No place serves as a better backdrop for summer love than New York City. With the boroughs abuzz over Stonewall’s upcoming 50th anniversary and America’s first WorldPride, this is the season to jump-start your own history with the perfect first date. Check out four great LGBTQ+ date itineraries to let romance bloom in NYC.
The Classic Spring Date
Cultivate new love—and your inner florist—with a daytime excursion to one of the City’s most fragrant and colorful displays, the Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden. This year it’s inspired by Singapore, where the orchid is the national flower. Among the thousands of gorgeous orchids on view, you’ll see tributes to the country’s famed floral “Supertrees”—tall structures that combine natural and man-made elements. After soaking up the flora, head next door to see fauna at the Bronx Zoo; the Congo Gorilla Forest and new Dinosaur Safari are among the highlights.
Hop the subway down to Central Park to check out the beautiful budding trees at Cherry Hill—just steps away from Sheep Meadow, where New York City’s first Pride March in 1970 culminated in a “gay-in” with thousands of LGBTQ+ folk and their supporters. Grab a late lunch at the Loeb Central Park Boathouse and make sure to ask for a table on the patio overlooking The Lake; afterward, up the romantic ante by renting a rowboat for a leisurely paddle on the water.
The Culture-Lovers’ Date
No city on the planet can match NYC for its sheer diversity of art museums and galleries, a number of which have queer-themed exhibitions on display. At the Met’s Costume Institute this spring is the playful Camp: Notes on Fashion, which explores the development of the camp aesthetic in fashion, using Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp’” as the show’s framework. Just down Fifth Avenue, you can pop into the fantastic Frick Collection for a quick gander at the Renaissance hotties in Moroni: The Riches of Renaissance Portraiture.
At MoMA, Lincoln Kirstein’s Modern explores the sweeping cultural contributions of impresario Lincoln Kirstein, co-founder of the New York City Ballet and a key figure in NYC’s cultural queer underground during the 1930s and ’40s. Wrap up your artsy date with dinner at the museum’s Michelin-starred Modern restaurant, where you can share your impressions over contemporary cuisine.
The Music-Lovers’ Date
New York City is nirvana for music lovers. Hundreds of venues cater to fans of every style of music, artists popular with the LGBTQ+ community appear nightly in concert and scores of queer-friendly annual events like Night of 1,000 Stevies pepper the scene. For a great music-themed date, start off with dinner at the legendary Cafe Carlyle, the swank Upper East Side restaurant and cabaret that features performers like Megan Mullally, appearing in May as part of her duo Nancy and Beth.
Then dash downtown to try to catch a late set at Joe’s Pub, which regularly hosts queer (and queer-beloved) artists like Justin Sayre, Justin Vivian Bond and Jay Brannan. Cap off the night by releasing your inner crooner at Marie’s Crisis, the West Village sing-along piano bar that’s an NYC gay institution.
The Proud Date
June marks Stonewall’s 50th anniversary and the coming of WorldPride, so you might want to dedicate your date to celebrating New York City’s pivotal role in queer history. Start at the New-York Historical Society, the City’s oldest museum, which this spring hosts Stonewall 50. The program comprises two LGBTQ-themed exhibits as well as Say It Loud, Out and Proud: Fifty Years of Pride, a graphic installation of images and iconography from the first half-century of NYC Pride marches. Move next to NYU’s Grey Art Gallery to see how Stonewall impacted the generation of artists that followed, in the groundbreaking exhibition Art After Stonewall, a co-production with Soho’s Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. Take a stroll through romantic Washington Square Park, a site loaded with Pride history: Bette Midler and Barry Manilow took the stage here during the 1973 NYC Pride celebration, and the Dyke March, an annual event since 1993, uses the park as its end point.
On the west side of the park, Red Bamboo (where a big rainbow flag flies from June to November) serves up delicious “vegan comfort food” options. After dinner, head into the West Village for drinks, first stopping at Julius’, where a 1966 “sip-in” protest by gays predated the Stonewall Uprising by three years. Scenes from 1970 movie The Boys in the Band were shot here too. Wrap up your Pride-filled date at the place where the fight for LGBTQ+ rights kicked into overdrive: the iconic Stonewall Inn.