Chelsea NYC is a vibrant neighborhood full of art, street art, good food and parks. The Highline and Chelsea market are on most people’s lists, but there are many more things to do in Chelsea NYC. You won’t want to miss the art in Chelsea—in the galleries and on the street. Two of NYC’s hidden treasures—the Rubin Museum and the Joyce Theater—are also in the neighborhood.
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Where is Chelsea NYC?
Chelsea is sandwiched between the West Village and the new Hudson Yards neighborhood. The boundaries are from 14th Street to 34th Street and 6th Avenue to the Hudson River. Most of the major subway lines go to or near Chelsea (with the exception of the East Side lines and the 7).
Chelsea is one of the places in Manhattan that people actually live. Back in the 1700s, this area was a farm. It then became an estate and was given the name Chelsea in 1750. In the late 1800s it was the theater district. Once the Hudson River Railroad tracks were built along 10th Avenue, it became a center of manufacturing and warehouses.
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Chelsea in NYC & LGBTQ History—Meatpacking District
As a residential neighborhood, Chelsea in NYC has undergone many transformations.
In the Southwestern end of Chelsea, the Meatpacking District began on 14th Street and extended south into the West Village. In the 1900s, there were hundreds of slaughterhouses in the neighborhood (hence the name).
By the 1970s, the slaughterhouses were gone and Meatpacking district was the center of transgender prostitution (in the terminology of that time—drag queens), BDSM bars, and drugs. The Mineshaft, The Anvil and other sex clubs proliferated. The Clit Club, a lesbian bar, was in the Meatpacking District. Most, if not all, were mafia controlled. All of these businesses were gradually forced out.
The Meatpacking District is now home of designer stores—Alexander McQueen, Christian Louboutin, Stella McCartney. One of the NYC Apple Stores is located there. High end restaurants are also found in this area. This is where the Highline begins.
Chelsea—Neighborhood & Gentrification
In the 1990s, Chelsea above 14th Street became a LGBTQ neighborhood, with many bars and restaurants. It was more affordable than Greenwich Village. Gradually, as the area gentrified, many LGBTQ residents moved to Hell’s Kitchen, Park Slope and elsewhere.
While Chelsea has been gentrified, some affordable housing still remains. The International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) constructed Penn South as a cooperative housing development in the early 1960s.
The NYC Housing Authority has two public housing projects in Chelsea—Fulton Houses and Chelsea-Elliot Houses. You’ll also find some interesting examples of art deco architecture in the neighborhood, including London Terrace.
Things To Do In Chelsea NYC
Walk The Highline NYC
The Highline in NYC is one of the best reasons to visit Chelsea. Who wouldn’t want to walk in a park on an elevated train track? Built in 1869, these was the first elevated train line in the country.
Opened in 2009, the Chelsea Highline (note: it’s the Highline, not the High Line) runs from Gansevoort Street (three blocks below 14th Street) to 34th Street and Hudson Yards. It’s a delightful park, full of interesting gardens, art and performances. It is very crowded on the weekends, so best to go during the week.
Address: There are numerous entrances starting at Gansevoort and Washington Street and 34th and 12th. The Highline is wheelchair accessible with ramp access at 34th and 12th Avenue. There are few elevators but be sure to check which ones are in service when you plan to be there).
Visit the Chelsea Art Galleries
While you are on the Highline, you’ll be walking right over the art galleries in Chelsea. Go down to the street and take a look. Many of the most interesting exhibitions in NYC take place at the art galleries in Chelsea NYC. A big bonus–they are free to enter. If you go on a Saturday, it will be quite a scene. During the week is much less crowded.
Address: Most of the Chelsea art galleries in New York City are in the blocks from 20th to 29th Streets between 10th and 11th Avenue. The galleries are not open on Sunday.
Over the past few years, street art has begun to proliferate in Chelsea. My personal favorites are two murals by Eduardo Kobra—one is above the Empire Diner (see below) and the second is of Einstein off 8th Avenue near 22nd Street. There is also a huge street art mural Homage to Hip Hop by Osgemeos on 14th Street between 6th and 7th Avenue. If you keep your eyes out, you’ll also see Kobra’s mural of Ghandi from the Highline and other murals around the neighborhood.
Street Art began in New York City and there are many places to see street art around the city, including Bushwick, the Lower East Side and Chinatown. You can even take the PATH train across the river to Jersey City or Newark.
Chelsea Street Art Locations
Einstein Spray Painting I Love NY-22nd Street near 8th Avenue
Tolerance with Gandhi and Mother Theresa-10th Avenue and 18th Street (viewable from the Highline)
Mount Rushmore with Andy Warhol, Friday Kahlo, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat-Above the Empire Diner–210 10th Avenue
Homage to Hip Hop on 14th Street between 6th and 7th Avenue
Fulton Street Mural Project
17th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues
Mural on Highline
There is a wall with rotating street are near 22nd Street on the highline. This mural changes regularly. The current mural is The Baayfalls by Jordan Casteel.
In the parking lot at 17th Street and 6th Avenue
Life Life Colorfully on 16th Street and 6th Avenue
You’ll find more smaller murals in Chelsea as you wander.
If sports are your thing, Chelsea Piers is the place to go. A golf driving range faces the Hudson River. Imagine hitting the perfect drive all the way to New Jersey. You can also take batting practice, go bowling, ice skate or try rock climbing. If you get hungry (for food or beer), there are restaurants onsite.
