I’m excited to share with you the first post in a brand new series called ‘The EDIT’ – which will spotlight some of my favorite bloggers and the people, places, shoes things they love in their city and beyond. Kicking things off is LA babe Ashley of ‘Pursuit of Shoes‘.
There is nowhere quite as magical as New York City during the holiday season. Whether you live here and are trying to make the most of it or are one of the thousands that plan trips to visit in the month of December – it can be overwhelming trying to navigate everything there is to see and do. Below, I’ve done the leg work and rounded up all of the can’t miss sights, sounds and sips you should add to your list. And if you want more recommendations feel free to drop me a line here or on twitter/instagram @thesteelemaiden. See you in Central Park!
1. Look at the lights – Famous for good reason, you can’t come to NYC during the holidays and miss the tree at Rockefeller. Go early in the morning before 5th avenue shopping or late at night after ice skating to miss the most major crowds. But don’t forget, Madison Square, Gramercy and Washington Square Parks all have their own big trees to see! Feeling even more adventurous? Head to Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights to see an entire neighborhood out-do itself with Christmas lights.
2. Lace up your skates – There are 4 major spots to ice skate in Manhattan (Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, Wollman Rink in Central Park and the Standard Hotel). If you’re an out of towner – skip the lines (and prices) at Rockefeller and head to Wollman Rink for more room to spin and most picturesque experience. If you’re a local, try the Standard on a weeknight or weekend morning for even less crowds and a downtown take on this favorite winter tradition.
2. Window Shop – Okay, you’ll probably be tempted to go into stores and do some real shopping too – but a walk along Fifth Avenue to see the impressive holiday window displays is a must. Director Baz Luhrmann is behind the magic in the Barneys windows and Bergdorf Goodman always puts on a show.
3. Warm up with a drink (or pop some bubbly) – After all the walking and sightseeing, you’re going to need a drink. For those with a sweet tooth, go for an over the top concoction at Serendipity 3 (the frozen hot chocolate is worth the wait – hint, go put your name on the list, grab a quick dinner nearby and by the time you’re done you’ll have your dessert table). But if a smart cocktail is more your style – try a bar with a roaring fire and old New York vibes. My favorites are The Dove Parlour in the West Village and Flatiron Room just below midtown.
5. Find the Mistletoe – Chelsea Market is a year-round favorite, but at the holidays it really shines. Visit local food vendors (Doughnuttery.. enough said), pick up a gift or too (Brooklyn’s Artists and Fleas has joined the mix), and grab a sprig of fresh mistletoe from the florist inside. Afterwards, if it’s not too cold – walk the nearby High Line. You might be lucky enough to catch a free Christmas choir performance singing carols!
6. Kick up your heels – Make like a Rockette and kick up your heels at one of New York’s great shows. From the famous Radio City Christmas Spectacular (hint: there’s lots of discounted tickets to be had on sites like Groupon) to an awe-inspiring trip to the NYC Ballet’s The Nutcracker to a Broadway play (Matlida and Jersey Boys are current crowd-pleasers), the live performances in this city are one of the most celebrated parts of the season.
A lot of things can be said about the New York dating scene (mainly that it’s pretty tough out there and also, that dates aren’t cheap!), but if you’re lucky enough to snag someone I’ve learned that there are plenty of great things you can enjoy together on a budget. Since early Fall weather is probably my favorite time of year in the city I’ve been feeling more excited than ever to get out there and get creative come date night (or day) – and naturally, to take you along for the ride. Whether you live here, are planning a visit, or just want to take some notes that may be applied to your own city/town – keep reading to see 20 of my best NYC date ideas under $20. Significant other not included.
1. Rent a Citi Bike ($9.95 per person for a 24 hour pass) and explore the city – there is a 6 mile loop in Central Park that is beautiful or the Promenades along the East and West sides of the city offer stunning river views.
2. Trade dinner and a movie for breakfast and a matinee – 2 true New York bagels (Tal on the Upper East Side is a favorite) will run you around $6. And the Loews Orpheum nearby plays classic films for just $6 a tickets at 2 pm on Sundays in the Fall.
3. Buy a cheap lock and a sharpie from a local hardware store, write your initials and place your love lock on the gate below the Brooklyn Bridge – forever immortalized. Plus the views are worth the walk.
4. Take a ferry to Governor’s Island (just $2/person round trip!) for the day – you’ll have money left over to pack a picnic.
5. Expand your palette and try Indian Cuisine at Milon in the East Village – the portions are big so you can split an entry and BYOB means you can bring your own 6-pack of beer or bottle of wine. Tell them it’s your birthday and they’ll put on quite a show.
6. Get a little competitive at Spin NY where renting a ping pong table (and endless balls) for a half an hour will cost you $20. Loser pays.
