The Best Bars and Hotspots for a Queer Night Out in NYC
From Stonewall to new favorites, essential NYC gay bars in the city where Pride was born.
Welcome to We’re Out Here, your year-round hub for LGBTQ+ travel and experiences! Here, you’ll find everything you need to plan your next great gaycation, including queer-centric travel stories, nightlife guides, profiles, pride event roundups, and ways to give back to local queer communities.
NYC queers aren’t limited to only a few options when planning a night out—in fact, the trick is narrowing down which places to visit. Here in the birthplace of Pride, we can hop from cocktail den to dive to nightclub to karaoke bar without ever stepping foot in a str**ght establishment. And with so many LGBTQ+ bars around town, each offering a wildly different experience, there’s no shortage of fun spots that have inclusion of all kinds in mind.
Some of our favorite queer bars are brand new, some were central figures in the gay liberation movement. Some cater to specific groups within the queer community, some are a melting pot of gender, sexuality, kink, and expression. But the one thing each has in common is that some way, somehow, they make the city shine a little brighter. Now including a few fresh watering holes that opened their doors just in time for Pride Month 2023, here are the 20 best LGBTQ+ bars in New York City right now.
The team behind beloved lesbian bar Ginger’s recently brought a new inclusive queer space, Mary’s, to the border of Greenpoint and East Williamsburg. With cozy outdoor space and a modern Irish pub vibe inside, the bar has already introduced a slate of regular entertainment, including trivia, bingo, biweekly karaoke, guest DJs, and the occasional evening of Irish trad music. This is one of those meeting places where you make new friends, plain and simple.
The Dickens is a classy, four-story queer space with ample literature-themed areas that each offer an elevated sipping experience. The new venue’s six separate cocktail bars include a first-floor barstaurant, a whiskey-forward party spot, a low-key hangout area, and an amazing rooftop. In a neighborhood known for teeny vodka sodas and grimy dancefloors, The Dickens is a breath of posh air that adds much-needed variety to the Midtown gay scene.
A self-proclaimed “dyke bar for the queers,” The Bush aims to use its new real estate on Troutman Street to offer a less male-dominated alternative for LGBTQ+ folks to meet, mingle, and party all through the week. The bar was opened by two longtime friends who spent six years bringing their vision to life. Enjoy lite bites, mocktails, and inaugural cocktails like the gin-forward Venus Fly Trap, the smokey Guest Star, and the summery Island They.
VERS is one of the newer Hell’s Kitchen clubs that really hones in on versatility. Here you can get elevated snacks and craft cocktails or stick to the vodka soda diet; you can enjoy boozy brunch on a weekend afternoon or a raucous party in the wee hours of the morning; and entertainment spans beyond star-studded Drag Race viewing parties and late-night DJs to also include piano, comedy, and variety shows. Only open since 2022, it’s already got half the neighborhood beat.
Albatross doesn’t need craft beers to hold its place as one of Queens’ most delightful queer bars; their potent 16-ounce “cock-tails,” which go for $9, prove that sometimes cheaper is better. The establishment once catered specifically to lesbians, but later shifted its focus to the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. Throughout the week, you’re likely to stumble upon karaoke, drag bingo, drink-and-draw events with live models, and screenings of can’t-miss TV events, like major awards shows and Drag Race. If you want to fill a whole night in Astoria, pop into Albatross’ nearby sister bars Icon and Kween, the latter of which just opened its doors in 2022.
Not a hurricane, nor earthquake, nor zombie apocalypse could get in the way of your night out at Barracuda. The windowless bunker bar shuts out the world around it to fully immerse visitors in everything it has to offer—and it offers quite a bit, particularly in terms of drag: For more than 25 years, it’s given the stage to all sorts of now-prominent NYC performers, including Tina Burner, Peppermint, and, most recently, Kizha Carr, who hosts the iconic drag competition Star Search every Thursday night.
Owned and operated by queer people, C’mon Everybody is an independent bar and music venue that hosts some of the sexiest, sweatiest queer parties in the city, filled with a diverse mix of folks from every race, gender, and orientation. Unlike other clubby destinations, the spot also prides itself in its drink menu which extends beyond well drinks to include bright and flavorful cocktails like the radicalesbian-inspired Lavender Menace and the hibiscus-flavored Love in Bloom that you can sit and sip with or without entertainment.
One of the city’s last surviving lesbian bars, Cubbyhole holds far more customers than square feet without losing its local feel. The ladies are friendly at this long-standing dive, and if you’re new to the scene, you’ll get to know everyone pretty damn quick. The beauty of this iconic gem transcends its gaudy ceiling decor; it’s a multigenerational playground where strangers become friends, MUNA rules the jukebox, and straight men enter at their own risk.
The Deep End
If you visited The Deep End during an ungodly hour, you’d never know that it’s also known for its incredible food. The dinner menu attracts a diverse group of customers throughout the evening, but beyond the bites, this place has all the makings of an irresistible neighborhood watering hole. The space is covered in trippy murals to make you feel like you’re under the sea, and the patrons are primarily Bushwick and Ridgewood locals who are thrilled to be lightyears from Hell’s Kitchen. If you want to make friends with neighbors at an unpretentious area favorite, go ahead and dive into the Deep End—and if you want a little fun, come extra late to experience the darker side room.
