10 NYC Eats I Miss, Living in Europe

It’s been almost 11 months since I moved to London, and I don’t, for a single second, regret my decision to leave New York City. After so many years in the big apple, I needed a change.

London, being a world city, draws a lot of parallels to New York from a food perspective- great cocktails, good brunch spots, and a range of cuisines for every budget.

However, there are some things I miss about New York- friends (obviously), but also, unsurprisingly, some of the great eats I took for granted while living in the city.

Peruse Pinterest, and you’ll see plenty of outrageous ‘treat your self’ eats hailed as ‘must haves’ while visiting New York (think: freakshakes, rainbow bagels, cupcakes, ramen burgers, and so on).

The foods I miss though are less ultimate, and more regular eats. Whether you live in New York or are visiting, they’re foods I’d recommend seeking out. And, if you do, let me know what you think- I likely won’t make it back to New York until spring 2018 so I’ll be dreaming of these eats until then.

Bagels

Sure, you can find “bagels” in London, and elsewhere in Europe. But, nothing compares to a real NYC bagel- big, thick, chewy and jam packed with cream cheese, or loaded with egg, cheese and bacon. Most Saturday mornings, but especially after a night out, I’m missing three of my usual spots- Brooklyn Bagel, Thompkins Square and Black Seed pretty hard.

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Pizza

London pizza is very different from New York style pizza. And while I’m trying to appreciate it for what it is, nothing beats a late night NYC slice. Bonus points if it’s $1. Joe’s used to be my go-to for evening slices before heading home, and Artichoke was one of my favorite indulgences in the city. If I wanted sit-down ‘za, Roberta’s, Milkflower (omg, their burrata) and Marta were my favs.

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Tacos

Why is it so hard to find tacos in London, and by extension the rest of Europe? So far, I’ve found two pretty good places- one in London and one in Edinburgh, but I’m close to giving up hope for more. After living in Texas, I’ve become pretty picky about my tacos. And, forget about finding a ‘breakfast taco’ in Europe. Even in New York, locating quality tacos wasn’t easy, but after finding Guero’s in Brooklyn years ago, I was at ease, knowing I had a solid place for breakfast tacos, fish tacos, vegetable tacos, queso and seriously good margaritas. And, gotta give an honorable mention to Tacombi for their stellar tacos. Now, there’s a hole in my taco-loving heart.

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Donuts

Yes, there are donuts in Europe, but the ones I’ve had in London are no where near as good as the variety in New York. Specifically, I miss the cake donuts from Underwest– such great, pronounced flavors. Every now and then, I crave a pillowy doughnut from Dough or Doughnut Plant as well. Big into donuts? Drop me a line, I’ve got oodles of places in New York for you to check out 🙂

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Cold Brew

Iced coffee and iced tea do not translate in jolly old England. Brighton is the only city I’ve been to so far that had a few cafes where cold brew made a menu appearance. Thankfully, Starbucks in London has cold brew for the summer, but I’m already dreading the transition back to a caffeine-less fall/winter (I only drink iced caffeine- it’s that or nothing). In New York, finding cold brew was never a problem- always at the top of my list: La Columbe, Birch, Toby’s and Blue Bottle, although, there was something to be said for the quick and easy CB from Dunkin’ as well.

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Ice Cream

Soft serve and gelato abound in London (and Europe, by extension), but ‘artisanal’ scoop ice cream is much harder to find. Never though I’d miss OddFellows, Ample Hills and Morgenstern’s so much. If it was possible to ship a pint of salted crack caramel, there’s no question I’d pay for it.

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Oyster Happy Hour & Absinthe Cocktails

If you’ve ever lived in New York, you know Oyster happy hours are the place to be. There are so many great ones all over the city, Mermaid’s is one of the best, but I’m seriously missing the oyster happy hour at Maison Premiere. And with absinthe on tap, I used to love ordering an absinthe colada to go with my oyster dozen.

