Forget the velvet rope and that pesky doorman staring you up and down with a clipboard. Being the elusive VIP doesn't mean paying exorbitant fees for good service or a good time. And it doesn't have to be at a nightclub.
Check out these recreational activities that may vary in privacy and chicness, but have one important quality in common: being catered to.
"Look at this dress. Isn't this fabulous?" Linda Correia asks while running her hands over a taupe, Alexander McQueen sheath with a delicate white koi fish print.
Correia, 52, an interior designer from Garden City, stands in front of a full-length mirror with Correia's personal shopper of 20 years, Danielle Merollo, not far from her side.
The setting: Americana Manhasset's pristine personal shopping lounge complete with a modern couch covered by a fox fur throw and a flat-screen TV, surrounded by three VIP dressing rooms.
Opened in November inside Americana's concierge building, the personal shopping experience includes more than just the fancy digs . . . and it's all free! No minimum purchase required.
Whether short on time and in need of gift-giving options or pre-selection for an entire seasonal wardrobe, personal shoppers can select clothing, shoes, accessories, underpinnings and more at all of the Americana Manhasset stores - from Banana Republic and Lacoste to Chanel and Gucci.
"It's absolutely a treat. You feel special," Correia says. "You know, time is money. You don't want to spend all those hours racing among the stores, going through racks of clothes. Getting that pre-selection is very beneficial."
Coffee and tea service, as well as Champagne by request, is available in the lounge. The Americana has a seamstress who will custom fit clothing within the VIP rooms and alterations made for clothes purchased at the shopping complex are also gratis.
Merollo, director of personal shopping and VIP services for Americana Manhasset, says the appeal for clients is that "somebody is going to do the work for them."
"It gives a chance for people to relax and not feel rushed to shop," she says. "I want you to be happy no matter if you buy a Gap T-shirt or a Nina Ricci dress."
While the center offers luxury items and designer brands, Merollo says, "It's very tangible and open to the public."
WHERE: By appointment (preferably booked about a week in advance) at Americana Manhasset, 2060 Northern Blvd., Manhasset, 516-627-2277, americanamanhasset.com
You don't expect to see a dozen people doing the macarena at a bowling alley with neon lights and five 20-foot projection screens showcasing dance moves in the background, but there seem to be plenty of surprises at 300 Long Island in Melville.
On this recent occasion, about 40 teachers and administrators from George A. Jackson Elementary School in Jericho gathered in the private Back 9 room for a late holiday party.
"Remember the fun bowling parties when you were little? This is it, but you're kicking it up a notch," says Marissa Lorintz, 48, of Jericho. "In here, you can let loose and have fun."
That fun in the Back 9 room includes nine private bowling lanes, a bar, lounge area and video music system that allows patrons to create their own playlists.
A bowling alley employee dubbed "the lane captain" is also assigned to the party, managing lane assignments, food delivery and music requests.
Jonnie Alvarez, the lane captain for the holiday party, emceed the event, providing words of encouragement ("Give Jill some support") and offering free bowling game cards when people named a song or hit strikes with a brightly colored head pin.
"Here you're getting the music, entertainment, bowling . . . you're getting a lot for your money and it's fun!" says Diane Costello, 54, of Smithtown. "You're participating, rather than just sitting at a table and eating."
Patrons should book their event at least six weeks in advance, but last-minute requests are considered. VIP packages can range from a pizza package ($27.99 per person) that includes two hours of bowling and shoe rental to an Italian buffet package ($37.99 per person).
"You have discreet, personalized attention and the entertainment of a sports bar and club," says general manager Henry Jimenez. "It's a VIP [experience] that's attainable for most people."
COST: $27.99-$50 per person depending on package; two-hour, 45-person minimum Friday-Saturday evenings; two-hour, 20-person minimum all other times.
Since Director's Halls opened in 2002 at the Island 16: Cinema De Lux in Holtsville, moviegoers have been practically put into the director's chair.
Director's Halls are film screening rooms with wider chairs that customers can reserve online before arrival and concierge-style services. Patrons may order and receive select menu items - candy and popcorn, or hot dogs and Nathan's fries from the theater's own restaurant - at their seats. (Cost for food is additional.)
While patrons may not recognize immediate physical differences from other well-kept theaters with stadium seating, ticket-holders pay $2.50 to $3 extra for the experience with more service. Four of the 16 screens at Cinema De Lux have Director's Halls, says Steve Horton, vice president of U.S. operations for National Amusements, which owns the theater.
"We have a person that is available to answer any questions just for the Director's Halls. We'll make a cab reservation for [customers]. We'll make a dinner reservation for them," Horton says. "It's like a high-class hotel."
Tom Kolb, 58, of Holbrook, who recently saw "True Grit," says, "It's all about convenience." For Kolb, the sound system seemed to be better and the seating was more comfortable "because you have much more space for your legs."
Jessica Custodio, 25, of Coram, agrees. "You pay a little extra money and you get a better sound system, better selection of finger foods," she says. "It's more convenient to sit down and be served versus waiting in line yourself. I think it's worth it."
WHERE: Island 16: Cinema De Lux, 185 Morris Ave., Holtsville, 631-758-9100, nationalamusements.com
COST: $11 Mondays-Thursdays before 6 p.m., $13.75 after 6 p.m.; $11.50 Fridays-Sundays before 6 p.m., $14.25 after 6 p.m.
Behind a glass enclosure with black privacy shades lies a dark room outfitted for an intimate pool-playing shindig at Raxx Pool Room, Sports Bar & Grill in West Hempstead.
There are perks to having one's own space: a pool table, a 42-inch plasma TV, a dartboard, a 20-inch corner-mounted plasma TV and a banquette seating area with an entertainment center that plays CDs, DVDs and iPods. A personal cocktail waitress is also assigned to the room with bottle service at its bar ledge and high tables.
Still, there are few frills in this VIP space. "Decor" on the crimson painted walls ranges from a Budweiser clock and a Land Shark Lager surf board to an image of cowboys playing pool. Items on the menu - chicken wings, potato skins, burgers - are fixtures at standard bars.
The overall atmosphere guests might experience is more on par with that of a small "man cave" in a friend's worn basement, but gussied up a bit more by a metal-like ceiling. That also means that board games such as Pass the Popcorn seem apropos in this concealed space.
"It's got an independent sound system from the rest of the floor room," says owner Holden Chin. "It's a nice private room that is cozy and perfect for small groups."
Michael Cisneros, who had his 23rd birthday celebration in the space with about 30 guests and a personal DJ, agrees.
"I liked the vibe over there. . . . Also the service - they have great selections of alcoholic beverages," says Cisneros, of Elmont.
So why is this room fit for VIP treatment?
"You experience things more privately with your own friends and family members," he said, adding, "That price for the VIP room wasn't too bad."
COST: $40-$75 per hour, depending on group size. Three-hour minimum on rental. Additional cost for food.