Category Archives: Uncategorized

NEW YORK CITY’S TOP 10 UNDERGROUND BARS

GUEST BLOG POST WRITTEN BY HEATHER SHIMMIN (Secret Central Park Guide)

Underneath the hustle and bustle of New York City is an intriguing world of subterranean drinkeries. These spaces are non-touristy, visually interesting, offer more than just a libation, and are just as varied and surprising as Manhattanites themselves.

THE TIPPLER
425 West 15th Street, New York, NY 10014
212.206.0000
www.thetippler.com

A stone’s throw from the Highline, in the fashionable Meatpacking district, is The Tippler.  The entrance is marked by a large marquee-style open sign and a small, understated metal plaque on the south side of Chelsea Market, one of the greatest food halls in the world.   A 1920s-style mural adorns the stairwell which leads down into the bowels of this former warehouse. Exposed red brick, cast iron embellishments, and plush oriental rugs immediately beckon the visitor to sit down, have a tipple, and forget that it’s the 21st century.  The Tippler offers a decent selection of mainstream beers and liquor, but the real joy is in their cocktails such as the Chelsea Smash (vodka, lemon, mint, honey, Branca Menta) or the Something Wicked (fennel seed-infused tequila, grapefruit, lime, crème de mûre, ginger beer).  Or go all out and try a Lushie, a frozen blended cocktail.  Go early to get a table and enjoy a little corner of the past.

 

JIMMY’S NO. 43
43 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10003
212. 982.3006
www.jimmysno43.com

This surprisingly spacious basement bar in the East Village is warm and inviting, both in atmosphere and clientele. The bartenders are friendly and knowledgeable, the crowd local and unpretentious.  Long oak tables can accommodate a large group or saddle up to the bar and make some new friends.

Owned by chef, restaurateur, and social entrepreneur Jimmy Carbone, this pub reflects Jimmy’s love of beer and gregarious personality. Jimmy’s stocks over 50 different beers (mainly German, Belgian and local brews), and the rotating draught selection features rare, hard-to-find beers in New York City.  Not a beer fan?  Don’t fret; the cidre list is just as long as the wine list.  This gastropub also has an amazing rotating menu and a farm to table philosophy, serving the best of what’s in season from local farmers.  One menu staple is their non-to-be-missed bratwürst.

 

PDT
113 St Marks, New York, NY 100009
Enter through Crif Dogs
212.614.0386
www.pdtnyc.com

PDT, short for Please Don’t Tell, is a hidden gem in the East Village.  PDT is the secret cocktail lounge annex of Crif Dogs, a hot dog joint serving deep fried New Jersey-style franks. Accessible only through a vintage phone booth within Crif Dogs, this sexy speakeasy is a sharp contrast to the diner-style restaurant at the fore. Exposed red brick, low, wood paneled ceilings, and a taxidermied deer head on the wall only adds to its charm.  Libation offerings include a thoughtful selection of beer and wine as well as expertly crafted classic cocktails.  An abbreviated menu is available at the bar or patrons can order from Crif Dog’s full menu next door. Very popular is the New Yorker, the only grilled, all-beef frank on the menu.

This secret speakeasy is actually not so secret.  The wait for a table can be as long as an hour, so reservations are recommended.

SAKE BAR DECIBEL
240 East 9th Street, New York, NY 10003
212.979.2733
www.sakebardecibel.com

A small red and white sign is all that alerts the thirsty traveler to its existence in this Japanese pocket of the East Village.  A flight of rickety stairs and a tattered door lead to a somewhat sketchy reception area. Sake Bar Decibel is what some would call a ‘hole in the wall’ – which is not necessarily a bad thing.  Low ceilings, dimly lit, and sake bottles occupying every available nook and cranny do not scream posh but the crowds do confirm good food and drink. They carry a modest but delicious selection of Japanese whiskey, good beers, and over 80 different rice wines, offering something new for even the most seasoned sake sipper.

 

SWEETWATER SOCIAL
643 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
Enter through Bleecker Kitchen and Co.
212.253.7467
m.mainstreethub.com/sweetwatersocial

An unmarked, black door inside Bleecker Kitchen and Co. leads to the ultimate Man Cave, complete with shuffleboard, a fußball table, a pinball machine, and an enormous television for sports viewing.  The oriental rugs and leather sofas give the space a basement family room vibe.  With its exposed brick and subway tile, this bar truly embraces its subterranean-ness.  Sweetwater Social draws big crowds for American football, hockey, basketball, and baseball games.  When it’s quiet, it’s a great place for a bourbon and a chin wag.

 

PRAVDA
281 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012
Near Prince Street
212.226.4944
www.pradvanewyork.com

Pravda is an underground vodka and caviar bar in Nolita.  Named after a popular soviet newspaper in the U.S.S.R., Pravda means true.  With cream-colored plastered walls, fixtures modeled after Russian street lights, Manhattan chairs, and curved, red banquettes, the Cold War has never looked so hot. With over 70 vodkas in stock and two pages of cocktails – not to mention the beer and wine list – the only question is, with or without caviar.

