Category Archives: Travel

Camping in the Catskills

Andrew and I both love camping, so we’ve made it a tradition to go at least once a year. For the past three years, our destination has been New York’s Catskills region, in particular the town of Saugerties. We love the close proximity to New York City—about a two hour drive—which allows us to get away for a long weekend without much fuss. Here I’ve put together a little guide of some of our favorite things to do in the lower Hudson Valley.

Campgrounds

First, Andrew and I are “car campers,” meaning that we don’t hike out to remote campsites with all our worldly goods on our backs. Granted, we do hike (take the train) out of New York City with all our worldly goods to pick up a car in New Jersey, but we can’t say that really counts as “roughing it” no matter how difficult it is to carry that stuff up and down the subway stairs. But despite being car campers, we still like our camping experience to be as close to “alone in the wilderness” as we can get. We like heavily wooded campgrounds where the sites are pretty well spaced. We do not like loud groups of college kids arguing over the rules of beer pong at 3am. (Yes, this makes me sound old. I accept it.)

We’ve stayed at both the KOA and Rip Van Winkle Campgrounds in Saugerties, and Rip Van Winkle is our favorite by far. The grounds are pretty, with a winding gravel road that leads through a fairly heavily wooded forest and past a creek (we like the creekside sites the best). The tent sites are huge. There’s also a pool, a nicely stocked camp store, a lake with paddle boats, trout fishing, laundry facilities and free coffee. The staff is welcoming and really does a great job keeping the bathrooms and showers clean. Also, if your attempts at campfire cooking totally fail, there’s an Italian restaurant in town that will deliver to your site. (For the record, we have never done this. We did once get trapped in a crazy bad storm though and have to eat cold rolls and an entire box of cookies in our car because our tent sprung a substantial leak. Needless to say we have invested in better gear since then.)

Hiking

Hiking Trails in the Catskills RegionGiant Ledge: This intermediate 3.5-mile out-and-back hike starts off with a fairly steep trek up rocky terrain in a beautiful wood. I was surprised how strenuous it was because I’m usually good with ascending, but your payoff comes quick. After only 1.5 miles, you’ll find yourself on level ground with access to a series of open ledges with dazzling views. The view is amazing and you feel like you’re on the edge of the world due to the steep drop-off from the ledges. We visited in the fall and the autumn colors were breathtaking. One nice thing about the hike is that the journey up is just as lovely as the view at the top.

Overlook Mountain, Catskills RegionOverlook Mountain: This 5-mile out-and-back hike has a few very unique features that make it well worth adding to you list. One is an abandoned hotel about 2 miles into the hike. The hotel burned down not once but twice, but a good portion of the stone walls remain. We happened to hike it on a misty day and the ruins were totally eerie in the filtered light. At the top of the mountain you’ll find a fire tower that is open to the public, so the brave can get an even better panoramic view from the top. My one critique of this hike is that the trail up isn’t that scenic or enjoyable. Most of the trek up is on a wide gravel track without much wildlife to enjoy. The hotel and fire tower are so cool though, that it makes the uninspiring first leg worth it.

Sights

Storm King Art Center, Hudson ValleyThis year we spent a half a day at Storm King Art Center. This massive outdoor sculpture park is sited on 500 rolling acres, including open meadows and shaded woods, and you’ll find over 100 modern works of sculpture dotted throughout. It is absolutely a whole new experience to view art like this. You can see some pieces from very far away and really appreciate the forms they create against the landscape, and how they change in different lights. Then, as you get closer, you experience their true scale and start to pick up on the details of the work. We also saw some wildlife around the park: a mother deer with her youngster and a woodchuck (fun fact: also called a groundhog or even a whistle pig, depending on where you live). Highly recommend this as a stop on your itinerary.

Saugerties Lighthouse, Catskills RegionAnother cool attraction in the area is the Saugerties Lighthouse. Now operating as a bed and breakfast, it’s only accessible by boat or a walking trail—but, be warned! The trail can only be accessed at low tide. When the tide rises, access from the mainland is cut off and the lighthouse finds itself on an island. Check the tide timetable on their website to plan your visit and bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on the sunny dock surrounded by the Hudson River.

