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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

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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. 

  • 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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  • 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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  • 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.

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

Coby Club is a subterranean lounge on Seventh Ave that’s inspired by 1960s San Francisco nightlife. The lush space pays homage to San Francisco Chinatown nightlife in the 1960s and one woman in particular who was at the heart of it: Miss Coby Yee, the glamorous dancer and owner of the iconic club Forbidden City. The space certainly does have a sense of mystique to it with black velvet banquettes and red, silk-shaded lighting. In one especially timely touch, the walls are adorned with gold embossed phoenix-like dragons, meant—in part—to represent the city’s nightlife dramatically rising from the ashes this year with a new sense of strength and optimism. Who doesn’t love a little metaphorical wall art? You can swing by for craft cocktails and small plates as well as live entertainment.

  • Sports Bars
  • Flatiron
  • price 1 of 4

Pool tables, plasma-screen TVs and pizza give this LGBTQ sports bar a sexy-athlete vibe. Enjoy catching the game or head to one of its nightly events in the sprawling bi-level space include sports-league gatherings, ’80s parties and jock parties that encourage dressing for the occasion. It's a low-key and fun night out.

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  • Sports and fitness
  • Chelsea
Get active at Chelsea Piers
Get active at Chelsea Piers

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. 

  • American
  • Chelsea
  • price 2 of 4

Vicki Freeman and chef-husband–co-owner Marc Meyer want Cookshop to be a platform for sustainable ingredients from independent farmers—a place where the dishes are made from vegetables grown with minimal fertilizer and animals that were raised humanely and without growth hormones or antibiotics. True to its mission, Cookshop’s ingredients are consistently top-notch—and the menu changes frequently.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Chelsea

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.

  • Shopping
  • Markets and fairs
  • Flatiron

The iconic open-air Chelsea flea, brought back from the dead by the team behind Smorgasburg and Brooklyn Flea, showcases 40 veteran vendors selling mostly historic collectibles. If you love eclectic costume jewelry, quirky furniture, midcentury art and ceramics, records, antiques and art, and more, you’ll spend hours combing for treasure here. 

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  • American
  • Chelsea
Gorge on mac-and-cheese at Cafeteria
Gorge on mac-and-cheese at Cafeteria

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.

  • Cocktail bars
  • Chelsea

The transportive vibe of Sleep No More, Punchdrunk’s interactive theater piece at the McKittrick Hotel, carries over to the venue’s rooftop bar. Named for a Scottish field where accused witches were hanged, Gallow Green has the feel of a garden party thrown at an abandoned farm. Fairy lights and tattered flags hang between verdant trellise. The best seats in the house are inside an artfully ruined antique railcar, whose empty windows are hung with destroyed lace curtains.

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  • Chelsea

One of the coolest bars in the world right now, La Noxe is speakeasy-inspired from top to bottom, replete with an intimate subterranean location and discrete exit into the 28th Street subway station. Squeeze into the 600 square-foot space, settle into a sumptuous love seat and sip a tipple or two before you saunter back out into the night. 

  • Sports Bars
  • Chelsea

Key West meets Texas at this bar, where Christmas lights and silver fringe run between framed photos of low-rent icons like Tammy Faye Bakker and Elvis. In case you missed all the trashy references, a mock trailer home is built into the wall. The food is served in baskets and cooked to satisfy Presleyesque grease cravings (try the sweet-potato fries). Trailer Park’s signature big gulp is a strawberry margarita. 

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  • Seafood
  • Chelsea

The team behind Los Tacos No. 1 already dishes out one of New York’s greatest tacos from its Chelsea Market taqueria stall. But it’s expanding beyond the tortilla for a seafood-focused follow-up, also located inside the urban food court. Influenced by Mexican fish restaurants found in Tijuana, Ensenada and the rest of the Baja region—where seafood and meat tacos are routinely sold from separate street carts—the modern-day marisquería offers a variety of tacos, ceviches and aguachiles (red or green shrimp, scallop), as well as a raw bar stocked with clams, oysters and oyster shooters. At the bar, diners can find traditional Mexican cocktails including palomas, clamatos and micheladas.

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  • Cocktail bars
  • Chelsea
Party Prohibition-style at Bathtub Gin
Party Prohibition-style at Bathtub Gin

The conceit of this saloon may seem a bit tired: Yes, it's another hidden Prohibition-style speakeasy, this one showcasing a copper bathtub at its center. But the drinks list was created by fresh talent on New York's cocktail circuit—mixologist Sean Muldoon of Belfast, Ireland's lauded Merchant Hotel bar.  

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