New York City

WHAT’S NEXT FOR NEW YORK?

Last night Adam and I reminisced about summer nights in the city. We have a shared favorite memory that started at happy hour in the East Village followed by a crowded subway ride, then an outdoor movie in the park – a blanket squeezed in among strangers – which led us to a loft party in Williamsburg and finally a cab ride back to my old apartment on the Upper East Side. It was the kind of night that began with almost no plans at all and was swept along by the current of New York City in the summertime. A night that seems as impossible now as it seemed possible then.

A few of you have asked me to describe New York right now and if I had to sum it up – it would be that the spark has sort of gone out this summer. That feeling of spontaneity (the best kind of uncertainty) has gone missing. The spark has been replaced instead with a slow burning tension. A shared understanding that we’re all but powerless over the fate of this city.

Teenagers sit on stoops looking restless, itching to get into trouble just to have some say in the story of their summer. A cashier at the grocery store laments to me that he used to work in theater and misses the creativity.. but is thankful to have a job. The park is full of women and their babies in the morning, many of whom look unsure about their newly appointed title of stay at home mom. They wear workout clothes while their heels presumably collect dust at home. 

Cops stand guard alongside barricades outside our neighborhood precinct and in front of the Washington Square Park Arch. Protecting themselves and their monuments while a convenience store 20 blocks away is robbed at gunpoint. An older woman in our neighborhood compares it to the New York of the 1970s. She says she’s seen it all. Tells us to be careful.

Moving trucks line the streets as fair weather city dwellers go in search of fairer weather. Without the usual swarm of summer tourists those of us that are left spread out like we own the place – because well, we do. The streets are ours alone to rule or to ruin.

The truth is that no one has ever known what’s next for New York but that hasn’t stopped the evolution. And so, we go on. The protests and the progress. The work that needs to be done and the feelings that need to be wrestled with. The thick August heat and our relentless hope keeping the embers of this city hot until it can spark up again.

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MY NYC HOLIDAY BUCKET LIST

Aside from the cold – this really is the most magical time of year in New York. The city is decked out in its holiday best, there are lights everywhere and plenty of occasions to pour a glass of bubbly. I can’t get enough. Which is why I wanted to create a holiday bucket list to be sure that I make time to enjoy as much of the season as possible. Some of the things on my list are beloved traditions at this point while some are things we have still yet to experience in New York and really want to get around to doing this year. Also – a reminder that not everything has to be expensive this season – plenty of the things on my list are super budget friendly, if not free!

Ice skating Dates:

Now that Adam and I both own ice skates, we want to take advantage of all of the fun rinks in the city! My favorite is skating in Central Park – with the city in view around you – but Bryant Park and Rockefeller Rink (if you get there super early or on a weeknight) are also great. Budget tip: Bryant Park is actually free to skate at and so are locker rentals if you bring your own lock, so this is a great cheap date idea.


Lights at Dyker Heights:

Remember that one house in your town that used to go all out with lights and yard decorations for the holidays? Dyker Heights is like that.. but x100. A neighborhood in Brooklyn where for about 4 square blocks – every single house is boasting thousands of Christmas lights, and more Santas and snowmen then you have ever seen in one place. We usually pack a “car picnic” and then drive through the neighborhood while listening to holiday tunes. Festive and totally free!


Dinner at Lucien and Minetta Tavern:

There are some restaurants that just really shine in the winter. Cozy and intimate, all candlelight and linen tablecloths, they make braving the cold for date night well worth it. Lucien in the East Village and Minetta Tavern in the West Village have been on our restaurant bucket list for a long time and I’d love to finally try them both this holiday season.


Hot Toddies, Rockefeller Tree + Fifth Avenue Windows:

This has quickly become one of our favorite holiday traditions. We pick a Sunday evening in December, make a big thermos of hot toddies and then head uptown to see the Rockefeller Tree and the windows on Fifth Avenue. Notoriously crowded and often quite cold – we found that the hot toddies really raise your spirits on the trek and ultimately make the whole thing a lot more fun.

Volunteer:

It can be easy to get swept up in all of the consumption of the holidays without pausing to think of those that are having a much tougher time. I hate to think of families that are struggling to get a few gifts under the tree for their kids – so this year, Adam and I starting the yearly tradition of picking up toys for local families. Someday, we plan to continue this with our own little ones, letting them pick out toys for kids in our community that are less fortunate than them. We’re looking into Stockings With Care or Operation Santa – or both!

Jazz Standard Holiday Show:

I love live jazz any time of year, but it feels extra festive around the holidays. Jazz Standard in Gramercy is one of our favorites for big band style jazz and last year we went on January 1st which was such a fun way to kick off the new year.  

West Village Wander:

Is there any place prettier than the West Village around Christmas? I love taking a Saturday, hot chocolate in hand and just wandering through the streets and looking at everyone’s decorated doors. Grove Street is a particular favorite. 

Classic Movie at the Theater:

Our local movie theater plays classics like It’s A Wonderful Life this time of year and I want to make it a point to catch one – even better if it’s one I’ve never seen!

SHOP THE STORY:

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MY 10 YEAR NEW YORK CITY ANNIVERSARY

Today marks 10 years since I arrived in New York City. A decade of me and Manhattan (minus a brief fling I had with Los Angeles of course.. but doesn’t every New Yorker have that one winter that makes them consider rash things like leaving?).