The area is ripe with orchards and farms, perfect for a quick apple-picking stop or a bit of farmer’s market shopping.

Food
Andrew and I always make it a point to cook out on the fire when we’re camping, so we haven’t eaten out a lot during our stay in the area. That said, we do have a favorite lunch spot: the Dutch Ale House in downtown Saugerties. We stop here every year because I’ve become addicted to one item on their menu: The Pilgrim Sandwich. This decadent sandwich, inspired by Thanksgiving, can really only be eaten once a year, but it is so, so worth it. House roasted turkey, stuffing and provolone cheese are pressed onto marble rye bread and accompanied by two to-die-for condiments: cranberry relish and gravy. It is insane. Insanity in sandwich form. But I love it so much. Basically it is Thanksgiving dinner in one bite. Ugh, now I totally want one.

Bar Harbor Weekend Getaway in Maine

Andrew and I first vacationed in Maine in 2013 and fell in love with this beautiful island. We’ve been back every year since and feel like Mt. Desert Island is our home away from home now. We even got married there. Here are a few of our recommendations for things to do (and for more ideas, check out Our Acadia).

Where to Stay

Cranberry Lodge at the Asticou Inn in Northeast Harbor, Maine

The Asticou Inn

Andrew and I love the Asticou Inn—we got married there, after all. The inn overlooks Northeast Harbor and has an outdoor swimming pool and tennis court. It has forty-eight rooms, and each room is a bit different—some include sitting rooms or claw-foot bathtubs and both water and country views are available. There are many two-room suites with sofa beds that are great for families or groups of friends who want to split lodging costs. We love the upstairs suite in the Blue Spruce house and the downstairs suite in Bird Bank, as well as the rooms with balconies in the main inn. One downside to the Asticou is that it’s not walkable to anything. Expect a 20 minute drive to restaurants and other activities.

Atlantic Oceanside Hotel

Our top choice for those on a budget! You will get a great price and not feel like you skimped at all. The Atlantic Oceanside is an oceanfront hotel with an outdoor and indoor swimming pool and jacuzzi. It’s located a 15 minute walk from Bar Harbor or a 5 minute drive. The rooms in the Atlantic View building are our favorite as each has its own little porch.

Hearthside Inn

This classic B&B is located right in the center of Bar Harbor (with parking!), which is a great benefit for evenings spent in town. The home is spacious and cozy and hosts Brian and Catherine are so warm and friendly. Our favorite feature was the outdoor patio—we ate breakfast out there every day and enjoyed a bottle of wine under the twinkle lights at night. Even though we have been to Bar Harbor many times before, Brian still introduced us to a few new things, like a very helpful app with trail maps and info that can be accessed without cell service (Chimani Acadia, a must download!).

Acadia National Park

The Ocean Path in Acadia National Park, Maine | Bar Harbor Travel Guide

This beautiful national park is what first drew us to this part of Maine. Encompassing over 30,000 acres on Mt. Desert Island, the park has something to offer for everyone. Here’s my recommendation for a quick tour of the park’s highlights, which can be done in a couple hours and is accessible for all young and old.

A drive around the Park Loop Road will let you visit many of the park’s most famous sites, including the Jordan Pond House, Cadillac Mountain and Thunder Hole. The loop was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the son of the man who designed Central Park.

Start your tour at Jordan Pond, a beautiful lake surrounded by the Acadia mountains. Lots of day hikes start near Jordan Pond and there’s also an easy path around the lake perfect for any age (though it’s 3.5 miles long, you can easily do a small portion of it and still get the effect of the lake).

Next stop: Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the Eastern seaboard and the first place that the sunrise is visible in the United States. Cadillac Mountain is one of the few peaks accessible by car, so even non-hikers can enjoy the view. There’s a short half-mile loop around the summit that you can take to enjoy the panoramic views, or embark on the complete 3.5-mile ascent if you have a half day to spare.