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The World’s Best Cookies

Oprah doesn’t praise cookies as the ‘best in the world’ without due cause. Levain’s cookies are crazy good. Although I didn’t eat them often, I miss knowing I can grab one whenever the mood strikes. Huge, crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside, the double chocolate ones were one of my fav ultimate indulgences. Honorable mention to Insomnia for nailing the late night warm cookie delivery game.

Build-Your-Own Salads

Salads weren’t something I was prepared to miss so much. Yes, I can make my own- but, there’s something to be said for popping in sweetgreen and knowing you can leave with a fresh veggie-packed salad. Here, salad means something very different (pre-mixed, think beans plus mint and feat, or couscous, parsley and carrots, and typically- the Brits mix several of these ‘salads’ together to form a meal). I didn’t truly realise how much I missed proper US salads until going to Amsterdam for a few days and finding myself frequenting sla daily.

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Banana Pudding

People know Magnolia for their cupcakes, but the banana pudding is the real rockstar. It’s creamy, yet feels light at the same time, with chunks of banana and cake. Recently, they started serving a chocolate version of the banana pudding with Oreos in it- to die for.

Living in New York for so long, I accumulated quite a few favorite places for food and drinks, the majority of which I’ve organized into Foursquare lists.

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Photo Diary: Life in NYC

In 2012, I moved to New York City after finishing classes for a Master’s program in Indiana. Growing up in Pittsburgh, I’d been to New York City once before, but had never really considered living in the city full time.

While still in school, I envisioned moving to Chicago or Austin for a few years- experiencing city life, but at a smaller scale.

In truth, I only considered interviewing in New York because I knew the marketing agency landscape was promising. The city itself was somewhere I never really saw myself curating a life.

After accepting a job offer to move to New York, I rationalized I’d stay here for one, or two, years max. And then, something I hadn’t expected happened- I fell in love with New York.

All these years later, I look around me while walking down the street and feel amazed. There’s only one word I can think of that summarizes all these years in the big apple: grateful.

Yesterday, I moved to the U.K. for a work opportunity, and while I’m so excited to dig in and start building a life here, New York has left a hole in my heart I didn’t see coming.

Culling down my favorite photos from years of living in this energetic and exciting, yet challenging, city was difficult, but these photos represent the things I love most about life here.

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Inspirational street art that speaks straight to the soul

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Walking from one borough to another, urban landscapes, and a city that always has so much energy to give

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Afternoons spent writing or working at neighborhood cafes

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World-class mixologists and cocktail bars

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Lazy, summer picnics in my backyard (aka Central Park)

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The holiday season in the city, always magical

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Tons of parks and highway trails to log miles or go for a bike ride with nature juxtapositioned against the skyline

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An incredible, albeit at times frustrating, transit system 

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Architecture that makes you pause mid-step to admire a view

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Sunsets from Brooklyn, always. As the saying goes, sunsets are proof that endings can be beautiful too. 

10 Of My Favorite US Cities

With a move to London on the horizon, I’m growing increasingly excited to live in another country and see as much of the UK and Europe as possible during my time there.

I’ve done a lot traveling around the US the past few years, and will definitely miss the breadth and diversity of cities across the country. I say it all the time, but travel doesn’t have to be expensive or far flung- so many places in America are the perfect (affordable!) destinations for a long weekend.

10 Of My Favorite US Cities

Seattle

When I hear the “Emerald City,” a few things come to mind: Quirky music and art, the great outdoors, first-rate local produce, and, of course, adventure. Every time I visit Seattle, I’m reminded of how eclectic of a city it is.

Having visited the Pacific Northwest many times, I’ve had the chance to explore a lot of Seattle’s neighborhoods, and because I know a lot of people automatically think “Space Needle” whenever they hear “Seattle,” I’ve put together a list of my favorite places to go in the city, as well as my must-sees for Pike Place Market.

Between the food, the music and the shops, you can’t go wrong spending a few days in Seattle. And, it’s close enough to Portland, Victoria, B.C., and Vancouver to warrant spending more than a weekend in this part of the country.

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Los Angeles

Every time I visit the Golden State, I fall a little bit more in love with the land of laid back. It’s a refreshing break from the East Coast- palm trees, sunshine and warm weather year-round, what more could you ask for?