I’ve been lucky enough to fall in love at first sight twice in my life. And the first time was at 17, the moment I stepped out of Penn Station into the glaring lights of Seventh Avenue. I grew up in Pennsylvania which is only a few hours away, but until my late teenage years all I knew of New York was the romanticized ideas I’d inhaled from classics like Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby, my favorite shows (Sex & the City, Friends, Will & Grace and Seinfeld) and the glossy pages of Vogue. One look though and I was as good as gone. The same could be said for the second time I fell in love at first sight. But today’s not about him.

I arrived so absolutely bewitched by this city it seemed like the feeling would be impossible to sustain. But then, like true love, it has against all odds gotten better with time. Of course, like any true love we’ve also had some tough times. There were the early (and if we’re being honest, middle) years when I was barely making it. Years marked by cheap pizza and expensive rent for the shoebox sized apartment where I was eating it. The year marked by a painfully broken heart and the subsequent years marked by bad dates and my stubborn inability to turn down a tequila shot. All the times I’ve watched friends hit their breaking point with the city (you can see it coming if you know the signs) and move away. To Nashville.. or New Jersey. Anywhere that doesn’t seem quite as crushing as this place.

But then – I’ve always like the hard way. In fact, when I think of who I was when I arrived and the woman that I am now – I actually credit New York with softening me. With teaching me that it’s okay to cry. Publicly in fact. It’s okay to falter or flat out fail. This city is built on both sweeping success and fantastic failures all mixed up in one. Life goes on. You find your way back to your apartment, sleep it off and try again the next day. Like any good New Yorker would do.

And in spite of the trials, New York has offered the life that I spent my teenage years dreaming of. It’s confirmed the notion that hard work is rewarded. It’s insisted that being exactly who I am will be good enough to get me the things I want in life. It’s given me the kind of blissfully good days and adventure-filled nights that I thought could only ever possibly happen in the movies. It’s such a part of me that I can’t imagine my life anywhere else. It turns out, real love can last forever.

Here’s to the another 10, New York. I can’t wait to see where our story takes me next.

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MY SPRING IN NYC BUCKET LIST

Since I shared my Spring Wishlist (along with a disclaimer that I’m shopping quite a bit less these days) I figured I’d also share my Spring Bucket List – aka all the places and experiences – I’m looking forward to this season. And what better day to share than the first day of Spring!

  1. A stroll along South Street Seaport. I love this area but it can get SO crowded in the Summer. The first really nice spring day is great for walking along the water, grabbing tacos at El Luchador and eating on the benches with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge.
  2. Snagging tickets to see the NYC ballet’s rendition of Jane Eyre. I’m always looking for an excuse to go to the ballet (and Adam has zero interest), so when a friend asked me to join her for this Bronte classic I jumped at the chance! Tickets go on sale this weekend.
  3. A glass of rosé on the Met rooftop – this has become on of my favorite spring traditions. Even better when you can see all of the fresh blooms in Central Park from above.
  4. Running a 10k! This was on my list of things to do in 2019 (for now, my half marathon days are on hold while I see how my knees hold up to shorter distances) and Spring would be the perfect time weather-wise to do it.
  5. We may end up staying in the city over Easter weekend and if so – I definitely want to try a new brunch spot. Although Friend of A Farmer and Buvette (two favorites) are still contenders.
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A STAYCATION AT THE MICHELANGELO HOTEL

Two weekend’s ago, Adam and I packed our bags, hopped in a cab and headed 30-some odd blocks uptown to the check into the Michelangelo Hotel for a staycation. An Italian family-owned 4-star hotel (with other locations in Florence, Milan and Rome) it feels like a taste of Italian luxury but smack dab in the middle of New York City. Think, lush velvet couches and grand staircases and decadent marble bathrooms… all while you’re 3 blocks from Times Square and 8 blocks from Central Park.

The funny thing about a staycation just a 20 minute cab ride from where you actually live is that it really does feel like a vacation. It forces you out of the “comfort zone” of the your usual neighborhood and into exploring your city like a tourist. And relationship-wise I think it gets you out of your usual at home routines. Meaning in the evenings instead of zoning out and watching TV, both scrolling on our phones, we went out and taste-tested cocktails at a hidden jazz bar. Another night we watched a movie but did it with a side of room service pizza (the best pepperoni pizza I’ve had in a long time – and I like to think of myself as sort of an expert in this arena), popped prosecco and turned the evening into a date night in. I took luxuriously long bubble baths and Adam indulged in endless in-room espresso. We lingered over leisurely breakfasts in the hotel cafe, flipping through The New York Times and not rushing anywhere. All of it just felt like such a treat.

And if you’re not a New Yorker looking for a staycation – you can’t ask for a better location to be a tourist. While you’ll be in no shortage of things to do in surrounding areas of the hotel, below are a few of our Times Square area tips:

  • Get in line early at the TKTS booth (under the big steps in Times Square) for same day discount tickets to all the biggest Broadway shows.
  • Head to Black Tap for hilariously oversized milkshakes. Honestly this place is kind of worth the hype though because the burgers are solid and even the plain milkshakes are delicious – although Adam recommends going all the way with the Frutti Pebbles shake.
  • Stroll through the start of Central Park. Hit up the Strand Bookstore kiosk (on the South-Eastern corner), swing through the Central Park Zoo to see the sea lions, and circle back for ice skating at Wollman Rink.
  • Duck into The Rum House to escape the tourist crowds and stay for the classic cocktails and live jazz.
  • Visit one of the world class museums just a hop and skip away from the Michelangelo. My favorites are the Met and the MoMa – but the Guggenheim is great too and the Natural History Museum is perfect if you’ve got little ones

A big thank you to the Michelangelo Hotel for hosting us for the weekend – as always all opinions are completely my own.

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The Steele Maiden © 2012

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle. Based in NYC.