15 Historic LGBTQIA+ Sites in NYC You Need to Visit
Discover important spots around the city that epitomize the vibrancy of the queer community and bring a voice to underrepresented narratives.
By Izzy Baskette, and Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner, Updated on 6/15/2022 at 10:17 AM
Christopher Street outside The Stonewall Inn | James Andrews1/Shutterstock
In a city so pivotal to the LGBTQIA+ movement, embarking on a journey across NYC to connect with our vibrant queer communities and discover the sites of groundbreaking moments in history can provide for a truly moving experience. From longtime beloved bars across the boroughs to decades-old organizations and resource hubs, since NYC was first founded in the 17th century, these places have served as safe havens dedicated to the health, wellness, and joy to those who don’t identify with heteronormative society.
While some of the most historic queer community sites have been torn down or replaced over the years due to gentrification and lack of funding, there’s still plenty of remaining spots that showcase significant moments in history. And alongside them, there are also many sacred spaces and destinations associated to underrepresented narratives from queer people of color and non-binary and transgender folks as well.
As we celebrate the love and spirit of Pride Month at marches and events, dance the night away at the best LGBTQIA+ bars, and explore the can’t-miss pop-ups and parties for queer womxn, we’ve also rounded up some of NYC’s most historical LGBTQIA+ sites for a better deep dive into our local queer history. Here are 15 spots to check out both in June and all year round.
As one of the oldest queer bars in Queens, this establishment once catered specifically to lesbians, but later shifted its focus to the LBGTQIA+ community as a whole. Guests can enjoy delightfully inexpensive 16-ounce “cock-tails” for $9 each before grabbing the karaoke mic, playing drag bingo, watching a live drag queen performance, or settling in for a screening of Drag Race.
Alice Austen House Museum
This picturesque historic Dutch farmhouse on Staten Island was built in 1690 and was home to one of America’s earliest and most prolific women in photography, Alice Austen, and her partner, Gertrude Tate, in the early 19th Century. As a National Historic Landmark since 1993, the home now operates as a museum which showcases Austen’s work (which consists of over 8,000 photographs of street life in Staten Island and Manhattan, as well as her private life over an 86-year span), hosts events, and is open to guests who wish to explore its idyllic grounds. Open Tuesday through Sunday every week, admission starts at $10 per guest.
Audre Lord Residence
Famously the home of Black lesbian writer and activist Audre Lorde, where she resided from 1972 to 1987 with her partner and two children, this house on Staten Island was officially deemed a NYC Landmark in June of 2019. Here, she worked on various books and poems and also co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press with fellow writer and famed Black lesbian feminist Barbara Smith.
Christine Jorgensen Childhood Residence
In the Bronx neighborhood of Schuylerville sits the childhood home of the trailblazing transgender woman Christine Jorgensen. After the gender reassignment medical procedure she received in Denmark made headlines across the U.S. in 1953, Jorgensen became one of the most famous people of her time and sparked activism across the country to advocate for transgender rights. She went on to have a successful performance career into the late 1960s and passed away in 1989.
Edna St. Vincent Millay Residence
Although it’s currently a private residence, which was put on the market in 2021 for a whopping $4.99 million, passersby can still admire this beautiful (and extremely narrow) townhouse on Bedford Street that was once the home of bisexual poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. From 1923 to 1925, many of her beautiful prose, which made her a central literary figure in the feminist and liberation of womxn movement, were created within these walls and on the idyllic backyard patio.
As the last remaining Lesbian bar in Brooklyn, this divey Park Slope water hole is a must-visit. Ginger’s boasts a competitive pool scene, jukebox tunes, and is cash-only. Sip draft beers and mixed drinks while rearing up for your next match or take it easy on the backyard patio.
Jacob Riis Beach
Jacob Riis Park
At the eastern end of Jacob Riis Park near the abandoned Neponsit Hospital, this stretch of beach has been a longtime beloved destination and safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community. As a queer haven since the 1940s, other than a popular sunbathing spot (where tops are optional) during NYC’s warmer months, this area has also hosted activism rallies, voter registration drives, and Pride Month celebrations.
