10 unique NYC experiences for queer travelers, from Tom Ford’s flagship to a Brooklyn burlesque

When you’re ready to go big, there’s no place like New York City. There’s a reason why 8.4 million people call NYC home. Theater, culture, fine dining, nightlife, shopping — anything is possible in the city that never sleeps. Sure, a luxury NYC vacation comes at a cost, and you’ll likely need a break after your vacation. But there are plenty of ways to travel smart, too, and save money for the things that really count.

Instead of sitting in a taxi or car service for an indeterminable amount of time upon arrival, consider public transportation from New York City’s airports. It’s (relatively) easy to navigate and a fraction of the cost. Quick bites can be found in every borough, leaving you more time to explore and appreciate one or two exceptional meals.

While some of New York City’s greatest finds, like Central Park, the High Line, and even the Metropolitan Museum of Art (if you’re a New York State resident), are free, some planning can turn those experiences into once-in-a-lifetime memories.

GayCities offers ten exclusive things to do in NYC for the wander luxe traveler looking for an exceptionally good time.


New York City

Gay New York: It’s up to you

Tom Ford’s Madison Avenue flagship store

Tom Ford store in New York City
Tom Ford flagship store on Madison Avenue in New York City. Photo courtesy Tom Ford

“I have never been meek,” says Tom Ford, and nothing supports that sentiment like the cultural icon’s Madison Avenue flagship store. The soaring monochromatic venue pays homage to 1970s glamour, with plenty of jewel box salons to discover Ford’s latest collections.

For those with spending power, a second-floor VIP room with off-white suede walls offers privacy and easy access to the men’s collection, including custom suiting, where shoppers can discover the latest designs by the seven-time Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Award winner.

Tom Ford Flagship Store

Tom Ford flagship store 672 Madison Ave · New York, NY 10021
(212) 359-0300

The Langham, New York, Fifth Avenue

Langham New York Fifth Avenue
Junior suite with Empire State Building view at the Langham, New York, Fifth Avenue. Photo courtesy of The Langham

The Langham, New York, Fifth Avenue opened in 2013, marking the luxury hotelier’s expansion to the US with a prime address in the heart of midtown and easy access to queer nightlife in Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea.

The lobby’s dramatic winding staircase and large format paintings by artist Alex Katz amplify the wow factor, only to be outdone by views of the Empire State Building or a private terrace. Mid-century design touches permeate the property, while multi-course Italian and French tasting menus at the on-site Ai Fiori further inspire the senses.

The Langham, New York, Fifth Avenue

Prestigious accomodation 400 Fifth Avenue · New York, NY
(212) 695-4005

Gay secrets of the Met

"Ugolino and his sons" scuplture at the Met
Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux’s ‘Ugolino and His Sons” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: Shutterstock

The Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s 1.5 million-piece collection can overwhelm even the most dedicated art enthusiast. For anyone with a packed New York City itinerary, time is of the essence. Enter professor Andrew Lear, whose company Oscar Wilde Tours offers bespoke tours of the Met‘s collection focusing on homoerotic art.

Lear’s “Gay Secrets of the Metropolitan Museum” tour highlights the inspiration for works from Michelangelo’s “Cupid” to Picasso’s portrait of Gertrude Stein, along with lesser-known artifacts that reveal queer culture from centuries past. For those interested in anatomical depictions, his “Unhung Heroes” tour questions whether size matters and how Greek culture affected the representation of the male body. Once the tour concludes, check out the fifth-floor Cantor Roof Garden Bar for a picturesque sunset overlooking Central Park (summer through early fall).

Oscar Wilde Tours

Professorial, exclusive tours for the “sophisticated traveler” New York, NY
(646) 560-3205

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Big kid on the block 1000 Fifth Avenue · New York, NY 10028
(212) 535-7710

A queer take on fine dining at Hags

Camille Lindsley and Telly Justice, co-owners of HAGS restaurant in NYC's East Village
Camille Lindsley, left, and Telly Justice, co-owners of HAGS in NYC’s East Village. Photo by Amy Mayes Photography

Queer couple Camille Lindsley and Telly Justice are no strangers to New York City’s fine dining scene. Their latest venture, Hags, is putting a fresh spin on fine dining in the East Village with a seasonal menu, intimate dining space, and curated playlist that stimulates more than the palette.

