Every time we get back from a trip to New York City, and people ask “What’s your favorite part about the city?” we can’t really answer them. At least not in a quick one or two sentences. We love it ALL! Imagine me saying this while spinning in circles with my arms outstretched. Ha! But the shortest way I can sum up how we feel about NYC is to say that we love the energy. It’s contagious. We love to visit with no agenda, and just “do life” there for a few days. We take the subway and walk everywhere. (The subway at rush-hour is our favorite! Craziness.) We look for places to eat that the locals rave about. Each time we find some new ones but have a solid list of favorites too! We sit around and people watch. Everywhere. I swear this city has the best people watching ever! Anderson plays chess in the park with 70-year-old men. We stay in a different area every time to get a feel for the different neighborhoods. Basically what I’m saying is that we pretend we live there for a week. And this last trip was my favorite one to date! (Anderson told me that I say this every time.) But seriously. Autumn in the city. There’s no comparison! I could’ve done without the Polar Vortex, but really didn’t even mind that too much.
We want to live here for real… one day. Maybe when we’re old. 🙂
Anyway, I posted a guide to NYC “Almeida Style” last year and decided to update it for this post.
So if you make it through all the pictures, you might find some helpful info below!
Fall in the city! See what I mean?
You can’t really tell, but behind Anderson there’s a modeling shoot happening. So we decided to have our own. 🙂
Views from the High Line.
Yeah. We were minding our own business and hit the “people watching” mother-load.
I have no idea why, but I love all the water towers on top of the buildings.
Washington Square Park.
Patsy’s in Harlem.
The Mall in Central Park.
See that cool building peeking out from the trees on the right? Bono owns an apartment on the 27th floor. (He bought it from Steve Jobs.)
Obviously we had to scope it out.
Levain Bakery on the UWS. You need to go. I’ll explain below.
American Museum of Natural History.
This place changed my mind forever about cannolis! (More details below.)
We stayed next to Grand Central Terminal and loved being among the masses coming and going all day.
NYC dining for dummies: If the window doesn’t have an “A” stay away!
Shopping in Brooklyn. Found some great vintage shops!
Grand Army Plaza – Prospect Park.
Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
Okay, you made it through the pictures! Good for you!
Now… I asked Anderson to help me update our list of “How to Do NYC Almeida Style.” Are you excited yet? Ha!
Remember, I didn’t say this was the smartest way, but it’s the Almeida way:
Arriving in the city – Fly in as early as you can. Take a cab straight to your hotel, drop off your bags, (they’ll hold them even though it’s too early to check-in) then hit the ground! Make sure you have plenty of cash for tipping. Also, some stores/restaurants only accept cash. Cab fare varies depending on how far your hotel is from the airport, but coming from LGA you can plan on an average of about $50 including tip. Taxis accept cards, but we always have cash for people who help with our baggage, etc.
Subway – Get a 7-day unlimited Metrocard for $30. Don’t lose it though. One of us always loses our Metrocard. Get your money’s worth out of that card. Ride it everywhere! It will get you close to pretty much anything you want to do in the city. And make sure you download the NYC Subway KICKMap app. There’s no phone reception in most of the subways, so this app stores the subway map on your phone for easy access. Anderson uses it the whole time we’re there to quickly get us around the subway system. But… know that if you’re traveling on the weekend the schedule completely changes. Good luck with that! People are really helpful, so don’t feel weird asking for directions. Just know that while locals are generally friendly, they don’t want to hear your life story. Get to the point and keep moving!
Food – Eating cheap in NYC is a completely relative term. It doesn’t mean the same as it does anywhere else. Most “cheap” meals (drink and simple entrée or sandwich) for 2 people will be around $35. Here are a few of our favorite restaurants: There’s a tiny little Italian place in Nolita called Parm that has the BEST baked ziti. Get the pizza knots for an appetizer. Anderson really likes the chicken parmesan sandwich. And he also says to pack your Tums. 🙂 Then there’s Ipanema, a Brazilian place in Mid Town that has amazing legit Brazilian food. The place next-door, Emporium Brasil, is a good Brazilian spot too! And maybe my favorite in the whole city: Amy Ruth’s in Harlem – Best soul food ever! We like to grab lunch at Shake Shack one day. It really does live up to the hype, and there are so many locations that you’ll be near one at some point! If you don’t eat burgers try the ‘shroom burger. It’s filled with cheese! Our favorite places for dessert/sweet munchies are Momofuku Milk Bar (I feel very strongly that you have to get the crack pie) and Doughnut Plant (We both think the coconut crème will make your stomach happy). Doughnut Plant is cash only. You can find the donuts at different places all over the city, but for the yummiest, freshest ones we think you should hike it to the lower east side or Hotel Chelsea. They’re also opening a store in Brooklyn! We’ve also found the best cannoli in the city! Here’s the thing, I don’t even like cannoli (weird, I know, but I don’t like the cheese in my dessert thing-not even cheesecake), but Farrara Bakery & Cafe totally converted me. This place is a hole-in-a-wall in Little Italy. There’s nowhere to sit, but that didn’t stop us from taking our to-go box over to a cozy corner and standing while we devoured the best cannolis ever! The Smith is a great brunch (or lunch) spot. And the Midtown location has a photobooth by the bathroom in the basement. The Grey Dog is worth a try too.
