Chelsea New York Gay Guide and Photo Gallery

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    Splash, the famous gay club, just off 5th Avenue (not far from Union Square)

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    More than any other New York City neighborhood, Chelsea, which lies between Midtown and the West Village, has the greatest concentration of gay-frequented restaurants, shops, and bars, plus a handful of accommodations. Here's a gallery of gay-popular hangouts all throughout the neighborhood as well as in the adjoining - and trendy - Meatpacking District.

    Splash Bar (50 W. 17th St., 212-691-0073) is barely in Chelsea, just a few doors in from 5th Avenue and closer to Union Square than the neighborhood's main drags, 7th and 8th avenues. However, it's been the quintessential Chelsea club since it opened in 1992, and it remains one of the first bars most gay visitors to New York City make a serious point of visiting. Good DJs, hunky strippers and go-go boys (famous for their on-stage shower performances), and simple but popular weekly theme parties (Campus Thursdays, Sexxx Saturdays) make up for the bilevel club's drawbacks, namely big crowds, pricey drinks, and - in the eyes of...MORE many - too many tourists. To be sure, there's nothing insider-y about Splash, but it is most definitely a classic gay nightspot, and its central location also makes it the easiest to reach of Chelsea bars if you're coming from anywhere east of 5th Avenue.

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    Meatpacking District, which buzzes with fashionable restaurants and bars

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Once a warren of meatpacking plants and slaughterhouses and later in the 20th century a rough patch of prostitution and drug dealing, New York City's Meatpacking District has undergone a stunning transformation since the mid-1990s, and the recent opening of the distinctive High Line elevated park has brought even more buzz to this swatch of cobblestone streets, avant-garde art galleries, boutique hotels, and fashionable restaurants and bars. The neighborhood's epicenter is the block of 9th Avenue between W. 13th and Little W. 12th Streets, which is presided over by the trendy and gay-popular Gansevoort Hotel - you'll find several notable restaurants and bars within a stone's throw of this spot, including Pastis, Nero D'Avola, and Dos Caminos (which is installed in a flatiron-shaped building whose basement once held the infamous gay sex club, J's Hangout.

    These days, there are no gay bars in the Meatpacking District, but virtually all of the nightspots in the neighborhood have something...MORE of a gay following, from the old-school dive bar Hogs & Heifers, a legend with biker dudes since it opened in the early '90s, to the chic Le Bain Rooftop Bar (and seasonal Biergarten) inside the swanky New York Standard Hotel. In addition to the Standard and aforementioned Gansevoort Hotel, the Maritime Hotel and famously gay-popular Chelsea Pines Inn are excellent lodgings options if you want to be in the Meatpacking District.

    The Meatpacking District technically falls spreads across the boundary between the West Village and Chelsea (which is W. 14th Street), so it's really a bridge between the west end of both neighborhoods. The district's general boundary is considered to be the Hudson River Greenway Park to the west, 16th Street to the north, 9th Avenue and Hudson Street to the east, and Gansevoort Street to the south.

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    Barracuda gay bar, 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Since it opened well over a decade ago, the groovy and gracious Barracuda (275 W. 22nd St., 212-645-8613) has always felt a bit like an East Village bar that slipped across town when nobody was looking. It's dark, narrow, and with a stylish, slightly arty vibe, and the crowd is more eclectic and generally with less attitude than at most of Chelsea's more uppity gay hangouts. Barracuda has earned a reputation over the years for its lively cabaret and drag shows held in the small stage-bar in the back. The cozy layout, dim lighting, and great music make it a relatively easy place to mingle and meet friends - it's cruisy without feeling overwhelming like a pick-up joint. The staff is fairly nice. The late Tammy Faye Bakker Messner appeared here to promote The Eyes of Tammy Faye, and numerous gay celebs have been spotted here over the years (including Lance Bass, whom the gossip rags claimed had a fight here with a friend a few years back). Ultimately, this cocktail bar next to...MORE the infamous Unicorn blue-movie shop works because its friendly enough to feel like a laid-back neighborhood bar but hip and stylish enough to draw a steady flow of attractive, intelligent guys.

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    Rocking Horse Cafe, 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    The former haunt of talented Suenos chef Sue Torres, Chelsea's festive and contemporary Rocking Horse Cafe (182 8th Ave., 212-463-9511) continues to dazzle fans of authentic regional Mexican cooking with such delicacies as lobster turnovers with marjoram-sweet-corn sauce, hanger steak burritos with picked onion and serrano chiles, and shrimp, caramelized onions, papaya, and poblano chiles stewed in a tomato-chipotle puree. It's on a row of good restaurants that include Room Service, Better Burger NYC, Cuba Cafe, and Tello.

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    9th Avenue & 14th Street, the junction between Chelsea and Meatpacking District

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    A key intersection for exploring Chelsea, especially in recent years as the surrounding blocks have undergone an almost hyper gentrification, 9th Avenue and West 14th Street is a good spot to begin a tour of the area. Catch a bus or cab here, and you're near many interesting things: the two or three blocks to the south make up the once-rough but now fashionable Meatpacking District. Walk a block east to reach the city's distinctive, elevated High Line park. Heading north, though it takes you directly into Chelsea, is less interesting for visitors - 9th Avenue is fringed by mostly prosaic businesses as well as several blocks of housing projects. However, just a block north is one of the neighborhood's key attractions, the rambling gourmet food concourses of Chelsea Market (pictured here, they occupy the nine-story building on the left, with the American flag waving atop it).

    You'll find more to see and do if you walk east one long block along West 14th Street, turning either south...MORE down 8th Avenue into the West Village or north up 8th Avenue along a bustling stretch of gay-frequented businesses that includes restaurants, bars, porn shops, and workaday businesses. Note that the intersection of 8th and West 14th is also the nearest subway stop to the Meatpacking District - you can grab the L Train here, which runs across 14th and eventually into Brooklyn, or pick up the A, C, or E, which connect the neighborhood to Brooklyn via Greenwich Village and the Financial District, and to the Bronx and Queens via Midtown and the Upper West Side.

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    GEM Hotel Chelsea, a hip, affordable, gay-friendly hotel along 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    The economy can wax and wane, and the costs of travel may rise and fall. One thing you can safely bet on is that New York City shall always be one of the world's most expensive cities, and arguably the priciest in America. Enter the GEM Hotel Chelsea, which opened inside a smartly transformed former residential hotel with a prime location along a stretch of 8th Avenue that may have more gay-popular restaurants, bars, and shops than any other thoroughfare in New York City. The hotel is also a block from a major subway stop on the A, C, and E lines. You can book online here.

