The 10 best LGBTQ bars in NYC

The 10 best LGBTQ bars in NYC

Long a city of diversity and inclusion, New York City dazzles LGBTQ travellers with its sheer range of queer things to see and do. While you’ll discover a delightful melange of gay things to do in NYC at all hours of the day, there’s no denying that gay New York comes alive after dark. From beloved historic mainstays to Broadway-belting piano bars, experience the best of “the city that never sleeps” with our guide to the top LGBTQ bars in NYC.

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1. The Stonewall Inn

Any list of the best LGBTQ bars in New York City would be remiss not to include the landmark watering hole largely responsible for launching the modern gay rights movement: The Stonewall Inn. What started as a summer riot in 1969 would eventually change millions of lives, earning The Stonewall its status as a National Historic Landmark—and global recognition for its enduring testament to human rights and solidarity. Today, The Stonewall Inn is as charming as ever, promising an all-inclusive atmosphere and hospitable bar staff. Stop by for a beer and cheers to the iconic gay bar at least once while exploring the best things to do in New York City.

Stonewall Inn

Photo: Brooke Cagle

2. The Townhouse Bar

When it comes to the best gay bars in Manhattan, The Townhouse Bar is a class-act. If you prefer quiet conversations and talented piano shows to ear-ringing, reverberating dance music, then this is your place. The Townhouse Bar tends to attract 30-somethings and older; while a jacket isn’t required, you’ll find a crowd full of elegant men in smart attire. Nightly performances in The Grand Piano Bar skew towards Broadway classics, while Friday and Saturday evenings in the club room are reserved for hip-swaying Latino beats like Salsa and Merengue.

3. Flaming Saddles

Sexy male bartenders Two-Steppin’ in tight jeans and cowboy hats in a Western-themed gay bar? It might sound terribly kitschy, but Flaming Saddles gets this all-male version of Coyote Ugly oh-so-right. Unleash your inner cowboy and toss back a cold one at what is easily one of the most riotously fun gay clubs in Manhattan. The handsome barkeep double as brilliant performers and keep the ambience thrumming all evening long. If late-night hunger hits, the Tex-Mex menu is surprisingly good; opt for Flaming Saddles’ signature Frito Pie—it’s Frito corn chips smothered in homemade Texas red chilli, and it’s absolutely delightful.

Photo: Maria Badasian

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An East Village institution for two decades, the Phoenix Bar is one of the best gay bars in NYC for a reason

4. Phoenix Bar

An East Village institution for two decades, the Phoenix Bar is one of the best gay bars in NYC for a reason. After a fire devastated the original queer dive in 1999, The Phoenix arose and evolved into a trendy, avante-garde venue attracting a diverse and convivial crowd. Drag shows, go-go dancers, and themed nights regularly populate the events calendar, but it’s the stacked jukebox (dubbed one of the best in NYC) that attracts a crowd most evenings. Expect everything from vintage punk to rock-and-roll classics to the latest pop hits. The Phoenix Bar has a great Happy Hour menu; stop by early in the evening to get your groove on before heading out to discover the best cocktail bars in New York City.

Photo: Vincenzo Malagoli

Photo: Andre Benz

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5. Club Cumming

The brainchild of actor and singer Alan Cumming, Club Cumming is a decidedly Bohemian East Village bar that attracts an alternative queer crowd to its intimate, cosy space. Think ticketed cabaret experiences, stand-up, drag shows, and—most curiously—knitting nights (though attendants prefer the title “fiber artists”). It’s perhaps a bizarre mix, yet somehow it works brilliantly, cementing Club Cumming’s place amongst the best gay clubs in NYC. Come for the diverse, quirky lineup of talented performers, stay for the tangible sense of camaraderie.

6. Julius

While the Stonewall Inn is rightfully famed with starting the gay liberation movement, the accolade for the oldest operating gay bar in NYC goes to Julius. This historical mainstay first opened as a bar in 1864. It would begin attracting gay men in the 1960s, later playing a critical role during the 1966 “Sip-In.” Inspired by civil rights sit-ins and organized by the Mattachine Society, the “Sip-In” was a public challenge to the state’s discriminatory policy of revoking licenses of bars serving gay clientele—a precursor to Stonewall and an essential step towards legitimizing the development of gay bars. Today, Julius is a buzzing gay bar and restaurant serving up juicy, inexpensive burgers in a snug space overflowing with fascinating historical pieces.

Insider tip: Another of New York’s most historical joints is Pete’s Tavern, a gorgeous Gramercy Park pub and an iconic locale included in our guide to the most memorable Sex and the City restaurants. Don’t miss it!

Photo: Rodolfo Sanches Carvalho

7. Cubbyhole

As acceptance and tolerance continue to become the way of the world, once exclusive gay clubs in NYC are now welcoming everyone and anyone—so long as you’re equally open-minded. Such is the case at Cubbyhole, a longtime lesbian and gay locale that’s less concerned about labels and more focused on fostering a welcoming, eclectic ambience. The over-the-top ceiling is dripping with colourful Chinese lanterns, glittering stars, and striped fish, a collection that somehow feels perfectly befitting of this chill neighbourhood bar. Free popcorn and a sought-after jukebox round out the offerings.

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For a scintillating drag queen show paired with an exquisite culinary experience, head straight to Lips—NYC’s go-to drag spot for over two decades

8. Lips

For a scintillating drag queen show paired with an exquisite culinary experience, head straight to Lips—NYC’s go-to drag spot for over two decades and a must-include on any gay travel guide to New York City. Each night brings a different drag queen performance, from celebrity impersonators to Lips’ ever-beloved “Bitchy Bingo.” Does an overload of gay nightlife in New York mean your evenings are already stacked? Lips deliver a boozy Sunday Brunch with legendary status. Be sure to snag tickets ahead of time as spots sell out quickly.

Photo: John Arano

Photo: Alexandre Godreau

9. Marie's Crisis

In this laid-back, gay-popular venue in Greenwich Village, musical theatre students, fun-loving customers, and even the occasional celebrity stop by to belt their favourite Broadway show tunes to the accompaniment of a live pianist. The basement venue oozes of old-world nostalgia, a testament to its storied past first as a 1850s prostitutes’ den, then as a boy bar that would persevere through Prohibition. Don’t expect any trailblazing mixology here; Marie’s is the place for unbridled fun as you sing along to show tunes without abandon.

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The basement venue oozes of old-world nostalgia, a testament to Marie’s storied past first as a 1850s prostitutes’ den, then as a boy bar that would persevere through Prohibition

10. Rise Bar

One of the most dapper LGBTQ bars in NYC is also one of the newest, opening its doors in Hell’s Kitchen in late 2015. Rise Bar is a gorgeous, ultra-modern gay bar full of exposed brickwork, wood ceiling beams, and dangling Edison bulbs. It’s meant to be a sophisticated, high-class option in a sea of otherwise lacklustre gay bars, and so far, it’s working. Sexy bartenders, drag competitions, and karaoke nights promise a high-energy atmosphere any night of the week.

Photo: Vita Vilcina

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