They call it the ‘city that never sleeps’ and this couldn’t be truer. Whether you’re a night owl, or an early morning riser (no pun intended), there is always something to do and see in New York City. And thanks to the legalisation of equal marriage last year, NYC is possibly the most gay-friendly place on earth. It’s almost as happy as Disney World, but with less queuing.
Whether you’ve got two days or two months to explore the city, you’ll never be short of things to do, and I intend to point you in the direction of the best places to go, and I’ll even throw in some hidden gems too, but shhh keep that to yourself!
Grab your fanny pack, pretzels and camera – Now say CHEESE.
Of course, one of the main things people want to do in New York is see its many famous sights and landmarks. I highly recommend a trip to the Top of the Rock, which can be found on the observation deck at the top of the Rockefeller Centre. Up here the 360 degree views of the City, more than 70 floors up, are truly breath-taking. You can see the entire stretch of Central Park on one side, as well as catching a tiny glimpse of the Statue of Liberty on the other. The main advantage of climbing the Rock, is that you can get the perfect snap of the Empire State building, something which you can’t do on the ground, or when you’re actually on top of the Empire State itself. Costing around $25, it’s a little pricey, but should be top of your list for tourism. If you’re feeling adventurous and can dig into your pockets a little deeper, then hold out for when the sun’s setting. I guarantee it’ll be one of the highlights of your trip.
Another must see is New York’s number one lady, The Statue of Liberty. Although she surprised me at first by not being as tall as I thought, (Godzilla must have been TINY), Lady Liberty is still highly impressive. Originally a present from France over a hundred years ago, the statue started off a shiny reddish brown colour, but through chemical reactions over time has turned into the famous green colour we all associate it with now. The ferry that takes you across the water to Liberty Island also makes a stop at Ellis Island, which is well worth a cheeky visit for its museum on America’s immigrant history. (Yes, that doesn’t exactly sound thrilling, but I guarantee you’ll find the country’s heritage extremely interesting. If not, they’ve got a lovely fully stocked gift shop).
Having recently opened to the public for the first time, the 9/11 Memorial fountain is a beautiful and touching tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks of 2001. Admission is free, but you can make a donation when you book tickets. Talking of booking tickets, it is ESSENTIAL that you do this. I know a lot of people don’t realise this, but turning up to Ground Zero without a booking could mean longer queuing time and disgruntled security guards, so make sure you’re ahead of the game.
We’ve all seen the TV show Friends, and we’ve always wanted a coffee from Central Perk (sadly, it doesn’t actually exist), but to compromise you can visit the very real Central Park. Try not to look for the fountain from the opening title sequence though, as that’s actually in Los Angeles. I know, I want my money back too. Water features aside, Central Park offers acres and acres of beautiful trees, rocks and wildlife. From the Zoo to the Met Museum (Gossip Girl fans take note), the sprawling greenery of the park is stunning. Grab a map from one of the helpful park rangers and make sure you find the John Lennon memorial in Strawberry Fields, the incredibly detailed Alice in Wonderland statue, and the imposing but grand Belvedere Castle. If you go between late October and early April then you’ll be treated to the Wollman ice skating rink near the front of the park, and throughout the summer look out for funfairs and carnivals. The best part of the park however, is the magnificent boating lake, open daily between April and October; you can hire a row boat for only $12, and enjoy a whole hour of pretending to be Giselle from Disney’s Enchanted. It’s completely picturesque, and the only place that I want to be proposed to – and I mean in the boat. Take note potential husbands.
The last big tourist attraction that I demand you must add to your itinerary is Coney Island. Appearing in hundreds of movies and TV shows, this carnival town will be the highlight of the trip for any thrill seekers. From live freak shows to ghost trains, roller-coasters to stilt-walkers, the entertainment here never stops. As well as the fairground rides, Coney Island boasts a huge gorgeous sandy beach and wooden boardwalk that makes you feel a million miles away from the buzz of New York City, when in reality it’s just a thirty minute subway ride to the coast of Brooklyn!
Enough of the tour guide stuff, where can I PARTY?
