My 3-Day New York City Itinerary: Culture, Cuisine, and Clubbing

My 3-Day New York City Itinerary: Culture, Cuisine, and Clubbing

Planning an express trip to a city as big as New York can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Pick out a couple of must-see neighborhoods and pre-book one “main event” for each day you’re there… (I will help you with that!) Then, let the city guide you with its fast lane charm and sea of complex characters. There will never be a dull moment. If there is, you’ve done something wrong!

Where to stay: Sonder One Platt, Financial District

Sonder is an affordable boutique hotel with locations in major cities all around the globe. There are 7 just in New York City alone. Think of a design-centric Airbnb but with New Age traveler technology. Your room number and passcode are provided through the Sonder app where you can also make requests for housekeeping. There is at least one staff member on site 24/7; otherwise, check-in & check-out are completely contactless. The room features a full kitchen and building amenities include a gym, spacious lounge, and rooftop. They also offer luggage storage which is so key!

The Financial District, or Fidi, is a wonderful spot to explore as it is home to many top attractions including Wall Street, New York Stock Exchange, World Trade Center, Pier 17, Stone Street, and much more. It is also well-connected to the rest of Manhattan, just 30 minutes via Subway to Central Park or Rockefeller Center.

How to Get Around

During our stay in New York City, we used a combination of Subway, Uber, and of course, lots and lots of walking. I believe taking the Subway is a must if you want the full New York experience. It is definitely the most affordable option and it provides a glimpse into the life of locals, from glamorous to eccentric to downright bizarre. Of course, it’s always important to be aware of your surroundings and protect your possessions, but for the most part the Subway is safe and always well-populated. Uber rides range from $20 to $60, so we only took it when we absolutely had to.

subway

Day 1

We flew into Newark and took an Uber into the city. It was around $40 and took about 30 minutes. We arrived to Sonder well before check-in at 12 pm but they allowed us to store our luggage. From there, we wasted no time and jumped right into the activities below!

Lunch @ Stone Street: Mad Dog & Beans Mexican Cantina

Stone Street is one of the city’s oldest streets and was actually the first road to be paved in New Amsterdam, which later became New York. Cobblestone streets and Dutch colonial style buildings set the scene for a picturesque lunch spot. In winter they have heated bubbles perfect for outdoor, COVID-friendly seating. There were many options for dining, all with enticing menus, but we settled on Mad Dog & Beans Mexican Cantina. There I ordered sangria, street corn, and a papaya salad (actually served out of a papaya–woah!) ¡Delicioso!

maddogny

Wall Street, Stock Exchange, World Trade Center

Given the express nature of this trip, we did little more than walk by these attractions, admiring them from the outside. Worth it, though! We actually weren’t able to make it to the World Trade Center (will save for a future visit), but it’s very doable because each of these attractions are within walking distance. On Wall Street you can snap a picture with the bull (some people were actually climbing on top of its head — don’t be that person).

Pier 17

This was a spot that we stumbled on after picking up post-lunch Americanos at Starbucks. We were out for a walk by the river, just a couple blocks off of Stone Street and wandered up the elevator to the rooftop where apparently, they put on concerts during the summer. There were ‘Cozy Winter Cabins,’ set up at the time, for the holidays, but we just drank our coffee on the terrace overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge. Simply gorgeous and definitely worth a visit if in the area!

5th Avenue – Rockefeller Center – Bryant Park

Tourist trap? Yes. Must-see? Also, yes. From a visitor perspective, these three destinations feel like quintessential New York City. 5th Avenue gives off major ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ vibes while Rockefeller Center is where they film the Today show and also home to the famous Christmas tree. It is close to Times Square if you should want to visit that as well, (not my cup of tea). Though we had already seen these spots on our first visit to New York, we wanted to explore them again during the holidays. You can start near Central Park, walk the length of 5th Avenue (window shop ’til you drop!) and stop along the way at Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park.

Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Tree

Jazz Club: Flat Iron Room

From Bryant Park, we walked about 20 minutes south to the Flat Iron District, home of the namesake Flatiron Building as well as a top notch, snazzy jazz club – the Flat Iron Room. A little lazy on the names if you ask me, but the club speaks for itself. Entering through the secluded corridor you’ll be escorted to a dark room with intimate tables facing the stage where jazz musicians perform nightly. MAJOR speakeasy vibes Reserve in advance as the place was fully booked the night we went. The reservation gets you a two-hour slot at your table and from there, you can chill at the bar or the standing area if you so please.

