Skip to main content

25 Things To Do in Chelsea

On the High Line, with the Whitney Museum of American Art

(revised and updated 2018) The phenomenal popularity of the High Line on the West Side has no doubt introduced many visitors to the pleasures of Chelsea, the multifaceted eclectic neighborhood that stretches out below.

On the west side of the rails, between W. 14th and W. 29th Streets or so, the Chelsea Gallery District is home to hundreds of contemporary art galleries in repurposed warehouses. New luxury residences rise up around these spaces, taking advantage of the stunning Hudson River views. On the east side of the line, the iconic Empire State Building comes into the picture, but closer in, the Gothic Revival outlines of the General Theological Seminary represent the neighborhood's roots in an earlier century.

Chelsea is a remarkable neighborhood bound together by an artistic and visual history, but it's also a community held together by social institutions - schools, historic houses of worship, affordable housing under the auspices of the city's housing authority, and businesses with deep ties to the area. Yet, a great deal of modern Chelsea is in a state of nervous flux, exemplified by its most famous hotel, currently shuttered for renovations. The best way to scope out what's happening in Chelsea is to get off the High Line and walk its historic streets.

High Line
That's a pretty picture of a scene on the High Line above, but come on down to see Chelsea at street level.

Boundaries: The approximate boundaries of Chelsea: W. 14th St. on the south to W. 30th St. on the north. Hudson River marks the western boundary. 6th or 7th Avenue and Ladies Mile Historic District are on the east. Chelsea derives from the name of the estate belonging to the Clarke family. The patriarch, Thomas Clarke, a retired British general, named the estate after London's Chelsea. Clarke's vast Manhattan property extended from what's now 8th Avenue to the Hudson, with his daughter and her husband extending the original property between 21st and 24th Streets south to 19th Street.

25 Things to Do in Chelsea

1. Walk the High Line for an overview, if you have not done so already. Begin on the south near Washington Street and Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District and continue north through Chelsea. To explore the historic district, take the steps at W. 20th down to the street and walk east. http://www.thehighline.org/

2. Stroll the Chelsea Historic District. Boundaries are W. 19th to W. 23rd Streets, between 8th and 10th Avenues. While the whole neighborhood presents a range of building styles, the town-house blocks in varying moods of Italianate, Greek Revival, and other popular styles of the 19th century set an Old World mood for a long walk. Resource: A map from the city (pdf)

3. Visit Clement Clarke Moore Park, located at 10th Avenue and 22nd Street. The Clarke family manor house, located at what is now Eighth Avenue and West 23rd, was called "Chelsea." At the time he wrote (or appropriated, as some claim) his famous poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas," Clement Moore was a Professor at the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church. He had donated the family land for use as a seminary, and the still-thriving seminary stands today along Ninth Avenue between 20th and 21st Streets. Another popular park, Chelsea Park is located between W. 27th and W. 28th along 10th Avenue, near the northern part of the High Line.

4. Are you an English muffin fan? Pay your respects at The Muffin House. 337 West 20th Street in Chelsea. Built in 1850. In the early 20th century Samuel Bath Thomas used the building for his famous muffins. The arched brick ovens remain in the building courtyard. No muffins here, though. You'll have to get them at the grocery store. Nearby - 349 W. 20th St. was the home of artist Louise Bourgeois.

5. Explore General Theological Seminary, an educational institution affiliated with the Episcopal Church. The gardens provide a beautiful oasis in Manhattan. Enter from W. 21st Street. Gardens are "usually" open (as a sign indicates) from 10 am to 3 pm, but closed Sundays. 

6. Visit Chelsea's historic churches. Among them - the Church of the Guardian Angel, situated at the northwest corner of W. 21st St. and Tenth Avenue. The church was built in 1930, designed by architect John Van Pelt in the Italian Romanesque style. The church is an active Catholic church in the neighborhood with its own parochial school. Many other churches are worth checking out such as St. Peter's Church (across the street from the muffin man's house), built according to designs of Clement Clarke Moore, and Church of the Holy Apostles.

7. Attend performances of the Atlantic Theater Company. 336 W. 20th St. David Mamet and William H. Macy founded this company in 1985. Known for debuts of original plays, revivals, and ensemble acting. 

8. Break out in disco moves at the former Limelight club. After ventures in Miami and Atlanta, in 1980 club impresario Peter Gatien found in New York the thing he was looking for, a former Episcopal church on the corner of 6th Avenue and W. 20th St. in Chelsea. After paying $1.7 million for the property and pouring more than $5 million into its renovation, Limelight opened its doors in 1983, and the party started. Look for boutiques, a branch of Grimaldi's great pizza, and a gelato shop.

