New York City is at the pulse of everything American; for trends to pass down to the rest of the country, they have to be hip and cool in New York City first. It’s the headquarters of American media, industry, commerce, and at one time, democracy. Did you know George Washington was sworn in as our nation’s first president in New York City, and it served as the capital until The White House was finished at the dawn of the 19th century? The City is full of historic gems such as this.
Over eight million people live in the five boroughs that comprise New York City, and their various languages, ethnicities and nations of origin represent the American ideal that we are a nation of immigrants and that we make up a “beautiful melting pot.” This was also the city where the gay rights movement exploded into action. The Stonewall riots of 1969 cemented New York City’s place as a hub for gay life and gay rights worldwide.
Let me tell you where you should stay as well as the places and things you should see and do in The Big Apple.
HOW TO GET THERE
New York City is served by three international airports: John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, and Newark Liberty International Airport. JFK Airport is located 12 miles south of lower Manhattan in the borough of Queens. LaGuardia Airport is also located in Queens, four miles east of Manhattan in East Elmhurst. Newark Liberty International Airport is 15 miles southwest of Lower Manhattan in Newark, New Jersey. Taxis, Ubers shuttles and mass transit all service Manhattan from these airports.
Direct flights fly to all three New York City-area airports from Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood, Miami, West Palm Beach, Tampa and Orlando. Flights are very competitively priced, and a one-way ticket from Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport can be bought for under $125 to all three New York City-area airports from a variety of airlines, such as Spirit Airlines, US Airways, AmericanAirlines and Delta Air Lines.
WHERE TO STAY
The Sheraton New York Times Square is another luxury option that puts you in the middle of everything touristy in Midtown Manhattan. This hotel celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012 and renovated every one of its 1,781 guest rooms as a thank you to its loyal customers. Enjoy plush bedding, flat-screen TVs and Starbucks Coffee all in your room! (811 7th Ave. at 53rd St., 212-581-1000)
The Wyndham Garden Manhattan Chelsea West is situated within walking distance of bars in both Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. Dine in-house at the Italian casual restaurant Tre Stelle, and afterwards you can relax in your spacious suite, featuring a separate sitting room, large walk-in showers, and the most comfortable bedding you’ll rest your head on in Chelsea. With these perks, who would want to leave the hotel? (37 W. 24th St., 212-243-0800)
Hotel Le Bleu is located in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, and makes it an easy jumping off point for exploring Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan. They place customer service at the highest priority, offering a breakfast basket with Starbucks coffee, yogurt and baked goods to each room, and the concierge is willing to book spa treatments for you in addition to airport travel arrangements. What a find! (370 4th Ave., 718-625-1500)
The New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge is a full-service luxury hotel located within walking distance of the famed Brooklyn Bridge. Over 600 rooms and suites are offered, with some providing breathtaking views of the city. The on-site Brooklyn Bar serves appetizers, making it a perfect choice for food and drinks before a night out. Pamper yourself at their full-service spa, American Leisure. (333 Adams St., 718-246-7000)
The Opera House Hotel is pure uptown style located in the heart of the South Bronx. Originally the Bronx Opera House, the Marx Brothers, the Barrymores and Eddie Cantor all performed here before it was repurposed into a hotel. King and queen-sized rooms offer sleek furnishings and spa-grade amenities in their beautiful bathrooms. Just a skip and a jump away from Upper Manhattan, this hotel proves itself to be a gem. (436 E. 149th St., The Bronx, 718-407-2800)
WHERE TO PLAY
New York City is home to one of the nation’s largest gay communities, and with that being said, there are a number of events, both large and small, that cater to the gay community at all times of the year. Let me give you a rundown of some of the biggest events that are happening in the city, followed by which nightlife hotspots you should experience, by borough.
