Wednesday, July 8, 2015

New York City Tips - Hotels, Restaurants & Brooklyn

Our New York City trip was planned on the fly and was a success thanks to some recommendations from friends. One of the best tips I can give you is ask friends what they did, where they stayed, etc.

  We planned one or two places to tick off everyday and took in what we could getting to and from these spots. I think travel to a big city works best that way...Don't plan too much. Leave room for discoveries, wandering and getting lost a bit! 

Some tips for NYC:

 Find a great base to crash and travel from. I could not be more excited to recommend our hotel, The Affina Fifty.  You could go nuts looking at all the Trip Advisor reviews, there are so many hotels in Manhattan. Thanks to a recommendation from my friend Jill, I found this gem. To me it had everything- location, views, chic spacious rooms, excellent service, and a good price...oh and great beds and bedding! I loved the Midtown (on Fifty and Third), location as it's easy to get to most anything in the city, and walking distance to so much, as well as close to the subways.

To me a nice hotel is part of the vacation. My husband would disagree and say we just need someplace to crash not too pricey. The Affina was perfect for the price and a joy to return to each evening!

The rooms were spacious enough for my boys were able to play Goodminton, a soft racquet game they bought at Marbles the Brain Store. Good for burning off a little energy.
(If you have older kids visit FAO's Schwarz. The Marbles in-store boutique is a lot of fun.)

We stayed in a junior suite and also a corner suite a few days later when there was availability. That one had a balcony. Both rooms were nicely decorated, open, bright, had views! Both rooms had a small kitchen with stove and refrigerator, perfect for breakfast, snacks and drinks. You could even cook if you wanted.

The Affina  has an optional morning buffet breakfast and complimentary coffee and tea as well as a wine hours hosted by various wineries with snacks and lemonade for kids too,  a nice touch. Prices in early June when we traveled were around $300 a night. I loved the boutique feel and how everyone knew our names. Lovely people here staffing the entire Affina.

Our cute kitchen in our suite.
 Be flexible about food when traveling with a family. When you are in the heart of a big city there are little grab and go bakeries on almost every block. This was the case here too in our Midtown location. Ultimately, we opted to grab breakfast to go at Pret-a Manger one of my favorites from London. Across the street on Third there was Ess-a-Bagel (you have to go at least once- HUGE NY bagels).  My boys liked having cereal in the kitchen here.

Our little dining area and terrace.
Lunches we had out wherever we happened to be. We  grabbed lunch one day in Bryant Park at Le Pain Quotidian, (try the avocado toast), and also at the little sandwich kiosk at Tavern on the Green in Central Park. All were good for lunch when you're on the move.

We also got to popular Buvette in the West Village for a little fancier lunch of Croque Monsieurs and lemonade on a very hot last day in New York.

Charming as all get out...

Scenes from Buvette.

(Read more about Buvette and it's new sister spot Via Carota nearby, on the Most Lovely Things blog. I found out about Buvette from Annie and she has her finger on all the coolest spots in NYC, plus you'll just adore her and her blog.)

 We squeezed in time for treats, (sometimes to motivate!) like a visit to the famous Milk Bar...

The Cereal Milk cones!

We also escaped the heat on our last day with gelato popsicles from Pop Bar in the West Village.

I recommend having a few dinner reservations. I made them for four nights for a 7 night trip, from recommendations and reading about some of the hot new restaurants. That said, we cancelled all, but one. After hoofing it all day, kicking back in the hotel felt great and we didn't feel like venturing out much again.

One night we walked a few blocks to The Smith above.

Great people watching, cool cocktails and amazing food, but yet a casual vibe at The Smith. There are three locations and we ate at the Midtown one. This has open air eating where the doors fold away and it's  a young crowd. My sons thought the unisex bathrooms with a photo booth was very interesting...This restaurant stays open until midnight or 1:00 a.m. every day!

 Walking through a cute neighborhood on the way to The Smith.
 I was glad I brought my trench for cooler days and nights out.

 Because we walked everywhere,  we also found a few neighborhood spots we wanted to try and we kept walking by The National. Turns out it's run by Iron Chef's Geoffery Zakarian. This was our last night so we wanted a nice dinner out.

 Loved everything about this place. Pretty decor, excellent food, and very, very good cocktails! The guys all had the Ugly Burger and I had the Wedge which was a meal in itself with candied bacon, pickled onions and sun dried tomatoes. The Benjamin Hotel where it's located is also darling and was a block from ours on 50th Midtown.

Being wiped out a few nights we grabbed slices of pizza from a little Italian joint around the corner from our hotel. It was terrific and they have every kind of pierogi, stromboli, and as New Yorkers say, 'chicken parm' heroes. We loved this hole in the wall and it was a lifesaver a few nights when we were beat.

Another evening we succumbed to the cute vibe and street dining experience of Dos Caminos, on our way to a show. Being native Californians were skeptical about the Mexican fare here, but it was fresh and innovative. Fun spot and great street side dining to have a margarita and people watch.

