New York City Gay Travel
wolfyy’s New York City gay guide to the best hotels, neighborhoods, gay parties, bars restaurants & things to do.
The Gay Travel Experience: New York City
New York is one of the most LGBT-friendly cities on the planet. No matter who you are, being gay in New York City is easy. I’ve been a New York local for more than eight years, so you can definitely trust me to give you some fantastic gay travel advice.
From storybook neighborhoods to intense circuit parties, there are limitless things for travelers to explore. Gay, lesbian and trans communities in New York are huge, too.
Performing arts, fashion, and a one-of-a-kind skyline are just a few things that attract droves of LGBT tourists from around the world. For first-time visitors, make sure you plan your trip smartly. New York may be glamorous and inspiring, but it’s also fast-paced, impatient and sometimes a little scary.
Gay New York: Hotels & Where to Stay
Choosing a hotel or rental in a fun, upbeat neighborhood will have a huge impact on your New York City gay travel experience. Where you stay, with respect to both the neighborhood and quality of accommodation, can absolutely make or break a trip.
To be “in the thick of it all,” follow my neighborhood recommendations below. I’ll break it down for you by borough.
Where to Stay in Manhattan
I recommend staying in Hell’s Kitchen (the younger gay area), the West Village (the historic gay area of New York City) or the cozy East Village. Each of these neighborhoods is packed with restaurants/cafés as well as gay locals.
You won’t find many hotels in Hell’s Kitchen given the area is largely low-rise residential buildings. To stay among locals in the heart of New York City gay life, a Hell’s Kitchen VRBO rental is your best bet. An apartment rental will also likely be one of the more affordable options in the heart of Manhattan.
Central Midtown and Midtown West are always nice choices for travelers, too. Here you can expect classic New York vibes and close proximity to the Hell’s Kitchen gay neighborhood.
Hotel 1 Central Park is a modern and luxurious option in this area of the city. I love the woody scent in the lobby, as well as the ground-floor coffee shop.
Family-oriented Tribeca and the Meatpacking District are other great neighborhoods for travelers who aren’t too concerned with being nearby one of the gay areas of New York.
These neighborhoods have a relatively less dense gay population, but easily make up for it in style. One of the most beloved New York City gay hotels is The Standard, High Line. Locals love their rooftop!
Central Harlem is good for value given it is farther from most attractions. I recommend tourists avoid East Harlem as there is not much to do there. Also, the area can be questionable late at night.
Consider avoiding accommodations in Midtown East or the Financial District for the reason that these areas are business centers. They tend to become a bit lifeless on weekends/evenings. However, you will likely find cheaper accommodations here.
Where to Stay in Brooklyn
New York City gay travelers that want a Brooklyn vibe will be happiest in Williamsburg. If you want that classic “Brooklyn” feel, this area is perfect.
Gritty and dense, you can sometimes feel like you’re walking on a movie set. With plenty of tucked away bars, you’ll stay plenty busy.
Calmer vibes can be found in Fort Greene and Park Slope, best for park lovers. As proven by Brooklyn’s frenzied housing market, some of these Fort Greene & Park Slope vacation rentals have that “quintessential Brooklyn” vibe.
Avoid Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights and East New York, since they may not suit you best in terms of comfort and safety.
Where to Stay in Queens
Astoria has the most upbeat and authentic New York feel in Queens. Located just north of Long Island City, Astoria has convenient subway connections into Manhattan.
A primarily residential area, you’re best off with a VRBO rental in Astoria. If you love Greek food, definitely check out this hood. It seems like every corner has a greek restaurant these days!
New York City Restaurants
New York City has a astronomical number of restaurants. Every type of cuisine is within arm’s reach, too. Here are my select favorites and recommendations.
Totto Ramen – Cozy and inexpensive ramen shop with multiple locations in Hell’s Kitchen and East Midtown. Cash only.
Agave – Wildly popular Mexican brunch in the West Village. Long waiting list for reservations, so make them early.
Cafeteria – Brunch popular with gay locals in warmer weather. Mouth-watering custom drinks in West Midtown. Can get busy in summer, so its best to call for a reservation.
