Photograph by Lindsay Cale
Getting to New York City
Planes – trains – buses yup you’ve got options. I recommend flying into JFK or Laguardia Airports. If you’re flying be forewarned there isn’t really a convenient and cheap mode of transit from the airport. JFK has the air train that goes to the NYC subway but it’s about an hour ride from the airport on the train and costs about $7.50. You can take the Long Island Rail Road to Manhattan for about $15 or a yellow cab is about $52 plus tip and a rush hour surcharge of $4.50 from 4-8pm on weekdays.
If you plan to take a train or a bus GreyHound, MegaBus, and Amtrak are all great options and they drop you off right in Manhattan at either Grand Central Station, Port Authority, or Penn Station depending on where you’re coming from.
I do not recommend renting a car or driving while in New York. Parking is outrageously expensive and driving in the city takes a lot longer and is more difficult than driving other places. Once you’re in town, take the trains or use Lyft or Yellow Cabs. Ultimately, it will be much cheaper and way less of a headache.
“It’d take roughly 45 years to eat at every restaurant in New York City”
Where to Stay
There are a million places to stay in New York at every level of budget, here are a few of my favorites at different price points.
Best Budget Accommodations
One of the best ways to cut your budget in expensive cities like New York is to check out Airbnb or stay in hostels.
AirBNB has everything from a private room in Brooklyn for $30 per night or an entire one bedroom apartment starting at $50 in Queens all the way up to a 3 bedroom apartment with sleeping arrangement for 10 people at a whopping $800 a night on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Airbnb has options for every budget but they’re especially great for cutting costs.
Hostels are an awesome way to meet other travelers and explore cities while staying on a budget. The HI New York City is pretty swanky as far as hostels go with very reasonable prices. Dorm bunks start at $34. It’s located in a great area of town on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It’s a very short train ride to anywhere in most of Manhattan and has some awesome community spaces for socializing and meeting other people in the area. There is some potentially awkward gender segregation going on with the choice between male only, female only, and coed dorms. While Hostels International has always been great in my experience, it’s definitely something to consider if you’re trans or gender nonconforming.
Photograph by Hotel Elysee
Best Mid-Range Hotels
Hotel Elysee “an Old New York Brat Pack” style ambiance. Lindsay and I stayed there on our last trip to New York and had a great time. Hotel Elysee was recognized as one of the World’s Best Hotels by the Travel & Leisure Magazine and #14 Most Romantic Hotel in New York City by Business Insider in 2015. There isn’t much left that has a romantic and cozy vibe in the city of sleek but cold modern design. It’s located just steps from Central Park, Grand Central and Time Square. Rooms start at $212 per night.
The Library Hotel
The Library Hotel is a cute little boutique hotel in Midtown East. It’s the ideal small hotel for a first-time visit to New York. It’s just outside of Grand Central Station and has the cutest rooftop bar with fireplaces and excellent views of the city skyline. At $249 a night it’s a more budget friendly option too.
Best Luxury Accommodations
1 Hotel – Central Park
1 Hotel is drool worthy beautiful. It’s centrally located across the street from Central Park and in the heart of NYC’s most exclusive shopping area. If your idea of a New York City vacation is hitting Louis Vuitton before Barney’s and hitting up the most exclusive brunches – the One Hotel is definitely for you. At $350 per night, it’s a bit pricey but the ambiance is made for Instagram.
The Standard Hotel, East Village is legendary. It’s a 21 story glittery column of sleek modern glass and some of the best views of the city. It’s chic in a ladies who lunch kind of way and has an onsite cafe and restaurant. It’s also pet and baby friendly so bring on the babies – fuzzy and otherwise. Rooms start at $385 per night in this exclusive hotel.