Be open to changing plans. We had some classic NYC things on our list, but we changed our mind during the week when we realized we wanted to do a few cooler things and dropped others and also went back to some like Central Park.

First day there everyone walked many blocks to hit Central Park. That was great and we got the lay of the land, had a lunch outdoors.

  I loved all the bridges.

Don't mess with NYC squirrels!

So green! A striking difference from California.

  A woman performing opera. 

The park is amazingly huge and though we got there three times we still missed some of it.

 Get a city map and plan your days.  That way you know what is near other things, and how to get there- i.e. subway, walking or Ubering it, you'll save a lot of time and see more.

 A little sample of each of our days

Walking half of Central Park, lunch in park, FAO Schwarz, Dylan's Candy Bar.

The Metropolitan Museum and tea at Bergdorf's above the park (this was for me!)

The 9/11 Memorial, Times Square, The Tenement Museum, and Little Italy/ Canal Street.

A one-hour speed boat tour, biking through the park and a Broadway show, Wicked - we never had seen and loved! I shopped Fifth Avenue while they did The Beast boat tour.

Subway to Brooklyn, lunch at Brooklyn Farmacy, waking across the Brooklyn Bridge, The High Line  , the Meatpacking district, Chelsea Market and wandering through Chelsea.

Visiting the West Village, Greenwich Village and Washington Square Park and back to Central Park.

We chose to not do the Statue of Liberty as tickets were only available to the lower part and it also would have involved a long day of slow lines. We instead opted to walk across the bridge and see it there.

Love the names and unique signs at each subway station.
Take the subways and walk when you can! Manhattan is probably the most walkable place I've ever been in. It's easy to walk to many or most of the things you want to see. Once you get used to it, you find it is often the fastest way too. One night we took an Uber to our Broadway show, but ended up having him let us off about 4 blocks before as it was gridlock. Turns out we might have walked there faster!

I love the colorful umbrellas I snapped one wet morning from our room.

The subway takes a little work, but is pretty easy to navigate once you get the hang of it. There are people in most of the stations during the weekdays there to help. The subway cars in Manhattan run constantly and are clean and air-conditioned. There are so many cars running it was rare we had to stand for long, even during rush hour. It's so easy to get to places a little farther out like Brooklyn too.

 Get out of town one day! For us that was a trip into Brooklyn which was an easy subway ride. It was shockingly quiet after the bustle of Manhattan, and a nice change in the middle of the trip. We took the subway to Carroll Gardens to a sweet spot called Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, another great recommendation.

This soda fountain is housed in a 1920s apothecary shop and pharmacy that was shuttered for many years and basically frozen in time. It was reopened and renovated keeping almost all the original elements intact! The creations from the soda fountain are truly one of a kind like The Elvis, Mr Potato Head and the Sundae of Broken Dreams with pretzel pieces. Check out their menu!  Just being  at The Farmacy feels a bit like time travel, as does all of Brooklyn.

You can even pick up one of these shirts...
There are a few times I felt this shirt was needed for certain boys on this trip!

I loved the pretty rows of Brownstones and tree lined streets. Having grown up in the 1970's, all I could think of was Sesame Street and my husband said the same! Being Californians this kind of neighborhood was so different to us. It also reminded me very much of Amsterdam.

This home was in Carroll Gardens. I loved walking through Brooklyn Heights as well. I was surprised to learn that most of these Brownstones predate the Civil War! Also the word stoop for front steps originates from the Dutch who first settled here. Don't you love the pretty window boxes?

After lunch in Carroll Gardens we walked through Brooklyn Heights and over the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge toward Manhattan. This is the direction you want to go as you can take in the city panorama and also lady Liberty and the harbor. A very fun walk and we all thought this was the highlight of our trip!

Next I'll share some of what I loved about my Metropolitan Museum visit!


All photos northerncalstyle


  1. Kim,

    Thanks for the lovely tour of your covered a lot of territory in that week. You did a great job planning all that out, it takes a lot of time and effort!

    I agree about not over scheduling your days...there is no fun in rushing around. It's supposed to be a vacation. :)

    Love the photos of Central Park, I remember when we walked all the way through Golden Gate Park one trip to San Francisco when my daughter was 8. I wanted to see the whole park and the tulips/windmill near the end. My daughter was not pleased about having to walk over 3 miles to "see the stinkin' tulips"!


    1. Thank you Linda! Isn't it amazing how big some of the city parks are? We got lost in the park in Rome once. Can't remember the name and the kids flipped out. We seriously couldn't find our way back to where we came in. That is a cute story about your daughter!! Golden Gate Park is similar like that.. You could walk all day! Have a good weekend!! xo Kim

  2. Thank you Linda! Its so wonderful blog and here is the pics you are shown here are so awesome. As per my sense whenever some one can see these hotels pics and its surrounding infrastructure then he or she will love it. Because its so lovable. Someone told me if i will do a plan for come here then its a one of the site for book my online ticket here. is this correct.