Three days in New York City … what’s a girl to do? Eat, walk and shop, of course!
Mike likes to tease me about my love of taking surveys. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good survey that finds its way to my inbox. Often these surveys are to see if I’m eligible to participate in a focus group of some sort. You typically get paid to participate, which makes it a win-win for me: I get to try something new, talk about it, and make a little fun money. Mike makes a valid point in that there is probably a better use for my time. Nine times out of ten the survey leads to nothing more than 15 minutes spent in front of a screen and a pile of laundry that won’t fold itself.
Last fall, I filled out an online survey about my interest in life coaching. That survey led to trying out Life Reimagined, a program designed to help you find your life’s purpose and work toward goals that matter to you, and participating in a focus group. I spent some time on the site, chatted with a life coach, found out I loved the program, and gushed about my experience in the focus group. They said thanks, paid me for my time, and I was on my merry way.
A few weeks ago, another email from Life Reimagined popped up. Might I be interested in traveling to New York City to film a testimonial video? OH YES, YES I WOULD. It all came together very quickly, and so a little over a week ago I found myself in New York City for three days. Part of one day was taken up with filming the video, but for the rest of the time? I was on my own, to see and explore the city as I wished.
I’ve only been to New York once before, when Mike and I went for our 10th anniversary. It was a fantastic trip, but I was 6 months pregnant. I was so excited to return very much not pregnant and – as much as I love Mike – free to eat wherever and whenever I want. Here’s how I spent those 3 lovely, whirlwind days in the Big Apple.
There were five of us involved in the Life Reimagined project. Three of us were from the Indianapolis area, and I was on the same flight as one of the other women. We shared a cab to our hotel, and after dropping off our luggage, ventured out together for lunch.
My base for the trip was the Sheraton Hotel in Tribeca. Previously I stayed near Times Square, and I have to say I really enjoyed exploring the city from this location. It was quieter than staying in Times Square, and the location was fantastic. A 5-10 minute walk in any direction would lead you to Chinatown, Little Italy, Soho, Nolita, or Greenwich Village. If I needed to venture further, there were two subway stations nearby.
I convinced my new friend that tapas were the answer to “What should we eat for lunch?” After a 10 minute walk and a quick order at the counter, I was diving into a jamón and goat cheese bocadillo, boquerones, and a crisp glass of white wine from Despaña. Everything tasted just as wonderful as it did in Spain (you have no idea how much I’ve missed those little pickled fish!), and I’m so jealous of all you New Yorkers that could eat like this every day if you wanted.
I had very little on my agenda for this trip on purpose. I knew the weather was going to be perfect (sunny and in the 60s), so all I really wanted to do was walk the city and see what enticed me. After lunch that’s what I did, wandering the shops of Soho. I discovered the wonderful world of Muji (oh the office supplies!), wandered through a couple of chains I’ve only browsed online (Joe Fresh and Uniqlo), and did a little happy dance when I came across the brick-and-mortar Birchbox store. Of course I stopped in and built my own Birchbox!
For dinner that evening I met up with the rest of the gang in town for the video shoot at David Burke Kitchen. I enjoyed getting to know everyone over a glass of rose, lobster, and a simple (yet completely addictive) little pan of roasted mushrooms.
This was the day of the video shoot. We each had different time slots for filming, so we were on our own during the day. I didn’t have to be there until 2:30, so I put my best walking shoes on and hit the sidewalks early-ish. (Hey, I had a king-size bed all to myself. I planned to enjoy it!)
I walked north towards Union Square. On the way I stopped at Dominique Ansel for the original cronut. I’ll admit, as much as I wanted to try one, I was prepared for it to be one of those gimmicky foods you eat once just to check off your list. So I have no other cronuts to compare it with … but it was SO good. I devoured it sitting on a bench around the corner from the bakery, jam and sugar covering my fingers, wishing I’d gotten another! I also bought a kouign amann (a type of Breton cake that was featured on the pastry episode of The Great British Baking Show). I ate it the following morning for breakfast and may have shed a few tears over it’s deliciousness and the fact that I only bought one. (Dominique Ansel calls theirs a “DKA,” by the way, in case you want to order one with minimal confusion.)
Sticky and happy, I walked on to the Union Square Greenmarket. I loved seeing a traditional farmer’s market in the middle of the city, buzzing with shoppers and commuters briskly making their way to work or school. I wandered the stalls with a cup of hot cider in hand.
From there I made my way over to another market, Chelsea Market. I got there fairly early (around 11) and was able to wander the former Nabisco factory and all of its wonderful food vendors without the crowds. By the time I finished it was lunch time and the place was packed. Because I’m a grownup and can do what I want, I skipped lunch there and instead bought myself a gelato from L’Arte del Gelato.
I left the market and slowly made my way back to my hotel through Greenwich Village. I stopped at an adorable little Swedish candy store, Sockerbit, and picked up some treats for the kids. I bought a pair of boots at a little boutique that I absolutely do not need, but came home with me anyways because that’s what you do in New York. And I scarfed down a big, delicious slice of pizza from Bleecker Street Pizza because that’s also what you do in New York.