 

THE FOLLY
92 West Houston Street, New York, NY 10012
646.726.7470
www.follynyc.com

A half dozen steps down from busy West Houston Street is The Folly, a nautical-themed bar from the creators of The Brooklyneer (a gastropub serving artisanal food and drink that is made in Brooklyn).  Its rustic, pirate ship décor may sound pastiche, but its tasteful restraint and execution works in its favor; the rope chandelier, a steamer trunk table, and sketches of old medical anatomy as wallpaper are swashbucklingly chic.  A boat’s ribs and keel line the ceiling, further enhancing the feeling of being inside the hull of a ship.

The Folly offers a modest but well selected list of beer and wine (including Old Speckled Hen on draught, impossible to find in New York City) and a food menu of mostly seafood dishes, including Kombucha Oyster Shooters (Mombucha Ginger Mint, Pink Peppercorn Rim) and Grilled Octopus and Potato Confit Skewers.

 

THE RAINES LAW ROOM
48 West 17th Street, New York, NY 100011
212.242.0600
www.raineslawroom.com

Not far from Union Square is The Raines Law Room, its entrance marked only by a small gold plaque and doorbell.  The rather plain, unassuming façade is a stark contrast to the rich, Victorian-chic interior.  The barmaids make black lace modern and sexy again, and elevate the cocktail to something much higher than just a drink.

Raines Law was a legislative attempt to reduce alcohol consumption in New York State in the late 19th century by limiting the sale of alcohol on Sundays to hotels.  The state defined a hotel as a business with a minimum of ten bedrooms for lodging that served sandwiches with its liquor.  Saloons quickly exploited this loophole and soon hundreds of saloons were operating as “hotels.” Many of these “Raines Law Hotels” were used by prostitutes and unmarried couples, skyrocketing the state’s prostitution rate by the early 20th century.  Some saloons served “brick sandwiches” (an actual brick between two slices of bread) or fake sandwiches used for display only, to comply with the law.

The Raines Law Room can get very busy, so reservations – allowed on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays only – are highly recommended.  Also, in order to maintain the bar’s intimacy and serene mood, parties are limited to six people.

 

TROY LIQUOR BAR
675 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10012
Enter on West 13th Street
212.699.2410
www.troyliquorbar.com

Below Bill’s Burger, two blocks from the High Line, is the catacomb-like Troy Liquor Bar.  This cavernous space is filled with alcoves and private tables, soft chairs and coffee tables.  As a change from the posh bars with high covers and pricey cocktails that litter the Meatpacking District, Troy Liquor Bar is unpretentious and relaxing. Equipped with pool table, Pac Man arcade, fußball, and a giant black horse, there is plenty to amuse even the most ADHD-afflicted guest.  Weekends are usually very busy, but weeknights are a bit calmer, perfect for chatting into the wee hours.

 

PULQUERIA
11 Doyers Street, New York, NY 10013
212.237.3099
www.pulquerianyc.com

Down a flight of steps and behind a turquoise door is something quite unusual; a Mexican bar in the heart of Chinatown.  No sign, no indication that delicious tacos and great happy hour specials are concealed within a sea of dumplings and dim sum.  Pulqueria offers a staggering variety of tequilas and mezcal in a modern, Mexico City-esque space.

Pulqueria is on Doyers Street, a curved, 200 foot-long stretch named after the pub-owning Dutchman, Hendrik Doyer, who lived there in the 1790s.  In the 1930s, Doyers Street was nicknamed ‘The Bloody Angle’ after rival Chinese gangs massacred one another with hatchets in front of a theatre, which used to be next door to Pulqueria.  Some gang members escaped through secret tunnels underneath the theatre, which are rumored to still exist.  Doyers Street has seen many brawls and conflicts; in fact, a 1994 study revealed that more people had been murdered on Doyers Street than on any other street in America.   Today, however, it’s a quaint little byway with a barbershop and United States Post Office, revealing little evidence of its sordid past.

Getting to JFK on the Cheap!

Considering it is one of the world’s most used airports, it’s not that easy to get to.  And it sure as hell isn’t cheap.  I thought I was saving money when I went to long term parking on a recent trip.  Turns out it was about the same as a round trip cab fare from Park Slope.  $102!  So, if you’re cheap like me, consider this:

The A Train to Howard Beach-JFK.  Then get on the Air Train for an additional $8.00.  Total cost-approximately $11 each way.  Allow an extra 30 minutes from the Howard Beach station to the terminal.

Same deal with the E, J, or Z trains to Sutphin Boulevard/Archer Avenue/JFK Airport stop.  The Air Train stop is Jamaica.  Again, allow 30 minutes from there to get to terminal.  About $11 each way.