Flaming Saddles Saloon
Rural gays get their due at HK’s unapologetically Western saloon where outfitted bartenders serve more than just drinks: Flaming Saddles, the Coyote Ugly for queer folks. Every so often, the dancing drink-makers clack their boots across the counter to the sounds of The Chicks, Shania, Dolly, and the like. The bartop choreography is a former farm kid’s fantasy; catch the attention of a dancer and you might earn yourself a free shot during the show. After Texas two-stepping your way through the night, who knows whose bed your boots will end up under.
When Eddie Valentin opened Friend’s in 1989, one objective was to provide the existing gay Latino community with a safe space. That goal is still critical as ever, as many of the city’s POC-friendly bars have been forced to close their doors—a disheartening trend that was worsened by the pandemic. Jackson Heights is home to a concentration of LGBTQ+ establishments, and a naughty night on Roosevelt Avenue should make every queer’s bucket list. Friend’s is the venue that started it all, and today the place frequently runs drink specials, brings in DJs, and hosts exotic male dancers.
Ginger’s, like every bar, closed its doors when the pandemic first rolled into New York City, but for more than a year, word on the street was that it would never see the light of day again. Then, just as locals prepared to enter the final stage of grief, the spot clawed its way back onto the scene, preventing the borough’s last lesbian bar (at the time) from going under. With an enthusiastic new business partner, Ginger’s reopened in late 2021, since reinstating its rightful place as the LGBTQ+ community hub of South Brooklyn, with its signature Irish influence, incredible outdoor space, and events like queeraoke, dyke drag shows, poetry nights, and crafting parties.
If you see wild club scenes in movies and think, “that doesn’t exist IRL,” you clearly haven’t been to Industry. Square footage is the hotspot’s biggest asset, with three large areas each equipped to handle a crowd. There’s the classic bar room with tables and stools; a sexy, veiled lounge for intimate moments; and a performance area where drag queens and DJs post up daily. During busy times, guests can check bags and coats by the entrance before letting loose, and early birds are rewarded with $2 off every drink from 6 pm–9 pm.
This decades-old favorite never stopped being fun. The cash-only dive that’s widely considered the oldest gay bar in New York City has been slinging drinks to a mostly male crowd since the 1860s, and in the 1960s, the clientele began skewing queer after a “Sip-In” led to the state Supreme Court declaring that “well-behaved homosexuals” could not be denied service. Today, the jukebox at Julius’ blares as gay forefathers and Gen Z twinks slam down drinks and snarf fried foods in perfect harmony. Fortunately, the “well-behaved” restriction no longer applies in the 21st century, so all bets are off for what you’ll witness.
Gay bars are scarce north of Hell’s Kitchen, which is why Harlem’s surviving queer jaunts are such important staples in New York City’s queer community. Opened during the pandemic, Lambda Lounge aims to blend “downtown elegance” with “uptown swag.” The Black-owned bar achieves its goal with tufted leather sofas, exposed brick walls, and colorful mood lighting; if you plan to arrive with a crowd, you can reserve a private section in advance to secure a space. If you live closer to East Williamsburg, check out their newer sister location, called Club Lambda BK, a dark and sleek space with pops of neon color that also features a beautiful sunroom to allow some natural light in before dusk.
Williamsburg has changed tremendously over the past couple of decades, but after stepping foot into the ever-popular Metropolitan, you’d never know it. Since 2002, the outer-borough locale has stayed true to its grit—a brand that includes fog machines, go-go dancers, billiards, and an enormous backyard that hosts free summer barbecues and year-round enthusiasm. Metropolitan shrugs away the notion of craft cocktails and avant-garde entertainment, instead adhering to the principle that in a neighborhood of newness, it’s important for some things to stay the same.
If you say you’re going “nowhere” this weekend, you better be referencing the bar. Despite its unassuming name, Nowhere makes dark and dingy environs something to long for. With affordable drink prices, unbeatable music, and a pool table, this is somewhere you need to experience. If not for the beer and shot combos, for the talkative patrons that you’re sure to befriend. Head in a little later in the night and you just might stumble across a raunchy party—here, what happens in the dark corner of the bar stays in the dark corner of the bar.
The Rosemont sprouted on a quiet block of Montrose Avenue in late 2016 as a trendy new spot where Brooklynites could get their sweat on. The bar doesn’t come to life until late in the night, but once it does, its spacious back patio serves as the perfect cool-down area after dancing to your heart’s content. The place creates a welcome environment for all queer people—one that thrives even on weeknights, and more importantly, one that values diversity in all its forms.
From the owners of Rise comes The Spot, a club with seemingly endless potential that opened its doors in the summer of 2021. Quickly, HK gays began showing up in droves to prove that there’s still a strong market for Hell’s Kitchen venues. When a DJ takes the aux cord here, the dance floor comes to life, complete with flashing lights and stage performers. In calmer moments, you can still anticipate pop music that sets the tone for a satisfying night out.
It’s no coincidence that this bar shares a name with the 1969 Stonewall Riots: The Stonewall Inn is where the gay liberation movement began over 50 years ago, securing its place as the most notable LGBTQ+ bar in the world. Now a National Historic Landmark, the spot continues bringing queer people and out-of-towners together with regular drag shows, dance parties, piano nights, and Pride-themed events. It’s admittedly a tourist favorite, but you’d be foolish to let that deter you.