When it gets cold outside, visitors head home and locals know exactly how to explore the best of the City’s retail, culture and food. The trick is knowing how to do it without freezing your CityPASS off. This is how.
NYC is home to many ingenious underground areas that seamlessly connect to the City’s subway system. Even better, this vast transit network lets visitors easily—and warmly—explore neighborhoods all over town that offer excellent shopping, dining and experiences you’ll find only in New York. And since so many of the best shopping, culture and food is in LGBTQ+ neighborhoods, you’re never too far from a queer ’hood in NYC. We’ve found a way to make it through them all without ever stepping foot outside. Read on for a rundown of the best spots for this winter and beyond.
World Trade Center
In a city of iconic architecture, nothing compares to the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub’s bright-white Oculus and the expansive, column-free public space within. Shoppers will enjoy browsing Westfield World Trade Center for top fashions, tech goods and high-end jewelry. The Oculus Greenmarket operates on Tuesdays during winter months, but on any day of the week you can find great food options throughout the new WTC complex—including at the renowned Eataly NYC Downtown restaurants and markets.
On the plaza above, travelers arrive from around the world to visit the 9/11 Memorial & Museum; at least two dozen LGBTQ+ people were among the thousands of lives lost, including Mychal Judge, the gay chaplain of the NYC Fire Department who was the first certified casualty of 9/11. After you’ve had time to explore and reflect, traverse the underground concourse to reach Brookfield Place, which houses a host of affordable eating options in its multilevel food court as well as some upscale shops.
Grand Central Terminal
For more than a century, Grand Central Terminal has served as New York City’s most famous rail station, tied directly to the subway and Metro-North railroad. The landmark houses everything a New Yorker needs: Grand Central Market’s fresh produce and seafood, an especially cool Apple Store, hidden cocktail bar The Campbell, a puzzling “whispering gallery” and the one and only Grand Central Oyster Bar.
While you’re in railroad mode, visit the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store for informative exhibits and some great subway-related merch. Vanderbilt Hall holds occasional events and exhibits plus the Great Northern Food Hall, where you can warm up with hot drinks and fresh baked goods (with a Danish twist). If you're looking for more quick-bite options, be sure to visit the Lower Level Dining Concourse, with 20 fast-casual options including NYC faves like Shake Shack and Magnolia Bakery.
On the northern edge of Hell’s Kitchen, arguably NYC’s most gay-friendly ’hood, you’ll find The Shops at Columbus Circle. There’s direct access to incredible live entertainment at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, cafés, bakeries and Michelin-starred restaurants too. The double-towered destination of the Time Warner Center has so much indoor fun to offer that you could check into the Mandarin Oriental luxury hotel upstairs and never leave the complex. On the lower level, there's an enormous Whole Foods with an eat-in cafe as well. And, underneath all of that, Turnstyle is a revamped underground passageway with boutiques, restaurants and specialty food stores that links all the Columbus Circle subway lines.
LGBTQ+ travelers take note: just south of Columbus Circle you'll find a bevy of great gay-owned restaurants, shops, bars and nightclubs in Hell’s Kitchen. This lively area has become the center of the City's LGBTQ+ nightlife and social scenes. For more details, check out our handy LGBTQ+ Shopping Guide along with our roundup of Hell’s Kitchen Dining and Nightlife.
One of the City’s great landmarks and public spaces, Rockefeller Center is home to a vast underground concourse, linked to the subway (B, D, F or M train to 47-50th Rockefeller Center), that serves as both a climate-controlled passageway as well as a shopping and dining center. You can also enjoy ground-level views of the ice-skating on the Rink at Rockefeller Center. From underground, access the lobby of the famed 70-story 30 Rock building; consider visiting its Top of the Rock Observation Deck or NBC’s television studios, where you can attend live tapings.
Serving as a hub for the subway, Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit, Penn Station possesses a pace (and crowds!) that can be daunting. But a pleasant escape awaits at The Pennsy, a multilevel food hall good for eating, drinking and actually relaxing a bit amid the bustle. Grab a seat and enjoy hearty sandwiches from famed NYC butcher Pat LaFrieda, savory pan-Asian dishes from Sabi Sushi or vegetarian fare at The Little Beet. There's also a bar that serves tempting craft libations and an impressive array of beers—and offers drink specials based on the sports events or artists performing at the adjacent Madison Square Garden.
LGBTQ+ travelers can head south from here via the subway to Chelsea (just one stop away) and the West Village (the next downtown neighborhood past Chelsea), both traditional draws on any gay-friendly itinerary.
Downtown Brooklyn has undergone a tremendous evolution in recent years. One of the new architectural anchors sits conveniently atop the DeKalb Avenue subway station: City Point. This slick complex is home to a Century 21 outlet (for discount designer wear), a Trader Joe’s (for cheap food shopping) and a full-scale Target (for everything!). There's also the City’s first Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, whose House of Wax craft-cocktail bar is on the offbeat side, just like its selection of current indies and quirky classics. On the lower level, everyone loves DeKalb Market Hall’s food stalls, where you’ll find Brooklyn-centric barbecue, arepas, falafel, pierogi and the only Katz’s Deli satellite in town.