Logo for The New York Times Travel Show

Local Expeditions at The New York Times Travel Show!

Logo for The New York Times Travel Show

At the Javits Center, NYC

We are thrilled to be part of The New York Times Travel Show and if you are an attendee of the show, please take advantage of our 2-for-1 offer on all our tours from now until February 3rd.

Our guides will lead you off the beaten path to explore the nooks and crannies of NYC’s most interesting neighborhoods, including DUMBO, Gowanus, Williamsburg, Bushwick, Victorian Flatbush, and Park Slope in Brooklyn; Washington Heights, Hell’s Kitchen, the East Village, and the early morning flower district in Manhattan; and Flushing in Queens.

Check out a sneak peak of some of our tours:

Citibike DUMBO begins in Manhattan at a CitiBike kiosk near the Manhattan Bridge. We ride very slowly (this is not extreme sports) as the bike gives us an opportunity to get to DUMBO and enjoy some beautiful vistas and hear some stories along the way. This also gives you a chance to get used to our excellent CitiBike program so you can enjoy some of the city’s great bike paths on future trips to New York.

Go to Hell! See Hell’s Kitchen, New York’s most misunderstood neighborhood with our food enthusiast and local expert Ziggy.  Learn about the neighborhood’s complicated and violent history, where Irish gangs once ruled the streets. You’ll get to explore Hell’s Kitchen’s many secrets including gardens, churches, and many great eateries outside the tourist path.

Gowanus? Yes, Go On Us! From its humble beginnings as a meandering creek to a lush salt marsh dotted with gristmills, the Gowanus Canal and its surrounding neighborhood, has experienced a renaissance over the past several years. A thriving community of long-time residents (as well as newcomers who are drawn to the area’s gritty, industrial appeal) reside amongst the more than 300 artists who rent studio & gallery space in re-purposed factory buildings.

And these video sneak-peeks are just a sampling of a fantastic selection of expeditions such as:

And many more!

Check our calendar and sign up for a tour that strikes your fancy and bring a friend for free! And, don’t forget to stop by Booth 872 to say hello to us at The New York Times Travel Show 2017.

P.S. Do you like street art and graffiti? Check our a sampling of the visual feast you’ll see on our tours!

Independent Bookstore in New York City

Independent Bookstores in New York City

Bookstore

R.I.P.

With the venerable downtown Brooklyn bookstore BookCourt closing after 35 years, we are left wondering about the viability of independent booksellers, and of printed books as well. Whether the e-reader killed the printed book or Amazon.com has murdered independent bookstore viability, there are still many indie booksellers in New York City.

Strand Bookstore

New, used, and out-of-print books.

There are the behemoth independents, The Strand and McNally Jackson. And there are outposts of the national chain Barnes & Noble, though they have become fewer. But, there is nothing quite like browsing books in an intimate space carefully designed for the word-loving indie bookstore consumer.

Bookstore

They are also a publishing house.

Melville House Bookstore is housed a tiny storefront tucked into 58 John Street, around the corner from Brooklyn Roasting Company’s Cafe in DUMBO. In fact, there is a semi-secret passageway between Brooklyn Roasting and the bookstore! Melville House is an independent publisher with offices in Brooklyn and London and its publishing office is located behind the bookstore. Aside form its own imprint; Melville sells books from Akashic, PowerHouse, Archipelago, Ugly Duckling, Hanging Loose, Umbrage and many other local indie presses. This is a gem of a literary bookstore, a must for any bookworm visiting DUMBO. (In fact, two of our Local Expeditions tours stop at the Melville House Bookstore, CITIBIKE DUMBO and FERRY TO DUMBO.)

Bluestockings Bookstore

They even carry alternative menstrual products and other oddly hard-to-find good things! No joke!

Bluestockings is a 100% volunteer-powered and collectively owned radical bookstore, fair-trade cafe, and activist center. Bluestocking has been a staple on the Lower East Side for the past 15 years and has changed and morphed, remodeled and upgraded, and now has an online bookstore component as well. Bluestocking’s inventory focuses on works by feminists, queers and writers of color and books, chapbooks, and other materials questioning the status quo. Bluestockings actively supports all movements challenging all systems of oppressions. Just inside the bookstore is a small cafe with free trade coffee and vegan pastries as well as a tiny restroom. The space hosts nightly events with a suggested donation of $5, with no one turned away for lack of funds.

Indie Bookstore

They also partner with their neighbor BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music).

Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, has expanded, and its latest outpost recently opened in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens section of Flatbush. Born of an outpouring of community support, including winning a business plan competition, garnering individual and organizational donations, investments by local nonprofits, loans from community lenders and more, founders Rebecca Fitting and Jessica Stockton Bagnulo opened Greenlight in the fall of 2009 and the rest, as they say, is history. Greenlight is now the official vendor of the Brooklyn Academy of Music and has a small kiosk inside BAM to augment their literary and other events, and even partners with BAM for part of their programming.