Joyce Theater
The Joyce is known as an exceptional dance theater.

9. Learn about Himalayan art at the Rubin Art Museum, 150 W. 17th St. One of the wonderful small museums, the Rubin not only displays the finest collection of art of this kind in the Western world but offers an exceptional program of special events. Browse the gift shop and enjoy a cup of tea in the museum's excellent cafe. http://www.rmanyc.org/

10. Wander the gallery district for exhibitions by contemporary artists. For art fans, there's nothing more exciting than a Thursday evening with good weather, when dozens of galleries in Chelsea hold openings on the same night. On W. 22nd Street, see Dia: Art Foundation's installation of trees, a continuation of a project by German artist Joseph Beuys. See related post.

11.  Visit Chelsea Piers as your launch to explore NYC by boat. See Classic Harbor Line for different excursions, including an AIA architecture sail. Read a related post on Sailing Off the Big Apple.

12. Worship at the feet of starchitecture. Especially on the west side and near the High Line, forward-looking architecture has made Chelsea a particularly rich design landscape. For example, visit Frank Gehry's IAC Headquarters and Jean Nouvel's 100 Eleventh Avenue on the south and north sides of W. 19th at 11th Avenue.

13. See a performance at The Kitchen, 512 West 19th Street. The established non-profit experimental cultural institution features a variety of performing arts programs as well as exhibitions. http://thekitchen.org/

The Kitchen
One of the most respected performance venues in the city - The Kitchen.

14. Discover art at the Cue Art Foundation, 137 West 25th Street. This nonprofit art space provides engaging and thoughtful curated exhibitions.

15. Eat your way through the Chelsea Market, 460 W. 16th St. This food-obsessed busy market is housed in the former factory for the National Biscuit Company. In the 1990s the complex was refashioned with design elements reflecting industrial history and also a fake waterfall. The Lobster Place is a popular spot with New Yorkers for seafood, both to take home and enjoy on the premises. The market has recently revitalized itself with several new restaurant and retail additions. The market makes a good pairing with a walk on the High Line.

16. Buy some flowers at the Chelsea Flower Market, W. 28th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. The once thriving district has grown smaller in recent years.

17. See a modern dance performance at The Joyce Theater, 175 8th Avenue. The Art Moderne building from 1941 originally served as a movie theater, but now it's home to a well-respected dance theater.

18. Count the portholes at the Maritime Hotel, 363 West 16th Street. The striking 1966 design was originally intended for the National Maritime Union of America. Now an upscale hotel. Cute website.

19. Behold the wonders of the gigantic boy, 320 W. 21st. St. between 9th and 10th Avenues. Brazilian artist brothers, Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo, known as Os Gemeos, along with Futura, the AKANYCcreative studio, and street art website 12ozProphet, created an extraordinary giant mural - one of their "Gigantes" - on the wall of P.S. 11. The message to the children at play below is that all peoples of the world are united as one. See the documentation of the mural on their website.

20. Mourn the Chelsea Hotel, at 222 W. 23rd St. One of the most important cultural sites in New York is closed for renovation. Creative types once enlivened this space, celebrated in songs and movies. For a fabulous introduction to the life inside the Chelsea, see Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls (1966).

21. Gaze at the wonders of massive buildings. Chelsea is home to enormous buildings, for example the Starrett-Lehigh Building (1932) at 601 W. 26th Street (home to many fashion, design, and tech companies), former Port of New York Authority Building at 111 Eighth Avenue (home to Google's New York office), and London Terrace (on land once owned by Clement Clarke Moore, this massive complex from the early 1930s established a new benchmark in massive apartment living).

22. Wander Chelsea at dusk, especially the historic district blocks. W. 21st. is beautiful and mysterious in the early evening.

Chelsea at dusk
Walk Chelsea at dusk. 


23. See a movie at Cinépolis Chelsea, 260 W. 23rd St. Fancy and pricey. website

24. Laugh all night at the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre, 307 W. 26th Street. Improv theater group founded by Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh came to New York in 1996. Many shows nightly at affordable prices keep a steady line out the door. 

25. Discover the next fashion genius at the Fashion Institute of Technology, 7th Ave W 27th St. At the edge of Chelsea, hugging the Fashion District, FIT is part of the SUNY system. The Museum at FIT presents a fascinating series of exhibitions on design and fashion. 

