NYC: Focus On Chelsea For Accessibility And Less Stress


The High Line Hotel, NYC

Central Park, the Top of the Rock, Times Square, Museum Mile, a Broadway show, St. Patrick’s Cathedral:  a quintessential New York City trip to some.   I offer you here an itinerary for a slightly less touristy – but no less iconic – NYC experience that is much friendlier to the slow walker or wheelchair user.

Consider booking a room at The High Line Hotel;  a fairly new hotel built on the site of the former dormitory for the General Theological Seminary in Chelsea, New York City.  The developers retained the feel of the Gothic Revival structure and to me, it’s just beautiful. The price can be right too, from the low $300’s per night (up to mid $500’s).



Intelligentsia runs a fantastic espresso bar in the lobby of the hotel with really, really nice baristas, and there’s plenty of indoor and outdoor seating (if you don’t mind rubbing shoulders with a preponderance of small dogs). The good news is that you too can bring your dog (even if it’s not a service dog) for a sleepover if you so desire. There are a few downsides:

– There is only one ADA room, and the back outside courtyard (which beckons invitingly, were it warm outside) is not accessible. (There is another courtyard with cafe tables in the front of the building, and this one is accessible.)

-The bed in our room was tucked into an alcove in the room, and there isn’t enough room for a transfer. I didn’t see the ADA room, but you’d want to make sure there is clearance around the bed.IMG_3617

– The lighting in the room is too dim, especially in the bathroom. The manager responded to my trip advisor review saying that the lights are on dimmers;  I knew that and still think the lighting is poor.  The bathroom sink area has very little counter space;  I’d check to find out what the ADA bathroom looks like.


Chelsea, NYC


The Morgan Library and Museum, NYC

Something I love about the Chelsea neighborhood:  the sidewalks in this part of midtown are wide, great for walkers and wheelchairs.  I walked for hours both in this neighborhood and then uptown to The Morgan Library and Museum (an accessible museum) on Madison Avenue, and every street I hit had clear curb cuts and pedestrian walk lights.  You could theoretically walk or roll as far as the theater district from here (but probably not much further unless you had many hours and good weather).

Need some other ideas to while away your weekend?  Let’s start with food:  Across the street from The High Line Hotel  is a great breakfast (and more) place, the Tenth Avenue Cookshop, which is nicely accessible from the street.  Wide aisles and good spacing between some tables, as well as an ADA bathroom.


Chelsea Market, NYC

Nearby is the Chelsea Market, a restored factory, chock-a-block with accessible stores and eateries. The biggest problem here is that some of the stores (the bookstore) and diners (Friedman’s) have squeezed too much into their space.  It’s also all a little precious, but I can be convinced to overlook that for a small price (like those free samples the Fat Witch Bakery doles out).   Droobing (a 3D photo booth) alone would be a reason to go to the Chelsea Market (and the Droob stall is accessible!) – that and some people-watching from tables scattered through the main area. It’s all indoors and there is a big public bathroom area (with an ADA stall).


Clement Clark Moore Park, NYC

And then you could walk or roll around for hours to work up your next appetite.  Right next door to our hotel, The High Line Hotel, is an accessible park, the Clement Clark Moore Park (he of “Twas The Night Before Christmas” fame);  the grounds of the seminary and the hotel once belonged to the Moore apple orchard estate.  Photos show a big swath of land and a grand country house;  hard to imagine that here, now, in the midst of the all the concrete, storefronts and traffic.  I hear that there is a reading of “Twas The Night Before Christmas” in the park on the last Sunday of Advent each year.


View from the High Line, NYC

The Hudson River Park is a great outdoor destination, with about 500 acres of space along the west side of Manhattan.  The piers in the Chelsea neighborhoods are all accessible according to this site.  Another place for views is along the High Line, a converted freight line that now serves as public space, runs overhead. See this map for accessible entrances to the High Line.  The park is 1.45 miles long and runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street.

The Hotel Chelsea, on West 23rd Street, is being renovated and will open in 2015.  Built around 1883, it’s a landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Dylan Thomas died here, Sid Vicious’ girlfriend was found stabbed to death here, and it’s been home to Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Brendan Behan, Mark Twain and others.  This iconic hotel is worth a sidewalk viewing, at least it’s open to the public.

Since the mid 1990’s, many art galleries have re-located to Chelsea (many from Soho).  There are several performance venues (Irish Repertory Theater, Joyce Theater and The Kitchen), although, interestingly, none of these performance venues listed any kind of information for the wheelchair-user.  The Irish Repertory Theater is accessible but needs advance notice (call the box office) to put out a ramp at the front door.  The Kitchen is completely accessible. The Joyce Theater is also accessible.


Greenwich, NYC

History lovers take note: Chelsea features prominently in the Manhattan Project and WWII.  “In the early 1940s, tons of uranium for the Manhattan Project were stored in the Baker & Williams Warehouse at 513-519 West 20th St.  The uranium was removed and decontaminated only in the late 1980s or early 1990s…” (Wikipedia).  For more info on the development of the atomic bomb and uranium stored in Manhattan, see this New York Times article.