Indie bookstore in Manhattan

Kick your French up a notch.

Travel bookstore and language school, Idlewild Books, took its moniker from the original name for New York International Airport, which was renamed JFK in December 1963. Originally opening in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, Idlewild’s two locations are now located in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village and Brooklyn’s Cobble, Hill. The premise of Idlewild is that “a novel or travelogue can be just as valuable a key to a place as any guidebook, and our well-read, well-traveled staff is happy to make reading recommendations for any traveler, book lover, or gift giver.” Additionally, all travel guidebooks are discounted by 10%.  The bookstore also hosts language classes in French, Spanish, Italian and German.

Indie Bookstore

Michael Cunningham calls it “One of the greatest bookstores on the face of the Earth.”

Greenwich Village favorite, Three Lives & Company is tucked into a small storefront on West 10th Street at the corner of Waverly Place. The bookstore specializes in “literary books that might otherwise be overlooked” and is frequented by many local writers as well as fans of literature.

Bookstore in Greenpoint BK

They even have a store in Jersey City.

WORD Bookstores started in Brooklyn and expanded to Jersey City. You can count on WORD to have the coolest book launches, readings, and panels in the borough. The store specializes in music-themed events and has hosted many celebrity music writers as well as up-and-coming local music makers and writers.

Indie Bookstore in Queens, NY

Go local in Queens.

Queens’ Astoria Bookshop is located under the elevated N/Q train stop. The shop hosts regular community events, a reading group, and features Queens writers among their stock. Astoria Bookshop stocks only new inventory and does not purchase or accept donations of used books.

Bookstore in Prospect Heights

Check out their talks, readings and book launches.

Meanwhile, Unnameable Books is a buyer and seller of both new and used books in the burgeoning retail scene on Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Local writers frequent Unnamble Books for out-of-print books and rare finds, while visitors to Brooklyn can be sure to recognize their favorite authors on the shelves.

Bookstore support LGBT Community

Get a latte in their lovely cafe.

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe is a community center in the downtown Manhattan area. The stock is all donated material and the space has events open to the public most nights. One hundred percent of profits go to Housing Works, a “healing community” and advocacy group dedicated to eradicating both homelessness and HIV/AIDS.

Open Book

Blast from the past.

Next time you’re in The Big Apple and get the hankering to go to a good ‘ole fashioned bookstore, #DoWhatLocalsDo and visit one of our neighborhood’s Independent Bookstores.

New York City's Alt Art Scene

New York City’s Alt Art Scene

If you are interested in the alternative art scene, there are art galleries galore in New York City, but which ones are the most unique? Check out our guide to the four most interesting galleries with amazing exhibitions.

Amy Li in the Button Shop Gallery

Amy Li has it all in a button shop.

According to a Public Radio International piece about Amy Li Projects, “Amy Li uses the front space of her father’s 30-year-old button shop in Manhattan’s Chinatown as a place to showcase local artwork. The shared space has helped both Amy and her father — button customers are intrigued by the artwork, and Amy helps her father translate from Chinese to English.” Li curates popular shows with both emerging and established artists, many from the downtown New York City arts scene, but also newer entrants into the NYC art world such as painter Erin Smith from Australia. Amy Li Projects is located in Chinatown at 166 Mott Street (between Broome & Grand) and is open Weds-Sun 12-6pm.

Fountain House Gallery Logo

Challenge the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

The Fountain House Gallery is located in Hell’s Kitchen at 702 9th Avenue (at 48th Street) and is open Tues-Sat 11am-7pm and from 1-5pm on Sundays. The Fountain House Gallery, described as, “the premier venue in New York City representing artists with mental illness. The gallery sells original artworks and collaborates with a wide network of artists, curators, and cultural institutions. Embracing artists who are emerging or established, trained or self-taught, Fountain House Gallery cultivates artistic growth and makes a vital contribution to the New York arts community.” Fountain House Gallery succeeds in its mission to “provide an environment for artists living and working with mental illness to pursue their personal visions and to challenge the stigma that surrounds mental illness.” The gallery’s exhibitions show artwork that is delightful, hopeful, visceral, often challenging, and always very real.

Judith Braun and Joeseph A. Gross

Artist Judith Braun with gallerist Joseph A. Gross at Simuvac Projects.

Simuvac Projects, which is “committed to exhibiting works of diverse media by emerging and established artists,” is a relative newcomer to the New York art scene via Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The gallery has had some notable exhibitions. Recently Ivy Haldemen was featured at Simuvac and garnered quite a bit of publicity for her hot dog-inspired paintings. Simuvac Projects is located at 99 Norman Ave, right off the Nassau stop of the G train. Hours for the gallery are Wed-Sat 11am-6pm and 12-6pm on Sundays.

