New York City is a world-famous destination and is a melting pot of people, cultures, neighborhoods and experiences. The beginning of the gay rights movement was started in New York City and some of the most famous LGBT places and symbols are located here, like the Stonewall Inn or Christopher Street Pier. You can’t miss some of NYC’s top attractions like the observation deck of the Empire State Building or visiting Central Park. You’ll find lots of gay bars in Hell’s Kitchen but there are places scattered throughout the city, offering great nightlife and drag performances from some of the top talent in the US.
The city is internationally known for its unique skyscrapers, bustling crosswalks and high population density. While many tourists venture out to see famous sights like the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building, New York also has one-of-a-kind parks and green spaces scattered throughout the city that are worth making a visit.
Table of Contents
1. General Tips
2. Transportation & Airport Transfer
3. Gay Hotels in New York
4. Sightseeing & Activities in New York
5. Gay Tours in New York
6. Restaurants and Cafes
7. New York Gay Bars
8. New York Gay Clubs and Parties
9. New York Gay Saunas & Cruising Bars
10. Gay Beaches in New York
11. Gay Events in New York
12. Day Trips from New York
New York is a megacity and there’s always something going on. You can visit any time of year, but you’ll likely want to avoid winter which can be quite cold and unpleasant. The best weather is from April to June and September to November, but that’s also when you’ll encounter the most tourists.
New York has so much to do and so many possibilities that planning a trip and choosing your itinerary can even be overwhelming. The best advice is to find what interests you most. Yes, you may want to visit some of the iconic places, but don’t make visiting all of them a requirement.
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Transportation & Airport Transfer
Your flight to New York City will arrive in one of three airports, JFK, La Guardia or Newark. Figuring out how to get into the city can almost be overwhelming by the number of options – train, subway, bus, taxi, rideshare or shuttle. All airports are quite far so taxi and rideshare are notoriously expensive. The least expensive option is typically the subway or bus. Below is our recommendation knowing that you have luggage and don’t want to pay $50-$80 or more for a taxi or rideshare.
JKF – take the Long Island Railing to Penn Station. From Penn Station you can connect to the subway or take a taxi/rideshare to your hotel or accommodation.
La Guardia – take bus M60 bus to 125th street in Manhattan and connect the subway or take a taxi/rideshare to your hotel or accommodation.
Newark – take the NJ Transit to Penn Station. From Penn Station you can connect to the subway or take a taxi/rideshare to your hotel or accommodation.
Once you make it into the city, the easiest way to get around is by taking the subway (MTA), taxi, Uber or Lyft. If you’re planning on moving around a lot during the day, a multi-day pass is a good option. Otherwise, you can just pre-load a set amount of money on your card and pay-per-use.
Gay Hotels in New York
There aren’t currently any gay hotels in New York, but there are many gay-friendly options.
W New York – Times Square – soaring above a glittering stretch of Broadway in the heart of Midtown. Benefit from the prime location and discover the endless attractions. After a busy day, recharge in your bold guest room or suite, refuel at one of our two dynamic restaurants or relax in The Living Room, a playful tribute to Times Square of the past.
Hotel Beacon – the historic Hotel Beacon is in the heart of Manhattan's Upper West Side neighborhood and offers apartment-style rooms and two-bedroom suites. Stretch out, relax, and surround yourself with culture and experiences.
Andaz 5th Ave – boutique hotel across from the iconic New York Public Library. The spacious rooms feel like exclusive New York lofts, with 12-foot ceilings and plenty of natural light. The property has a restaurant, fitness center and spa onsite.
Chelsea Pines Inn – bed and breakfast hosting guests in Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. The five-story walk-up provides 24-hour concierge services near the Highline. The Inn is decorated with film posters from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Guests can enjoy the complimentary breakfast in the lounge, indoor greenhouse or flower-filled seasonal inner garden.
Colonial House Inn – features a rooftop seasonal sun terrace. A continental breakfast is provided each morning and guests can enjoy a complimentary happy hour in the evenings hosted in the lobby.
Incentra Village Hotel – Occupying two brownstone townhouses, this Greenwich Village hotel is a Victorian-style inn originally built in 1841 with a kitchenette provided in each room.
