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
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.
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.
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.
Chelsea Piers is a state-of-the-art recreational facility located on the Hudson River. Bowling, golf, ice hockey, wall climbing and BlueStreak—its intensive sports-training program—are just some of the many activities available.
Larry Gagosian’s mammoth (20,000-square-foot) contribution to 24th Street’s top-level galleries was launched in 1999 with a thrilling Richard Serra show. Follow-up exhibitions have featured works by Ellen Gallagher, Damien Hirst, Anselm Kiefer, Ed Ruscha, Julian Schnabel and Andy Warhol.
Highline Ballroom brings quality bookings to a part of town that's otherwise pretty barren, live-music–wise. The atmosphere can be slightly stiff (some of the fancier shows have table service), but everything from hardcore to hip-hop and classic prog regularly finds a home here.
A former marketing consultant to TOMS Shoes, Rachel Shechtman taps her shopping savvy as the purveyor behind this spacious boutique. The store houses a rotating collection of unique wares from a balance of local companies and well-known brands. Designed to mirror the editorial style of a magazine, Story will have Shechtman collaborating with guest curators and architects every four to six weeks to reinvent the merchandise and decor with a fresh theme.
Monday and Tuesday-night readings are on the menu at Sebastian Junger’s eatery, named for an obscure Seneca chief (visit thehalfking.com for a schedule). Choose between woody, candlelit rooms and the leafy back garden, then tuck into pub fare like burgers and fish-and-chips or more substantial dishes, such as pork roast served with parsnip hash and a phenomenal (but heavy) lamb steak with shoulder confit and mashed potatoes.
Shutterbugs take note: this gallery is located in the headquarters of the Aperture Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 1952 by a group that included legendary photographers Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange and Minor White. In addition to exhibitions, the space hosts free artist’s lectures, panel discussions and book signings.
Cocktails and cruising fuel the nonstop scene in the spare white dining room of this Chelsea mainstay. Cafeteria feeds fashionistas and the requisite wanna-bes with a roster of down-home favorites. There are three versions of mac and cheese—the traditional is nearly perfect, with a crunchy top and loads of gooey fontina—and gravy-heavy meat loaf with tomato-and-red-pepper relish makes you wish Mom’s cooking were this good. If you’re on a liquid diet, skip the dining room altogether and head for the tiny basement bar.