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 in the world. 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, and I’ve got some fantastic New York City gay travel advice for you.
From exploring storybook neighborhoods to dancing until sunrise at intense circuit parties, there are limitless things for travelers to explore. Gay, lesbian and trans communities in New York are huge, too.
Broadway shows, fashion, and an unforgettable skyline are just a few things that attract LGBT tourists to New York from around the world.
First-time visitors should plan their trip to New York carefully. This ubiquitously unforgiving city is exciting and inspiring, but can sometimes be a bit intimidating for tourists.
In the sections below, I’ll tell you where to stay for the best experience, recommend affordable hotels, amazing restaurants, nightlife spots and more.
Gay New York: Hotels & Where to Stay
The location of your New York City hotel or apartment rental will have a huge impact on your 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.
Manhattan Hotels & Where to Stay
You won’t find many hotels in Hell’s Kitchen given the area is largely residential. To stay here in the heart of New York City’s gay life, a Hell’s Kitchen VRBO rental is your best bet. Most of the time, they’re decently affordable, too.
If you prefer a hotel but still want to be near Hell’s Kitchen, browse accommodations along Central Park South.
1 Hotel 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. Rooms here are super clean and have everything a traveler needs.
Firstly, most gay locals don’t live in these areas. Midtown East is far from nightlife, the Financial District can feel lifeless in the evening, and Chinatown is pretty dirty. If you want to stay in Manhattan, go with the other areas mentioned above.
Where to Stay in Brooklyn
New York City gay travelers who want a Brooklyn vibe will be happiest in Williamsburg. If you want that classic “Brooklyn” feel, this area is perfect.
The Williamsburg Hotel has some of the most stylish hotel rooms in New York. The bathrooms are incredible, as are the views from the small private balconies. They also have an epic rooftop pool.
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 apartment rentals have that “quintessential Brooklyn” vibe.
Where to Stay in Queens
Astoria has the most upbeat and authentic New York feel in all of Queens. Located just north of Long Island City, Astoria has convenient subway connections into Manhattan.
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.
GITANO Garden of Love –Showing off some beautiful Tulum vibes, GITANO is one of the best summertime restaurants in New York. They’re a super popular Mexican brunch restaurant in SoHo with a ton of cozy couches, large tables and a wraparound bar.
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.
Norma – Authentic Sicilian restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen with super friendly staff, traditional cocktails and outdoor seating.
Seamore’s Chelsea – Stylish open-air seafood restaurant in Chelsea with a nautical feel and a brunch menu I love. The specialty cocktails are perfect.
La Pecora Bianca – Fantastic gay friendly New York Italian restaurant in NoMad. I’ve enjoyed a few group dinners here and always loved the wine selection and service.
Pastis – The five-star service and unbeatable food at Pastis is something you definitely won’t forget. The ambiance is incredible with the feel of a Paris Bistro. Making a reservation is best since this popular restaurant fills quickly.
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
Things To Do In NYC During the Day
Christopher Street Pier
Little Island is one of the city’s newest attractions. A public park built on pedestals above the Hudson River, there’s plenty of open space to sit in the grass, grab a snack or wander the pathway to the park’s lookout point. Little Island looks bigger than it feels, so you it doesn’t take long to see all of it.
Visit The Stonewall
Stroll by the 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 Bus Tour
If you’re short on time and you want to see as much of New York’s 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.
Explore the West Village
A historic New York City gay neighborhood with a plethora of boutique shops, spend an afternoon wandering the quaint West Village neighborhood of Manhattan. You’ll see rainbow flags everywhere!
Sail The New York Harbor
Get Street Food
Grab some lunch to go at a Halal food truck. They’re delicious, cheap and loved by locals. One of the most famous vendors is The Halal Guys. But in all my experience, any street cart that sells Halal food is usually great.
Evening Things To Do In NYC
Walk The Brooklyn Bridge
The Seaport District
A haven for after-work drinks in the Financial District, local New Yorkers are obsessed with Stone Street. Charming outdoor picnic tables on a cobblestone street lined with high-end pubs will warm your soul.
New York City Gay Nightlife
New York City gay nightlife never stops! For the LGBT partiers, below is a list of gay bars followed by a list of rotating events and gay parties in New York City.
NYC Gay Bars
I cover all the NYC gay bar favorites here in wolfyy’s NYC Gay Bar Ultimate Guide, where you can find out which types of guys are at each gay bar, which days each bar is busiest, and their overall vibe.
Traditional NYC Bars I Love
For those who aren’t looking specifically for gay bars, here are a couple of my other favorite bars in New York!
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 AM. Large parties go into the early morning but stop serving alcohol at 4 AM.
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. The same goes for buses.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.
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.