    The GEM is part of a mini-brand of three moderately priced yet stylish New York City boutique hotels. The others are the GEM Midtown West (which is by the Javits Convention Center, a neighborhood with far less interest to leisure travelers, although it's midway between Chelsea and the Theater District/Hells Kitchen), and the GEM SoHo, which is an outstanding option if you want to be near not only hip SoHo but also...MORE the trendy-gay East Village and Lower East Side.

    Again, the location is stellar - as lively and fun as this neighborhood is, it's short on lodging options. The GEM within a few blocks of numerous cool restaurants and bars. The hotel five-story hotel is compact, and its rooms pretty cozy (by Manhattan standards, that's a bit smaller than average, but by general U.S. standards, they're actually tiny). This is only a problem if you're seriously in need of lots of space to kick around in, and in Manhattan, you're going to find that only by paying a lot more or staying somewhere decidedly less appealing.

    The GEM Chelsea is highly appealing. Rooms are smartly designed with high-quality beds and linens, decent-size wardrobes, wide-screen flat-panel TVs, free WiFi, coffeemakers with Wolfgang Puck java, Gilchrest & Soames bath products, robes, irons and boards - in other words, all the basics you'd expect of an upscale business hotel. Yet the 81-room property is intimate, the staff personable and laid-back (much more so than at many larger Midtown hotels). There's a small but attractive sitting area in the lobby, and you've also got access to an exercise room and business center. The GEM is keen on welcoming GLBT travelers, and they've come up with a number of promotions and deals.

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    David Barton Gym Chelsea - an upscale, gay-popular health club on West 23rd St

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    How do all those hot, buffed guys dancing shirtless at Splash tone their bodies (apart from eating nothing but protein shakes from Energy Kitchen and faux-ice cream from Pinkberry and Tasti D-Lite)? They work out at Chelsea's preeminent gym, David Barton, which has long had a popular gay following (and a cruisy reputation, especially in the steam room). This spotless, well-equipped facility is at 215 W. 23rd St. (212-414-2022).

    Additionally NYC branches of David Barton Gym are at Astor Place in the Village and on the Upper East Side, and there are also David Barton Gyms in Miami's South Beach, the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, Chicago's River North neighborhood, and Las Vegas.

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    Chelsea Pines Inn, one of NYC's most esteemed gay guesthouses

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    The venerable Chelsea Pines Inn has been a popular address for savvy gay and lesbian travelers to New York City since it opened in 1986. Back then, the owners typically emphasized the guesthouse's proximity to bustling Greenwich Village - indeed, the redbrick 1850s townhouse is right along a prime stretch of West 14th Street, between 8th and 9th avenue - the border between the West Village and Chelsea. But back in those days, Chelsea had yet to develop into the trendy epicenter of gay culture that it is today. The location is one of the best assets of the Chelsea Pines Inn, which is actually adjacent to a third cool neighborhood, the Meatpacking District, which is immediately due west.

    Accommodations at the inn range from cozy but still graciously furnished standards to downright spacious (by NYC standards) suites with daybeds in the sitting rooms, and rates vary a bit by season but usually you can find a room here starting around $200 per night. All units have private bathrooms,...MORE high-end linens and bath amenities, free Wi-Fi, and flat-screen TV with cable, central a/c and heat, phones with voicemail, refrigerators, irons and boards, safes, and iPod-dock clock radios - and an expansive Continental breakfast is included. One very fun aspect of the decor is that rooms and public areas are hung with gorgeous framed vintage movie posters - in fact, the guest rooms are each named for a particular movie star. A tip: rooms on the upper (fourth and fifth) floors are a bit less pricey, as they require climbing more stairs (there's no elevator). If you don't mind the exercise, these rooms can actually be a bit brighter and more atmospheric, and the front ones have better views of the street below. And that brings us to a second tip: 14th Street isn't the busiest street in the city, but it does have some traffic. If you're seeking peace and quiet, opt for a room in back that faces the courtyard. The inn underwent a major $1 million renovation over the past year, which included all sorts of upgrades.

    The inn has an attractive lobby, a small but well-stocked, solarium-style breakfast room, and a lovely shaded private courtyard in back. On the second floor, there's also a handy business center with free computers and printers.

    One last great reason to stay here: the staff, which is professional, fun-loving, and courteous. There aren't many hotels in New York City that provide such personal and helpful service - and be sure to pat the feline innkeeper, Charlie Chaplin.

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    Giraudon shoe boutique, 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    With a devoted mail-order following, Giraudon (110 8th Ave., 212-633-0999) is all about high-quality, high-end footwear, for both women and men. Expect substantial, happily chunky stuff that you could just as easily wear to work as to the Barracuda bar, just up the street (I don't recommend wearing such nice footwear in the video arcades at the Unicorn, however). The lace-up ankle boots are particularly snazzy, but don't overlook the sleek bowling shoe (come on? you're willing to fork over $200 for footwear intended for a bowling alley, right?), or the olive-leather sport drive shoe. There's also Kaju, a line for women featuring beautiful suede boots. Complement your new shoes with clothing at nearby boutiques like Brooklyn Industries, Universal Gear, and Gallerie H.

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    High Line elevated park, which runs through Meatpacking District and Chelsea

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    One of the more ingeniously designed green spaces in the country, High Line Park opened along a disused elevated freight-rail line that was constructed in the early 1930s from the West Village north to 34th Street. Concerned citizens rallied to save this structure, which passes straight through Chelsea's western reaches, from demolition in late 1990s, and eventually it was transformed into a park, with the first section - from Gansevoort to West 20th Street - opening in 2009. The second span (from 20th to 30th streets) opened in June 2011, and it's hoped that the final few blocks of the High Line Park, extending north from 30th Street, will open in the coming years.

    You can access High Line Park at many sections via stairwells, including its southern terminus, at Gansevoort Street and pictured here, with the trendy and gay-popular New York Standard boutique hotel straddling the park in the distance. What to do at High Line Park? It's such a relaxing spot - all along the walkway,...MORE which is landscaped with a constantly evolving variety of flora, you'll find seating, everything from wooden chaise longues to folding chairs. It's a perfect park for enjoying a picnic lunch, perhaps noshing on the tasty goods from the gourmet food concourses inside Chelsea Market, which is just around the corner. It's also just a nice spot to read a book or walk at an easy pace, admiring the vintage architecture of Chelsea and the Meatpacking District from an above-the-street vantage point that's rare in New York City. The slight zigzag of this linear park, and its abundant seating and landscaping, make it impractical for jogging or moving quickly - this is a park for soaking up the neighborhood at a relaxed pace.