Contrary to what many people may think, LA is not just Hollywood. During most of my trips to LA, I’ve stayed in Santa Monica or Venice to get my fill of beach vibes. And, if you head outside of the main areas, Malibu, Palm Springs, Joshua Tree State Park, and even Disneyland are great places to kickback and unwind while soaking up some sunshine.

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Austin

I haven’t written about Austin yet for this blog, but after living there for a few months a couple of years ago, I fell hard for the city. Known as the live music capital of the world, Austin is all about seriously good eats, strong drinks, great beats and being outside. It’s the only place I’ve ever been where people applaud sunsets.

One of the best parts about Austin? It’s compact enough to see and do a ton of stuff during the shortest of trips. I’m planning on spending a few days here as part of a visit back to the US in early March. Already excited to discover how much the city has changed since I’ve been there, and revisit a few of my favorite spots.

NYC

After calling New York City home for over six years, it’s really tough for me to imagine settling down anywhere else. Even though I (and many New Yorkers) have a serious love-hate relationship with the city, it’s a place brimming with energy morning, noon and night- you can’t help but feel so alive when you’re here.

Aside from never-ending options of things to do, I also love how walkable New York is, and even though I complain about subway delays, the public transit system really is top notch. There’s no question this city is somewhere everyone should visit at least once in their life.

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Miami

In Florida, they salt margaritas not sidewalks. My first time in Miami was during a particularly brutal February in the northeast, but it’s the perfect escape any time of the year.

With stunning beaches, a bustling art scene, great food and nightlife, and some seriously cool art deco architecture, there’s no shortage of things to do in Miami. And, because I know a lot of people think of the South Beach party scene when Miami comes up, I haven’t spent much time there, and have still loved every trip I’ve taken to the city. Although, I love a good night out, I’ve spent more time in Wynwood, Little Havana and Key Biscayne.

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Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World conjures up images of kids in strollers, characters roaming the parks and a lot of mouse shaped things. And, sure enough, as soon as you walk into the parks, you feel like a kid again- you’re excited to get your picture taken with Pluto, wait in line for Space Mountain, and buy a pair of sparkly mouse ears because, magic.

Disney may be extra special for kids, but I’ve come to appreciate it more as an adult through vacations and runDisney events. One of the best parts of visiting Disney as an adult? Seeking out the best spots to grab a drink when you need a break from the magic madness.

Whatever your reasons for visiting Disney, you have to appreciate the attention to detail everywhere from the resorts to the parks- it’s truly astounding. And yes, I recognize Disney isn’t technically a city, but it sure is big enough with enough to do to warrant a spot on this list.

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New Orleans

New Orleans is a city bursting at the seams with Caribbean vibes and Cajun attitude.

In Nola, it’s all about the details. Strings of beads are draped on cast-iron balconies year-round, an assortment of cultures, and live music bring Bourbon Street to life. There’s savory beignets for breakfast and steamed crawfish for dinner. It’s the perfect place to spend a long weekend.

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Charleston

Charleston is the epitome of Southern charm. Quaint streets lined with sprawling, pastel homes and palm trees. Some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. And, seriously good eats.

After spending a long weekend in downtown Charleston, I realized nothing is truer than this statement: north is a direction, south is a lifestyle.

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San Francisco & Napa and Sonoma

San Francisco is the kind of city that never gets old, no matter how many times you visit, because there’s always something new to do or explore. Having been to San Francisco a few times, I have my go-to recos for things to do or see, but also have a slew of things I still want to do on return trips.

Located on a peninsula surrounded by water, San Francisco’s climate is mild year-round, although summers tend to be on the cool side. If the weather is a bit chilly during your visit, and you’re in the mood for warmer temps, plus some wine, head an hour north to Napa and Sonoma.

My first visit to wine country felt intimidating- so many wineries! According to Lonely Planet, there are over 600 wineries in Napa and Sonoma Counties. But it’s quality, not quantity, that sets the region apart – especially in Napa, which competes with France and doubles as an outpost of San Francisco’s top-end culinary scene. Sonoma prides itself on agricultural diversity, with you-pick-em orchards and roadside fruit stands.