The Moore – boutique hotel located in Chelsea with a rooftop and fitness center. Walking distance to Penn Station and Madison Square Garden.
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Sightseeing & Activities in New York
New York City has something for everyone. There’s plenty of culture and history to be found but also lots of tourist traps and overrated places. You can also find plenty of free things to do in New York City if you're on the budget. The recommendations below are just a small list of suggestions that might be interesting for an LGBT visitor. This is by no means an exhaustive or ‘best of’ list.
The High Line – an icon of modern design and repurposing of old infrastructure. The entire park is elevated above the city on train tracks that had been abandoned since the mid 1980s. Since the track is narrow, only pedestrian traffic is allowed so there’s no need to dodge bikers. The best part of The High Line is the views of the skyscrapers surrounding you as you weave in between, to the side and beneath all the buildings.
Central Park – an obvious, but must-see park to enjoy on any visit to New York. The park was opened in 1857 and now occupies nearly 4% of the total land area of Manhattan. There are numerous playgrounds, running paths and food vendors throughout the park so you can easily spend several hours wandering about this famous landmark.
Leslie-Lohman Museum – provides a platform for artistic exploration through multi-faceted queer perspectives. It was created to preserve LGBT identity and build community, by acting as a cultural hub. With a collection of over 30,000 objects, the museum hosts six major exhibitions annually.
Manhattan Skyline – enjoy breathtaking views from Bushwick Inlet Park. Grab a bench along the waterfront and enjoy the views. Also near this park, you can enjoy Smorgasburg, a weekend market with various stalls selling multiple food selections from savories to sweets, located at East River State Park. Or if you prefer, take a free ride on the free Staten Island Ferry for an alternate viewpoint.
Broadway Show – check out a Broadway show including great favorites like Chicago or The Lion King. The shows can be rather expensive, but it’s an unforgettable experience if you’re into theater. Buy tickets →
Food Tours – New York is a foodie’s paradise but it’s also easy to find poor quality and tourist traps. Be sure you find some of the best options on a food tour like the Lower East Side or Brooklyn food tours. Book tour →
The Ride – Explore THE RIDE’s world-class experiences through photo and video. It offers a unique experience with a mix of technology and cityscape in a state-of-the-art motorcoach. The patented busses are the largest in New York and they highlight the best parts of the city through floor-to-ceiling glass, sound and motion effects, and 40 LCD TV screens. The RIDE is also an LGBT-owned NYC business. Book tour →
Gay Tours in New York
Gay Secrets of the Met – an exploration of homoerotic art in the Metropolitan Museum. On this tour, you’ll discover some of the Met’s queer treasures, from ancient Greek nudes and erotic vase-painting to homoerotic paintings from the Renaissance—as well as a panoply of modern works, some by LGBT artists, some portraying LGBT people and some expressing same-sex desire. Book tour →
Pride Tours NYC's LGBTQ Historical Walking Tour – Take a deep dive into the LGBTQ movement in New York City with this in-depth tour that covers the history and highlights in just over an hour. You and your small group will hear about the Stonewall Uprising and its long aftereffects on this family-friendly experience. Stop at the Stonewall Inn and other historically-significant sites and enjoy plenty of time to ask questions. Book tour →
Gay History Tour of New York – Take a city stroll with Oscar Wilde Tours and they’ll bring it all out of the closet. They’ve created the first tour giving the entire gay history of New York City. Book tour →
Restaurants and Cafes
Julius Restaurant – the oldest continually operating gay bar in New York City, this West Village nightspot is on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1966—before the Stonewall Uprising—the Mattachine Society (one of the country’s first gay rights groups) held a public “Sip-In” protest here, taking a stand for civil rights. These days, Julius’ remains a favorite for its regular events, drinks and great burgers.
Hearth – this restaurant is everything the word implies…a warm, comfortable restaurant with hospitality as its goal. Chef Marco Canora's cuisine employs seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients prepared with an Italian influence. The menu is rather expensive but the food amazing.
Momofuku Noodle Bar – award-winning restaurant located in both the East Village and Columbus Circle. They offer a constantly changing roster of noodles, steamed breads, soft serve, and daily dishes.
Prune – very popular neighborhood bistro with an award-winning chef. It’s a great option for lunch or dinner or weekend brunch.
