New York City is truly one of one of the most wonderful places in the world. I get that 8.5 million people crammed onto a island or two isn’t everyone’s cup of tea for a full-time living sitch, but man, there’s no denying the electricity of the place. I lived there for close to two years and while there was some serious grinding day in and day out, I can’t remember ever feeling more energized, inspired, and motivated.
It’s been eight months since I left, but I think about NYC often. Even though life’s taking me to the other coast for a few years, I think that there will always be a piece of the Big Apple nestled deep in my soul. It’s true what they say, “Once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker.” Recently, John and I took a trip back to revisit the city and catch up with some of our best friends. Strolling through the streets and taking John to all my favorite places was complete heaven for me, and because so many people have asked me for recommendations since then, I thought I would put together a *small* guide.
How to Get Around
New York may be the most populous city in the US, but that doesn’t mean it’s the biggest. You’ll find that to be a blessing and a curse. NYC-area airports are pretty much the worst because none of them are close to the city (remember, land is a premium!!). Depending on traffic, train schedules, and destination, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to get between Manhattan and the airports. If money isn’t an issue, you can hop in the taxi line or opt for a ride share (Uber / Lyft / Via, etc.). If you’re like me and prefer the public transport route, there are options from every airport. From Newark, take the NJ Transit to Penn Station and transfer to the subway, if needed. From JFK, take the AirTrain to the Jamaica or Howard Beach stations and transfer to the subway. From LaGuardia, go to the upper level and hop on the Q70-SBS bus to Roosevelt Ave where you can transfer to the subway.
Once you’ve made it into the city, give yourself a major pat on the back! That’s probably the toughest thing you’ll do all week. You can pretty much count on your good old feet or the subway for the rest. Depending on the length of your stay, you can get an unlimited weekly MetroCard or just pay per ride. Taxis and Ubers are also a thing, but given the state of Manhattan traffic, I’d rather walk or go underground ~ 9/10 times it will be faster.
Where to Stay
I don’t think I have to tell any of you how outrageously expensive New York City is, so you can probably guess that a few nights in a hotel is going to cost you. During our most recent visit we stayed in an Airbnb to save money. If you’re a broke college student who’s just looking for a place to or crash your head or a recent college grad who can’t afford to fork out $300 / a night, Airbnb is your best bet. Here’s my code for $40 off your first stay.
For those of you taking the hotel route, I have a few ideas up my sleeve… 11 Howard is a 3-star Scandinavian-inspired hotel in SoHo. Cool aesthetic, fun location. The Arlo Hotel NoMad is a 4-star micro-concept hotel. The rooms are tiny, but the price is right, and the Empire State Building is right around the corner! Now onto the crème-de-la-crème… If you’re willing to venture out to Brooklyn, then 1 Brooklyn Bridge is a fun, 5-star, eco-friendly option. The views of Manhattan from the other side of the East River are hard to beat and I love the plant-filled interiors. Last, but certainly not least, my favorite hotel in all of Manhattan, The Crosby Street Hotel. A room here will cost you an arm and a leg, but for good reason. Every room has a unique design and gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s located right in the heart of SoHo (on Crosby Street!) and is the perfect starting point for a fun few days of city exploring. It’s also part of the Firmdale Hotel Group, which recently opened up another hotel two blocks from Central Park, The Whitby. I haven’t been, but might be worth checking out if you’re looking for somewhere a little further north!
Where to Explore
The answer to this question depends a lot on whether or not this is your first time in the city. There’s plenty of touristy things to do: going to the top of the Empire State Building, boat cruises along the Hudson, heading to Staten Island to see the Statue of Liberty, walking around The World Trade Memorial / Freedom Tower, oh, and the dreaded Times Square. Do it all once, and you’re good! Seeing that I’ve been to NYC so many times over the years, I aim for a mix of tourist and local.
My favorite walks are Central Park, the West Side Highway / Hudson River Greenway (perfect for runners), The Brooklyn Bridge, and The High Line, an elevated trail / walkway through the Meatpacking District. While you’re in Meatpacking, you can also stop by Chelsea Market, which is an indoor food & shopping hall. Grab a taco or two from Los Tacos No. 1, you’ll thank me later. If you’re in NYC in the winter, skating in Central Park or at Bryant Park or Rockefeller Center is a lot of fun (at least, when the crowds die down). Also, be sure to check out the big Christmas Tree at Rockefeller!
New York has tons of incredible museums, perfect for a rainy (or sunny) day. I love The Whitney (Pay-What-You-Wish on Fridays from 7–9:30 pm), The Guggenheim, and The MET. If you’re there in the summer, the fashion exhibit following the Met Gala is a must (it usually runs the first week in May - first week in September). This year’s exhibit, Camp: Notes on Fashion, was fantastic.
Where to Eat
Okay, now onto the best part… FOOD! I will warn you that most of my food interests veer towards the healthy and casual side, so you won’t find a tonnnn of fancy or heavy sit down places here, but bear with me. If there’s one thing I know, it’s food.