7. Indulge your sweet tooth by stopping by one of the cities best candy shops and filling up on your favorite nostalgic treats – Dylan’s Candy Bar is like the Willy Wonka of the Upper East Side.
8. Go window shopping along Fifth Avenue – even if you don’t go into the stores the window displays (Bergdorfs especially) are works of art.
9. Take a stroll along the Highline – start in Chelsea and walk towards the Meatpacking District. When you’re done, split a pizza wedge (1/3 of a pie) from Artichoke Basille for $15.
10. Take the Subway to Williamsburg ($10 for 2, round trip) on Saturday and check out the wares at Brooklyn Flea plus use the remaining $10 for food/drink from Smorgasburg vendors.
11. Visit the Metropolitan Museum and take in the classics, plus pop up to the rooftop for sprawling views of Central Park – and a little secret.. while admission is technically $25 that’s actually only a suggestion – so if you can only pay $10 each that day, you’ll still get in.
12. If you’ve got the time to get in line, grab tickets to a Late Night show (Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers are always a hit) for free – and even if the actual show sells out, you’ve got a chance to test out just their monologues for a surefire laugh.
13. Have dessert for dinner at Momofuku Milk Bar where the cereal milk flavored soft serve ice cream and the ‘crack pie’ are legendary.. and will ring in somewhere around $10.
14. Volunteer for the day helping walk dogs from a local shelter – you’ll be doing some good while also getting to spend time with adorable pups – win, win.
15. Find a new favorite at a local a beer tasting – Jimmy’s No. 43 in the East Village offers six 3 ounce pours for $10 each on Tuesday nights.
16. Play a round of mini golf at Pier 25 with Hudson River views and prices of just $5/person.
17. One of my all time favorite dates – rent a row boat ($12 for the first hour) at the lake in Central Park. So romantic that you’ll be sure to see at least 1 marriage proposal while you’re out there.
18. Sing your hearts out at Karaoke Boho in the West Village – where happy hour well drinks are cheap and hourly room rates are $4/person.
19. Browse one of the cities many outdoor markets (the Union Square Farmer’s Market is open every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) and go home with a big bouquet of fresh flowers.
20.While the drinks won’t be cheap, the views are incredible at some of New York’s best rooftop bars – try Top of the Strand for a front row seat while the Empire State Building’s lights come on.
I realized recently that I hadn’t shared any of my favorite New York neighborhoods with you since I’d moved back and with dozens of neighborhoods and hundreds of streets (and we’re just talking Manhattan) to get through – I figured I’d better start. The Lower East Side has always been one of my favorite places to indulge in this city. A decidedly young crowd, the neighborhood maintains its grit while still managing to offer some of my can’t miss spots. Below, the best of the best from the heart of the area. Have your own LES favorites or planning a trip of your own and want some more recommendations? Feel free to share or ask away!
1. Schiller’s Liquor Bar: A long standing favorite, Schiller’s rustic meets modern decor and perpetually cool crowd stand alongside a finely edited menu of cocktails and oysters. I’ve never been before roughly 5 pm but if you are an early riser I hear they serve Stumptown coffee and dollar donuts.
2. Economy Candy: Not much larger than a closet but totally worth the crowds. If you can squeeze in – you’ve entered candy heaven. From international varieties you otherwise can’t find in the US to every forgotten candy of your youth – you’ll be hard pressed to leave this place empty handed.
3. Pixie Market: My guide wouldn’t be complete without a little bit of shopping, right? Pixie Market is one of those places you say you’ll just stop in to browse, but inevitably end up leaving armed with an entirely new outfit – often for less than $100. My favorites are their killer selection of matching sets. (If you’re not in NYC shop them here)
4. Little Muenster: I distinctly remember my pilgrim voyage when this nothing-but-grilled-cheese shop opened a few years back. Between its no frills menu of delicious cheesy creations, cheap beer and cheese grater chandelier – this is your spot if you’re looking for a quick stop in before hitting the bars.
5. Arlene’s Grocery: Just across the way from Little Muenster, this longstanding bar could fool tourists into assuming it’s nothing more than a (somewhat rundown) supermarket – mainly because it actually used to be a bodega before they transformed it. Now, its a often crowded, always fun live music mainstay in the area. Extra points if you manage to get yourself on stage for their high stakes karaoke.
6. The Derby: The newest to join the LES pack, recently opened The Derby boasts ‘biscuits and bourbon’ – what’s not to love? Equally suited for brunch as it is a night cap – come if you want to try chicken and waffles, stay if you’re in a whiskey on the rocks kinda mood.
7. The Meatball Shop: The epitome of ‘do one thing and do it well’ – The Meatball Shop takes on a home cooked favorite and nails it. Its a choose your own adventure sort of menu with plentiful options for sauces and sides. Trust the endless crowds outside (and the fact that they’ve now expanded to 3 locations straddling 2 boroughs) – you won’t regret it.