Chelsea is Manhattan’s art district. And honestly, way too cool for me. You can do everything there – from eating crab pizza, to (I kid you not) a three-hour interactive performance involving masks, mysticism, and Macbeth at Sleep No More. There are also bars with literal bathtubs in them, and shops which merge clothes with storytelling, completely redesigning themselves each month with themes such as ‘love’ and ‘technology’. My. Mind. Is. Blown. I was left wondering what happens to Chelsea locals when they just need to buy a pair of socks?
I was SO out of place in Chelsea. But you know what, I liked Chelsea. I wouldn’t want to live there – mainly because I’d have to live off Organic Wild Hive Soy Milk and Walnut Toast – but it was a great area to spend a day in.
You’ll also be pleased to hear that as a tourist, there are some amazing attractions in Chelsea. If you’ve read my New York guide itinerary here, a day in Chelsea is the perfect extension to the 2 core days as it covers off a cruise to see The Statue of Liberty, The High Line and Chelsea Market – all great spots to visit.
Here are some of the normal (and not so normal) things you can do in the area, all of which I tried out in my day in the neighbourhood, pretending I was cool.
1. Eat some delicious brunch
Brunch seems to really be a thing in New York. When I was researching where to go for ‘brunch in NYC’, I found a post of the ‘500 best Brunch spots in Midtown’. 500?! In just midtown?! Honestly, the town I live in in the UK has zero brunch spots. NONE. You have to travel to find brunch near where I live.
But as always in this crazy mega city, literally everything is available 24/7 on your doorstep. No wonder people who live in New York often tell me they never cook – they don’t need to! They can breakfast, brunch, bagel, snack, juice bar, artisan pizza, cupcake ATM, food tour, cheesecake, vegan gelato and authentic BBQ their way through the day.
There are even Bounce Brunch Dance parties with electro DJs and morning cocktails, and Opera Brunches with Russian fusion food. Electro DJs, opera, Russian food?!?!….literally all I want is a sausage. So instead, I googled ‘brunch in NYC – eggs and sausage’. And up popped Cookshop.
So Cookshop, in Chelsea, it was. They had eggs. They had sausage. They also had pressed green juice, gluten free almond pancakes and Lancaster co-op grits. I didn’t know what any of that meant, so I chose eggs. They came accompanied with what I can only describe as a cake as big as my face – but they were tasty nonetheless. I had survived my first activity in Chelsea without totally embarrassing myself. Just. Thank goodness I didn’t choose the Bounce Brunch Dance Party.
2. Hit the art galleries and museums of the area
Chelsea is known as the art district of Manhattan. There are a lot of art galleries. Now – I’m not going to lie to you – they basically all looked like cool white washed walls with the occasional lonely picture hanging up to me. I couldn’t help but wonder how much this prime real estate cost, but hey who am I to judge?
If you are in to art, and not a total ignorant like me, there are some great galleries including David Zwirner and 303 gallery. There is also the Rubin Museum of Art, and if you fancy something a bit different the FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) museum. We chose The Rubin and looked in a few windows – I wasn’t cool enough to go in.
3. Discover Chelsea Market for a snack
Slightly more my thing, Chelsea Market is an indoor market with some really cool eateries and shops. They have everything there from doughnutteries (of course that’s a thing in NYC), cheesemongers, lobster palaces, meat shops, pizzerias and even a Salumeria (a deli to you and me). Obviously though, the highlight is the wine cellar.
4. Walk the High Line
One of the top tourist spots in New York starts in Chelsea – the High Line. The High Line is a 1.5 mile trail elevated above the city and built on an old rail line. The walking trail is a park, displays art, and (unsurprisingly) has lots of food spots. We spent an hour or so walking along this path and really enjoyed such a unique view of New York. At the time we visited, The Vessel was under construction as well and we got a good view of that too.
5. Burn off brunch at Chelsea Piers
Once you’ve finished your short High Line walk, head to Chelsea Piers for a bit of fun. It might look like a load of random warehouses, but don’t be fooled – it’s actually a really great sports complex. Here you can go bowling, take a gym class, take on the climbing wall – or, as I did, visit the driving range.
The driving range is unique as it extends out over the Hudson River so you can hit your balls and watch the boats go past. It’s definitely the most fun place I’ve ever played sport and definitely one I won’t forget. I was rubbish, but who cares.
6. Take to the water on a Circle Line Cruise
This is a little bit out of the way at a 10/15 minute walk North of Chelsea, so maybe a bit of a cheat to go on this list. However, it’s a perfect activity if you’re in the area. The Circle Line Cruise hits the water around Manhattan Island and lets you take in all the main sights.
Of all the things I experienced in New York, this was probably my favourite. Sitting back, having a drink and seeing the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, Downtown skyline and other city views from the water was just beautiful.
7. Finish the day off in a gin bath
You can’t leave Chelsea without at least one of its unique experiences. I decided the best way to do that was to go to Bathtub gin. This bar is a throwback to the 1920s prohibition era where speakeasies were the place to be. And yes there is an actual bathtub in the bar.
This awesome place also has jazz nights on Mondays, Burlesque twice a week (yup, they get in the bathtub), and there’s always something fun going on. It specialises in gin, but you can get any drink you want there. They also serve nice food. And OF COURSE I discovered – they also serve brunch.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed this quick tour around Chelsea from a tourist’s perspective. Have you ever visited Chelsea and what did you think? Let me know in the comments below. Stay safe and happy travelling.