By then it was time to freshen up for my video shoot. I’m not sure what I expected when I arrived to be filmed. I guess I figured I’d sit in a chair, someone would point a little video camera at me, I’d talk about Life Reimagined, and we’d be done. Instead, I walked into a full-fledged, completely legit filming operation. There was hair and makeup and very serious outfit selection. When I walked into the room to be filmed, it was like something out of a movie set. Lots of people, lots of lights, lots of very serious equipment. I panicked just a little bit – so much pressure! But everyone on staff was wonderful, making me feel relaxed. Other than some bizarre mouth twitch I couldn’t shake once it came time to take some stills, all went well. If or when I have the final product, I’ll be sure to share it with you.
The shoot took about 2 1/2 hours from start to finish, and being “on” for the entire time drained me a bit. I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in my room. In the evening I reconnected with a few of the women from the shoot and we wandered around Chinatown and Little Italy. We shared spring rolls, pork buns and dumplings at Shanghai Cafe. Everything was delicious and very inexpensive. I could’ve eaten more, but we had Italian food calling our names. Next we hit Parm, an adorable little restaurant in Little Italy. The menu is small, but packed with traditional Italian-American choices. They specialize in sandwiches served on rolls or on a hero. I couldn’t manage a whole entree, but I happily munched on Italian fries with spicy sauce. I had a bit of my tablemate’s meatballs and they were amazing. On our way back we stopped at a place I couldn’t pass up: Rice to Riches. Oh yes, an entire shop of rice pudding. People feel one of two ways about rice pudding, so you’re either drooling or retching right about now. I was drooling and had the hardest time deciding between more than 20 flavors of … you guessed it, rice pudding. I also felt a little bit ridiculous shelling out $8 for said rice pudding (I chose Coconut Coma in case you wondered). It didn’t seem quite so ridiculous when I destroyed it in my pajamas from my hotel bed an hour later. It was fun to see it make a cameo in a recent episode of “Girls,” too.
My final day came so quickly. Everyone else had flights home on this day, but I’d requested an extra day so I could get in a few more things without being rushed. One of the women had a late afternoon flight, so she joined me for the morning. I had only one thing on my trip wish list that was a must-do: visit the 9/11 Museum and Memorial. When Mike and I visited in 2007 the area was completely under construction, and I wanted to take time to reflect in this space and pay my respects. We stopped for bagels at Zucker’s, which put my sad excuse for bagels I buy at Target to shame.
The museum is so well done and an incredibly moving experience. It’s very difficult to put the experience into words. It’s emotionally charged, gut-wrenching, and heart-breaking. It’s something I will never forget. You aren’t able to take photos in the main exhibits, which I’m so thankful for. It really compels you to be present and just take everything in. I did take a few photos in other parts of the museum and memorial though.
You see this installation as you enter the exhibits and it just took my breath away. The panels you see are 2,983 individual watercolors, each a distinct attempt by the artist (Spencer Finch) to recreate the color of the sky on that beautiful September morning.
We shared lunch at the charming Square Diner (great atmosphere, meh food) before she headed back home. Since I was in the neighborhood, I swung by the Sports Illustrated/MMQB office to say hi to a few of my favorite sports writers. It was fun to chat and see where the football magic happens.
It was another gorgeous day in the city, and so I strolled back to my hotel along the Hudson river, stopping for coffee at La Columbe before recharging in my room. Sadly, my efforts at winning lottery tickets to Hamilton didn’t pan out (nor was I willing to shell out over $1000 for a ticket to that evening’s performance). Everyone was gone, I was all by myself, and I had a choice to make: spend the evening in my room or put on my big girl panties and have a fun night out. I chose the latter, and I’m so glad I did.
I navigated the subway to Times Square and made my way to the TKTS booth. I had a few Broadway shows in mind that I would see, and ended up purchasing a ticket to Fun Home. Based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel about growing up with a closeted gay father that runs the family funeral home, it won 5 Tonys in 2015 (including Best Musical). It was a fantastic show, and I highly recommend it. If you don’t have your heart set on a show, or don’t want to commit to buying tickets in advance, I’d also recommend using TKTS. You can only purchase the day of the show, and you have to purchase your tickets directly from the booth (no online sales), but you can see pretty much all the shows (except Hamilton, of course) for a deal. I had a sweet seat and got my ticket for 50% off.
I didn’t have time to eat before the show, so I was famished when it was over. I joined the crowds at Shake Shack for a burger and a peanut butter milkshake. As I rode the subway back to my hotel, I was completely worn out but content – head, heart and belly were full. In the morning I snuck in a quick trip to Baked for breakfast and to snag some goodies to bring home for the family.
There were so many things I wanted to do (and eat!) that I just could fit in such a quick trip. Momofuku comes to mind, as does walking the High Line and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I really wanted to wander around the Strand bookstore, too. I guess I’ll just have to go back!
A couple of things that I found super helpful when planning this trip on such short notice:
- This tutorial on how to create a custom Google map. I was able to plug in all the potential shops, restaurants and sights I wanted to visit. Anytime I was wandering a neighborhood, I could pull up the map and see what was nearby. It worked beautifully, and I can’t wait to use it for our upcoming trip to southern California.
- Kevin & Amanda also have some great blog posts on NYC eats, especially if you have a hankering for the sweet stuff.
- Any of the myriad of food guides I found on Serious Eats. The SE office is in New York City, so the team knows their stuff.
Thanks for following along on my travels!