The 30s was a fascinating decade for New York City. Between Prohibition-era speakeasies, soaring skyscraper construction, and five World Series wins for the Yankees, NYC went through a lot. It was during this time that the city earned its “Big Apple” moniker—either from popular slang used by jazz musicians or because of the many apple vendors that lined the streets. Even though the Great Depression reigned, New Yorkers certainly knew how to have a good time.

Here are five ways you can relive the 30s on your next trip to the Big Apple.

Get in an Empire State of Mind

cocozero / Shutterstock

cocozero / Shutterstock

Immortalized forever in King Kong, the Empire State Building was the result of an early 30s competition to build the tallest building in the world. Topping out at 102 stories in 1931, it won the competition and remained the world’s tallest building for almost 40 years. Its distinctive Art Deco architecture is certainly a product of the times. The Empire State Building lobby offers a wonderful glimpse into this 1930s style. In 2009, artists restored the lobby murals to their original design.

Be a Kid at Coney Island

“Coney Island” by Shinya Suzuki  is licensed under CC 2.0.

Coney Island” by Shinya Suzuki is licensed under CC 2.0.

In the 1930s, Coney Island became a haven for low-cost amusement park rides, carnival games, and roller coasters. On warm summer days, visitors packed the area’s public beaches and boardwalk. Today, Coney Island maintains much of the same carnivalesque aura of yesteryear. The original Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster, which operated throughout the 30s, is still running at Luna Park. After you ride it, be sure to get a Coney Dog and make a wish at the Zoltar.

Have a Drink, Speakeasy Style

“Untitled” by arvind grover is licensed under CC 2.0.

Untitled” by arvind grover is licensed under CC 2.0.

Instead of seeing sights from the 30s, maybe you prefer to live like you’re still in the era. There’s no better way to do that than with a nice cocktail and some jazzy ambiance. The problem with speakeasies is that they’re supposed to be secret. However, there are a few places where the proverbial cat has already been let out. If you’re in Chelsea, stop by Raines Law Room. Those traveling through the East Village should check out Death & Co. You’ll be drinking your drink out of a tea cup to keep your experience authentic!

Explore Rockefeller Center

Jack Aiello /Shutterstock

Jack Aiello /Shutterstock

Rockefeller Center is more than just a home for its skating rink and giant Christmas tree during the holidays! It’s actually a collection of several buildings that were originally developed in the 1930s. Naturally, the area features some of the most unique pre-World War II Art Deco architecture in the city. One of the best ways to explore the center is through the guided tour. From Radio City Music Hall to the Channel Gardens, you’ll get a historical perspective on the center.

Eat Like You’re a Rockefeller

Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock

Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock


Rather than visit a modern speakeasy, you can visit an authentic one. That’s what you’ll get at Club 21. Built during Prohibition in 1930, this restaurant originally featured a secret wine cellar and a “disappearing bar.” Today, Club 21 honors its 30s heritage and mixes it with modern elegance. Sure, it’s a bit pricey—and you’ll have to dress up to get in—but you’ll have an unforgettable dining experience.


Are there any 1930s-themed spots in New York City that we missed? Which are your favorites? Let us know in the comments!



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