Violet's Cafe Art Gallery

No words to describe…

We found out about Violet’s Cafe, located at 135 Huntington Street in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, from an article in the New York Times. It’s an Art Gallery. No, a Living Room. O.K., Both, tipped us off about this cool place and we think the gallery’s approach is fabulous. See the gallery’s website for more information about current exhibitions.

Emily Weiner in her gallery

Emily Weiner has an alt gallery in her Brooklyn home!

Have you found a unique gallery on your travels in the 5 boroughs? Please Email us at localexpeditions@gmail.com and will spread the word about NYC’s alt art scene!

Carved Pumpkins

Halloween Events in NYC

We’ve got a roundup of some of the best ways to get your fun on at these Halloween events in NYC during October 2016!

SCARE ME BOO!

Clown

Who are you kidding?

If you want to be scared shitless, go to Blood Manor! I saw a creepy clown from the place handing out postcards and was already feeling faint. Blood Manor, which bills itself as “New York City’s Premier Haunted Attraction,” really is!

Another scary attraction in the Big Apple is the New York Haunted Hayride. It looks terrifying on the subway posters, but then I don’t even like the mildest of scary movies. Check it out for yourself and please report back.

FAMILY AND PET FRIENDLY

Kill! Kill! Kill!

Call me Freddy

The Central Park Halloween Parade and Pumpkin Flotilla is a free event on the afternoon/evening of October 30th at the Harlem Meer. Ghost stories, live music, pumpkin carving (and, of course, floating) will abound. This is a great event for the entire family.

Looking for a relaxed, yet super fun parade? Check out the Park Slope Halloween Parade. This family-friendly and Brooklyn-centric event is a blast! I took a friend from London last year and she wants to come back again specifically for this event!

The Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade is good clean fun that is #BetterWithPets! Bring your canine pals to the East Village on Saturday, October 22nd from Noon to 3PM for this “barkin’ mad” parade.

LGBTQ’ish HALLOWEEN CELEBRATIONS

Puppet Skeletons

Be your true self

The Village Halloween Parade began in 1974. Artists created giant puppets, drag artists paraded in their most fabulous outfits and bands joined in the procession…all sharing the spotlight with any bystander who wanted to join in. Since then, this parade has been co-opted by apparently, EVERYONE and is now the world’s largest Halloween parade, right here in NYC. A tradition that has remained constant in this parade is: anything goes.

Are you into a wax museum aesthetic? On October 29th, Madame Tussauds is hosting a Halloween mixer for the LGBT community and all others are also welcome! There will be dancing, a costume contest, Marvel Comic’s 4-D Superhero Thrill Ride and more!

HAUNTED HISTORY

Ancient Hauntings

Old Ghosts

You can get the inside scoop on the haunted history of the West Village from one of our very own on our Special Halloween Expedition: The Haunted Village, scheduled every day from October 23rd to October 30th at 7PM. New York has existed as a major metropolis for nearly 400 years. Millions of souls have lived and died here, buildings have been built and rebuilt–neighborhoods have changed. But when we walk around today, we see only the living; all 8.5 million of them. We are mostly unaware of the history of the streets we walk on and the buildings we reside in, dine in and visit.

Wishing everyone a ton of fun at any and all of these Halloween events in NYC!

LGBT Travel Trends Resources and Safety

LGBT Travel: Trends, Resources and Safety

As a lesbian with wanderlust, there are special considerations I must make when choosing destinations and accommodations. In some cities/countries LGBT folks might be okay while walking with a partner hand-in-hand; in other locales, you might get stares or funny looks; in other destinations you might face blatant discrimination when, as a same-sex couple, you book one bed in a hotel room. These embarrassing – and potentially dangerous – situations can make or break a vacation.

Holidays are for relaxing and we all want to travel as easily and safely as possible. But, for LGBT travelers, the world is often a dangerous place.

Urban Desitinations

Ultimate Urban Destination Guides

According to UCityGuides, the 10 gayest cities in the world are New York City, San Francisco, Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, London, Paris, Los Angeles and Miami. These cities are welcoming to LGBT people and locations LGBT travelers can find things to do and go not only in gay-exclusive bars and lodgings, but everywhere.

Travel Iceland

Are you ready for something new?

Many private travel businesses like Pink Iceland, New Zealand Awaits and Argentina’s BAGay offer LGBT-specific tourism assistance worldwide. Additionally, London’s official city tourism organization, Visit London has LGBT-specific offerings, as does Las Vegas and so many other cities’ tourism boards around the globe. Even Virginia, long considered a “battleground” state for LGBT rights, recently launched a state-wide LGBT tourism campaign. For those wanting LGBT-specific travel guidance, Damron Company publishes guides geared to LGBT travelers.

Purple Roofs Travel

We Are Gay Travel

Meanwhile, the independent Purple Roofs site provides information about small, ‘family owned’ and gay friendly accommodations. Many of these listings are places you’d have difficulty finding out about anywhere else.