After your ascent to the top of Cadillac Mountain (by car or on foot), take the road toward Sand Beach to see Thunder Hole and the rocky coastline of Maine. At Thunder Hole, the waves crash against the shore, creating its namesake sound. The Ocean Path runs for 2 miles along the eastern shore of the park and the views are spectacular (the path is level and easy for all ages, but there’s plenty of opportunity to scramble on the cliffs for the more daring). If you follow the Ocean Path around the southern bend of the island, you’ll come to Otter Point, one of my favorite spots on the island and a great place to explore the tide pools or just take in the gorgeous view of the ocean and the Cranberry Islands.

Hiking

Some of my favorite intermediate hikes in Acadia have been Penobscot Mountain, Beech Mountain and Acadia Mountain. With 24 mountains to choose from, selecting a hike can be challenging, but the best website we have found for hiking information in Acadia is Joe’s Guide to Acadia National Park. For brave, experienced hikers, The Precipice and The Beehive are famous for their iron rungs and handrails for exposed scrambling. Beginners and kids can enjoy the Jordan Pond Loop and Ocean Path with ease. Any mountaintop you choose will afford amazing views of the mountains, lakes and sea and islands surrounding Mt. Desert Island.

Other Activities

Canoeing in Long Pond 

Canoe rentals are available at National Park Canoe & Kayak Rental on Long Pond. For reasons unknown, all bodies of water on the island are referred to as “ponds,” but this is definitely a misnomer—we paddled for four hours, surrounded by mountains and trees the vibrant green of spring and barely saw half of the lake. Look out for bald eagles!

Asticou Azalea Gardens

asticou gardens

Located right across the street from the Asticou Inn, these beautiful gardens are definitely worth a stroll.

Pirate’s Cove Mini Golf

Do you like mini golf? We do! I think it’s probably because there really aren’t any mini golf course in New York City, so we are now mildly obsessed with them. This one is especially fun, with lots of caves and waterfalls—one hole is even on a pirate ship.

Whale Watching or Wildlife Cruise

Wildlife and whale watching cruises are available daily from Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor. The Sea Princess has several daily nature cruise out of Northeast Harbor, while Acadia Nature Cruises and the Downeast Windjammer Cruise sail out of Bar Harbor.

Sea Kayaking 

Kayak rentals and guided tours are available through National Park Sea Kayak Tours, Maine Sea Kayaking and Coastal Kayaking Tours.

Restaurants

Beals Lobster Pier in Southwest Harbor, Maine

Here are some of our favorite spots on the island to grab a bite.

Beal’s Lobster Pier

Hands down our favorite lobster pound (and we’ve sampled many). Beal’s is located in Southwest Harbor on a working lobster pier, so you can watch the lobster boats come in while you eat on the picnic tables or covered porch. If you’re looking for a classic lobster roll or whole lobster dinner (or lunch), this is our recommendation.

Seafood pizza at Quietside Cafe in Southwest Harbor | Bar Harbor Weekend Guide

Quietside Cafe

Known for their pizza, ice cream and blueberry pie that’s absolutely bursting with fruit. Can’t imagine not having lobster at every single meal? No worries—order the lobster pizza! You can check out some of the cute artist shops in Southwest Harbor after your meal.

McKay’s Public House

One of our favorite places for dinner in Bar Harbor. The food is very fresh and the menu is creative, with lots of seasonal specials. Plus, they have a beautiful garden seating area. If the short rib nachos are on the menu that night, do not make the mistake Andrew did of eating the whole pickled habenero pepper. You will regret it.

Side Street Cafe

An all-around great casual dining restaurant with friendly staff and a nice bar. Try the lobster mac and cheese with one of their signature margaritas (daily happy hour from 3–6pm)!

Project Social

This Bar Harbor newcomer has a modern, eclectic vibe and serves a diverse menu of tapas and crepes with specialty cocktails. They have a great bar as well.

Bars

You would like a cold beverage? No problem. Maine is a great beer-brewing state. Some of our favorite local brews come from the Atlantic Brewing Company, Sea Dog, Allagash and Shipyard. Maine is also famous for its blueberries, so don’t be surprised to see blueberry beers, blueberry margaritas and more.

The Thirsty Whale Tavern

Great casual bar and grill in Bar Harbor. There’s a small back garden and the food is good as well.

