Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood, often referred to as “the Village,” is highly desirable for a number of good reasons. Its historic charm, beautiful brownstones, and artistic community all contribute to this neighborhood’s distinctive personality. For such a small part of NYC, there are many, many activities in the Village. So if you’re wondering what to do in the West Village, the following recommendations will ensure that you make the most of your trip.
Quick Answer Guide: 12 Best Things to Do in West Village
Top Things to Do in the West Village
- Best for LGBTQ+ history - The Stonewall Inn
- Best for modern art and city views - The Whitney Museum of American Art
- Best for young adults, people looking for secrets in the city - Relive the Prohibition Era at a Speakeasy
Best Things to Do During the Day in The West Village
- Best for shopping and gift buying - Bleecker Street
- Best for incredible bargains - Visit Housing Works Thrift Store
The Best Things to Do Outdoors in the West Village
- Best for unique park experience - The High Line
- Best for dog parents and walkers - Hudson River Park
Best Things to Do at Night in The West Village
- Best for cinema buffs - Visit One of the Independent Movie Theaters
- Best for Best for a night out - Drink, Eat, and Enjoy Entertainment Along MacDougal Street
Free Things to Do in the West Village
- Best for TV, music, and film fans - Visit the famous pop culture locations in the West Village
- Best for LGBTQ+ culture - Attend a Parade
- Best for families, dog parents, people watchers - Washington Square Park
Top Things to Do in the West Village
There's something for everyone in The West Village! For New Yorkers, The Village is a perfect oasis of calm between the hustle and bustle of Downtown and Midtown. Selecting a few of the best things to do in The West Village is, therefore, incredibly difficult. But the following three locations make the grade, in my view, for a few simple reasons: 1. They offer a glimpse into the history of the neighborhood. 2. They all allow visitors to eat and drink within their premises. 3. They're incredibly popular with tourists and locals alike.
1. The Stonewall Inn
- Perfect For: LGBTQ+ history
- Website: https://thestonewallinnnyc.com
- If You Go: Visit on a weekday to take advantage of the bar’s happy hour, which runs from 2 to 9 pm.
As the birthplace of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement, the Stonewall Inn gay bar is an important national historic landmark for anyone with an appreciation for the fight for equality. Just stopping by the Stonewall for a drink is enough for many visitors. But the bar is also always hosting fun events. For example, at the time of writing, the second floor of the bar hosts special guest pianists with singing waitstaff and bartenders every Monday through Thursday from 9 pm onwards.
The Stonewall Inn also hosts a range of one-off LGBTQ+ events, such as Burlesque shows, dance parties, and even plays. Everyone can enjoy something at the Stonewall Inn.
How to Get to the Stonewall Inn
The Stonewall Inn is well served by the NYC Subway, with the 1 Train's Christopher Street Station, being located just a few feet away from the bar. The Sixth Avenue located West 4 Street - Washington Square Station, which features the A, B, C, D, E, F, and M trains, is also just 0.1 of a mile away from the Stonewall Inn.
2. The Whitney Museum of American Art
- Perfect For: Modern art and city views
- Website: https://whitney.org
- If You Go: You should visit after 7 pm on a Friday. From that point until the museum closes, at 10 pm, admission is free for all.
As the Whitney’s permanent collection includes over 26,000 works of art from American 20th- and 21st-century artists, the prime activity is to appreciate modern U.S. art! A range of temporary exhibitions, which highlight the works of specific artists and specific artistic themes, are also in frequent rotation, ensuring that return visitors will always consider the Whitney to be a must-do in the West Village (even if some will insist that it’s actually in the Meatpacking District.)
The fifth to eighth stories of The Whitney all also feature outdoor galleries. These outdoor galleries also provide incredible views of New York City and the surrounding area, making the Whitney a surprisingly great place to visit on a warm day.
The Whitney also contains two cafes, one on the first floor and another on the eighth floor, although at the time of writing, the first-floor cafe is closed for renovations. The eighth-floor cafe, which is also a bar, contains an outdoor dining area. The food menu is somewhat small, offering a few snacks, sandwiches, and salads. It’s also pretty pricey. Therefore, most people would do well to just buy a drink and enjoy it on the rooftop before heading to one of The Village/Chelsea’s many restaurants for food.
How to Get to the Whitney
The closest subway stop to The Whitney is the 14 St/8 Av Station, which is 0.4 of a mile away. The A, C, E, and L trains all stop at this station.
