Halloween is gay Christmas—a veritable holy day for a large portion of the LGBTQ community. When the Village Halloween Parade started in 1974, it was just a few years after the Stonewall Riots and queer people in this downtown neighborhood were gaining visibility in a new way. While mainstream culture wanted LGBTQ people to stay quiet, the community wanted to get loud. And what’s louder than an unruly queer Halloween parade? Ever since, the parade has been the City’s most over-the-top costume party.
So here’s how to do Halloween in New York City the right way. You’ll need to know where to party and how to recover once it’s all over, and we’re here to help.
Get in the Spirit
Before the parties and the costumes, you have to set the mood. Luckily, a city like New York has so much history that it’s bound to come with a few ghosts…if you know where to look. The “House of Death,” for instance, on West 10th Street in the Village, is an old brownstone that is often considered the most haunted place in NYC with residents claiming ghost sightings that go back decades. Then there’s the Chelsea Hotel, on West 23rd Street, famous for being the site of many celebrity deaths: the poet Dylan Thomas and Sid Vicious' girlfriend Nancy Spungen both died here. Back in the Village, there have also been rumblings of the Gay Street Phantom, a cloaked figure that may be a socialite from the Prohibition era when a popular speakeasy was located at 12 Gay Street. We can’t say for sure the ghost is gay, but any supernatural being who goes by the name of the Gay Street Phantom is at least questioning. (For other ghostly locations, see NYCgo’s guide to haunted New York City.)
Ghost Tours & A Haunted House
If you don’t want to go looking for ghosts yourself, you can hire a tour guide to do it for you. The two-hour Greenwich Village Ghost Tour takes you through the historic Village tracking ghost sightings, murder scenes and burial grounds. Even spookier is the Merchant's House Museum, a restored 19th-century mansion in the East Village that hosts a number of "spirited events" in October, including creepy candelight tours and a one-man show about Edgar Allan Poe.
Stonewall Happy Hour and Costume Party
OK, so you’ve set the tone and heard some ghostly tales. The Halloween weekend is here and you’re ready to party! We suggest you start where it all started—The Stonewall Inn. On the weekend before Halloween, they’ll be hosting a few happy hours and a costume party that shouldn’t be missed, with a costume contest and raffle for prizes. It’s a great chance to visit this landmark of LGBTQ history and see it at its most fun and carefree.
Halloween Harbor Party Cruise
On the Saturday before Halloween, set sail on Very Creepy Sunset Halloween LGBT Yacht Party. This sunset cruise departs from the Pier 36 on the East River; once out in the harbor, you’ll dance in the shadows of the skyline to DJs Lena and Triple 9, with the night hosted by drag queen Maria Cherry Lips. The ship offers dramatic views of the City, and plenty of heated indoor space too.
We Love A Parade
You’ve got your costume (something Game of Thrones, perhaps?); now you need to show it off. The classic Village Halloween Parade is the place to see and be seen on Halloween. It started small back in 1974 and now has some 50,000 people jammed into the Village to see revelers and paradegoers in their best creepy outfits. The parade takes place Halloween night from 7 to 10:30pm, running up Sixth Avenue from Spring Street to West 16th Street.
Play Post-Halloween Hooky
Halloween is on a Wednesday this year. That really isn’t fair. May we suggest you take the next day off for recovery? Your morning-after hangover could be intense and, according to science, there’s only one cure: carbs! And nobody does carbs like Rosemary’s in the West Village. This gay-popular Italian spot does an excellent breakfast full of pastries, croissants and pancakes; for lunch there are panini and pastas. And there should be plenty of cute guys to ogle.
The Heeling Power of Spas
And you thought going as a slutty nurse for the third year in a row was a good idea. Turns out 18 hours in heels can be rough—but that's why spas were invented! When our bodies need some serious care and rejuvenation, we disappear into the Spa at Mandarin Oriental for its experienced therapists who perform a wide variety of massage, facial and body treatments. It’s one of our favorite New York spas.
Shhh…Be Very Quiet
After a (very) long weekend of crowded streets, packed bars and sharing a hotel room with five of your best buddies, you just might need some peace and quiet. To get away from it all, we like to go way uptown to The Met Cloisters, a beautiful museum featuring medieval art in a rebuilt monastery and serene gardens near Washington Heights. Or you can take a peaceful stroll through Central Park’s Conservatory Garden. Neither will be overly crowded on a weekday, and each offers a gorgeous respite to the hectic “holiday” weekend you’ve just survived. You’ll be guaranteed some silence.