International Gay Lesbian Travel

International Resource

Mainstream travel businesses such as American Airlines, Travelocity and Orbitz have longstanding services catering to LGBT travelers. And, dedicated to connecting and educating LGBT travelers and the businesses that welcome and support us, the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association acts as the world’s leading global travel network.

Community Markets & Insights’ 20th Annual LGBT Travel Survey results reveal some interesting statistics about LGBT travel:

According to the report, the U.S. Department of Commerce reports “the travel and tourism industry in the United States generated more than U.S. $1.5 trillion in economic output in 2014. Based on this data and CMI sample demographics, we estimate that the annual economic impact of LGBT travelers is over US $75 billion per year in the U.S. alone, not including the value of international inbound LGBT travel.”

Not surprisingly, New York is, once again, the most popular LGBT destination across all categories, followed by Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Chicago, which are tightly grouped in 2nd place. This year’s ranking saw increases for Los Angeles as well as increases in Florida travel, with Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando; all being top-10 destinations. For the first time Rehoboth Beach, DE and Nashville, TN entered the survey’s top-20 destinations, which reflects an overall trend for a greater number and diversity of destinations involved in LGBT outreach.

Including LGBT-specific activities while on vacation is not diminishing among LGBT Millennials. 60% of LGBT Millennials indicated having visited a gay bar while on vacation in the past year, and 56% visited an LGBT neighborhood while on vacation. These percentages were equal to or better than Generation X and Baby Boomer LGBTs. Attending an LGBT Pride event while on vacation was especially popular among Millennials, particularly when compared to Baby Boomers.

For the first time, the survey tested questions on shared economy accommodations. The report indicated that lesbians (21%) were more likely than gay men (17%) to have actually booked via a rental-by-owner or shared economy website in the past year such as Airbnb or HomeAway. LGBTs primarily book shared economy accommodations for cheaper rates (59%) and to be in a specific neighborhood (56%). 20% of LGBTs who booked shared economy rooms in the past year did it just because they were curious. Looking to the future, only 9% of lesbians and 4% of gay men said that rental-by-owner or shared economy websites were their preferred way of booking accommodations. Additionally, Millennials are far more likely to use public transportation and Uber than Baby Boomers while traveling. Baby Boomers are more likely to rent cars. Traditional taxi use was fairly even across all generations.

Something I didn’t find in the 2015 survey that was in CMI’s 2014 survey, were results about Destination Safety and LGBT Discrimination. The 2014 survey concluded that LGBT travelers strongly prefer to travel to destinations they consider safe and do not have laws that discriminate against LGBT residents and travelers. In 2014, merely 11% of respondent indicated a willingness to travel to a country that has laws against LGBT people.

Additionally, the 2014 survey had results for regional reputation: “Following general travel safety, respondents were asked about perceived safety in specific countries. Many of these countries have significant general population tourism initiatives, but are located in parts of the world that are not always perceived as LGBT-friendly. Russia scored the lowest among all counties tested. Other counties, while not explicitly anti-LGBT, suffer from negative perceptions about their regions.”

In 2015, OutTraveler published “The 10 Places LGBT Travelers Should Never Visit,” which included Nigeria, where same-sex couples can face many years in prison, Zimbabwe, where an LGBT individual can be beheaded for the offense of homosexuality, and Russia, where Pride parades are banned, LGBT “propaganda” is illegal, transgender individuals are not allowed to drive, and LGBT people are often physically assaulted in in the streets. This type of intelligence is invaluable, exactly the type of vacation planning information heterosexual folks never have to think about.

And this month, October 2016, a new report has revealed that more than one in three (37%) LGBT travelers have experienced some form of discrimination whilst on holiday, with 6% experiencing a threat of physical violence due to their sexuality.

PinkNews summed up the findings: “The report also highlighted that sexuality had a major influence on where LGBT Brits traveled, with two thirds (63%) refusing to travel somewhere that had an unwelcoming attitude towards the LGBT community. A quarter (23%) of LGBT travelers admitted changing the way they act and try to camouflage their sexuality when on holiday. Most alarmingly, an overwhelming 80% said that the travel industry don’t do enough to inform the LGBT community about local laws prior to departure. The research was carried out for Virgin Holidays, which has launched a campaign with Stonewall on the issue.”

As LGBT people we must consider that our very existence is illegal in some places and our love is punishable by death in others. This greatly influences our movement – and lack thereof – in and around the world.

LGBT travel needs to be safe, but please remember to have fun!

Best Comedy in NYC

BEST COMEDY IN NYC: AN INSIDER’S GUIDE

If you take a walk through Times Square, you’re likely to be approached by one of those in-your-face guys (and a few gals) asking you, “Do you like to laugh?” Well, who doesn’t? But watch out! These guys/gals are going to offer you “free” tickets to a famous name comedy club. But what they don’t tell you is there is a 2-drink minimum, per person. And what if you don’t drink alcohol? Even if you order seltzer water the price tag on that starts at $10. You will end up paying for that comedy show in spades as well as dropping on an average $75 for a two people and a lot more for a group.

