new york city travel, travel advice

Best and Worst from my NYC Dining experience

Food is important. Can we all agree with that? It keeps us alive, fuels our bodies, and often times monopolizes our minds throughout the day (or maybe that is just me).

Selling travel for over 16 years has taught me how important your food and dining experience is when you assess your overall travel experience. Let’s face it good or bad, food can make or break a vacation.

I will preface this by saying that I am not a food critic. I love food but cannot even put myself in the category of “foodie” because I love my Pan-seared Filet Mignon along with a side of some good ole boxed mac and cheese. I have met few casseroles that I did not like. However, I do appreciate good food and for most of my travels, food plays a big role in my planning and trip experience. New York was no different.

Most people think of bagels, pizza, hot dogs and cheesecake when they think of NYC. Or perhaps they think of swanky restaurants with $30 martinis and foie gras. We did try all of these staples (we passed on the foie gras) while we were there and really enjoyed them however we felt if this was all you ate while in New York you were missing out.

New York City is a melting pot and with its diversity brings a variety of cuisine. The food reflects the people and the heart of New York City. The place where people come to make their dreams come true or to find a community that accepts and welcomes differences.

We personally loved walking the streets and seeing an Irish bar sitting next to a Cuban restaurant then turning the corner and finding a tiny Thai place. The restaurants were as charming and unique as the people. Of course, we did not have enough time to fully plan or try even a small slice of the NYC pie but I wanted to share some of our personal favorites (TRY) from our short trip and places you might want to PASS by. Please also note our breakfast was included at our hotel each day so we do not have breakfast suggestions.

 

TRY

1.) CHAI TAI KITCHEN- 

This meal was a favorite for our trip to NYC and we sort of stumbled upon it walking around the theater district near our hotel. It is a tiny little restaurant with a charming atmosphere with hanging lanterns and muted lighting. We loved our noodle bowls and found the pricing very reasonable for New York City. We will definitely return if in the area.

 

2.) Carlo’s Bake Shop- Cannolis

We tried the cheesecake and cannolis and found the cannolis to be the real winner. They were incredibly crunchy, creamy and not overly sweet. Absolutely delicious. Busy place and very little seating but grab some cannolis and take them to a local park and enjoy!

 

3.) Juniors – Cheesecake with strawberry topping or Red Velvet cake

We tried both and found them to be delicious. I know everyone has their own preference with cheesecake but I found this recipe to be perfect for me with a hint of lemon.

 

3.) IndiKitch

This was our first experience with this New York regional chain. We absolutely loved it. It was like Chipotle with Indian cuisine. Fast, easy, affordable and delicious. I would recommend stopping in if you find one while in the city.

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4.) Spicy hotdog at one of the food carts in Central Park

A hot dog is not a culinary masterpiece but I recommend checking out some street food while in NYC. We tried a spicy hot dog from a cart in Central Park and found it really delicious. They had creperies, gyros, and all kinds of other street food carts and trucks to choose from around the city. You can grab some food and sit on the stairs of the Met or on the patio at the New York City Library (A.K.A. Lion’s library) and people watch if the weather is pleasant. We saw a lot of people enjoying this city pleasure. Next time, I will need to remember to do this more.

 

 

5.) Los Feliz Taqueria by chef Julieta Ballesteros

Our New York city friends took us to this gem while visiting. We highly recommend the Quesadilla de Flor de Calabaza and a Spicy Cilantro Margarita if you like spicy! Thanks to our NYC friends, we were personally introduced to chef Julieta (a one time contestant on the hit TV show Iron Chef) and treated to a special sampling of ceviches and churros, followed up with shots of tequila from one of the restaurant’s dozens of tequila options!

 

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PASS BY

1.) Loeb Boathouse- Visit but do not eat dinner

Beautiful atmosphere and location right on the lake in Central Park, however, the food we found to be overpriced and bland. Service was less than stellar as well. I ordered the Filet and it had very little seasoning or flavor. Jason ordered the Salmon and it was again flavorless. We loved watching the gondola rides and rowboats passing by with skyscrapers in the backdrop but should have just gone to the self-service bar and patio area instead of the more formal dining room.

 

 

2.) The View Restaurant

This restaurant sits 48 floors above New York City.  The revolving floor makes a 360° turn every hour, ensuring an ever-changing perspective of this celebrated city.

Again, we went for the atmosphere and unique experience of seeing the city skyline as the bar slowly rotates. However, the drinks were VERY overpriced and you had to pay a cover charge in order to get seated. We just went for dessert and found they only had a dessert buffet which was very expensive so we just had a couple of drinks and left. The views were very good but the restaurant was dated and there were screaming kids everywhere.  They also had some technical difficulties a few times with the rotation mechanism that made us nervous. I would probably never go back.

