The Very Best of New York 2015

Check out our faves for dining, shopping and playing

EAT

BEST OYSTERS
Upstate 95 1st Ave, upstatenyc.com. Don’t be afraid when you hear that this East Village eatery has no freezer—just take it as a sign of how market-fresh the food is. Knowledgeable shuckers (including the owner) will be glad to tell you which bivalves are best over a pint. Try the Long Island Brewery Queens Lager that boosts the naturally salty flavors of an East Coast oyster.

BEST MANHATTAN BRUNCH
Little Collins 667 Lexington Ave, littlecollinsnyc.com. Taking its name from a bustling street in Melbourne, Australia, Little Collins is, above all, a coffee shop that prides itself on its unique-to-America coffee brands from Australia. Take the java to-go with a Vegemite Cadbury bar or stay for a brekkie where a hot sauce omelet with veggies and a cup of Sydney’s Proud Mary coffee is an ideal brunch pick-me-up.

BEST SHARED PLATES
Traif 229 S 4th St, Brooklyn, traifny.com. Can’t decide what to order? At this hip Williamsburg restaurant, you’ll get a taste of it all when you share its finger-licking “globally inspired soul food” that’s fueled by the creativity of Chef Jason Marcus. While the menu is pig-focused, don’t overlook the vegetarian options. Try not to be selfish after taking a bite of the Adriatic fig and duck-fat focaccia tartine. Its richly complex flavors are expertly matched by a glass of sparkling malvasia.

BEST FRENCH FARE ON A BUDGET
Amélie 22 W 8th St, ameliewinebar.com. Escargots and foie gras don’t always have to come with hefty price tags. Greenwich Village’s Amélie proves that with well-priced plates of your favorite bistro fare (steamed mussels $14 and steak tartare $14), including customizable cheese and/or charcuterie plates. Bonus: The romantic atmosphere and Eurocentric wine list will definitely impress your girlfriend.

BEST ASIAN FUSION
Salt & Fat 41-16 Queens Blvd, Queens, saltandfatny.com. It’s worth hopping on the 7 to indulge in Sunnyside’s best Asian fusion menu. Believe the hype surrounding the complimentary bacon-infused popcorn, but no other menu items encapsulate the restaurant’s moniker. Share-worthy delicacies like yellowtail tartare pair surprisingly well with the more “fatty” options, such as the mouthwatering crispy pork trotter that comes with spicy mayo and egg.

BEST GOURMET GREEK
The Greek 458 Greenwich St, thegreek-tribeca.com. Among the many gourmet restaurants dotting TriBeCa’s cobblestone streets is this friendly “rustic village taverna.” Here, you’ll find dishes that make Grecians swoon, thanks to Chef Pavlos Xenopoulos’s seasoned craftsmanship. Share the appetizers, particularly the raved-about octopus that melts in your mouth. Vegetarians rejoice in the vegetarian moussaka that’s freshly made and beyond filling, but don’t fill up too fast—the feta cheesecake is a must.

BEST TASTE OF EUROPE
La Cigogne 215 Union St, Brooklyn, lacigognenyc.com. The burgeoning restaurant district that is Carroll Gardens offers some of the most tantalizing European fare this side of the Atlantic. And La Cigogne, which translates as “the stork,” delivers a tradition of freshness from Alsace to Brooklyn. Thanks to its Swiss-German influences, the Alsatian cuisine prepared by Pascal Sevrin reimagines hearty staples. Of particular note, the delectable hand-cut spaetzle will ruin mac and cheese for you.

BEST OMAKASE
Iki Modern Japanese Cuisine 133-42 39th Ave, Flushing, ikicuisine.com. Fresh fish is imported daily from Japan to this sleek Flushing restaurant, located inside the Hyatt Place Hotel. Along with fresh sushi and bento boxes, its highlight is omakase, consisting of a 10- to 14-course tasting menu revised daily by the chef using such high-end ingredients as truffles, foie gras, caviar and 24-karat gold flakes. Come with a fat wallet; this is a costly fine dining experience. When you order the lobster tempura, you’ll understand why.

BEST UPTOWN LUNCH SPOT
Beans and Vines 4842 Broadway, beansandvines.com. It’s hard to argue with a restaurant that calls itself a “coffee and wine bar”—after all, if they can get those two things right, the rest of the menu is surely respectable. Inwood’s best lunch spot features tasty tapas, sandwiches, salads and more. Lunch like the Europeans and order an afternoon pick-me-up South African wine like the chenin blanc. There’s no better way to wash down the freshly prepared warm goat cheese salad.