And do check out a copy from the library of Up In The Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell, that veteran New Yorker, if you plan on staying midtown and venturing downtown.  Mitchell wrote for The New Yorker from 1938 to 1996, and his book chronicles (mainly eccentric) people in a place (on the margins) that is rapidly vanishing to gentrification.  His characters and the streets they frequent will inform your downtown trip for sure.


Downtown Manhattan

Guest Post: Summer Trails in Vail, CO

IMG_3587Many thanks to my sister-in-law, Marcia Mahoney, who took notes on her recent summer trip to Vail, CO and wrote the following:

“We went to a free concert at the Gerald Ford Amphitheater. The sidewalk down from the parking lot was free of bumps and negotiation nightmares (as shown) IMG_3575but despite that, they offer a shuttle service for those who might need it, which was quite handy for my mother who just has stability issues. Both entrances to the amphitheater were accessible. The seating for wheelchairs had a prime viewing spot without viewing complications and included places for able bodied friends and family. IMG_3571

IMG_3589The following day, some of us who are lucky enough to have legs that can walk up a hill, hiked to the top of the Vail Ski Area mountain. My brother easily joined us on the gondola as the grandmother guardian. The restaurant at the top was fully accessible with stalls in the bathroom where both you and Marianne could both have done a jig. But what was amazing, at least to me me, was the path down to the zip line viewing spot as well as the restroom and ticket sales building was accessible. Granted a tad of four wheeling capability would have been necessary, but Marianne’s chair would have made it. This allowed my mom to walk down and watch our zip line silliness, which made her feel included.

Just a small snippet of what Vail seems to be doing well. I saw more of it all over the city. The buses had wheelchair lifts.”

I’ll add that Vail also has a handicap ski program; for more details see here.  A quick google search for “wheelchair accessible lodging” yielded many results – not surprising for an area with a well-developed handicap ski program.

Why Boise?

My father-in-law, his second wife and their two teenage daughters moved to Boise, ID two years ago.  Our daughter Marianne ADORES her grandfather, but since he moved to Boise, he has become increasingly ill and is now no longer able to travel.  So, we must go to him.

Molly's Diner, en route to Boise from Salt Lake City

Molly’s Diner, en route to Boise from Salt Lake City

I guess there is no need for wheelchair-accessible rental vans in Boise, because I can’t find one to rent, despite many hours on the internet and the phone.  So, we fly into Salt Lake City, rent from and begin driving.  In the desert.  For miles on end.  With no sign of a rest area in sight.  In a heat so intense (because it is summer) that the road shimmers.  Or maybe that’s the haze from the raging wildfires in Utah and Idaho….

The good news is that we now have a third driver, our son Pat who just turned 17.  So we decided to add a week, detouring to Wyoming and the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks before driving across southern Idaho to spend the second week with our family in the Boise area (see post on Jackson).

I think Boise is pretty hip (not only because of the great number of tattoo parlors one could patronize if one so chose).  It’s not too big and has a young, friendly, outdoorsy vibe.  Although we’ve only been there twice and in the over-100 degree summertime, I think when it’s NOT summer, the weather can be beautiful.  The Boise River runs through the city, and the Boise River Greenbelt (see has 25 miles of paved pathways connecting 850 acres of parks.  Bike shops in town rent bikes, but you can motor in your wheelchair or roller skates too.   Last year, some of us floated down the river in tubes (see – a lot of fun on a hot summer day but not very accessible.

Idaho does have its fair share of rodeos, and we went to the Snake River Stampede last year (  )in Nampa Valley’s Idaho Center.  That was accessible and even better, it was indoors and not too long.  We went in the afternoon for a family event and there is no alcohol served;  it seemed like rather a big deal that there was no alcohol being served which makes me wonder if the evening events rock out and get crazy.  Might be good to see what you’re in for before you commit to an evening rodeo.

If you are there in the summer months (June through September) and appreciate good outdoor theater, then do check out the Idaho Shakespeare Festival (‎).  We’ve seen two great productions there:  (Moliere’s The Imaginary Invalid and Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd).  The theater is fully accessible, and you can bring your own picnic for outdoor dining.  The setting is really beautiful, and the summer nights are so pleasant once the sun goes down.

I can’t speak personally to this event, but both years we’ve traveled to Boise I’ve hoped to get tickets for the Treasure Valley Rollergirls, an all-female, amateur roller derby:  seems like it’d be a fun evening and not something we’ve seen before.   Check out their website for for tickets and locations:‎.  Please post a comment if you’ve been to a show and recommend it – or don’t recommend it!

Peregrine Fund World Center for Birds of Prey (‎) is located on a quiet hilltop close to the city of Boise.  The Center is wheelchair-accessible, full of information, and scenic, set as it is on a quiet prairie-like hill.  They do live demonstrations with owls, falcons, eagles and hawks, and the interpretive displays are informative.

This year on our way from Wyoming, we drove across southern Idaho so that we could go to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve ( and – of course! – the Idaho Potato Museum.