Fortunately, one of my girlfriends has grown to love wine as much as me, and every year we plan a weekend back to the region. Rolling hills, blue skies and vineyards as far as the eye can see make California’s wine country a relaxing and fun weekend getaway.

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Portland

If you like to shop and eat, Portland is the town for you. Usually, when I’m in the PNW, it’s to visit Seattle, so I haven’t spent as much time in Portland as I’d like. If you’re visiting for the weekend, get ready for days filled with walking all over the city, popping into shops and eating and drinking all of the delicious things.

And, like in Seattle, just outside the city, there are a lot of outdoorsy activities to do, including hiking the Oneota Gorge. Off I-84 near Mulnomah Falls outside of Portland, Oregon, the Oneonta Gorge is one of those bucket list natural wonders- you kind of have to see it to believe it.

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Chicago

The third largest city in the US (by population) is known by a multitude of nicknames- The Windy City, the Second City, the City of Broad Shoulders- and for good reason. There’s a lot to do in Chicago, from cultural gems like the Art Institute to exploring the city’s booming food scene.

If you’re only visiting for a weekend, it’s impossible to do everything, but there are some things that shouldn’t be skipped over. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Chicago, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to spend a few days becoming reacquainted with the city on a return trip to the US- already excited to revisit a few of my favorite places and check out some new restaurants and bars that have popped.

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Honorable Mentions to: Denver, Savannah, Pittsburgh and San Diego.

On my list of cities to visit on return trips to the US over the next few years?

  • St. George, Utah
  • Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Marfa, Texas
  • Billings, Montana (aka Big Sky Country)
  • Portland, Maine
  • Nashville, TN (I’ve only been there once for a conference)
  • Oahu, Hawaii

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NYC Goodbye Tour

In case you missed my announcement last week, I’m moving to London at the end of the year!

While I’ve always described my relationship with New York as love-hate, I’m going to be pretty sad when I leave at the end of December. I feel fortunate my final weeks in New York happen in the midst of fall and during the holiday season, two of my favorite times of the year to live here.

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Now that my days in the big apple are numbered, I’ve started thinking about what I want to do and see before moving abroad.

Whether you live in New York, have plans to visit in the future, or won’t be leaving your hometown anytime soon, I hope my excitement to re-visit a few of my favorite places and check out things I haven’t seen or done yet inspires you to create your own travel or hometown to-do list. 🙂

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The Goodbye NYC Tour

  • Spend an afternoon in Astoria, day drinking at Bohemian Hall, lounging in the sunshine at the Gantry State Plaza, and eating some serious pizza and burrata noms at Milkflower
  • Wander Brooklyn Heights and stroll the promenade (gorgeous city views and a well preserved slice of Brooklyn history)
  • See a movie at the new Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn (dinner and a movie was one of my favorite things to do at this theatre chain when I lived in Texas, stoked it’s finally made its way to NYC)
  • Do allll of the holiday things that make NYC so magical at this time of the year
  • Sip cocktails at speakeasies and bars that’ve been on my list forever: Angel’s Share, Nitecap, Mother of Pearl, Employees Only, Blacktail, ROKC, b2, Leyenda, Dram, Donna & Clover Club
  • Savor good eats at restaurants I’ve been dreaming about: Spot Dessert Bar, Panna II, Dirt Candy, DiFara, Amy Ruth’s, Maison Harlem, The Meatball Shop, Dizengoff, Russ & Daughters, The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, Freemans, Pies ‘n Thighs
  • See the awesome architecture and design at the New York Public Library
  • Check out museums I haven’t made it to yet, the Tenement Museum and The Whitney are at the top of my list
  • Laugh hysterically at amateur night at the Apollo, and see at least one more show on Broadway 
  • Ogle the city skyline one last time at the Top of the Rock, and say hello to Lady Liberty up close
  • Work up at sweat at Laughing Lotus yoga, Barry’s Bootcamp, Mile High and Monster Cycle

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If you live in NYC or have ever been here on a trip, what would be on your “must do” list?

