Travel: New York for the gay traveller (part one)
New York, New York, the city that’s so good they named it twice and the one that doesn’t sleep. We’ve all heard it before but what’s NYC like for a gay traveller? Here’s the PinkNews quick fire guide.
If you’re lucky enough to be one of the hundreds of thousands of PinkNews readers within reach of a London airport, you have a multitude of options to fly to New York. Book far enough in advance and you’ll be sure to grab bargains.
PinkNews flew from Heathrow to New York’s JFK airport with Virgin Atlantic, as we were on a trip to pamper ourselves, we decided to opt for Virgin Atlantic’s Premium Economy class. It’s not as pricey as going Upper Class (which features the longest flat beds in business class) but it’s still worth paying a small premium for.
After the sparkling wine on boarding, you’ll settle down into a comfy purple leather seat with more legroom than you’d find with a standard economy seat. You’ll be grateful of the extra leg room on your return flight, which is likely to be overnight. We landed back in London and went straight back to work!
Meals inside the premium cabin are served on china with silverware, making for a much more elegant dining experience. With an in-seat ‘media centre’ of films, music and games, the flight of just over seven hours, literally flew by.
JFK airport is a fair way out of the city, so don’t expect a big NY skyline when you land. The easiest and cheapest way to the city is via the Subway,
having first paid $5 for an AirTrain to the nearest station.
Getting around New York
If you’re a Londoner, then you’ll probably used to using the Tube and you’ll probably think that exchanging it for the Subway will be an easy task, well think again! This sprawling mass of numbers and letters are a far cry from London’s easily colour-coded, quaintly named lines. But with a bit of practise you’ll soon work out where you are going. Just remember if you’re aiming to head ‘Uptown’ or ‘Downtown’.
But if like us you are staying in central Manhattan, you will probably find that the Subway isn’t really needed that much. The city is incredibly accessible on foot and so it’s probably worth only splashing out for a pay as you go subway pass, it’s not quite as sophisticated as London’s Oyster system but you’ll get the idea. Getting around Manhattan is pretty easy if you’re any good with basic numbers and left/right directions. The avenue numbers go roughly east to west and the street numbers go roughly south to north. And if you’re not feeling like walking or Subwaying it, a yellow taxi is incredibly cheap, especially compared to the UK.
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Where to stay
We booked into the brand new Yotel on our arrival. The first city centre hotel from Simon Woodroffe, the founder of Japanese restaurant chain Yo! Sushi, modelled on Japanese capsule hotels, It’s literally an ‘out of this world’ experience with a space or air travel like feel. Indeed the ‘cabins’ as their rooms are labelled were designed by Softroom, who designed the interiors of Virgin Atlantic Upper Class.
Everything about the experience of staying at Yotel is different to a regular hotel. You don’t get checked in, you check yourself in at an airport check-in kiosk style touch-screen station. It’s speedy and quite fun. The keys to your cabin then slots out of the machine and you make your way up to “Four”, the lobby area of the hotel on the fourth story. It’s from here that you can pick up complimentary muffins and hot drinks in the morning. From this floor, you journey up in the lift to your cabin floor, complete with space age style theme music.
We found ourselves on the ‘Premium Queen’ floor with a magnificent view over Manhattan, primarily unobstructed by other buildings as is normally the case with New York. The cute bed doubles as a sofa and when you open the door for the first time, it’s folded back. When you’re ready to sleep, click the button and your bed extends, just like in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class, which the rooms are modelled on.
The rooms are small, even by New York standards but they are really functional. Going to a city like New York on holiday means you’re unlikely to be spending too much time in your room. You want to get a great night sleep, in a comfy bed in a great location but that’s about it.
The Yotel is perfect for gay tourists because of its location right by Hells Kitchen, home of many of the best gay and lesbian bars and restaurants. Turning on an app like Grindr firmly shows you that this is one of the centres of gay life in New York, most of the people that pop-up are less than 100 metres from the Yotel, and not all of them are staying there!
Checking out of the hotel is also a pretty amazing experience. Rather than simply handing your baggage over to a bell boy, instead you get to use the stunning Yo! Bot, a robot that pulls you out a draw to fit your suitcase in and then secures it safely for you. The only downside is that it takes a little longer than using a human, but it’s way more fun!
Part two of this guide (what to do, where to party, where to eat, where else to stay) will be published next week.
Yotel Premium Queen Rooms are priced from $239 per night (including continental breakfast)
To book visit Yotel.com
Virgin Atlantic fly five times daily to New York from London Heathrow. Premium fares start at £234 + £300.93 tax. For reservations please call 0844 2092770 or visit VirginAtlantic.com