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My Favourite Spots: New York’s West Village – Chelsea Area

By Sarah Grubb

With all of my living in many different countries, I am constantly asked about my favourite places to live, holiday to, relax, eat, drink etc.  This is one of the hardest questions to answer, as I love lots of things about lots of places.  But having grown up in the US (and now being back here), I am often asked about what people should do in the popular cities to travel to such as New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Vegas, DC and so on.  Throughout the years, I have compiled a series of emails with some of my favourite recommendations which I thought I could do a short series on through my contributions on TheatreArtLife.

Thus begins My Favourite Spots: New York’s West Village/Chelsea Area.
Now, everyone has their favourite spots.  If you have never been, I do recommend the obvious things:

  • See a show or 5
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Empire State Building
  • Ellis Island
  • Central Park
  • Etc Etc

But I like to go hang in the West Village/Chelsea area, live a bit more like a local and hit my fav eateries, coffee joints and rooftop bars.

When visiting NYC on tour or for your 2nd or 3rd trips, I usually recommend staying at The Jane Hotel.  This hotel is where they ended up taking all the survivors of the Titanic.  It has been a myriad of things, but now is a high-end hostel, and arguably the most affordable lovely place to stay in New York.  It is located just south of the Highline/Chelsea in the West Village, right on the river.  All of the rooms are kind of styled like old timey cruise ship bunk rooms, but done in a classy way.  The singles and doubles have a shared hallway bathroom, but the Captain’s Rooms are where it’s at.  They have double/queen beds, private ensuite and a view of the river OR, the pièce de résistance, a private inward facing courtyard!  I usually beg for one of these rooms, especially in summer.  The singles are around $90/night and the prices go up from there with the Captain’s Rooms ending up around $250.  But it really is worth it.  It is also a bit too expensive for the usual hostel crowd, so the clientele is definitely more ‘grown up’.

For the neighbourhood and price, I genuinely think there is nothing quite like it.

They have a crazy cool bar in a ballroom type room and a nice little rooftop bar in summer.

As I have become quite accustomed to staying in this part of town, here are a few of my recommendations for eating, drinking, entertainment:

  • Whitney Museum– this is right near The Jane.  Totally worth seeing.  Great collection started by one of the Vanderbilts.
  • Chelsea Market– all good stuff here.  I particularly like Friedman’s Lunch  (they have another location in midtown).
  • Tea & Sympathy– this place is where I go when I miss Australia/UK.  They make fabulous scones and have great tea.  I have spent many an afternoon just sitting in here reading with my lovely plate of Devonshire Tea.  This is a hard find in the USA.
  • The Highline – This is very well known now, but it is an old railway line turned into a park entirely driven by private enterprise and donors etc. It is really close by and lovely.
  • Coffee in NYC is actually kind of hard. Stupid Starbucks everywhere.  When I am near The Jane, I usually get coffee at Blue Bottle.  It is on the Highline as a cart and they have a café near Chelsea Market. When I really miss Australia, I hit Toby’s Estate.  They have several locations.  You can get a true flat white and a Tim Tam!
  • For a lovely summer day drink or meal, make sure you check out The Frying Pan. It is a boat moored on the Hudson which is a great spot for meeting friends on a nice day.  Lots of tables, good food and drinks.
  • I also like the rooftop on The Brass Monkey. You can view it from the Highline.
  • If you are feeling a bit Chips/Guac Happy Hour, check out Dos Caminos in the nearby Meat Packing District. Perfect for after a bit of browsing the area.
  • It’s not totally nearby, but I always tell everyone that they must hit McSorley’s Ale House in the East Village. It is still the cheapest place to drink beer in the whole city.  As the oldest operating pub in the US, it has so much history. They only allowed women inside around 1973.  They only serve 2 kinds of beer – dark and light.  Try the cheese platter.  It’s hilarious.  To learn the whole history ahead of time, read the book McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon.
  • If you are more into the cool cocktail bar, check out Little Branch. A great little hidden place with a pretty hip vibe.  In fact, who knows, by now it may not be hip anymore!
  • This may seem silly, but when you are in town for a while on a tour or something and you need some good old fashioned waxing, head to see Lana at Gemini 14. She is amazing and hilarious.  Worth every penny.  They have other services too.
  • Also nearby is the fabulous interactive experience show, Sleep No More. You could seriously see it several times and not see the same thing twice. Bring your knowledge of Shakespeare’s Scottish play and pay for the VIP experience.  It’s totally worth it.
  • I usually grab a giant brunch complete with fancy Bloody Mary at Bubby’s near The Jane.

All of these places are very near to The Jane.  I have a lot of suggestions for Williamsburg as well.  But that would definitely keep you busy for at least a week.

Happy exploring in the West Village/Chelsea area!

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