14 New York City Spots To Hit Up If You Love Queer Culture

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New York City is, arguably, the gayest city. It’s the birthplace of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement, it’s headquarters to hoards of gay bars, and it’s also believed to be home to the highest number of LGBTQ people in the world. A haven for queer people to live and visit, New York’s boroughs are full of gay landmarks, cultural institutions, and spaces to just totally unwind and be yourself.

1.

Cubbyhole

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One of New York City’s few remaining lesbian bars, Cubbyhole is the type of place you plan to stop at for a happy hour drink (they start at $3 before 7p.m.) but inevitably stay all night. True to its name, this cubby-sized bar is small and cozy, often packed with queer people of all ages and backgrounds. And if it becomes your regular, you’ll never be bored: Each night brings new treats, like a dominatrix drag queen twisting up raunchy balloon art, jukebox-fueled dance parties, and surprise free pizza.

Where: 281 West 12th Street, Manhattan

2.

Lesbian Herstory Archives

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History may sound boring, but herstory certainly isn’t. Especially when it’s composed of R-rated materials, pulp novels, and yes, plenty of nerd-appealing documents, papers, media that you (probably) didn’t learn about in school. Visit the Park Slope archives to page through magazines, listen to recordings, or even schedule a tour through the overwhelming amount of history the Herstory Archives collect.

Where: 484 14th Street, Brooklyn

3.

Bluestockings Bookstore

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This feminist bookstore is volunteer-run, so there’s no pressure to buy anything as you scope out titles by mainstream, independent, and self-published authors (though it’s always nice to help keep the Lower East Side space in business). Queer books are easy to find and organized by theme, and it’s also one of the few spaces that runs events sans alcohol. Nights hosted by queer and anarchist authors, artists, and speakers, plus workshops, support circles, and book clubs offer a free place for LGBTQ folks to foster community.

Where: 172 Allen Street, Manhattan

4.

MeMe’s Diner

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Comfort food takes its queerest form at this diner in Prospect Heights, owned and run by two LGBTQ+ restaurateurs. On weekend mornings you’ll be welcomed with a bowl of rainbow Froot Loops, plus plenty of brunch goodies to munch on. Dinner brings hearty dishes, like meatloaf, stovetop mac ‘n’ cheese, and a buffalo chicken salad. And on any given night queer friends and couples pack in at the bar for a bowl of cheeseballs and a cocktail. Or many.

Where: 657 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn

5.

The Center

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An oasis just below 14th Street, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center is almost hidden in plain site, a rainbow flag waving over its brick walls. Entrance is free and open to anyone, so relax in the backyard with a coffee from the café (there’s Wi-Fi too!) or take advantage of one of the many resources inside the Center, like art exhibits, a queer bookstore, support groups, health check-ins, and much, much more. Check the online calendar for events and volunteer opportunities.

Where: 208 West 13th Street, Manhattan

6.

Jacob Riis Park

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Though it’s not officially a queer space according to the Parks Department, people in-the-know are well aware that Riis is the city’s queer beach. Nicknamed «The People’s Beach», it’s a summertime go-to for sunbathing, day drinking (subtly, because it’s still not quite legal), and self expression — whatever that may mean on the mile-long stretch of sand feeding into the Atlantic Ocean.

Where: 157 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Queens

7.

The Phluid Project

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New York’s first boutique commited to being totally gender-neutral, this SoHo shop stocks both small and big brands, curating a selection of casual clothing, along with Pride merch, accessories, and more. It’s a dedicated safe space for all genders and body types, so dressing room awkwardness is (hopefully) eliminated. The space also hosts events including pop-ups for queer brands, fundraisers, and other gatherings.

Where: 684 Broadway, Manhattan

8.

Leslie-Lohman Museum

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This SoHo art gallery is dedicated to presenting exhibits by LGBTQ artists, curating visual artwork that depicts queer life and identity. Entry is donation-based, and shows are constantly rotating, so a stop in to browse the latest paintings, photography, sculpture, or other mediums can constantly be different.

Where: 26 Wooster Street, Manhattan

9.

No Bar

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Manhattan’s newest gay bar is also its chicest. So much so that, if you didn’t realize the masses of queer people sipping expensive cocktails here, you may just think this new lounge at the Standard Hotel East Village is just…a trendy bar? Helmed by queer chef and hospitality queen Angela Dimayuga, the menu of gay-themed luxe cocktails (like the “Rim Job or “Call Me Daddy”) are made with ingredients like beet shrub, mezcal, or leche de tigre. Upscale bar snacks like oysters with hibiscus mignonette will make you feel fancy, if not a little broke after getting your tab…

Where: 25 Cooper Square, Manhattan

10.

The New York City AIDS Memorial

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One of the most peaceful places to sit outside just blocks from Union Square, this large-scale art installation in a public park offers plenty of ledges and benches to lounge on and, if no one’s slamming on their horns on Sixth Avenue, a quiet respite to sit, think, read, or meet up with friends. The triangle structure, designed by visual artist Jenny Holzer, includes verses from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” and was created to remind locals and visitors of all the lives lost to, and affected by, the AIDS epidemic.

Where: 200 West 12th Street, Manhattan

11.

Big Gay Ice Cream

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Gay! Soft! Serve! You’ll be screaming for ice cream and this wonderfully flamboyant dessert shop with a cult following. Started as an ice cream truck a decade ago, Big Gay Ice Cream has three NYC shops, adorned with rainbows, unicorns, and a magical, eat-ice-cream-for-lunch ambiance. Sundaes, like the Salty Pimp, are their specialty, or get tough with a trucker (aka a cookie ice cream sandwich). Big Gay stands out as a proudly queer business that welcomes visitors from around the world who may have never knowingly set foot in a queer space before, allowing them to literally dip into the queer community via a sweet treat.

Where: 61 Grove Street, Manhattan

12.

Christopher Street Piers

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If you’ve watched Pose, you’re probably familiar with the piers overlooking the Hudson River, where gay and trans people would socialize, cruise, and congregate in the ’70s and ’80s. Even though the piers overlook New Jersey (sorry), they’re still a go-to designation for queer teens eager to get out of the house, as well as New Yorkers of all ages who want to jog, sunbathe, picnic, and people-watch.

Where: 393 West Street, Manhattan

13.

Metropolitan Bar

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Pretty much all gay bars are awesome, but a gay bar with a backyard, plus free food, kind of stands out as the top. One of Brooklyn’s longest-standing gay bars, this Williamsburg institution welcomes in several generations of queers, from recent grads to longtime regulars. A chill vibe and somewhat dingy digs make sipping a PBR among strangers here hyper casual, and comedy shows, queeraoke, storytelling, and drag shows help bring the nightly crowd together. Summer Sundays also bring free (free!) barbecues to the extensive outdoor space.

Where: 559 Lorimer Street, Brooklyn

14.

The Stonewall Inn

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Yep, that same Stonewall from history books is still very much a functioning, cool bar! The site of the Stonewall Riots in June 1969, when LGBTQ people unfairly persecuted by New York City police decided to fight back, this so-called “Birthplace of Pride” is still a place for LGBTQ+ people from across the world to celebrate being gay and unwind with a rainbow Jell-O shot, or perhaps a rainbow-themed Brooklyn Lager.

Where: 53 Christopher Street, Manhattan






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