NEW YORK’S MOST IMPORTANT GAY-FRIENDLY EVENTS
The Tribeca Film Festival is a very popular event with gay and straight audiences. The
June and July are the months to show your pride! All five boroughs throw gay pride parades and
Queens Gay Pride is the first Pride event on the yearly calendar, being held on the first Sunday in June. A pride parade walks through the Jackson Heights neighborhood and is immediately followed by a festival on 37th Road. Brooklyn Gay Pride is held the Saturday after Queens Gay Pride, and features a festival followed by a nighttime parade. Both events take place on 5th Avenue in the Park Slope neighborhood. Harlem Gay Pride is one of the largest black gay pride events in the country, and takes place the same weekend as New York City Gay Pride, with a festival at Jackie Robinson Park the last Saturday in June and a parade on the last Sunday. Staten Island Gay Pride is held in the middle of July, with the centerpiece festival event being held at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden. Just one week after, Bronx Pride, organized by the Bronx LGBTQ Community Services Center, holds a festival and health fair at Crotona Park.
For the past 25 years, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS has thrown elaborate stage shows each year, spotlighting Broadway’s talented performers and playwrights, called Broadway Bares. The full-blown production raises money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, which is in turn donated to HIV/AIDS service organizations. Expect the next one in June. To read more, visit broadwaycares.org. The New York Musical Theatre Festival is held throughout the month of July in Theatre Row. Many of the productions that debut here go on to have great success on and off-Broadway. FringeNYC is one of the largest fringe performance art festivals in the world. Over 200 shows will be presented at 20 different venues in The Bowery and the East Village. This year’s FringeNYC will be held from August 14 to August 30.
NewFest, New York City’s annual LGBT film festival, will be held this year from October 22-27 at Chelsea Bow Tie Cinemas. For nearly 30 years, some of the biggest critical darlings have had their world premieres at this festival. For more information, visit newfest.org. One of the
GAY NIGHTLIFE OPTIONS
The bulk of gay nightlife in New York City is centered around lower and middle Manhattan. In Downtown Manhattan, there are many bars and nightclubs in the West Village, the East Village, the Meatpacking District and Chelsea. The Hell’s Kitchen area of Midtown has become very popular with LGBT homeowners and entrepreneurs alike.
In the West Village, there’s Rockbar (185 Christopher St.), a rock ‘n’ roll bar with an LGBT flair that welcomes many live music and entertainment acts; The Hangar (115 Christopher St.), a bar popular with locals where the pool table’s hot and the bartenders are hotter; Ty’s (114 Christopher St.), a casual hangout with lots of history, having been open since 1972; Marie’s Crisis (59 Grove St.), a cozy hangout where you can make friends while belting out showtunes; Monster (80 Grove St.), a place where you can listen to showtunes, dance the night away and enjoy a fantastic drag show, depending on your mood; The Duplex (61 Christopher St.), a popular piano bar that bills itself as having New York City’s longest-running gay cabaret; Stonewall (53 Christopher St.), the bar that started a civil rights movement, is still open seven days a week, welcoming locals and tourists alike; Julius’ (159 W. 10th St.), a bar and grill that touts itself as the oldest gay bar in New York City and the late
In the East Village, offerings include Lucky Chengs (240 W 52nd St.), which serves Asian cuisine for dinner and a drag cabaret show for dessert; Nurse Bettie (106 Norfolk St.), a cozy martini bar that is a shrine to Bettie Page and other 1950s pinup models; Bedlam Bar and Lounge (40 Avenue C), an establishment that’s equally known for its great music and dancing as it is for the moose head mounted on its wall; Open House (244 E. Houston St.), where you can enjoy great live music and lose yourself in an entertaining evening; The Cock (29 2nd Ave.),
The Meatpacking District is served by Cielo (18 Little W. 12th St.), a Caribbean-themed nightclub which offers lots of special nights for the music lover, from DJs to live acts; and The Griffin (50 Gansevoort St.), a dance bar that opens late (10 p.m. on the weekends and 11 p.m. on Mondays) and welcomes well-known guest DJs from around the world.
There are two gay venues adjacent to Times Square: Escuelita (301 W. 39th St.), a nightclub catering to the black and Latino community, featuring lots of sexy go-go dancers; and Shadow Boxers (215 W. 40th St.), an upscale version of the Boxers bars in Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen.