Holey Cream – one of the best take-out dessert spots in New York. In the middle the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, Holey Cream serves creamy ice cream sandwiches using warm donuts. They sound delicious, but taste even better than they sound! Walk in for take-away or order your dessert online.
Carmines – Family style Italian restaurant great for families or large groups. Also, it is kid-friendly.
Amy’s Bread – Quaint coffee shop with breakfast treats located in Hell’s Kitchen. Popular with gay locals.
The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop – Perfect place to cool down in summer with locations in both the West Village and Upper West Side in Manhattan.
New York City Gay Travel Experiences
NYC Daytime Things to Do
Christopher Street Pier – Relax in warm weather with a gaggle of gays on this delightful pier. Great views of the World Trade Center. Bring a picnic blanket and food so you can spread out.
Visit The Stonewall – Place of the 1969 riots in Greenwich Village that contributed to the Gay Liberation Movement. Stop in the tavern for a drink and pay some gratitude to the LGBT rights we do have!
Take a Big Bus Tour – If you’re short on time and you want to see as much of the cityscape as possible, Big Bus Tours NY is the way to go. You’ll be able to sit atop an open-air bus and get a bird’s eye view of local life on the city streets below.
Stroll the West Village – A Historic gay neighborhood with a plethora of boutique shops, an afternoon of gay exploration is not complete without a visit.
Eat at a Halal food truck – Delicious, cheap and loved by locals, grab a meal to go! One of the most famous and delicious vendors is The Halal Guys.
NYC Evening Activities
Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge – Here you’ll find a mix of tourists and locals, but it’s a fun time for everyone. On the Brooklyn side, check out Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The Seaport – The Seaport is a great stop for those staying in Downtown Manhattan. A rapidly developing area of Manhattan with scenic views of the Brooklyn Bridge. In the summer there are movie screenings outside.
Grab Beer on Stone Street – A haven for after-work drinks in the Financial District, local New Yorkers are obsessed with Stone Street. Adorable outdoor picnic tables on a cobblestone street lined with high-end pubs will warm your soul.
New York City Gay Nightlife
The party never stops in New York! For all you LGBT partiers, below is a list of standard gay bars and subsequently a list of rotating gay parties and events.
NYC Gay Bars
I cover all the NYC gay bar favorites here in the wolfyy NYC Gay Bar Ultimate Guide, where you can find out which types of guys are at each gay bar, which bars are best on which days, and each one’s overall vibe.
Other Bars Picks in NYC
Here are just a couple of my most noteworthy favorites!
As-Is NYC – Chic imported beer bar in Hell’s Kitchen with a rotating selection. Great for couples. Seating can fill up, so head earlier for a table.
New York City Gay Events & Parties
New York has so many different gay parties, one of which is happening almost every weekend, especially in summer. A few of these parties change location, so double check their social media pages.
All of the following parties are amazing, so any gay traveler in New York will have a blast.
NYC Gay Dance Parties
These venues are better for those looking to primarily spend the night dancing. They are much more upbeat.
Expect several mega-rooms/levels with dark electronic beats and men of all types. Buy tickets in advance and show up before midnight to avoid long lines. Location always changes.
Fishbowl – Pop-music dance party on Saturday night with a predominantly younger (21 to 30 year-old) crowd. In the basement of the Midtown Dream Hotel.
There’s usually no line for Fishbowl, so don’t confuse the entrance with the line for the PHD straight party directly next door. If there is a line, it is usually just for show and doesn’t always mean the club is full. Locals tend to wear button-down shirts here, so avoid tank tops.
M.E.A.T. NYC – Shirtless circuit party attended primarily by a mostly 30+ crowd. World renowned DJ’s. MEAT is leather & fur-fetish themed with dark rooms in a sectioned off area of the club (one of the only NYC gay parties that has this).
There is always a clothes check available, however they can be chaotic. Check out their website for planned parties and their location (which changes every so often).
Looking for more NYC circuit parties? Check out these circuit party events to see if any of the US productions will be hosting a party in New York during your trip.
Gay Parties with a Lounge Feel
These parties all have a dancing component, but are best for those who prefer more area for chatting and lounging with friends.