    At one point span, where the park curves diagonally northwest at West 17th Street, there's a viewing platform with seats and a Plexiglas window that affords perfect views straight up 10th Avenue. Along other spans you'll encounter water features, broad views west toward the Hudson River and New Jersey, and public artwork. This is truly one of Manhattan's great treasures.

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    Chelsea Hotel, the legendary landmark on W. 23rd Street (closed 2011)

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Note: In summer 2011, the Chelsea Hotel closed its doors to guests - here's a story about what may happen next.

    Steeped in a rich Bohemian history, the vaunted Chelsea Hotel (222 W. 23rd St., 212-243-3700) has been a fixture in this neighborhood since it opened (it was actually built as an apartment building in the 1880s and was NYC's tallest building until the end of the 19th century). Many famous guests have lived here, including queer beat poet Allen Ginsberg, and such diverse figures as Sid Vicious (of the Sex Pistols), who stabbed his girlfriend here to death, and poet Dylan Thomas, who died here from excessive drinking. William Burroughs, Jasper Johns, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, and many others have stayed here. Despite its being a Chelsea icon, the hotel doesn't have a tremendously gay following - it's more just a favorite address of artists and creative sorts. Rooms have a happily dated vibe and are rather unfancy but rich with character, and you can't beat the...MORE location - close to gay Chelsea nightlife and dining (and it's nearly across the street from David Barton Gym). It's also a great NYC bargain, with rates typically starting well under $200 per night - the cheapest rooms have shared bathrooms. Pricier ones have kitchenettes. Another affordable, gay-friendly hotel is just down the block, the Chelsea Savoy Hotel. In the other direction, you'll find such gay-friendly restaurants as East of Eighth and the many dining options and gay bars along 8th Avenue.

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    G Lounge, the upscale gay bar at West 19th Street

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    The dapper, slick, and unabashedly upscale G Lounge (223 W. 19th St., 212-929-1085) was the first NYC gay bar - and one of the first in the country - to go all out in style and design. It opened in 1997, offering Chelsea boys an alternative to the usual dark-walled, black-plywood, dimly lighted, windowless cells that had been the norm for years. G paved the way for the many swanky gay bars that have opened since, and it remains true to its origins, packed nightly with well-dressed men of all ages. Compared with other popular Chelsea hangouts like Barracuda, Splash (well, to an extent - Splash can be rather attitude-y, too), and Gym sports bar, G can feel a bit snooty at times, but the staff is generally genial and the crowd surprisingly friendly if you just give it a chance. The same owners run the trendy Here Lounge in West Hollywood, California. G is next to Dance Theater Workshop.

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    East of Eighth, a romantic bistro on West 23rd Street

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Romantic, surprisingly affordable, and with delightful garden that bursts with color during the warmer months, East of Eighth (254 W. 23rd St., 212-352-0075) is the quintessential gay Chelsea date place - perfect whether you're heading out with a friend you just met, or celebrating an occasion with someone special. The cozy two-level space, with a fun bar on the lower floor, serves globally influenced bistro fare and is especially pleasant for weekend brunch (try the ciabatta French toast Monte Cristo with ham and Swiss and maple syrup). Many evenings there's cabaret entertainment. The restaurant is, as the name says, just east of 8th Avenue, across the street from Trailer Park, down the street from the Chelsea Hotel, and around the corner from Murray's Bagels.

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    Jensen-Lewis, a contemporary furniture shop on 7th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    With an enormous showroom on 7th Avenue between W. 15th and W. 16th streets, Jensen-Lewis (89 7th Ave., 212-929-4880) sells the stylish, contemporary furniture that decorates the apartments of Chelsea A-listers - it's the source for mod armoires, dining room tables, cocktail tables, shelving and storage, area rugs - the list goes on. After shopping, grab a bite at nearby Le Pain Quotidien, Cafeteria, or Tasti D-Lite.

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    Cafeteria, a 24/7 mod-diner on 7th Avenue at W. 17th Street

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Serving creative versions of American comfort food 24/7, trendy Cafeteria (119 7th Ave., offers great people-watching from its massive garage-door windows (there's outdoor seating when the weather warms) and a see-and-be-seen vibe. It's fun for breakfast (try the silver-dollar pancakes with fresh berries and chantilly cream), and even more enjoyable for a late-night nosh after partying at nearby G Lounge or Barracuda. Recommended fare includes seared peppered yellow-fin tuna, baby spinach salad with maple-glazed pancetta, grilled turkey burgers, truffle-Parmesan fries, country-fried steak with garlic-mashed potatoes, and fried chicken and waffles. It's a long, long menu. Cafeteria is just across the street from Le Pain Quotidien bakery, and close to Dance Theater Workshop and Jensen-Lewis contemporary furniture showroom.

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    Charlie Chaplin, the friendly kitty who "works" at the Chelsea Pines Inn

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Be sure to say hello to Charlie Chaplin, the amiable feline innkeeper at the gay-popular Chelsea Pines Inn on West 14th Street. His handsome face and name fit in perfectly with the inn's Hollywood Golden Age theme. Here's Charlies taking a breather on one of the comfy chairs in the guest lounge and business center.

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    Blue Store, a sex-toy and erotica shop on 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Another of Chelsea's rather garish sex-toy and porn stores, the Blue Store (206 8th Ave, 212-924-8315) has garnered its share of bad press since it opened nearly a decade ago, first stirring the ire of neighbors who complained about its relentless blue-neon facade and the neighborhood's seeming excess of such establishments. Then in a couple of years later, cops shuttered the place for a bit following a prostitution sting. The store has cleaned up its act over the years, and it remains an excellent source of gay erotica, lube, and such - plus, the staff is generally quite friendly, if a bit indifferent about whatever you might be browsing or purchasing (and after all, isn't that what many people want from staff at a porn shop?).

    More recently, the Blue Store drew the ire of New York's finest by presenting a vaguely erotic massage demonstration in its storefront window - Michael Musto of the Village Voice offered the following account of this "event." The massages were...MORE performed by employees of the online company Manworks.com, a quite useful website that lists hundreds of gay massage workers around the world (most of them are in the U.S.).

    The Blue Store competes with a few other gay erotic shops on nearby blocks, including Unicorn (around the corner, next to Barracuda gay bar), and Rainbow Station, and Blue DVD.

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    The Joyce Theater, 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Occupying a restored art deco movie house, the Joyce Theater (175 8th Ave., 212-691-9740, for tickets call 212-242-0800) is become one of Chelsea's iconic architectural landmarks as well as a stellar venue for all types of dance companies, from Martha Graham to Tango Fire to the Toronto Dance Theatre. The theater is on the same block as Gym sports bar and is just around the corner from another top Chelsea dance performance venue, the Dance Theater Workshop.

