What to see in NYC
We headed to NYC for a girls weekend last month, and we've received several requests to share our favorite spots. Many of you asked about the weather that time of year. NYC during January is COLD, but the sights and sounds of the Big Apple distract you from the bitter temperatures. We were also fortunate to be there during a sunny weekend - and leave before the Polar Vortex arrived. Unfortunately, Ashley wasn't as lucky. She had to stay the week for a conference, but she was excited to spend a few extra days exploring the city and catching up with close friends.
Below is our itinerary, and boy, did we do a A LOT! Many don't realize, but we actually lived in CT for a little over a year and often ventured into NYC on the train. We revisited a few tried and true landmarks for fun, and we're already counting down until our next visit later this year. Divide and conquer is the approach we like to take when traveling! And eating. Lots of eating!
After landing at LGA, we went straight to our hotel in Midtown. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt, which is convenient to everything. It's a little noisy, especially during rush hour, but overall, the rooms were spacious and comfortable. Plus, you can't beat convenience.
We kicked off the weekend with lunch at Balthazar, a traditional French Brasserie on Spring Street. This is a go-to when we're in NYC, and as always, it didn't disappoint. We enjoyed a glass of rose and toasted French ham & gruyere sandwiches (with fries). Delicious! We highly recommend reservations, though, as the restaurant is nonstop busy.
Then a quick stop at the Empire State building followed by shopping, since we had an early reservation at The Polo Bar on the Upper East Side. Reservations are required ... even to sit at the bar. The restaurant was warm and inviting with oak panels, oil paintings, a roaring fire. We loved the atmosphere, and we especially loved their margaritas. We enjoyed their famous burgers (more fries!) and shared the ice cream sundae for dessert. The food wasn't the best, but at The Polo Bar, it's all about the scene. If you're lucky, you may even spot a celebrity!
We finished up our first day with a Broadway musical, Aladdin. The theater was historic, and we were blown away by the architecture and details. Aladdin wasn't our favorite - the special effects were fantastic, and the Genie was amazing. It would be great for kids, but overall, we wouldn't recommend it if you're looking to see one musical in NYC.
We grabbed pastries and coffee at Zaro's Bakery in Grand Central Station, and then made our way to One World Observatory. This was a favorite stop. You can spend hours roaming the observatory deck - the view of NYC is breathtaking, and we learned a great deal about NYC's history and development. We stopped by the 9/11 Memorial to honor our fellow Americans; it was beautiful, peaceful and serene. Like everyone there, we were overcome with emotion, thinking of the lives lost (and forever changed) that September day.
After a busy morning, we stopped by Katz's Deli off East Houston Street. This is one historic landmark we hadn't visited, and we were so excited to try their famous pastrami sandwich. The line moved quickly, and we especially loved the interior. It's untouched - a little slice of history. We sat near the "Where Harry Met Sally" table, which is one of our favorite movies. But the sandwiches. Amazing. They exceeded our expectations, and we strongly recommend stopping by Katz's if you've never been. You won't leave hungry or disappointed.
We enjoyed some more shopping at our favorite NYC department store: Bloomingdales, and ended the afternoon with cupcakes and banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery. Finally, we wrapped up day two with dinner at UVA on the Upper East Side. From small plates to tapas, this rustic wine bar restaurant serves up classic and updated Italian entrees. We shared the antipasto vegetariano board, gnocchi di ricotta and cavatelli al pesto. It was all amazing, but the gnocchi (with truffle) was our favorite. It's also their most famous item on the menu. Because the portions are large, we recommend sharing so you can sample a few dishes. Reservations are also encouraged ... you can enjoy some wine at the bar, while you wait for your table. The service is fantastic, and the atmosphere is quaint and comfortable.
We kicked off Sunday with early brunch at a NYC staple: Tavern On The Green. The newly renovated decor is sleek, modern and elegant, and the views of Central Park are breathtaking. We enjoyed mimosas as well as their famous maple brown sugar bacon, avocado poached eggs and baked vegetable frittata. It was all yummy, and the perfect start to our day! After brunch, we walked around Central Park to see the Mall, Strawberry Fields, the Boat House and the Bethesda Terrace. Chilly but definitely worth the exercise.
Next, we stopped by Rockefeller Center to see the ice skaters and enjoy coffee (and rest our feet). We made a quick stop in JCrew, and then snapped pictures in front of Radio City Music Hall and Jimmy Fallon's sign at 30 Rock. Lunch was late, but worth it. We ventured down to Soho for margaritas and tacos at La Esquina. This was the cutest spot - the eclectic decor, fresh food and friendly service were top notch. We plan to go back during dinner, so we can peak at the downstairs; it's only open at night and modeled after a speakeasy. Apparently, it's very fun and first come, first serve! Since we were in Soho, we swung by the new Beautycounter flagship store as well as other designer showrooms. This is one of our favorite areas in NYC - we could spend hours roaming the streets, browsing the boutiques and taking in the vibrant scene.
To celebrate our last day, we made the short walk to the Crosby Street Hotel for cocktails at their bar. Hands down, this is a must. The drinks are pricey, but the decor is out of this world. It was bustling with people who enjoyed afternoon tea, champagne, small plates and cocktails. When the weather is warm, you can snack and sip on the beautiful terrace. We toasted with cocktails and champagne before making our way to Rubirosa on Mulberry Street. There are no words to describe this neighborhood spot ... except the pizza. The best we've ever had. We shared the charcuterie board as well as the small (it was massive by NC standards!) Tie-Dye pie. Reservations are encouraged, since it's a very small restaurant. But lots of people were waiting or sitting at the bar, and they seemed to get seated quickly.
Ashley stuck around for work, and she met friends at L'Artusi in the West Village as well as Elio's on the Upper East Side. She especially loved L'Artusi - sleek, trendy and energetic - and in the heart of the Village. It's well-loved by locals and celebrities, and the food is Italian small plates. Outstanding if you're looking for one "splurge" dinner! Elio's is posh and old-school ... it was bustling on a Wednesday night with the 5 o'clock crowd, families and couples. It's also Italian, but the dishes are traditional red-sauce based. Portions are large, and reservations are highly recommended. Ashley also enjoyed the famous (and causal) Shake Shack for lunch, which is a must if you haven't tried their delicious burgers, fries and milkshakes. You can find these sprinkled throughout the City, including Grand Central Station.
Whew ... we're tired just recapping our trip. We aren't the first people to say we need a vacation after visiting the Big Apple! But we loved making the most of our three days, and we're looking forward to our next girls' trip. Let us know if you have questions or need any specific recommendations. We love sharing, since you often discover the best spots that way. What are some of your favorite spots in NYC?
Natalie & Ashley