Required Reading is designed to help you make one of the biggest decisions you’ve ever faced: where to go to college. We don’t want to show you only the best side of Barnumbia—we want to show you what it’s really like being a student here. Subscribe to our Required Reading newsletter to get it delivered directly to your inbox.
Updated July 24, 1:12 p.m.
While the primary purpose of college is to study your ass off so you can have a bright future, another really important part is to have fun during your four years here. Sure, we have extracurriculars, school spirit, and other college things, but there’s one more really important thing: nightlife.
Columbia is a city school with a campus, so you get the best of both college worlds: bars, dorm parties, frat parties, and the option to go downtown in pursuit of clubs.
Bars and clubs
If you want to stick close to campus, CU students frequent four main bars:
- Mel’s Burger Bar is burger joint on Broadway between 110th and 111th streets that doubles as one of Columbia’s most popular bars. It is also one of the most Instagrammed bars in town, as there’s a huge “Mel’s” sign on the back wall.
- 1020 has more of a hipster vibe but is still beloved by most Columbia students. It’s farther from campus (Amsterdam and 110th Street), but it has a pool table, dart boards, and, on Tuesday nights, it holds a popular Trivia Night.
- The Heights is a bar with an open roof and is best known for its margaritas. It’s a pretty small space, so it can get extra cramped on a busy night.
Bars are a core part of Columbia’s party scene. If you’re into the bar scene, a typical night can begin at a frat or dorm and then end at a bar. However, to get into a bar, you must be over 21. There’s always a bouncer at the door checking IDs, so this can be a problem for underclassmen.
There are no clubs in the Morningside Heights area, though you might hear some upperclassmen talk about Cannon’s, a bar on 108th Street and Broadway where dancing was the norm (sadly, it closed in 2016). If you want to give clubbing a try, you’re going to have to venture downtown and mingle with some NYU students. Beware of the jacked prices.
You won’t see any of these bad boys during NSOP, because the frat guys don’t arrive until classes start. But once Greek members move back into their respective brownstones for the fall semester, there are about two to three frat parties every weekend. Most of the time, these parties are invite-only, so you have to know a brother to get in. However, frats will host parties that are open to everyone a few times a year.
Frats are located between Broadway and Amsterdam on 114th and 113th streets, an area known as Frat Row. At their core, frat parties are typically a sea of girls and a sprinkling of guys packed into a very small, loud, sweaty, dark space. Don’t get me wrong, though: These parties can be a good time! Pro tip: Beware the “jungle juice” at frat parties, which is a questionable concoction of alcohol and mixer. And don’t wear shoes you care about.
You can find smaller, more intimate, but equally intoxicating get-togethers in dorms. Classic party dorms include East Campus (dubbed EC), Ruggles, McBain, and for you first-years, Carman. Almost all NSOP parties will start in Carman.
Warning for Barnard students: There are no parties at Barnard. When I say no parties, I mean literally no gatherings with more than five people—your RAs will shut them down in approximately two seconds, because the Quad is strictly substance-free. As I said, all parties during NSOP are in Carman, and since Barnard students can’t swipe into Columbia dorms, they have to know someone who lives in the dorm to gain access. This becomes a bit of a problem for first-year Barnardians who want to party during NSOP but don’t know any Columbia peeps. However, as the semester goes along and you get to meet more people (the schools are so intertwined that it’s impossible not to make a CU pal or two), rest assured that you’ll see your fair share of party action.
Columbia’s party scene is unique. You have frat life, the bar scene, and dorm parties to choose from, so your nightlife is what you make of it. But of course, if you’re really not into that kind of scene, don’t worry—there are still countless ways you can have an exciting social life.
Got questions about Columbia parties? Ask us on our Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat @CUSpectrum.
Isabella Monaco is Spectum’s associate editor and a Barnard first-year. You can trust her. She’s seen it all. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.