Lompoc Cafe

This casual bar also regularly books music acts. Plus, there’s an outdoor courtyard with bocce ball (and great pizzas too).

Cottage Street Pub 

Cool ambiance with unique cocktails. Here’s where to try that blueberry mojito or the bar’s signature cocktail, Dirty Water.

One-Off Pub

We never fail to make a new friend when we visit this small pub.

Shops in Bar Harbor

Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium

Delicious ice cream (including, yes, a lobster flavor) plus homemade fudge and nostalgic candies.

Acadia Country Store

This is our favorite store in downtown Bar Harbor for Maine-made goods, like blueberry jam, maple syrup and popover mix.

Albert Meadow Antiques

We are not even sure if this shop has a name. You’ll find it down a side street off the main drag, but the antique selection is excellent. Look for the house with an Antiques and Jewelry sign on the side.

Christmas Vacation Shop

For the ornament lovers out there, this is a must-stop.

In The Woods

Hand carved spoons, bowls, toys, birdhouses, chess sets, canoes, cutting boards—you name it, they have it. Plus, a giant rocking horse.

A New Orleans Bachelorette Weekend Guide

New Orleans had been at the top of wedding photographer Jordan Quinn‘s lady-trip list for awhile (and it’s near the top of yours too as the number 3 bachelorette destination in our bachelorette survey). So when it came time to plan her own bachelorette, the choice was simple. Of course, she had to take a few snaps of the festivities, from the bead bonanza on Frenchman Street to a rejuvenating round of Bloody Mary’s during brunch at Stanley’s. To Jordan, the trip was about connecting with the most important ladies in her life. As she said, “I got to spend two days with my lifers, the souls who play a daily part in my life. These are the kind of friendships that an episode of Golden Girls is made up of.”

Check out Jordan’s New Orleans bachelorette weekend itinerary below to help plan your own bachelorette in the Big Easy! 

Start the weekend right with the perfect NOLA bachelorette favors: matching Mardi Gras masks. And beads, of course. Make your own masks or stop in to Maskarade to browse (and pose in) the gorgeous hand-painted creations.

For lunch, split a classic muffaletta sandwich at Central Grocery. This New Orleans creation is served on a full loaf of soft Italian bread (hence the splitting) and piled high with salami, ham, provolone, mozzarella and homemade olive salad.

For a unique daytime activity, take an air boat tour on the bayou.

Stop in at happy hour for a round of hurricanes at Pat O’Briens (you’ll probably only need one—these suckers are deceptively strong) and stay for karaoke and the piano bar.

To give the weekend a bachelorette twist, book a private aphrodisiac tour with Witches Brew Tours. This two-hour stroll through the French Quarter introduces you to the sultry past (and present) of New Orleans, while you sample oyster shooters, chocolate cannoli and even a vial of Love Potion #9 from the famous Voodoo Authentica.

Indulge in an afternoon treat of beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde…but also at Cafe Beignet…heck, just make this a daily tradition. Order your coffee with chicory, which adds an earthy, almost chocolate-like flavor.

New Orleans is a foodie’s fantasy—it’s hard to go ten feet without stumbling on an excellent restaurant. The region is known for cajun and Southern cuisine, with a focus on seafood. Split small plates like wood-fired oysters and alligator bites with chili garlic mayo at Cochan or, to see a different area of the city, head to Dominique’s on Magazine Street for modern seasonal French cuisine in a quirky renovated fire station.

A night on Frenchman Street is a must. Wander in and out of the many jazz clubs and bars, like The Spotted Cat Music Club and Apple Barrel Bar, to catch the live local acts. Plus, you can take your drinks to go (yep, that’s legal here—just make sure it’s in a plastic cup).

Leave your own NOLA recommendations in the comments!