Burger Joint – a small and simple, award-winning burger place with delicious burgers and low prices. This place is popular so it’s best to visit during an off-peak time.
Katz’ Deli – very famous deli that’s been family-owned for over 100 years. Each week thousands of visitors from around the world flock to Katz's to dine in this legendary deli, and to feast on the most delectable sandwiches, platters and meats.
New York Gay Bars
Greenwich Village is home to historic New York City gay bars and nightclubs that have stood the test of time. But you can find a huge amount of selection of gay bars Hell’s Kitchen and other parts of the city with each offering a different style and scene. Below is a selection of places worth checking out.
No Bar – relatively new queer bar located at The Standard, East Village.
Stonewall Inn – the most iconic gay bar in not just New York, but perhaps the whole world. The Stonewall Inn is now a National Historic Landmark due to its legacy in being the location of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, which were a catalyst to change for gay rights movements across the globe – ultimately leading us to the Gay Pride marches and parties we enjoy to this day. Fast forward to the present and it remains a popular bar both with residents and, of course, gay tourists looking to take a walk-through history.
The Duplex – established in 1950 and continues today as an international destination for arts and entertainment, providing nightly performances as varied and colorful as the streets of the West Village. The venue has a piano bar, café and cabaret.
Monster – since 1981, this Manhattan LGBT venue has been a pioneer on the scene with loads of adventures through its rich 33-year history. The Monster is also a bar of contrasts with a piano bar upstairs for the cultured to enjoy sing along sessions with a wealth of talented performers, whereas late in the evening the basement opens to reveal a fun-fuelled – often packed – nightclub replete with go-go dancers and an eclectic mix of pop and dance hits being played. DJs such as drag icon Lady Bunny are even known to make an appearance.
The Eagle – another institution of a bar, having been open since 1970 in wake of the Stonewall Riots and it has been the gathering place of hot men with a kinky streak ever since. The building was – perhaps aptly – originally a horse stable and now has a sleazy, yet welcoming, vibe. Ostensibly a leather bar, in reality it now attracts more of a mixed clientele and welcomes anyone
Marie’s Crisis – a bar that has roots all the way back to the 1850s when it was used as a den for prostitution. Unique in so many different ways, Marie’s Crisis has been a staple of New York City for a very long time. If you want to have a drink in an authentic and unique place, Marie’s Crisis Cafe is a great option.
Cubby Hole – mixed LGBT bar open since 1994 and particularly popular with women.
Henrietta Hudson – a longstanding lesbian bar in the West Village. Evenings are upbeat affairs with events, feature DJs, drink specials and go-go dancers. The bar fosters an inclusive spirit, and patrons tend to be a diverse bunch of party people.
New York Gay Clubs and Parties
Like many cities, there aren't any large, dedicated, large gay clubs in New York City. But instead, there are a variety of organizations that host monthly parties at local venues.
MEAT – exactly what it says on the tin. It is a monthly circuit party filled with hot sweaty topless men dancing to the beats of some of the biggest international DJs – all below stages hosting sexy shows and ripped go-go boys. Meat adds its own flavor by being one of the sexiest of the Circuit parties where – as they put it – ‘you can unleash your deepest, dirtiest desires’. Whatever that may mean for you, Meat also provides a massive play area for those who like their meat directly off the bone.
Alegria – Let’s face it: Circuit Parties can be a little samey samey. Alegria is a monthly party in NYC which turns that on its head. Sure, it has your usual Circuit DJs playing to a sea of muscled torsos across a huge dancefloor, but it also takes pride in inserting a little theatrical flair into the mix.
Black Party – The leather daddy of all circuit parties, however, is Black Party – dating back to 1981. It is unfortunately only held once a year in Spring, but should you be lucky enough to be booking your trip to New York around it, you’ll find a party which celebrates wall-to-wall sex in a way that would make even Berliners blush.
Horse Meat Disco – an internationally famous pop-up party taking place in NYC during long weekends and holidays. The night was originally birthed in London but now also takes place in NYC's legendary Knockdown Centre – famous for extravagant art exhibitions and epic music concerts. Horse Meat Disco describes itself as ‘a queer party for everyone’ and indeed it has one of the most eclectic mix of attendees, ranging from muscle queens to drag queens to queers to goths.