I want to tell you about some alternative comedy venues where the tickets are $5, $10, $15 (maximum) or -for real- free! The quality is just as good as at the “famous” venues, and, just like all comedy shows, there’s some hit and miss moments, but almost always an overall good time filled with lots of laughs. And on any particular night there’s a potential surprise bonus lurking of big deal comedians making an appearance to try out new material in these underground’ish venues! You might witness the best show you’ve even seen, or you might have just an okay time. But in either case, you will not not bust the bank. Plus,  you will have an authentic New York experience.

Here are some of my favorite venues:

Underground in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Elsa Waithe at The Experiment Comedy Gallery

[NB: The Experiment Comedy Gallery was shut down in December 2016 and we mourn its loss.] 

 The Experiment Comedy Gallery, or The Ex as locals affectionately refer it to, was founded in 2013 by Mo Fathelbab, Derek Smith, and Ben Trandem as a comedy collective. They continue to produce the best in live standup, improv and sketch shows in New York City. Located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at 272 Grand Street, Basement Level, The Ex is a cozy venue with a casual vibe. You can often find comedian and local favorite Elsa Waithe behind the makeshift bar serving beer, water and soda along with zingers that have you laughing before the show even starts!

UCB Improv

Upright Citizen Brigade Theatre

The Upright Citizen Brigade Theatre, founded by Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh, is a staple of the NYC (and LA) improv scene. With shows several times every night, most of which run for only an hour and generally cost $5-$10, the UCB is a bargain on many levels. Many graduates of the UCB Training Center have gone on to write for or appear on Saturday Night Live, Inside Amy Schumer, The Jon Stewart Show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and many other comedy shows. Follow UCBNY on Twitter for the most up-to-date performance info. They have two locations to choose from: UCB East is located at 153 E 3rd Street in the East Village and UCB West is at 307 W 26th Street.

Improv Sketch Standup

The Magnet Theater

The Magnet Theater, founded in 2005 by Del Close, Armando Diaz, Ed Herbstman, Shannon Manning and Alex Marino, is an improv comedy theatre and school. The Magnet has shows seven nights a week and prices range from free to $7 for special single shows to $10 for an entire evening of performance. Its school has spawned talent working on Broad City, 30 Rock, The Colbert Report, The Onion, and more. The Magnet is located at 254 West 29th Street 8th Avenue in Manhattan.

LIC Restaurant, Bar and Comedy Club

The Creek and the Cave in Long Island City

The Creek and the Cave is a combination restaurant, bar and comedy club in Long Island City. With a broad array of comedy and other performance, the offerings are a mixed bag that is often a very fun surprise. They host regular shows and comedians traveling through NYC often have a chance to perform to a new audience. The Creek and Cave is located at 10-93 Jackson Avenue near the 7, G, E & M trains. Many of the Creek and Cave’s comedy shows are free and the venue provides a free PBR to each attendee for supporting the space! And, if you sit in the front row you get a free shot!

Best Standup in NYC

Runnin’ on Empty with Yotam & Lisa

And one of the VERY best comedy shows in town is Runnin’ on Empty, a monthly stand-up show stealthily curated by Lisa Franklin and Yotam Tubul and performed at (le) poisson rouge. They host headliner comedians as well as writers and comics from Elite Daily, The Nightly Show, Broad City, Comedy Central and many more of the best comedy shows on TV and online. And get this – the show is FREE! Keep your eyes peeled on (le) poisson rouges’ events calendar or search “Runnin’ on Empty with Yotam and Lisa” on Facebook for their latest show.

You can buy drinks at all these alt venues, sure, but you won’t be bullied into purchasing overpriced and watered down booze. So if you like to laugh, take a risk and see a free show or even spend a five- or ten-spot to see emerging and established talent doing the best comedy in NYC.

~ By Local Expeditions Team Member Stephanie Schroeder

Ha! Ha! Ha!

Ha! Ha! Ha!

The Best Iced Coffee in NYC

The dog days of summer are upon us and you need to know where you can get the best iced coffee in NYC. In fact, you could make a whole day of it going from one amazing iced coffee to the next, drinking it in an air-conditioned café in honor in of the heat that’s too hot to be out in. And I would love to suggest some of my favorite places in Manhattan and Brooklyn to you.

Straight up, cold-brewed.

The Beast of Coffee

Get it Cold-Brewed and Black

Really strong, just like the beast it is named after, Gorilla Coffee is amazing hot, and is a kick in the pants cold brewed. You gotta go to Park Slope, Brooklyn to enjoy Gorilla Coffee in one of their two locations. This is my all time favorite iced coffee.

One Lumb or Two

For Your Sweet Tooth

One lump or two? Even if you don’t like sugar in your coffee, below are some sweet iced coffees that are delicious!