A Girls Weekend in the San Francisco Mission District

I’m sure you’ve been noticing a lot of travel articles this summer, but what can I say? I’ve been a busy girl! I recently traveled to San Francisco to meet up with three important women in my life—my mom and two of my aunts, Laurie and Marlene. When I was growing up, Aunt Laurie and Aunt Marlene were the two aunts who lived in town, so we spent lots of early holidays together. I was the flower girl in my Aunt Laurie’s wedding (yep, the one who wouldn’t drop her petals). And my Mom is one of my best friends. So, it’s wonderful to now have adult relationships with these amazing women and be able to spend a weekend away with them.

How does this help you? Well, our weekend would have made an amazing bachelorette bash. We had so much fun! So here’s my stellar weekend in San Francisco. This weekend is best for those who aren’t interested in or have already done the top tourist destinations. If you’ve already walked the Golden Gate Bridge, been to Chinatown, seen the sea lions and paid a visit to Alcatraz, or if those common attractions just don’t interest you, then this weekend line-up is for you. Leave your own suggestions for a great weekend in San Francisco in the comments!

Friday:

mission apartment on airbnb

Photo courtesy airbnb.

Arrive at your amazing pad in the Mission District. This was my first time using Airbnb to book a house and the experience could not have been better. I don’t throw around the word “sick” to describe apartments very often, but I will for this three bedroom decked out in mid-century modern furniture with deep blue and neon pink walls and pops of patterns in the supersoft throws. I seriously wanted to pack everything into my suitcase to redecorate my own apartment…or just move in. A huge kitchen in the back was the perfect place to gather for a nightly wine and cheese happy hour while the cool San Francisco breeze came in through the back garden door.

Spend your first night exploring everything the Mission’s 24th St. We created our own progressive dinner, hitting up taquerias, bakeries and bars and darting in a few quirky bookstores and artist co-ops. We loved the sangria and salt cod appetizer at Roosevelt Tamale Parlor and the ceviche tostadas at El Farolito, but the road is simply lined with great Mexican food, so take your pick!

Saturday:

Start the day off right by making a stop right around the corner at Dynamo’s Donuts. We found ourselves instantly addicted to these things, from the tangy lemon thyme to the sinful maple bacon.

A Mural on Lucky Street in San Francisco's Mission DistrictSign up for a mural tour with Precita Eyes Muralists. The Mission District has a rich history of muralizing the streets and, especially around 24th St., almost every corner is covered in two-story art. Taking a tour really helps you appreciate what you’re seeing and leads you to alleys and corners you wouldn’t typically have stumbled on (some streets are completely covered in murals). Our guide was a muralist herself and was able to explain some of the religious, historical and political symbols that pop up throughout the art, as well as the deeply respectful culture that surrounds the mural community in this neighborhood. Even if you are not a tour person, you’ll enjoy this—it feels more like you’re meeting up with your passionate artistic friend for a stroll (ask for Carla, she’s the best!).

After your tour, spend time exploring the cute shops the Mission has to offer. I made you this nifty map to help you find your way around the neighborhood (click here to download a full-size PDF: A Mini Guide to San Francisco’s Mission District. The shopping list is definitely incomplete, but Valencia is lined with quirky home goods stores, vintage clothing shops and used bookstores from about 20th St. all the way up to Hayes Valley. You can find lunch or dinner (and plenty of treats) at the fabulous cafes and shops in the area. Stop by Dolores Park to enjoy the sunshine and a croissant from Tartine Bakery or a salted caramel scoop from Bi-Rite Creamery.

A Mini Guide to Restaurant, Sweets, and Shopping in San Francisco's Mission District

Finish your night by hopping in a cab to the late showing of Beach Blanket Babylon, a classic San Francisco show that’s been running for 60 years but feels like it was written yesterday…because it was! The show is a musical revue full of the latest figures in pop culture and politics and is constantly rewritten to reflect the latest news. I was in San Francisco only a few days after the birth of Prince William and Kate’s baby George and all three made an appearance in the show. It’s silly and fun, and the costumes are almost the best part.

Sunday:

This afternoon’s agenda includes an amazing food tour, so work up your appetite with a morning in Golden Gate Park. You could spend hours exploring the park, so pick what appeals most to you. For garden lovers, there’s the Japanese Tea Gardens, the Conservatory of Flowers, and the Botanical Garden. The artistic can check out the permanent collection at the de Young Museum (make sure to climb to the top of the Hamon Tower for panoramic views of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge). The California Academy of Science is right across the street and includes its very own domed rainforest. For a bit of whimsy, hike out to the windmill and tulip garden or take a ride on the restored carousel.