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    VYNL Chelsea, the trendy restaurant and lounge on 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Begun in Hells Kitchen as a somewhat campy culinary tribute to stylized comfort and kitsch-nostalgic decorative arts, VYNL (102 8th Ave., 212-400-2118) also has a fun location in Chelsea (pictured here), where it's a darling of gay clubbers and tourists. Menus come inside old Donna Summer and Dreamgirls (etc.) LP sleeves from the '70s, and disco balls and hanging records give the place a retro-sleek look. The kitchen turns out eclectic food with an international (especially Thai) spin (and in big portions) - think steamed veggie dumplings with soy-chili dipping sauce, Thai buffalo wings, BLTs with harissa mayo and chili jam), turkey meatloaf with smashed potatoes with sides of red Swiss chard and smoked bacon, and generously sized burgers. There's also a popular weekend brunch. The extensive cocktail menu makes this a fun option for socializing - try the Fiona Apple-tini, and save room for coconut-banana bread pudding with caramel sauce at the end. Other excellent...MORE restaurants nearby include Better Burger NYC, Viceroy, and Suenos.

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    Momoya Chelsea, a highly acclaimed sushi and Japanese restaurant on 7th Ave

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Walk up and down Chelsea's best food avenues - 7th and 8th - and you'll find a number of options for Japanese food, nearly all of them consistently drawing good-size crowds. Momoya (185 7th Ave., 212-989-4466) stands out among competitors both for the exceptional well-crafted cuisine and ultra-fresh sushi, and for the clean, contemporary decor. A simple exterior of multipane floor-to-ceiling windows lets plenty of light into this smartly designed space with marble counters, sandstone walls, and angular tables and seating.

    The kitchen turns out traditional Japanese favorites like chilled soba with tempura and chicken Katsudon, but you'll also find some more imaginative dishes, such as a sweet beet salad with goat cheese, walnut, and mizuna greens, and yellowtail ceviche with aji-citrus-soy. Sushi rolls run the gamut from sweet-savory (mango, avocado, and spicy salmon) to quite decadent (lobster, avocado, red oak lettuce, and spicy salsa), and there's a long, long list of sashimi...MORE and nigiri. Also check out the extensive list of high-quality sakes.

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    8th Avenue, Chelsea's busiest thoroughfare for gay bars, porn shops & eateries

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Although historically New York City's gay scene was set along Christopher Street in the West Village, and increasingly the GLBT community in the city is dispersed among several neighborhoods, the one thoroughfare that remains very closely gay-identified in the city is 8th Avenue between 14th and 23rd streets in Chelsea - pictured here is a particularly lively stretch, looking north up 8th Avenue at the intersection with West 19th Street, and on up toward the skyscrapers of Midtown. Buses run up and down 8th Avenue, which is also a fairly easy place to hail cabs, and there are key subway stations at either end of this stretch (one at 14th Street, the other at 23rd Street), served by the A, C, and E lines.

    Along this span of 8th Avenue you'll find a few gay bars (Rawhide and Gym Sports Bar, several gay porn shops, a slew of GLBT-popular restaurants, and the well-priced and stylish boutique hotel, the GEM Chelsea.

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    Elmo, a sleek restaurant and mixed gay/straight lounge on 7th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    With a faintly retro, unmistakeably swank look - mirrored walls, curvy periwinkle chairs, candy-striped banquettes - recalls the lounge of a Latin American airport circa 1966, Elmo (156 7th Ave., 212-337-8000) is as sure a sign as any that Chelsea's more see-and-be-seen gay dining scene has shifted steadily in recent years east from 8th to 7th Avenue. To be sure, there are plenty of queer-date restaurant possibilities on both of these avenues, but 7th is a bit more serious, food-wise, with the likes of Elmo and others along the stretch, ranging from breezy bistro Le Singe Vert to contemporary sushi favorite Momoya.

    Elmo is both a restaurant - serving lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch - and, at the basement level, a decadent lounge-cabaret that hosts live music, theater, parties, and assorted merry celebrations. The food is consistently well-prepared and tending toward contemporary-comfort fare: watermelon and mozzarella salad with pine nuts and yellow tomatoes, grilled yellowfin tuna...MORE sandwiches with wasabi mayo, home-style meatloaf with scallion-mashed potatoes - plus burgers, fish tacos, and a few pastas. With most entrees priced well under $20, and service surprisingly attentive and down-to-earth for such a scene-y spot, Elmo effectively fits the bill for all sorts of occasions, from brunch with a loose-knit posse of friends to dinner before a show at the nearby Joyce Theater or Dance Theater Workshop.

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    Le Pain Quotidien Chelsea, the Beglian boulangerie and cafe on 7th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    The wonderful Belgian chain of bakeries, Le Pain Quotidien (124 7th Ave., 212-255-2777) has a number of outposts in New York City, including the gay-popular Chelsea branch on 7th Avenue that's pictured here. It's a good bet for organic coffees and teas, creative sandwiches made on fresh bread, and a wide range of delectable sweets. It's just up the street from Tasti D-Lite and across from the see-and-be-seen Cafeteria Restaurant.

    There are similarly gay-popular Le Pain Quotidiens in a number of cities, including Paris (in the Marais) and West Hollywood (the branch on Melrose Avenue), plus numerous NYC locations, including some others nearby in the Meatpacking District, Greenwich Village, SoHo, and Gramery neighborhoods.

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    High Line Park seating and waterfeature, near Chelsea Market

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Among the more engaging features of Chelsea's distinctive High Line elevated park are its many inviting seating areas and waterfeatures. Here just south of where the park passes beneath the Chelsea Market building, sunbathers dip their toes in a gentle, linear fountain on a warm spring day.

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    Viceroy Restaurant, 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Always packed with handsome Chelsea guys, Viceroy (160 8th Ave., 212-633-8484) is less notable for its food, which is perfectly fine but not necessarily anything to write home about, than for its saucy, scene-y ambience. The menu features a mix of traditional and somewhat more innovative American dishes - crab cakes with caper aioli, honey-roasted ham-and-Brie sandwiches, turkey burgers, wild mushroom ravioli with truffle oil, roasted organic half chicken. It's along a stretch of 8th with a number of gay-popular restaurants, among them Nisos and Better Burger.