Brooklyn – Walk or ride a Citi Bike (if you’re a biker, I’m not. Proof here.) across the Brooklyn Bridge and eat at Grimaldi’s. It’s our favorite pizza in Brooklyn, and it’s cash only. Then head to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for an amazing view of lower Manhattan. It’s breathtaking at night! If it’s a weekend hit Smorgasburg once you get hungry again (ha!) If vintage shopping is your thing, Carroll Gardens and Williamsburg will not disappoint. Prospect Park is a gorgeous spot and totally worth a visit. It was designed by the same guys who did Central Park and is right next to Park Slope, an adorable Brooklyn neighborhood. We found a great brunch place in Park Slope, Benchmark.
Upper West Side – Wander through the UWS with no agenda – except maybe to grab a cookie from Levain Bakery. The dark chocolate chocolate chip is so good – and so rich that you can definitely share it. I love this area and could totally spend a whole afternoon just walking. Then hit Central Park – Spend hours exploring. Get lost. It’s worth it. There’s so much to see and do! Also, the American Museum of Natural History is on the west side of the park and The Met and Guggenheim are on the east. You know. If museums are your thing!
More Parks – Washington Square Park is beautiful and always full of street performers. Totally entertaining! If you visit at Christmas you have to hang out in Bryant Park. It has ice-skating just like Rockefeller Plaza but isn’t as crowded and also has lots of temporary “Christmas Shops” with good food and unique gifts. We brought what we initially thought was the most over-priced hot chocolate from No Chewing Allowed at Bryant Park. But we were freezing and didn’t care. Then we tasted it and realized it was worth every penny. It even had a truffle at the bottom!
Grand Central Terminal – Get off the subway here and wander around. It’s beautiful. Stand in the center and just turn in circles as you take it all in. Aside from the Main Concourse, there’s also a Dining Concourse with lots of food options and retail stores. The people watching is pretty good too!
Chelsea – Go to Chelsea Market and shop at Artists and Fleas and grab lunch or an afternoon snack/dessert! Then take it to the High Line and people watch while you eat. The High Line is a public park built on an historic rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. And it’s another one of our favorite spots in the city.
Times Square – I really don’t like this area. Anderson loves it. But I do think it’s one of those things you should probably experience… once.
If you have extra time – Financial District (Wall Street), 911 Memorial – free but you must have a pass to get in, Garment District (walk 39th St between 7th and 8th), Top of the Rock- great views that include the Empire State Building, see a Broadway Show!!! Get the TKTS app to find discounted show tickets. It’s updated in real time, so you’ll know if you should make the trek to one of the ticket booths or not.
If you have even more time – The Late Show, Lady Liberty – you can get a good look at her from Battery Park or take the ferry over. But know that it will eat a big chunk of your day if you head over and wait in line to see her. We just like to salute her from lower Manhattan! If you’re a major techie nerd you might like the B&H store. It’s huge. HUGE! Anderson loves it. I enjoy a nap on a bench while he shops. Better than outside in a park. 🙂
If you go at Christmastime – Expect to catch the Christmas spirit… BIG TIME. Even the worst Scrooge can’t help but get excited after a little taste of NYC during the holidays. I mentioned this above, but make sure you visit Bryant Park. They set up a ton of temporary shops, and there’s a cute ice skating rink too. I like this area better than Rockefeller Plaza at Christmas. It isn’t usually as crowded. But of course, you must see THE TREE at Rockefeller. I mean. Duh. Make sure you walk along 5th Avenue and take in all the shop windows. It’s magical! And I don’t say that word very much. (Or ever!) And The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is a fun show!
Things to skip – We (I) do a lot of research on places to eat/things to see, and honestly we’re rarely disappointed. So there’s not much to say here. But I do have to mention that we hate Carnegie Deli. I’m also not a big fan of Magnolia Bakery, but Anderson says the caramel cheesecake is some of the best he’s ever had. He’s quite the cheesecake connoisseur too. We don’t think Patsy’s is all that great either. I hate to say it, because I had big hopes for that place. Grimaldi’s (in Brooklyn) is still our favorite pizza stop, even if it is a tourist hot spot!
Leaving the city – On your last day wake up and shed a tear, then get it together and call to get a late check out. Send your husband down to flirt with the front desk people if necessary. Go cram in all the stuff you haven’t been able to see/eat yet. Then come back to the hotel and either leave your bags like you did when you got there or grab them and get in a taxi to head to the airport. Immediately start planning your next trip!