My number one recommendation for Golden Gate Park is to rent a surrey. These two- or four-person contraptions can be pedaled around the park and make for plenty of hilarious pictures and some harrowing near crashes… (There may or may not be a video of me somewhere on YouTube trying to pull an illegal U-turn. Some guy in a truck filmed it. Please let me know if you locate this footage.)

For the afternoon, book a food tour with Gourmet Walks. We ate our way through Hayes Valley, sampling cheese and wine, bahn mi and macaron, freshly frozen ice cream and craft beers. Try not to eat before this tour. Like, seriously, I recommend showing up starving. Because you get a lot of food. Way too much food. Delicious, delicious food. One of my favorite stops was Arlequin because of their amazing back garden. Sunlight streamed through the trees as we enjoyed a cheese plate and glass of California chardonnay. There are lots of cute bars to turn your food tour into a drinking tour for the night. Some of my favorites were Noir, for the retro industrial decor and oversized leather chairs, and Two Sisters Bar and Books, for the designer cocktails and real lending library. And since Hayes Valley borders the Mission District, it will be a cinch for you to hop on a bus or even stroll home when it’s time to wind the evening down.

A New York City Bachelorette Dining Guide

Trying to plan a bachelorette weekend in NYC and absolutely overwhelmed by your restaurant choices? Trust me, as a New Yorker I feel your pain. Just deciding where to go to dinner often requires a flow chart. I need to consider location, price, ambiance, and even the size of the restaurant, read reviews on Yelp, check New York magazine for the latest openings…it’s too much! I keep lists of places I’ve enjoyed just to have a few options on the tip of tongue in a pinch. I can’t imagine how you, a NYC visitor, must feel. So here you go: my recommendations for affordable NYC dining, all chosen with your bachelorette party in mind.

I have to preface this by saying that this list is by no means complete. NYC is just too big and there are too many amazing restaurants, with new ones opening every day. So this list is very personal to me. It’s based on my experiences and the places I like. Please leave me suggestions in the comments for the inevitable part 2!

P.S. Part 2 has arrived! Click here for more dinner recommendations, a few unique drinking spots and more yummy treats. 

First, let’s talk about cost. I consider an affordable entree in NYC to be $15 and the average beer will set you back $6-$8. I know, I know. As a girl who has ordered a Long Island Iced Tea at a bowling alley in North Carolina for $4, I feel your pain. Here, that same drink will set you back $12 at some bars. So set your budget or your expectations accordingly. But don’t despair. There are deals to be found if you know where to look and you can absolutely have amazing food and an amazing time without shelling out $100 a person on dinner. All the restaurants I’ve chosen here are affordable and delicious.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that many mind-blowing NYC restaurants are incredibly tiny. I’m talking 10 seats or just counter service! So if you have a big group to accomodate, you need to keep the size of the restaurant in mind.

Lastly: reservations, reservations, reservations. Live and die by Open Table, a great website for booking reservations online or on your phone in a snap.

Dinner

Otto: Mario Batali’s West Village spot is called a pizzeria, but take a look at the menu and you’ll see it goes far beyond pizza. The price tag also doesn’t match how divine the food really is (personal pizzas run $7-$14). Start with the braised pork shoulder with pappardelle and finish with the olive oil gelato—trust me! This gelato is one of my favorite things to share with visitors. They always seem nervous before their first bite, but then can’t stop eating this fruity, tangy concoction. The cavernous Tuscan-style dining room makes this a great choice for big groups.

Nai Tapas: This East Village joint is small, but could accommodate a big party with advanced notice and a reservation. The tapas plates are delicious, authentically Spanish and perfect for sharing along with pitchers of sangria. If you’re daring, try the pulpo a la gallega (octopus) or for something a bit tamer but still delightful go with the pan tumaca (toasts with serrano ham, manchego cheese and tomato). Either way, make sure to order their champagne sangria—it’s a celebration in your mouth. Thursday and Saturday nights have live flamenco shows. Tapas portions run about $7 each and full plates are $9–$14. A pitcher of sangria will set you back $27, but you’ll get at least 6 drinks out of it.