3. Relive the Prohibition Era at a Speakeasy
- Perfect For: Young adults, people looking for secrets in the city
- Website: https://foursquare.com/top-places/west-village-new-york/best-places-speakeasy-cocktails
- If You Go: Dress smart. Many have a dress code.
What to Do in the Speakeasies
Unsurprisingly, the top thing to do in one of the West Village’s speakeasies is to enjoy a range of beverages. These speakeasies all have their own ambiance and signature cocktails, which are well worth the higher price when compared to a beer or glass of wine. But even if you don’t want to drink alcohol, most will also offer food and all will also offer non-alcoholic beverages, making the frequenting of a speakeasy one of the best things to do in the West Village, even if you don’t drink.
One of the most fun parts of speakeasies is their semi-secretive nature. Because of that, I almost feel bad for revealing their locations. So if you don’t want to spoil the opportunity to discover the secret entrances yourself, then don’t read the next sentence. Okay, actually, here’s another sentence that’ll give you one more chance to not have the entrances spoiled. If you’re still reading, then here’s how to gain entrance to my top choice, The Garret: First, go into the Five Guys that’s directly underneath it, walk past the counter, and then find the staircase at the back that leads to the bar. For my other recommendation, Employees Only, find a fortune teller’s storefront (there’s a neon sign saying “Psychic”) with a green canopy, and then walk into the foyer, which contains the entrance to the bar.
How to Get to the Speakeasies
All the speakeasies within the West Village are located within walking distance of Subway Stations. My favorite, The Garret, is on Bleecker Street and Seventh Avenue, located one block South of the Christopher Street Station, served by the 1 Train. Two blocks to the West of that same station, on Hudson Street between Christopher Street and West 10th Street, is another great speakeasy, named Employee’s Only.
Best Things to Do During the Day in The West Village
In the daytime, the West Village is one of the brightest parts of New York City. People are always coming to and fro and enjoying the ambiance, even in the middle of a blizzard. Most of the locations within the West Village can be enjoyed during both the day and night, but the following two entries are a little different due to the fact that, generally, retail therapy is only accessible during daylight hours.
4. Bleecker Street
- Perfect For: Shopping and gift buying
- Website: https://www.responsiblenewyork.com/bleecker-street-nyc/
- If You Go: Be prepared to spend!
Bleecker Street is a must do in the West Village. Bleecker has an entire world of retail experiences. Some New Yorkers whine that, in recent years, chain stores have taken over Bleecker. There may be some truth to that, but it’s also a fact that many quaint and quirky boutiques still exist, meaning that shopping here is still one of the best things to do in the West Village. For instance, stores like Karma Nepal Crafts, Versani jewelry, and Mo:Vint clothing are three independent stores located within just 0.1 miles of one another.
Bleecker Street is also packed with fantastic dining options. For example, near the Northern end is the famous Magnolia Bakery. Between Sixth and Seventh Avenues is the equally famous John’s of Bleecker Street, which serves outstanding pizza and a number of other Italian dishes. However, my personal favorite restaurant located on this block is Ghandi Cafe, which serves some of the finest Indian food in the city at very reasonable prices.
How to Get to Bleecker Street
The southern tip of the West Village part of Bleecker Street is near two subway stations. The first is Houston Street, which is served by the 1 Train and is two blocks to the Southwest of Bleecker Street. The other is West 4th Street/Washington Square, which is two blocks to the Northeast of the street and is used by the A, B, C, D, E, F, and M trains. The next stop up on the 1 Train, Christopher Street Station, is one block from the center of Bleecker Street.
5. Visit Housing Works Thrift Store
- Perfect For: Incredible bargains
- Website: https://www.Housing Works.org/locations/west-village-thrift-shop
- If You Go: Take your time; the perfect item for you may be well-hidden.
Housing Works is a charity that runs a number of incredible thrift stores throughout New York City. The stores always stock up with quality items. I’ve been to most of them, and I consider the West Village Housing Works to be the joint best of the lot, with only the Park Slope Housing Works being its equal. Naturally, as the West Village is located in an incredibly affluent area, its local Housing Works receives some of the best donations of any thrift store in the entire world. In fact, of all the thrift stores I’ve ever visited, only the Oxfam in London’s similarly wealthy Hampstead neighborhood compares to the West Village and Park Slope thrift stores in terms of quality.
As anyone who visits thrift stores knows, you’re never quite sure what you’re going to find. In the past, I and my family have discovered clothing, accessories, books, household items, wall hangings, and more that have since become cherished possessions. In fact, once I even discovered two disposable barbecues in stock for just $7 each. Of course I bought them.
