Gorgeous brownstones line one side of the street and towering projects occupy the other in this neighborhood where boutiques are nestled between untidy bodegas, and beautiful, bronzed gods descend to walk amongst men.
Although today, it is largely associated with the hard-bodied, gym-going, look-at-me-not-looking-at-you gay men who call it home, Chelsea was once one of the city’s premier shipping ports. When Chelsea Piers opened in 1910, designed by the same team responsible for Grand Central Terminal, they soon becmae the prime docking space for both passenger and military ships. During the 1950s and 60s, the piers served as a cargo terminal, but soon thereafter fell into disrepair and decay. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the pier was overhauled and rebuilt, saving it from joining the ranks of other forgotten New York relics.
Chelsea also boasts a rich history of artistic movements. As one of the stops on the Theater District’s uptown crawl from SoHo to Times Square, the neighborhood enjoyed a brief tenure as the premier place to catch a live performance of classics new and old. In the first half of the 20th century, the Chelsea Hotel was home to some of the modern era’s greatest writers, actors, and musicians. The 1990s art boom saw an influx of studios and galleries move into the neighborhood, as artists were priced out of more traditional visual art enclaves such as SoHo.
Today, residents and visitors alike wine, dine, and unwind in the area’s many coffee shops, chic lounges and restaurants, or peruse the ultra-sleek, ultra-hip art galleries, all in the shadows of the neighborhood’s history as a bustling center of the working class.
Even in a city like New York there are always those days when you just don’t know what to do. All the usual places feel old and boring and the cool urban hangouts you so often see in movies just seem impossible to find. And while we at Inside New York do our best to keep you entertained, we wanted to share with you an exciting new resource made possible by Sidetour!
Sidetour offers an extensive array of tours (which they refer to as experiences) made especially for New Yorkers who have already seen the usual places and are looking for something unique. Here are a few of our favorite picks:
- Explore the Cutting Edge of Chelsea’s Contemporary Art Scene
- Join a Vintage and Antique Hunt with a Seasoned Collector
Walk down 9th Avenue and you won’t go hungry: a plethora of bakeries, Asian eateries, and classic New York delis line the Avenue from Midtown to Downtown, making it almost impossible to choose where to stop for a meal. Pastai, a brand new contemporary pasta bar, makes your choice a little easer. Just off the corner of 22nd Street, Chef Melissa Daka‘s new modern pasta bar serves up fresh and creative dishes in a funky Chelsea environment perfect for an affordable night out or a gourmet late night snack! The extensive wine list starts at just $8/glass, and with affordable appetizers and entrees, it’s easy to have a classy and satisfying meal without a major splurge.
I could tell the pasta-making class at Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina would be a good experience when the first step was to choose between complimentary white wine and Prosecco.
It was one of many warm gestures in an evening that ran like clockwork. Granted, a clock on European time – the class started about fifteen minutes behind schedule, encouraging guests to unwind (and get wined) in the meantime. But who quibbles about punctuality with that kind of welcome?
If you’re looking for a place to slop down after a night out, go to the Cafeteria. While the name “Cafeteria” may bring to mind a New Jersey diner, this is New York City, baby. Cafeteria has a discotheque vibe, brought on by the purple lights and boxy-white chairs, that will make you feel like your night has barely ended. Run by a young, attractive staff with a metro edge, the food is as good as the view. You’ll see the male waiters sporting half-shaved Pompadours and the women the chic bayalage highlights you always wanted.
At the end of happy hour, the music was pumping in Pounds & Ounces. Not a single seat was free at the long, low S-shaped communal table running the length of the bar. There were huge bouquet-like blue and silver centerpieces at either end of the table and the table was bustling with small groups of business types sipping on brightly colored post-work cocktails. But as the night progressed, the swallow-me lounges and metal tables at the fringe became host to groups of groovy young men and women, (how do you be politically correct in saying there were lots of gay guys as well?) feasting on duck tacos and Kalua pulled pork sliders. The back wall is splashed with a vibrant 36-foot mural by Manny Castro (of controversial Lady Gaga as Christ fame) and behind the bar, previous resident Viceroy’s bar shelves of wood panels and mirrors retain their former glory.
