One of the best things about living in
New York City is the virtually endless stream of social, cultural
and entertainment diversions regularly vying for our attention.
At the same time, this plethora of playtime options can seem
overwhelming for some. So how does the sophisticated urban
gay professional, with an adventurous spirit and hectic schedule,
strike a practical and fulfilling balance between work and
recreation in the Big Apple? For an increasing number of city-slicking
homos, the answer is Urban Outings - "New York's first
activity and social club for gay men."
Catering exclusively to successful and active professionals
who are looking for alternative social outlets, Urban Outings
has become quite popular among gay men who enjoy group activities
that don't necessarily involve condoms, earplugs, or the annihilation
of precious brain cells. In a bustling metropolis where many
hardworking professionals already engage third parties to
do their laundry and grocery shopping, it was only a matter
of time before some clever entrepreneur introduced the gay
community to its first full-service social brokerage house.
Inspired by his work as an activities coordinator at Social
Circles, "New York's first group activity and social
club" for straight folks, Brian Stein set out to create
the company's gay counterpart - Urban Outings. Backed by Circles'
co-owners, Jose de Lasa and Graham McAden, Stein launched
his new venture in February 2001.
"I felt that there was very little else in the gay community
to supplement the bar scene," Stein recalls. "What
a refreshing opportunity it would be to meet other cosmopolitan,
quality gay men with similar interests in a casual, constructive
social environment. Considering the richness of New York City's
wonderful offerings, I found it shocking that the gay social
universe was confined to bars."
In less than two years, the innovative company has grown to
seven full-time and 15 part-time employees, and boasts an
impressive membership approaching a thousand members. While
the ingenious concept and snappy marketing campaign lure prospective
members through the door, it is Urban Outings' carefully planned
and extensive list of activities that keeps so many of them
"Diversity is the key to our event planning," says
Stein. "Over the course of a given month, we offer about
35 activities. We try to balance each calendar with an adequate
number of cultural, athletic, social, excursion, adventure,
educational, seasonal and 'potpourri' events. Getting involved
in an activity is as easy as e-mailing or phoning in an attendance
request - then Urban Outings sends you the itinerary with
all the information you'll need to know, so all you need to
do is show up at the event and have fun."
Research Can Be Such a Drag
Always on the lookout for exciting new social avenues (not
to mention the obvious benefit of actually attending some
of the functions I would later write about), I participated
in two of the groups activities - the monthly mixer
and "Bitchy Bingo." The mixer was held on a Friday
from 6-9pm at the trendy Chinatown lounge Happy Endings. Despite
the long trek from the subway and not-quite-so-happy-hour
drink prices (I arrived after the 7:30pm price hike), I joined
several hundred other men who had gathered at the swank watering
hole to mingle with fellow Urbanites and celebrate the weekends
arrival. While the diverse yet ostensibly mature crowd provided
a good introduction, I was looking forward to attending one
of the groups individual events in order to get a better
feel for the true essence of Urban Outings.
So on a recent Wednesday night I traipsed down to the Village
to meet 30 of the group's members at Lips for a frolicsome
evening of bitchy drag and bingo queens (or was it the other
way around?). The affair got off to a rather civilized start,
but all hell broke lose after dinner once the game cards were
handed out. Presiding over the NC-17 bingo tournament, hostesses
Yvonne Lamé and Jessica Simpson didnt miss a
beat as they tried to outwit each other with a merciless volley
of bitchy insults and catty comments (hence the night's theme).
Luckily the conversation at my table was much more dignified.
But that doesnt mean we didnt have a good time.
In fact, I ended up meeting a really wonderful group of guys
who were as engaging as they were fun. And I even won the
final round of bingo!
Perfectly illustrating a key UO selling point, Bitchy Bingo
is one of those events Ive always wanted to attend,
yet never got around to doing for whatever reason. And thats
just one of many options available on the remarkably diverse
activity calendar. In September alone, there was an event
planned every single day, including a Six Flags Great Adventure
field trip, several theater and opera nights, indoor rock
climbing, and even an end-of-summer clambake. UO is also branching
out by organizing several out-of-town vacations, like a trip
to South Beach and Key West in January, and a week of cooking
classes and relaxation in "an authentic country villa
nestled in the rolling hills of Tuscany, Italy" next
summer. Stein also hopes to open his first expansion office
in February in another as-of-yet-undetermined northeastern
or Mid-Atlantic city.
The Fine Print
So now that you've decided you want to
join Urban Outings, or maybe just want to check it out for
yourself to see if it would be a good fit, fire up the computer
and visit their website at - you guessed it - www.urbanoutings.com.
After learning more about the organization and perusing member
testimonials, simply fill out an online form to schedule an
appointment to meet with a UO representative at their offices
on Broadway between 25th and 26th Streets. Providing you're
over 21 and seem like youll play well with others, the
rep will then help you choose a membership plan that best
suits your particular needs.
Membership packages range anywhere from 6-36 months and, depending
on the plan selected, will work out to be anywhere from $45
to $95 a month. Then you just pay the ticket cost or cover
charge (when applicable) for the events you wish to attend.
While some activities also involve a nominal fee to help defray
operating costs, it is worth noting that UO often secures
group discounts, so it probably all works out in the end.
So whether you're new in town, looking for an alternative
to the bar/club scene, or are just tired of the friends you
already have, Urban Outings might just be the key to satisfying
your most pressing social cravings. And considering about
85% of the members are single, you might even meet your future