A number of other Housing Works thrift stores are also located near the West Village, making them well worth visiting. For example, the Chelsea Housing Works Thrift Store is located just 0.7 of a mile northeast of the West Village store. The Gramercy store is also just five blocks North of the Chelsea store. One mile to the Southeast is the Housing Works Bookstore.
How to Get to Housing Works Thrift Store
The store is located just two blocks to the West of the Christopher Street Subway Station, which is served by the 1 Train. The Christopher Street PATH train from New Jersey is also just one block to the South.
The Best Things to Do Outdoors in the West Village
The West Village is a great place to enjoy the outdoors during all seasons. Sure, like most places this far up in the Northern Hemisphere, January and February can sometimes be a little grim, but even during those months, there's plenty to enjoy. The following two locations are great places to visit in West Village, because they are filled with especially fun outdoor activities whether you're wearing shorts or a jacket:
6. The High Line
- Perfect For: A unique park experience
- Website: https://www.thehighline.org/visit/
- If You Go: Start in Midtown and end in The West Village (most people go the other way around).
Have you ever walked through an elevated park before? Wait, what even is an elevated park? It’s exactly what it sounds like, a park that’s located above ground level. In The High Line’s case, it’s built on the disused New York Central Railroad West Side Line and stretches for 1.45 miles from Midtown all the way down to the West Village. In some ways, this conveys the idea of The High Line: It’s mostly a thin stretch of land that has been filled with interesting greenery and other park features. But there’s much more to The High Line than this. The park is filled with interesting terrain and features, such as the Tiffany & Co. Foundation Overlook, the semi-enclosed 14th Street Passage, and the Chelsea Market Passage, which features a food court from April to October.
As I indicated in the “If You Go” section, in my opinion, by far the best way to enjoy the High Line is to go from Midtown to the West Village instead of vice versa. Why? Well, Hudson Yards, where the Northern tip of the High Line is located is ultra modern and, especially when compared to the West Village, soulless. Let me put it another way: The High Line is stunning in either direction. But the West Village is a genuine historic location. Hudson Yards is an entirely modern and bland newly built area. Which of those would you most want to head to? The West Village entrance is even located right next to another one of the "best things to do in the West Village" featured on this list, the Whitney Museum of American Art.
As with most parks in New York City, The High Line also hosts a wide range of events, including tour guides, Zumba classes, and conversations about native plants.
How to Get to The High Line
If you’re starting at the top of the High Line, the closest Subway station to the entrance is 34th Street - Hudson Yards, serviced by the 7 Train, just one block away from the park. If you’re starting at the bottom of The High Line, then the 14 Street/8 Av Station, serviced by the A, C, E, and L Trains, is just 0.4 miles away from the park.
7. Hudson River Park
- Perfect For: Dog parents and walkers
- Website: https://hudsonriverpark.org
- If You Go: Make sure you visit Little Island, the jewel in the crown of the West Village stretch of Hudson River Park
Technically, Hudson River Park stretches up the Western edge of Manhattan from Tribeca to Hell’s Kitchen. But few can doubt that the part of the park that passes along the West Village is anything other than outstanding. Within the area that runs along the West Village are tennis courts, the athletic-activity-filled Pier 40, a dog run, the Marsha P. Johnson Memorial Fountain, the long Pier 45 lawn, Pier 46, the playground-filled Pier 51, and one of NYC’s newest attractions, Little Island.
Little Island, which only opened in May 2021, is the highlight of this stretch of Hudson River Park. It’s an impeccably designed recreation area located entirely on the Hudson River. As with the other parks in this guide, Little Island often hosts family-friendly events, such as musical performances, clown shows, poetry recitals, dance performances, and much more.
How to Get to Hudson River Park
The closest subway station to the West Village adjacent areas of Hudson River Park is Houston Street four blocks to the East, which is served by the 1 Train. The next stop up on the 1 Train, Christopher Street, is just a little further away from the park. 14 Street/8 Av, which serves the A, C, E, and L Trains, is also within walking distance. Anyone traveling from New Jersey can arrive at the nearby Christopher Street PATH Station.