The James Beard House
James Beard, one of the most significant and innovative figures in American culinary history, called this Greenwich Village townhouse home from 1973 to 1985. As an openly gay man who publicly came out in 1981 in his memoir titled Delights and Prejudices, Beard originally ran his cooking school on the ground floor of the building and kept his personal residences on the floors above. When he passed in 1985, the brownstone was transformed and now houses the James Beard Foundation, which showcases emerging and established chefs, consisting of a kitchen, greenhouse, back patio, and dining room.
Julio Rivera Corner
Memorializing Julio Rivera, a gay Puerto Rican New Yorker who was attacked in a hate crime in 1990 which resulted in his death, this corner is a solemn place to visit and is visibility marked by a street sign. As a result of Rivera’s tragic death, a queer rights movement was sparked in the then-mostly conservative Queens and resulted in the formation of the Queens Pride Parade.
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Operating since the mid-19th century and known as one of NYC’s longest-standing gay bars, Julius’ has lived many lives. In 1826, it originally opened as a grocery store before turning to a popular watering hole for sports figures in 1864, and then finally a hub for the queer community. Famously, there was the 1966 “Sip-In” where several customers challenged the Liquior Authority regulations which banned known or suspected queer people from drinking on the basis of disorderly conduct. Now, it’s often one of the busiest LGBTQIA+ bars in the area and the low-key spot is also known for their burgers.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center
Since first opening their doors in 1983, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center (commonly called “The Center”) has been a safe space and resource hub for the queer community in NYC. From helping with common daily necessities like insurance enrollment or job applications to finding LGBTQIA+-friendly small businesses, events, and hotels during travel, or connecting members with recovery, wellness, family, and youth organizations, this space aims to improve the lives of all who walk through their doors (in addition to the multitude of resources available off-site and online). Open seven days a week from 10 am to 10 pm, there’s always a packed activities calendar (full list here) to peruse which includes fundraisers, musical performances, comedy events, group therapy, reading groups, bike races, and motivational/life talks.
The New York City AIDS Memorial
Dedicated in 2016, this memorial and public park honors the more than 100,000 New Yorkers who have died of AIDS since the early 1980s, as well as the frontline workers and activists who fought off discrimination, provided care for the ill, and lobbied for medical research. Located on a triangular stretch of Manhattan in the West Village that was once a part of the hospital, St. Vincent’s Hospital, where many AIDS patients sought medical treatment early on in the epidemic, this outdoor memorial was designed by Studio a+ and features an 18-foot white triangular steel structure which shields fountains and benches. Providing a pensive spot for contemplation, this sacred area serves as a reminder of those we’ve lost and that the ongoing fight to find a cure is not over.
The Stonewall Inn
What’s possibly considered the most famous LGBTQIA+ bar in the world, this is the historic site of the start of the June 1969 riots, when queer activists fought back against discrimanatory (and regular) police raids over a six-night period. Opened in 1967 by Mafioso Fat Tony Lauria as a “private” gay club—gay bars often operated as “private” clubs to avoid restrictions from the New York State Liquor Authority policy which prohibited queer people from being served alcohol. Currently, the bar still welcomes crowds of patrons for late nights filled with dancing, games of pool, comedy shows, drag shows, and musical performances seven nights a week until 4 am.
Even though the New York Legislature enacted a law from 1927 to 1967 which made it illegal for theaters to put on plays featuring queer characters, many theaters found a way to sneak around this discriminatory restriction. To this day, from the Ethel Barrymore Theater to the Lyceum Theater and many more spots between West 40th and West 54th Street, these theaters stand proudly and show productions created, produced, and performed by members of the LBGTQIA+ community.
WOW Café Theatre
Formed in 1980, this theatre is considered one of the top spaces for womxn, lesbian, and transgender artists to perform. Since originally starting as an 11-day international women’s theater festival, the WOW Café Theatre is now open year-round and is part of the Fourth Arts Block organization, a non-profit which promotes diversity and inclusivity as well as affordable programs, and free training for emerging artists. Famous past guests and performers include actor and writer Peggy Shaw; director and playwright Lois Weaver; and artist and playwright Deb Margolin.
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Izzy Baskette is a Staff Writer for Thrillist New York. Find her on Instagram.
Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner is a contributor for Thrillist.