There is something about New York that makes you fall in love with it all over again. The hum of the traffic, the rush of the people, and the ever-changing cityscape puts life into perspective. My boyfriend and I couldn’t have been more excited to visit the city for the second time together this year. We traveled to New York earlier in February, but we were eager to explore during the fall this time around. Last November, I visited NYC in the fall and couldn’t wait to be back to see the beautiful foliage in Central Park. Every time I plan a trip to New York, whether for business or personal reasons, I try to plan something different to do. After all, there is no shortage of things to do or see in this lively city. So, I pulled together a quick NYC Weekend Guide in hopes that you take some of these hot spots and recommendations into consideration during your next visit!
Friday – Central Park, Rooftops, & Local Eats!
Our plane touched down early Friday morning and we decided to take the AirTrain and Subway from JFK airport to our hotel on Lexington Avenue. The commute was lengthy and tiresome after being up so early for our flight, but we opted to save a hefty $60+ Uber/Lyft ride for the ~$10 metro ride into the city.
After checking into The W Hotel on Lexington Avenue and freshening up, we immediately went out to grab a bite to eat at Ess-a-bagel, the most authentic New York City bagel experience you can get in midtown. We arrived at Ess-a-bagel around 2:00 pm and the place was still all of the hustle and bustle you could imagine! We waited a good 20 minutes to grab some of these famous bagels and they did not disappoint! It was well worth the wait.
Seeing that we were a bit tired, we grabbed a cup of coffee on our way to Central Park to take in the beautiful scenery and all of the warm, fall foliage.
We strolled past the famous Gapstow Bridge and laid down in Sheep Meadow, which had gorgeous views of the city in every direction you looked!
After a quick cat nap on the lawn, we walked back down towards Times Square to see if we could snag two discounted tickets to a Broadway show at the TKTS Ticket Booth. When we visited in February, seeing a Broadway show was the one thing we didn’t have time to do and wanted to splurge on during this trip. However, one look at the long line and we opted to try again another day. We found that the best times to visit the TKTS Ticket Booth are early in the mornings on the day you’d like to see the show.
Before we knew it, the sun was beginning to set so we maneuvered our way down the busy streets and avenues back to our hotel to freshen up once more before heading to my new, favorite rooftop in New York City – the Press Lounge.
As you probably already know, I have a (slight) obsession with rooftops and am always keeping a keen eye out for the latest and greatest in every city I visit. I stumbled upon the Press Lounge after being given the near-impossible task to book a dinner reservation for 15+ colleges at a company event with less than 3 hours to spare. By fate, I stumbled upon PRINT, a delicious, farm-to-table restaurant in the lobby of The Kimpton Ink48 Hotel. The staff at PRINT were more than accommodating to our large party and this restaurant is now one of my Top 5 Favorite Restaurants in New York City. Coincidentally enough, the Press Lounge was one elevator ride and 16 floors away from the hotel lobby and restaurant which is when the obsession began.
The moment I stepped out of the elevator and onto the heated, rooftop for the first time, I knew I had to take my boyfriend there when we returned to the city together, particularly around sunset. We arrived right at dusk, ordered drinks at the bar, and made our way out to the large terrace to bask in the glory that is the New York City skyline.
As the sky blended into colors of pink and blue, the buildings glistened with the reflection of the setting sun. The lighting and ambiance on the rooftop that evening could not have been more perfect. We cozied up next to each other on the outdoor patio, which hugged every side of building for 360-degree views of the city.
One moment you are being romanced by the city skyline and the next you are being kissed by a cool breeze drafted from the Hudson just on the other side of the building. The Press Lounge is, by far, the best rooftop I have ever visited.
The atmosphere, the food, the drinks, the ambiance—ah! I love it and would recommend it to anyone traveling to New York. It is a must see and you have not seen the city properly until you visit!
Drinks are around ~$18-$20 on average but it is worth indulging in, as you would pay a higher price for similar views atop the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock. The Press Lounge offers a perpendicular picture of Manhattan, stretching your view of the skyline from North to South as opposed to East/West. It may be my biased opinion but I love the idea of sipping a glass of wine and admiring the New York City Skyline from a cozy couch as opposed to being surrounded by tourists on an observatory deck.
We spent a good hour or so chatting away, planning our weekend, and admiring the views.
After parting ways with the Press Lounge, we walked down two blocks or so into Hell’s Kitchen and stumbled onto a corner pub for some late night food before heading to bed after a night well spent.
Saturday – Eataly, Bryant Park’s Winter Village, and the Comedy Cellar!
We started our day off early on Saturday after grabbing yet another coffee to keep us warm. We made our way down to the Flatiron District after a close friend and travel companion of mine made lunch reservations at Eataly’s pop up restaurant, Baita.
Baita is an alpine ski-lodge themed restaurant, serving delightfully fresh Italian food. Holiday garland and decorative pine trees lined the pop-up restaurant to fully immerse guests in the experience and ambiance. We opted for the Gnocchi di Zucca and Zucca Polenta, which was a deliciously warm dish highlighted on the menu.