Best Things to Do at Night in The West Village
The West Village is basically an adult's playground at nighttime. Many of its streets have fun bars, high-quality restaurants, and friendly individuals who will be happy to make you feel welcome. In fact, the West Village itself, as one of the safest and most picturesque parts of the city, is a great place to wander around at night. But if you want specific activities in West Village to do, the following locations are great destinations for nocturnal visitors:
8. Visit One of the Independent Movie Theaters
- Perfect For: Cinema buffs
- Website: https://www.ifccenter.com, https://filmforum.org
- If You Go: Check to see if there are any Q&As after the screenings
On the face of it, activity options at the IFC Center or Film Forum sound pretty straightforward. And, yes, while the prime activity is to watch movies, the IFC Center and Film Forum stand out in a number of ways. Both cinemas act to promote independent filmmakers from across the world. This means that, often, they bring directors, producers, actors, and other key members of the movies they show into the theaters to answer Q&As after the movie finishes. If you want to experience and perhaps even ask a question to hard-working independent filmmakers, then look ahead on the Film Forum and IFC Center events pages to see when the Q&As are taking place.
Of course, both the Film Forum and IFC Center are open during the day. But the reasons why they’re listed in the “Best Things to Do at Night in the West Village” section are twofold: 1. The Q&As almost always happen after an early evening film screening. 2. Late at night, the IFC Center screens classic movies of all genres.
Honestly, a fantastic way to spend the evening in The West Village is to attend a new movie at around 8 pm, enjoy the Q&A afterward, go to dinner in one of the many late-night eateries nearby, and finally attend a late night screening of a classic movie at the IFC.
How to Get to the Independent Movie Theaters
Both the IFC Center and the Film Forum are located right next to subway stations. The IFC is just steps away from one of the southern entrances to the West 4th Street/Washington Square Station, which is served by the A, B, C, D, E, F, and M Trains. Film Forum is just steps away from the Houston Street Station, served by the 1 Train.
9. Drink, Eat, and Enjoy Entertainment Along MacDougal Street
- Perfect For: A night out
- Website: https://untappedcities.com/2014/03/06/history-of-nyc-streets-macdougal-street-in-greenwich-village/
- If You Go: Make sure you check all the options between West Houston Street to West 3rd Street before picking a venue
As the title of this piece suggests, MacDougal Street is not just one of the best places to visit in the West Village, but also one of the best places in all of the Big Apple to enjoy the nightlife energy of the city. Here, restaurants serving all kinds of cuisine stay open into the small hours, bars are packed with people of all backgrounds, and clubs offer comedy and musical performances. For example, The Grisly Pear comedy club often hosts stand-up comedians, and Bar Next Door is a jazz club.
Honestly, apart from in the dead of winter, you can have plenty of fun just by watching all of the colorful characters walking up and down MacDougal Street. With today’s post-Covid outdoor seating setups, this is easier to do than ever before.
Recommending a certain restaurant, bar, or club along MacDougal Street is basically impossible, due to there being so many fine options. But if I absolutely had to pick one, I would say Caffe Reggio is the best venue of them all. This cafe, which also serves alcohol, has been running since 1927, and all these years later, it still houses the first cappuccino machine to arrive in America. The artwork hanging on its walls is also worthy of a museum!
How to Get to MacDougal Street
Near the top of MacDougal Street, located one block to the West, is the West 4th Street - Washington Square Subway Station, which is served by the A, B, C, D, E, F, and M Trains. One block to the South of the southern end of MacDougal Street is the Spring Street Station, which is served by the A, C, and E Trains.
Free Things to Do in the West Village
It's no secret that the West Village is one of the most expensive places in the entire world. Yet it's absolutely possible to enjoy this neighborhood on a budget. If your budget is nonexistent, then here's the good news: There are just a few examples of what to do in West Village that are fun and that won't cost you a penny.
10. Visit Famous Pop Culture Locations In the West Village
- Perfect For: TV, music, and film fans
- Website: https://www.hellotickets.com/us/new-york/tv-and-movies/sc-1-746
- If You Go: Be respectful to the people who actually live in these locations
Most people who visit one of the many locations within the West Village that have been immortalized on the big and small screens are happy to look at them for a little while and take a photograph of themselves in that location. Of course, there’s not really much else to do here. It's not like Rachel from "Friends" is going to walk past.
But what are these pop culture locations? Technically, there are so many that it’s impossible to list them. Here’s what I consider to be the Big Three:
1. The "Friends" apartment building, located at the corner of Bedford Street and Grove Street. 2. Carrie Bradshaw’s home in Sex and The City is located among a number of townhouses on Perry Street between Bleecker Street and West 4th Street.
3. The location of the cover photograph for the album "The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan" is at the end of Jones Street, along the crosswalk that borders West 4th Street.
In fact, to highlight just how packed full of movie locations the West Village is, consider this: If you’re arriving by the Subway at the West 4th Street - Washington Square Station, then you’re already in a pretty important location. It’s used in the Oscar-nominated Greta Gerwig movie Lady Bird. Late in the movie, the main character walks through one of the entrances of the station to show her arriving in New York City to study for college. The specific exit she uses is the one right next to 3rd Street. You could also upgrade to a walking tour, but that will cost money!
