When most people think of New York City, they're really referring to the famous borough of Manhattan, which is also where you'll find the majority of the city's gay residents as well as gay-popular bars, restaurants, and other businesses. The gayest neighborhoods of note are Chelsea, Greenwich Village, and the East Village, all of them downtown, as well as Hells Kitchen, on the west side of Midtown. But there's much to see and do all over Manhattan, from top to bottom. Just brace yourself for some of the nation's highest hotel, bar, and restaurant prices, and arrive with plenty of energy and curiosity.
Manhattan's popularity is year-round, although summer tends to draw the greatest numbers of tourists from afar (particularly Europe), despite the often sultry, humid weather. Fall and springs are beautiful times to visit, with plenty of cool and crisp sunny or partly cloudy days. Winter can be windy and chilly, with occasional snow storms, but it's also a time when bars and restaurants can feel quite cozy, especially during the December holiday season.
Average high-low temps are 39F/26F in Jan., 60F/45F in Apr., 86F/70F in July, and 65F/50F in Oct. Precipitation averages 3 to 4 inches/mo. year-round.
New York City's's most densely populated borough (Brooklyn actually has more residents), Manhattan is a narrow 23-square-mile cigar-shaped island. To the north, across the Harlem River, lies the Bronx. To the east across the East River, Queens and Brooklyn are on the western tip of Long Island. To the south, across New York Bay, is Staten Island.
Manhattan is divided into a number of prominent neighborhoods, but can roughly be divided into Lower Manhattan (below 23rd Street), Midtown (23rd to 59th streets), and Uptown (above 59th Street).
Driving distances to New York City from prominent places and points of interest:
- Adirondack Mountains/Lake Placid: 300 miles (5 to 6 hrs)
- Asbury Park, NJ: 60 miles (1 to 1.5 hrs)
- Burlington, VT: 320 miles (5 to 6 hrs)
- Boston, MA: 220 miles (3.5 to 4 hrs)
- Catskills/Woodstock: 105 miles (2 hrs)
- The Hamptons: 105 miles (2 hrs)
- Litchfield Hills, CT/Berkshires, MA: 115 miles (2.5 hrs)
- Montreal: 370 miles (6 to 7 hrs)
- New Haven, CT: 80 miles (90 min)
- New Hope, PA: 70 miles (75 min)
- Northampton, MA: 160 miles (2.5 hrs)
- Philadelphia, PA: 95 miles (1.5 hours)
- Providence, RI: 180 miles (3 hrs)
- Provincetown: 300 miles (5 to 6 hrs)
Flying to Manhattan
Manhattan is served by three major airports. JFK in Queens and Newark Airport across the Hudson River in New Jersey handle hundreds of domestic and international flights, while La Guardia handles more domestic traffic. All things being equal, it's often easier and more convenient to fly into La Guardia, which is closest to Manhattan, but all three have loads of ground transportation options - cabs, shuttles buses, city buses, etc. Just keep in mind that it can take 30 to 90 minutes and cost $25 to $60 by cab to reach these airports from various points in Manhattan.
Taking a Train or Bus to Manhattan
Manhattan is an easy place to reach and get around in without a car - in fact, having a car here is a liability, considering the traffic and astronomical parking costs. The city is easily reached via Amtrak train service and Greyhound Bus from such major East Coast cities as Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.
Taking the train into New York can actually be as expensive as flying, but it is a flexible and comfortable way to arrive right into Manhattan. Arriving by bus is most affordable but somewhat time-consuming. Within the city, New York is served by a fantastic mass transit system.
Manhattan 2016-2017 Events Calendar
- Early Jan.: New Year's Eve Celebration
- Mid-Mar.: St. Patrick's Day (controversial, and heavily protested, as GLBT community is officially banned from taking part)
- Late Apr.: Tribeca Film Festival
- Late May: New York City AIDS Walk
- Late May: Fleet Week
- Late June: Harlem Gay Pride
- Late June: New York City Gay Pride
- Late July: New York Musical Theatre Festival
- Late July: NewFest LGBT Film Festival
- Mid-Aug.: New York International Fringe Festival
- Early Sept.: New York Fashion Week
- Late Oct.: Greenwich Village Halloween Parade (a hugely gay and campy event)
Resources on Gay Manhattan
Check out local LGBT newspapers in the city, such as Next Magazine (good for bar coverage) and TimeOut New York's LGBT pages. Useful too are the popular alternative newsweeklies, including the Village Voice and New York Press, and of course The New York Times. Also have a look at the excellent GLBT website of NYC & Company, the city's official tourism site. Also view the helpful site of the city's outstanding LGBT Community Center.
Manhattan Neighborhood Overview
The Manhattan neighborhoods that resonate most strongly with gay and lesbian visitors to New York City include Chelsea, Greenwich Village, the East Village, the Lower East Side, SoHo, the Hells Kitchen section of Midtown, and the Upper West Side.
To varying degrees, these are all popular places for gay New Yorkers to live, work, and play. In terms of gay nightlife, the city's most popular bar-shopping neighborhoods are Chelsea, the East Village, and Hells Kitchen. The West Village also has a number of gay hangouts, but they tend to be smaller, neighborhood joints that aren't quite as popular with visitors.
Top Gay Manhattan Neighborhoods
Chelsea: As recently as 15 years ago, few visitors entered Chelsea, though gays have lived in this downtown neighborhood for years. This was once a drab, lower-income neighborhood where workers at nearby garment factories and river docks lived in cheap boardinghouses and rickety, airless tenements. But as gayification crept in from Greenwich Village in the '70s. Today Chelsea is a mix of subsidized housing, artists' spaces, middle-class apartments, and town houses that rival those on the Upper East Side.
8th Avenue is the busiest commercial strip through the neighborhood, but you'll also find plenty of gay-friendly businesses along 7th Avenue as well as a growing number of art galleries and chic restaurants in the very western edge of the neighborhood, around 10th Avenue and 23rd Street.
Greenwich Village and West Village: Greenwich Village - "the Village" to most New Yorkers - is no longer NYC's gay epicenter, but it's still a pretty pink neighborhood, especially its gay anchor, Sheridan Square, where the Stonewall Riots occurred in 1969. The charming neighborhood has been America's most prolific pocket of bohemian culture for a century. As early as the 1920s, the Village developed a reputation as a discreetly queer gathering spot, with numerous speakeasies and salons catering to deviants unwelcome elsewhere in Manhattan.
This chunk of crooked, narrow streets is more diverse than it was 20 years ago, when it was largely the province of young, white, upwardly mobile gay men. Good drags for shopping, bar-going, and dining include Christopher, Bleecker, West 4th, and Hudson streets. Be sure to check out the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center, an outstanding resource.
The central part of Greenwich Village, whose hub, Washington Square, is dominated by the Washington Arch, is mostly the domain of New York University. Jazz clubs, coffeehouses, and funky shops line the area's main commercial drags.
East Village: The once dodgy and now chic East Village is home to dozens of cool boutiques, hipster-filled gay bars, and offbeat restaurants. Even with gentrification, this is one neighborhood that retains an arty, individualist vibe. Good shopping, browsing, and people-watching can be had along 2nd and 1st avenues, where you'll find a similar assortment of stores.
Hells Kitchen: On the west side of Midtown, near the Theater District and Times Square, Hells Kitchen has become increasingly gay-trendy, with a slew of worthwhile bars and restaurants. The neighborhood is home to the city's most ambitious gay development, the OUT NYC hotel and XL Nightclub.