Craters of the Moon, Arco, ID

Craters of the Moon, Arco, ID

Craters of the Moon is so weirdly beautiful.  It is 18 miles southwest of Arco (and about a 40-minute drive from Blackfoot, where the Idaho Potato Museum lies). There is a seven-mile loop road, starting at the wheelchair-accessible visitor center.  You can see a lot from the car, and one of the stops on the loop road has a wheelchair-accessible trail.  There is also a campground (on a first-come, first-served basis), and apparently it is cool at night (literally and figuratively).  While we were there, meteor showers were expected at night.

Apparently lava fields cover much of southeastern Idaho, but this national monument has a variety of different volcanic features.  It lies along the Great Rift, a 60-mile fissure in the earth’s crust, which is stretching apart and creating cracks where the lava can ooze out.  It is so worth a trip, although it does feel like it’s in the middle of nowhere.

A feeling compounded by the fact that after leaving the National Park site and driving on to Boise, we drove through miles and miles of barren, barbed-wire-dissected, tracts of land with big signs proclaiming it as the purview of the Idaho National Laboratory.  As I read a little more about it and narrated for my family (stuck in the car with me), I realized: hey, I can’t wait to get out of here!  There have been 52 nuclear reactors built here, according to Moon Guide Books, and 13 are still in operation.  That’s the country’s largest concentration of nuclear reactors and oh, by the way, they are built on top of one of the country’s most geologically active areas AND sits on top of an aquifer that provides drinking and irrigation water for much of southern Idaho.  I really hope they are being careful out there….

Idaho National Laboratory, ID

Idaho National Laboratory, ID

If you don’t mind sticking around the site for a while, you can make a stop in at Environmental Breeder Reactor-1 (EBR-1) , which was the world’s first atomic plant.  It was decommissioned in 1951 but you can take tours (self-guided or guided).  Here’s the website:  I couldn’t talk anyone in my family into it:  I think the Potato Museum and national park did them in, but I’d go.  And you have to get pictures of yourself at Atomic City.  As of the census of 2010, there were 29 people living in Atomic City, and there is one store and one bar.  Denise Kiernan’s book The Girls of Atomic City about young women working during WWII in (what became) Atomic City on the first atomic bomb is on my to-read list (

Exhibit from the Idaho Potato Museum, Blackfoot, ID

Exhibit from the Idaho Potato Museum, Blackfoot, ID

The Idaho Potato Museum (‎) is small museum located in downtown Blackfoot, in the old Oregon Short LIne Railroad Depot.  You’ll get the history of potato farming and the potato industry, nutritional information on the potato, and trivia galore (including the biggest collection of potato mashers AND Mr. and Mrs. Potato Heads that I’ve ever seen).  It’s wheelchair accessible, inexpensive, and at least when we were there, staffed by a very kind and courteous woman!

For the past two years we’ve stayed at The Modern Hotel ( in downtown Boise, in the Linen District.

Restaurants we’ve liked:

  •  The Matador ( is a chain of (very good) Tex Mex food.  Although we brought our kids and it was early (6 pm), there was already a bar vibe going on.  It’s loud and the staff have a little bit of an attitude, but the food is very good and it’s very accessible.  Hmmm, I just noticed that the website doesn’t give prices for the dinner menu;  that’s annoying.  My memory is that it was somewhat on the expensive side for Tex-Mex.
  • Fork ( is near Matador in downtown Boise, and we had a great meal here last year.  You can dine well for about $15 an entree (of course, if your taste runs to Prime Rib, you’re looking at $30 per entree), the service was good, the atmosphere alive but not too loud, and it was wheelchair-accessible.  I’d return.
  •  Tony’s PIzzeria Teatro (no website but see Yelp reviews, is a fun, inexpensive Italian restaurant near The Egyptian Theatre in downtown Boise.  Although technically wheelchair-accessible, I don’t think you could truly get your chair indoors.  We sat outside on the patio and had a great antipasto plate and delicious  Neapolitan-style pizzas.  I hear the owner is Italian and makes his own sausages;  whether he does or not, someone here cares about good food at a good price.
  •  Cafe Vicino ( in Boise’s North End serves excellent Italian food in an upscale setting.  We had a fantastic meal there last year with our extended family, and they cheerfully accommodated a wheelchair and a slow-walker, and a big group (there were almost 10 of us).  The food is expensive but worth it for a splurge.
  •  Big City Coffee ( in the Linen District was just down the street from our hotel, The Modern.  It was an easy destination with a wheelchair, both in the ease of motoring down the street and access to the restaurant.  They have a “big” atmosphere and serve very big portions of hearty foods to nourish body and soul.
  • We also liked take-out (or dine-in) at a’Tavola (‎), just across the street from Big City.  The portions are a little smaller (which I prefer) and a little simpler but also, I think, somewhat better.  We liked getting our breakfasts to go from there (although it’s very accessible both for indoor seating and on the patio outside) as well our picnics (also known as car lunches).