For a more relaxed entr?e into a "new gay" scene, hop the L Train and head to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where much of the city's young talent incubates thanks to its ?ber-hipster vibe (think skinny jeans, tattoos and irony for days) and relatively cheaper rents. Boasting a gritty industrial location, loft-like atmosphere, huge bar, occasional live acts, tiered lounge areas and a crammed smoking patio, Sugarland (221 N. 9th St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-599-4044) can downright heave -- or loom strangely quiet. Fridays or Saturdays are your best bets. Under the same management, nearby Metropolitan (559 Lorimer St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-599-4444) more consistently packs in gay guys and gals throughout the week and makes a good back-up plan -- sans dancing -- once you've made the cross-borough trek.
If you're after a more traditional scene (i.e. pop and hip-hop music), head to The Ritz (369 W. 46th St.; 212-333-2554) in Hell's Kitchen, the latest gay neighborhood to supplant Chelsea and the East and West Villages. With a welcome everyman (and woman) vibe, a small back patio, and large cushy second-floor sitting area that feels like your nautical-loving uncle's living room, it's a relaxed place for happy hour and weekday nights. On weekend nights, it anchors the scene from its bustling Restaurant Row location. As the only "Hellsea" address in which to dance, the first floor backroom turns into a giddy mess that's equal parts sweaty humidity, smoke machines and flashing lights.
Sunday nights belong to the Cuckoo Club at Hiro Ballroom (363 W. 16th St.; 212-242-4300) (locals just call the night "Hiro"), in the massive basement of the Maritime Hotel. There's no cover charge and it's the closest thing NYC now has to a regular gay megaclub; it always packs in a good-looking crowd from voguing scenesters to downtown hipsters, muscle boys to nouveau club kids. It is impossible to get in on holiday weekends so plan an early evening accordingly. Hiro's opulent Asian d?cor is courtesy of the same design firm as the busy and long-running Beige on Tuesdays at B Bar.
No slouch in the go-go boy department, perennially popular and just as equally maligned Splash (50 W. 17th St.; 212-691-0073) offers a different night for every taste: Got2B@Ocean Tuesdays (Latino), Campus Thursdays (college), Fridays and Saturdays (all muscle). Two floors, booming acoustics, all chrome and mirrors, it is the prototypical gay club in the heart of Chelsea. Prod enough locals and they will admit to going there, too, especially for Musical Mondays (7 p.m.-midnight) when off-duty chorus boys and musical nuts pack the place for jubilant sing-a-longs -- choreography included. (Trust us, it's good fun.) Lines form early for Saturday nights, too, with more than 1,000 men making the weekly pilgrimage for top name dance DJs such as Manny Lehman and David Knapp.
Rotating Gay Dance Parties
Held 7 times a year, often on holiday weekends
Part One | Part Two