Be prepared to experience some of the wildest nights of your life in NYC. The key gay areas to hit are the West Village, Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea, where you can find a number of bars and clubs that’ll rock your little English world.
If you want half naked twinks and go-go boys dancing on the bar, then hit Splash. Open 6 days a week, with various events and theme nights throughout the year, be prepared to go hard or go home. (There’s strong potential to do both at the same time actually).
If you prefer a smaller venue, and therefore more excuses to “accidentally” brush up against a hot American jock, then head to The Ritz. Located on Restaurant Row in Hell’s Kitchen, this nautical themed bar plays some serious tunes and the half-priced happy hour literally makes my tummy cry with happiness.
For a bit of history whilst you sink your third Coors Light, give Stonewall Inn a visit. Nestled amongst the cool and trendy restaurants and bars in the West Village, this is where gay pride all began. Back in 1969, The Stonewall Inn battled for equality for the LGBT community, and won. Now you can be a part of its history too, by having a drink and boogie in this iconic bar.
All this excitement has made me hungry.
Well, there are PLENTY of amazing restaurants to choose from in the Big Apple, from fast food with a difference to incredible fine dining.
For a family-friendly experience head to Carmine’s located in the heart of Times Square. This legendary Italian restaurant serves up huge portions of real home cooked food, which are intended to be shared with the whole family. With a warm and stylish decor, this is the perfect way to end the night after a trip to the theatre. Dishes range from $24-$40 each, and are designed to be shared between 4-6 people.
If you love fast food and want to experience the finest burger ever made, then head to Shake-Shack. With a number of locations throughout the city, my favourite is situated in Madison Square Park, where you can not only enjoy a delicious frozen shake, but experience the tranquillity of this beautiful small park located in the middle of Manhattan. I recommend the Shack Stack Burger washed down with a peanut butter shake. And for all you Mean Girls fans out there, relish the opportunity to utter the immortal line, ‘whatever, I’m getting cheese fries’. Delicious.
My hottest pick for some of the finest New York food that’s a little bit different is The Meatball Shop. Here they serve balls, and lots of them. But not just any old ball, these are the most delicious meatballs you’ve ever experienced served in a variety of different ways, in a young and fun setting, that’s so cool you’ll feel like one of the popular kids at school. Try the chicken meatball with parmesan cream sauce, but save room for the ice cream and cookie sandwich for dessert. Hit the store in its Greenwich location for some of the friendliest servers you’ll ever meet!
Seriously, are you still going?
I could honestly write at least thirty more paragraphs on all the things you can experience in this incredible city, but I want you to stop reading and get out there and see it all for yourself! I can’t finish however without mentioning some of the thrilling live theatre you can experience on Broadway. With so many great shows to choose from, you’re spoilt for choice, but I’d recommend the new Disney hit musical Newsies for an example of some of the most breath-taking dancing you’ll ever see, or if you like your theatre to make you cry with laughter and roll in the aisles, then head over to The Book of Mormon, written by the creators of South Park and soon to be a hit in the UK when it opens in London in 2013. I defy you not to laugh at it’s outrageous humour, witty lyrics and clever storyline.
I’ll leave you with some of my hidden gems, and if you’ve got a few spare days in the city, then check these places out. I promise you that you won’t be disappointed. For beautiful views of the city visit the flowered walkway, The High Line. To try a delicious hot apple cider stop by any of the sleek, trendy bars in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Or for something a little cooler, hot foot it to Serendipity for a frozen hot chocolate, as made famous by the film of the same name. Oh, and if you’re feeling kinky slink on over to the Museum of Sex. Here you can find out how animals get down to business and the origins of pornography. Don’t take your gran with you to that one though, alright? Lastly, if you’re feeling romantic take a stroll across Brooklyn Bridge at sundown, and add a lock with you and your partners name to the railings. Dead cute that is.
And if you don’t come back with an I ♥ NY t-shirt, then what’s the point in even going?
If you’re heading to New York soon, or know some other awesome places you think our readers should visit stateside, then tweet us @SoSoGay and let us know.
Photographs of The Empire State skyline, Statue of Liberty, Central Park boating lake and padlocks on Brooklyn Bridge provided and taken by James Moore.