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3.) The New Amity  restaurant

Not much to say with this one. It was boring, non-descript diner food. We both stumbled into this place starving and desperate for lunch and a place to sit. It did satisfy both of those needs, but if you have a choice, there are a lot better places to eat in the city. We both ordered burgers and fries and they were similar to what you would find at an amusement park concession stand. Taste and price!

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4.) Broadway Deli-

We wanted to try one of the things New York is known for- Delis. Jason enjoyed his Reuben but I found my Italian sandwich pretty average. We both agreed the food was just ok.

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5.) Angelo’s Pizza 

Another, just okay, place we stumbled upon for lunch. The waiter was friendly and prompt and the pizza we ordered was fresh and tasty but nothing extraordinary. Honestly, I have had better pizza at home in Lexington, KY. I am sure there are much better pizza places in New York to try instead.

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new york city travel, travel advice

Top 5 Must-See Places in NYC

Whether you are a first-timer or have visited more times than Frank Sinatra, these 5 places are Must-see for a visit to New York City.

I have been to NYC several times but not for 15 years or more (yes I just aged myself). This was my husbands second time here but first sightseeing experience. We had a pretty full itinerary for a 4-night stay but of course, it is not possible to see everything in 5 days or even 5 years in NYC. This place is forever evolving and new places open up daily. Please take my list with a grain of salt but these were 5 things we felt were worth your while seeing/doing on a short stay. (Please note that they are not in order of importance)

#1- The Metropolitan Museum of Art ( aka The Met)

Perfect for a rainy, hot or cold day in the city ( which is more often than not the case), the Met is my top pick if you have time for only 1 museum amongst many in this city.

Whether you love Classical or Modern art, sculptures, or Knights in shining armor this place has it all. My husband and I loved wandering through the many different rooms and finding a Van Gogh painting in one, Egyptian hieroglyphics and tombs in another, Roman statues in the next, and then finishing up with some modern sculptures. Even those that are not art enthusiasts can appreciate this place.

I would suggest spending an entire day wandering around and taking a leisurely lunch in one of the charming cafes or dining areas inside the museum. It is right near Fifth Avenue so if your feet can stand it after leaving you can wander around and do some shopping and grab some dinner or pick up a gyro or crepe from a food truck and enjoy it in neighboring Central Park if the weather permits.

#2- Central Park

After a busy day in the hustle and bustle of city life, Central Park is an oasis to refuel and reenergize. Over 800 acres of park in the middle of one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world.

We enjoyed Central Park so much we spent several hours on two different days here meandering around. We were fortunate to be here in late spring when the tulips and peonies were in full display and trees were beginning to fill in. It was a sight to see and surprisingly peaceful when a noisy city was just footsteps away. We toured the Shakespeare Garden, walked under beautiful bridges with saxophone players serenading us, and enjoyed watching couples row-boating at Loeb Boathouse. Central Park is a definite must-see if you come to New York. As you are leaving, you can also do some Fifth Avenue shopping or look at some of the high-end apartments that are Parkside.

#3- 9/11 Museum and Memorial

The tragedy of 9/11 is something that Americans will never forget. It was such a huge event in American history and for this reason, the 9/11 museum and memorial are on my Must-See list.

The museum is a wonderful tribute to all of those people who lost their lives that day. It provides special mention to the Fire Department, NYPD, and other citizens who gave their lives helping those trapped in the twin towers or in the wreckage.

The museum is located in the footprint of one of the towers. Inside, there are firetrucks and ambulances that had been damaged, debris and leftover supports, heartbreaking first-person accounts and memories shared of lost loved ones. The new museum was worth the entrance fee and I would allow a couple of hours to visit the large museum along with the public memorial.

#4- A Broadway Musical or Play in Times Square

I am an art fanatic so it is possible that my list is a bit lopsided with artistic selections, but I also feel a NYC trip is not complete without seeing a play or musical on Broadway. A substitute could be NYC ballet or Philharmonic but I did not get to experience them in order to recommend.

If you are not dying to see one of the cities “hot” shows like “Hamilton”, “Dear Evan Hanson”, “Harry Potter”, etc… you might consider saving some money and getting some same day tickets at one of the TKTS booths around the city. We visited the one in Times Square and scored 50% off tickets to see “School of Rock” musical. It was a wonderful family-friendly show with a talented cast. Two thumbs up for a fun night out.

If you are dying to see “Hamilton” or “Lion King” be sure to buy those tickets well in advance in order to get decent seats.

