How to get into the 1920s spirit for 'The Great Gatsby' in New York

Learn how to dress, how to dance, and where to grab period-appropriate pre-show grub before attending this show that transports you back to the Jazz Age.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

It's the '20s once again, which means there's no better time to step back in time and party like it's the Roaring Twenties. Those would be the 1920s, which are alive and well at The Great Gatsby on Broadway in spring 2024.

After a world premiere at New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse, the first Broadway musical adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's seminal novel has fittingly made its way to New York, where The Great Gatsby is set. Broadway favorites Jeremy Jordan and Eva Noblezada lead the story of Gatsby, the mysterious billionaire trying to rekindle a spark with his old flame, Daisy.

Of course, if you're going to enter the world of the Jazz Age, you have to dress, drink, and dance the part. You can even start the party before The Great Gatsby begins by visiting other 1920s-inspired landmarks around the city. Read our complete guide for how to prepare for an evening at The Great Gatsby in New York.

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How to dress for The Great Gatsby

In 2023, an immersive adaptation of The Great Gatsby encouraged dressing to theme — or else risking Gatsby's disapproval. The Great Gatsby on Broadway is not immersive, and Broadway does not have a dress code. But if you happen to have vintage or vintage-inspired pieces you don't get to wear often, this might be the perfect place to do it — it'll help you get in the Roaring Twenties mindset.

Feminine 1920s attire famously includes flapper dresses (the more fringe, the better), feathered headbands, and long gloves. Conversely, three-piece suits (especially pinstripe ones, complete with a bowtie), fedoras and flat caps, and oxford shoes define masculine fashion of the era.

Thrift shops like L Train Vintage, Beacon's Closet, Buffalo Exchange, and Goodwill are fun places to hunt for pieces like these. You might even find success at a Halloween costume shop or an e-retailer like Etsy or Amazon.

Learn to dance the Charleston

We'd be surprised if the Charleston, one of the most famous 1920s dances, wasn't included in the choreography for The Great Gatsby. This classic move involves twisting your feet while stepping back and forth.

If you want to learn how to do it yourself, there are plenty of resources out there. The short YouTube video below offers a basic demonstration, and if you're a more advanced Jazz Age dancer, check out the Instagram account MyCharleston for tutorials on all kinds of 1920s-era moves.

Have a pre-show drink at a New York speakeasy

The Broadway Theatre, where The Great Gatsby is performing, is a great place to have a pre- or mid-show drink. The venue is equipped with a full bar with all types of beverages and snacks for sale. But if you want to start the party even earlier, why not get into the Jazz Age spirit by getting your drinks at an NYC speakeasy? They're all over, if you know where to look — here are a few recommendations.

The Back Room

This Lower East Side spot is a ways away from Gatsby, but it offers the most authentic 1920s experience. The Back Room is one of the only actual 1920s speakeasies still in operation today, and lots of its hallmarks haven't changed since then. You have to walk through a short alley between two restaurants to get to the literal, hidden "back room", decked out in vintage glamour.

Back in the day, powerful gangsters would take “business meetings” there — not unlike Gatsby's meet-ups with the corrupt Meyer Wolfsheim in Fitzgerald's novel. You might even listen in on one during the show.

Please Don't Tell

Also located in the East Village, Please Don't Tell provides a classic speakeasy experience that feels like the stuff of movies. You have to enter via the Crif Dogs hot dog shop, and a tiny telephone booth in the corner — with an operational phone that connects you to the host — is your secret passageway to drinks and bites in a cozy, old-fashioned atmosphere.

Tanner Smith's and Polly's

It's not technically a speakeasy if it has a massive "BAR" sign proudly hanging out front, but Tanner Smith's is decorated in the style of an early-1900s drinking house and, most importantly, is only a five-minute walk from Gatsby. The restaurant/bar is known for classic cocktails with a twist, and some even come in teacups, the way alcohol was often discreetly served during Prohibition.

Additionally, Tanner Smith's is named for an actual owner of Prohibition-era saloons and speakeasies, including the historic Winona Club and Marginal Club. In that spirit, Tanner Smith's opened a speakeasy in 2024: Descend the unmarked staircase to the right of the main entrance to get to Polly's, which features a completely different food and cocktail menu.

Little Branch

Those coming to Gatsby from the West Village may find this underground spot most convenient. Little Branch, also called LB, is quiet and snug, providing the secret feel of a 1920s speakeasy. If you're lucky enough to be there when a live jazz musician is playing at the old piano, you'll really feel like you've stepped into the Jazz Age.


If you're coming to Gatsby from the Upper East Side, stop by this E 89th Street spot along the way (or on the way back). It's an ice cream shop, which is fun on its own, but ask to enter "The Storage Room" and you'll be taken to a hidden speakeasy bar with lofty ceilings and elegant decor. Cocktail attire is required, but if you're dressed in 1920s garb anyway, you'll be all set!

The Woo Woo

Not all speakeasies are 1920s-themed. The Woo Woo, located beneath the Mean Fiddler bar in the Theatre District, calls to a different era of underground New York history: the 1970-80s, when Times Square was a seedy district. Most of the craft cocktails are named for '80s songs and movies, and the bar is covered wall-to-wall in vibrant neons.

Amid this '80s nostalgia remains the secretive vibe of a Prohibition speakeasy — you'll even be asked to provide a password to get in (which you can find on the bar's website), making the experience feel ultra-exclusive.

Campbell Bar

This bar located within Grand Central Terminal is a great pre-Gatsby spot because it has Jazz Age history. The space's original tenant was William Kissam Vanderbilt II, whose family built Grand Central, and later became the office of 1920s financier John W. Campbell, for whom the bar is named.

The full bar offers contemporary cocktails alongside time-honored classics those men would have drunk in the Jazz Age, and the venue regularly hosts live jazz concerts.

The Plaza Hotel

If you're willing to splurge, the Plaza is a great place to get in the authentic Gatsby mood before stepping into his mansion a few blocks away. Fitzgerald famously frequented the Plaza, and he set a pivotal scene of Gatsby there. Luckily, you can just hit up the Champagne Bar for a leisurely cocktail instead of renting out a suite only to come to blows, as Fitzgerald's characters do.

Get tickets to The Great Gatsby on Broadway

You've found your perfect Jazz Age outfit. You've perfected your Charleston. You've had a drink at a speakeasy. Now it's time to step into Gatsby's mansion. The best way to end a 1920s-themed day in the city is going to The Great Gatsby, the closest thing to Roaring Twenties revelry you'll get in the 2020s.

Get The Great Gatsby tickets now.

Book Tickets CTA - LT/NYTG

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