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Nightlife Options Abound for Underage Columbia Students

By Nikki Lohr | August 12, 2013 3:20pm
 DNAinfo has a list of places to hang out at night that are nearby to Columbia and inexpensive.
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UPPER WEST SIDE — When you find yourself needing to escape campus life, there’s no better place to be than New York City. But at night, the possibilities start to dwindle for students who are under 21.

“A lot of people stay on campus and complain about how there’s nothing to do,” said Nariné Atamian, a 2012 Columbia University grad. “There’s plenty to do. You just have to get on a subway or bus.”    

DNAinfo New York scoped out these nighttime activities for the under-21 set that are only about a 30-minute journey from Columbia University's towering pillars and don’t require a fake ID.

Midnight Movies

Whether you’ve memorized the lyrics to “Sweet Transvestite” or your only exposure to “Rocky Horror” is through “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” you will find something to enjoy in the NYC Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Every Friday and Saturday at midnight, the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” is shown at Chelsea Bowtie Cinemas on 23rd Street between 7th and 8th avenues. Volunteer actors (known as the shadow cast) mimic the on-screen action, while the audience and cast members yell all sorts of commentary at the screen.

“Sometimes the comments from the audience are established and good,” said Tom Amici, the New York City RHPS cast director. “And sometimes they’re just dumb and offensive.” 

But good or bad, anything goes. Audience members dress up in lace-up corsets and fishnet stockings, dance to the “Time Warp,” and, occasionally, throw scene-appropriate objects into the air, like rice during the wedding scene.

Viewers who have never seen RHPS with a shadow cast, otherwise known as “virgins,” have even more opportunities to participate. Before every show, cast members ask “virgins” to go to the front of the theater and compete in a fake orgasm competition.

One time, actress Nikki Blonsky, who starred in the 2007 film version of “Hairspray,” competed in the virgin contest. Amici, who was running the contest that night, asked Blonsky her name, didn’t believe her, and dared her to sing “You Can’t Stop the Beat” to prove it. She did.

If you are a virgin, Amici recommends watching the film beforehand. “Don’t worry, you’ll still be a virgin,” he said. “But it will be easier to follow along with the plot, as much as there is one.”

Gaby Melchior, a computer-engineering major in Columbia’s class of 2015, said going to RHPS shouldn’t be a one-time experience. “The first time I came here, everyone in the audience was yelling things at the screen and I didn’t know what to say,” she said. “Now I know what to yell.”

RHPS costs $9. You must be 17 to enter, so be sure to bring an ID.

All That Jazz

Though primarily a Mediterranean restaurant, Cleopatra’s Needle on 92nd Street and Broadway has been a mainstay of the jazz scene for years. Every night, professional musicians perform and then open the stage to accompany audience members for improvised jam sessions.

Marc Devine, a jazz pianist whose trio runs the jam sessions every Tuesday, said he’s seen everyone from Columbia students to jazz legend Lou Donaldson perform in the jam sessions. “The sessions are always interesting,” said Devine. “You never know who’s going to show up.”

Jam sessions and performances start at different times every night. To see the schedule click here. There’s no cover charge, but there is a $10 food/beverage minimum.

Tuesday through Saturday, starting at 11:30 p.m., are late-night sessions at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. Located at Columbus Circle’s Time Warner Center, Dizzy’s offers inexpensive music and gorgeous views of Central Park.

The cover charge for students is $5 Tuesday through Friday and $10 on Saturdays. There is usually a $10 food/beverage minimum Thursday through Saturday and $5 minimum on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

Lincoln Center

A 15-minute ride on the 1 train opens the door to a cultural treasure trove — and an abundance of student discounts.

All films that play at the Film Society of Lincoln Center are $9 for students. Die-hard cinophiles can also pay $35 for a student membership, which entitles students to $7 tickets. Click here for the film schedule.

The Metropolitan Opera will host its 130th season starting Sept. 23. Performances are on most nights Monday through Saturday.

Student discount tickets can be purchased two apiece at the box office beginning at 10 a.m. on the performance day. Weekday tickets are $25 and Friday and Saturday shows are $35. Tickets can also be purchased on the web or over the phone by registering with the MetOperaStudents program online.

The New York Philharmonic’s season starts Sept. 25. $16 tickets are available at the Avery Fisher Hall Box Office on performance days. The box office opens at 10 a.m. Monday to Saturday and at noon on Sundays. Performances that are available for student rush are posted on NY Phil’s website.

Juilliard has about 700 concerts during the school year and most of them are free or half-price with the most expensive tickets costing $15. Closer by, Manhattan School of Music's student tickets rarely exceed $10.

This year’s New York City Ballet fall season lasts from Sept. 17 to Oct. 13. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the box office, which opens at 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday and at 11:30 a.m. on Sundays. Student Rush ticket availability is posted weekly on NYCB’s website.

Museums Open Late

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is open Fridays and Saturdays until 9 p.m. Student admission is $12.

The Whitney Museum of American Art stays open until 9 p.m. every Friday. Student admission is $14. If you’re a freshman who still happens to be 17, go before your birthday! The Whitney offers free admission to anyone under 18.

Thursday and Friday nights, the Museum of Art and Design in Columbus Circle stays open until 9 p.m. with “pay-what-you-wish” admission. The museum offers the best of the arts-and-crafts world, including glassmaking, woodwork and jewelry.

The Neue Museum, which specializes in early 20th-century German and Austrian art, is open for free from 6 - 8 p.m. the first Friday of every month. Notable artists on display are Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.

The Bronx Museum of Art is open for free from 6 to 10 p.m. the first Friday of every month. Beyond viewing the exhibits, there are additional events that have ranged from outdoor movie screenings to DJ sets.

If You’re Willing to Venture Further

If you’re looking for a more mellow midnight movie, and don't mind lots of subway transfers, the Landmark Sunshine Cinema plays previously released films every Friday and Saturday. Past movies have ranged from “Annie Hall” to “Aliens.” Tickets are $10. The commute to the theater (which is located at 143 East Houston St. between Forsyth and Eldridge streets) could take about 45 minutes.

Many D.I.Y. music venues in Brooklyn are open to all ages and rarely cost more than $7. These spaces attract all sorts of bands — indie, folk, jazz, hard rock, experimental rock, electronica. The environments usually have club-like auras, though the atmospheres range from relaxed head bobbing to full-on rave. Visit the Columbia Back-to-School page to read more.

For more information on places that offer student discounts for everything from museums to Broadway musicals, visit StudentRush.org.

To read more of our Columbia student guide, visit the Columbia School Guide page.