10 Reasons to Visit NYC During the Holidays

I’ll always maintain fall is the best season to visit New York City (fewer crowds, cooler temps, gorgeous scenery), but can’t help but admit the city feels pretty magical during the holiday season.

The truth is: No city does the holidays better than New York.

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10 Reasons to Visit NYC During the Holidays 

Visit Rockefeller Center to see the tree and festive lights: No visit to New York City during the holiday season would be complete without visiting the giant, sparkling tree. If you want to see the tree without throngs of tourists, go mid-week, or later in the evening (there’s generally fewer people at 9/10 pm).

Wander the area a bit (near 6th Avenue and 50th) to see other decor (pyramid of red Christmas balls, giant strands of lights). If you’re in the mood for a treat, swing by Magnolia Bakery for their famous banana pudding.

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Get in the holiday spirit by seeing a show: Two classics you can’t miss- The Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall and The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center.

And, if you think the Rockettes are just what you see in commercials, you’ll be pleasantly surprised- the show is way more than kicking and dancing. I’ve seen it twice, and loved every moment

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Stroll Fifth Avenue to see the lights and window displays: Many of the boutiques and department stores (Cartier, Tiffanys, Barneys, Fendi, Saks) have spectacular displays.

Start at the bottom of Central Park, and head down Fifth Avenue, starting with the UNICEF Snowflake, a symbol of hope, peace and compassion for children around the world, at Fifth and 57th. Then, head south until you reach Rockefeller Center at 50th.

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Get in the holiday spirit while ice skating: Albeit I’m not a huge ice skating fan, Bryant Park is great if you want to skate in the middle of a city block, and Central Park, is perfect if you want to be surrounded by nature. I enjoyed the time I went skating at Rockefeller Center, but it was a “one time” thing for me- the rink is pretty small, and it’s a bit pricey.

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Cozy up with a drink at any of the city’s pop-up holiday bars or cocktail bars:

  • Rolfs: Your first thought upon entering will be that Christmas threw up. Rolfs is a special Christmas destination in the city, go early and enjoy a holiday martini surrounded by thousands of ornaments
  • Pete’s Tavern: Christmas decor and homemade eggnog. What else do you need?
  • Miracle on Ninth Street: Two years running, this Christmas pop-up bar has enough holiday cheer to put the Griswalds to shame
  • The Lodge at Gallow Green: Known for being one of the city’s best open-air rooftops decked out in greenery in the summer, in the winter, the space transforms to a rustic, cozy cabin
  • Baita (at Eataly): As if I needed another reason to go to Disneyland for foodies (aka Eataly), this Italian Alps-esque pop-up bar is the perfect place to warm up with a hot, seasonal cocktail
  • Gramercy Tavern: As one of Danny Meyer’s restaurants, the Gramercy Tavern is nothing short of impressive. Dining here will set you back a pretty penny, but you can order drinks at the bar and still experience the restaurants simple, yet elegant Christmas decor. To really get in the spirit, order the off-menu hot chocolate martini- it’s a blend of rich hot cocoa, vanilla vodka and amaretto. Everyone around you will ask what you’re drinking, and for good reason- it smells and tastes amazing

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Shop for gifts on your list at any the city’s holiday markets in Union Square, Bryant Park, or Columbus Circle. All three markets are packed with local vendors with fabulous things and tasty goodies.

Or head to Chelsea Market, a marketplace filled with fun stores and delicious restaurant outposts. It’s the perfect place to pick-up a last minute gift.

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Indulge in a holiday treat: If it’s not too cold, head to Serendipity 3 for frozen hot chocolate. Prefer something hot from the oven? Levain Bakery has the best (#Fact) cookies, ask for one that’s still hot. If you’ll be wandering the city, warm up with rich hot chocolate from Jacques Torres (try the wicked hot chocolate), Max Brenner, or City Bakery. Pro-tip: At City Bakery, ask for one of their jumbo homemade marshmallows.

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Wander through Central Park: It may be chilly, but if the park is covered in fresh snow, it’s truly lovely to walk through. Wear comfortable warm boots, grab a cup of hot chocolate, and you’ll be just fine.

