A Jazz-Filled 3-Day Weekend in New York City
New York City
Arts & Culture
Food & Wine
New York City's jazz scene is thriving. Over the course of a three-day weekend, you can enjoy these favorite historic venues and hidden gems. Experience some of the world's top players alongside the city's up-and-coming musicians.
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Where to stay in New York City
Kimpton Hotel Eventi
Stylish high-rise property in New York City with locally-decorated, upscale rooms and suites.
$50 hotel / resort credit.
Upgrade & late check-out whenever possible.
The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel, Upper East Side
A New York City classic hotel with elegant rooms, delightful service and the swanky Bemelman's Bar.
$100 food / beverage credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
The Whitby Hotel, Firmdale Hotels
Hip, English-country styled property with chic rooms and multi-bedroom suites.
$100 hotel / resort credit.
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Things to do in New York City
Cafe Carlyle at The Carlyle hotel has reinvigorated the supper club concept with gourmet food and top-notch performers. Reserve a table and your tickets well in advance. Dinner entails a prix-fixe menu with several options for each course. Butternut squash soup and shrimp cocktail were strong appetizer options the night we went, and mains included excellent preparations of steak, salmon, and chicken. The atmosphere during dinner was convivial, and people certainly dressed to impress for this unique night out in NYC. The whole room exudes class and whimsy, and service was attentive and personable throughout the evening.
After dinner comes the real reason you’re here: a high-caliber live performance. We were treated to jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli and Broadway-singer Jessica Molaskey. Their well-timed, snappy repartee was enhanced by their real-life camaraderie (they’re husband and wife). The two were accompanied by stellar Juilliard-trained musicians, one on keyboard and one on stand-up bass. The instrumental jazz numbers in particular were expertly executed and delivered with verve. Pizzarelli’s solo guitar rendition of “Send in the Clowns” actually gave me a new appreciation for a song that often feels trite and overdone. That’s not to undercut the vocals that punctuated the evening, including creative takes on standards like “You’ve Got to Be Taught” and versions of Billy Joel and Paul Simon cuts that made me understand the lyrics in ways I never had before.
The Cafe Carlyle’s luxurious dining and entertainment experience was a highlight of our jazz-focused three-day weekend in New York City. The room is fairly small and the acoustics are excellent, so wherever you get a table (or if you snag a spot at the bar), you’ll have a good seat. The price tag matches the level of sophistication and quality on offer; in my opinion, it’s worth the splurge.
Some of the greatest jazz recordings of all time were captured at the Village Vanguard. Renowned players like Max Roach, John Coltrane, and Bill Evans recorded albums here, and they’re many of the ones we listen to again and again. The Vanguard can easily be called an institution in the world of jazz, and it doesn’t appear to have changed much since opening its doors as the Golden Triangle in 1935. Down the stairs from its iconic 7th Avenue red awning is the jam-packed, low-ceilinged, odd-angled basement that continues to be a mecca for aficionados. Definitely book tickets online in advance and arrive when the doors open to get a good seat.
Jazz pianist and composer Fred Hersch has been playing the Village Vanguard for decades - he’s one of the greats who has recorded outstanding live albums here. As Hersch himself opined the night we were there, “This is the best jazz club in the world!” We were fortunate enough to see him play as part of a quartet including bass and drums (his usual lineup), with the special addition of a saxophone. Our seats were right behind the piano, which was a perfect spot for soaking in the whole sonic experience. The quartet played all Hersch originals, transporting us with unexpected rhythms and chord progressions. No one wanted it to end, but after a much-appreciated encore, it was time to weave our way through the crowded tables and back up the stairs, where the ticket-holders for the 10pm show were already queuing.
While we didn’t get here on our most recent New York City trip, the Blue Note is another West Village venue that plays host to consistently outstanding jazz acts, ranging from storied performers to up-and-comers. Most recently, we got to see saxophonist Maceo Parker and trumpeter Keyon Harrold, both of whom delivered exceptional performances. As with the Vanguard, it’s important to reserve tickets in advance and show up early for the best seats. The Blue Note also serves food, so you can enjoy dinner before the show.
The bar in midtown’s Whitby Hotel plays host to jazz ensembles on Friday and Saturday evenings starting at 6pm. There’s no cover, but call to reserve a table to be sure you can get in - the place often fills up! Enjoy a cocktail, order some homemade potato chips if you need a pre-dinner snack, and appreciate the musicians playing a mix of classic and contemporary jazz tunes. This is not a silence-required performance like at the Carlyle, Vanguard, or Blue Note, but the players will certainly appreciate your applause and attention. The eye-candy decor at the Whitby makes for an attractive setting, and the place seems to draw an eclectic clientele, typically a mix of visitors and NYC locals.
Places to eat & drink in New York City
Tasty locals breakfast spot near the Hotel Giraffe.
Bustling pizza and pasta restaurant with high ceilings and a convenient location if you’re visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A fantastic midtown location with classic French fare in a setting to match, going strong since 1973.
Casual American fare in the West Village with paper-covered tables and crayons for doodling or playing epic games of hangman.
Outstanding Italian dishes in the West Village. They have a notable wine list; great choice for a pre-jazz dinner.
West Village staple, perfect for a post-jazz, pre-bed slice.
Historic East Village tavern, complete with sawdust on the floor and tongue-in-cheek surly service; no card-playing allowed, cash only, no reservations.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Jenny Kager’s guide, Fall in Love with New York City: The Perfect 7-Day Itinerary.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to New York City.