Add rainbows to your day with the city’s amazing, year-round queer culture.
Art, herstory, drag queens, gay ice cream—in New York City you get it all. Better still, it’s all available every day, all year long. The city is a dynamic hub of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and overall queer culture, where locals and visitors alike revel in its array of delights. So whether you’re here for Pride or any other time of the year, here are some of the city’s colorful best stops not to miss.
Stonewall National Monument
The city’s nexus of LGBTQ culture, Greenwich Village, where 7.7 acres form the Stonewall National Monument. The area includes several blocks from Greenwich Avenue to W. 4th Street, and W. 10th Street to Waverly Place, though Christopher Street east of 7th Avenue is its main drag. The site was officially designated in 2016 and is the only U.S. monument commemorating LGBTQ history.
If the Stonewall National Monument is the American marker for LGBTQ civil rights, then The Center (officially The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center) is the everyday go-to that embodies them. Opened in 1983, the city’s all-welcoming queer community center offers rich programming and resources to New Yorkers, including more than 12,000 events every year. The Center houses an incredible archive, library, and galleries, including the iconic black-and-white Keith Haring mural, Once Upon a Time, painted by the artist in 1989.
Historic LGBTQ Bars
It may sound funny, but the LGBTQ community was built in gay bars. They were gathering places that queer patrons could rely upon to find like-minded friends and safety in numbers. And in NYC, gay bars played a big part in the LGBTQ civil-rights movement. The Stonewall Inn was the site of the LGBTQ uprising against police raids and harassment, and you can go there today for a sip, show, or game of pool at the legendary bar. But don’t miss other iconic downtown gay and lesbian haunts like Julius’, Cubby Hole, Pieces, and Henrietta Hudson.
LGBTQ art and history are celebrated with temporary shows at museums all over New York, but only the Leslie-Lohman Museum invites you to take in works by and about queer artists all year long. The museum’s namesake founders, Fritz Lohman and Charles Leslie, began their collection in 1969. Visitors can see an array of exhibitions in the museum’s Soho space on Wooster and Grand Streets, home to year-round events and ever-changing window installations.
Broadway-caliber crooners (and sometimes celebrities) are known to pass a good time at NYC’s famous piano bars. So warm up your pipes, grab a drink, and join the piano-side harmonies happening nightly at Greenwich Village gay spots like The Monster, Marie’s Crisis Café, and The Duplex Piano Bar & Cabaret; Uncle Charlie’s Piano Lounge in Hell’s Kitchen; or the Upper East Side’s The Townhouse or Brandy’s Piano Bar.
Get lit—literary, that is—at one of NYC’s last radical bookstores, founded in 1999. Parked on busy Allen Street in the Lower East Side, the collectively-owned, volunteer-run Bluestockings also is a fair-trade café and events center that explores sexuality and gender, feminism, race studies, and radical education. Plus, it also stocks hard-to-find books, zines, and journals.
While public art abounds across the city, you’ll have to head to the tiny triangle that is Christopher Park to see NYC’s only LGBTQ-inspired works. The park is pleasantly quiet thanks to the trees that separate it from the bustling streets all around. So duck in for a spot on a park bench and regard George Segal’s 1980 Gay Liberation sculptures of two same-sex couples casually standing and seated, representing some of the world’s first public art dedicated to LGBTQ rights.
Drag queens are next-level talented in NYC, and plenty of fabulous shows go on nightly all across town (the outer boroughs too!). But catch a classic drag brunch to put some serious sparkle in your weekend afternoons. In Hell’s Kitchen, LIPS New York, La Pulperia, and Intermezzo all offer unforgettable shows with bottomless brunch cocktails. Brooklyn visitors can take in underground queens at Bizarre in Bushwick; while special drag brunches add to the spectacle of the Flatiron’s Oscar Wilde restaurant during Pride season and beyond.
INSIDER TIPRemember to make reservations any of these places well in advance.
Lesbian Herstory Archives
LGBTQ archives around the world house incredible collections of memorabilia and publications. But head to Park Slope, Brooklyn, for a rare queer-women-centric library at the Lesbian Herstory Archives. Occupying a townhouse on 14th Street near the F subway, the LHA is a unique place to explore a vast multimedia assemblage of herstory, plus changing exhibits, guest speakers, and social events.
Big Gay Ice Cream
Every day is a great day for ice cream, but at Big Gay Ice Cream you can add some special flavor to your scoops. The gay-owned sweets emporium started as a food truck before opening on Grove Street in Greenwich Village, serving cones, sandwiches, and other treats with memorable monikers and handmade toppings—like the Bea Arthur, Salty Pimp, the Dorothy, and Rocky Roadhouse. You can also savor your favorite versions at its East Village and new South Street Seaport locations–just follow signs to the shops’ glittered unicorns.