From its earliest days as a cosmopolitan hub of arts and culture, New York City has been home to a vibrant and close-knit queer community. Yet for much of its history, LGBTQ individuals lived under constant threat of legal action or violent harassment. We’ve come a long way from those days, since the start of the modern Pride movement in Greenwich Village 50 years ago to today’s open and proudly visible culture.
Whether you’re looking for a high-energy nightlife experience or a more quiet, reflective connection to LGBTQ culture, New York offers a wealth of opportunities for LGBTQ visitors and allies. We’ve selected a few outstanding highlights here.
The Stonewall Inn
53 Christopher Street, New York, NY 10014
The Pride movement was born here 50 years ago, and no queer tour of New York would be complete without a stop. Still a gay bar and now a National Historic Landmark, Stonewall honors its world-changing past while still providing the camaraderie and warm atmosphere of a home away from home. In 1969, hundreds of protestors responded to a police raid on the bar with two nights of bottle-smashing riots: a watershed in the visibility of the LGBTQ population and the fight for equal rights.
These days, in addition to paying tribute to history, you can check out Stonewall’s happy-hour specials, DJ nights, and special events. Diva drag nights, drag bingo, and ‘90s karaoke are regulars on the calendar. Weekdays, Big Gay Happy Hour (2-7:30 pm) offers two-for-one beers and bar food; Sunday boasts $4 pints and $5 cocktails.
281 W 12th Street, New York, NY 10014
This longtime neighborhood hangout still earns its reputation as one of the friendliest bars in the West Village. Originally making its name as a lesbian bar, it’s welcoming to anyone with a good attitude (and a roll of cash — no cards accepted!). Drinks are half-price during happy hour (Mon-Sat until 7pm) and daily drink specials range from the classic to the reckless.
505 E Fifth Street, New York, NY 10009
When Alan Cumming took over the former Eastern Bloc gay bar, he brought the energy and cabaret vibe of his notorious backstage gatherings to a permanent location. Now, you can spot the actor himself tending bar many nights — and the crowd is studded with celebrities both on- and off-stage. Nightly live performances range from spoken word to piano karaoke, while special theme nights are as diverse as Rupaul’s Drag Race viewing parties and Knit at Nite (“NYC’s hottest knit night… all fibercrafts welcome!”)
Oscar Wilde Tours
The story of NYC’s LGBTQ community goes back centuries before Stonewall. Oscar Wilde Tours’ tours explore this often overlooked history. Guided by experienced historians, art historians, and members of the community, you’ll immerse yourself in queer history and culture on both a citywide and global level.
For a street-level view of Manhattan’s LGBTQ history, join a two-hour walking tour of either Greenwich Village or the East Village. Explore sites ranging from the site of the first Pride parade to the clubs that hosted “pansy balls” in the 1920s and ‘30s. Or, take a fresh look at classics of art history with a guided tour of homoerotic art in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum. All tours require advance registration; get more details at oscarwildetours.com.
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art
26 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10013
With its roots in the early days of the Pride movement, the Leslie-Lohman Museum “is the only dedicated art museum in the world to exhibit and preserve artwork that speaks about the LGBTQ experience.” Founders Charles Leslie and Fritz Lohman dedicated their careers to spotlighting queer artists and saving their artwork (including during the AIDS crisis, when many dying artists’ families sought to conceal or destroy their work). The Museum opened its doors in 2016 and now serves as a cultural hub for the LGBTQ community. Its permanent collection includes more than 30,000 objects, and it hosts six major exhibitions annually focusing on individual artists or specific themes. (In 2019, look for Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas, an exploration of futuristic and dystopian themes by queer artists from across the Americas.)
The Lesbian, Gay, Bi, and Transgender Community Center (The Center)
208 W 13th Street, New York, NY 10011
Providing programs for health, wellness, and community connection, The Center offers a heart and home for LGBTQ communities in NYC and surrounding cities. It provides meeting space for more than 300 groups, from youth services and support to twelve-step recovery meetings. It also hosts events from family-friendly carnivals to musical revues. The Bureau of General Services — Queer Division, the Center’s in-house bookstore and resource center, is a literary and cultural hub for the community, where you’ll find book launch parties, author readings, and art exhibitions. Don’t miss the original artworks by big names including David LaChapelle and Keith Haring.
Looking to connect with other LGBTQ community members, but not into the bar scene? Guy Social coordinates events from movie nights to swim parties, all with a focus on connection and fun. Whether you’re the sporty type or more into a chill evening of board games and Mario Kart, its thousands of annual meetups include something for everyone. Check out their Insta @guy_social or calendar listings at guysocial.com.
125 W 14th Street, New York, NY 10011
Want to make some new friends while working up a sweat? This long-time gay-friendly gym offers both state-of-the-art exercise equipment and free group fitness classes in a welcoming, non-judgmental environment. You can even explore your creative side with an arts or music workshop (why not bring home your own handmade souvenir?). Enjoy up to three free visits per year with a downloadable guest pass.
Looking for up-to-the-minute details on the hundreds of LGBTQ-oriented events on tap every week? Keep on top of your options with the online listings at Metrosource and Get Out!, where you’ll find details on everything from drag brunches to after-hours clubs.