CAFES & BREAKFAST // Clinton St. Baking Company is your spot for a melt-in-your-mouth stack of buttermilk pancakes and my hidden gem, Pause Cafe, is right across the street. They do the most delicious (& best priced) juices and light fare food in the city and the owners are the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Maman (Centre St location) is one of the most glorious French hideaways I’ve ever known. Stay for a sit down meal or munch off the à la carte café menu as you page through a good book. Don’t forget to try their cookies! If you’re in the mood for eggs, you have to try Good Thanks. It’s a tiny, hole-in-the-wall Australian café on the LES and their scrambles will blow your mind. West~bourne is another awesome spot for a chilled breakfast meeting or light meal with friends. The food is healthy, inventive, and west-coast inspired.
BAGELS // Three words, two hyphens. Ess-a-bagel. There’s no going anywhere else after you’ve tasted this thing.
VEGAN & VEGETARIAN // Probably 90% of my favorite restaurants in NYC are coincidentally vegan or vegetarian. Head on over to my previous 7 Best Vegetarian Eats in NYC post. They’re all there, and you won’t want to miss ‘em!
ITALIAN // I’m not a big pizza person ( I know, blasphemy!), but if I had to choose my favorites, they’d be Rubirosa, Emmy Squared, and Lucali. FYI - Lucali is BYOB and cash only, and you’re going to have to put your name in before 5pm to get a spot! If you’re looking for a casual, but delicious group spot, The Meatball Shop is perfect. I love the Chicken Pesto Meatballs. For a special night out, make a reservation wellllll in advance at either Lilia and Misi. They’re both owned and run by superstar Chef Missy Robbins, who just so happened to have attended Georgetown #HoyaSaxa.
ASIAN // I don’t need to tell you twice how much I love Sugarfish. Order the “Nozawa Trust Me” and be sure to get there early. You’re in for quite the wait if you don’t! Kazu Nori is the cheaper and equally delicious handroll-only spin off of Sugarfish (same owners). I went to Sushi Kaito on the UWS for my 23rd birthday and had one of the unexpectedly best omakase meals of my life. Great for special occasions. If you’re an udon noodle fan, you have to try Raku in the West Village.
OTHER GOOD STUFF // For all things gluten-free and paleo, head to Hu Kitchen. DO NOT leave without the almond butter truffles and a chocolate bar or two. Chipotle meets Cava meets Roti meets Sweetgreen in the healthiest and best way possible… Springbone is my favorite fast-casual place in New York City. Period. Grandma’s Chicken & Rice with a cup of bone broth is heaven. And, if you’re into bone broth, another great spot to try is Brodo. You all know how much I rave about abcV (see the vegan / vegetarian section), ABC Kitchen (American food) and ABC Cocina (Latin-American food) are run by the same group. Perfect for a family meal or parents in town. They’re both farm-to-table style places that have something for everyone. They’re attached to a home and design store, ABC Carpet, which is really fun to check out before or after your meal! Clover Grocery. Like I said on my Insta story the other week. Every healthy overpriced snack you could ever hope for. If you’re into the health foods scene, this is a fun one.
DESSERT // You’ve seen them, you’ll love them, you need them: Levain Bakery’s Chocolate Chip cookie. Kith is a really cool and rather pricey sneaker shop, but they also blend ice cream / cereal creations upstairs. So good. Another ice cream / cereal place that’s even more delicious than Kith is Milk & Cream. Just do it. If you’re anything like me, fro-yo cravings are normal and frequent. 16 Handles will take care of you on this front.
Where to Shop
You guys already know I’m a clean beauty junkie, and NYC is clean beauty MECCA. My new favorite shop is Follain, they have the most beautiful, plant-filled storefront of dreams in the West Village. Another equally amazing option is Credo Beauty, especially if you’re looking for make-up. The two that I haven’t had a chance to venture into yet are CAP Beauty and ONDA Beauty, but I thought I’d throw them in there in case you’re interested in this sort of thing. If you’re not quite there with the #nontoxic life, but are still up for a trend, the equally chic and highly Instagrammable Glossier is always worth a visit.
For jewelry, I love Catbird, Gorjana and Laura Lombardi. I never leave the city without a stop in my all-time fav, The Frankie Shop. It’s funky, minimalist, and carries pieces you won’t find anywhere else in the city. The sustainable Reformation is also a must whenever I’m in town, although, psssst. Chicago friends, they just opened up shop downtown! Ref has a few different locations, but the LES side store is the only one that stocks the vintage collection. Speaking of vintage, if you’re into thrifting, 10 Ft Single and The Break Vintage are gold mines on a good day.
For any French lovers, you need to stop at Sézane (“L’Appartement Sézane”). The entire storefront is covered in flowers and feels like you’ve just walked into a Parisian dream. Right down the street are two more of my go-tos, Everlane and Outdoor Voices. There’s usually a line to get in Everlane, but it’s totally worth the wait. Love the mission and they have every basic you could ever need! If you’re looking for a mosey around an indoor market, there’s always some cute shops and vendors set up inside Canal Street Market. Oh, and for everything sustainable, green, and zero waste, Package Free Shop is ridiculously perfect. Finally, the recommendations wouldn’t be complete without including a bookshop… Rizzoli is a classic! I could get lost in there for hours.
And that’s a wrap! I would love for you all to leave me your NYC recommendations below.
You know I’m always looking for new spots to try!