“Working queerly, we center things that are kind of quintessential community traits, like fun, camp, perversion, a disruption of expectation and color. We try to inject play into the food as much as we can,” Justice said in an interview with LGBTQ Nation. Available as omnivore or vegan, the six-course tasting menu (tip included) is experienced in a decidedly queer space featuring local artists and pronoun buttons at the table upon arrival.


Queer fine dining 163 1st Ave. · New York, NY 10003


VIP experience at Company XIV

Company XIV's 'Cocktail Magique'
Company XIV’s ‘Cocktail Magique.’ Photo by Curtis Brown

Deep in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where you’re more likely to find a quirky-queer dive bar like Happyfun Hideaway serving tiki drinks at picnic tables, lies an alluring theatrical enterprise that merges dance, burlesque, and circus in a decadent setting. Austin McCormick’s Company XIV is an experience like none other, where the waft of incense is as alluring as the decadently costumed performers.

McCormick operates two venues a block from one another for a repertory of shows, including Seven Sins, Cocktail Magique, and a naughty take on a holiday classic, Nutcracker Rouge. While the performances themselves deliver plenty of wow factor, those looking for an even more elevated experience can upgrade to Cocktail Magique’s fortune teller experience, which includes a private tarot card reading, a limited-edition tarot deck by Salvador Dalí, cocktail tasting, and small bites. Other performances offer a sinful upgrade with a bottle of rosé champagne, Dom Perignon, or locally-made absinthe.

Théâtre XIV by Company XIV

Home of Seven Sins & Nutcracker Rouge 383 Troutman St · NY 11237
(866) 868-6948

A private NYC Pride walking tour

Stonewall National Monument
George Segal’s ‘Gay Liberation’ sculpture at Christopher Park and the Stonewall National Monument. Photo: Shutterstock

Queer travelers can freely walk throughout New York City and confidently express themselves because of those who came before us. An official partner of NYC Pride, Pride Tours NYC delivers a comprehensive (but never dull) retrospective on our collective queer legacy and the fight for LGBTQ+ rights.

Beginning in Christopher Park and with stops at the nearby Stonewall Inn and other historical points of interest, guides recount the fateful night of the Stonewall Riots on June 28, 1969, and the aftermath that led to today’s global Pride celebrations. Private tours offer a more intimate experience and exchange of ideas.

Pride Walking Tour

an official partner of NYC Pride

Christopher Park, Grove Street, Christopher Street, New York, NY

Post-theater cocktails & celebrity sightings at Bar Centrale

Bar Centrale in New York City's theater district. Photo courtesy of Bar Centrale
Bar Centrale in New York City’s theater district. Photo courtesy of Bar Centrale

While there’s no shortage of Hell’s Kitchen gay bars (the neighborhood adjacent to New York City’s theater district), those looking for a stage celebrity sighting should head to Bar Centrale for post-show cocktails, where you’ll likely catch a glimpse of the glitterati.

Originally opened by the late Joe Allen, whose namesake restaurant resides next door, the unmarked second-floor townhouse’s cozy banquettes, dim lighting, and intimate bar create the ideal backdrop to spill the tea on the show you just saw, but keep your volume in check because you never know who may be sitting beside you while you nibble on spoonbill caviar and sip champagne. Reservations are recommended, and no standing is permitted.

