The average tourist pining for selfies in Times Square and tickets to the latest Broadway spectacle misses out on an essential part of the Big Apple's history and culture: gay New York. The legendary queer metropolis ignited the LGBT equal rights movement in the late 1960s and still continues to stoke the flames of the nation and world in the fight for equality.
In 1969 police raided the Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village bar frequented by drag queens, male hookers and poorer members of the LGBT community. A violent riot soon erupted that sparked widespread activism and protest for civil rights over the next several days, turning the Village into the headquarters of the LGBT equal rights movement.
Because of its storied past, gay New York sports one of the best LGBT social scenes in the world. And while Greenwich Village remains a historically gay neighborhood, many have migrated to Hell’s Kitchen, now serving as the biggest gay district in Manhattan and containing the majority of queer bars and clubs.
Chelsea - NYC’s 90s gay mecca - was hit by an exodus as it became gentrified, but still boasts a few gay bars. Meanwhile, the East Village has long been Manhattan's alternative enclave, and still contains a few queer, anti-establishment dive bars cum cruise joints.
Other thriving gayborhoods have been established outside of Manhattan, such as Williamsburg and Bushwick, over the East River in Brooklyn. Indeed, such is the growth of the gay community there, this part of NYC now has its own yearly LGBT celebration, Brooklyn Pride.
That’s just one of the Big Apple’s gay activities throughout the year. The biggest is the New York City Gay Pride parade, which has been held every June since 1970 and draws visitors from around the world.
Escaping the city
After all that partying, we often need a vacation from our vacation. Catch some tan in Central Park on Sheep Meadow, where the boys play shirtless on Sundays. For a quick swim, there is Riis beach in Rockaway, Queens, that draws a predominantly gay crowd.
But a train to Long Island and ferry will take you to Fire Island, the notorious island destination where gay men flock all summer long in Speedos (or less). Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove are the two areas on Fire Island where most of the gay community lives.
With its rich history and culture, excellent nightlife and beautiful beaches, New York really is one of the best destinations for a gay vacation.