Things To Do in New York City
One of the coolest things about New York is that there are a million things to do. Trapeze school is something I had never even considered before one of my exes took me for my birthday a few years ago. She definitely gets an A+ for a creative date idea. Trapeze School NY offers classes in flying trapeze, static trapeze, silks, rope and other circus-type activities. They have two locations, one at the South Street Seaport that has awesome views of the Manhattan skyline in the summer that I highly recommend. Classes range from $50-$70 per person which isn’t bad for a once in a lifetime experience.
The High Line is a 2 mile long raised park in Manhattan. It was built on an abandoned section of Railroad that used to be used to bring items into New York’s famous Meatpacking district. These days the Meatpacking is more famous for celebrity clubs and nightlife than actual meat but nonetheless, it’s still named for its historic roots. National Geographic describes it as one of the most unique and innovative forms of public art and says “The black steel columns that once supported abandoned train tracks now hold up an elevated park—part promenade, part town square, part botanical garden.”
Leslie-Lohman Museum of LGBT Art
The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art was started in a desperate attempt to preserve the memory of queer culture. The best way to demonize a people is to destroy the record of its history. That is exactly what is happening. During the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York City, Charles Leslie and Fritz Lohman realized if they didn’t do something, the memory of LGBT people would be swiftly erased. Check out this article for more information on the history of the Leslie-Lohman Museum.
Christopher Street in Greenwich Village holds several pieces of queer history, it’s the birthplace of the queer rights movement and home to the world famous Stonewall Inn, the birthplace of the Stonewall Riots of 1969. To this day, the inn and the street serve as an international symbol of gay pride. No guide to LGBT anything is complete without mentioning Stonewall. Definitely check it out and the little memorial park in the triangle out front. ALSO swing by Big Gay Ice Cream down the block for a cone and a selfie.
Museum of Sex
The Museum of Sex is a small scale museum that packs a very kinky punch. They do a great job rotating exhibits and housing information that is actually educational focusing on the social and political implications of sex around the world. Their exhibits change but currently on display is “Known/Unknown: Private Obsession and Hidden Desire in Outsider Art” which is worth the cost of admission.
Keith Haring Murals
The most expensive bathroom in America is probably located at the LGBT Center in the village. Keith Haring painted one of his more provocative works on the walls there. You can also find his work in the 42nd street train station and up in Harlem on the famous “Crack is Wack” wall.
Places to Eat
Bread & Tulips
Bread & Tulips is the perfect date night restaurant at a very reasonable price point in New York. The vibes are urban industrial rustic-ish with wood finishing exposed brick walls, romantic dim lighting. The food is what I think of as slight fancy Italian comfort food. Service was excellent — our server took care of us and was very attentive to our every need. We started with the Housemade Ricotta ($12.50) and homemade bread which was one of the highlights of the meal. For your entree consider The Quattro Formaggi Pizza ($16.50) or Fettuccine ($19.50) both delicious and cooked to perfection. We’ll definitely be back to Bread & Tulips the next time we’re in New York.
JAMS has one of the best brunches Lindsay and I have ever been to in any city. It was a bit pricey at $45 per person, but it is an all you can eat buffet with some incredibly tasty high-end eats. Like any good bougie brunch in New York City, you’ll find avocado toast, fresh to order omelets, and juicy tender steaks.
Beauty & Essex
Beauty and Essex is a trendy fine dining restaurant hidden inside an old pawn shop. Once you enter the pawn shop you enter through a backdoor into the ultra lux lounge area. Be prepared to be surrounded by a glam crowd and to splurge a bit on imaginative recreations of New American bites in the form of shareable small plates. Try the Crab Rangoon ($17) or the Grilled Cheese, Smoked Bacon & Tomato Soup Dumplings ($16). Don’t forget to order one of the nouveau classic cocktails ($17) or pro-tip sneak off to the ladies room for the free champagne the bathroom attendant serves.
Is New York City LGBT Friendly?
Yes. Just yes. Of course shit happens anywhere and street harassment of women is a much bigger issue in New York than some other places in the US but for the most part, New York is very LGBT friendly, welcoming and affirming.
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