall Riots, a clash between bar patrons and the New York Police Department. This wasn’t the first gay rights protest in the city, but it did help ignite a global LGBTQ rights movement. Right outside the inn’s door, you’ll find Christopher Park, home of George Segal’s Gay Liberation Monument, which depicts two same-sex couples in white-coated bronze.

Caffe Reggio

Cafe, Italian, $$$
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This Italian café has one impressive claim to fame: it was the first place in America to serve a cappuccino. Opened in 1927, Caffe Reggio serves nonna-style Italian comfort food, including penne pasta with pesto, velvety ricotta cheesecake and melt-in-the-mouth cannolis, plus Italian wines and coffees to wash the feast down. With its European-inspired sidewalk seating and homey interior, this historical spot allows you to explore the culinary offerings of Italy without ever leaving New York.

The Uncommons

Cafe, American
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The windows at The Uncommons display a variety of board games
Get playful with beer and hundreds of board games at The Uncommons | Courtesy of The Uncommons
Boasting one of the largest libraries of board games on the East Coast, The Uncommons is part bar, part café and part game studio. Sink a beer or a coffee while playing a game of Monopoly, chess or backgammon, or challenge your group to something entirely unfamiliar. The team at The Uncommons collects rare board games from independent designers that will absorb your attention for an entire afternoon.

Sticky’s Finger Joint

Restaurant, American, Contemporary
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At Sticky’s Finger Joint, fried and grilled chicken tenders, a favorite kid’s menu staple, gets a grown-up twist with inventive flavors such as salted caramel with pretzel salt, and the spicy Vampire Killer. The menu also contains six spins on fries, including the sweet s’more fries topped with marshmallow sauce, chocolate sauce, crushed graham crackers and mini marshmallows. Sticky’s late-night hours and nostalgic dishes make it a go-to when you need a midnight nibble.

Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books

Bookstore
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This petite, renegade bookstore has existed at 34 Carmine Street for over 25 years. Owner Jim Drougas, a hat-wearing lit fan, scoops up ‘remainders’ – overstocked titles sold by publishers – he deems important, worthwhile and likely to have a positive impact on readers and the world. Although Drougas doesn’t consider himself an ideologue, his stock does suggest a certain sensibility. You won’t find Ayn Rand on the shelves at Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books, but you will find William Shakespeare, Allen Ginsberg and Sufi poet Rumi.

IFC Center

Movie Theater, Theater
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The IFC Center is where New York’s film buffs go to catch foreign, indie and documentary films, and a smattering of cult classics. The theater runs a monthly program selected by LGBTQ guest curators, and each November hosts DOC NYC, the country’s largest and most celebrated documentary festival. Keep an eye out for upcoming live Q&As with industry folk, and don’t forget to try the popcorn – it’s organic and smothered in melted natural butter.

Comedy Cellar

Bar, American, $$$
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Famous comedy club in Greenwich Village on MacDougal Street, Manhattan
You never know who might pop in for a surprise set at Comedy Cellar | © M. Stan Reaves / Alamy Stock Photo
The entrance corridor of Comedy Cellar is lined with photos of Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Sarah Silverman and virtually everyone who’s ever had a comedy special on Netflix. The club is known for hosting impromptu performances from world-famous comics, who come to practice new material in the intimate setting of this tiny basement. Although Comedy Cellar has expanded to two new venues (Fat Black Pussy Cat and the Village Underground), it’s still hard to get tickets (which are affordable but come with a two-order minimum). Book early and keep your fingers crossed for a surprise guest.

Fat Cat

Bar, Pub Grub
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This huge subterranean venue on Christopher Street is the kind of place where you lose track of time. Sip coffee, house-made sodas, beer, hard cider and wine (Fat Cat doesn’t sell liquor) while you challenge friends and fellow patrons to a game of ping-pong, shuffleboard, darts or foosball. A small lounge area with worn-in couches is an ideal perching spot for nightly live music. Fat Cat hosts up to three bands per night, followed by a jazz jam-session that lasts until 4am.

Washington Square Park

Park
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Washington square park,New York City, USA
Washington Square Park brims with New Yorkers enjoying the weather, musicians playing for tips, protestors and art fairs | © Lucas Vallecillos / Alamy Stock Photo
The site of Washington Square Park has served different purposes over the years, including as a burial ground for victims of yellow fever following the American Revolutionary War. In 1870, after the Department of Public Parks landscaped it, the park became a beloved public space for New Yorkers, and remains the best people-watching spot in the whole city. Washington Square Park is where NYU students, street performers, aerial yogis and champion chess players converge. Grab a bite from one of the food trucks surrounding the park’s fountain, settle onto a bench and soak up the West Village life.
These recommendations were updated on December 10, 2019 to keep your travel plans fresh.