New York City is one of my favourite places in North America but that wasn't always the case. It took a few visits for the fire to get going but it has now become a place that Michael and I love to book long weekend getaways to. It’s a short 1.5 hr flight away for us and offers the perfect escape from our usual weekend routines.
This past month marked my sixth time coming to the city so I feel like I’ve got a good grip on things and am able to serve up some solid suggestions if you’re planning a trip in the near future. Whenever I plan my trips to New York I tend to plan them around food, because my boyfriend and I love to eat. We watch all the food documentaries, we love fine dining and casual fast food joints alike, we love cooking together and we aren’t afraid of trying something new... minus that one time in LA where the sushi chef served us fish sperm. That was gross. Would not recommend.
Where To Stay & Neighborhoods To Explore
I am a big fan of boutique hotels/smaller hotel chains as opposed to the big brands. In a place like New York you have so many options, it will make your head spin. This time around we chose The Ace Hotel. While the lighting is dim and the hallways a bit dated, I really liked the rooms and would recommend it if it’s your first time in the city and want to be close to the tourist highlights of Midtown without staying in the middle Times Square. I don't like Times Square because it's so incredibly crowded. Love the Sephora in there, though. It’s massive!
I have previously stayed at The Standard High Line – cool location in the Meatpacking District and was very very busy, especially at night. They have a rooftop nightclub and patio called Le Bain that’s super popular. If you are into the party scene I would recommend staying here since it was very lively. It wasn’t my cup of tea but I appreciated the close proximity to the High Line, the Whitney Museum, Chelsea Market and the cool cobblestone streets and shops of the Meatpacking District.
I vlogged our stay in the Meatpacking District from a couple of years ago so you can check it out below:
NOMO SOHO – this hotel was under the Mondrian brand when we stayed there, and funny enough we woke up one day to a paper under our door stating that the hotel’s brand had changed overnight. I loved the location on Crosby St. It was quiet and peaceful, and the front garden entryway is so dreamy. Paintbox nail studio was next door so I was able to get a cool manicure while I was there. Another chic option in the area is 11 Howard with minimalistic Swedish-inspired décor that’s to die for or you can stay at Crosby Street Hotel if you really want to get fancy. A warning, though: staying in SoHo, especially if you’re a beauty & fashion fiend like I am, is extremely dangerous for your wallet. Every cool brand under the sun has a boutique within 10 minute walking distance so prepare to do a lot of display window drooling. Bring a tissue.
By far my favourite place to stay and the place we would book again in a heartbeat has been The Ludlow Hotel in the lower east side. The hotel is beautiful and quirky; I loved the room décor and how at night it was totally quiet. Our room had a non-glamorous view of a parking lot but that didn’t matter because it was SO quiet, it was great to be able to get a good night’s sleep without the constant blare of sirens. The neighborhood is exactly what we want: laid back, filled to the brim with delicious food options and close to unique shops. It’s also in walking distance to the high end shops of SoHo so you get the best of both worlds. A few blocks away is Nolita, another one of my favourite neighborhoods to stroll around in.
Shopping & Eating
If you’re into home décor, ABC Carpet & Home is the mecca of all things beautiful (and outrageously expensive). We were able to pick up a few things here and there, smaller home accessories like photo frames and candle holders but the store is huge and it provides a lot of inspiration. They also sell niche green beauty brands and fine jewelry from local designers on the first floor. On the same property are three restaurants: ABC Kitchen, ABCv, and ABC Cocina. We loved ABC Kitchen so much that we just keep going back to it. I have yet to venture out to explore the other 2 options but a lunch or dinner here is not to be missed! Get the crab aioli toast and transport your mouth to heaven. Reservations are strongly recommended both for lunch and dinner. Skip dessert at the restaurant and walk down the street to Dough Doughnuts for a hibiscus doughnut. SO GOOD.