Le Bain – Chic lounge-type party with area for dancing. Stunning views from the rooftop. Usually Tuesday or Sunday evenings depending on the season but subject to change. Check with the Standard Hotel at the High Line.
PHD at the Dream Hotel Downtown – Rooftop terrace and dancing in a chic hotel space on Sunday afternoons. Dress your best!
FLY Sundays at Monarch – Summer rooftop event near Empire State Building with iconic gummy-bear fruit punch cocktails. Locals tend to dress their summer-casual best, with tank tops certainly welcome.
Arrive earlier in the afternoon to avoid a long entry line. See photos on the FLY Sundays Instagram.
Looking to meet other gay travelers to explore New York City with? Join wolfyy’s Gay Travel Facebook Chat and introduce yourself to some new friends!
New York City Gay Cruising
Are you a tourist looking for New York City gay cruising spots or saunas? New York is a little different when it comes to the sauna scene. Check out this post about where to find a gay bathhouse in New York City.
You can also find more about sex parties in New York as well as some history about why there are only a few traditional gay bathhouses in NYC.
New York City Gay Travel Tips
For budget travelers, I advise against staying in hostels. New York is definitely not a hostel city. Many times, the hostels that exist in New York can be even more expensive than an apartment rental or hotel!
VRBO is a good bet for lower-end accommodations. Make sure you dive deep into the reviews as things can be a little deceptive if you’re not thorough.
Don’t wait in any crazy lines for restaurants. Places like Katz’ Deli and Pick-a-Bagel are not worth it and locals avoid them. Also, do not eat anywhere located in Times square. None of that is authentic.
If visiting One World Trade Center is on your list, purchase tickets online the morning you plan to go. You will save yourself at least an hour of waiting in line.
Don’t forget your identification or Passport. You will need it to get in to just about every bar/party. At circuit parties and other large events, expect to be thoroughly searched. Bars in New York close at 4:00am. Large parties go into the early morning but stop serving alcohol at 4:00.
You will need lot of time to thoroughly explore the Big Apple. Seven days is an ideal length, although four to five is doable. Staying through a weekend is preferable to get a taste of larger gay nightlife activities.
Luggage Storage for Day-Trips
Lugging your bags around can be super frustrating in New York City. Before I lived in New York, finding a place to store my bags for just an afternoon was a sketchy experience. Thankfully there are now lots of trustworthy places where you can store luggage in New York.
Navigating the NYC Subway
If you plan on using the subway to get around, I recommend buying a weekly unlimited MetroCard. This can be used on all buses and subways. Keep in mind that you cannot buy one card for multiple people as it cannot be used consecutively in a short period of time.
Many NYC subway stations are separated into an “uptown” and a “downtown” side. Often, there is no connection between them once you enter one of the sides. Be sure you know what direction you’re headed before paying!
All NYC subway stations now have contactless systems installed. Easily swipe your phone or tap your card to purchase your single ride ticket. It works really well!
Heading to a NYC airport? They can be very stressful, not to mention a little run down (hey, at this point we’re known for it). Check out these 5 tips for reducing airport stress.
NYC Money-Saving Tips
New York is expensive, so here is a list of even more quick tips to save you cash as you explore:
First of all, corner deli food is delicious. You definitely get the most volume for your dollar. Fill up with a hero! Breakfast sandwiches in these places are 3 to 4 dollars, more or less. Don’t pay any more than that!
Halal food trucks are the cheapest and certainly most delicious food around. $7 will get you a big tray of meat and rice.
Keep rush hour in mind when you need to go somewhere via car. Between 4:00 PM and 7:30 PM, costs of Uber and Lyft for example, can easily be double. It is best to make your way to your destination area before traffic is at its worst.
Lastly, make sure to take an Uber Pool from the airport. A standard taxi can easily cost you a whopping $70, so this is totally worth it. It usually takes only 5 to 8 minutes longer by sharing the ride.
Don’t pass up a visit to the Fire Island Pines if you’re visiting NYC between June and September. Read the Fire Island Pines Gay Travel Guide.