Where to Stay
Places We Love: The Gramercy Park Hotel is the height of New York luxury. Each room is unique, the design a mix of bold modern colors and fabulous antique furnishings. The location is also ideal, halfway between classic uptown tourist destinations and trendy downtown shopping and restaurants. Bonus: Your room reservation includes exclusive access to Gramercy Park, the only private park in New York. Only residents of the buildings surrounding the park have keys to enter. Residents and you, that is.
A very cool midtown hotel option is the Dream Hotel, a super-modern urban escape. We especially love their indoor/outdoor terrace bar. We also love The Standard and The Maritime Hotel—both hotels have spectacular views and are surrounded by stellar dining options. The Westin Grand Central is a good “budget” option (budget being a relative term in New York hotels).
My Warning To You: The lowest priced hotels are found in Times Square or around Penn Station, but be warned that these areas do not have a lot of character. This is commercial New York at its worst: cheap souvenir shops, TGIFridays and Red Lobster, and sidewalk hawkers trying to sell you tickets for a bus tour. Before booking in these locations, just know you’ll need to hop a cab or on the subway for authentic New York dining and entertainment.
Get Your Shop On
Soho Boutiques: Browse a mixture of boutiques and mega-stores in Soho. A stop into TopShop’s American flagship store is a must, and Bloomingdale’s Off the Rack is a little more manageable than the flagship uptown (though that’s worth a stop too). But Soho is known for its smaller designer boutiques and offbeat specialty stores. We love Alice and Olivia, & Other Stories and American Two Shot. Housingworks Bookstore is a cozy place to browse (I’ve found signed first editions tucked into the shelves) and the MOMA Design Store carries unique home goods and affordable art prints. Brunch at Balthazar is a total treat, though reservations are a must at this popular spot.
Fifth Avenue Spree: Shopping on Fifth Avenue can often entail more browsing than buying, but it’s still a great classic New York experience (and there are affordable purchases to be made). Stop into Tiffany’s and let her try on a few wedding bands while you oogle all the sparklies. Cartier is also pretty fabulous. Bendel’s is a great candy box of a department store that is well worth a trip. Lunch at the 8th floor cafe at Saks Fifth Avenue can be nice (the views are great) and Le Train Bleu at Bloomingdale’s is also pretty cool—it looks like a 19th century French dining car. And since you’re experiencing New York like a local, don’t be afraid to take advantage of personal shoppers or shopping concierges where you can check your coats and leave your bags while you browse.
Check Out a Museum
Sexy Time: Welcome to the Museum of Sex. Yep, you read that right. New York City is home to the one and only Museum of Sex, possibly the most perfect museum ever devised for a bachelorette. You might find items from their permanent collection of sex paraphanelia from over the years on display—including everything from early pornography to the latest sex toys from around the globe—or rotating exhibits, like a bouncy castle of breasts (I am not making this stuff up!).
Classical Art with a Twist: Experience the Metropolitan Museum of Art with fresh eyes on a tour with Museum Hack, a group that tailors tours to a young, modern audience. Our favorite for a bachelorette is their “Butts of the Met” tour, an exploration of the many rear ends on view in the Met’s collection. Make sure to take the elevator up to the roof deck, which hosts a sculpture exhibit in warm months. The view of Central Park and the surrounding skyscrapers is not to be missed, plus you can enjoy it with a cocktail in hand.
Visit a Park
River Views and Beer: The High Line is a park/promenade built on an old elevated train line bordering the Hudson River. Take in views of lower Manhattan and the river while strolling through beautifully designed gardens past public art pieces. There are benches for people watching and lots of food vendors along the way so you can grab an ice cream while you stroll. Hop off at 14th Street and head to The Standard Biergarten for authentic German beer, pretzels and ping-pong.
Rowboats and Tea Time: Rent rowboats in Central Park. Central Park is vast and beautiful and has so much to explore. Since your time is limited, focus on the southern end of the park, which includes the iconic lake where you can rent rowboats. Stroll down the tree-lined Mall, past the Bandshell to the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain. You may catch an opera singer taking advantage of the acoustics in Bethesda arcade or a bluegrass band performing near the bandshell. Conservatory Water, the Alice in Wonderland statue, and Belvedere castle are nearby as well. Skip lunch at the Boathouse—it’s overpriced and the food is not that good. Instead, head slightly outside the park for afternoon tea at Sarabeth’s on Park Avenue South or Alice’s Tea Cup on 64th St.
Take in the view (by leaving Manhattan)
Venture to Brooklyn: Head to Brooklyn Bridge Park for breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline and the city’s bridges (from the south up just remember BMW, or Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Washington Bridge). The walk along the river will take you through beautifully landscaped parks and past a few yummy food stalls (we love Luke’s Lobster in particular), as well as an antique carousel. The park is also host to outdoor movie nights, free kayaking, a pop-up swimming pool and other events in the summer, so check their website for details.
City Escape: Catch the ferry to Govenor’s Island. Open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, Govenor’s Island is New York’s summer playground. The ferry ride from lower Manhattan will offer great views of both the city and the Statue of Liberty and once you’re there, you’ll find a pop-up beach, public art exhibits, bike rentals and more. The island also hosts a series of festivals throughout the summer, including the Jazz Age Lawn Party.
See a Show
Broadway for Less: For affordable Broadway tickets, check out Today Tix, an app that sells Broadway tickets at considerably discounted prices. The classic answer for low-cost Broadway tickets used to be the TKTS booths at South Street Seaport or Times Square, which sell day-of half-price tickets. But waiting in line at these booths will take precious time out of your getaway weekend. The prices on the Today Tix app are just as good, if not better, minus all that time standing around.
Comedy + Concerts: If Broadway’s not her thing, try a stand-up comedy show or a concert. Comedy shows are affordable and great for parties. The most renowned comedy club in New York is Upright Citizen’s Brigade, which hosts two to three nightly shows. If you’re here in the summer, make sure to look out for the many free outdoor concerts held around the city, most notably in Central Park. You can also check out who is playing at Bowery Ballroom or Webster Hall, two downtown venues that reliably bring in great bands.