Make it a full evening and check out Times Square, do some shopping and maybe eat a nice dinner at one of the many Italian eateries nearby before the show.

#5- Top of the Rock or Empire State Building

No better way to see NYC than on top of one of these historic buildings. We personally chose “Top of the Rock” because neither of us had done it and we also wanted to tour Rockefeller Center.

“Top of the Rock” is a skyline tour on top of Rockefeller Center with stunning views of Central Park and the entire city. I highly recommend choosing a day that is not too windy or cold because being on the 68th floor intensifies the weather. If you have the extra money or time, a Helicopter tour over New York would be the only thing to top these views. I recommend going in the morning for less crowds or you can consider getting the Sunset package that will allow you to see the city both in the day and night. However, please keep in mind that this is popular and more crowded.

Side Note: I purchased a New York City Explorer pass on Groupon ( it gave us entrance into 3 different tour choices) for about $70 a person and this saved us money on this and two other tours we did ( Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise and The Met). I would recommend getting this pass or if you plan on going to multiple museums, tours, cruises, Hop on/off Bus, etc.. you could get the City pass which gives you unlimited tours, priority entrance, skipping the lines, and will save you if you want to do a lot of tours or will be in NYC for a while.

A close runner-up suggestion:

#6 – Take a ride on the free Statin Island Ferry for amazing views of Lady liberty and the city

travel advice

THE PACKING NIGHTMARE: Are you a last-minute packer or week-long packer?

So I think most of us have been there at one time or another. Staring blankly at the pile of clothes, flip flops, travel-sized shampoos, sunblock, and charger cables and wondering where to even begin. Packing. It is the necessary evil before the much-anticipated vacation.

There seem to be two camps with regards to packing. There are those a week prior to vacation, go ahead and haul their suitcase into their room. They then spend a week slowly and agonizingly creating Packing lists and piles next to their suitcase in anticipation. Lord knows they don’t want to forget anything. They dream in travel checklists and have nightmares of forgetting their Sonicare toothbrush at home. (Oh No!) After a week of creating the pile, they recheck their packing list as they put things slowly into the suitcase and then again double check before they zip it up. This would be the “camp” I have lived in throughout my adulthood.

The second camp would be where my husband resides. Typically around 7 pm on the eve of our vacation, he decides it is time to begin packing. He grabs some clothes from the clean laundry, a couple of pairs of shoes, underwear, toiletries, and is done in 30 minutes flat. No list. No piles. No stress. How can this be? The first couple of times I witnessed this, I was confident he would forget something since he could not possibly have “prepared” enough in 30 minutes. But no crisis ever happened. No forgotten Sonicare or swimming trunks. That allergy pill he takes daily? It was packed neatly away. The world kept spinning as it always has. Apparently, either packing is his superpower or his camp is a better place to live.

So here I am. A day away from my “quick” weekend getaway to New York City and wondering why I literally spent 3 days agonizingly packing. Why am I worrying so much? Will they not have toothpaste in New York if I forget? Can I not live without those silver flats that matched perfectly with one of my outfits? I am feeling pretty certain that I have “over-prepared” for this 4-day trip. Relax.  It will all be fine.

So this leaves me with a question for you all out there. What camp are you in? Do you like living in that camp? Is it peaceful and relaxing or stressful and time-consuming? Maybe with all of these blogs and articles on how to be prepared for everything in life we could stand to sometimes be less prepared on occasion and spend a lot more time enjoying the present moment. Feel free to share your own tips and wisdom on this subject!

travel advice

ABOUT ME

Wife. Mom. Travel Consultant. Travel addict.

I have been selling All Inclusive vacations to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America for 16 years now with www.allinclusiveoutlet.com. I have been fortunate enough in my life to have traveled far and wide but my appetite for travel is rather insatiable. I love to see new places, have new experiences, and in particular, bodies of water really speak to me. I love to find ways to save money yet still have unique experiences. Being in the travel industry has helped fuel my passion and made it possible for me to see places I would never have seen otherwise.

Favorite Places I have been so far: St. Lucia, Glacier National Park in Montana, Lake Lucerne in Switzerland, Prince Edward Island, Canada, and Venice, Italy

Most incredible travel experience: Getting married in St. Lucia on a beachside hilltop with my family

Top on my Bucket List: Australia and New Zealand, Iceland, African Safari, Alaskan Cruise, Santorini, Greece, Thailand, Canada by train, and Amalfi Coastline in Italy

Places I will be traveling in 2018: NYC in May, Cancun and Riviera Maya Mexico in June for business, Aruba in July for a family vacation, Waco and Keller, Texas area in September, and Pigeon Forge, TN in November.