BEST QUEER BRUNCH
Cafeteria 119 7th Ave, cafeteriagroup.com. Look no further than this 24-hour Chelsea staple to get your queer brunch on. The food is as comforting as a corner diner yet far more chic, with dishes like avocado toast Benedict, lemon ricotta pancakes and a croissant Cuban sandwich. But that’s enough about the food. Show up here during brunch and be greeted by model servers and Chelsea’s sunglasses-wearing ‘beautiful people’ refueling with mimosas and bloody marys. With all that eye candy, you may find it hard to concentrate on what to order.

BEST HIGH-END COMFORT FOOD
Heidi’s House 308 E 78th St, heidishouse.net. Swing by Yorkville’s Heidi’s House By the Side of the Road (the restaurant’s official name) for a taste of sheer comfort in a compact package. The warm environment is complemented by the soothing jazz music and artwork on display (check out the nude woman in the bathroom). Its tapas menu keeps a sharp focus on basics like burgers and salads. But if comfort were a dish, it’d be Chef Cipriano’s gluten-free macaroni and cheese with bacon that’s creamy, but doesn’t overwhelm. Get there by 6pm to take advantage of wine-and-beer happy hour.

BEST MANHATTAN COFFEE BAR
The Jolly Goat Coffee Bar 515 W 47th St, thejollygoat.com. For the best cup o’ joe in Manhattan, head to The Jolly Goat in Hell’s Kitchen. Your favorite coffee drink will be made with flavor-packed Stumptown beans and served with a queer-friendly smile. From this wee café you can also pick up artisan-baked treats, organic Mighty Leaf Tea, organic ice cream—even Brooklyn-made P&H Soda, prepared with all-natural syrups.

BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE
Two Little Red Hens 1652 2nd Ave, twolittleredhens.com. Even pie lovers can’t argue with the wildly delicious cakes baked fresh daily at Two Little Red Hens. Perched in Yorkville at 86th St, this bakery rocks the classics—red velvet, carrot and Brooklyn-blackout cakes—along with many specialties, like lemon and pumpkin harvest. But the chocolate provides two outrageous ways to blow your diet: yellow or chocolate cake, with fudge or Swiss-vanilla frosting.

BEST CHAI LATTE
Sugar Hill Café 410 W 145th St, facebook.com /sugarhillcafe. It’s refreshing to find a café that takes such pride in its beverages. At Harlem’s Sugar Hill Café, it’s clear that the baristas are perfectionists who have mastered the art of chai and are ready to convert die-hard coffee lovers to its creamy, spiced ways—not to mention the oft-elaborate designs adorning each cup’s foamy top.

BEST HIPSTER BREAKFAST
Fair Weather Bushwick 274 Wyckoff Ave, Brooklyn, fairweatherbushwick.com. You may walk right by Fairweather as the hotspot relies on word of mouth rather than signage. Turkish and regular coffee, Bellocq tea and potent cold brews redefine the term “eye opener” for those in search of a caffeinated jumpstart. But this is Bushwick, so fashion-forward Millennials will be hitting the wine and beer menu in the backyard while eating well-priced breakfasts ($5-$10) like the popular Bushwick breakfast that comes with turkey, egg, Swiss cheese, honey chipotle and basil pesto on a baguette.

BEST SMALL PLATES
Mezetto 161 E Houston St, mezetto.com. This LES eatery’s name comes from the word meze, referring to a selection of small dishes typically served in Mediterranean cuisine. Serving delightful fusion fare with touches from every country that “kisses the Mediterranean,” Mezetto is truly unique. Try the falafel buns, served in an Asian-style steamed bun. (They’re insane.) With decent prices, don’t be afraid to keep ordering—that’s the beauty of small plates. The cocktails are also on point, such as the killer Old Fashioned.

BEST BROOKLYN COFFEE BAR
Brooklyn Roasting Company 25 Jay St, Brooklyn, brooklynroasting.com. This DUMBO café may get a little touristy, especially during the summer months. But locals can’t help but feel good about Brooklyn Roasting Company, which sells fair trade, Rainforest Alliance, certified organic and sustainable coffees. BRC coffee is so good that it’s used at coffee shops all around the city. That comes as no surprise, with its unique blends from South America to Africa.

BEST THAI ICE CREAM
SkyIce Sweet & Savory 63 5th Ave, Brooklyn, eatskyicenyc.com. New Yorkers enjoy some of the best ice cream choices in the world, but there are few establishments that scoop such exotic and delicious flavors as raspberry-cilantro or black-sesame-seaweed sorbet. Enter SkyIce, a Park Slope Thai restaurant whose sweet treats balance out its spicy-savory Northern Thai menu.

