New York City Gay Travel
wolfyy’s New York City gay guide to the best hotels, restaurants, gay clubs, parties & 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 nine years, so I’ll give you some of the best New York City gay travel advice you can find.
From exploring storybook-like neighborhoods to dancing until sunrise at intense circuit parties, there are limitless ways for gay travelers to explore in New York. Broadway shows, fashion, and unforgettable skyline views are just a few.
Gay, lesbian and transgender populations in New York City are huge, so it’s easy for everyone to find their community.
First-time visitors should plan their trip to New York carefully. This ubiquitously unforgiving city is exciting and inspiring, but can be a bit intimidating for some.
Below, I’ll tell you where to stay for the best gay New York experience, recommend crowd-favorite hotels, restaurants, gay nightlife venues and share useful travel tips.
Gay New York City: Hotels & Where to Stay
The location of your hotel or apartment rental in New York 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
A Hell’s Kitchen apartment rental is your best bet if you want to be in the heart of New York City’s gay life. You won’t find many hotels in Hell’s Kitchen given the area is largely residential. Most of the time, apartments are decently affordable, too.
If you prefer a standard hotel, but still want to be near Hell’s Kitchen, browse accommodations along Central Park South or elsewhere in Midtown West.
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.
Arlo Midtown is one of my personal favorite hotels in New York. It’s not easy to find a hotel as stylish as this at such an affordable price. I’ve recommended Arlo Midtown to many friends and they have all loved the hotel’s gorgeous style and rooftop.
Manhattan’s Meatpacking District is a chic neighborhood just north of the West Village. Along the area’s historic cobblestone roads you’ll find plenty of luxury shops and trendy nightclubs that occupy buildings once used as meatpacking facilities.
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.
Brooklyn Hotels & Where to Stay
Williamsburg is the ideal neighborhood for New York City gay travelers who want to experience that classic “Brooklyn” feel.
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. 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 an 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 popular with gay locals. They’re a delicious Mexican brunch restaurant in SoHo with a ton of cozy couches, large tables, and a wraparound bar.
As-Is NYC – Chic, dimly-lit imported beer bar in Hell’s Kitchen with a rotating selection and mouth-watering bar food. Great for couples.
La Pulpería – Popular for energetic drag brunches with unlimited cocktails in a rustic-feeling Latin style restaurant.
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. There are typically long waiting lists 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 it’s 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 takeaway 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 Headless Horseman – Dimly lit and festive tavern in Union Square, perfect for an early afternoon drink and delicious bar food.
The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop – Perfect place to cool down in summer with locations in both the Seaport District and Upper West Side in Manhattan.
Food delivery with Grubhub is always another option if you don’t have time to eat out (or you just don’t want to). There are thousands of restaurants to choose from in NYC on the Grubhub App!
New York City Gay Travel Experiences
There are tons of things for gay travelers to do in New York, no matter whether it’s day, night, a weekday or weekend. Below are some of my favorite things to do in New York, even as a local.
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 it doesn’t take long to see all of it.
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 & Stonewall
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!
NYC's Newest Observation Decks
Glitzy new observation decks have recently opened atop some of New York City’s shiny new skyscrapers. Now, the Empire State Building, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, and the World Trace Center aren’t the only places you can get epic skyline views.
Grab tickets for The Edge NYC, the highest outdoor observation deck in the Western Hemisphere! Experience the glass floor panel along with breathtaking views of NYC’s skyline and the Hudson River. Sunset is the most popular time and tickets around this part of the day sell out fast, so book early.
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is New York’s newest observatory and it’s truly jaw-dropping. With two expansive all-glass levels and glass-floor ledges that levitate over 1000 feet above street level, the experience here is unforgettable. I had a ton of fun playing in the room filled with silver balloons!
Additional private experiences are available as well, including the Ascent glass-floor elevator ride up to an even higher and more private observatory area.
Sail The New York Harbor
Relax in Sheep Meadow
Gay locals flaunt their sexy swimwear here in Sheep Meadow all summer, even though there’s nowhere to swim! Bring cold water if it’ll be hot!
Fuel Up on 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.
Walk The Brooklyn Bridge
Along the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian path, you’ll find a ton of tourists, but this is still an experience that first-timers always want to do at least once! Walking across is fantastic in the early morning or late afternoon for sunset.