If you’re in Chelsea, you should visit these bars and nightclubs: GYM SPORTSBAR (167 8th Ave.), which bills itself as the first gay sports bar in New York City, is small enough where bartenders will remember your name but big enough where you can fit right in with the locals. The Eagle NYC (554 W. 28th St.) is a very popular leather bar which sets the standard for other leather bars across the country; its rooftop deck bar is perhaps its best-kept secret. Marquee (289 10th Ave.) is a booming ultra-lounge with an expansive dance floor which makes it one of the places to be in the whole city. Barracuda (275 W. 22nd St.) is a bar with popular drag shows that has been embraced by the community in Chelsea for nearly 15 years. G lounge (223 W. 19th St.) was credited with starting
Hell’s Kitchen’s gay nightlife scene is thriving; rent for businesses and residences is now higher than the Manhattan average, thanks to gentrification. Among the bars and nightclubs in Hell’s Kitchen are HK Lounge (405 W. 39th St.), a great place to enjoy drinks and a Sunday brunch; Bar Centrale (324 W. 46th St.), a former speakeasy tucked away in the Theater District that has become very popular for its after-theatre appetizers and entrées; Don’t Tell Mama (343 W. 46th St.), a charming piano bar and grill where even the bartenders and waiters bust out into song; The Ritz (369 W. 46th St.), a dual-level nightclub complex that offers a laid-back atmosphere on the ground floor and a popular dance floor on top; 9th Avenue Saloon (656 9th Ave.), a wood-paneled quiet bar that skews toward the leather crowd; Barrage (401 W. 47th St.), featuring an open layout and even more openly friendly bartenders and regulars; Hardware (697 10th Ave.), located in an old electrical supply store, offers everything from nightly DJs to drag shows to performances from camp Eurovision favorites; FairyTail Lounge (500 W. 48th St.), the place to be if you want to see eye candy like their numerous shirtless bartenders; Pacha New York (618 W. 46th St.), a massive four-story venue that aims to bring the European club experience to America; and Space Ibiza (637 W. 50th St.), the New York City version of the legendary Spanish nightclub in the Balearic Islands.
There are even more Hell’s Kitchen and Midtown bars and nightclubs you should visit, such as Ardesia (510 W. 52nd St.), where you can sample wines from all over the world and pair them with a food plate if you wish; Flaming Saddles Saloon (793 9th Ave.), a country-western bar decorated in the style of an Old West bordello; Industry Bar (355 W. 52nd St.), a place to enjoy drinks, dancing and drag, with Mondriaan-esque painted glass as a backdrop behind the bar;
Upper Manhattan is home to four gay venues: TownHouse (236 E. 58th St.), an upscale cocktail bar which features a strict dress code and nightly piano players; Evolve (221 E. 58th St.), a dance club which hosts many LGBT parties throughout the week, such as the twice-weekly Adonis Lounge strip nights; The Toolbox (1742 2nd Ave.), a neighborhood haunt which hosts community events and RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing parties in-season; and Suite (992 Amsterdam Ave.), the only gay bar on the Upper West Side, featuring drag on Saturdays and karaoke on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Queens has experienced a boom in recent years, adding quite a few gay nightlife options to the sometimes-overlooked borough. Albatross Bar (3619 24th Ave., Astoria) led the way in putting Queens on the radar for gay partiers, and new management has made this watering hole the best it’s ever been. Icon (3184 33rd St., Astoria) brings the Hell’s Kitchen kind of gay bar to Queens, and the bar staff members (dressed in only their underwear!) are a sight to behold!
Brooklyn has more than a few bars and clubs to satisfy the gay visitor. Two are located in Williamsburg: This N’ That (108 N. 6th St.) and Metropolitan (559 Lorimer St.). The decor for This N’ That is sleek, featuring long couches and fluorescent pastel lighting, making it very inviting for someone to have a drink or three. Metropolitan is one of the oldest gay bars still operating in Brooklyn, having been open now for 13 years. This spacious bar is more than capable to pack the crowds in on the weekends.
Newcomers like LOVEGUN (617 Grand St.) are kicking things up a notch, offering a chic two-floor bar and nightclub complex (you can thank the owners of Eastern Bloc and Atlas Social Club, who also own this bar). Branded Saloon (603 Vanderbilt Ave.) offers drinks, pub food, and great brunch options. Club Langston (1073 Atlantic Ave.) is the only gay bar or club in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, and DJs play a variety of music for the nightclub’s customers, from pop to rap to reggae.
