10 Events Where New Yorkers Can Make New Friends
“It’s hard to make friends in New York.”
I used to say that all the time. When I moved to the city two years ago, I was great at meeting new people — but bad at prioritizing deeper connections. I felt like I was constantly in spaces where “surface level” conversations were the norm. To make things worse, I was a freelancer and working from home. I had no community, and I felt completely isolated. Yeah, that sucks.
Thankfully, I discovered Camp Grounded — a summer camp for adults — and felt a level of openness and acceptance that I’d never experienced before. When I left, I knew that I wanted to join communities where people actually got to know each other, instead of swapping business cards over happy hour. I wanted to surround myself with people who aligned with my values of play, community, and authenticity.
When I returned to New York, I embarked on a quest to find the types of events that make New York feel less lonely. That’s why I created The Joy List, a resource for people to find events that they can go to alone and leave feeling deeply connected to others.
In that spirit, here are 10 events that do a kick-ass job at creating connections. If you want to snag a ticket to anything mentioned — and save some moolah — use code JOYLIST for $10 off your first purchase from TodayTix.
Want more events like this in your inbox every Monday? Subscribe to The Joy List!
1. Anything at House of Yes
I used to avoid “clubs” at all costs. They made me think of long lines, judgy looks from picky bouncers, and unwelcome strangers trying to dance all up on me.
Then, I went to House of Yes, and everything changed. This magical wonderland is part Burning Man, part circus, and 100 percent wonderful. House of Yes wants everyone who walks through its doors to feel safe being their whole selves, and the staff are trained to deal with discrimination and consent violations. Hell yes.
If you’re not sure which one of their extravaganzas to choose, I recommend The Get Down, House of Love, and Voice Cult. But really, if you just wander in off the street, I promise that something interesting is happening.
2. Free Shakespeare in the Park
I’m gonna be real with you: Getting tickets to Shakespeare in the Park can be an ordeal. Sometimes, you have to wake up at the crack of dawn, with blankets and snacks in tow, to wait in line — all in the name of seeing Meryl Streep perform Shakespeare.
Thankfully, the digital Lottery makes things much easier. While the outdoor ticket line is great (tickets are handed out at noon on performance days), you can enter the Lottery on the app or online at TodayTix.com while sitting at home in your pajamas.
3. Poetry Brothel
If you’re dating a word lover, get ready for the best night out ever. (And if you’re single, get ready to fall in love with a whole bunch of poets.)
Poetry Brothel combines prose and immersive theater and makes it sexy as hell. As the website says, “The poetry brothel is an immersive literary cabaret that fuses poetry, burlesque, live music, vaudeville, visual art, magic, mysticism, and private, one-on-one poetry experiences.”
Or, as I say, “Holy crap, this is amazing. Just do it.”
Remember sitting in your friend’s basement, playing trivia games until 2 AM, and eating so much cookie dough that it’s a miracle you’re still alive? Caveat is the adult version of that — minus the cookie dough. I’m working on that part.
In other words, Caveat is the place for grown-up nerds to hang out, meet each other, and learn some stuff. Some of my favorite shows there include Pregame Your Brain, Philosophy Happy Hour, and You’re the Expert.
5. The Let Go
“The Let Go” is pretty much everything that I value for The Joy List, condensed into one wondrous event. “The Let Go” describes itself as, a “dance-based town hall — part installation, part performance — to which the community of New York is invited to “let go” and speak their minds through movement, work out frustrations, and celebrate independence as well as community.”
This thing deals with issues of social justice, encourages connection with strangers, and gets people out of their comfort zone. I’m here for it. Thank you for creating this magic, Nick Cave!
6. Sleep No More
I saw “Sleep No More” three years ago, and I still remember how connected I felt to the actors and the audience throughout the performance. There is a moment when one of the actors, whom I’d been dutifully following for an hour, pulled me into a bedroom and knighted me king. Yeah, I won’t forget that anytime soon. There’s also a bloody dance party. And a guy dancing on the pipes. Okay, I’ll stop giving spoilers now.
Tickets are on the pricey side, but if you want to treat yourself — or just live a generally lusher life — check out “Sleep No More.” The actors make everyone involved feel like they’re a part of the show.
7. Midsummer Night Swing
I’ve recently gotten kinda obsessed with partner dancing. Thankfully, I can go to Midsummer Night Swing and learn from the pros.
I’ll be at Sisterhood of Swing — led by an all-woman big band — on June 26. And you better believe I’ll be at the beginner’s lesson beforehand!
I have vivid childhood memories of museum tours — mainly about being dragged through exhibits by a boring, soft-spoken old lady. So it’s safe to say that, as an adult, I don’t go to museums that much.
That is, until MuseumHack. These folks make history interactive, fun, and sometimes R-rated. Plus, there’s wine. I highly recommend the “Badass Bitches of the Met” tour. You weren’t expecting that, were you?
9. Medi Club
Medi Club is a monthly gathering that combines meditation, group conversations, music, and healthy food. I’ve been going for almost two years, and it’s always a highlight of my month. While the programming is amazing, the people are even better. This crew simply glows. (And they’re also really, really good-looking.) If you’re looking to bring more mindful people into your life, check it out.
Other than Medi Club, there are plenty of other opportunities to get involved with this community: a volunteering program, musical ensemble, diversity committee, and a bike club. Oh, and they do meditations with thousands of people a couple times a year. No big deal. Fill out this form to find out more.
10. Anything on The Joy List
This is really just an excuse for me to plug a ton more events in one space. Connecting people in New York is my passion so here are a few more suggestions. Love meditation? Check out Innerglow or The Brooklyn Zen Center. Want to get out of your comfort zone? Try Improv Everywhere. And want to experiment with partying while sober? Go to The Get Down or Daybreaker.
To get events like this in your inbox every Monday, sign up for The Joy List. And remember, code JOYLIST gets you $10 off your first purchase on TodayTix. Let’s make New York less lonely!
Jillian is on a mission to help New Yorkers feel less lonely. That’s why she created The Joy List, a resource for people to find events that they can go to by themselves, and leave feeling deeply connected to others. She’s also a conversational branded content writer. You can check out her website here.