If you’ve got early risers and find yourself itching to get out of the house at dawn, the Chelsea Flower Market is the perfect place to get some fresh air and amuse the little ones while you sip a tall latte. Early morning activities can be hard to find in the city that never sleeps, so we’ve put together our tips for exploring the Chelsea Flower Market the next time there’s a full moon and junior refuses to go back to bed at 5:00 am.
When to Go
You’ll find the Chelsea Flower Market on West 28th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. We think it’s best to stay out of the way of the serious hagglers who arrive around 5:00 am. These are the retail florists and event planners who visit the market for trade and not for tourism. So instead, try a visit around 7:00 am when the hardcore buyers are finishing up and before the casual shoppers crowd the market later in the morning. Some shops close around noon, so a visit during the morning hours is a must.
Visit Our Favorite Florists
The Chelsea Flower Market strip grew organically in the 1890s, when flower wholesalers began flocking to the Ladies’ Mile shopping area. There were scores of shops along 28th Street and even more along the avenues and nearby streets as well. Now there are about twenty shops where you can find not only flowers, but ribbons, fake fruit, holiday lights, seashells and a whole lot more. Below are a few of our favorites, but don’t stop there! It’s really easy and fun to check out the whole block.
Jamali Garden (149 West 28th Street) is a favorite of Martha Stewart Living creative directors and editors, and we can see why. They offer a huge selection of decorative accents – from seashells to bamboo fencing and lanterns to porcelain rabbit statues. Restyle the whole apartment with the kids one rainy afternoon, or just get creative with some new craft supplies.
As the name suggests, PANY Silk Garden (105 West 28th Street) is a treasure trove of artificial flowers and plants. The orchids and hydrangeas look so real, we had to touch them to be sure they were not. This is the retail shop of a larger artificial flower company, so it’s easy to shop here.
If prickly cacti is more your speed, Nobla Planta (106-A West 28th Street) is the place to visit. This plant specialist seems to have every varietal of cacti, along with tons of succulents and a huge variety of green and colorful plants.
Gary Page (120 West 28th Street) is one of the finest purveyor of fresh flowers and carries a really wide selection of gorgeous blooms. You’ll find everyday petals like roses and more obscure buds like dianthus here. This is a favorite spot for high-end florists, so be on good behavior checking out this signature shop!
Ditch the stroller and put on your walking shoes or baby carrier. The sidewalks can be crowded with big standing plants and decorations, so navigating them is harder than typical city streets, if you can imagine! Also, the aisles inside many of the shops are very narrow as vendors pack in all the flowers and wares they possibly can.
Bring a sweater. The Flower Market shops get chilly, as refrigeration is a must to keep the flowers from wilting and to lengthen their shelf life. If you visit during the summer, you may love the blast of AC or perusing flowers stored in walk-in coolers. But the kiddos will thaw quickly and should have an extra layer to don, just in case.
Wholesale prices are reserved for businesses that have a tax identification number. If you’re in the shopping mood, be ready to buy at the retail price – about 4 to 5 times the wholesale price. Jamali Garden and Planter Resource have been known to give a wholesale break when you spend a pretty penny, so inquire there if you find some things you like.
Visit the loo before or after your visit. Because the Flower Market is a place of wholesale business first, and a public market second, you may not find the easily accessible or fresh-scented restrooms of other retail shops. Instead, check out list below of nearby spots to visit for a bite to eat or a diaper change to make your outing to Chelsea easier.
Kid-Friendly Spots Around the Corner
Given the gentrification of Chelsea and proximity to Penn Station, dependable chain establishments abound near the Chelsea Flower Market. While rather unsexy, we admit that sometimes it’s a dream to have diaper changing tables and healthy food options in a 2 to 3 block radius. Here’s a short list of places to tuck into for a morning snack or potty break:
- BuyBuyBaby – 270 7th Avenue (West 25th and 26th Streets)
- Whole Foods Market – 250 7th Avenue (West 24th Street)
- Pret A Manger – 342 7th Avenue (West 29th Street)
- Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company – 286 8th Avenue (West 24th and 25th Streets)
- Starbucks – 776 6th Avenue (West 27th Street) and 315 7th Avenue (West 28th street)
What’s your favorite shop at the Chelsea Flower Market?
–Sarah K. Choi
Photos courtesy of specialoperations, Jamali Gardens and PANY Silk Gardens.