On the edge of the West Village and Chelsea, the historic Meatpacking District is a must-visit Manhattan nabe. While its meatpacking plants are mostly a memory today, as is the gritty, sex- and drug-addled rawness of the 1970s and ’80s, its industrial-warehouse architecture, Belgian-block streets and camera-ready crowd keep it cool and colorful. Explore it in an afternoon, or go till dawn if you can hold your own against bar hot tubs and air kisses.
Arrive in the Meatpacking District, also called MePa, fashionably midday via the High Line, a popular-with-tourists-and-locals walkway that was once an elevated rail line. Exit the High Line at W. 16th St.
Your first stop will be Chelsea Market, a cornucopia of eateries and shops on the borderland of Chelsea and MePa. Usually bustling with visitors and New Yorkers who work in the area, it’s perfect for lunch, dinner or weekend brunch. Friedman’s Lunch and The Green Table are healthy favorites, while seafood lovers can raw-bar the day at Cull & Pistol Oyster Bar.
Chelsea Market’s also a good place to pick up affordable gifts and goodies in an otherwise high-end, designer oriented neighborhood. Fun shopping nooks include Posman Books, Bowery Kitchen Supplies and Artists & Fleas, a collection of one-man stands that includes vintage clothing and records.
After bites and browsing, clamber back up to the High Line. Follow it a few blocks southward, passing beneath the hip Standard, High Line hotel and ending at the Whitney Museum of American Art. This is an essential stop for art and architecture lovers; even the balcony views make a visit worthwhile. Rest your feet with a glass of wine or more at the museum’s eighth-floor Studio Cafe, which features outdoor seating in fine weather, or dine at the upscale and in-demand Untitled, on the ground floor.
Now it’s time for more shopping—even if window only. Most of the designer lairs are dotted along Gansevoort St., Washington St., W. 13th St. and W. 14th St. Don’t miss Diane von Furstenberg’s flagship store—topped by her studio and penthouse—an early MePa arrival that helped flip the neighborhood. New York-headquartered hair care giant Bumble and Bumble is in MePa as well. Drop in for a huge range of products or even a blowout if you can get a chair.
Find a late-afternoon pick-me-up at Gansevoort Market, on the corner of 14th St. and 9th Ave. A smaller, less frenetic food hall than nearby Chelsea Market, Gansevoort’s diverse purveyors do it food-stall style, perfect for your grazing mood. Favorites range from Mission Ceviche for Peruvian ceviche and Gotham Poke for a Hawaii inspired poke bowl (the latest NYC craze) to Big Gay Ice Cream for a ginger-beer shake.
The Meatpacking scene picks up as darkness sets in, especially on weekends. Transition to full dinner swing at Catch, a cavernous, Asian inflected seafood scene, or Scarpetta, a casually sophisticated Italian restaurant with a tempered vibe. Iconic Sex-and-the-City MePa fave Pastis has shuttered, but Carrie’s ornate Buddakan still stands (drinks and dim sum at the bar may suffice).
At this hour, Meatpacking’s true self appears. Consider beer-friendly zones if you need an attitude downshift: either the rooftop terrace at Brass Monkey or the pretzels, beer and ping-pong at The Standard Biergarten, both of which cater to a casual 20- and 30-something crowd. For less noise and more cocktail, ooze into the chill bar The Tippler, below Chelsea Market. For late-night vagabonds dressed to party—and to part velvet ropes—try the Standard’s rooftop Le Bain, one of MePa’s, and perhaps Manhattan’s, most exclusive nightclubs.