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. Holiday shoppers will enjoy browsing Westfield World Trade Center for top fashions, tech goods and high-end jewelry. And even though the Oculus Greenmarket closes during winter months, 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 the new Brookfield Place, which houses a host of affordable eating options in its 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.
In Vanderbilt Hall, temporary exhibits and special events add culture to the scene; it also hosts the long-running Grand Central Holiday Fair every November and December. While you’re in railroad mode, don’t miss the annual Holiday Train Show at the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store.
On the northern edge of Hell’s Kitchen, arguably NYC’s most gay-friendly ’hood, you’ll find The Shops at Columbus Circle. Visitors will can browse handmade goods at the Columbus Circle Holiday Market and take breaks in the tower’s second-floor MasterCard Holiday Lounge, which has a complimentary bag check, charging stations and cozy seating. The double-towered destination of the Time Warner Center has so much to offer that you could check into the Mandarin Oriental luxury hotel upstairs and never leave the complex. There’s direct access to incredible live entertainment at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, cafés, bakeries and Michelin-starred restaurants. Underneath all of that, Turnstyle has transformed an underground passageway that links the Columbus Circle subway lines into a subterranean mall with new boutiques, restaurants and specialty food stores.
LGBT travelers take note: just south of Columbus Circle is a bevy of great gay-owned restaurants, shops and bars in Hell’s Kitchen. Check out our handy LGBT Shopping Guide and a 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, that serves as both a climate-controlled passageway and a shopping and dining center. You can also enjoy ground-level views of the ice-skating taking place at 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. Back on the plaza, make sure to get a selfie at the world-famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Just down the block, the Rockettes are the star attraction in Radio City Music Hall’s annual Christmas Spectacular; the venue also hosts regular backstage tours year-round.
Serving as a hub for the subway, Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit, Penn Station possesses a bustle that can be daunting. But a pleasant escape awaits at The Pennsy, a new multilevel food hall good for eating, drinking and relaxing. Grab a seat away from the fast-paced crowds to enjoy hearty sandwiches from famed NYC butcher Pat LaFrieda, savory pan-Asian dishes from Sabi Sushi or vegetarian fare at The Little Beet. The Pennsy Bar serves tempting craft libations and an impressive array of beers—and even offers drink specials based on the sports events or artists performing at Madison Square Garden, which looms above Penn Station.
LGBT travelers can head south from here to Chelsea (just one subway stop away) and the West Village (the next neighborhood past Chelsea), both traditional draws on any gay-friendly itinerary. Or head a few blocks east to the NoMad neighborhood for cuisine from two restaurants run by a lesbian head chef (April Bloomfield): The Breslin and the John Dory Oyster Bar. Here’s more on the City’s top LGBTQ chefs.
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 roomy Century 21 outlet, a Trader Joe’s, a full-scale Target and the City’s first Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, whose House of Wax craft-cocktail bar is a bit on the offbeat side. Everyone loves DeKalb Market Hall’s food stalls; you’ll find Brooklyn-centric barbecue, arepas, falafel, pierogies and the only Katz’s Deli satellite in town. The mall also hosts holiday events and pop-ups, like December’s FAD (Fashion + Art + Design) Holiday Market.