Meet Times Square’s calmer neighbor, Chelsea

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By Lisa K. Berton

Times Square is a major tourist destination with its glowing billboards, street artists, and countless bars. It's the place to party. And where it seems like car horns honk all night long. While just six blocks south of the edge of Times Square, the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea is comparatively quieter.

Gone are the overwhelming crowds. In Chelsea, sidewalks are visible. Museums replace watering holes. Children laugh in playgrounds in contrast to adults shouting over bass-driven beats. Chelsea is a neighborhood where people live, work, and play. Here you'll find pharmacies, gyms, places of worship, and a popular hardware store with a large Instagram following. It is 2019, after all.

Chelsea is home to famous places like Penn(sylvania) Station, Madison Square Garden, Barneys New York - Downtown, and the Fashion Institute of Technology. Given its proximity to theaters, television and recording studios, you may spy someone famous.

Chelsea would be a perfect square but because of New York's jagged edge along the Hudson River; it gets an "A" for effort. It spans from 12th to 6th Avenue West to East and West 34th to West 14th Street North to South.

It's impossible not to find somewhere to eat due to countless dining options. Whether the mood strikes for a simple hot dog or a fancy gourmet meal, you'll find it in Chelsea.

Let's start with dessert because we're on vacation. Try a cake, yeast, gluten-free, or square filled doughnut at Doughnut Plant. Located at 220 W 23rd Street; everything is made fresh daily. These delicious donuts make for a great dessert, snack, or breakfast if you're so inclined. Get one for me. Stop by La Maison du Macaron at 132 W 23rd Street for French cookies, pastries, and over 2 dozen flavors of macarons. Have a seat, enjoy a pot of tea or a cup of coffee, and relax with a good book.

A pistachio donut and a chocolate donut resting a Doughnut Plant paper bag
Chocolatey and pistachio goodness from Donut Plant

Brownies, cakes, scones, pastries, and black-and-white cookies await passengers at Penn Station. Zaro's Family Bakery has a location inside the Amtrak rotunda. Likewise, another location is at 1 Penn Plaza in a skyscraper. Ample Hills Creamery offers up original names for their ice cream flavors at 141 8th Avenue. Should you have a craving back home, select products can be shipped.

Because breakfast is the most important meal of the day, start your morning off right. The Grey Dog serves breakfast on cool travel-inspired tables until 3 pm. The kids' dog bone-shaped pancakes are popular. Get yours at 242 W 16th Street. You'll find a variety of 3-egg omelets, griddle goodies, breakfast means, and more at Malibu Diner at 163 W 23rd Street. Open 24 hours a day. The menu is expansive.

When lunchtime rolls around, it seems like the quick and easy options are common. Grab a stool at the counter of Johny's Luncheonette located at 124 W 25th Street. Order a sandwich, a pita, a salad, or try one of their specialties. Hey! Here ya go. Enjoy! At Kobeyaki, bowls, (sushi) rolls, burgers, and noodles are on the menu. Visit them at 293 7th Avenue.

Sit down fora real dinner as one might request. The Blacksmith Bar & Kitchen looks and feels like a pub with multiple televisions playing pro sports games. Chandeliers hang over high top and standard tables. Share appetizers with friends and then keep your entree for yourself. Charbroiled burgers are good quality meat and come with crispy French fries. Their salmon has a nice sear on the outside and is accompanied by spinach, squash, zucchini, and fennel. Based on the ground level of Four Points by Sheraton Manhattan Chelsea at 160 W 25th Street.

white dinner plate with pan seared salmon
Dinner at The Blacksmith Bar and Kitchen

Foodies can spend the entire day at Chelsea Market, 75 9th Avenue. The brick and mortar food hall seems like it goes on forever. Home to everything from German sausages to a fish market to bakeries and everything in between. Have breakfast and then buy flowers. Eat lunch then get a haircut. Digest dinner then buy some books. It's all under one entire block-sized roof.

Betwixt meals, take advantage of the myriad of art collections in Chelsea. Consider this to be their city profile, endless galleries and museums. Whether you're interested in documentary photography, abstract art, sculpture, or just about any other form of expression, it's in the neighborhood.

The Rubin Museum of Art, 150 West 17th St., like any museum, has rotating and permanent exhibitions. They also have a small library where you can sit and relax. The Rubin features Asian pieces quite often. The most interesting installation was one you could literally walk on. Visitors stepped from "floating" piece to piece moving in one direction and staying out of the water. On special K2 Friday nights, museum admission is free from 6 - 10 pm.

Neon Budha reflected in window of art museum
The Rubin Museum of Art

Among the park in Chelsea, perhaps the most interesting is The High Line. Built on a former rail line erected above streets and avenues, the walkable attraction runs parallel to 10th Avenue for 18 blocks. It then turns left and follows West 30th Street before making a hook onto West 34th Steet and 12th Avenue. There's no entrance fee. Enjoy the stone seating, plants, flowers, and views of the Hudson River. Artists can be found working and selling original pieces. Views and landscaping change along the way.

Take home some antiques, estate jewelry, or African hand-carved masks from Annex Markets: Chelsea Flea Market. Squeezed into a lot at 29 West 25th Street, the bazaar operates seasonally on weekends. Arrive before 9 am and you'll $5 to get in. Wait until 9:01 and admission is just $1. The small flea has enough to keep you busy for 30 minutes or so.

An old rail line surrounded by a garden
Colorful grasses and plants along The High Line
An artist sits by his display of animal drawings
Iddi Amadu's colorful animal prints drew attention

Most noteworthy are the specialty stores stretching from edge to edge of this section of Manhattan. Audiophiles with an ear for classical music should head to Academy Records and CDs at 12 West 18th Street. The well-organized store carries other musical styles like jazz, blues, and vocalists from the 1950s and 1960s.

You don't have to be a professional photographer to shop at the famous B&H (trivia question answer: Blimie and Herman) at 420 9th Avenue. Whether you need a memory card or a new point-and-shoot digital camera, stop in. Tablets, video cameras, audio equipment, and wonderful film cameras of all sizes need new homes. I'll take one of each.

Truemart Fabrics is a tiny shop, so, their fabric rolls spill out onto the sidewalk. Crafters and fashion designers can sometimes find fabrics unique to one of the Burroughs or New York state. Pick some up at 170 W 25th Street.

And finally, there's Garber Hardware waiting for you at 207 9th Avenue. Why seek out a hardware store, you ask. Aside from finding fun birdhouses, as-seen-on-TV products, and glitter paints, the company dates back to 1884. The Chelsea spot is in its infancy but it's cool to know that Garber Hardware has been around longer than Penn Station. And if nothing else, you can always buy an imprinted tote bag or zippered case to show off to your friends.


Disclaimer: I received complimentary meals at The Blacksmith Bar & Kitchen.

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