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How to Survive Pride in New York

Four million people from all over the planet are expected to visit New York in June around WorldPride,which organizers are calling “the Olympics of Gay Pride.” Pride events are taking place all month, with WorldPride 2019’s opening ceremony on June 26th and its closing events on June 30th. If you are among the visitors, here’s how to navigate the city.

You’re at the airport, what now?

Because of increased demand, Lyft and Uber surge pricing are sure to kick in at all three airports — Kennedy, La Guardia and Newark. Yellow and green cabs, which are metered and have set fare rules will be out in force at the airport taxi stands.As soon as you land, check out your airport’s website for taxi wait times. (From J.F.K. to Manhattan the flat fare is $52, plus tolls and a rush hour surcharge, depending on timing.)

[Looking for ideas on what to do during WorldPride? Our 36 Hours guide can help.]

If the lines and prices are too much, public transportation is there for you. From Newark Airport, take the AirTrain to New Jersey Transit, PATH trains or Amtrak for direct city access. From Kennedy Airport, the AirTrain links to subway stations at Jamaica (E, J and Z lines) and Howard Beach (take the A train) or to the Long Island Rail Road at Jamaica. From La Guardia, things are a little more complicated. You have to take the M60 bus to 125th Street in Manhattan and then use a free transfer for the subway (1,2,3,4,5,6, A/C or B/D, which should get you to most locations). But here’s a fun, annoying fact: you’ll need exact change ($2.75) or a MetroCard for the bus. FYI.

Got a room?

If every conceivable hotel room and apartment rental in the five boroughs is booked, there are still some possibilities outside the city proper.

Consider “sixth borough” cities like Hoboken and Jersey City, just across the Hudson, where people typically commute to Manhattan in a half-hour. (Best spots in Jersey City are close to the PATH train on Journal Square or the brownstone Downtown area near Grove Street, Exchange Place or Newport stations). Hoboken is only a mile square, so anywhere is just a short walk to a bus or train into the city.

Farther out, towns like Montclair, N.J., and Stamford, Conn., have corporate hotel rooms and home sharing rentals. From Manhattan, Stamford is reachable in less than an hour on Metro North or Amtrak and Montclair is a 45-minute maximum bus or train ride. Once you’re in midtown Manhattan, multiple subway routes can take you anywhere the action is.

The main events

As far as activities go, there are so many things happening in New York, your head may spin right off your body. There is the opening ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and the closing ceremony in Times Square (we told you this was the Olympics). Barclays tickets start at $45 and will buy time with Chaka Khan and Cyndi Lauper. The closing ceremony, which stars Melissa Etheridge and the Tony-nominated Broadway cast of “The Prom,” is free but you need to register in advance.

And then there’s the Pride March, the big event on Sunday, the 30th, which this year runs down Fifth Avenue from 26th Street to the Village, makes a turn and then heads up Seventh Avenue past the Stonewall Inn (sight of the uprising 50 years ago) and then up to Chelsea. Organizers expect 150,000 marchers and more than 160 floats featuring Matthew Shepard’s mother and father — Dennis and Judy — who are flying in from Wyoming, the entire cast of “Pose,” Andy Cohen and Bravo’s top stars (yes, the Real Housewives of New York will be there), as well as Proposition 8 plaintiffs Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami.

In years past, parade-watching experts set up inside a bar or restaurant along the route and then ran out from time to time to take in the costumes and floats. But with the crowds expected, that may not be an option. Favorite cavernous bars along the route include Elmo on Seventh Avenue in Chelsea; The Duplex cabaret and piano bar (near the center of it all on Christopher Street); and Otto, located on the corner of Fifth Avenue where the parade will be turning west.

If you can’t afford a long day of drinking or weren’t lucky enough to snag a $200 grandstand seat (which sold out long ago), get up early and find a spot along the parade’s path, either on Fifth Avenue or Seventh Avenue, the wider thoroughfares on the route. (Avoid the smaller side streets.) Organizers recommend getting out there with your camp chair by 9 a.m. Set up on the shady side of the street (or take sun screen) and make sure you pack a lunch and lots of water.

Taking a break

The only thing New Yorkers love complaining about more than the airport and the subway is the city’s dearth of clean public restrooms. Everyone’s favorite is the Bryant Park restroom on 42nd Street near Fifth Avenue, which is clean and even has fresh flowers sometimes. But the secret has long been out on it and so the lines can be a problem.

