There are dozens of great gay bars in New York City. You can pop in to cozy neighborhood watering holes, cruisy dives, or pick a diva-laden den perfect for watching the latest Drag Race. If you’re here for a limited amount of time you’re going to be looking for the right kind of nightlife to make your trip unforgettable, so grab a stool and consider one of these popular spots ready to welcome your beautiful gay self to New York.
If you’re staying near Chelsea and Union Square:
Catch a drag show at Barracuda
Barracuda’s low-key lounge atmosphere makes it a swell spot to have drinks with friends or to meet new ones. This venerable bar frequently hosts live events at a small stage in back, like Miss Peppermint’s Drag Show, a long-running variety show of comedy and kitsch. You’ll find a welcoming vibe here on the friendly side of cruisy. Comfy couches encourage lingering in the dimly lit and cozy space.
Bust out that jock and harness at the Eagle
The Eagle NYC Opened in 1970 and billed as a leather-and-Levi’s jeans bar, this was one of the first gay watering holes to open after the Stonewall riots. From Foot Fetish Mondays to Jockstrap Wednesdays, it’s filled with risqué theme nights for a multitude of tastes—but leather reigns. Each year, the bar dubs a new man Mr. Eagle to act as its Mr. Universe-like ambassador, whose duties include hosting benefits and workshops for the leather community. Sundays are for football and $3 domestic drafts.
Keep an eye on the big game at Gym Sportsbar
For dudes who like dudes who are into sports, Gym Sportsbar has you covered with a dizzying array of screens as well as a pool table. A generous two-for-one happy hour on weekdays makes it easy to down a few while watching a game. The bar has a range of specials after 9pm as well, like $6 frozen margaritas on Tuesdays—and even on weekends you’ll find drink promotions here.
Have some fun and make some friends at REBAR
Part club and part bar, this sleek venue is the 2.0 iteration of gay nightlife, with polished wood barstools and Edison light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. Don’t expect bright colors here except a Pride flag or two. With shirtless bartenders and scantily clad theme nights, REBAR is charged with sexual energy. The space doesn’t have TVs in an effort to foster human interaction, and a rewards program encourages repeat visits.
If you’re staying near the Village:
Look for a snack (or some popcorn) at Cubbyhole
Colorfully decorated and suggestively named, Cubbyhole is a lesbian bar with an inclusive vibe (gay and straight welcome) and serves free popcorn to boot. Look up to see the multitude of lanterns strewn from the ceiling. Frequent specials, including Margarita Tuesdays and Whiskey Wednesdays, make for cheap fuel at this particularly festive bar.
Grab a pint in a pioneering space at Julius’
This wood-paneled spot is the city’s oldest gay bar. It opened as a grocery store in 1840, became a bar in 1864, and started attracting a gay crowd by the 1960s. Regulars love the $6 burgers and frequent drink specials along with Julius’s monthly Mattachine Night, a dance party started by John Cameron Mitchell and PJ DeBoy to honor trailblazing queers, held the third Thursday of each month; the popular event is named after the first gay rights organization.
Bring some cash and your Broadway dreams to Marie’s Crisis
A legendary piano bar popular not only with the LGBTQ crowd but the musical theater community at large, Marie’s Crisis often features intimate shows by Broadway stars and composers. Lea DeLaria and Alan Cumming are both known to unwind here, and Cristin Milioti once popped by to belt out “On My Own.” It gets crowded so it’s best to arrive early, at the start of happy hour (4pm-9pm Mon.-Thurs.), or make a reservation. Don’t forget to hit up the ATM first so you have cash for the bar and for the performer’s tip jar.
Step into iconic queer history at Stonewall Inn
As the site of the riots that bear its name, this iconic bar is now part of the Stonewall National Monument, and it remains a popular gathering place for the LGBTQ community. Its Big Gay Happy Hour offers two-for-one drinks during the week 2pm-7:30pm, and a regular lineup of entertainment includes drag bingo on Mondays and drag cabaret shows on Sundays.
If you’re staying near the East Village or the Lower East Side:
Take a chance on celeb-spotting at Club Cumming
Housed in the former space of shuttered gay bar Eastern Bloc, Club Cumming is a joyous and all-inclusive affair for people of all gender identities and persuasions. Its co-owner is the incomparably talented actor-singer Alan Cumming, who drops in regularly to perform cabaret sets along with a bevy of friends, including his piano player Lance Horne, who holds court Mondays after 9pm. Celebrity sightings are common and many wind up on stage; Paul McCartney stopped by once to accompany Cumming for a few songs. The sleek, narrow club oozes a playful sex-charged vibe with black ceilings, chandeliers, and a red-lit glow throughout. Burlesque shows and scantily clad go-go dancers are also regular fixtures.
Keep it cozy and casual at Nowhere
Nowhere exudes dive bar warmth with exposed brick, low ceilings, a pool table, a perpetual red hue, and a mirror ball that sets the intimate space aglow. While prices are reasonable, they get even better with $3 drink specials for events like the long-running Beers, Beards, and Bears; Ginger Appreciation Night; and go-go-boy-filled Macho Mondays.
If you’re waiting for the bars to open:
Soak up the talent at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art
Established as a nonprofit foundation to support gay and lesbian artists by Charles Leslie and Fritz Lohman in 1987, this small museum, which feels more like a casual-chic gallery, exhibits artists across the LGBTQ spectrum. Its permanent collection houses over 24,000 works, only a small fraction of which can be displayed at any one time in the museum’s two intimate exhibition spaces. Well-curated shows illustrate the breadth of diversity in the queer community. A recent exhibit from the collection featured a drawing by Touko Laaksonen (aka Tom of Finland), a triptych of a lesbian African couple in loving embrace by Zanele Muholi, and a large-scale nude oil painting of a trans woman by young Californian artist Janet Bruesselbach.
Stretch your legs and take some selfies along Christopher Street Pier (Pier 45)
This pier is one of the longest in the city at 850 feet (269 m), stretching out into the Hudson River and away from the bustle of the West Side Highway. Part of Hudson River Park, its stretches of green lawn provide space for all comers, from sunbathers and picnickers to practicing yogis and martial artists. The pier has also long been a gathering spot for the LGBTQ community. The boardwalk is great for an extended stroll, and the pier’s location provides expansive views of Lower Manhattan and One World Trade Center in particular. The developing skyline of Jersey City is in full view and, if you get hungry, Wafels and Dinges serves inventively topped Belgian waffles at Belgo Landing, a café at the foot of the pier, on weekends during the warmer months.
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