The Park: Want to feel like you’re dining in Central Park? Request seats in the garden room of this casually chic Chelsea spot. With cobbled floors and patio tables, the atmosphere is casual, but candlelight and the rustic wood bar add an element of sophistication. (If you really want to get swanky, ask for seats in The Red Room. Or, there’s even a huge penthouse room that can be rented out for large events.) The food matches the breezy outdoor vibe, with wood oven pizzas, designer burgers and small plates to share. The large entrees like the grilled salmon start to get pricey at around $18, but the seasonal white mushroom pizza or turkey burger with pepperoni relish on an English muffin will only set you back $13. This place is really about the atmosphere though. If you want really posh eats, graze at a few locations in Chelsea Market next door, then stop into The Park for drinks.

Murray’s Cheese Bar: What could be better than wine and cheese? Murray’s Cheese Bar is an extension of their amazing cheese shop. As the restaurant itself is small, your best bet may be to book a private event at the cheese shop, which has a great room overlooking the whole cheese paradise. A certified cheese expert can serve you delicious morsels and tell you a bit about each scrumptious bite while you wash it down with plenty of bubbly. Or make a reservation in the restaurant, where you can indulge in decadent mac and cheese ($12) or nibble on a grilled artichoke heart salad ($10) in between bites of cheesy goodness.

Westville: Oh man, Westville. Sometimes I have dreams about you. You are just so good. This gem is all about fresh and local. Believe it or not, my absolute favorite dish is the market side plate: four of their to-die-for vegetable sides, like zucchini with tomatoes and mozzarella, mashed sweet potatoes, or brussels sprouts with honey dijon. The market veggie plate will run you $12, while a grilled pork chop smothered in red-wine mushrooms will be about $15. There are four locations, but only the Hudson St. location takes reservations (for parties of 6 or more only). Opt for this location so you don’t end up waiting.

Late-Night Eats

It’s after midnight. You’ve been partying the night away. You are hungry. Here is where your dreams will come true.

Artichoke Basille Pizza: Sinfully delicious pizza. The East Village location is open until 5am—yep, you read that right—or you can stop in the West Village or Chelsea locales until midnight. Best known for their white pie with artichoke and spinach.

This Little Piggy: As the rhyme goes, “…had roast beef,” and you shall too. Order it “This Way” (with aus juz and cheese whiz) or “That Way” (with gravy and fresh mozzarella). Either way, it will be the most perfect drunk food you have ever consumed. Also located in the East Village and open until 5am.

Crif Dogs: You’ve never had a hot dog like this. My personal favorite is the tsunami dog, which is wrapped in bacon and topped with pineapple, green onions and teriyaki sauce. Bonus: The phone booth is actually the entrance to a speakeasy, PTD. Pick up the phone to dial for entry, but be warned that they keep the numbers low so the bar isn’t overcrowded. You can make a reservation to be sure you’re admitted. East Village, open until 4am.

Brunch

Brunch is an event in NYC. If reservations are accepted, I highly recommend you make one. But some of these places are good ol’ fashioned first come first serve. Just be prepared to wait (it’ll be worth it).

Friend of a Farmer: Fresh food that will make you feel good about yourself and say yum! The vibe is a rustic country house and the dishes match. The pumpkin pancakes with toasted walnuts ($13) are just tooo much goodness or opt for smoked salmon scrambled eggs for a taste of New York ($14). Located in Gramercy.

Calle OchoThe trek to the Upper West Side will be worth it when you encounter this Spanish brunch spot’s number one draw: an unlimited sangria bar is included with your meal and presents you with eight different flavors to sample, from the Spanish Harlem spiked with dark rum and a pinch of cinnamon to the Havana Banana with tropical creme de banana and coconut. Try the wild mushroom paella ($15) or a chorizo and scrambled egg burrito ($14) to soak up the liquid deliciousness.

