America's largest city by population and one of the world's true great bastions of culture, style, and commerce, New York City also ranks among the great gay destinations on the planet. Historians have chronicled a vibrant, discernible gay scene here as far back as the 1890s. Manhattan might be the epicenter of NYC gay life, but there's a growing gay community in the outer boroughs, especially in Brooklyn with its Park Slope neighborhood. Most visitors, however, focus their efforts on Manhattan and its world-class shopping, theater, dining, and nightlife.
New York Gay Events Calendar
These largely gay-centric events happen annually.
- May: Staten Island PrideFest, New York City AIDS Walk
- June: Brooklyn Pride, Queens Pride, Harlem Pride, NYC Pride
- July: Staten Island PrideFest, 1 Bronx Pride Festival
- October: NewFest LGBT Film Festival, Greenwich Village Halloween Parade (a hugely gay and campy event)
Manhattan Gay Neighborhoods and Bars
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 Hell's 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.
- Hell's Kitchen: On the west side of Midtown, near the Theater District and Times Square, Hell's Kitchen has become the most gay-trendy spot in Manhattan, home to a number of top LGBTQ bars and clubs. Some popular spots include Therapy, Flaming Saddles, Posh, Barrage, Hardware Bar, ad 9th Avenue Saloon. There are dozens more to choose from, too.
- Chelsea: As recently as 20 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 gayification crept in from Greenwich Village in the '70s. Chelsea quickly became one of the city’s most popular "gayborhoods," but it has since been hit with huge rent hikes, pushing out some of the mainstays. There remain some places to love, though: make sure you check out popular favorites including Eagle NYC, GYM Sportsbar, and Barracuda.
- West Village: 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. The West Village no longer NYC's gay epicenter, but it's still a pretty pink neighborhood, especially the area around its gay anchor, the Stonewall Inn, where the Stonewall Riots occurred in 1969. The world-renowned bar and club is still open, and other bars with staying power in the West Village include Pieces, Julius', RockBar, Hangar Bar, Cubbyhole, Marie’s Crisis, and the Duplex.
- East Village: The once dodgy and now chic East Village is home to dozens of cool boutiques, hipster-filled gay bars, and offbeat restaurants, though the vibe has been skewing more affluent and cookie-cutter as of late. Even with that gentrification, the neighborhood that retains somewhat of an artsy, individualist vibe, particularly as you move farther east into Alphabet City. LGBTQ-friendly bars include Club Cumming (owned by Alan Cumming), the Boiler Room, Phoenix, and Nowhere.
Brooklyn and Queens Gay Neighborhoods
You'll find some truly fascinating gay neighborhoods in the outer boroughs, with Brooklyn leading the charge. New York City's most populous borough (with more than 2.5 million residents), Brooklyn was established as a separate city, and it remains very much its own entity. Several sections have become popular with gays, especially Park Slope. After Brooklyn, Queens has the outer boroughs' most visible LGBTQ population: it's centered around Jackson Heights and neighborhoing Elmhurst.
- Park Slope: Park Slope (once called "dyke slope") has been popular with lesbians—and to a growing degree gay men—for many years; it has gay bars, coffeehouses, and many gay businesses. Though of late, a number of heterosexual yuppies have taken over the neighborhood. Here you can check out the Lesbian Herstory Archives, an exhaustive collection of documents tracing lesbian history. The best gay and lesbian bars are Ginger's Bar and Excelsior.
- Jackson Heights: One of the most multicultural neighborhoods in all of New York, Jackson Heights is the center of Latinx LGBTQ life and has been for the last 20 years—the neighborhood is home to Queens' annual Pride festival. Bars and clubs catering to the LGBTQ community line Roosevelt Avenue and the surrounding streets, with some notable spots being Club Evolution, Friend's Tavern, True Colors, and Hombres Lounge.