BEST ROMANTIC DATE NIGHT
L’Artusi 228 W 10th St, lartusi.com. A few blocks from Cubbyhole is one of the West Village’s most romantic Italian restaurants. Gabe Thomspon’s follow-up to dell’Anima is a gorgeous modern Italian eatery, comprising two stories in an atmospheric spot for any occasion. Make-your-own bruschetta is a fun way to break the ice and the pasta dishes lend themselves to sharing. Homemade sausage sauce on house-made orecchiette? Yes, please. Finish the date with dessert: make-your-own sundaes.

BEST FRENCH TOAST AND PANCAKES
Cheryl’s Global Soul 236 Underhill Ave, cherylsglobalsoul.com. Food Network veteran chef Cheryl Smith made her restaurant a Prospect Heights must-visit in 2007.  Today, the “cozy café around the way” (and just a few blocks from Prospect Park) is home to breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. While no one could argue with the tasty quiche or sandwiches, it’s the brioche French toast with Chantilly cream and fluffy buttermilk pancakes that will send you off to brunch Nirvana.

BEST SWANKY BUSINESS LUNCH
Gramercy Tavern 42 E 20th St, gramercy tavern.com. This Flatiron restaurant, housed in a landmark building, started back in 1994 as a Danny Meyer venture. Today, it serves as its own landmark, famous for its uber-seasonal menu and being one of Manhattan’s best spots for white-collar lunching. Choose a table in either the tavern or dining room, depending on your preferred level of swank. Just gaze around the room filled with suits noshing on sea bass and duck, and you’ll know you’ve made it to New York power-lesbian status.

BEST GUILTY PLEASURE DINING
Daniel 60 E 65th St, danielnyc.com. The term “splurge” applies when making plans for a bite at Michelin two-starred Daniel, named for founder and master chef Daniel Boulud. The food is, of course, mesmerizing, with sumptuous French dishes that are so light and uniquely flavorful, you may wonder if you’re dining in an alternate universe. A seven-course tasting is the way to go, as the kitchen and the sommelier work together to create an experience worth any paycheck. Note: Head to the lounge for an experience somewhat easier on the wallet.

BEST WATERFRONT DINING
The River Café 1 Water St, Brooklyn, river cafe.com. It may be impossible to find a better waterside view from an elegant restaurant anywhere in the city. The River Café is situated almost directly below the Brooklyn Bridge, looking across the East River at the skyline of lower Manhattan. It took nearly 15 months before this all-star café was able to reopen after Hurricane Sandy, but it’s back and better than ever. Twinkling bridge lights match your sparkling bubbly as you feel the old-school charm of this NYC culinary gem.

BEST JERK CHICKEN
The Islands 803 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, no website. Find yourself soaking up the Caribbean vibes at this Crown Heights restaurant just a block from the Brooklyn Museum. Among the tangy barbecue, curries, stews and other filling fare, you’ll find The Islands’ jerk chicken so authentically good, you’ll think you’re in Jamaica. Their patties are toothsome, flaky and crisp; be sure to have them wrapped in fluffy coco bread.

BEST SOUL FOOD
Peaches HotHouse 415 Tompkins Ave, Brooklyn, peacheshothouse.com. Calling itself an “urban country café,” Peaches HotHouse delivers nothing short of incredible and filling Southern-style classics. Top among them is the Nashville-style hot chicken—crispy fried chicken dusted with cayenne and spices that can be found on nearly every table. You won’t go wrong with any of the soulful sides like collard greens, mac and cheese and the artery-clogging ham hock. Pop next door to their sister spot, The Pig Bar, for some Grade A bourbon.

BEST PANINI
Il Bambino 34-08 31st Ave, Queens, ilbambinonyc.com. As one of the first restaurants to serve a panino in Astoria eight years ago, the folks at Il Bambino take special pride in translating traditional Italian flavors for NYC eaters. That means specially baked Italian ciabattina bread, local produce and a variety of tender, delectable prosciutti, along with the fresh and aged cheeses that best complement them. They’ve also curated a special selection of beer and wine to make the panini taste even better. A West Village location is slated to open soon.

BEST CHEESECAKE
Eileen’s Special Cheesecake 17 Cleveland Pl, eileenscheesecake.com. Thirty-five years ago, a baker named Eileen introduced her gift to New Yorkers. Her cheesecake remains among the best desserts in the city (just ask the Food Network, which has featured it twice). It’s so light and fluffy, you may wonder how not to overdo it. Despite all the changes in Nolita, it’s good to know that you can still rely on Eileen’s to share her delicious flavors like the Bailey’s Irish Coffee cheesecake.