Another finer dining highlight has been the NoMad Restaurant. The decor is very romantic and sophisticated, the service is impeccable and each dish is presented in a fun, creative way. make sure you grab a table in the covered courtyard and look up to enjoy the massive skylight above you. From appetizers to dessert, it's a delicious journey. Their signature dish is a roasted chicken for 2, which is incredibly delicious but it will leave you so full that you might want to roll back to the hotel. The Milk & Honey dessert is out of this world, too.
If you choose the lower east side as your home for your stay, Reformation and Theory Of Gaia are my favourite clothing shops on Ludlow St. Next door to them is a delicious fried chicken & waffle restaurant called Sweet Chick. The food was delicious (& also had veggie-friendly options) and the atmosphere was great. They were playing amazing hip-hop and it was so fun and lively in there. A block further down is il laboratorio del gelato which has gelato so good it will make you think you’re in Florence.
If you're a ramen fan, Ivan Ramen was so much fun and so delicious. We watched Ivan's episode on Chef's Table and were super excited to try his home-made wheat ramen noodles. I opted for the vegetarian ramen, which contained his famous roasted tomato, and it was one of the most delicious bowls of food I have ever had. The appetizers were also fantastic, the service was great and the prices were very reasonable. Make a reservation ahead of time as the place is quite small and it tends to fill up quickly in the evenings.
The Meatball Shop is another favourite. The chicken meatballs, collard greens, mashed potatoes as well as the vegetarian balls (made with lentils) were out of this world. They have 7 locations throughout the city. We even bought their cookbook and have been making some of their recipes at home, with great success. We even threw a meatball party for our friends earlier this year! On the opposite end of the food spectrum, Dirt Candy serves amazing vegetarian fine dining in the lower east side. Reservations a month in advance are highly recommended here. It's fully booked every single weekend.
For a quintessential NYC deli experience, Michael recommends Katz’s Delicatessen. I’ve never been but it’s a cult classic so you have to pop on over for a legendary pastrami sandwich. It’s cash only so don’t forget to stop by an ATM before you go in. For brunch, Bubby’s in the Meatpacking District was delicious (plus you can walk off your food baby along The High Line afterwards). The Butcher’s Daughter was really cute and trendy (AKA white washed wood interior, lots of succulents, very IG-friendly) and Jack’s Wife Frieda has a fantastic Mediterranean-inspired menu.
If time allows and the weather is nice, take a long stroll from the lower east side across the Williamsburg Bridge out to Brooklyn. I am still new to the area, but from what I have experienced so far I would definitely recommend stopping by Catbird and Mociun if you're in the market for some special new jewelry. The latter also has fantastic ceramics and home goods made by local artisans. Further out into Bushwick is local hidden gem Roberta's which is a pizza joint we learned about on a YouTube show that explores the country's best pizza. We ordered a green tomato salad and their Famous Original pizza and damn... it was the best pizza I have had in North America. It's an easy place to get to from the Subway (take the L train) and I highly recommend it if you're down for a delicious New York pizza experience.
Taking It All In
You have to try and get in at least one museum while you’re here. The MOMA is really impressive but was super crowded during my visit so my experience wasn’t as enjoyable as it could have been. The World Trade Center Memorial was really touching and there is also a museum nearby. I have never been to The Met Museum but it’s highly recommended and it’s on my list to visit for next time.
If you want to take in the epic views without paying and waiting in line for the top of the Empire State Building or the top of One World Trade Center, I would suggest chilling out and opting to taking in the views from a rooftop bar instead.
Central Park is charming and a must-see year-round. My first time in the city was in the blustering cold February so I grabbed a hot chocolate and a Sprinkles doughnut before going for a walk in the park and it was so beautiful and peaceful. Spring time is nice because the trees are in bloom, Autumn has the gorgeous rusty colour palette and Summer makes it the perfect picnic destination. You can also rent a paddle boat and make a romantic date out of it.
I hope you have found this guide useful! There are so many things to see and do, there truly is something in New York City for everyone. I have so many things on my "to do" list still.
As always, I am always keen on reading your suggestions so let me know what your favourite spots in NYC are in the comments section below or via Twitter!