On Your Gaydar: The Best Hidden Gems for LGBTQ Travelers in NYCBy Topher Cusumano
New York City has earned its reputation as one of the world’s most LGBTQ-friendly destinations. With its historical roots as the birthplace of the Pride movement following the 1969 Stonewall Riots, plus renowned arts and cultural experiences and a visibly thriving queer community that spans all five boroughs, it’s easy to see why millions of LGBTQ travelers flock to the Big Apple every year.
But in the city that never sleeps, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with options when you’re trying to plan the perfect vacation itinerary. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite off-the-beaten-path LGBTQ hot spots and experiences that are sure to deliver a fabulously queer weekend away.
As always check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.
FOOD & DRINK
Pieces Bar, Greenwich Village
Catch a high-octane high performance by some of NYC’s fiercest drag queens in this charming, intimate Greenwich Village bar. Positioned right on the corner of Christopher Street and Greenwich Avenue, Pieces is a prime location to kick off a downtown bar crawl or settle in for a full evening of entertainment.
The no-frills setting and communal atmosphere have made it a regular late-night haunt for some of the biggest names in media and nightlife, so keep your eyes peeled for a potential celeb sighting while you’re grabbing another round.
Cubbyhole, West Village
One of the most popular watering holes in the city for queer women since it first opened its doors in 1994, Cubbyhole stands out for its funky ceiling decor (Marie Kondo would not approve!), killer jukebox selection and a relaxed neighborhood vibe that’s hard to come by these days.
Although it caters primarily to a female clientele, the warm, friendly atmosphere draws in patrons from all walks of life looking for a low-impact night out without sparing any big-city authenticity.
Cowgirl NYC, West Village
Since 1989, Cowgirl NYC has been a staple of the city’s LGBTQ community, thanks to its Texas-sized hospitality, colorfully camp decor and come-as-you-are spirit. The downtown restaurant and bar dishes up a menu of hearty Tex-Mex fare made from fresh, local ingredients.
Rounded out by live music and cocktails strong enough to knock you out of your boots, Cowgirl NYC is by far the best spot to get a taste of the Wild West in the heart of the urban jungle.
Marie’s Crisis, West Village
Broadway aficionados flock to Marie’s Crisis to grab a beer and belt out their favorite show tunes at this classic piano bar. The basement-level space is steeped in history, serving as a bar since the 1890s, and draws a diverse blend of patrons from the LGBTQ and theater communities to make for a night on the town that screams “only in New York.”
Alice’s Tea Cup, Upper East and Upper West Sides
Fall down the rabbit hole for a whimsical afternoon high tea. Alice’s Tea Cup is a tea room and bakery with two locations — cleverly named Chapter I and Chapter II — on the Upper East and Upper West sides.
Their website boasts that their secret ingredient is fairy dust, and it’s easily believed when you first see the spaces’ fanciful hand-painted murals, the magical selection of hundreds of teas, and delectable treats like freshly baked scones with cream and elegant finger sandwiches.
Located just blocks from Central Park, be sure you go pay homage to Alice herself at the park’s iconic Wonderland statue after indulging in your own mad tea party!
SHOPS & EXPERIENCES
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, SoHo
With pieces on display that range from surreal to sensual to heartwarming, the Leslie-Lohman Museum is the only art museum in the world solely dedicated to the curation and preservation of work that speaks directly to the LGBTQ experience.
Located in Manhattan’s SoHo district, the museum hosts six exhibitions a year, plus public lectures and events. The institution commissions an annual facade installation, so even its exterior becomes a striking visual experience.
Entry to the museum is a bargain for only a suggested donation of $10 to access all the current exhibits, so you can indulge in some high art without breaking the bank.
Dixon Place, Lower East Side
Go beyond Broadway to experience avant-garde performance art from some of the most buzzworthy creators in NYC at Dixon Place. Featuring an eclectic mix of experimental theater, contemporary dance, cabaret and more, Dixon Place has a daily calendar of cutting-edge events produced in both its main stage theater and upstairs lounge.
The venue’s lounge and bar offer a wide selection of specialty cocktails, beers, cider and snacks, with all proceeds going directly to support future programming. Beverages can be brought into the theater during the show, so come thirsty!
Myss Tic Escape Room, Park Slope
Myss Tic Escape Room combines immersive gaming with Hollywood-caliber special effects for a once-in-a-lifetime night of fun.
Located in Park Slope, Brooklyn, a vibrant enclave that’s served as a safe haven for LGBTQ families and laid-back urbanites for decades, Myss Tic features two escape room experiences, giving visitors the option of stepping back in time to uncover the secrets of a haunted theater or piecing together the clues of a 1980s governmental plot.
The Bureau of General Services — Queer Division, West Village
Hosted by The LGBT Community Center of New York, The Bureau of General Services — Queer Division is a shop, micro-gallery and event space with a playfully punk sense of humor that emulates NYC’s natural bravado.
Offering an exquisite collection of coffee table books, fiction and poetry, as well as cheeky apparel and novelties that you couldn’t find anywhere else, the BGSQD also hosts weekly events, including film screenings, lectures and signings.
When you’re done shopping, spend some time exploring the entirety of the LGBT Center, which houses one of the original murals created by artist and AIDs activist Keith Haring — a true piece of queer history!
Bluestockings Bookstore, Lower East Side
Bluestockings Bookstore, Fair Trade Cafe, and Activist Center is collectively owned and staffed by volunteers and offers a fantastic variety of books, zines and specialty products that focus on social justice, queer theory, gender studies and the work of other marginalized creative writers.
If you’re hoping to get even more involved in the cause, check out their calendar of daily events, meet-up groups and training. You can feel good about your purchase knowing that your money is going to support the Bluestocking crew continuing to create a safe space for community engagement and educational opportunities.
The House of Yes, Bushwick
Feeling adventurous? Head over to The House of Yes, an innovative party and performance venue in Brooklyn that’s as inclusive as it is opulent.
Located in a converted ice warehouse, this expansive hideaway hosts events ranging from free queer dance parties to an elaborate NSFW fantasy masquerade, complete with lush circus performances and aphrodisiac drink specials.
Be sure to read event descriptions carefully and take instructions seriously — to ensure everyone’s safety and fun, The House of Yes takes rules very seriously. If they say costume required, they mean it, and will often have anyone who shows up in civilian clothes don some items from their on-site costume truck.