Browse the windows at Bergdorf Goodman and Macy’s: The windows at Bergdorf always stun- they’re legendary. Last year, the windows featured thousands and thousands of Swarovski crystals.

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And, while there may be a lot of people crowded around Macy’s to see their windows, there’s something special about waiting in line to see them too. Although not as extravagant as Bergdorf, the themes are elaborate and animations never disappoint.

Drive out to Dyker Heights to see show stopping Christmas lights: As Mommy Poppins said, these holiday houses are so well-lit, it’s amazing they don’t cause power blackouts. The area is literally block after block of jaw dropping displays.

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If you decide to head out to Brooklyn to see the lights, it’s best to drive. Don’t have a car? There are a few tours that head out to the area. A few years ago, I went on Slice of Brooklyn’s tour, and although I balked at the price at first, we visited a few neighborhoods, had more than enough time to explore each one, and stopped for hot chocolate and cannolis before heading back to the city. All in all, a good option if you really want to see the lights but aren’t able to get there by car.

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Other holiday happenings in the city:

If you’ve been to New York during the holiday season, what was your favorite part of the city during this time of the year?

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#Take12Trips: October

October kicked off in a city that’s become one of my favorite places, Paris.

My first time in Paris, I liked the city, but didn’t love it. This trip, I stayed in Le Marais and spent the majority of my time just wandering, stopping at cute wine bars and gardens as I went. There wasn’t much of an agenda, which I think helped shift my perception of Paris, giving me time to appreciate the city for what it is.

Coming back to New York early in the month gave me plenty of time to enjoy my favorite season in the big apple. I’d planned a trip out to Utah to do some birthday hiking at the end of the month, but decided not to go at the last minute. I’m excited to share more about why I decided not to go in coming weeks, but staying put in NYC gave me a chance to explore more of the city, and check out some bars and restaurants that’ve been on my list for a while.

Hope you’re having a great October as well 🙂

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WHAT IS #TAKE12TRIPS?

#Take12Trips is the only resolution I made this year- a promise to commit to doing something once a month. Anything counts- it can be dinner at a new place, visiting a new museum or spending the weekend at a cute B&B in the country. It doesn’t need to be an epic trip to a foreign country, just the chance to discover something new.

Where #Take12Trips has taken me thus far this year:

I haven’t fully planned my trips for the rest of the year, but this is the work-in-progress schedule:

  • November: TBD. Previously, I’d planned to run a race in Big Sur mid-month, but an injury with my left foot has me rethinking those plans
  • December: Pittsburgh for the holidays, and potentially Mexico City between the holidays and NYE

Are you planning any trips you’re excited about?

NYC Loves: City Parks in the Fall

NEW SERIES UPDATE: Starting a new series where I share one of my favorite places in New York City each month. Over the next few months, I’m going to put together guides for my favorite neighborhoods, and tips for what to see on weekend visits during each season in the city. Until then though, I’ll be starting to highlight a few of the things that make this city so great to live in (and visit). 

Last month, I talked about the coffee culture in Harlem, and in August- a pop-up experience in Manhattan, The Museum of Ice Cream.

Next up: Visiting New York City’s parks in autumn.

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It’s no secret fall is my favorite time of the year in New York. And, living in Harlem, I’ve got easy access to Central Park, Morningside Park and Riverside Park. When I lived in Brooklyn, Prospect Park was one of my favorite places to be during this season.

Surrounded by a concrete jungle, Central Park is an oasis residents and visitors alike appreciate. Located in the center of Manhattan, the park takes up six percent of the entire island and is the most visited urban park in the US.

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Fall is a great time to visit the park- the foliage is breathtaking and crisp weather makes walking or biking any of the park’s trails truly enjoyable.

If you’re short on time, I’d recommend staying to the lower loop (1.6 miles in distance). If you’ve got a bike though and want to see more of the park, doing the full loop (~6 miles) can be a fun way to spend a morning or afternoon, but one caution- parts of the upper loop are hilly so be prepared to climb steep inclines.

