- A visit to the famous Big Apple for a winterland adventure. Culture, cuisine, and classic cocktails. This trip highlights the theatrical and music staples of the city. Staying outside of Manhattan allowed for an economical exploration of Brooklyn (specifically Williamsburg) which I would consider the college town of the big city.
- The west and east villages were our favorite parts of the city
Manhattan Restaurant Recommendations: One if by Land, Two if by Sea (West Village), Vselka (East Village), Menoki Sato (West Village), Eataly (Flatiron District), Coppelia (West Village)
Manhattan Bar Recommendations: Fat Cat (West Village), Arthur’s Tavern (West Village), Sly Fox (East Village)
Williamsburg Restaurant Recommendations: Bagelsmith, Carmine’s Pizzeria, Claudia’s, Fortunato Brothers
Williamsburg Bar Recommendations: The Levee, Rocka Rolla, Skinny Dennis
Activity Recommendations: 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Radio City Music Hall (The Rockettes), The Comedy Cellar, Broadway (The Book of Mormon), The MOMA
Travel Tips: The subway is your best mode of transportation. Buy a pass, don’t try to pay per ride. Keep your pass handy because you have to swipe in and out of the station. If you aren’t familiar with how subways operate, use google maps and don’t be afraid to get lost. Enjoy the subway music!
NYC Pizza: I’m not going to pretend I know/willing to debate what the best pizza in the city is. We tried it all - $1 slices to bougie stores. We enjoyed every slice!
Broadway: Worth every penny if you enjoy live theatre. Make sure the tickets you book don’t say ‘partial view’. These tickets are cheap (yay!) but there is likely some obstruction blocking your full view of the stage. You can also opt for a standing room ticket where, you guessed it, you stand during the whole performance. But hey, if your budget doesn’t allow for a luxurious seat but you are a fan, either of these options are great. There is also a ticket lottery system but I’m not sure on those details. I would call the box office.
Day 1: We set off for NYC the day after Christmas. We booked an Airbnb in Williamsburg because 1. It was half the price as staying in the city 2. It was only a 10-15 minute subway ride from the center of Manhattan and 3. Williamsburg is an adorable neighborhood with an abundance of things to do. After freshening up we headed to grab a few drinks around the main strip of Williamsburg. We started at Rocka Rolla which was a fun, hole in the wall style bar. Lots on tap and overall a jovial atmosphere. We then headed to Skinny Dennis which was another fun bar—loads of character. We then hit up The Levee which turned out to be my favorite bar of the trip (was it because they have complimentary cheese balls? Quite possibly). Again, the atmosphere here is what I enjoyed. All three of these bars have a similar vibe – young, grungy, casual vibes. Don’t come here to get a cocktail—come to get a pint of Brooklyn Lager. We then hopped on the Subway and headed to the East Village for a food tour (self-lead). We snacked at a few places: Sauce Pizzeria, Vselka (very famous restaurant and their dumplings are YUM), and Shake Shack (ok don’t judge me we don’t have this in the Midwest). We took the subway up to Rockefeller Center and saw the Christmas tree, the ice skating rink, etc. It was a beautiful experience. There’s something magical about NYC in winter.
Day 2: We woke up early and grabbed breakfast at Bagelsmith. Here’s what I learned about bagel sandwiches in the city: know what you want before you order, don’t make substitutions, and if you don’t know what to get order “bacon, egg, and cheese”. But say it really fast so you sound like a local. This was the most incredible breky sandwich I’ve ever had. The store is just a little storefront shop above the subway station. We headed into Manhattan for our ticketed time at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum (very important to reserve tickets beforehand!). I don’t need to describe in detail how absolutely moving this museum was. You truly can’t put it into words, but please take the time to visit. We stayed 4 hours and didn’t get to see it all. We decompressed by walking around the NYSE and Battery Park. We headed back up to the east village and then up to Eataly Flatiron. If you aren’t familiar with Eataly it’s a large, Italian market that has butchers, cannolis, paninis, pastas, meats, cheeses, and restaurants. It’s a busy place but a fun place. We enjoyed trying a few snacks and desserts while people watching. We headed back to our Airbnb to freshen up for the evening. We booked tickets to Radio City Music Hall for the Rockettes! But first we had to grab dinner at Carmine’s. Holy Cow. I know I wasn’t going to say what pizza is the best…..but this is the best pizza. We hopped on the subway and headed to see our show. NYC isn’t cheap, but man it was worth the money to be in this art-deco, historical, and cultural center. The venue itself was magnificent, but the Rockettes were something else. It’s a holiday show and is kid friendly, but even us adults were awe-struck the entire time. We then spent the evening walking around Broadway and Times Square.
