The Stonewall Inn is probably the world’s most famous gay bar. It opened in 1967, a year after laws forbidding night life establishments from knowingly “serving alcohol to homosexuals” were overturned.
The events of 1969 likely marked the point at which gay rights became a national debate. They also led to a golden age in gay bar hopping and nightclub cavorting that lasted roughly until 2000, when numerous establishments closed down for reasons having as much to do with gentrification as homophobia. AIDS also played a big part in the decline of the bar and club scene. Artists died off, bankers moved in.
Today, the Stonewall is more likely to serve as a campaign stop for Democratic politicians (or a venue for a Vogue magazine staff dinner) than the location of a sellout party. It’s an almost obligatory tourist stop. But where else might gay folks of all stripes go during the gay pride weekend to end all gay pride weekends?
Ladyland Festival at the Brooklyn Mirage (140 Stewart Avenue): The night life promoter Ladyfag is bringing back her weekend-long annual festival, with appearances by nearly 30 performers and D.J.s, among them Mykki Blanco, Honey Dijon, Gossip and, in a rare New York outing, Pussy Riot.
Femme Fatale at the Park (118 10th Avenue): Specifically for women, this is one of the biggest Pride Sunday events. D.J.s include Kittens and Mary Mac. Tickets on resale sites are virtually nonexistent. Good luck!
Pier Dance at Pier 97: On Sunday, the afternoon outdoor party known colloquially as the Pier Dance ends after 10 p.m. with a performance by Madonna. The event has been sold out for months, but tickets can be obtained on Craigslist and StubHub for between $300-$600 each. Buyer beware! (“Pride Island” — that’s the official name — on Saturday features performances by Grace Jones and Kim Petras. It’s also sold out, though tickets on resale sites are cheaper than Sunday’s event.)
For those just in search of a great old gay bar, there may be no better place than Julius (159 West 10th Street). This West Village tavern is older than the Stonewall Inn and happens to serve a mean burger. It’s also the site of its own historically resonant gay moments.
Henrietta Hudson (438 Hudson Street) has itself been open nearly three decades, but that didn’t stop New York magazine from recently declaring it “more vibrant than ever,” and crowning it the “absolute best” lesbian bar in the city. (The new kid in town, the Cubbyhole (281 West 12th Street) opened in the mid-90s and is a good hangout for mixed-gender groups.)
The Eagle (554 West 28th Street) is officially a leather bar. It dates its founding to 1970. A fellow happily shines boots on the second floor, but leatherwear is less on display than the chests of men aged 30 to 55 who don’t wax and still take their shirts off in public. It should be jammed all weekend, including its Sunday night beer blast, which begins around 5 p.m. and winds down around 10 p.m.
Looking for something newer in town?
Metropolitan Bar (559 Lorimer Street), a bar, and the Rosemont (63 Montrose Avenue), a bar with aspirations to be a nightclub, both in Williamsburg, and 3 Dollar Bill (260 Meserole Street), a big venue that hosts dance parties in East Williamsburg, all cater to youngish Brooklyn crowds. Both Metropolitan and Rosemont have patios for nice evenings, and 3 Dollar Bill describes itself as “the largest queer venue in Brooklyn.” We haven’t measured.
Atlas Social Club (753 Ninth Avenue): This Hell’s Kitchen bar, opened in 2013, celebrates male physique culture with black and white photographs of boxers and bodybuilders from the forties and fifties. Friday night, there’s Manny Fierro’s Latin themed party Freakiton. Saturday is World Pop, a weekly tribute to pop music “from all over the globe,” according to co-owner Ben Maisani.
Club Cumming (505 East Sixth Street), the East Village bar and performance space co-owned by Alan Cumming, has a performance by the standard-singing drag performer Alexis Michelle around 9 p.m. on Friday night. After that, the promoter Daniel Nardicio throws his party called Femme. “It’s guys dressed as girls, girls dressed as gays, mixed sexuality kind of thing,” said Mr. Nardicio, adding that there’s also a performance former “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestant Willam Belli.