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Some of my favorite things to check-out in Central Park:

  • The Alice in Wonderland statue
  • The Mall- lined with American elms, the walkway was originally intended for carriages traveling to the Bethesda Terrace. When the leaves start changing late October/early November, the Mall is truly stunning
  • Bethesda Fountain- One of the most well known fountains in the world, the angel on top represents peace, health and purity
  • Bow Bridge- The cast iron bridge is one of the park’s most iconic spots, a great place for a photo opp
  • The Loeb Boathouse– Not just a great place for dining, you can also enjoy a relaxing gondola ride or sit on the shore and take in the lake’s scenery
  • Tavern on the Green– A beautiful place for lunch or dinner, I enjoy coming here in the early fall and sipping a cider at the outdoor bar
  • Conservatory Gardens– These are located in the upper loop on the east side, but definitely worth checking out if you’re nearby. The gardens are divided into three smaller gardens, each with a distinct style: Italian, French, and English. They’re gorgeous, well-maintained and usually not as crowded as other parts of the park

If you want to check out another one of NYC’s parks, I enjoy Riverside Park for running, biking or walking along the Hudson; Inwood Hill Park for hiking; Prospect Park for its beautiful trails and Sunday farmer’s market; and Astoria Park in Queens with its city skyline views.

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The Best Cafes in Harlem, NYC

NEW SERIES UPDATE: Starting a new series where I share one of my favorite places in New York City each month. Over the next few months, I’m going to put together guides for my favorite neighborhoods, and tips for what to see on weekend visits during each season in the city. Until then though, I’ll be starting to highlight a few of the things that make this city so great to live in (and visit). 

Last month, I talked about a pop-up experience in Manhattan, The Museum of Ice Cream.

Next up: The coffee culture in Harlem. When I moved to Harlem after spending three years on the Upper East Side in a neighborhood with few choices besides Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, I was excited to move somewhere with a bunch of local cafes.

Three of my favorite spots in this part of town, Double Dutch, The Chipped Cup, and Lenox Coffee share the same owners. All three are the perfect place to settle in and get some work done (free wifi!). I normally just go for coffee or tea (love that they all brew fair-trade and offer Rishi Tea), but the bakery items are good too- they’re usually delivered fresh daily from places like Ovenly and Balthazar.

  • Double Dutch: I’ve loved this place for years, although it becomes busy on the weekends when tourists are in the neighborhood. Despite the crowds, it’s my favorite place to stop to enjoy a cortado on the back patio- talk about morning coffee dreams. It’s the definition of a neighborhood coffee shop that gets it right with rustic style and a back patio that sets it apart form other cafes.

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  • The Chipped Cup: In a city that’s chaotic more often than not, I’m grateful to have a little slice of serenity so close. Somehow, the courtyard manages to feel quiet and removed from nearby street chaos. And, whimsical decor makes the Chipped Cup just as cozy inside.

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  • Lenox Coffee: In 2011, Lenox Coffee became Harlem’s first specialty coffee house. Like Double Dutch and the Chipped Cup, this place is such a gem. It’s a great alternative to chain coffee shops, love that they serve Stumptown Coffee, and the almond croissants are delicious.

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& Because I love my neighborhood so much, a few other spots to check out: Manhattanville Coffee, Cafeine, Sugar Hill Cafe, Hamilton’s Bakery & The Monkey Cup.

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The Ultimate Autumn To-Do List, NYC Edition

“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature has been saving up all year for the grand finale.” -Lauren DeStefano

Fall, like any other season, just seems better in New York City. I won’t pretend fall isn’t my favorite season (pumpkins, sweater weather, bonfires, crisp morning runs, root vegetables, apple picking, Cider Week, I could go on and on), but I do truly believe it’s the best time of the year to visit New York- less crowds, cooler weather, vibrant scenery.  

