There is something about New York that has always been magical for me, maybe like Disney is for a 3-year-old. I am inspired and renewed each time I visit, I always feel like I could conquer the world. It’s the only destination I’ve ever traveled to that I actually miss when I leave… almost like a home sick kind of miss.
My best girlfriends and I have traveled to NYC on girl’s trips over the years, each time the experience is different, a good different though. Exploring the city can be overwhelming with all of the endless choices of food, entertainment and activities 24-7. I’ve summarized some of my favorite spots we’ve visited from my favorite food spots, sweet treats, shows, outdoor and touristy activities that are a must.
We have our favorite Hilton hotel on 35th that we typically stay at, nothing fancy, but it’s clean and in a great location to catch a metro or start each day. The year we found a basement Japanese and Tapas Restaurant, Izakaya MEW, turned out to be a hidden gem right next to our hotel. Although it was in a basement we must have passed it a million times. Walking down a dark set of stairs, we went on faith that we weren’t walking into a death trap. Once we turned the corner at the bottom of the stairs we were greeted by a friendly hostess and our ears filled with the sounds of a DJ’s beats. With a mix of a night club and beautiful lights that created a romantic and magical setting, we hit the jackpot. Izakaya Mew is now our go to meal the first night we are in the city.
One of my favorite things to do is dress up and go to a Broadway show. Nothing says New York like the theater. Quick tip: Decide up front what shows you are interested in seeing with your friends and then fill in around that show once you have arrived. You have options to use TKTS and the ticket lottery systems. We typically always purchase one show before going so we know that we have one night out with dinner and a show. One of my favorite Broadway experiences was Jersey Boys (no longer on Broadway, but you can catch a decent off Broadway production on New World Stages in Hell’s Kitchen or most likely a city near you. I treated my parents last year to a night out at our local theater, MSC Opas, and they had a blast).
Before the Jersey Boys show my friends and I decided to try out a Cuban restaurant and bar, Victor’s Cafe. We quickly found seats in the bar, sending us back in time to old-Havana, circa 1963. (Side note: Victor’s is actually a beautiful restaurant, a few years later I went back and had the entire experience over again and dined at the restaurant – this is a must.) This night was full of excitement as we walked into the Victors Bar we were immediately greeted by the bar tender and decided to order an array of Cuban topas and Cuban drinks dressed with sugar cane sticks and some sort of wild fruits I can’t recall. The band had just started playing and as the three of us had our “Sex in the City” moment of cocktails in a packed NYC bar, we laughed and flirted with the band members. We realized the time and quickly made our way over to the show just in time for curtain call where we danced and sang throughout the entire production of Jersey Boys. It was a night I will always remember, with some of my best friends who will forever be in my world.
There are several parks that are a must during your visit to the city: Central Park, Bryant Park, High Line Park are a few of my favorites. At the top of the list of course is Central Park. Every time I visit this park I have a different experience, it is a great outdoor destination for exploring. From renting a bike and cruising around the park, outdoor yoga, to traveling back to the 70’s and watching roller skating gatherings, the park is always an adventure. Last year we decided to have brunch at The Loeb Boathouse Central Park and we had a blast sipping our mimosas and watching all of the tourists attempt to climb into their paddle boats. True confession, I secretly was waiting for someone to fall in the water. I remember the food being delicious, but not as much as the people watching – make sure and get a table by a window for the best water views. (You’re welcome).
Bryant Park was whimsical and a trip back to my childhood. I absolutely fell in love with this colorful carousel filled with all kinds of creatures. Visitors relaxed under the shade trees, playing games, reading books or enjoying lunch. During the summer they offer movies in the park, I’m adding this to the list the next time we visit.
The High Line is another really neat outdoor space on the west side of Manhattan. It spans only 1.45 miles long, but it’s charm is the elevated green way including an old rail trail that runs through the center. I was probably most impressed with the flowers that generously covered the railways and brought life back to a retired track. You can actually see the Statue of Liberty off in the distance from the High Line, add this one to the list.
Foodies listen up… next stop is Chelsea Market, in the Meatpacking district, it’s a culinary must. Enjoy wandering through the halls with aromas of fresh spices, eateries, and shopping. This would also be a great place to pick up a bottle of wine (or two) and select a few cheeses to take to a park for a nice and relaxing day outdoors.
Canal Street is where East meets West. The streets are lined with vendors in Chinatown and I found a lot of art that I would have loved to take home with me. This is a cultural experience in itself. My friends and I enjoyed our first rolled ice cream at 10Below. I’d like to go back to Canal Street when I have a little more time, we were limited on time when we visited, I’ll be putting this back on the list for next time we visit.
Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge was another great adventure the last time we visited the city. After making our way over the bridge we found the original Grimaldi’s Pizza and enjoyed every heavenly slice…. side note you don’t need to travel to NYC to enjoy this city treat, they have franchised and you can find it in almost every major city in Texas. So if you are craving Pizza in NYC I would recommend trying out a few other local flavors, a basic yelp search will point you in the right direction.
Now my favorite topic…. SWEET TREATS!
Serendipity 3, home of the famous iced hot chocolate and featured in the film Serendipity, staring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale, the romantic in me had to have the full experience. We lucked out and enjoyed our delicious iced hot chocolate treat at the same table featured in the movie! Again, further proof that NYC is just magical.
Magnolia Bakery is also one of my favorites, it has gained a lot of popularity and they have several locations across the city. But those cupcakes are just too good to pass up, they also have cakes and cookies for days. Swing by if you are in the area, you wont be disappointed, I promise.
Dominique Ansel Bakery NYC, creator of the famous “Cronut”…. so if a croissant and a donut had a baby this is what it would look like. The cronut became a tourist destination fully inclusive of long lines and limited purchases per guest (limit 2 per customer). With the “fear of missing out” mentality we quickly jumped in line. The cronut has a delicious fruity filling that changes daily, so be prepared that it will be different every time you visit.
Other stops to consider while visiting NYC…
If you are a huge Sex and the City fan, NYC of course offers a complete tour bus experience. One year we thought it would be fun to take a city tour in true sex in the city fashion. It was a lot of fun and it didn’t disappoint.
The Statue of Liberty and the 9/11 Memorial are both obligatory destinations on your visit as an American. We took the Staten Island Ferry to visit see the Statue of Liberty, this is a budget saver if you’re limited on time or don’t really want to spend time on the island. When you visit the 9/11 Museum I will warn you that it is intense, so be prepared that this could be a challenge emotionally. Disclaimer, I have not visited the museum because it was not open yet when I visited the memorial, but going to ground zero changed my life much like 9/11 did. It’s incredibly powerful.
Here are 10 links to check out while planning your trip to NYC:
- Hilton Garden Inn, 63 W 35th St., New York, NY 10001
- Izakaya MEW Japanese and Tapas Restaurant
- Victor’s Cafe
- The Loeb Boathouse Central Park
- Chelsea Market
- Serendipity 3
- Magnolia Bakery
- Dominique Ansel Bakery
- Grimald’s Pizza
Where ever you end up on your trip to NYC just know that it will be an experience you will never forget, it will bring you life and inspire you to do more. I can’t wait for my next big adventure in the city! xx-Jennifer