Bar Centrale

Celebrity chic to the max 324 West 46th Street · New York, NY 10036
(212) 581-3130

An Italian feast from a James Beard-nominated chef at Ci Siamo

Chef Hillary Sterling, center, at Ci Siamo.
Chef Hillary Sterling, center, at Ci Siamo. Photo by Giada Paolini

Out chef and James Beard-nominated Hillary Sterling leads Ci Siamo’s team at Danny Meyers’ Hudson Yards Italian outpost, focusing on live-fire cooking. Carb lovers will go into overdrive with the cast iron focaccia and house-made pasta, including cavatelli allo scoglio, with crab, chile, and vermouth. The pork Milanese arrives larger than the plate it’s served on, while the behemoth Bistecca alla Fiorentina (an Italian version of a porterhouse) proves that sometimes size does matter.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Sterling studied at Chicago’s Le Cordon Bleu and later refined her skills working for Bobby Flay at Mesa Grill and later under Missy Robbins at Michelin-starred A Voce. Proving that women can do it all (she and her wife Tess McNamara welcomed a new baby in April 2022), Sterling is determined to maintain a positive working environment in an industry that has often skewed misogynistic.

“First and foremost, I want everyone to have safe and inviting work environments — anyone whoever they are, if they want to cook and learn— that’s all I care about,” Sterling said in a recent interview. “I have a lot of women in the kitchen right now — for the first time in a long time — and I’m so happy to teach them.”

Ci Siamo

“Here we are.” 440 W 33rd St · New York, NY 10001
(212) 219-6559

A private tour of Central Park

A gay couple in Central Park
A gay couple in Central Park. Photo: Shutterstock

Central Park’s 843 acres is a lot of ground to cover, but it’s the perfect time-out after buzzing around the city. And while a few hours under a shady tree might suit some, those looking for a deep dive into the park’s history can take advantage of a private tour with Central Park Conservancy, the nonprofit organization tasked with preserving and celebrating the park’s legacy.

The intimate tour for up to four guests may include park highlights like Bethesda Fountain (the setting for the final epilogue in Tony Kushner’s epic Angels in America), the Great Lawn, where thousands of panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt were displayed in 1989, and Sheep Meadow, the site of the first “gay-in” after 1970’s Christopher Street Liberation Day March — the predecessor to Pride.

Central Park Tour

Private guided walking tour

Central Park, 14 E. 60th Street, Between Central Park South and West 110th, Fifth Avenue & Central Park West, New York, NY

Central Park

It’s a must 14 E. 60th Street · New York, NY 10022
(212) 310-6600

A bird’s-eye view from The Skylark

The Skylark, a 30th floor cocktail lounge with Manhattan views
The view from The Skylark. Photo courtesy of The Skylark

When the hustle on street level becomes too much (or your social media needs a jolt), those in the know head 30 stories up to The Skylark, where soaring Manhattan views provide a picture-perfect backdrop for a cocktail with a view. A nondescript entrance and service elevator ride are part of the charm, but it’s drama in every direction once you arrive.

Floor-to-ceiling windows reveal views of the Empire State Building, the Edge at Hudson Yards, and the Chrysler Building, and for those looking for a breeze, an outdoor terrace offers even more unobstructed views. The queer-friendly venue offers large-format cocktails with names like Liquid Love Joy and My Brazilian Cuban Lover — and for those looking for even more exclusivity, event spaces like the intimate Living Room with a private bar make for a memorable milestone celebration.

The Skylark

Cocktails with a view 200 W 39th St · New York, NY 10018
(212) 257-4577

Bonus: Fly back in time at the TWA Hotel

TWA Hotel
An Interior view of the TWA Hotel in the landmark TWA Flight Center building designed by Eero Saarinen at JFK International Airport. Photo: Shutterstock

JFK’s active terminals welcomed nearly 27 million passengers in 2022, some of them likely scrambling for their flights after underestimating their travel time. That’s an easy fix by planning a final night at the nostalgic TWA Hotel, located at Terminal 5. The 1962 TWA Flight Center is the hotel’s central hub, with historical details to inspire any traveler’s Mad Men fantasy.

Highlights include 512 ultra-quiet guestrooms with runway views, a rooftop infinity pool (reservations required), a converted 1958 Connie L-1649A that’s been converted into a cocktail lounge, and for those who like to get handsy, a Twister room featuring a wall-to-wall version of the 1960s game.

TWA Hotel

Redefining “airport hotel” 1 JFK Access Road, Idlewild Dr · Queens, NY 11430
(212) 806-9000

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