After filling our stomachs in preparation for the long day and walking ahead, we rolled out of Eataly and made our way towards Bryant Park’s Winter Village. I absolutely adore Christmas Markets and I feel that we do not get nearly enough as I’d like in Texas, so when Ingrid told me about Winter Village, we could not resist!
Once arriving, Ingrid brought us straight to the ice skating rink to prevent us from getting distracted by the many booths and food stands we couldn’t wait to try. We grabbed rental skates and lockers, laced up, and hit the ice just as the ice resurfacer finished its off-and-on-again duties.
We spent a good amount of time on the rink before our ankles drew weak and we opted to browse the market and grab a light snack before dinner.
The Winter Village is full of some of New York’s most anticipated sweet treats, like DŌ and the Doughnuttery. We passed a spice market, a tent filled with custom ornaments, and many other shops and trinkets before settling on grabbing quick bites from Mr. Bing’s Beijing Street Food and the Kimchi Grill.
We were having so much fun we didn’t realize it was already 5:00 pm! Ingrid and I departed ways only to later reconvene with her boyfriend to watch a comedy show and the infamous Comedy Cellar near Washington Square Park and NYU. I had checked for tickets about a week in advance before arriving in New York, and unfortunately found that they were already sold out for the entire weekend. I highly recommend booking Comedy Cellar tickets in advance, which you can do here. We were lucky enough to have Ingrid’s boyfriend with us, who frequents comedy shows, and knew exactly when to head down the Lower Manhattan to put our names on the standby list.
Our standby reservation worked out in favor for us this time, but I highly recommend booking tickets more than a week in advance to guarantee admission. Admittance tickets are around $20-$25 and the Comedy Cellar subsequently requires a 2 item minimum purchase once inside. It may seem pricey at first, but it is well worth it. Show tickets in New York for anything else would be 2-3x as much (and without food or drink!).
Ingrid and I took our dates to a hole-in-the-wall bar just outside the Comedy Cellar for a quick drink before heading to the standby line about 20 min before show time. Once in the standby line, we were still not guaranteed admission. Luckily for us, not many ticket holders showed up that evening so our party of 4 was admitted into a dim booth nestled in the back of the show room.
The comedy show had us rolling in our seats. Every single individual on the line-up was admirably witty and talented. If you are ever in the mood for a show in New York, try the Comedy Celler. It is a must-do!
Sunday – 9/11 Memorial, Max Brenner’s HugMugs, and the best Udon around!
Sunday was our last day in the city before departing back home. Unfortunately, the weather was not in our favor and it ended up being cold and wet, with a light and constant drizzle throughout the day. However, those days are perfect for exploring museums so we bought tickets to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, which I wanted to visit since its opening.
We purchased tickets online prior to arriving at the Museum, which I recommend doing so in advance since ticket holders have the opportunity to walk straight into the security line, as opposed to waiting in one line to buy tickets then another to get through security. The website will prompt you to buy tickets for a certain admittance time which did not pose as a problem to us on that dreary Sunday.
After grabbing food at our favorite Indian food truck in the area, Indian King Biryani House (try the samosas!), we headed towards the 9/11 Memorial Site and Museum. The memorial is always somber to visit, with visitors paying their respects in silence and remembering the horrible chain of events that unfolded that day.
We stood in awe among the reflecting pools, each about an acre in size, which replicate the location where the two Twin Towers once stood. The names engraved on the memorial represent those who perished during the attacks.
After paying our respects to the memorial site, we entered the museum itself. We spent about 3 and a half hours there, reading each plaque and viewing every exhibit. The 9/11 Memorial Museum did an incredible job documenting the different experiences on that day and preserving important items found during the tragedy. While I will not deny getting emotional during the museum, it was an amazing exhibit and I cannot recommend visiting it enough.
The exhibit takes viewers through a timeline of events, with stimulating and engaging visual and audio experiences. I did not post any images from inside the Memorial museum out of respect. The museum is an amazing tribute to those who’s lives were taken that day and a must-see when visiting New York.
After the museum, we walked around the Trade Center area before meeting Ingrid and her boyfriend at Max Brenner’s in Union Square for dessert before dinner. We wanted to try some of Max Brenner’s famous hot chocolate at Bryant Park’s Winter Village but instead opted to hold-off and make reservations at the actual Chocolate Bar itself in Union Square.
Once the doors opened, a wave of warm chocolate aroma surrounded us and we immediately knew going to the Chocolate Bar was the better choice. In fact, they had 6+ flavors of hot chocolate there, various assortments of fondue packages, and dinner food as well. However, we had reservations at Tsurutontan for Udon that night, so we opted for a cup of hot cocoa and a fondue package to share instead.
The hot chocolate comes in “Hug Mugs” which can be cupped (or hugged!) perfectly in two hands. The fondue was exceptional and we left with full hearts and tummies! Tsurutontan was just a block away and I couldn’t wait to try Udon for the first time. We ended the evening at Tsurutontan, entertaining our stomachs with delicious Udon and talk of traveling to Japan in March before heading back to our hotel to conclude the evening and fantastic weekend in New York City.