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    Peter McManus Cafe, one of the oldest bars in New York City, on 7th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Long ago, a good 60 years before Chelsea has emerged as one of the country's trendiest neighborhoods with gay scenesters, a humble, family-operated Irish pub and restaurant called Peter McManus Cafe (152 7th Ave., 212-929-9691) opened in the heart of the neighborhood. This friendly, atmospheric tavern remains a fixture along 7th Avenue, a contrast to the mix of stylish see-and-be-seen cafes and modern condo towers. This dark-wood-paneled space, which opened in 1936, is still a fantastic spot for a juicy cheeseburger and a pint of Guinness.

    This is a classic New Yorker's bar, and it's been featured in everything from the movie Radio Days to Seinfeld. The staff is easygoing and welcoming, and the crowd is a great reflection of the neighborhood's increased diversity over the years: straight and gay, old and young, local and from out of town. Here's hoping it's around another 75 years.

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    Rainbows and Triangles gay gift and book shop, 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    It really doesn't get a whole lot gayer in the world of retail than Rainbows & Triangles (192 8th Ave., 212-627-2166), a gift shop rife with gay books, magazines, greeting cards, and fun novelty gifts, set along busy 8th Avenue. It's a good place to kill a little time while waiting for a table at one of the many gay-popular restaurants along this stretch, such as the Rocking Horse or Cuba Cafe.

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    Maritime Hotel, on W. 16th on the edge of the Meatpacking District

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    With its unusual facade of concrete and a dense pattern of porthole-style windows, the Maritime Hotel (363 W. 16th St., 212-242-4300) delights travelers who appreciate an offbeat design - in this case, the look and vibe of the rooms is that of a classic ocean liner, with wood-panel walls, low-slung furniture, glitzy lamps, and Oriental rugs. The building was formerly a homeless shelter operated by Covenant House, and but it was built in the '60s the headquarters for a sailors' union, hence the nautical appearance.

    These days, the 126-room hotel attracts a decidedly sophisticated clientele wishing to be near Chelsea's many lively restaurants and gay clubs, and the fashionable buzz of the Meatpacking District and nearby High Line Park. The hotel is upscale but not outlandishly so, especially given how spacious the rooms are - each of these comes with free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and beautiful beds with goose-down duvets. There's also a 24-hour fitness room, a complimentary DVD...MORE library and free use of bicycles.

    The hotel is a hot spot for dining and cocktails, with two restaurants (Italian trattoria and cafe La Bottega and fine Japanese restaurant Matsuri), plus a slick nightclub with a Japanese-inspired decor called Hiro, and an airy rooftop bar, The Cabanas at the Maritime.

    Look a bit beyond the Maritime's towering visage in the picture above, and you'll see the edge of a partially completed building - this is Chelsea's new Dream Downtown Hotel (355 W. 16th St., 800-336-4110), part of the renowned Vikram Chatwal Hotel group, whose summer 2011 opening gives the neighborhood yet another splashy accommodation.

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    Murray's Bagels, the legendary bakery on 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    The Chelsea branch of the famed Murray's Bagels (242 8th Ave., 646-638-1336) is a renowned purveyor of soft, dense, chewy bagels available in a wide range of flavors - cinnamon-raisin topped with walnut-raisin cream cheese is a great way to start the day. It's across the street from Rainbow Station, and around the corner from East of Eighth. The original location of Muarry's Bagels is at 500 6th Avenue, in Greenwich Village.

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    Universal Gear boutique Chelsea, on 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    No fashion boutique in New York City speaks more prominently to the gay market than Universal Gear, which opened in flagship Chelsea branch (140 8th Ave., 212-206-9119) in 2001 and has been going strong ever since (there are also store locations in Washington DC and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware). This purveyor of stylish, upscale couture carries such labels as Hugo Boss, Ben Sherman, John Varvatos, Ted Baker, Scotch & Soda, Paul Frank, C-IN2 underwear, Malin+Goetz, Blueman, Ajaxx63, True Religion, and - sure enough - plain old Levi's. Other good bets for gay fashion on 8th Avenue include Brookln Industries, Giraudon, and Gallerie H.

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    Gym, a gay sports bar on 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    "Join the Gym," proclaims the website for Chelsea's friendly and immensely popular gay sports bar, aptly called, Gym (167 8th Ave., 212-337-2439). The spacious, well-lighted, and relatively low-keyed bar with a terrace (used primarily by smokers) overlooking busy 8th Avenue between the Joyce Theater and Blue DVD sex shop. It's refreshing that New York City has a gay sports bar after many years without one - in fact, the neighborhood currently has two, the other being Boxers NYC Sports Bar, on West 20th Street, just off 5th Avenue.

    At Gym, the sports theme is always especially apparent - it feels just like a pleasant and nicely laid-out gym and has a very nice pool table, exposed-brick walls, wood floors, and large TV screens that do sometimes air sporting events. But you're not going to find the space festooned with trophies, banners, and sports memorabilia, which is just fine with its regulars, who appreciate the relaxed yet still somewhat sophisticated look of the place. In...MORE addition to hosting members of various gay New York sports teams, the bar draws a diverse bunch, especially in terms of age - you'll see all generations here, including plenty of butch men in jeans and T-shirts (it's not dressy at all, even after work). And the scene is quite friendly by Chelsea standards. One nice thing about Gym is that it draws decent-size early in the evening, and even during afternoons on weekends. The staff is very friendly, too.

    An L.A. branch of Gym Sportsbar is in West Hollywood along Santa Monica Boulevard.

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    Le Zie, an informal but elegant Venetian trattoria and lounge on 7th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    A reliably good option for Venetian-inspired Italian fare, Le Zie (172 7th Ave., 212-206-8686) is a rambling restaurant along 7th Avenue made up of several distinct spaces: a romantic dining room with high ceilings and white-washed brick walls, a private function room called the Chef's Table that's perfect for special parties, a chatty lounge with its own entrance around the corner on West 20th Street that has cushy leather banquettes and a smart wooden bar, and - when weather permits - a handful of sidewalk tables set under a canopy at the main entrance on 7th Avenue.

    Open for lunch, dinner, and brunch, Le Zie fits into a similar category of romantic yet affordable restaurants along this same stretch of 7th Avenue (i.e., Elmo and Le Singe Vert) that's great for supping with friends, enjoying a first date, or even celebrating a more notable occasion. Entrees at this affable neighborhood bistro are priced well under $20 (many of the pasta dishes are under $15), and substantial...MORE "Venetian Sampling" - to be shared among a minimum party of two - is a steal at $19.95 per person (it features meatballs, octopus, shrimp cakes, cod mousse, sardines, yellow and white polenta, and several other dishes). There's also a mostly Italian wine list with some 200 choices. Cuisine tends toward the Venetian traditions, with plenty of other regional Italian dishes thrown in, including slow-cooked horseradish-crusted salmon with snap peas and carrots, lasagna alla Bolognese, steamed asparagus with poached eggs and seasonal mushrooms. The perfectly prepared spaghetti and meatballs have been justly praised by a number of restaurant critics.

