By Donna Estudillo Buckidtreamer and Guest Blogger from Am I 40 Yet?
Its bridges, waterways, monuments and skyscrapers create one of the most awe-inspiring skylines. Rumbling trains, bumper-to-bumper cars and taxis, and footfall on concrete produce a vibrant symphony of urban ruckus, while multilingual conversations and cuisines attest to the fusion of cultures. Its infinite list of to do’s from dancing in your seat as you watch a Broadway musical to having your breath taken away by 360 degree views of the city from the top of the Empire State Building…New York, you are INTOXICATING.
While the freezing east coast winters make me feel happy (and warm) to live in SoCal, I often miss my sleepless nights–even the cold ones–in the city that never sleeps. And until I reach my bicoastal living goal, I am thrilled and fortunate enough to play tourist a couple times a year in the meantime.
I have a long list of favorite places and things to do in New York. I could write a book. Actually, a whole series. Maybe even an entire library of books…but for the sake of short attention spans, I’ll narrow it down…
Without fail, I always leave the David H. Koch Theater, home to the New York City Ballet, feeling a newfound appreciation for the human body’s intricate design, impassioned by the dynamic and spirited music, and envious of the dancers’ athleticism. Their strength, flexibility, coordination, and ability to move effortlessly with the music and with each other are entrancing. They have their big Fall Gala called ‘Celebrating Five Years of Ballet and Fashion’ coming up on September 20, 2016. Checking flights now…
A Midtown stroll turned into a photo op on a storefront bench. After at least 20 shots, sadly only one IG-worthy, an “I (heart) NY” shirt (with the word “dub” in the heart) in the storefront’s window caught my eye. So into the store I went where my souvenir purchase unexpectedly turned into a tour of a premier DJ and electronic music production school. Apparently, 348 West 14th Street is where the audio magic happens–where New York and the world’s top-notch producers and DJs share their wisdom and prowess with aspiring musicians. My inner Alison Wonderland (I totally just Googled ‘top female djs’ and she came up because, shame on me, I know nothin’ about this world!) is seriously considering signing up for a workshop on my next trip. Dubspot, please teach me how to scratch and juggle some beats!…Or is it juggle and scratch some beats?
Typically, the parks of New York City disappoint in comparison to the lush parks I’m used to in California. New York City parks are typically more ‘concrete,’ less ‘jungle.’ The High Line, however, is a perfect ratio of both. It is a 1.45 mile-long public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side—modern urban design fused with native perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. I’ve spent countless hours at the High Line warming up the benches, people watching, and getting completely lost in the views of the city and the Hudson River.
Tourist trap? It’s been said, but who cares. It is only one of THE greatest indoor food halls in the whole entire world. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a tad, but with more than 35 vendors, I call Chelsea Market “heaven” to my God-fearing mother’s dismay. Crepes, sandwiches, pasta, salads, curry, lobster rolls, meat pies, freshly baked bread—all of you, get in my belly! But, the fact that my stomach can only stretch so far and the slowing metabolism of my 30 (ahem)- something year old body make me think twice. So, I opt for Korean Mokbar’s perfectly crisp rice cakes with a generous smothering of spicy red chili sauce. I chase it down with a hot Jasmine tea from Spices and Tease whose vibrantly colored spices and aromatic tea leaves perk up my senses. Don’t worry Mr. Lobster Roll, I’ll be back for you…and you too, Mrs. Meat Pie.
So I barely spent an hour there on my last trip, but it was an hour well spent because a trip to New York is not complete without a visit to Manhattan’s famous Central Park. A zoo, carousel garden, walking paths, lakes and ponds, outdoor amphitheater, playgrounds, ice rinks…it’s beautiful and romantic. This is the best way I can describe how the park makes me feel: Central Park makes me want to dance with cartoon animals through the walking paths like Amy Adams in ‘Enchanted,’ rapid fire snowballs Elf-style, and serendipitously fall in love with my meant-to-be. Central Park, you are rainbows, unicorns and puppy dog tails.
Flower and animal plastic inflatables, encased vacuums, sexually explicit self- portraits, a giant sculpture of Play-Doh, cartoon silhouette mirrors…how does someone come up with these things? The Jeff Koons exhibit at the Whitney Museum a couple years ago kept me intrigued for hours. And for someone whose attention span can be non-existent at times, that says a lot.
Although the Koons exhibit no longer graces the Whitney, a visit to the museum is a must if 20th and 21st century American art tickles your fancy. And by the way, The Whitney just set new roots down on Gansevoort Street, between the Highline and the Hudson River. So, check out its new home and contemporary collections.