View 25 Artistic Things to Do in Chelsea in a larger map

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple. This is a revised and updated version of a post from August 2011.





Popular posts from this blog

The Lonesome Metropolis: A Walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center

As New York City reopens, why do the attractions of the great metropolis still look mostly deserted on a summer morning? A morning walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center sought to address this question. As it turns out, there are several adequate explanations. But for what happens next, there are no right answers.

Many neighborhoods outside of tourist New York are still buzzing along. While some residents of wealthier neighborhoods have largely decamped to mountain cabins, beach houses, and other second homes, the less wealthy have nowhere to go and may still be working. Just visit Washington Heights or Corona or Flatbush, and you’ll see sidewalks full of shoppers and summer evening street partiers. Those who fled the city remain only a fraction of the total population.  

Other renowned parts of the city such as City Hall and Brooklyn Bridge have been frequently occupied, as in Occupied, with crowds protesting police violence. This week, NYPD officers in riot gear remove…

The City Turned Inside Out: A Walk from Battery Park to Fulton Street

While the cast of HAMILTON sings “The World Turned Upside Down,” New Yorkers could easily hum along to “The City Turned Inside Out” this summer. (not a real song) Where once a city’s important work took place indoors - within the soaring office buildings, famous restaurants, legendary museums, and storied performance halls, the COVID-19 epidemic has literally turned the residents outdoors. 

At least it’s summer in the city, when spending time outdoors is common and pleasant enough. Still, the city remains strange this summer of 2020. 

With the absence of tourists, and with office workers connecting virtually from home, many of the city’s main attractions aren’t attracting many visitors. A walk from the Battery to Fulton Street on a pleasant Thursday afternoon bore this out. 

It’s uplifting to at least find plants that are alive and happy. Thanks to the city’s gardeners and landscapers, the city parks are looking particularly lush and splendid this summer. The grounds of Battery Park feel…

The Company of Nature: Walking With Butterflies in Fort Tryon Park

If wandering the empty urban canyons feels a little lonely and depressing, a better idea would be to head to the nearest park. This past Saturday, a day that was sunny but not too hot, Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan turned out to be the perfect place to not only satisfy wanderlust but to rediscover the company of nature. Butterflies were there. Hundreds of butterflies - Tiger Swallowtails, Monarch Butterflies, Black Swallowtails, Cabbage White Butterflies, and Silver Spotted Skippers, among them. Moths, too, although I have not yet learned their names.  The Heather Garden is situated just beyond the entrance to Fort Tryon Park. With seasonal plantings, the garden is always a serene spot.  Observing butterflies involves watching their interaction with blooming flowers and shrubs. The Tiger Swallowtails are easy to find and found here in significant numbers. Just look for the Butterfly Bushes. The Cabbage White Butterflies are here in abundance, too, though not as showy as the swallow…

A Morning Walk from Pandemic Station to Pandemic Square

Penn Station to Times Square
New York City entered a new phase of the reopening on Monday, but you would never know it from a morning walk in Midtown on the day after. 

After running an errand near Penn Station, I decided to take a walk up to Times Square and Broadway before heading home from 59th Street and Columbus Circle. 

I wasn’t altogether prepared for the sights and sounds of this time and this place. Like many other New Yorkers, I have rarely left my neighborhood for the past four months. 

After exiting a quiet Penn Station near 8th Avenue and W. 33rd Street at what would normally be the end of rush hour, I found myself suddenly dropped into a city (mostly) bereft of crowds. 

Yet, I had been here before. A long time ago, I road my bike a few times through Times Square at dawn on a Sunday morning in summertime, and just a few people were there. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, I remember wandering around a brightly lit Times Square near sunset and then looking down the avenue to…

A Time of Soft Reopenings and Cautionary Travel

As the pandemic crisis lessens in New York State, several NYC attractions are scheduling their reopenings. What will open, and how will you get there? This list will be updated following official announcements.
UPDATED August 3, 2020. With the state of New York currently ahead of the class in the pandemic outbreak across the US, many places have started to reopen. The rollout is designed to be gradual, with geographic regions advancing according to a fixed set of metrics. 
New York City, the hardest hit area in the first months of the crisis, entered Phase 4 on Monday, July 20. The local exception: indoors of malls, restaurants, and cultural institutions.