New Orleans

Blue Bottle’s New Orleans Iced Coffee

Blue Bottle Coffee has cafes in Manhattan and Brooklyn. They cold-brew their iced coffee for 12 hours with chicory and add organic sugar and milk. I’m a person who generally doesn’t put sugar in my coffee, but this concoction is an unequivocal exception.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee

It’s got sweet, condensed milk in it!

Think about giving yourself the special treat of a Vietnamese iced coffee at AP in Bushwick, Brooklyn. (It’s too easy to get to! Take the L train to the Jefferson stop in Brooklyn and when you hit street level, it’s a 3-minute walk away.) AP’s VIC is sweet, thick and has an “orange’ish” bouquet that lingers in your olfactory region. (Their Vietnamese iced tea is amazing as well.) And sitting in the AP café itself is a lovely, aesthetic treat. They also have a beautiful menu of foods for breakfast, brunch and lunch.

Continuing on with sweet iced coffee beverages…

Supercrown's Milkshake

Van Leeuwen Inspired

I’ve mentioned this café before, and I can’t help mentioning it again in this heat. Supercrown Coffee Roasters, located in Bushwick, offers a Coffee Milkshake made with Van Leeuwen Sweet Cream, espresso and espresso grinds. They also have a Mocha Milkshake made with Van Leeuwen vegan dark chocolate, iced coffee, espresso and espresso grinds.

El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette

The Most Talked About Iced Coffee Drink – Summer of 2016, NYC

Though I haven’t had a chance to try it, I still want to let you know that on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, El Ray Coffee Bar & Luncheonette’s Iced Mexican Mocha is the talk of the town. It’s gotten a lot of press and made it into Zagat’s 10 Must Try Iced Coffees in NYC. “Crowned with mint leaves, the Counter Culture iced mocha at this LES hot spot sports a generous kick thanks to a sprinkling of chile flakes and cinnamon,” is Zaget’s mouth watering description of El Ray’s Iced Mexican Mocha

Best Iced Coffee in NYC

Nancy Blaine’s Favorite Iced Coffee

And, Local Expeditions founder Nancy Blaine names Gregorys Coffee iced coffee her favorite. She says, “For my money, the best iced coffee in New York will be had at any Gregory’s Coffee.  I go to the one on 33rd between Park and Madison and the staff is incredibly efficient and friendly, but–any time I find a Gregory’s I find the coffee and the service to be the same–excellent!  The iced coffee is a cold brew, but it’s a solid medium roast–not the over-roasted cold brew you get from Starbuck’s.  Local Expeditions endorses Gregorys Coffee–with by far the cutest logo on the block.”

NYC is filled with unique cafes–so check back here again for more tips about the best coffee experiences to be had in NYC.

~By Local Expeditions team member Lisa “I heart iced coffee” Haas

DECAF IS FOR SISSIES

DECAF IS FOR SISSIES

 

NYC Walking Tour: Broadway to Brooklyn

If you’re coming to town and looking for a NYC walking tour, you might be humming that catchy song about 42nd Street from the musical of the same name:

Hear the beat of dancing feet
It’s the song I love the melody of
Forty-Second Street

Explore NYC

But there’s more to New York City than just Broadway and Times Square.

If you are not familiar with Local Expeditions, we take folks – locals and out-of-towners alike – to see lesser known, but enthralling local spots. The guide who leads your expedition specifically designs it. This makes us #trulylocal as well as ensures that your expedition leader is not only an expert about their locale and subject matter, but also passionate about what they are doing. We have small groups (10 people max in our largest group) and the camaraderie among all of us during the 2-3 hours we spend together makes a Local Expedition a memorable experience.

So, even though you might take a stroll through uber-crowded Times Square/42nd Street and/or attend a Broadway show during your visit to NYC, we suggest you also check out some interesting areas such as Prospect Park, Park Slope and DUMBO in Brooklyn on our Ferry to DUMBO, CitiBike DUMBO and Prospect Park and Park Slope Brownstones expedition. See our other expeditions here.

Learning about the architecture of Park Slope and the urban planning and design history of Prospect Park is enlightening and fascinating; riding over the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges on a Citibike is a sublime experience while walking through DUMBO is a sight in itself, especially on Washington Street, where you can find the most instagrammed view in the world while, from Front Street, you can view the close Manhattan Skyline, which looks just like a Hollywood movie set. Taking the NY Ferry is a fantastic experience with awesome photo opportunities as well as a unique adventure most visitors never experience.

Explore Brooklyn

So, put on your comfortable shoes, heed the Beastie Boys anthem, and visit NYC’s largest borough (Brooklyn) for a unique NYC walking tour experience, a Local Expedition!

‘Cause I’ll be rockin’ this party eight days a week!
No sleep till
No sleep till Brooklyn!

 

–Written by Stephanie Schroeder