Beauty Binging at Bite Lip Lab & Birchbox
I LOVE..okay fine, I am OBSESSED with Bite lip products. Highly pigmented, super hydrating and 99% natural–what’s not to obsess over?! I admit, I have several Bite lipsticks too many. So going to the Lip Lab in SoHo to custom make my own lipstick is always a must. Create-your-own shade and choose-your-own finish, flavor and shimmers. Decisions, Decisions!
I’m wishing really, really hard for Birchbox to open a store in SoCal because their first brick-and-mortar store in SoHo is heaven-sent for the cosmetics-obsessed. With its friendly staff, cheery interior design, huge selection of ingredient-conscious lines, Birchbox Man, and the ability to BYOB (That’s ‘Build Your Own Birchbox’ not ‘Beer’) and test-drive new trends at Try Bar, I am a crazed fan steps closer to bringing my beauty looks Pinterest pins to life.
‘Food’ is my favorite word.
New York’s dining scene is deliciously stylish and eclectic. Go ahead and drool as you read about some of my favorite spots.
Meatballs? Meh, I’m not so into them. But, when your former meat-eating turned vegetarian Ordering is simple: Pick a meatball (from classic beef to salmon to vegetarian), pick a sauce (from classic tomato to parmesan cream), and pick a side (from a simple salad to fresh-milled polenta). I went for the classic beef with spicy meat sauce and polenta on the side. And?…Um, I hate this word I’m about to use, but…MOISTEST meatballs ever and a creamy polenta to die for. More moist meatballs please!
“I can’t tell you where we’re going, but meet in front of Crif Dogs,” my Tuesdate says. Hmmmm…secret venue? I’m excited and a little nervous. As directed, I meet him in front, then we step into an unimpressively decorated hot dog joint with arcade machines for tables. Tuesdate slips into a vintage phone booth, chats on the phone, then calls me over to enter the booth. I enter cautiously. The other side of the booth opens into a dark, low-key, leather booth clad top secret-ish speakeasy. Way sexy. But, it turns out that an old-fashioned made from bacon-infused bourbon and maple syrup-soaked cheese and jalapeno smothered tater tots don’t necessarily make for a great late night digestion situation. Potent cocktails and greasy, deep-fried dogs from next door’s kitchen don’t either. Sorry, Tuesdate, but when in New York in the midst of unique culinary and cocktail options, my stomach and I agree “no pain, no gain.” That’s what antacid is for.
You can’t eat your way through New York without a pit stop here. I GUARANTEE Milk Bar can satisfy the sweetest sweet tooth! Soft-serve ice cream with cereal flavors like Lucky Charms, Fruity Pebbles and Cap’n Crunch are popular as are the “candy bar pie” and “crack pie.” Did you just say “crack pie?” “Just one bite,” a fool would say, but after that bite, the fool will quickly learn it is an addictive, sugary, buttery slice of heavenly amazingness.
Its cheeky pawn shop entrance unexpectedly leads to a swanky lounge and restaurant dripping with chandeliers, a glamorous staircase, and a soundtrack that will bring out your move-and-munch combos. Salt and Pepper Fries, Lobster and Squid Ink Tagliatelle, Chili Salted Shishito Peppers, Tuna Poke Wonton Tacos topped off with Black Bottomed Butterscotch Pot de Crème…Maybe I’ll share next time. Oh! And champagne served in the women’s restroom. Cheers.
My favorite cheap eats meal? A $1 slice of quintessential New York style pizza from a sorry-can’t-remember-its-name hole-in-the-wall pizza joint on the Lower East Side. But, frankly, you can find good pizza almost anywhere in the city. You CANNOT do New York without eating pizza. I repeat, YOU CANNOT. No frills of cheese-injected crusts or distractingly thick piles of toppings required. My go-to? A light layer of tomato sauce and genuine mozzarella cheese on a distinguishably New York thin, foldable crust. Here’s a secret about the city’s pizza: Minerals in New York City water are credited with giving the dough its characteristic flavor. Even the water is special there–gotta love NY.
UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN, NYC…
There you have it–a few snapshots of my trip that hopefully, even if only to a minute degree, illustrate the city’s charm. There’s still the Empire State Building, Broadway, Statue of Liberty, Bryant Park, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Times Square, Grand Central Terminal…
I hope my little New York article serves as a reminder for you to do the things that quench your thirst and make you feel alive. Travel if it’s one of them and head on over to New York if you’re in need of an unlimited dose of (fill in the blank).
“There is no place like it, no place with an atom of its glory, pride, and exultancy. It lays its hand upon a man’s bowels; he grows drunk with ecstasy; he grows young and full of glory, he feels that he can never die.” I feel you, Walt Whitman, I feel you.