Brooklyn Bridge Park is along the waterfront in the area between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. One of the best outdoor places to visit in New York, there’s tons to do here. Walk along the waterfront promenade, grab food or drinks at the Time Out Market or explore some of the area’s upscale shops.
Explore Manhatan's Seaport District
Drinks on Stone Street
Local New Yorkers are obsessed with Stone Street, a haven for after-work drinks in the Financial District. Charming outdoor picnic tables on a cobblestone street lined with high-end pubs will warm your soul.
New York City Gay Nightlife
Gay nightlife in New York City never stops and there are endless options of gay bars, clubs, and parties. Discover the best gay events and venues below!
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.
Below, you’ll find recommendations for gay parties and events!
Gay Parties in New York City
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.
Gay Dance Parties in NYC
These venues are better for those looking to primarily spend the night dancing. They are much more upbeat.
Zero Space 5D – This club experience is a gay circuit party held inside of the ZeroSpace Museum. It’s not hosted too often, so if you hear about one that’s scheduled, definitely go! Eye-popping luminescent sandboxes, a cuddle room, and popular DJs attract a local crowd. Tickets are typically sold on ShowClix.
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. For both Holy Mountain and Battle Hymn, wear your most eccentric, flashy gay circuit gear.
Motel 23 – Pop-music dance party on Saturday night with a predominantly younger (21 to 30-year-old) crowd. The Motel 23 gay party is hosted by Michael Cohen, and has replaced the formerly hosted Fishbowl party.
If there is a line outside Motel 23, it’s usually just for show and doesn’t necessarily mean the club is full. It’s definitely less of a hassle to show up early. Locals tend to wear button-downs or chic t-shirts here.
MEAT NYC – Shirtless circuit party attended primarily by a mostly 30+ crowd with popular DJs. MEAT is a leather & fur-fetish-themed party with dark rooms (one of the only New York City gay parties that has them).
Wearing mostly jockstraps and sexy underwear, gay men go back and forth from the dance floor to the cruising area, which is in a sectioned-off area of the club.
There is always a clothes check available, too. Make sure to bring cash for this!
3 Dollar Bill is a hugely popular gay event space in East Williamsburg, branded as New York’s premier queer bar and performance venue.
They’re well-known for hosting large circuit parties (like MEAT NYC mentioned above), but they also host plenty of interesting weeknight performances and shows. See what’s scheduled on 3 Dollar Bill’s event page.
Renting a van for your group of friends can be super fun and practical if you’re traveling to clubs in Brooklyn from Manhattan or somewhere not very close. I’ve done this a couple of times and had such a blast!
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.
NYC 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 held on 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.
Travel Tips for New York City
CityPASS can be a huge money-saver if you’re planning to visit multiple of New York’s popular tourist attractions, including museums, cruises, and observation decks. They offer 3-ticket and 6-ticket packages.
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’s Deli and Pick-a-Bagel are not worth it and locals avoid them. Don’t eat at any standard restaurants in Times Square, either. Most of them are low quality and overpriced.
If visiting One World Trade Center is on your list, purchase tickets online to save yourself at least an hour of waiting in line.
You will need a 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.
Tips for Bars & Nightlife
Going to a party with a large group of friends? Renting a party van or small party bus is super fun! Check out Carmel, a trustworthy van and limo rental service that operates in New York City.
Don’t forget your personal identification or passport. You will need it to get into just about every bar/party. Many times international tourists forget about this!
At circuit parties and other large events, expect to be thoroughly searched. Bars in New York close at 4 AM. Large parties can go longer into the morning hours, but have to stop serving alcohol at 4 AM.
NYC Luggage Storage
Lugging your bags around can be super frustrating in New York City. Before I lived here, finding a place to store my bags for just an afternoon was a sketchy experience.
Navigating New York's 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!
New York’s subway system runs 24 hours a day, but that doesn’t mean certain lines stop running. Do your research before relying on the train late at night. Also, keep in mind that construction often takes place on weekends, so some subway routes may be much slower.
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 tips for reducing airport stress.
Tips to Save Money in New York
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 around 4 dollars. 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 hours in mind when you plan to travel by car. Costs of Uber and Lyft can skyrocket to unbelievable levels at peak times, so plan ahead to save.
Don’t pass up a visit to Fire Island if you’re visiting NYC between June and September. Read more in wolfy’s Fire Island Pines gay guide.