BEST SOUTH ASIAN BUFFET
Lakruwana 668 Bay St, Staten Island, lakruwana.com. Hop the Staten Island Ferry and Railroad to sample the city’s best Sri Lankan cuisine. All day every Saturday and Sunday, Lakruwana’s famous $13.95 buffet sets out the best flavors of South Asia. Enjoy an assortment of familiar faves like biryani and roti done to perfection, and try new dishes too, like traditional lamprais, a tasty rice pilaf wrapped and baked in a banana leaf.

BEST MARGARITA
Cowgirl 519 Hudson St, cowgirlnyc.com. When you’re ready for something zesty and a little bit Tex-Mex, there’s no better Western-style joint to hit than Cowgirl. A longtime West Village staple, this woman-owned saloon and restaurant serves great food and potent cocktails, top among them, the margarita—and from 3pm to 6pm daily, they’re half-price! Forget Jimmy Buffett, the only true country star is the happy hour, and its half-off frozen margarita that’s been giving brain freezes since 1989.

BEST AFRICAN CUISINE
Papaye 2300 Grand Concourse, Bronx, papayeny.com. You don’t need to be familiar with West African culture to appreciate the exciting flavors of Papaye, as the informed staff will help guide you through the enticing cuisine of this unique part of the world. The Bronx eatery off the B/D subway has grown from a neighborhood diner into a popular restaurant welcoming New Yorkers hungry for traditional Ghanese dishes, from okra beef stew and peanut soup to chicken jollof rice (which inspired Cajun-style jambalaya). The only problem diners face is ordering too much.

BEST BEER AND BURGER JOINT
Heartland Brewery 350 5th Ave, heartlandbrewery.com. Of the various NYC chain restaurants, few stand out like Heartland Brewery for serving robust, satisfying, well-made grub. Its location on Fifth Avenue, right under the Empire State Building, is a particularly notable escape from the bustle that swirls around Midtown. The employee-owned, no-frills eatery offers a killer, juicy Kobe burger that’s best washed down with one of the in-house brewed beers. (We hate to say it, but their pumpkin beer is a real thirst quencher.)

SHOP

BEST WARDROBE BASICS
UNIQLO 546 Broadway, uniqlo.com. With 36,000 square feet of walking space, this flagship store in SoHo offers clothing that’s high-quality and chic without breaking the bank. The Japan-based brand has become a staple for New Yorkers for their undergarments (HEATTECH undershirts in winter and AIRism in summer) and often-monochrome basics. Their men’s section provides fashionable, minimalist pieces with slim-fitting options that can be hard for androgynous women to find elsewhere.

BEST USED BOOKSTORE
Housing Works Bookstore Café 126 Crosby St, housingworks.org. This downtown institution features a queer-friendly selection of 100 percent donated books, movies and music and a fully stocked café. Browse by yourself or meet with friends and have a chat. Almost entirely staffed by volunteers—many of whom aren’t hard on the eyes—all profits go to Housing Works, an HIV/AIDS advocacy organization. As satisfying as spotting a hard-to-find book is giving back; so donate from your dust-laden collection to help further their important mission.

BEST SNEAKERS
Flight Club 812 Broadway, flightclub.com. Whether you’re a seasoned sneakerhead with tons of cash to drop or a casual enthusiast who’s just browsing, you’ll find the latest kicks here. Catering to the collector, Flight Club has one of the most exclusive collections of vintage and limited-edition sneakers in the city. Featuring more than 1,300 pairs, you’ll definitely leave this store with some street cred.

BEST DESIGNER SHOES
Christian Louboutin 967 Madison Ave, us.christianlouboutin.com/us_en. While shoes that hover around the $1,000 mark aren’t for everyone, a girl can still fantasize. Louboutins epitomize the sexy nature of high-end heels and, by contrast, ultra-hip flats for more practical women. Drop into the UES store to drool over the seductive kicks. (And don’t forget to ask about upcoming sales!)

BEST UPSCALE DEPARTMENT STORE
Barneys New York 660 Madison Ave, barneys.com. Femmes and butches alike will find plenty to peruse at this ritzy department store. While not exactly on the cheap side, the incredible selection and quality of the goods is enough to make you tap into your savings. Shopper’s fatigue? Grab a cocktail or two at Fred’s. What’s the worst that can happen while shopping on Madison Avenue tipsy?

