One of the great things about New York is how quickly it evolves into a setting for the drama of your own personal history. Every avenue becomes a stage: restaurants where friendships were made, the bar you left because the drunk guy set the table on fire, the theater that hosted your off-off-off-off-off Broadway debut. And when your personal block-by-block memories collide with the city’s dramatic history, the feeling is magical.
Those collisions happen all over the five boroughs but, for myself and many downtown New Yorkers, probably nowhere else more than on the West Village’s famous (and infamous) Christopher Street, a stretch of pavement that emblematizes much of what the city stands for. Named after the son of a wealthy 18th-century landowner, Christopher Street can lay claim to being one of the oldest streets in New York. Over the nearly 220 years since its founding, it has become synonymous with the birth of the gay and trans-rights movements, Jane Jacobs’s fight to maintain the soul of the city, and the culture of bohemian hedonism that now translates to some of the most expensive real estate in America.
Below, you’ll find everything you need to craft your own map of memories, by yourself or with a date, on one of New York City’s most iconic and exciting half miles. If you don’t have a Christopher Street story yet, what are you waiting for?
Stop By for a Drink
Regardless of how you self-identify, you owe yourself a visit to the historic Stonewall Inn. Stonewall is still very much a functioning and popular bar with a packed drag, DJ, and comedy schedule, so don’t take it personally if you can’t get in on a busy Friday night.
Luckily, Stonewall isn’t your only option on Christopher if you’re trying for a bar crawl to remember. Start at the Technicolor Pieces, then head due west to bounce between Ty’s and The Hangar. If you’re feeling adventurous, double back to peruse The Leather Man’s infamous bespoke gear, then finish up (either literally or figuratively) at Rockbar.
Looking for something a little less fabulous? Kettle of Fish is a nearly 70-year-old sports bar with a distinctly Wisconsin flavor; Packers and Badgers games are always major events. Meanwhile, 55 Bar features omnipresent live jazz, blues, and funk music from local players in a friendly dive setting.
Rents have climbed to the point where many long-standing restaurants on Christopher have gone the way of the dodo, but you don’t need to look too hard to still find a considerable variety of options.
Havana has tasty Cuban and Spanish food served indoors or in its patio garden, with live music Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights and complimentary hand-rolled cigars for customers who eat in on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
Dominique Bistro, at the corner of Christopher and Gay Streets, focuses on French cuisine with an extensive and affordable wine list.
You can satisfy your late-night cravings for a slice of pizza at Rivoli II, open on Friday and Saturday until 3:30 a.m. If you’re looking for something more substantial, local gastropub The Warren serves New American–style appetizers and entrées until at least 1 a.m. every night.
If you need something to get you over that all-nighter, bone broth specialists Brodo might be able to cure your hangover with some early-morning beef broth. It opens at 8 a.m., Monday to Friday.
Indulge Your Sweet Tooth
Christopher has several unique spots to scratch your sugar itch.
Big Gay Ice Cream offers cheeky flavors like Blueberry Gobbler and Salty Pimp. If you’re looking for a taste of Sweden, stop by Sockerbit to sample a gummy, chocolate, and licorice smorgasbord of Scandinavian sweets that include the acidic and salty salmiakki…try the latter if you dare. Wash all that down with a trip to the beautifully aromatic and astonishingly diverse McNulty’s Tea and Coffee, a New York institution since 1895.
Stay Out Late
Now that you’ve got your buzz and noms on, it’s time to make plans for the rest of the evening. Fat Cat hosts three sets of high-quality live jazz on its stage every night; if the music doesn’t move you, there’s a massive game room with ample pool and ping-pong tables, shuffleboard, and Foosball setups. If your tastes run more toward the rococo, you’ll want to stop by The Duplex.
The venue features NYC’s oldest cabaret room, a piano bar with nightly players, and regular drag and comedy shows in the upstairs bar. With 299 seats, the Lucille Lortel Theatre is one of the biggest and most influential off-Broadway houses; it provided a home for many acclaimed productions, including The Threepenny Opera; Steel Magnolias; Lips Together, Teeth Apart; and Buried Child.