BRUT – The number one Circuit “gear party” in not just NYC, but all of the US. By gear party they mean strap on a harness, some leather – or whatever other fetish gear you please – and dive right into the mass of bodies. However, casual attire is also accepted as long as you come dressed in a matching sexually liberated attitude. BRUT takes place all over the US, but it was born in the basements of NYC and indeed it returns there monthly. Just like the other Circuit Parties they host internationally renowned DJs and have stage performances dominated by hot beefy men to enjoy.
Battle Hymn – Beneath the hustle and bustle of the big apple the soul of the club kid scene not only lives on but thrives. Held monthly on a Sunday, Battle Hymn is perhaps the largest gathering of queer people keeping the club kid spirit alive. The brainchild of nightlife personality Lady Fag – called “the nightlife sorceress” by the NY Times – the club originally took part in an abandoned church but now rotates location. Battle Hymn is a house music driven night of explosive creativity, being a place for people to express themselves however they choose.
New York Gay Saunas & Cruising Bars
New York has a complicated history regarding bathhouses, dating back to the HIV epidemic of the late 80's/early 90’s. The bathhouses were vilified as being virus spreaders and despite the efforts to prove that in fact, they were a force for good to educate the gay populace, they were ultimately almost all closed down and few have ever reopened. Additionally, there are very few cruising clubs in New York per se beyond The Eagle and a few other options with a lot of action being limited to exclusive parties found online. So while you won't find many gay saunas or bathhouses in New York City, there are some worthy alternatives.
East Side Club – The only gay sauna in New York. The bathhouse gets a bad rap – rightly or wrongly – in terms of facilities, cleanliness, action, and customer service – just check out the reviews online for further evidence of this. One thing that can be said for it, however, is that being only gay bathhouse in New York it does tend to draw in the tourists and international guys.
The Cock – found in East Side New York this bar is one of the few places in New York that has both a bar and a darkroom (only open on the weekends). The upstairs bar hosts go-go dancers and the no-sexual activity sign upstairs at the bar is of course not appilcable to the darkroom – a large but dark and dank two floor basement area.
Gay Beaches in New York
New York is not exactly a beach destination but there are a couple of places popular with LGBT locals to enjoy the sun and warmth, when the weather is nice.
Queens’ Riis Park – this has been a gay destination for decades. People of all colors, backgrounds and ages come here, creating a lively gathering at the eastern end of this expansive public beach. You can also find a wide range of artisanal eats and treats at the Riis Park Beach Bazaar.
Pier 45 (Christopher Street Pier) – Though not a beach, this waterfront spot has a ton of history. It’s better known as the Queer Pier and was once a place for gay cruising and later become a haven for homeless youth of color.
Gay Events in New York
DragCon NYC – the annual drag conference takes place in New York. Meet some of your favorite queens along with many other amazing celebrities, plus see performances from special guests, participate in contests, and attend discussion panels.
Queer Comic Fair – The only comic and art fair geared entirely towards LGBTQ sequential art and illustration in New York City. While other great queer-themed conventions and fairs exist in NYC, the NYC Queer Comic Fair is the first fair in NYC geared entirely towards queer comics, graphic novels, illustrated stories, photo-comics, or any other interesting take on the medium of still-visual storytelling and/or illustration.
NYC Pride – Started the year after the Stonewall riots, NYC Pride is an event celebrating the LGBT community. It is one of the largest annual Pride marches in the world, attracting tens of thousands of participants and millions of sidewalk spectators each June.
New York Fashion Week (Queer Fashion Show) – each September, dapperQ, a leading digital queer style magazine, produces the largest queer fashion show during New York Fashion Week. The show takes place at the Brooklyn Museum featuring over 70 models representing a diverse range of race, ethnicity, body types and gender identities. More than 2,000 people attend the event.
Day Trips from New York
Fire Island – a barrier island off the southern shore of Long Island. It’s known for protected beaches interspersed with seasonal resort communities. It’s also a been a summer gay destination for decades and it popular amongst New Yorkers. Fire Island has two gay beaches, The Pines and Cherry Grove. They also host a variety of events and parties throughout the summer.