Known worldwide as a cultural melting pot, NYC is the center of many diverse influences, giving the city some of the most vibrant LGBTQ events in the world.
Aside from the energetic LGBTQ nightlife, food scene, events, and more, NYC also has a lot of history to offer. The Stonewall riots in NYC kick-started the LGBTQ movement and became the birthplace of the Gay Rights Movement. NYC inspired leaders who transformed America over the years, and it continues to do so today by empowering them with the history and the possibilities of a better future. From that first day at the Stonewall Inn, when they said no more and fought back, everything started to change — and with these changes more and more places became open to sharing their love for the LGBTQ community.
Today, if you want to explore the best NYC has to offer when it comes to LGBTQ nightlife, cultural events, and more, you’ve come to the right place for your top recommendations.
NYC LGBTQ NIGHTLIFE
There are endless LGBTQ friendly bars and clubs in NYC. If this is your first time visiting the city, check out Stonewall, even if to just pay homage to the gay rights movement.
The West Village, Chelsea, and Hell’s Kitchen are the top go-to areas for LGBTQ bars. In the Village, you will find some of the city’s oldest gay bars, including Julius’. The historic bar was built in 1826, first operating as a grocery store. Julius’ officially became a gay bar in 1864, and it is the oldest continuously operating gay bar in New York City.
Hell’s Kitchen is the home to some of the city’s most popular gay establishments. Start your night with a cocktail at Rise Bar and then head over to Flaming Saddles, a western themed bar that is a gay cowboy’s heaven with good drinks and good company. You’ll even get a bonus show when the bartenders hop up on the bar to dance to country and top 40 hits! You can also head over to Boxers to enjoy a nice open air roof deck right in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen. Then head on over to Ritz Bar, Vodka Soda/Bottoms Up, Therapy and Industry — they are all within 5 minutes from each other, so it’s perfect for bar and club hopping.
If you are looking for something slightly different, you can also check out The Boiler Room in East Village, a dive bar known for its jukebox — although the bartenders are friendly, they aren’t afraid to skip to the next track if your music choice doesn’t cut it. There is also The Vault in Brooklyn, which has an intimate two level space where it hosts a range of events from comedy showcases to underwear parties.
The food scene in NYC can be overwhelming with the number of options available, but it’s actually not a bad thing at all. 9th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen is lined with LGBTQ friendly restaurants, including Mom’s Kitchen & Bar, which has amazing milkshakes and brunch items, and Empanada Mama, offering over 40 types of empanadas as a popular late night spot. There is also Totto Ramen in Midtown West, and the many Thai restaurants along 9th.
For a delicious gay brunch, 44 & X on 10th Avenue has a friendly atmosphere and it is a great spot to people watch while you eat. Elmo in Chelsea is another great option for brunch. The fashionable restaurant serves comfort food and it has a lively bar.
And for dessert, you can’t miss the Big Gay Ice Cream in West Village, and not just because their name is great. Their soft-serve creations really are to die for.
Everyone knows that NYC offers great shopping adventures. There’s everything from large department stores like Macy’s to boutique shops to serve your every shopping need.
Known as Millionaire’s Row, the famous 5th Avenue connects the north and south of Manhattan, and is full of stores, from A|X Armani Exchange and Abercrombie & Fitch, to Prada, Fendi, Bulgari, and more.
SoHo is another great shopping area, known for its indie boutiques, upscale retailers, and specialty stores.
There are also the famous department stores like Macy’s at Herald Square, Bloomingdale’s, Barney’s, and many flagship stores like Saint Laurent, Alexander Wang, Gucci, and Hermes. Century 21 Department Store in lower Manhattan provides top designers items at discounted prices, making it very popular with visiting tourists.
The Center – The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center – is known as a treasure to art lovers. The Center features a permanent collection and rotating exhibits.
There is also a Met Tour that not many people know about. The Gay Secrets of the Met Tour explores Met’s queer treasures, some by LGBT artists, some portraying LGBT people.
Also check out The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, a cultural hub for the LGBTQ communities, and the world’s only dedicated LGBTQ museum that exhibits and preserves art that speaks about the LGBTQ experience.
NYC LGBTQ EVENTS
NYC is packed full of events all year round. Some yearly favorites include NYC Gay Pride, which takes place every summer and features the parade, music, annual pride run, great food, and more. NYC hosted one of the largest Pride celebrations in 2019 with World Pride and the 50th anniversary of Stonewall.
RuPaul’s DragCon NYC is another highly recommended event. This is where you can meet your favorite queens, see performances from special guests, participate in contests, and be the audience to a wide range of panels about drag tips, art, culture, and political resistance.
If you are visiting the city in October, you don’t want to miss the Halloween parade in the Village, which the NY Times described as “the best entertainment that the people of this city ever give to the people of this city.”
And if you are looking for a fun event that also supports a great cause, there is the annual Night of a Thousand Gowns, which is a charity gala with the mission of raising funds for LGBT related causes.
Whether you are visiting NYC for a quick trip or a longer stay, there is plenty to do, so plan ahead and make the most out of it!
What are your favorite LGBTQ-friendly activities in NYC?