This Monday, I wandered into one of my favorite museums in the city, The Rubin Museum of Art, which houses one of the most superb collections of Himalayan and Nepalese art in the world. With free Friday admission from 6pm-10pm, a five-dollar student rate (free if you go to NYU), and an easy ten dollar adult ticket, the Rubin is a cheap alternative to some of the larger and more popular museums in the city. For Himalayan and Nepalese art novices, the museum even offers tours of its major exhibits every hour 12 PM. Why hello, Buddhist deities!
If you’re a first time visitor, I highly recommend starting on the second floor to tour the Gateway to Himalayan Art exhibit before seeing anything else. The third in a series of yearly rotations, Gateway to Himalayan Art introduces visitors to the rudiments of the Himalayan art tradition so you’re not left scratching your head through the rest of your visit. The exhibit is divided into three major sections: Deities and Symbols, Materials and Techniques, and Purposes and Functions. My favorite part of this exhibit is the wall they have dedicated to naming and explaining all the mudras (hand gestures), asanas (body positions), and other attributes that serve to identify deities. If that wasn’t spiritual enough, this exhibit also features a beautiful candlelit shrine room. Beat that, MoMa.
Over the summer, I moved to Brooklyn. One of my favorite things about the neighborhood (besides all of the wonderful tattooed hipster-y men) is the lack of major corporate stores. I can shop at local boutiques and flea markets alike, finding unique, locally produced and handmade goods. I know where my money is going, and I can feel good knowing I’m supporting small local businesses. That sort of intimate community shopping experience is hard to find in Manhattan, where retail chains and department stores reign supreme. This weekend, however, I discovered exactly the sort of shopping experience I enjoy at the Chelsea Bazaar.
This past Saturday, a mass of New Yorkers sporting their colorful yoga gear jumped onto the subways to make their way to the Harbor Lawn in Brooklyn Bridge Park. A free early afternoon yoga session is the perfect way to escape from the daily stresses of city life, and Yoga in the Park offers just that to those in need of some rejuvenation, or just some healthy fun! With unusually warm weather for the first day of fall, the immense crowd, which stretched across the entire lawn, joined together in a revitalizing chorus of deep “Om’s,” to unwind on this physical and spiritual journey,
This totally free outdoor event sponsored by Emblem Health and Flavorpill had many incentives to attend! The first 250 arrivals scored free yoga mats and other fun stuff, which ran out quickly. The featured class was taught by sought after instructors whose sessions would otherwise run steep- Elena Brower and Aarona Pichinson. Both women teach their own elite classes in New York and are masters in the practice; they have traveled the world in order to gain a worldly and diverse perspective in the art. They are yoga enthusiasts, believing strongly in its capability to strengthen and heal both the body and the mind. If you have never tried yoga before- this is certainly the way to jump right into it.
If Dr. Seuss owned a pâtisserie, it would probably look something like Three Tarts Bakery. Whimsical and welcoming, Three Tarts specializes in updating classic desserts to surprising levels of sophistication. All of the treats are tiny enough that you can try a few different desserts, and still have room for an infused lemonade or iced chai. Their menu changes seasonally, but always manages to retain its sense of imagination.
Three Tarts’ inspiration comes in large part from customer feedback. The bakery is currently testing ice cream sandwich ideas submitted through Facebook, and during the month of August, they’ll be having another contest for marshmallow flavors (August is also lemonade month, with a new featured flavor each week!). They also take some of their inspiration from Japan — chef Kiyomi Toda-Burke has introduced yuzu, shizu, lychee, and more into their rotation of desserts.
Frozen yogurt (colloquially called “froyo”) is quickly becoming akin to coffee through the prominence it occupies in the diets of urban dwellers, especially in summer months. Unsurprisingly, competition between froyo brands is fierce to attain a status parallel to the one Starbucks holds for coffee. Several members of the Inside New York staff sampled a recent entrant into such competition — Flavaboom, which opened last May in Chelsea. Read the complete post »
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Inside New York is a complete guide to life in New York City. Since 1978, we've treated readers to the best that the city has to offer in dining, nightlife, attractions, and events, while also providing essential day-to-day information that will turn any traveler, transplant, or tourist into a seasoned New Yorker.