If you’re not accustomed to downtown Manhattan’s west side, it can truly feel like an alien land. The architecture is shorter and oddly industrial, the river’s proximity makes the air breezier and the streets are made of cobblestone. But with the recent relocation of the previously Upper East Side-based Whitney Museum of American Art to the heart of the Meatpacking District at 99 Gansevoort Street, we bet you’re about to become a lot more familiar with this up-and-coming area.
“The excitement surrounding the Whitney is palpable,” says Michael Phillips, president of Jamestown, the development company that owns Whitney neighbors Chelsea Market and the Milk Studios building. “I expect the Whitney to be a huge draw for the neighborhood and to quickly become a cultural and civic landmark,” he continues, “building on the momentum we are seeing throughout the district.”
Indeed, the entire area of the Meatpacking District and its northern neighbor Chelsea have attracted immense buzz in recent years for cutting-edge fashion and art locales that seem to pop up overnight. “I think that people are constantly surprised by the truly high quality mixed-use nature of our neighborhood,” says Phillips. “Locals are drawn in by the unique amenities, like the High Line, and the variety of new creative companies. And visitors get to experience the vibrancy throughout the neighborhood that suggest changes and innovation, while projecting a deep sense of history.”
Truly, there’s something for everyone in the neighborhood. Here, we’ve rounded up five additional things to do in the area once you’ve already made the trek to the Hudson. Your first tip: wear flats!
1. The Food
“Chelsea is home to some of the best food in the city,” says Phillips, and premium offerings are located inside the famous Chelsea Market itself, which is a must-see for any Whitney excursion. Check out one of the market’s new immersive experiences, like the food and wine paring class at Corkbuzz with master sommelier Laura Maniec, or learn how to make pasta with a hands-on lesson at Giovanni Rana Pastificio. Outside of Chelsea Market, Phillips recommends personal favorites Colicchio & Sons, Santina, Barbutto, Budakkan and Cook Shop. “[They all] boast great food as well as a vibrancy that comes from their proximity to the High Line,” he says. If you’re looking for a caffeine buzz to carry you through to the next activity, stop by Blue Bottle’s first Manhattan location inside the fashionable Milk Studios building on West 15th Street, which has a full café menu and offers home brew coffee classes every weekend.
2. The Drink
To go sober in Meatpacking is to not have visited it at all. The neighborhood has become a prime nightlife destination for both large-scale clubs like Highline Ballroom and Cielo as well as smaller cocktail lounges. Head to the Standard on Washington and West 13th to rest your feet and grab a beer at their downstairs Biergarten, or enjoy the view from their rooftop lounge with a pitcher of custom-made cocktails. Though the iconic Pastis is still closed, Bar Nana, Bubby’s High Line, and Serafina Meatpacking are other local favorites to imbibe. For a different experience entirely, opt to get in touch with New York’s historical roots with a Prohibition era-themed cocktail at Raines Law Room or secure a table at the speakeasy-inspired Employees Only—if you can find it.
3. The Clothes
The Meatpacking District’s first signs of gentrification started way back in the early 2000s with a wave of high-end retail openings, and the previously desolate neighborhood has remained a shopping destination (almost) on par with SoHo ever since. We suggest checking out Theory’s warehouse-like location down the street from the Whitney or grabbing an ever-iconic wrap dress from the DVF flagship nearby on Washington Street. Tory Burch is on Little West 12th Street for functional and fashionable flats if you realize you’ve worn the wrong footwear for a long outing.
4. The Art
Chelsea has always been known for its art scene, but the area below 14th Street is seeing its fair share of art appreciation lately as well—especially the revolving installations set up along the High Line. Currently, the elevated park is displaying street artist Ed Ruscha’s first public commission in New York City at West 22nd Street, and the park-wide exhibit Panorama places 11 sculptures and installations from international artists down the boardwalk to highlight the former railway’s expansive vistas, among other exhibits. If that’s not enough to whet your appetite for design, pop into one of the area’s 200-plus independent art galleries, which are located literally everywhere.
5. The Wind-Down
There’s nothing better for the body after a hard day of walking than a good stretch, and you’re guaranteed a great one at the area’s many boutique yoga studios. Exhale at the Gansevoort Meatpacking offers deep revival yoga classes and services, and the Integral Yoga Institute NYC offers restorative classes alongside special talks inside a beautiful brownstone location on West 13th Street.
Doing it all in one day is a near-impossible feat. In fact, you’ll likely have to come back many times to get the full experience. “After a lull, the Whitney signals the start of a new era for the Meatpacking District,” Phillips says, adding that the dynamic mix of art, food and business make the area better than ever. Happy travels!