BEST HOME DÉCOR ON A BUDGET
Delphinium Home 353 W 47th St, delphiniumhome.com. This shop’s diverse inventory covers every room of the house and beyond at reasonable prices. Its friendly staff are happy to help you find a special gift, or to share ideas on how to punch up your interior décor. The shop, created by former theater peeps, is so tastefully laid out with merch for every budget and style (though it’s heavily contemporary), you may need to call Uber for you and all your stuff. And because it’s in Hell’s Kitchen, Delphinium is a worthy shopping diversion from the Times Square crowds.

BEST BIKE SHOP
Bike Slug 1050 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, bikeslug.com. Brooklyn is one of the country’s most bike-friendly areas, and this happy little subterranean Bed-Stuy shop is ready to gear up anybody looking to get rolling. Browse bikes, get repairs, buy cool accessories and heavy-duty locks—then hit the road to see what all this bike-lane hubbub is about. Buy a bike online, and the store will deliver it to your pad.

BEST TATTOOS AND PIERCINGS
Smoking Tattoos 18 St Marks Pl, smokingtattoos.net. The East Village may be one of the more famous neighborhoods for body modification, and Smoking Tattoos is a reliable outpost for tattoos and piercings. Its artists are professional; the parlor is spotless. Each artist here has their own unique style, so check out their stuff online before booking a consultation. And if you’re not getting inked, you can still shop for jewelry and hookahs.

BEST FLEA MARKET
Astoria Flea & Food 34-12 36th St, Queens, licflea.com. Part of the Long Island City Flea, the Astoria Flea & Food Market sets up inside the Kaufman Astoria Studios on weekends, with occasional night markets. Enjoy the quality browsing of vintage clothes and furnishings, handcrafted jewelry, accessories and art that range from high-end to junk drawer. Then grab a bite from some of the food vendors that offer bites that are as diverse as the borough itself.

BEST ECLECTIC BOUTIQUE
The Brass Owl 36-19 Ditmars Blvd, Queens, thebrassowl.com. ‘Tis the season to go shopping, and it’s worth a peek at this cute, name-brand-filled boutique for gifts, accessories and a stylish shoe selection. Located in Astoria’s blossoming Ditmars Boulevard area, the Brass Owl’s owner Nicole Panettieri carefully curates a thoughtful collection of in-the-now products that rival stores in Manhattan.

BEST DRESS SHIRTS
Brooks Brothers 346 Madison Avenue, brooksbrothers.com. It’s famous for rocking the preppy look, but more importantly, Brooks Brothers makes one of the best non-iron dress shirts on the market. The classic colors and fit are perfect for androgynous types who prefer well-made clothes and aren’t afraid to spend a little more to look sharp. Whether you want to shop in the men’s section or head to the brand-new Zac Posen­–designed women’s collection, you’ll find clothing that’s superbly tailored for that so-sophisticated feel.

BEST UNIQUE GIFTS
Scent Elate 313 W 48th St, scentelate.com. It’s an uncommon shop in the heart of Manhattan, full of good vibrations and even better aromatherapy. Scent Elate is a specialty boutique that sells fair-trade goods made by local and global artisans, with a focus on scent. Whether for practical or spiritual uses, at this serene shop you’ll find the best oils, candles, lotions, incense and other unique gifts. Your girl will get all her chakras aligned if you purchase the insanely romantic and sexual massage oil.

BEST FEMME ACCESSORIES
Milly & Earl 351 Graham Ave, Brooklyn, millyandearl.com. Owner Bernadette Libonate and her team handpick both classic and whimsical accessories, apparel and home goods from indie designers around the world for sale in her Williamsburg store. Milly & Earl is an easygoing boutique with a well-curated selection of jewelry, candles, fashions and things that just don’t fit in a box—an ideal place to score a prezzie for your lady, your family or yourself that’s chic, unique and sophisticated.

BEST UPTOWN SEX SHOP
The Pleasure Chest 1150 2nd Ave, thepleasurechest.com. Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s the Pleasure Chest got its start thanks to the gay community and soon expanded across the country. The now all-inclusive shop, known cheekily as the “Saks 5th Avenue” of sex shops, sells just what you’d expect. PleasurEd is the store’s series of weekly workshops where you and your partner can sign up to learn new things like sensory deprivation and the art of the “o,” for free.

BEST DOWNTOWN SEX SHOP
Babeland 43 Mercer St, babeland.com. This SoHo standby is our favorite downtown purveyor of vibrators, dildos and other sexy swag. With a boundless assortment of female-centric toys, lube and other goodies, it’s impossible not to walk out without a big smile on your face. What brings Babeland to the top of our list is their incredible array of sex workshops that bring all genders and sexualities together to learn about massages, bedroom positions and oral-sex tips.