Openings     
Phase 3 began in NYC on July 6. Allowed: retail stores; personal care nail salons, massage, etc.; outdoor recreation; dog runs. NO indoor dining!
Phase 4 began in NYC on July 20. Stay outside! (Forward.ny.gov)
• Restaurants: Consult this NYC Department of Transportation map (updated link) for restaurants currently open in NYC…

A Weekend Walk on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail

Imagine strolling from town to town near the eastern shores of the Hudson River, walking a well-trodden path lined with trees and stately architecture and with easy access to cafes, local shops, and train stations for an easy ride home. Imagine a weekend when the sun is bright and the sun is warm, and many other people - but not too many - are out enjoying the same weather and the same stroll. Such were the pleasures on a recent Sunday, in the latter part of this unseasonal winter, along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail not too far north from New York City.


The Old Croton Aqueduct, the system that once delivered fresh water from the Croton River to New York City, was a huge and complex marvel of engineering. The trail sits on top of the aqueduct system. This post describes a walk along just a section of the trail, the one that begins at the Keeper’s House in Dobbs Ferry and ends in Irvington.


First, catch a Metro-North Hudson line train to Dobbs Ferry, a village in southern Westchester C…

From Manhattan to the Bronx: A Walk Over the Henry Hudson Bridge to Henry Hudson Park

At the tiptop of Manhattan Island, Inwood Hill Park offers picturesque views of the Hudson River. For one of the best views, follow the marker at Shorakkopoch Rock (see map at the end of the post), the legendary place where Peter Minuit was said to have bought the island for 60 guilders, and follow the ridge up the slope. The path leads gently higher and higher, with views of the Salt Marsh down below and then the underside of the Henry Hudson Bridge above. This spot along the ridge is well known among birders, as the height and the proximity to the Hudson River allow access to treetops and places where birds like to go. 

Keep going around the bend and past the bridge. A few spots of open pavement at the edge of the hill provide good views of the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge, a swing bridge that carries train traffic to and from Penn Station. The bridge was recently upgraded. On the opposite shore of Spuyten Duyvil Creek, you’ll likely see Metro-North trains coming round the bend, either he…

Starstruck at MoMA

(Update July 31, 2020. Please note: After reopening in 2019, MoMA is currently closed as a result of the pandemic. MoMA has not announced its reopening.) 
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in Midtown Manhattan is undergoing a significant renovation and expansion that will increase gallery space by thirty percent upon completion in 2019. In the midst of renovation and following a long hot summer, the museum may currently look a little rough around the edges and even disorienting for longtime patrons. For starters, you’ll need to enter the museum on W. 54th Street instead of W. 53rd Street while the work is taking place, and the museum store is now currently on the second floor next to the coffee bar which has also moved.


This state of affairs didn’t stop visitors on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend from making a pilgrimage to the museum to gaze at treasures of modern art. In an age of quickly disposable digital imagery, the original and cherished works still exude their aura. Ironically,…

Delacroix’s Cats

Following its record-breaking debut at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the blockbuster Delacroix exhibit has opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. While not all of the works could travel, as some are intrinsic to the Louvre, the big cats made the trip to the city. For the Delacroix exhibit poster, the Met has selected Young Tiger Playing with Its Mother, the artist’s great and surprising painting from 1830, as the signature and defining work of the exhibition.


Eugène Delacroix (French, 1798–1863), known as the leading Romantic painter of his era, loved cats. His many notebooks show preparatory sketches of lions, tigers, and several charming domestic cats. The big cats, for the most part, made it into big paintings. At 52 x 76.6 in. (130 x 195 cm), Young Tiger Playing with Its Mother, 1830, is astonishingly large for an animal painting of his time, a size normally devoted to a history painting. His most famous work, La Liberté guidant le peuple, dates from the same year.�…

Museums in New York Open on Mondays

Update: As of March 12, 2020, many New York arts institutions have temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 public health crisis. Please see this post for announcements of reopenings.

Several museums in New York City are open on Mondays, including MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney.

This list has been expanded to include free or pay-what-you-wish hours.


American Museum of Natural History Central Park West and 79th Street
See the post, Big Things to See at the American Museum of Natural History.
Cooper Hewitt
2 East 91st St.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1071 Fifth Ave

Jewish Museum 1109 Fifth Ave

Metropolitan Museum of Art 100 Fifth Avenue
See the post 25 Things To Do Near the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Met Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park is also open 7 days a week from March - October.

Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue

MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art), 11 West 53 Street: * Also, consult the post 25 Things To Do Near the Museum of Modern…