A 90-minute flight away, New York holds all the glamour and grime that you expect of a mega metropolis. Whether you prefer to be sandwiched among the skyscrapers or soaking up the springtime blooms in city parks, there’s a version of NYC that won’t disappoint. In 72 hours, we did our best to fit in a bit of everything. It worked.
JESSICA: Manhattan might be my favorite American destination.
TREVOR: That doesn’t surprise me.
J: I can’t help but romanticize a life in the city. Everything you need within a stone’s throw, from street food to fine dining, libraries to theaters, subways to grassy parks … the fire escapes! I just really want to sit on a fire escape and drink wine. There’s just something about New York that I fall in love with all over again every time that we go.
T: Which is why we’ll probably keep going back. This trip took place exactly two years since our last trip to NYC. It’s not too typical that we hit up the same spots, so planning this time around – which you took the lead on – was all about finding a balance of revisiting our favorite spots while also rolling the dice.
J: We relied on some serious repetition when it came to our evening plans, but we spent our days exploring new parts of the city. It helped that we stayed in an area that neither of us had actually fully explored – the Meatpacking District.
Where to Stay
I had heard good things (i.e. trendy things) about The Standard High Line hotel along the Hudson River in the Meatpacking District. Opened 10 years ago, it still maintains an edgy vibe, with a DJ in the lobby and snaking lines of evening party-goers waiting for access to the top-floor lounge and discotheque.
T: I wasn’t sure what to expect. We were asked if we wanted to wait for lower floor availability when we checked in since upper floor guest rooms were “pretty” loud until the club closed at 4 a.m.
“Is it really that loud though?,” I asked since we live next to a receiving hospital in Midtown Detroit. I sleep through blaring ambulance sirens. Our registration assistant half-smiled and said…”Louder.” Okay, then. We waited for an eighth-floor room and the normal 3 p.m. check-in time.
J: And then as soon as we stepped into the elevators …
T: Oh, yeah! Naked ladies started swirling around on TV screens.
J: It felt very Manhattan. Our room was moderately priced for NYC (around $400 a night including taxes) and was basic, if not a bit dated, and very small. But it did feature floor-to-ceiling views of the Hudson River and a deep soaking tub, which were both taken advantage of.
T: I don’t think I’d recommend this place to my parents. But, to our friends who are traveling without kids, yes, definitely.
J: And apart from the hotel, the neighborhood is a great one. There are restaurants and shopping scattered throughout and Chelsea Market is only a few blocks away. Within 20 minutes, you can walk to Washington Square Park or Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. And perhaps most convenient, the hotel is located above the High Line, the city’s elevated public park and pathway, which you can walk along as far as Hudson Yard (more on this later).
What To Do
T: My biggest contribution to our weekend was convincing you to see Billy Joel live at Madison Square Garden again (we saw him the last time we were in town too). It worked out perfectly that his residency show in April aligned with our travel, and even though tickets weren’t cheap, I feel like it was worth every cent. I mean, Tony Bennett made a surprise appearance to sing “New York State of Mind.” The guy is 92 and nailed it.
J: Billy Joel was amazing, but if we hadn’t gone to Madison Square Garden for a concert, I would’ve looked into Broadway shows. There’s just too much in that town not to grab tickets of some kind.
T: Since we were gearing up for the concert on Friday evening, we kept our afternoon pretty low key. Dropped our bags off at The Standard, and then explored the area. If I recall, you kicked things off with a mimosa flight at Bubby’s, which is just outside of the hotel, and then you proceeded to order gelato at Chelsea Market.
J: Yes, that’s correct. Because, VACATION.
T: From our hotel, we headed into Greenwich Village and walked up Bleecker Street checking out some of the newer shops that are bringing back the retail scene.
Ultimately, we ended up at Washington Square Park, which was full of people just chilling and enjoying the atmosphere on a nice day. Kids running around, long lines at street food stands, a drum performer trying to drown out the sounds of a nearby piano player while a passing bulldog wanted to steal his drumsticks. It sounds chaotic now that I say it, but it didn’t feel like that. I think we both fell asleep for a few minutes just lounging in the grass.
J: Funny thing, because we also ended up cat napping in the meadow at Central Park the next day. (As an aside, we don’t normally sleep in public places but the weather was just so gorgeous and it was so darn easy to close your eyes for a few minutes.). Truthfully, I wasn’t even that excited by the idea of walking Central Park, which I hadn’t really visited before. But it was amazing and I couldn’t recommend spending an afternoon there more. The park is huge, covering nearly 850 acres, with smooth walking trails, canoe-filled ponds, grassy meadows, and huge flat rocks to crawl up on for sunning. Bring a picnic or a bottle of wine and just people watch. We even put our feet in a creek like it was Northern Michigan.
T: My favorite part? The roller skating dance teams. Yep, that’s a thing. And it was just as great as you think it’d be.
J: In the name of Instagram, we made a point to visit The Vessel during our stay. Easy to access, we only had to make the 20-minute walk from our hotel along the High Line to Hudson Yards, where the looming structure (with more than 150 interlaced staircases) had recently opened to the public.