BEST CONSIGNMENT SHOP
Cadillac’s Castle 333 E 9th St, no website. Don’t be alarmed by the big black dog hanging out in the store. That’s Cadillac. Welcome to his castle: a stylish women’s new and consignment boutique in the East Village. Prices are great for such a super-nice, often designer array of clothes, shoes, bags and accessories. Some of the goods may qualify as punk, but all are exceptional and worth a browse.

BEST OFF-THE-RACK, ONE-STOP SHOP FOR BUTCH ATTIRE
TOPMAN 478 Broadway, us.topman.com. This British staple rocked SoHo from the moment it opened its doors back in 2009. It’s now the must-visit stop for affordable, well-made apparel suited to those whose dress leans masculine. It’s the ideal place to stock your closet with jeans, button-downs, sweaters, jackets and more. Favorite brands include the Tee & Cake’s exclusive tees that boast retro designs from movies and records.

BEST T-SHIRTS AND HOODIES
American Apparel 104 N 6th St, Brooklyn, americanapparel.net. Zip over to the Williamsburg outpost of American Apparel to shop for t-shirts, hoodies and colorful basics, with the help of local cuties. The American-made label is famous for its soft jersey fabrics that make virtually any garment comfy. And the brand makes amazing casual-yet-fabulous clothes that may surprise you with their fashion-forward silhouettes.

BEST LUXURY LINGERIE
Agent Provocateur 133 Mercer St, agentprovocateur.com. Perhaps you’re feeling sexy, or you’d like to spark it in someone else. Either way, SoHo’s Agent Provocateur sells a range of lingerie that is, let’s just say, provocative. The shop itself, which has been styling women since 1994, even classifies its undergarments under headers like “naughty” and “romantic.” From lacey Mariami dresses to AP stockings, these outfits leave just a little to the imagination.

BEST COSMETICS AND FRAGRANCES
Macy’s 151 W 34th St (and multiple other locations), macys.com. As NYC’s biggest and oldest department store, you can find almost anything at Macy’s. Whether you need new bedding or a huge flat-screen TV for your Super Bowl party—they’ve got it. But their selection of beauty brands—from Chanel to Viktor & Rolf—is truly phenomenal. Wander the labyrinthine cosmetic counters and sample, sample, sample. Have some of the experts give you that just-out-of-the-salon look as they persuade you to buy the newest ‘it’ make-up.

PLAY

BEST GYM
Epic Hybrid Training NYC 38 W 38th St and 230 E 53rd St, epichybridtraining.com. Touted as the city’s toughest workout, Epic is no joke—and let’s face it, you’re going to need an “epic” fitness program to burn off those holiday pounds. With seven fitness classes using a range of unique circuit stations at both locations, there’s no excuse not to banish that blubber. The Grynd class is noted for being the absolute hardest, burning roughly 1,100 calories in an hour; so you’ll want to show up in decent shape before signing up, as the class warm-up consists of 81 burpees.

BEST INDIE MOVIE HOUSE
Angelika Film Center and Café 18 W Houston St, angelikafilmcenter.com. Perfect for date night, this old-timey theater showcases new indie and foreign films (including many LGBT-driven movies like this year’s Grandma) on five screens with a not-just popcorn café serving up gourmet snacks. Movie buffs will be especially excited, as often this is one of the only places in the city showing films with limited releases.

BEST PING-PONG BAR
SPiN New York 48 E 23rd St, newyork.wearespin.com. Combining ping-pong with a classy dining and drinking experience into a social club is pure genius. When aforementioned social club is owned by Susan Sarandon and has multiple locations worldwide, you know it must be very special. Killer table tennis with friends can only be matched by the impressive cocktail list that includes The Marty Reisman with gin, hibiscus cordial, lime and freshly squeezed grapefruit juice.

BEST MANHATTAN YOGA CLASS
Yoga to the People 12 St Marks Pl, yogatothepeople.com. Looking for a kickass workout that won’t break the bank? Yoga to the People has no required fee (suggested donation is $10) and mat rentals are only $2. Classes are seven days a week and open to all experience levels. Helpful tip: They fill up fast, so arrive early to ensure a good spot!

BEST QUEENS YOGA CLASS
Yumcha Yoga 3359 Farrington St, Queens, yumchayoga.com. If you’re new to yoga, you can’t top the new student special at Flushing’s Yumcha studio, where $20 buys you a full week of unlimited classes. Seasoned practitioners will also find an affordable, spotless, well-equipped space, along with a carefully curated assortment of classes. Special and group events and outings also are on the menu; be sure to check the website for what’s new.