My secret favorites are the Banana Republics in SoHo, the West Village and Flatiron neighborhoods, ABC Carpet’s second floor restroom also in the Flatiron district, and Bloomingdale’s in SoHo (an escalator ride up one floor). Pretend you are browsing and then make a beeline for the bathroom. If you find yourself farther downtown in your travels, the restrooms in Battery Park, especially the one near Teardrop Park, are awesome.

Bathrooms at Starbucks — which are everywhere and are always gender neutral — are widely available, but can get pretty gross sometimes. If in need, try a less commercial cafe for the price of a cup of coffee. Don’t be cheap when it comes to your bladder. And if your phone doesn’t die (charges are available at LinkNYC terminals along the streets or you may want to bring a portable charger), you can locate a restroom along the route with NYC & Co.’s handy restroom finder (which includes handicap accessibility information).

O.K., enough potty talk. Let’s have some fun.

The non-parade parties

Over at Oscar Wilde — an antique-filled bar named for the Victorian Irish writer put on trial for his homosexuality — festivities will be ongoing throughout June, including a drag queen brunch every weekend leading up to and through pride week.

As is usual during pride festivities, dancing will commence on the West Side piers — known as Pride Island. This year the action is at Pier 97 in Hell’s Kitchen at 57th Street and the West Side Highway. Grace Jones is headlining. But tickets are already sold out. So do not pull up to the bumper, baby. Host your own dance party or head over to The Tool Box or The Ritz or one of NYC’s many gay clubs and bars.

Another favorite activity for Pride Week is to take a selfie with the Gay Street sign in the background. (Dog-legged Gay Street was named long before the birth of the L.G.B.T.Q. movement, likely for some now-forgotten straight white landowner. But still). Take a photo long before the weekend crowds transform the West Village into a sardine can. Same with the Stonewall National Monument — the first national monument dedicated to L.G.B.T.Q. rights — and landmarks like Julius’ Bar, the oldest continuously running gay bar in the city.

Julius’ was established in 1867 but has been serving the gay community since the 1950s and has been featured in several films, including the gay indie movie, “Love Is Strange,” and most recently “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Hit it during the week if you can.

The Stonewall Inn, guaranteed to be wall-to-wall packed, features a Big Ten social mixer on Sunday, the 23rd, open to Big Ten alums. Monday is always drag bingo, Wednesday karaoke night and Friday dance party. The bar promises some special surprises for march weekend, but with the crowds, you might want to grab that drink at the iconic spot a bit earlier.

Fun activities out of the center of the storm include a free Walt Whitman tour in Brooklyn the weekend before the parade or a breezy ferry ride to Staten Island to the Alice Austen House. Austen was a turn-of-the-century lesbian photographer who lived with her partner in a beautiful Carpenter Gothic home with a covered porch, scalloped valances and a stunning view of the Verrazzano Narrows. Now a museum with rotating photo exhibits, the house is on the National Register of Historic Places. “Collier Schorr: Stonewall at 50” is the current show on display, with portraits of L.G.B.T.Q. artists and activists.

More on L.G.B.T.Q. sites in New York CityShe Did It Her WayJune 27, 2014Stonewall Inn Named National Monument, a First for the Gay Rights MovementJune 24, 2016The secret subway

As an alternative to the crowded subways when moving in Manhattan, try the PATH train, which more or less runs along the F line, from Christopher Street up to 33rd Street. It’s one of the best kept secrets in New York for when the subways are overcrowded or stalled. And it even has an app providing real time updates at each station.

Away from the crowds

Places like the Highline and the major museums will be jampacked. There are 83 museums in New York to choose from: visit the Morgan Library & Museum, a former family mansion, known for its manuscripts (and in June, a Walt Whitman show), the Cloisters up in Fort Tryon Park which is the Medieval art wing of the Metropolitan (with mandatory brunch at the nearby New Leaf Café), or the Neue Gallery, which features the work of Gustav Klimt and a plush Austrian cafe, which you can visit even if the museum lines are long.

And please, please avoid walking across the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset, since every other tourist and their mother will be doing that. It’s a bad scene even when the Olympics aren’t coming to town. Instead take a disco nap, stay out dancing until morning, have the disco fries at the 24-hour Waverly diner in the Village and then walk across the bridge at dawn.

52 PLACES AND MUCH, MUCH MORE Follow our 52 Places traveler, Sebastian Modak, on Instagram as he travels the world, and discover more Travel coverage by following us on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up for our Travel Dispatch newsletter: Each week you’ll receive tips on traveling smarter, stories on hot destinations and access to photos from all over the world.

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