There are more original ways to spend New Year’s Eve in New York City than dealing with the crowds gathered for the ball drop in Times Square—the City has so many options for a glamorous, champagne-fueled kick-off to 2018. To avoid beginners’ mistakes, review our game plan for making the most of the occasion in the greatest city in the world. Then grab your besties or your partner and check out our picks for the coolest and queerest parties in our favorite ’hoods: Hell’s Kitchen, the East and West Villages, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick.
1. Temper Expectations
Let’s just say what everyone’s thinking: New Year’s Eve can be a bit of letdown. You want to have fun, but this New Year’s doesn’t have to be the most amazing night of your life. In fact, it’ll be a lot more fun if you relax and just enjoy the moment with your friends.
2. Do Research
That glamorous queer party you’ve been daydreaming about does exist in NYC, but the champagne and fireworks and million-dollar skyline views come at a price. Do your research and make sure you pick the party that’s right for you and your wallet. Most LGBTQ party promoters have a certain style and aesthetic—mainstream, out there or in between—so it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation.
3. Travel Smart
Plan your travel carefully. Navigating the city streets can be challenging on New Year’s Eve; cabs are impossible and ride-sharing rates could be surging as high as 300 percent. Our advice: walk if you can or take the NYC subway, which operates most lines 24/7. If you want to splurge, hire a car or private driver for the night.
4. Stay Local
No matter where you’re crashing, chances are there’s likely an awesome party nearby. If you’re staying with a friend on the Upper West Side, maybe that warehouse party in Brooklyn’s Bushwick isn’t ideal. So try to find a party close to your hotel—or even better, find a hotel with a club or lounge hosting a party! There are plenty of options for celebrating, no matter where you are based.
5. Dress Down
You might fantasize about being that girl in the short, backless glittery gown strutting down Fifth Avenue. Here’s the problem: it’s going to be cold and maybe even snowing. So dress for the weather—maybe a sexy spin on long johns and wool socks. If you’re party hopping, remember to bring a coat with lots of pockets: it can store a scarf, gloves and hat so you don’t lose anything at coat check.
6. Plan a Midnight Kiss
The tradition to kiss someone at midnight for luck in the year ahead goes back a long time. Whether you’re a boy kissing a boy, or a girl kissing a girl, all that matters is that you start the new year by kissing someone special.
Now the question is where to make it all happen. Here’s some of our picks for the best parties in NYC this New Year’s Eve:
Ring in 2018 at the most historic gay bar in America. Stonewall Inn’s annual New Year’s Eve party, which features two DJs on two floors, guest performances, party hats, noisemakers and wall-to-wall crowds, make this the place to be in the heart of the West Village. It’s close to the Christopher Street subway stop, posh downtown hotels and trendy restaurants that are good for a nosh before or after. $5 cover.
This longtime lesbian bar’s resident spin master, DJ Culi, will be rocking the joint, along with a host of go-go dancers. There’s also a champagne toast at midnight and tasty bites from chef Ro Pacheco. The cover charge is $20 before midnight, $25 after—unless you go for their $60 VIP experience, which includes a 3-hour open bar starting at 9pm.
This fall, Brian Rafferty’s Rough Trade mega-party became the talk of the Hell’s Kitchen nightlife scene. It’s back for a New Year’s Eve bash, hosted at the Rosewood Theater, on West 38th Street. The party starts at 10pm and goes until late (or early, depending on how you look at it) at a venue that has two floors, VIP rooms, multiple DJs, dancers and other performers.
King Size Queen Party at Nowhere Bar
If you don’t want to pay crazy covers or spend a fortune on bottle service, check out the informal Nowhere Bar—a fun, inclusive LGBTQ spot in the East Village that throws a party with free admission, cheap drinks, an even cheaper coat check and the usual dancing, cruising and champagne toast at midnight. DJs Donna Meade and Impala Disco Bar will spin until 4am.
New Year’s Eve Ball at Club Cumming
Daniel Nardicio presents Club Cumming’s New Year’s Eve Ball at the eccentric bar and cabaret, the brainchild of actor Alan Cumming. The party will feature the Club Cumming Orchestra, which plays from 9pm to midnight; drag queen Daphne Always and burlesque performer Velvetina; and an unrevealed celeb appearance. And don’t forget the cute go-go boys on hand: Mariano, Brian, Darlinda and Ari Gold. The party goes till 8am; tickets are $25–150.
Sandra Bernhard at Joe’s Pub
For a (barely) more mellow evening, head to the Public Theater’s Joe’s Pub to check out one of the LGBTQ Queens of Comedy Sandra Bernhard in her latest one-woman tour-de-force, Sandemonium. This tawdry cabaret and comedy show is getting raves, and will be a fun and different way to ring in the New Year.
Throwback ’90s Party: Y2K
Brooklyn’s most creative and queer club, the House of Yes, is hosting the ultimate ’90s party. This New Year’s Eve hoedown will be full of throwback hits and nostalgia for the millennium countdown chaos of 1999. Come dressed in ’90s clothes or as your favorite icon from that decade. The wild night includes a futuristic beauty parlor, fortune tellers and vintage snacks like Gushers and fruit roll-ups.
The Grand Ball
Hundreds of the young and hip will dress up in black, white, gold or silver for the Grand Ball at the 1896, presented by House of Yes & Zero. There they can dance to raucous music by Bo Borzu, Death on the Balcony and Lovecraft and mill about five rooms full of ice castles, aerial performances, champagne showers, a ballroom-dancing showcase and tasty snacks—taking a break at midnight for a complimentary toast.
New Year’s Eve With Rich Medina
C’mon Everybody is becoming Bed-Stuy’s essential spot for dancing, drinking and mingling with a high-energy crowd. Beloved DJ Rich Medina will take partiers on a worldwide sonic journey through hip-hop, house, soul, Afrobeat, funk and dance classics. Doors open at 9:30pm, Rich goes on at 10pm and the event ends at 4am. Tickets run $35–75.