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To try and make the most of this wonderful season, these are the things at the top of my city to-do list: 

  1. Go for morning runs or afternoon walks through Central Park or Prospect Park in Brooklyn to admire the foliage
  2. Savor pumpkin everything (drink pumpkin spice lattes/iced coffees and pumpkin cocktails), AND pick and carve a pumpkin
  3. Cozy up with a drink at one of the cocktail bars I’ve been meaning to check out (Clover Club, Employees Only, Nitecap, Angel’s Share) or one of my favorites (The NoMad Bar, Dear Irving, Pouring Ribbons, The Dead Rabbit, Maison Premiere)
  4. Make the most of a rainy day by visiting two places I’ve had on my list for a while, the reading room at the New York Public Library or the Tenement Museum
  5. Spend a Saturday exploring one of my favorite, ever-changing neighborhoods in Brooklyn- Crown Heights (thinking taco brunch at Guero’s, checking out new-to-the-neighborhood bars and cafes, and finishing with a few hours at the Brooklyn Museum)
  6. See a show, Amateur Night at the Apollo has been on my radar for a while
  7. Go on a ghost walking tour, there are so many to choose from! (Ghosts of Brooklyn, Ghosts of the Upper West Side, Edgar Allen Poe & His Ghostly Neighbors of Greenwich Village)
  8. Head back to The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in Croton-on-Hudson. It’s an hour outside the city, but easy to reach by Metro North, and so worth it- the display of 7,000 hand-carved jack-o-lanterns is incredible
  9. Hit up a few of the city’s farmers markets to take full advantage of fall produce. The Morningside Park Farmer’s Market is my weekend go-to since I live nearby, but I also love the Union Square Greenmarket and Prospect Park Greenmarket
  10. Day drink at Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden, the oldest beer garden in New York City. It’s a lovely place to spend a warm fall day, listening to music, playing cards, drinking steins of beer or cider, and enjoying some seriously good Polish grub

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If you’re visiting New York for the first time this fall, some of my other favorite activities at this time of the year include:

  • Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
  • People watch in Central Park or on the High Line (pro-tip: head to the High Line early to avoid crowds)
  • Head upstate and spend a day at Storm King before it closes for the winter, and check out the awesome modern art at Dia:Beacon while you’re in the area. If you don’t want to leave the city, The Cloisters is a branch of the Met that’s basically a medieval monastery filled with thousands of medieval works. It’s located near Fort Tryon Park, making it the perfect spot to go for an afternoon stroll once the leaves start changing
  • The fall foliage at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden kills it
  • Cheer on the runners at the TCS New York City Marathon
  • Take a day trip or weekend adventure to the North Fork on Long Island for wine tasting

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NYC Day Trip: Storm King

There’s no shortage of great art museums in New York City, from the Met to MoMA to Cooper Hewitt, and the galleries in Chelsea, there are dozens of great collections to appreciate.

If you’re looking for something different though, Storm King Art Center is an open-air sculpture collection an hour north of the city in the Hudson Valley.

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Spanning 500 acres, Storm King is home to enormous works of art set against picturesque mountains.

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Whether you take the tram around the site’s hills, meadows and ponds or choose to explore on bike or foot, you’re sure to feel like you’ve entered another world. If you plan on only spending a few hours at Storm King, and want to see as much of the property as possible, I’d recommend renting a bike.

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Even if you’re not an art aficionado, it’s hard to not love Storm King. Pack a picnic, bike the grounds and take in the beauty of your surroundings- I promise you’ll leave feeling inspired.

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Photo via CN Traveler

Extra Know Before You Go Info

  • How To Get There: Last fall when I visited, we drove. If you’re not driving, you have a few options-
    • Take the Metro-North from Grand Central Terminal to Beacon. From the Beacon Station, you’ll need to take a 20 to 30 minute taxi to Storm King
    • Coach USA offers a bus that goes straight from the Port Authority to the outdoor galley ($46 per person, round trip- cost includes entry to Storm King)
  • Admission Info: Open April 1 to November 15, cost to enter is $15 per adult
  • Nearby Attraction: If you’re planning a full day trip, spend half the day at Storm King and the other half at nearby Dia: Beacon. On the banks of the Hudson River, Dia:Beacon is art exhibition housed in a former Nabisco box printing factory. The space itself is stunning, and massive- it’s bigger than the Guggenheim, Whitney and MoMa combined, and full of amazing exhibitions (I’m a huge fan of the neon work by Flavin).

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