Address: 23rd and Hudson River Park
The Rubin Museum is a hidden gem in Chelsea. One of the very best collections of Himalayan, Tibetan and Buddhist art. It often has exhibitions that give new perspectives on the art and its impact on everyday life. One of my favorite exhibits was a visual dialogue between a scientist and Buddhist scholar. Don’t miss the Shrine room.
Address: 150 W.17th Street
If you are a modern dance fan, make sure that the Joyce is on your list. Many of the top modern dance companies have graced the stage. The season runs almost the entire year, so there’s likely to be a performance when you are in the city. There are about 500 seats in the house so you are sure to have a good view.
Address: 175 8th Avenue
Shopping in Chelsea
Stop By The Chelsea Market NYC
The Chelsea Market is one of the most well-known and visited attractions in New York. The building that houses Chelsea Market was originally the home of the National Biscuit Company, better known as Nabisco.
For Oreo cookie lovers—this is where it where the cookie was invented. Foodies will enjoy the numerous restaurants inside the Market. Shoppers will enjoy the stores. The Chelsea Market and Highline are close to each other. Have lunch at the Chelsea market and then do the Highline walk. Or, vice versa.
Oh, and you can see Google’s NYC headquarters nearby.
Address: 75 Ninth Avenue (between 15th & 16th)
Meat Packing District
While technically more in the West Village than Chelsea, the Meatpacking District has tons of designer shops and boutiques. It’s similar to going to Soho if you are into designer clothes and other items. The Apple Store is on 14th and 10th Avenue.
No Particular Hours
If you are lucky, you’ll stumble upon No Particular Hours when it is open. It is an indoor garage sale full of eclectic items that you didn’t know that you needed or wanted. Cooper pots, ancient telephones, bowling pins, china—you never know what you will stumble upon.
Address: 247 West 16th Street
There is plenty more shopping to do in Chelsea. You might drop by the Housing Works Thrift Shop which benefits the organization’s effort on behalf of people with AIDs.
Chelsea NYC Best Restaurants
There are tons of great restaurants and bars in Chelsea. If you walk 8th Avenue between 14th Street and 25th, you’ll find plenty. Below are 8 Chelsea NYC restaurant recommendations.
If you are looking for an upscale New York City diner experience, Empire is a great place to go. You might also recognize the silver side diner from TV and Movies—Men in Black II, Law and Order and other shows. The food ranges from traditional diner food to kale salads. A side benefit is the huge Eduardo Kobra mural above of Frida Kahlo, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
If you are looking for a more traditional diner, try Moonstruck a couple of blocks away.
Address: 210 10th Avenue
The Grey Dog
The Grey Dog is a local Chelsea hangout with good food and coffee. Breakfast is served from the morning to afternoon. Salads, sandwiches and other fare are healthy and good
Address: The Grey Dog has four locations in NYC. The Chelsea restaurant is at 242 W. 16th Street.
Chama Mama is one of our favorite new restaurants in Chelsea. They serve modern Georgian food. As you eat, you can see right into the kitchen and the huge clay oven. The food is exquisite–flavorful and delicately spiced. There are meat and vegetarian options. The bread is served warm and is irresistible.
Address: 149 West 14th Street (not far from the Osgemeos mural noted above)
If you are looking for a splurge and interesting Asian-Fusion food, Buddakhan is the place to go. It’s a bit on the pricey side. It’s impressive when you walk in. Food is excellent. If you have enough people. The tasting menu is a good way to go.
Address: 75 9th Avenue
Freidman’s is good for Breakfast, brunch and dinner. The salads are very good as is the braised short rib. They have gluten free options. Friedman’s get crowded for dinner, so arrive early or expect to wait.
Address: 132 W. 31st Street
If you are in the mood for good authentic ramen, Ichiran is the place to go. Expect a long line as it is very popular. The ramen broth is very tasty and noodles perfectly chewy. If you are dining alone, you can sit in a small booth by yourself.
Address: 132 W. 31st Street (next door to Friedman’s)
Num Pang Kitchen
Since 2009, Num Pang (Sandwich in Cambodia) has been serving the most interesting Asian inspired cuisine—sandwiches, soups and bowls. Make sure to try the five spice pork belly and coconut tiger shrimp. There are plenty of options for vegetarians.
Address: Num Pang has 6 locations in NYC, including one inside Chelsea Market.
Hill Country Barbecue
Southern BBQ in NYC—can’t be good, right? Wrong. Hill Country has very good and authentic Texas barbeque. The brisket melts in your mouth. They also have spareribs, turkey, side dishes. You order at the counter and bring to your table. It can get very noisy and crowded. Technically, this place is on the east side of 6th Avenue, so not in Chelsea, but we couldn’t resist including.
Address: 30 W. 26th Street
This list is a just a sample of what to do in Chelsea NYC. Next time you are in New York City, take time to get to know the Chelsea neighborhood. There are tons of things to do and places to eat. And, you’ll see more of where the locals live, eat and have fun.
5 Tips for Enjoying Chelsea
1. Take it slow and enjoy wandering.
2. Walk Highline off hours when it is not as crowded.
3. Come down off the Highline to see what’s underneath. Food, drink and art await.
4. Sit down and have a coffee and enjoy being with the locals.
5. Find some interesting shops to visit.
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