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New York is the nerve center of the world. Finance, communications, publishing, art, fashion, music, advertising, dining, theater -- all the buzz begins here in Manhattan. No city in the world offers New York's diversity of experience, opportunity and sheer, raw power.
Since World War II, New York has served as the nation's number-one destination for gay Americans, lured to Greenwich Village, then Chelsea from the towns large and small all over the country. The nation?s capital of the arts, New York's cultural scene has been dominated by gay men and women for decades.
So sharpen your wits, get ready to walk ? alot, keep your eyes wide open and be open to anything, because it's all here.
The center of New York City's gay-life has spread both north and eastward from its historic Greenwich Village roots, to Chelsea, Hell's Kitchen and the East Village.
Many first-time visitors to Greenwich Village (or the West Village, as locals know it) are surprised by how large and diverse this chunk of the city is. 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.
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. Along the western part of Chelsea, you'll find the city's largest concentration of art galleries, between 20th and 26th Streets and 10th and 11th Avenues.
Much funkier than the West Village the East Village is typified by former tenement housing (now very expensive), inexpensive ethnic restaurants, the best offbeat shopping in the city and dozens of bars. Despite soaring rents, the area still retains a rough, defiant edge. The queer scene of the East Village is in keeping with the area's individualistic spirit.
Hell's Kitchen is the most recently settled of the city's gay enclaves. 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 masse, bringing with them the requisite bars and restaurants that now make it arguably the city's hottest queer playground.
New York?s hotels have historically been very expensive and still, compared to say a weekend in Columbus, it?s going to cost you some money. The silver lining to the economic crisis, however, is hotel prices have come down to their lowest levels in years. There are also lots of new properties that have opened and are offering specials to lure guests. Here are some of our favorite hotels.
Gay-owned Grace offers a bit of boutique chic at (comparatively) offers bargain basement prices as well as a swimming pool bar in the lobby with a gay swimming night on Mondays The Gramercy Park is now the reigning king of hotel uberhip. This Ian Schrager property elegantly mashes wacky and far-flung design elements. Downstairs, the Rose Bar is popular with the city's top scenesters.
Another exciting hotel is The Bowery in the up-and-coming NoHo neighborhood with its unobstructed floor to ceiling views from all sides, and a lot of hot buzz.
Looking for value, two great options are The Pod where accommodations are simple but stylish and savvy. And Hotel 17 with mostly shared-bath.
If you want to stay in Chelsea, you have several options. Here are two we love that are also budget conscious. The 26-room gay-owned Chelsea Pines Inn (http://www.chelseapinesinn.com) recently received a major interior facelift.
The Colonial House Inn is a small gay hotel, occupying a unique 1850s brownstone.
Few things in New York are more debated than dining: what's in, what's out, what's overpriced, what's overrated and where to find the best pizza, steak, sushi, cupcakes, and much more.
For your one spurge, you can?t go wrong at Per Se, an exquisite nine-course extravaganza blending New American and French cuisines, with fabulous views of Central Park.
Or head over to Gramercy Tavern with an atmosphere that is sophisticated but relaxed, with superb prix-fixe dinners.
Prune, owned and run by top lesbian chef Gabrielle Hamilton, is upscale East Village bohemia at its finest: fantastic food, and enough bloody mary variations to turn the already magical weekend brunch into a serious party.
For women, downstairs from the popular West Village bar Rubyfruit, Rita Mae's (531 Hudson St., at Charles St.; 212-929-3343) is the lesbian date restaurant, with a cozy, candle-lit atmosphere.
Brunch is a sacred gay dining experience in New York and you have all sorts of options.
For a treat, the world famous Balthazar is truly a gem, serving the rich, the famous and the rest of us with the same lively panache.
Or dish at Dish a two-floor gay diner with great people watching along 8th Avenue in the heart of Chelsea.
It?s impossible to catalog the many things to see and do in New York. There are untold delights waiting around every corner, and if you keep your eyes open you'll discover them in likely and unlikely places.
Of course, no first-time visit would be complete without seeing the musts: the Statue of Liberty; the Empire State Building; and Times Square (with its new pedestrian-only zones). Speaking of new, the elevated High Line park is open and already incredibly popular with locals and visitors alike.
Soak up great views from every angle including the free Staten Island Ferry with its views of downtown Manhattan; The Roosevelt Island Tram; the Circle Line Ferry going around the island; and the Top of the Rock for incredible views of Midtown.
No visit would be complete without a visit to one of the many world-class museums, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art with new galleries devoted to Roman and Greek antiquities and American art. Also, check out the updated Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
With theater, movie houses, art galleries, music halls, parks and much more, you will be exercised, entertained and inspired throughout your visit and beyond.
There's at least one bar or club night for every queer proclivity in New York. You?ll also find gay bars packed almost any night of the year. Where else can you go out on a Monday night during a blizzard and find 3 bars on one block packed at 1am?
You can choose one gayborhood and do a bar and club crawl there or hop in the subway or in a cab and hit other parts of gay New York. Whether you hit the Village, Chelsea, Hells Kitchen, the East Village, you?ll want to start your evening with a cocktail at one of the many bars clamoring for your attention. Vlada Lounge in Hell?s Kitchen specializes in infused vodkas. Easter Block in the East Village is crammed on the weekends. In Chelsea, cruise through Barracuda and g Lounge.
From there you can get a little crazy at wilder venues like the Cock, Urge or Mr. Black. Or you may want to check out the Dugout, a venue for bears or The Eagle for the leather set.
Escuelita is popular with gay Latinos and the Web with Asians and their admirers.
Women have more options here than in many other cities. A reliably popular place to start is the neighborhoody Henrietta Hudsons.
No homo visitor with a lick of queer sense would miss an opportunity to catch a show on the Great White Way. Some Broadway queens attend three, four or even more shows in a weekend visit ? sometimes a matinee and a show Saturday and Sunday. Catch a great big mega show and soak up the high-energy crowds in streaming in an endless parade along Broadway (now delightfully vehicle free!) or inside the theater itself. Or sneak off Broadway or even off-off Broadway for smaller more challenging and interesting theater. Big or small, it?s an experience you?ll never forget.
New York is a shopper's paradise, especially for gay travelers. Whether you're interested in spending a lot or saving even more, you've got a myriad of options. From high-end boutiques to vibrant street markets and funky stores, the city is world-renowned for its diverse and trend-setting shopping opportunities.
For your favorite flight attendant or travel buddy -- or even for yourself -- check out Greenwich Village's Flight 001 (96 Greenwich Ave; 212-691-1001), part of a chic travel minichain selling items of a "global" nature, such as rain hats, Italian toothbrush kits and hard-to-find guidebooks.
You?ll find clothing superstores like Barney?s, Jeffreys and the Japanese Uniqlo along side hip boutiques Like Seize Sur Vingt, with its perfectly posh array of white-collar workwear; the fashion-forward Odin and BBlessing, a Lower East Side boutique; not to mention killer jeans at A.P.C.
Though it?s a little hot and steamy in summer months and lots of locals flee to nearby Fire Island or the Hamptons, almost any time of the year is a great time to visit the Big Apple. Come in early fall and enjoy perfect weather and an unmistakable energy pulsating all around you. The holidays are a fantastic time to visit and shop. And spring, with the city?s many parks coming alive after their winter slumber, is a great time to see locals shedding their layers and showing their smiles. Whether it?s your first visit or you?ve lost count, there is always something new to discover in New York.