T: It looks a bit like a bee hive with honeycomb steps. From the outside, it seems structural and sort of uninspired. But inside, each level offers a new view. And because entry is limited, you never feel too crowded (note: you’ll need to go online and request free tickets two weeks in advance to secure your place). Obviously, it’s great for photos.
J: We steered clear of the other popular sights during our stay with the exception of a stop in chaotic Times Square for pizza (duh), but always recommend the following for folks who’ve not been to NYC before:
- Rockefeller Center for ice skating and Christmas tree views during the holidays or the observation deck during the warmer months.
- Staten Island Ferry for free views of the Statue of Liberty.
- NYC subway transit is an experience that everyone should have – at least once.
- Times Square in the evening, abuzz with lights and people and general craziness. The epitome of New York never sleeping.
- Mid-Manhattan Library for gorgeous architecture and cultural vibes. Walk around the building to stop in the beautiful Bryant Park.
- Fifth Avenue for, what else, shopping (and the stunning St. Patrick Cathedral)
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum, which is so impressively well done and impactful
What to Eat
T: It’s tradition that we stake claim to a street-side table at a particular little Italian restaurant, Olio e Piu, in Greenwich Village. So that’s what we did. A bottle of wine and four courses. It is the real life version of Billy Joel’s ‘Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.’ Greenwich Village is so walkable, it was easy to head up the street and duck into a couple of bars on our way back to the hotel. We made stops at The Waverly Inn and Garden and the Beatrice Inn (highly recommend the Coffee and Cigarettes cocktail), both of which were the types of dimly lit, low-ceilinged establishments you want to end your night at.
T: We also grabbed a couple of great brunches near our hotel. On Saturday we followed the crowds and grabbed a sidewalk table at Dos Caminos where you can pay $18 for endless mimosas or bloody marys (don’t worry, the food was good, too). And on Sunday, we hit up Serafina Meatpacking, which was only a block from our hotel and offered a classier Italian menu.
J: And we can’t leave out the actual spots inside the hotel … we made a reservation to grab pre-concert drinks and a light bite at the Top of the Standard on Friday evening, which I loved. The views out onto the city and river are stunning. The service is impeccable and the setting is luxe. We ordered a cheese plate, charcuterie, the crudites platter and called it dinner.
T: Ah, and I nearly forgot the Standard Biergarten, just underneath the hotel. You buy a handful of tickets as you enter and redeem them for pints of beer, pretzels or sausage. If there’s a futball game going on and some German fans in the crowd, consider yourself lucky. The beauty of New York, after all, is that within one block you can span the globe and still feel right at home.
*Actual travel date: April 2019
- Fly into LaGuardia from Detroit (we took an early Delta flight)
- Catch a cab to the Standard High Line hotel
- Drop off your luggage and explore the Meatpacking District
- Stroll Chelsea Market and grab coffee or gelato
- Shop the neighboring stores or grab brunch nearby
- Nap in Washington Square Park if your room isn’t ready yet
- Grab a drink and light dinner at Top of the Standard
- Head out to a Broadway show in the Theater District or concert
- End your night with a stop in Times Square and a massive slice of pizza
- Start your day with breakfast at a nearby restaurant
- Hit the High Line and walk to your scheduled visit at The Vessel
- Explore Hudson Yards area (but not for too long, it’s touristy).
- Take the subway or a cab to Central Park
- Pick up a picnic lunch or bottle of wine to tote along (bring plastic cups!). Espresso also works if you want to walk the park.
- If you’ve planned in advance, lay down a blanket and bring a book
- Head back to your hotel to prep for dinner; grab happy hour at the Biergarten
- Walk to Greenwich Village and swing into Bleecker Street shops along the way
- Dinner and drinks anywhere you please; you can always find an open table in NY
- Order breakfast in bed in the hotel (it’s your last day!)
- Head out to Fifth Avenue for shopping and strolling
- Stop by the New York Public Library and Bryant Park
- Pop into St. Patrick Cathedral and take in the architectural gem
- Visit Rockefeller Center and the observatory if you haven’t yet
- Find a leisurely cafe for lunch and take your time.
- Head back to LaGuardia via cab and catch an early evening flight home
TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS
- If you’re coming from Detroit, know that NY’s “maritime” climate is quite different than our own intercontinental climate. Usually, that means that the weather will be much nicer in NY. (We wished we had shorts packed with us in mid April!) Pack layers, just to be safe, and don’t assume the weather will be similar.
- Keep cash handy for tipping hotel associates that hail you a cab, bellmen that deliver your luggage, or even subway fare.
- Stay mindful of your surroundings in the busiest parts of the city – like Times Square – where tourists are easy targets for pick-pocketing and the like. I was chased by the Cookie Monster.
- Carry an umbrella if the weather looks dicey. We paid $35 for a cheap umbrella when it started pouring on our walk home – sigh.
- Think ahead and make reservations if there are any particular spots you’re certain that you want to visit. A reservation for drinks? Yes, a good idea. Tickets for shows? The sooner your book the better, unless you’re fine with waiting to see if day-of lotteries become available.
- Always build in time for doing nothing at all. The beauty of NYC is that you can simply let go and let the crowd carry you along if you want. Allow lots of down time to follow your gut and simply do what you feel like in the moment. Check out a neighborhood as well, don’t just stick to the shopping areas.