So check to see if any of your favorite movies, shows or other media have any involvement with The West Village to make sure that you can make a pilgrimage to the location!
How to Get to the Pop Culture Locations
After arriving in the West Village via the West 4th Street - Washington Square or Christopher Street Subway Stations, the best way to reach the locations is to walk. The West Village is pretty compact, so it won’t take too long. You could also ride a bike if you’re in a rush!
11. Attend a Parade
- Perfect For: LGBTQ+ culture
- Websites: https://halloween-nyc.com, https://www.nycpride.org, https://danceparade.org
- If You Go: Get to your parade early to get a good spot
As anyone who has ever witnessed one knows, the easiest way to enjoy a parade is to simply stand and watch it! The Halloween Parade and the Dance Parade are family-friendly. The Pride parade is technically not off-limits to children, but some parents may find the content to be inappropriate.
Of course, your ability to attend any of these fun activities in the West Village depends on if your trip aligns with the dates of the parades. Pride usually takes place on the last Sunday in June. The Dance Parade takes place on the third Saturday in May. The Halloween Parade always takes place on Halloween itself. Both the Pride Parade and the Dance Parade begin during the daytime, at 11 am and 11:45 am respectively. The Halloween Parade starts at 7 pm.
Of course, you may also want to participate in the parades themselves. The good news here is that participation in all of the parades for individuals is free. But if you want to donate, then the organizers would certainly appreciate it! To participate in Pride, you have to register as part of a group. The dance parade also requires registration, but this can be done as an individual. No registration is required for the Halloween Parade. However, participants must be in costume. So unless you naturally resemble Dracula or Frankenstein’s Monster, you’ll almost definitely have to spend some money to look the part.
How to Get to the Parades areas
For the Halloween Parade which goes down Sixth Avenue, the lowest Subway stop is Houston Street, served by the 1 Train, which is just one block to the West of the start of the parade route up Sixth Avenue. The 14th Street/6 Ave Station, served by the F, L, and M trains is located near the northern end of the parade, and the 14 Street PATH Station is located in almost the same spot.
For the Pride Parade, the parts that are in the West Village area can be accessed by the same stops as the Halloween Parade above, but the parade goes through Fifth Avenue, one block to the East of these stations. However, instead of getting out at Houston Street, The Christopher Street Station served by the 1 Train, and 14 Street Station, served by the 1, 2, and 3 Trains, are also located next to the end of the parade on 7th Avenue.
For the Dance Parade, which runs down Sixth Avenue, the same stops that serve the Halloween Parade and Pride Parade will get visitors to the location. However, like the Pride Parade, the Houston Street Station is too low, making the Christopher Street Station one stop above a better option.
12. Washington Square Park
- Perfect For: Families, dog parents, people watchers
- Website: https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/washington-square-park
- If You Go: Coordinate your trip with one of the many activities happening in the park.
The space around Washington Square Park’s famous arch and fountain is always a fun place to visit. In fact, it’s a contender for the title of Best People-Watching Spot in the World. People from all walks of life use this area to meet, stroll, and undertake other interesting activities, which range from dance performances to marriage proposals.
But there’s much more to Washington Square Park than the part with the arch and the fountain. For instance, just to the Southeast of the fountain is a large (by Manhattan standards) dog run. Anyone bringing a friendly canine companion on a trip to New York will definitely benefit from giving their pet a little time to play and socialize with other dogs. Human children can also enjoy the park’s three playgrounds.
How to Get to Washington Square Park
Just one block to the West of Washington Square Park is the West 4th Street - Washington Square Subway Station, which is used by the A, B, C, D, E, F, and M Trains. Three blocks to the East of the park is the 8th Street Station, which is used by the R Train seven days a week, the W Train on Weekdays, the N Train on weekends and late nights, and the Q Train at night.
The city also runs a wide range of free events in the park, such as art workshops, dance classes, game nights, and even music festivals. Naturally, the content of these events depends on the time of year, but there’s almost always something happening in Washington Square Park that will appeal to a broad range of visitors.
All of the above activities are fine springboards for visitors looking to have West Village-centric adventures. They all give a feel of the neighborhood in very diverse ways. However, my final piece of advice is to carve out your own path in addition to enjoying the activities I've listed. The West Village is all about being yourself and enjoying life as you see fit. If you really want to reflect this spirit, then visit some of the locations I've highlighted, but also forge your own path!