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Exclusive | New York City: Introduction

Exclusive | New York City: Introduction

An urban Mecca of gay travelers, New York City promises everything from high culture to lowbrow debauchery. Trust our local experts to ensure a fulfilling experience.

Our travel guides are frequently updated. This guide was last updated 5/07. Still, there are places that are bound to have closed or changed since our last update. Use the listed phone numbers to call ahead, and please let us know of any corrections or new places of interest you discover.

Few experiences are more pulse-quickening than racing into New York City from the airport with pedal-to-the-metal abandon. The cabbie will have both the car radio and the dispatch CB turned on, treating the passenger to an aural mix of Bhangra chanting and squawks of reverb-distorted Hindi, together making the ride feel like a descent into Babel. He's going so fast in such heavy traffic that the threat of a colossal crash seems both imminent and unthinkable. Inside, you hear a frantic voice screaming, "Doesn't he see that TRUCK!!"

But on the outside, you calmly watch the driver make just enough minute adjustments to the steering wheel that allow the both of you to narrowly miss bridge pylons, oncoming charter buses and vengefully merging traffic. All at once the island of Manhattan rises into view, spreading out immensely in both directions, giving the passenger perhaps the only chance he'll have to take in the impossible breadth of the city, before being sucked into the Midtown Tunnel as if through a giant straw.

If there were a nerve center of the world, New York would have to be it. Finance, communications, publishing, art, fashion, music, advertising, dining, theater -- all the buzz begins here on the isle of Manhattan. That may sound like the geocentric hyperbole of someone born in Manhattan, but minute-for-minute, dollar-for-dollar and street-for-street, no city in the world offers New York's diversity of experience, opportunity and sheer, raw power.

Since World War II, New York City has served as the nation's number-one destination for gay Americans, regardless of hometown, as word of "liberated" neighborhoods such as Greenwich Village began to pervade the country's consciousness through popular culture and literature. The country's capital of the arts, New York's cultural scene has been dominated by gay men and women -- some say as much as 70 percent -- for decades, regardless of their relationship to the closet.

So sharpen your wits, keep walking, keep your eyes level (looking up reveals your newcomer status; besides, you'll run into people and things that way) and be open to anything, because it's all here.

New York City's gay-life nexus has sprung both north and eastward from its historic Greenwich Village roots, together with Chelsea, Hell's Kitchen and the East Village now forming a near-perfect "L".

With its epicenter at 18th Street and Eighth Avenue, Chelsea is New York's visibly gayest neighborhood, typified by its legions of young muscle boys, pumped up and proudly parodying (oops! we meant parading) their sexuality. Along the western fringes, you'll also find the city's largest concentration of art galleries, between 20th and 26th Streets and 10th and 11th Avenues.

Many first-time visitors to Greenwich Village (or the West Village, as locals know it) are surprised by how large and diverse this huge chunk of the city is. Bounded by 14th Street to the north, Houston Street to the south, Fifth Avenue to the east and the Hudson River to the west, The Village comprises many different communities, faces and lives. The gay West Village is centered around Sheridan Square and Christopher Street (beginning at Sheridan Square and running west), perhaps the first gay ghetto in the country.

Funkier than its western counterpart, the East Village is typified by small apartments, inexpensive ethnic restaurants, the best unusual shopping in the city and dozens of bars. Leftist political organizations and radicals (as far back as Emma Goldman) have called the East Village home for decades, and despite its (inevitably) rising rents and inexorable gentrification, the area still retains a rough, defiant edge. The queer scene of the East Village is in keeping with the area's individualistic spirit.

Also known (but less so these days) as Clinton, Hell's Kitchen is the most recently settled of the city's gay enclaves, earning it the new monikers of Hellsea and NoChe, both nods to southern neighbor Chelsea. Running roughly from 34th to 57th streets and from Eighth Avenue west to the Hudson River, Hell's Kitchen's proximity to Broadway and the theater district has drawn stray gays for decades, attracted by the formerly cheap rents of its tenement-style housing. It's only in the past few years that gay people have settled here en bloc, bringing with them the requisite bars and restaurants that now make Hellsea arguably the city's hottest queer playground.

Part One | Part Two

Related Articles:
New York City: Where to Stay
New York City: Where to Eat
New York City: Where to Play/Meet
New York City: What to See and Do
New York City: Where to Shop
New York City: Neighborhoods
New York City: Resources

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