Sarabeth’s: Sarabeth’s is a New York institution, well known for serving a classy and scrumptious brunch. Order their porridge Mama Bear (cream, raisins and honey) or Big Bad Wolf style (wheatberries and brown sugar). Be sure to include some kind of baked good in your meal—they’re known for their breads and jams. Multiple locations  all over town.

88 Palace: Take brunch in a new direction by having dim sum, the Chinese equivalent. The foods are more like what you’d typically want for lunch, so don’t go in expecting eggs and pancakes. It’s more like morning tapas. Small carts wheel around this cavernous space at the top of a strange strip mall. Don’t be alarmed as you enter and wind past cellphone vendors and free clinics. 88 Palace occupies the entire top floor and is a revelation. Be sure to grab a plate of roast pork puns, but be adventurous! Each plate is only around $5.

Treats

No girls trip is complete without treats, am I right? Whether you want to order a special cake for the bride or just want a sweet stop off, here are my favorite treat destinations.

For cookies, try City Bakery. Though the best chocolate chip cookie in the city is a hotly debated topic, many give City Bakery the title for their chewy yet soft cookies with a hint of salt. If you’re visiting during February, you’re in luck! For their Hot Chocolate Festival, the bakery creates a new hot chocolate flavor every day.

For ice cream, I gotta go with Sundaes and Cones. Why? It’s right by my office! No, seriously, this is good ice cream. Super-creamy and rich, with your favorite standbys, but a few Asian-inspired offerings as well, like red bean or green tea.

For cookies and ice cream, track down the Cool Haus truck for an ice cream sandwich like you’ve never seen before. Make your own cool combination, like a red velvet cookie with yogurt and berries ice cream or a potato chip and butterscotch cookie with salted caramel ice cream. You can even eat the wrapper! (Not as weird as it sounds.)

For cupcakes, hit up Two Little Red Hens. (Also, scones. Man I miss those scones!) NYC has this trend for supersweet sugary icing on cupcakes and I just do not like that. So Two Little Red Hens is my perfect cupcake. The icing is not overwhelmingly sweet and the cakes are moist. Brooklyn Blackout will send you into a double chocolate coma, but I personally have to go with the carrot cupcake as their cream cheese frosting is divine!

For pie, you’re going to have to trek to Brooklyn for Four & Twenty Blackbirds. Could you find good pie in NYC? Oh sure. But this pie is hands down my favorite in the city. Like, have-daydreams-about-salted-caramel-apple-goodness amazing.

So, what are your favorite spots for brunch, dinner and treats in NYC? Have you planned a bachelorette weekend in the city and had success (or failure) with certain spots? Leave suggestions in the comments!

Summer Vacation: Nova Scotia and Maine

If you noticed a week’s absence, it was because I was busy boycotting all digital communication during my week of vacation. The boyfriend and I took a trip to his family cabin in Nova Scotia followed by a few days at a relaxing resort in Bar Harbor, Maine.

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We started the trip with three days in Nova Scotia. We spent one day in Halifax, where we sampled brews at Alexander Keith’s Brewery. This is legitamately the only IPA I have ever enjoyed in my life. It was so bubbly and crisp, completely unlike the bitter concoctions I’ve sampled in the States. We also stopped at Peggy’s Cove lighthouse around sunset, where I discovered Lobster Lane!

IMG_1989I attempted to enjoy some form of lobster at least once a day. I got it in during breakfast with some delicious scrambled eggs and homemade bread at Kiwi Cafe in Chester and at dinner at The Trellis Cafe near Hubbards with some decadent lobster ravioli. These restaurants were my two favorites of the entire trip. Highly recommended! 

946425_909707915953_1986509901_nOn our last day in Nova Scotia we took a drive down the southern coast in an attempt to stop at a section of Kejimkujik National Park, but were thwarted by a dirt road that we weren’t quite sure our rental car could handle. We did manage to find a beautiful rocky shoreline nearby and hiked up and down the coast checking out tide pools and some seriously colorful seaweed. I admit that I did not think seaweed could be pretty, but you haven’t experienced real seaweed until you see it in the northeast.  Continue reading