Explore these iconic New York gay bars from home, plus other virtual experiences

Michael Venturiello of Christopher Street Tours, outside the Stonewall Inn - Airbnb Experiences
Michael Venturiello of Christopher Street Tours, outside the Stonewall Inn (Photo: Supplied)

Two household tech names have launched new virtual experiences. Both aim to allow people to tour distant locations, such as New York City’s queer scene.

First up, Airbnb announced it was extending its range of virtual tours.

Airbnb established its Online Experiences program in April as the COVID pandemic hit. It’s an extension of its 2016 real-life Experiences program. The accommodation rental site has revealed it’s teamed up with travel marketeers Brand USA to present a series of US-themed experiences.

These include an NYC LGBTQ Historical Bar Crawl, which takes a closer look at three iconic, NYC bars: Julius’, the Stonewall Inn, and Cubbyhole. The talk takes place via Zoom, with guests paying approximately $15 to participate.

The tour is narrated by Michael Venturiello of Christopher Street Tours.

“The mission of Christopher Street Tours is to share stories and uplift voices from those who paved the way before us,” he told GayCities. “Leading tours is a great way to share these stories, but it is really only accessible to those with the means to travel to New York City.

“The pandemic has really opened our options and allowed me to think about alternative ways to offer this information, including virtual tours and events, which has drastically increased accessibility to people all across the world and from different financial backgrounds, who wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to join on an in-person tour.”

Christopher Street Tours in New York City
Christopher Street Tours usually do real life tours, but not also offer virtual options (Photo: Supplied)

Other bookable experiences include a Southern food cookery lesson, a spoken-word poetry workshop with Cleveland poet Chris Webb, a Nashville Cocktails & Distillery Tour, and an ‘Explore Hidden Reefs in Hawaii’ experience.

The new Brand USA experiences join around 200 other online experiences already being offered by Airbnb (including an upcoming, global LGBTQ Halloween party).

“Airbnb Online Experiences gives us a new platform to share warm and welcoming stories about US destinations. As the world longs to travel again, we are delighted to help travelers understand places more deeply, meet real people, and uncover local perspectives to activate their wanderlust,” says Brand USA’s chief marketing officer, Tom Garzilli.

Related: These six gay bars received grants from HRC to help them survive COVID

This week also saw the launch of Amazon Explore. The new service virtually transports people to other parts of the world through customized live streaming experiences with local experts. The offering is in public beta testing at the moment. During this period, the service will work on an invite-only basis for US Amazon customers.

Experiences include a walking tour of Mexico City’s urban art scene ($47 for a 60-minute session); the opportunity to virtually visit Berlin’s landmarks ($99 for a 60-minute session); enjoy a cookery demonstration live from Argentina ($70 for a 45-minute session); or browse and buy cookware in Tokyo‘s Kitchen Town ($45 for 45 minutes); among many others.

Each session is hosted by a local expert host, trained and supported by Amazon. The one-on-one sessions are conducted live, through one-way video and two-way audio, so you’re not part of a group Zoom call.

You can also ask store owners questions and purchase their products (hey, it is Amazon, after all).

With both these offerings arriving this week and with COVID restrictions and quarantines set to continue for the coming months, expect a boom in further online tour options.

Maybe think about whether you can host an experience from your home city!