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    Rawhide Chelsea, a cruisy, leather-friendly gay bar on 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    One of the very few businesses along Chelsea's 8th Avenue that has been around since long before the neighborhood gentrified, rough-and-tumble Rawhide (212 8th Ave., 212-242-9332) still feels a bit like a time-warp - it's a dark, low-frills place that has long catered to the leather-and-Levi's crowd but that more recently has begun to pull in more of a mix of gay guys of all ages and styles. Still, lest anyone think Rawhide has gone soft, the bartenders here remain aloof and beefy, and the drinks potent and rather cheap. Rawhide will, happily, always be a somewhat seedy cruise bar. It's near a cluster of Chelsea gay bars that include Barracuda and Gym Sports Bar, and it's also close to the Unicorn and Rainbow Station gay porn and sex shops.

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    Suenos, an upscale regional Mexican restaurant on West 17th Street

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Talented chef Sue Torres has been pleasing Chelsea palates with her inventive regional Mexican cuisine for years, first at the still-excellent Rocking Horse Cafe, and more recently around the corner at her cozy and festive little restaurant, Suenos (311 W. 17th St., 212-243-1333), right next to Energy Kitchen. Foodies come from all points to sample the superb cuisine as well to take cooking classes from Torres. The menu changes often but has featured duck-confit quesadillas with poached pears and ancho chiles, grilled salmon with Michoacan fresh-corn tamals and pumpkin-seed sauce, and organic chicken enchiladas with mole poblano sauce, crema, and radishes.

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    Better Burger NYC, 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    With the noble mission to delight New York City taste buds with healthy (often organic) antibiotic-free hamburgers, organic "air-baked" french fries, preservative-free buns, all-natural smoothies and drinks, and generally reduced-fat yet delicious fare, Better Burger NYC (178 8th Ave., 212-989-6688) has a popular branch in Chelsea (there's a second branch in Murray Hill on 3rd Avenue). Feast here on char-grilled beef burgers (or perhaps savory soy burgers, if you're not a carnivore), plus turkey dogs, Cobb salads, fresh-squeezed carrot-orange juice, and organic popcorn. It's one of several great Chelsea options for quick and tasty snacking, some others being Pinkberry, Tasti D-Lite, Le Pain Quotidien, and Energy Kitchen.

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    Energy Kitchen Chelsea, on West 17th Street at 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    A simple, reliable regional chain for fueling up on high-protein fare, Energy Kitchen (307 W. 17th St. 212-645-5200) is just off of 8th Avenue and doesn't offer much in the way of ambience, but it's a good option if you're looking for a quick burger, energy shake, hearty breakfast (try the five egg whites with bison burger), seared-tuna salad, protein muffin, or the like. It's popular with the toned gym boys who frequent David Barton Gym. There are a number of other branches around New York City, from Midtown to the Village to the Upper West Side.

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    Hogs & Heifers Saloon, the famously dive-y biker bar in the Meatpacking District

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Just a rough-and-tumble New York City biker bar when it opened in the early '90s, Hogs & Heifers (859 Washington St., 212-929-0655) has become undeniably touristy over the years, as the surrounding Meatpacking District has blossomed into one of Gotham's trendiest neighborhoods. It's still, however, atmospheric and lots of fun for drinking, listening to live music, and people-watching. It's by no means a gay hangout, but given its proximity to Chelsea nightlife, plenty of queers who love steers drop by here.

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    New Venus, a reliable 24-hour diner on 8th Avenue with an ardent gay following

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    The rainbow flag draped across the upper front window of New Venus (252 8th Ave., 212-243-0980), a 24-hour diner near the bustling intersection of 8th Avenue and W. 23rd Street, is testament to how popular this cheap and reliable restaurant is with Chelsea's gay community. Like the nearby and slightly trendier Dish Restaurant (201 8th Ave., 212-352-9800), this always-busy spot is open around the clock and can be counted upon for tasty, straightforward cooking - not to mention pretty amusing people-watching. New Venus serves omelets, challah-bread French toast, taramosalata dip, crab cakes, Greek salads, charbroiled buffalo burgers, London broil sandwiches, chicken Souvlaki, fried chicken, rigatoni Bolognese, chicken cutlet Parmigiana, fried scallops, lemon meringue pie, banana splits, smoothies, and all the other classics for which traditional NYC diners are known.

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    Room view at the Chelsea Pines Inn - note the vintage movie poster

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Beautiful, vintage movie posters grace the rooms of the inviting Chelsea Pines Inn, on West 14th Street.

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    Regional Thai Taste, 7th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    A longtime favorite in Chelsea for Thai food, Regional Thai Taste (208 7th Ave., 212-807-9872) serves a nice range of traditional and less-traditional favorites - Pattaya Beach seafood soup (with lemongrass); spring rolls stuffed with bean thread, shrimp, and chicken and served with apricot-plum sauce; spicy basil chicken, lamb chops with green peppercorns, krachai roots, fresh basil, lime leaf, and dried chili, and masamam beef curry. It's near David Barton Gym, Restivo restaurant, and the Chelsea Savoy Hotel

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    Brooklyn Industries shop, 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    The fun and funky NYC clothier Brooklyn Industries has a particularly gay-popular branch in Chelsea at 161 8th Ave. (212-206-0477) carries a nice range of hoodies, handbags, wallets and accessories, dresses and tops for women, jackets and pants for men, and graphic T-shirts, sweaters, and the like for both women and men. Prices and styles are comparable to Urban Outfitters, but the look is distinctly New York. Other good bets in the neighborhood for fashion include Giraudon (for shoes), Universal Gear (for clothing), and Gallerie H (for clothing and accessories).

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    Dance Theater Workshop, W. 19th Street between 7th and 8th avenues

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Occupying a dramatic contemporary building at 219 W. 19th St. (212-691-6500; for tickets call 212-924-0077), Chelsea's esteemed Dance Theater Workshop is one of lower Manhattan's cultural gems and a renowned performing arts center for contemporary dance. Performances are staged here throughout the year, and there are also visual-art installations in the lobby. It's just around the corner from the similarly esteemed Joyce Theater, which also hosts a number of fine dance concerts, and it's next to the swank gay bar, G Lounge.