Day 3: After a late night we had a nice brunch at Claudia’s. They served an incredible brunch, our favorite breakfast of the trip. The other really cool thing about this place is the subway runs right below the restaurant so they will occasionally hear the subway or see some shaking of things on the floor. It’s a neat experience, especially if you’re not used to the big city life. We then headed to Grand Central station to admire the architecture. We then spent the next chunk of time walking around and through central park, taking a side-step into the Upper East Side. Central Park was just as big and beautiful as anticipated. We loved taking in the fresh air and seeing the different pieces in the park (e.x. the Obelisk which is an Egyptian obelisk that was erected in Egypt in 1475BC, and later transferred to NYC). We went to the Plaza Hotel and walked around (but too busy for our taste). We took the subway to our favorite location—you guessed it, the West Village. We snacked at Murray’s Mac & Cheese and then headed to the Fat Cat bar which was incredible. We played chess and just soaked in the scenery. I highly recommend this bar—we stayed here for nearly 3 hours. We stopped at Fedora (sadly, closed now) for dinner and then we headed to the Comedy Cellar! If you want to see a show at the comedy cellar 1. Order tickets in advance and 2. Get it line early. We got in a line around 30-45 minutes early and we were first in line and sat in the front row. This venue is SMALL. So enjoy it, it’s an intimate experience and strictly unique. We had so much fun. We then headed to Joe’s pizza for a $1 slice and took the subway home.
Day 4: When you’re on vacation, you start the day off with dessert. We headed to the Fortunato Brothers which serve loads of Italian desserts. We then headed to breakfast at the Northern Bell (not impressed) and then took the subway to High Street – Brooklyn Bride. This took us to the Brooklyn Side of the Brooklyn Bridge, which we subsequently walked over. It was a beautiful experience and I highly recommend it. I know walking over a bridge doesn’t sound very exciting, but it lives up to the hype in my opinion. What made the experience breathtaking for us was that we walked from Brooklyn to the city, therefore we were able to look at the skyscrapers on our walk over. We then headed back to the West Village (practically locals at this point, right?) and went to the 3 Sheets Saloon to watch football (Go Steelers!). We then walked across the street to Menoki Sato which served the best ramen I’ve ever had. Truly, it was amazing. We then headed to Broadway to see the Book of Mormon. We love live theatre and this is a musical we have always wanted to see. It was Broadway so of course it was incredible and obviously it wasn’t cheap. But if you’re going to NYC, spend the money and see a Broadway show. Don’t cheap out here (read the seating placements carefully and make sure you don’t have a ‘partial view’).
Day 5: Our last day in NYC. We went to Coppelia for breakfast (delicious delicious!) and then we walked through the meat packing district and started walking the High Line. This beautiful, above-ground trail takes you through Chelsea. We thoroughly enjoyed this walk and were excited to see more of the city. We then headed to MOMA which was way too packed for our taste. If I were to go again I would either go first thing in the morning or, more preferably, try to find a ticketed, semi-private viewing. There were so many people I couldn’t even begin to enjoy the art. We then headed to – do I even have to say it?? Ok, the West Village. We ended our trip at Arthur’s Tavern. The Grove Street Stompers (Dixie Land Jazz Band) has played there every night for over 50 years. I saw them a few years back and actually booked an extra day in NYC just to watch them perform again. We stayed for hours really soaking in the authenticity of these gentlemen and what they represent. We loved it. A perfect way to end a great vacation. And of course, we ended the night with Joe’s Pizza in Williamsburg.
#broadway #bagels #brooklynpizza #bestpizza #pizza #ramen #jazz #beer #williamsburg #comedy #bars #westvilliage