Castro Bar (104 Dyckman St.) is about as uptown as you can get from Manhattan, and is the
Eve Ultra Lounge (2354 Arthur Kill Rd.) is a banquet hall during the day and sleek big-city nightclub by night. While not an exclusively LGBT venue, it is the place to party for the community in Staten Island, featuring tea dances every Sunday, complete with drag shows, and LGBT theme nights once a month.
DAY TRIP: FIRE ISLAND
If you would like to explore Fire Island, located off the south coast of Long Island outside the city, be sure to check out these places: Cherry’s (158 Bayview Walk, Cherry Grov
WHERE TO GO
Definitely start your exploring in Midtown Manhattan. Some of the world’s tallest buildings are here; in fact, over 100 are 500 feet or higher. Two breathtaking views of the city can be seen
When I refer to New York City as the city that never sleeps, that couldn’t be more true in Times Square. Even at night, all the lights and billboards will keep you wired. While you’re in the area, stop by Radio City Music Hall (head north on 6th Avenue) and up to the Museum of Modern Art — you won’t see a selection like this anywhere else in the world. If you’re feeling peckish,
It isn’t a trip to New York City without taking in a Broadway show. While you’re in Times Square, visit the TKTS booth and get discounted tickets to the hottest shows. Some of the shows that are currently running on Broadway include Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera, Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia!, Aladdin, The Lion King, and Kinky Boots. Walk toward the East River from Times Square and you will encounter the United Nations Headquarters. Leaders from all over the world convene here with world peace foremost in their minds. Tours are available in multiple languages, including in English and Spanish.
Go down to Lower Manhattan and take in some one-of-a-kind sights. The World Trade Center Complex has been almost completely rebuilt since the tragedy that befell New York City and
The Brooklyn Bridge connects Brooklyn with Manhattan, and it is open to pedestrians. The views from the Bridge are breathtaking and worth the walk. Visit nearby Brooklyn Heights if you’d like to see beautiful tree-lined streets with row upon row of brownstones. If you’re planning on spending extra time in Brooklyn, make it a point to visit Coney Island. This is a summertime favorite for many New Yorkers, and after you take a ride on one of their many rollercoasters and eat a famed Coney Island hot dog, you’ll feel like a kid again!
If you want to see Staten Island, take the 25-minute Staten Island Ferry from Battery Park in
Ellis Island processed millions of immigrants for six decades, from 1892 to 1954, and a sizable number of Americans can trace their ancestry back to dearly departed relatives who came to the United States through New York Harbor and Ellis Island. If you’d like to see the Statue up-close, they offer opportunities to visit the pedestal of the Statue and take a trip inside Lady Liberty’s famed crown. You have to reserve your tickets in advance and you can only go inside the crown once every six months. Visit statuetickets.com, which will take care of your entire itinerary.
After you’ve finished exploring most of Manhattan and parts of the outer boroughs, move north again and take in Upper Manhattan and The Bronx. On your way, stop by the West Village and visit Stonewall. Millions of LGBT travelers stop there each year, and it is truly an experience to
Now take Fifth Avenue up to the Upper East Side. On your way, stop in at some of New York City’s famed department stores, such as Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman. Once you get to the Upper East Side, there are so many museums to browse through here, you may have to pick and choose which ones are worth your time. Definitely pick the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which showcases art throughout history, and the modern art collection offered at the Guggenheim Museum.
Both of these museums are located within a stone’s throw of Central Park. At 843 acres, it is one of the largest urban parks in the world and is visited by nearly 40 million tourists each year. With lots of walking trails, lush trees and flowers, numerous footbridges and beautiful bodies of water overlooking the Great Lawn (The Lake on one side and The Reservoir on the other), it’s very easy to spend your entire trip just in Central Park!
If you’re a history buff, you should definitely stop at East 104th Street, where the Museum of the City of New York is waiting for you. The museum’s exhibits tell the entire tale of how New
If you have time to venture into The Bronx, there are two stops you must make. The first is The Bronx Zoo, which is the largest urban zoo on the continent. Over 6,000 animals are housed here and represent all seven continents. The Bronx Park and the New York Botanical Garden are big draws themselves. Over a million plants are on display for people to view and enjoy here, and the flower collection here is the largest in the Western Hemisphere.
Take some more time to read all about New York City from gay perspectives! To read New York City’s official tourism guide for the gay traveler, go to nycgo.com/gay.