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    Le Singe Vert, a cozy and classic French bistro on 7th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Casual but fashionable Le Singe Vert ("the Green Monkey") (160 7th Ave., 212-366-4100) occupies a dapper space along 7th Avenue in the heart of Chelsea. In winter it's dark and cozy inside, and during the summer months, tables spill out onto the sidewalk, filled with relaxed patrons leaning back in the comfy rattan chairs and soaking up the vibe of the neighborhood. The French-bistro menu offers few surprises - it's about the classics here, from steak frites, cassoulet, and steak tartare to goat cheese tarts and mussels Mariniere. That said, you will find some more ambitious delicacies prepared nicely, such as Saint Jacques carpaccio (diver scallops with a lime dressing, pink grapefruit, black truffle, and micro greens) and pinces de crabe with a light basil aioli, lychee, string beans, cherry tomatoes, and mache. Dinner entrees are priced most between $20 and $30, this meal is served until 11 or midnight, depending on the evening. There's also a well-celebrated weekend brunch.

    Le Singe...MORE Vert is part of the same restaurant group - operated by Georges Forgeois - behind Bar Tabac in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens, Cafe Noir in SoHo, Cercle Rouge in TriBeCa, Jules Bistro in the East Village, and Ceci Cela Patisserie in SoHo.

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    Tello (formerly Mare Seafood), an old-school Italian eatery on 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Along a popular strip of 8th Avenue restaurants in Chelsea, Tello (198 8th Ave., 212-691-8696) is a reliable choice for large portions of classic Italian fare at lunch, dinner, and brunch - lasagna, penne with meatballs, chicken rollatini, braciole and gnocchi, veal saltimbocca, etc. The cozy, informal space is a favorite dine-out for Chelsea's many gay residents. Prior to becoming Tello, it was called Mare Seafood and run by the same company that also operates Trois Canards, Cuba, and Casa Havana, which are all nearby.

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    The Unicorn gay porn and erotica store, on West 22nd Street

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    The long-running Unicorn (277 W. 22nd St., 212-924-2921) gay porn palace, located conveniently beside Barracuda gay bar and just around the corner from newer porn shops like Blue Store and Rainbow Station. The Unicorn has long been known for its significant selection of blue movies as well as its private video booths (yeah, in other words, it's a quasi-sex club, unofficially, in the sense that guys venture back to the booths and mess around). It's a bit sleazier in feel than its 8th Avenue neighbors, which can be good or bad depending on your outlook - and mood. The Unicorn tends to be super-cruisy into the wee hours, especially on weekends.

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    Pinkberry, 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    The Southern California craze known as Pinkberry has a popular branch at 170 8th Ave. (212-488-2510) in Chelsea. Come find out for yourself what all the fuss is about related to these peculiar frozen dessert said to be devoid of preservatives, additives, excess sugar, and (according to some naysayers) flavor. The icy yogurt-esque treat comes in plain or green tea and can be topped with a variety of treats, including kiwis, Cap'n Crunch, yogurt chips, coconut, blackberries, fruity pebbles, and granola. Compare it with the frozen treats served at Tasti D-Lite, which also has branches in Chelsea. Both of these brands are popular with the Chelsea muscle boys who frequent the many gyms in the neighborhood, such as David Barton.

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    Blue DVD gay porn shop (formerly NYC Pride Inc.), 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Blue DVD (165 8th Ave., 212-255-1080) is one of several popular stores on 8th Avenue in Chelsea specializing in gay porn movies, lube (they're an official distributor of Boy Butter men's products), safer-sex supplies, and the like. Others in the same area include Rainbow Station and the Blue Store, plus the famed Unicorn just off 8th Avenue). This shop is beside Gym gay sports bar and just down from the Joyce Theater.

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    Restivo Ristorante

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Fair prices, well-prepared and straightforward Italian fare, and a romantic ambience make Restivo Ristorante (209 7th Ave., 212-366-4133) a top pick among same-sex diners on dates or groups of friends supping together before a night of Chelsea bar-hopping at nearby Barracuda, XES Gay Lounge, Splash, or G Lounge. Start off with the signature house salad of smoked salmon, arugula, capers, and onions. Among the mains, consider grilled boneless game hen with wild rice and grilled vegetables. It's right across the street from Regional Thai Taste and around the corner from the Chelsea Savoy Hotel and Chelsea Hotel.

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    Gallerie H, a retro-cool fashion boutique on 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Hats, totes and hangbags, men's clothing, and accessories - generally of the retro-cool, whimsical variety - are what you'll find at one of Chelsea's most inviting little boutiques, Gallerie H (222 8th Ave., 212-229-1975). Stetson hats and Fred Perry bags are among the items you'll find here. Along with Universal Gear, Giraudon shoes, and Brooklyn Industries, it's one of 8th Avenue's best shopping bets.

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    Rainbow Station adult bookstore, 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    One of a few shops along 8th Avenue selling (mostly gay) erotica, porn DVDs, underwear, lube, dildos, sex toys, novelties, and the like, Rainbow Station (207 8th Ave., 212-924-0591) is open 24/7 and competes with the long-running Unicorn as well as the Blue Store and Blue DVD. This one is well-stocked, and it's a bit less seedy-feeling than some of the smaller, darker spots with less prominent locations.

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    7th Avenue and West 14th Street, one of Chelsea's key intersections

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    For exploring Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, the intersection of 7th Avenue and W. 14th Street is a significant coordinate - it's a major subway stop (for the 1, 2, and 3, connecting with the F, L, and M trains) as well as a key stop for buses, and 14th Street marks the boundary between Chelsea and Greenwich Village. Get yourself to this point, and you can walk north on 7th for nine blocks to 23rd Street to discover a number of notable gay-popular restaurants and shops. There isn't much in the way of gay nightlife along here, but G Lounge, XES, Barracuda, and others are within a block of 7th Avenue.

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    Cuba Cafe, 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Part of the Chelsea's Finest Restaurants dining group, Cuba Cafe (200 8th Ave., 212-633-1570) is one of a handful of great eateries along bustling and tres-gay 8th Avenue - it's close to other members of the group, include Tello seafood. Cuba Cafe has made a name for itself with its potent mojito cocktails, dishy weekend brunches, and such menu mainstays as chorizo with port wine, plantain rellenos with smoked bacalao sauce, and tuna with a coconut-ginger ceviche.

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    La Lunchonette, a cozy French bistro steps from Chelsea's High Line Park

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Back when it opened in the early '90s, the shy looking and modestly named La Lunchonette (130 10th Ave., 212-675-0342) seemed well out in leftfield, a good distance from the buzz that was overtaking Chelsea and its bustling gay scene. These days, however, although this cozy little French bistro is still along a somewhat industrial stretch of 10th Avenue (it's at the corner of West 18th Street), it's convenient to plenty of cool things: the elevated High Line Park, the white-hot Meatpacking District, and the provocative gallery scene a few blocks north along Chelsea's western flanks (between 22nd and 26th Street).