BEST CULINARY CLASS
Butter Lane Cupcake Class 123 E 7th St, butterlane.com. Inspired by the Great British Bake Off? Butter Lane not only boasts one of the tastiest cupcakes in the city, but they also offer regular baking classes that are simple and fun. Friendly instructors work with you to give you all the skills you need to be the next Mary Berry. Try something different by booking private classes for a bachelorette party, birthday, holiday or even a one-on-one.

BEST QUEER ART MUSEUM (IN THE WORLD)
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art 26 Wooster St, leslielohman.org. Since 1987, this nonprofit was the first to be dedicated to LGBTQ art, and the first-ever queer art collection to be recognized by New York State Board of Regents as an official museum. The museum will renovate and expand its SoHo location in 2016—nearly doubling its size, adding a gift shop, café and more educational and exhibit spaces. Check online to explore the museum’s amazing 24,000-piece collection.

BEST MIND-BLOWING SPACE SHOW
Hayden Planetarium Central Park West at W 79th St, haydenplanetarium.org. Not many museums offer such lofty experiences as the Hayden Planetarium. Operating out of the American Museum of Natural History, this is one of the best places in the world to learn about subjects well beyond our world. Pop in for “tours of the universe” through the world’s largest cosmic atlas and star project. Add it as an extra to your Museum ticket to save money, and ensure entry into the always-busy attraction.

BEST NATURE WALK
Prospect Park Brooklyn, prospectpark.org. You can’t argue with nearly 600 acres of stunning, lush landscapes and recreation, right in the heart of BK. But beyond the bike and rollerblading loop, ice-skating rink, dog runs, events and concerts, the park is home to hiking trails galore, like the Midwood Walk that meanders through the oldest remaining forest in Brooklyn. Binoculars are a must for rare bird spotting.

BEST PLACE TO FIND LADY LUCK
Resorts World Casino 110-00 Rockaway Blvd, Queens, rwnewyork.com. Take the A train or any number of shuttle buses to the city’s own grand casino, located near JFK Airport. Slots, roulette, poker and all manner of table games await lucky ladies (and gents) ready to shake the money tree. Dine at RW Prime and stick around for a cocktail at the always-happening Club 360.

BEST FREE TOURIST ATTRACTION
The Staten Island Ferry 1 Bay St, siferry.com. You can’t do better than free. That’s what makes America’s most high-volume ferry line the best free tourist attraction in the city. Every rider gets to glimpse the majesty of the Statue of Liberty Lower Manhattan and Ellis Island from historic New York Harbor. Upon arrival on the Island, enjoy St. George’s restaurants and purchase some libations for the ride back.

BEST PERFORMING ARTS SPACE
Dixon Place 161 A Chrystie St, dixonplace.org. Since 1986 this downtown venue has served as an “arts incubator” for budding and established talent. Performers from Lily Tomlin, Lea Delaria, and Kate Clinton to Taylor Mac have graced its stage, along with countless other now-famous actors, comedians, singers and storytellers. What puts Dixon on the map for New York’s arts community is its faith in lesser-known artists by giving them places to showcase their talent.

BEST HIPSTER BOWLING ALLEY
Brooklyn Bowl 61 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, brooklynbowl.com. It’s part concert venue, bar, dance floor, restaurant (hint: try the fried chicken) and bona-fide bowling alley. With so much going on, one might think Brooklyn Bowl wouldn’t be the hipster enclave it actually is. With special events like a Madonna night (drag galore) and concerts, the crowd here really depends on what the night’s main event is, though the liberal bastion of Williamsburg is always welcoming.

BEST HIDDEN GEM
The Cloisters Fort Tryon Park, metmuseum.org /cloisters. It’s a branch of the Metropolitan Museum, so New Yorkers know that means suggested donation, and its location in Inwood, the Manhattan panhandle, affords a tranquil oasis. The historical “castle” highlights the art and architecture of medieval Europe, and holds special events throughout the year; it’s decorated beautifully for the holidays in the style of wealthy Europeans during the 12th-15th centuries. The Cloisters’ museum and gardens are an exquisite escape to another time.

BEST LGBT RESOURCE
The Center 208 W 13th St, gaycenter.org. New York City’s best community services are embodied in the fabulously renovated Center, a hub for queers and queer-friendly people. Even its motto is enough to make us go sentimental: “Where everyone is celebrated for who they are.” Sign up for e-newsletters to see what cool, fun and educational things are on the calendar or just pop by. The Center volunteers and staff are happy to help guide tourists and locals. Be sure to see Keith Haring’s famous bathroom mural created to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Stonewall on the second floor.

