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The best things to do in Chelsea, NYC

The best things to do in Chelsea, NYC include exploring art, lounging in greenery, eating mac-and-cheese and bar hopping

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Jillian Anthony
&
Shaye Weaver
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The best things to do in Chelsea, NYC vary from gorging on insanely delicious mac-and-cheese at one of the nabe’s best restaurants to lounging outdoors atop New York’s only elevated park, the High Line. But if there’s one thing you need to know about the neighborhood, it’s that Chelsea puts the art in the heart of New York. That’s right. Chelsea is home to dozens of Chelsea galleries as well as spots to see free art in NYC —from Gagosian to David Zwirner. Use this list as your starting point for discovering some of the best New York attractions, eateries and drinkeries in this trendy ’hood.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Chelsea, NYC

Best things to do in Chelsea, NYC

  • Things to do

There’s nothing quite like spending a sunny afternoon on the High Line. NYC's only elevated park is one of Manhattan’s most popular New York attractions, and it's easy to see why. The High Line was formally a rail track, which went out of use in 1980. The 1.45-mile-long strip was resurrected in 2009 and turned into one of the best NYC Parks, which runs from Hudson Yards to the northern edge of Chelsea. Today it’s an urbanite’s playground featuring lovely wildflowers, greenery and outdoor art, while offering walkers some of the best views in NYC. 

  • Restaurants
  • Chelsea

Chef/partner Ayesha Nurdjaja’s follow-up to the wildly popular Shuka in Soho just opened this past July, and it’s already as buzzy as the original. Tables are hard to come by, but you can still grab a spot outside of primetime hours to dig into salt cod dip, grape leaves, joojeh chicken and steak kebab along with beer, wine and spritzers. 

 

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  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Meatpacking District
  • price 2 of 4

Planted at the foot of the Highline along Ganesvoort Street, the new Whitney building boasts some 63,000 square feet of both indoor and outdoor exhibition space. Founded in 1931 by sculptor and art patron Gertrude Vanderbilt, the Whitney is dedicated to presenting the work of American artists. Its collection holds about 15,000 pieces by nearly 2,000 artists, including Alexander Calder, Willem de Kooning, Edward Hopper (the museum holds his entire estate), Jasper Johns, Louise Nevelson, Georgia O’Keeffe and Claes Oldenburg. Still, the museum’s reputation rests mainly on its temporary shows, particularly the exhibition everyone loves to hate, the Whitney Biennial. Held in even-numbered years, the Biennial remains the most prestigious (and controversial) assessment of contemporary art in America.

  • Attractions
  • West Village

Since Little Island opened to the public in May 2021 thousands of visitors have flocked to see Manhattan’s newest “floating” greenspace. Open from 6am to 1am, the park is filled with open lawns, colorful shrubs and trees and a secret garden. While entry is free to the park throughout the day, entering between noon and close requires a reservation. For those feeling peckish, there are affordable food and drink options offered by Savory Hospitality. 

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Chelsea

This sleek Chelsea drinkery is decked out with homey touches (the back game room is filled with retro boards including Life and Yahtzee) and a rustic, reclaimed-wood bar, turning out first-rate down-home sips that don’t mimic the real deal but instead redefine ’em. Stiff drinks like a house-bottled whiskey-and-cola, are cracked open and poured tableside. Kissed with herbal amaro, it’s potent enough to sip slowly throughout the night. 

  • Things to do
  • City Life

Urban winery and performance venue City Winery has moved from its old Soho location to a swanky new space on Pier 57, and the whole building overlooks the Hudson River. The new 32,000-square-feet spot is an upgrade from its previous home because it has room for double the dining space (about a 100-seat capacity), a tasting room with wine straight from the keg and two performance areas: a 350-seat concert hall and a 150-capacity loft balcony, so multiple events can run concurrently. It's a must-see for music fans. 

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  • Shopping
  • Shopping centers
  • Chelsea

The former home of the National Biscuit Company is a hot spot for foodies and shopping addicts. Primarily known for its wide-range of eateries, Chelsea Market is hands-down one of New York’s most notable food halls boasting more than 35 vendors. Whether you’ve got a hankering for a steaming-hot cup of lobster bisque, perfectly aged cheese or a strong and smooth shot of espresso, Chelsea Market has you covered. 

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  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • Chelsea

It’s not surprising that Sid Gold’s Request Room is the kind of bar where everyone knows everyone—you don’t get much more niche than a Chelsea-set piano bar. The campy joint effort of Beauty Bar proprietor Paul Devitt and Loser’s Lounge founder (and Psychedelic Furs ivory tickler) Joe McGinty, Sid’s has the kind of downtown clout that draws New York notables (Parker Posey, Andrew Rannells), without the velvet-rope snootiness. Instead, a pink-bowtied gent cheerfully ushers you through the velvet surtains separating the tamer front bar from the razzly-dazzly clubhouse in back, an anything-goes sanctuary of Hemingway daiquiris and Celine Dion belt-alongs. 

  • Art
  • Chelsea

After a two-year renovation and expansion, the Dia Art Foundation finally reopened its doors on 22nd Street to the public, unveiling its new three-building, 20,000-square-feet space with integrated street-level galleries for exhibitions, a new flexible space for public and educational programs, and Dia’s beloved bookstore. The best part is that it offers free admission across all its locations. Timed tickets are available nowThe bookshop is open WednesdaySaturday for purchases from 126pm.

Want to see more art in NYC?

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