With the Hudson River on one side, Midtown’s frenetic hub of hustle on the other, and the eternal party that is the Meatpacking District to its north, Chelsea is something of a jack-of-all-trades. The neighborhood combines a fresh culinary scene, an abundance of hip window-shopping options, and a vibrant nightlife with an artistry that is all its own; not to mention that Chelsea is home to the High Line and Chelsea Market, two of the Big Apple’s biggest attractions.
No matter your interests, you certainly won’t be wanting for things to do – in fact, the problem lies in figuring out how to pack it all into one day. It’s a good thing we have your ideal itinerary at the ready.
To get there, take the C or E line, and make sure to get off between W 23rd and W 26th streets.
First thing first: fueling up before a long day of walking and sightseeing. Cookshop is widely recognized as one of New York City’s best brunches, so this sun-filled Mediterranean spot is a great pick if you can get a table. Brunch is served only on weekends, so look elsewhere if you’re coming on a weekday – perhaps the bread heaven Sullivan Street Bakery, a low-key but highly acclaimed neighborhood institution. For more of a sit-down atmosphere, try the inventive Aussie haunt Citizens of Chelsea or Grey Dog for a classic breakfast.
Walk the High Line
Going directly after breakfast is going to be your best chance at exploring this New York staple sans overwhelming crowds. The High Line is the only elevated park in the city, offering 1.45 miles of green space, wildflowers, and river views. We recommend starting at the northern end by Hudson Yards if you plan to walk the entire line. If you can tear your eyes from the skyline long enough, make sure to look around to spot all of the incredible street art you’ll now be at eye level with.
Explore Chelsea Market
Exiting the High Line, you’ll conveniently wind up in Chelsea Market. This not-so-little microcosm of the best Chelsea has to offer is the foodie heaven of all foodie heavens, and its retail options aren’t too shabby either. Artists and Fleas is always a highlight, offering a maze of local artisans hawking everything from Montblanc pens to handmade tarot cards.
Chelsea Market’s main draw, however, remains the expansive line-up of local eateries’ outposts. There are over 35 different vendors, making this the ideal spot to stop for lunch, especially if you have a big group. The sheer variety means there’s something for everyone: fresh crepes at Bar Suzette, Cambodian sandwiches at Num Pang, legendary ramen at Mok Bar, an inventive fusion of Japanese and Mexican flavors at Takumi, and plenty more. Before you leave, stop by Fat Witch Bakery for a sweet treat or Ninth Street Espresso for a caffeine hit before you continue through Chelsea.
Visit a Museum or Gallery Hop (Or Both!)
Chelsea is known for its art above all else, as illustrated by their stellar museum offerings and wealth of art galleries, the largest cluster in the city.
Right around the corner from Chelsea Market is the Whitney Museum of American Art, where you can explore the vast collection of works by American artists and the ever-popular transitory exhibits for $25 a pop. The Rubin Museum of Art is worth a visit as well if you’re looking for something a little further off the beaten path, and the Museum at FIT is a must for fashion lovers.
If free art is more your style, perhaps a jaunt through Chelsea’s galleries is in order. Walk through the area of W 18th and W 26th Streets between 10th and 11th Avenues, and explore any galleries that draw your attention. Keep an eye out for the David Zwirner Gallery, the Marianne Boesky Gallery, and the Wilensky Exquisite Mineral Gallery, which has stones and gems on display as well as art.
If you have time to spare once you’re done admiring the art of Chelsea, there are plenty of fascinating shops to wile away the hours before dinner in. Housing Works Chelsea is a reliably good thrift store, and Maison 140 is where you’ll find the perfect souvenirs or gifts for loved ones. Fumbling through the racks at Pippin Vintage Jewelry is always an engaging venture, and Printed Matter Inc. is the most epic bookstore-meets-art-gallery-meets-collective you could ever hope to encounter.
Of course, the Chelsea Flea is the ultimate shopping experience if you’re not already burnt out from the mazes of stalls at Chelsea Market. With around 60 vintage and antique vendors, expect the large parking lot the flea market calls home to be rife with all manner of treasures. The flea market happens every weekend from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., year-round.
By now, you’ve probably walked off your bites from Chelsea Market and are beginning to feel ravenous again, just in time to make a beeline for one of Chelsea’s many outstanding dining options. One obvious standout is Shukette, a paragon of Middle Eastern cooking. The tapas at Txikito, a Basque restaurant, are also not to be missed – they’re credited with bringing the specific small-plate cuisine of the Basque region to the city.
For something a bit more casual, you can’t go wrong with the Mexican seafood at Los Mariscos. For something a lot more casual, the Trailer Park Lounge & Grill is exactly what it sounds like: a trailer park-themed bar. The interior feels more Key West than Texas roadhouse, but the décor is suitably garish, the burgers are as good as any you’ll get in the city, and the Happy Hour margaritas are only $5.
Go Out on the Town
Whether you’re seeking a wild night out or something that won’t make you feel like you got hit by an MTA bus when you wake up tomorrow, Chelsea’s nightlife is more than worth the late-night subway trip that inevitably must follow. Sid Gold’s Request Room is a good place to start no matter where you fall on the spectrum of good-time stamina. This sophisticated piano bar also happens to be the best spot in the city for karaoke – don’t be surprised if you find yourself ending the night gathered around the baby-grand, singing Bohemian Rhapsody with a group of strangers.
La Noxe and Bathtub Gin are two of the hippest speakeasies in New York right now, hidden in a subway station and coffee shop, respectively. They may not be particularly well-kept secrets, but the novelty of the experience is really the main event. Just be prepared to also experience a long wait on weekends.
Those who would prefer to spend their night seated can laugh it up at preeminent New York comedy hotspots Gotham Comedy Club or Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. Check the online calendar of either location to see what’s playing.
We saved the best for last: the McKittrick Hotel, where theatricality is the name of the game. You may know it as the home of Sleep No More, a Shakespeare-inspired immersive performance that’s way, way cooler than it sounds. If you’re able to get tickets in advance, you can end your tour of Chelsea with a mind-bending bang. If not, you can head straight up to find Gallow Green, the rooftop bar to end all rooftop bars. Among the ample greenery and fairy lights, you’ll find a maze of nooks and crannies to get lost in. Find a seat inside the artfully dilapidated antique railway car and sip on their eponymous drink, a blend of tequila, cucumber, and snow pea agua fresca.