BEST OPEN MIC AND LIVE EVENT SPACE
The Greene Space at WNYC 44 Charlton St, thegreenespace.org. In this little section of the ‘hood now known as Hudson Square (or south Village, or west SoHo), you can catch remarkably engaging live events spanning music, lectures, conversations, comedy and open mics. The 125-seat venue is housed inside New York Public Radio’s building, so you know it’s going to lean toward the smart, fun and entertaining.

BEST CINEPHILE HAUNT
Museum of the Moving Image 3601 35th Ave, Queens, movingimage.us. Film lovers rejoice nightly in Long Island City, home to this world-renowned center for all things cinematic. In addition to its permanent collection that includes cinematic artifacts, costumes and props, the museum has rotating exhibits like this year’s “How Cats Took Over the Internet.” A robust calendar may show classics playing one night, international or mainstream sneak peeks another night. Queer films are also screened throughout the year, particularly during Pride.

BEST INDOOR SWIMMING POOL
The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers 60 Chelsea Piers, chelseapiers.com /sc. You don’t have to be a stereotypical sports nut to appreciate all that Chelsea Piers has to offer. But the main attraction for many is the competition-caliber, 25-yard-long indoor swimming pool, with six lanes and adjacent whirlpool spa. Come for the laps, stay for the sweeping Hudson River vistas just outside the aquatic center’s floor-to-ceiling windows. As an NYC Park Recreation Center, you’ll need to get a membership before you slip into chlorine-filled enjoyment.

BEST PEOPLE WATCHING
The High Line 820 Washington St, thehighline.org. It’s remarkable that this elevated, 1.5-mile park feels so deeply rooted in the city, considering it opened only six years ago. Perhaps that’s due to the brilliant design that made sense out of an abandoned freight-rail line, last used in 1980. Head to the High Line today to witness the thousands of tourists and New Yorkers who traverse and marvel at it daily. While taking in the eclectic passersby, give thanks to openly gay Joshua David and Robert Hammond who started fundraising for the project in 1999.

BEST REPOSITORY?OF?AFROCENTRIC CULTURE
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture 515 Malcolm X Blvd, nypl.org. This research library is a branch of the New York Public Library, and is a highlight of central Harlem. It began nearly a century ago, starting with the collections of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg. Today it operates in three connected buildings focused exclusively on African-American culture and African diaspora, aimed at encouraging lifelong education.

BEST ICE SKATING RINK
The Rink at Rockefeller Center 600 5th Ave, therinkatrockcenter.com. For many decades this rink has been a star attraction in Midtown, and it remains one of the most photographed winter destinations. But the best part is heading here for a spin on the ice. Line-phobic? Book a VIP package and walk straight into the heated lounge where a skate concierge will hook you up while you enjoy free coffee, cookies and assorted treats. From novices to Kristi Yamaguchis, ice skating in this iconic location packed with spectators will make you feel like a star.

BEST PLACE TO VOLUNTEER
Lesbian Herstory Archives 484 14th St, Brooklyn, lesbianherstoryarchives.org. The LHA is the pride of “Dyke Slope,” the not-entirely forgotten nickname for lesbian-leaning Park Slope. Long housed in a townhouse not far off the F train, this is the largest collection of materials by and about lesbians in the world. Check the calendar for fun, educational community events and exhibits. The Archives are always looking for dedicated volunteers to help organize, fundraise and just help out.

BEST URBAN OASIS
Wave Hill 675 W 252nd St, Bronx, wavehill.org. This enchanting public garden and cultural center is located on the far northwest corner of the city, and is an escape from the bustle and grind of the city. Three historic buildings are surrounded by 28 well-manicured acres, complete with a botanical garden. Explore the art galleries for free or just pack a picnic and take in the views of the Hudson River and the sweeping Palisades.

BEST DOG PARK
Carl Schurz Park 1624 York Ave, carlschurzparknyc.org. Its 15 acres are home to Gracie Mansion as well as gardens, lawns and playgrounds. But for canine lovers, it’s an amazing place to take your pup (both large and small) for an afternoon frolic on the edge of the East River where river breezes keep the owners and pets comfortable and friendly locals seem to have more fun than their dogs relaxing and taking in the scenery. It’s also one of the most fun and scenic places to volunteer, and to catch yearly events like the Halloween Howl and Healthy Hound Fair.