    La Lunchonette excels with the classics of French bistro cuisine: duck confit salad, grilled lamb sausages with apples, cheese plates, escargot - and all at quite reasonable prices. It's a real find for soul-warming food on a cold winter night, although the dark confines can feel a bit oppressive during the warmer months.

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    High Line Park viewing platform, looking up 10th Avenue at W. 17th Street

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Where 10th Avenue crosses West 17th Street, the neighborhood's High Line Park presents visitors with a broad, stepped viewing platform looking north through a Plexiglas window up the avenue for many blocks. This is a favorite spot along the parkway for picnicking and reading, as wooden steps run across the platform.

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    Chelsea Pines Inn guest patio, where you can enjoy breakfast on a sunny day

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    The tranquil, tree-shaded patio behind the Chelsea Pines Inn is a peaceful spot to enjoy the expansive Continental breakfast that's included in the guesthouse's rates.

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    Sabon Chelsea, the all-natural soap shop on 7th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Shop for all-natural soaps, aromtherapy oils, body lotions, men's aftershave and shave creams, and fragrant candles at the Chelsea outpost of New York City-based Sabon (78 7th Ave., 646-486-1809). Soaps the the store's signature product, available in loofah, glycerine, or olive-oil bases, and in an extensive range of scents: kiwi, lemon, peach, lavender, lychee, rosemary olive oil, mud olive oil, and more. Sabon is right by Tasti D-Lite and just down 7th Avenue from Le Pain Quotidien.

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    Colicchio & Sons, in the trendy Meatpacking District (formerly Craftsteak)

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Celebrity chef, TV personality, and James Beard winner Tom Colicchio first operated Craftsteak New York (pictured here) in the snazzy, high-ceilinged space on 10th Avenue in the Meatpacking District that now houses his latest creation, Colicchio & Sons (85 10th Ave., 212-400-6699). Steps from High Line Elevated Park, this spacious temple of contemporary regional American cooking has two components, a main Dining Room and a less formal and more affordable Tap Room - lunch and dinner (as well as weekend brunch) are served in the latter, while the Dining Room is dinner only.

    The dinner menu changes often but has featured the likes of Carolina soft-shell crab with ramps and pancetta; roasted monkfish with artichoke barigoule, tomatoes, and basil; and roasted Hudson Valley rabbit with stinging nettles, smoked honshimeji, and green garlic. If many of the ingredients listed here scream seasonality, indeed, these examples are from a spring menu that made great use what's prime at farmers...MORE markets this time of year.

    The Tap Room menu is a mix of small and larger plates, along with a few rotating, creatively topped pizzas. Braised lamb ribs, bitter greens, and green lentils, and a bruschetta topped with whipped lardo, orange, and vadouvan marmalade are among the standouts here.

    Reservations are a good idea for all meals.

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    Room Service Restaurant, a hip Thai Restaurant in Chelsea on 8th Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    From the dimly lit, stylish dining room and playful menu, Room Service (166 8th Ave., 212-691-0299) is clearly aiming to be Chelsea's coolest - and gayest - spot for innovative Thai food, and it succeeds in just about every way. The space is sleek and abuzz with chatter, and the kitchen turns out terrific food - springs rolls with grilled corn and a plum-sake dipping sauce, Thai-spicy tuna salad, salmon grilled with a chile paste and kaffir lime leaves. There's also more typical fare, such as chicken Masaman curry and shrimp pad Thai, but NYC has enough of the usual Thai food. Why not spring for something different when you have the opportunity? It's part of the long list of successful restaurants along 8th Avenue, among them Viceroy Restaurant and Better Burger.

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    Nisos, a casual Greek restaurant (Closed)

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Note: Nisos has closed

    Nisos (176 8th Ave.) is a casual but rather more substantial Greek restaurant several years back. It's steadily evolved into one of 8th Avenue's gayest eateries, with a notable following in the cozy up-front bar each evening, too. Good bets from the moderate-price menu include the Mediterranean seafood salad, the fennel-and-feta tart with sauteed bacon and caramelized onions, grilled octopus with olive oil and vinegar, avgolemono soup, and grilled salmon over arugula with roasted-garlic vinaigrette.

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    GEM Hotel Chelsea, room view

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    Rooms inside the affordable and centrally located GEM Hotel Chelsea are small but smartly furnished, with premium bedding, coffeemakers, free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and free bottled water.

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    Chelsea Savoy Hotel, W. 23rd Street

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    A clean, modern, and reasonably priced hotel with a terrific location in the heart of Manhattan's gayest neighborhood, the Chelsea Savoy Hotel (204 W. 23rd St., 212-929-9353 or 866-929-9353) sits at the corner of 23rd and 7th, across from David Barton Gym and close to Restivo, Thai Taste, and many other fine restaurants. Rooms are quite basic with simple cookie-cutter chain-style furnishings, but rates start at a rock-bottom $99 for singles. It's just down the block from the venerable (and also affordable) Chelsea Hotel.

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    Trailer Park Lounge & Grill, West 23rd Street

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    An over-the-top campfest in the heart of Chelsea, Trailer Park Lounge & Grill (271 W. 23rd St., 212-463-8000) is a full-on, pink-flamingo-esque homage to retro trailer trashdom, complete with tacky signage and surprisingly tasty low-brow American chow - burgers, sloppy Joe, Philly steak sandwiches, mac & cheese, moon-pies. Considering its location and theme, it's actually not an especially gay hangout, but it's still a fun place to poke your head in. It's right across the street from East of Eighth.

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    Tasti D-Lite, which has a branch near Chelsea on Greenwich Avenue

    ••• photo by Andrew Collins

    New York City's leading purveyor of soft-serve quasi-ice cream (it's kosher, has no artificial sweetners, and comes in more flavors than Baskin-Robbins and Ben & Jerry's combined), the legendary Tasti D-Lite has used to have branches in Chelsea on 8th and 7th avenues (the latter former location is pictured here). Currently, there's a branch close to Chelsea in the West Village at 77 Greenwich Avenue.

    Enjoy a dish of pecan praline fudge, butterscotch mania, carrot cake, fluffernutter fudge, burnt sugar, Samoa cookie, triple berry, or whatever other unusual flavor you're in the mood for, and enjoy the fact that these creamy treats have less than 100 calories per four-ounce serving. A added perk is that these tiny shops have public Internet stations.