The Neighborhood Cocktail: Equal Parts Grit and Glamour
The art dealers started it all. Priced out of Soho in the 1990's, they migrated to the old industrial area north of West 14th Street and transformed warehouses and garages into stunning showcases for contemporary painting and sculpture. And because gallerygoers needed places to refuel, brunch spots sprang up. Hip clothing shops opened. And a 30-acre sports complex surfaced right on the Hudson River. Coming next: a cutting-edge park on an abandoned elevated railway. Despite all the changes, some streets are still paved with cobblestones—stick to the sidewalks with those Heelys!
David Strah, stay-at-home father and author of Gay Dads.
Barry Miguel, president of the Zac Posen fashion house-he gets the family in to see the fall and spring runway shows Midtown in Bryant Park.
Zev, 9, guitar player, skateboarder, and Lego master.
Summer, 6, aspiring actress-she recently played Dopey in Snow White.
A white loft with a Keith Haring painting and a view of the busy loading docks of the Old Chelsea Station Post Office (where Zev had his sixth birthday party)
Discerning taste—in food (this was the first New York neighborhood to get a Whole Foods market) and fashion. "Every couple has at least one artsy type," says Barry. "The other might be an investment banker."
The neighborhood's western edge is the Hudson River Park (hudsonriverpark.org), a glorious waterfront strip of biking paths; on a Sunday afternoon you'll see Barry and the kids whizzing by.
The new Chelsea Waterside Park (23rd to 24th Sts., between West St. and 11th Ave.) packs in a basketball court, soccer field, dog run, picnic tables, and playground with fanciful Danish climbing structures—all on a traffic island.
Chelsea is now home to 300 art galleries(!), concentrated between 19th and 29th Streets, from 10th to 11th Avenues. Most dealers welcome kids—as long as they exhibit museum manners—but parents might want to take a first peek to make sure a current show's subject matter is appropriate.
Reserve a spot on one of art historian Dorothea Basile's Artime gallery walks for families (718/797-1573; firstname.lastname@example.org; $25 for one adult and one child five and up), and ogle the scene with an insider.
The Miguel-Strah clan goes to the Rubin Museum of Art (150 W. 17th St.; 212/620-5000; rmanyc.org)—which has on display Buddhas, ritual dance masks, and woven textiles from the Himalayas—"for a nice stroll through a beautiful place," says David. "Plus, the kids' programs are great."
Playwright David Mamet and actor William H. Macy founded the Atlantic Theater Company at the Linda Groves Theater (336 W. 20th St.; 212/645-1242; atlantictheater.org), which has family productions on weekend mornings in a renovated Gothic Revival parish house.