Flat Iron Room

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Day 2

Uff da, if Day 1 wasn’t busy enough for you, get ready for Day 2! First stop, caffeine.

Coffee: Joe & The Juice

The city is littered with the chain café / juice bar fittingly named “Joe & The Juice.’ At times it felt like there was one on every block. The coffee is served in adorable pink and purple take-away cups that made me very happy indeed. I opted for a flat white and banana muffin which got my morning off the a sweet, lively start.

Joe & the Juice

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I certainly wouldn’t consider myself an art person…nor even a museum person. To be honest, I had only really heard of the MET because of the MET Gala. But, as an aspirant well-rounded traveler I thought it apt to pay a visit to the city’s most renowned museum located in the iconic Central Park. At $25 a ticket, I would say it is worth seeing. The best part? The Egyptian Temple of Dendur. That in itself makes the museum visit worthwhile!

Central Park

Given that the MET is located in Central Park, the most obvious pre or post museum activity would be to tour around the sprawling greens of Upper Manhattan. The best way to see the park, in my opinion, is to rent a bike. You will feel you are part of the action but can still hop off for photo ops at the Gapstow Bridge and rock lookout.

The West Village

While not an obvious transition from Central Park, this neighborhood was a must-see for me given my affinity for all things Sex and the City. Yes, you may have heard that Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment in the series is located at 66 Perry Street, a classic New York City brownstone in the West Village. Fans can snap a picture in front of the stoop, but be careful not to walk on the stairs as the current owners do not love that their apartment is now a tourist attraction. (Hey, comes with the territory if you ask me!) While in the neighborhood you can stop at Magnolia Bakery for a sweet treat.

Dinner: Felice 56

In a city overflowing with Italian eateries, Felice leaves their mark as a classy, reputable chain with an authentic and delectable menu. We made a reservation for 7 pm and were treated to excellent service, fresh pasta, and a smooth, romantic ambience. I ordered Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe, a pasta dish with some cheese that is fancier and much more mature than I will ever be.

Clubbing: LAVO

While not for the faint of heart, LAVO provides a quintessential New York nightlife experience that will get you close and personal to some major DJs and apparently, the occasional celebrity. (If that’s your thing). It was absolutely packed and definitely not conducive to social distancing, but that’s the price you have to pay if clubbing is on your New York agenda. It was outrageously fun and worth whatever variant I may have picked up there. We purchased tickets in advance for New Years Eve through Joonbug (fast pass is recommended unless you want to wait in an hour-long line). Visit their upcoming events page to buy tickets for specific DJs.

Day 3

Are you still kicking after that night out at LAVO? Good, because I’ve got a whole new line up excursions for your last day in New York City that you’re not going to want to sleep on!

COVID Testing

It’s time to talk about a necessary evil. To fly back to the Cayman Islands, we needed an antigen test the day before travel. There are many pop-up sites on the streets in high traffic areas of the city, but those can take 48 to 72 hours to receive results. Not to mention, some are exceptionally sketchy in appearance and overall vibe. We went to Bloom Labs and paid $75 for an antigen test that we got back in 3 hours. PCR tests are also available, albeit more expensive. There was a line outside the site but it went very quickly. I recommend this lab to any traveler needing quick results as it is an efficient, and professional testing site.

Murray Hill

From the testing center in Midtown, we went walking in search of a restaurant to satisfy our sudden Japanese craving and stumbled upon Mazu Szechuan Cuisine in the young, vibrant neighborhood of Murray Hill. While the restaurant wasn’t necessarily dripping in ambience, nor overly gourmet, it provided large portions and essentially got the job done. What was more impressive was the area, which as it turns out, is something of a nightlife hub for recent college grads. Definitely a cool place for young travelers to test out a new bar scene or grab a quick bite.

Brooklyn Bridge

Shifting gears, it’s time to get to Brooklyn before the sun sets. One way you can do this is by walking, jogging, or biking over the emblematic Brooklyn Bridge, which is roughly a mile in length. Of course, you can also drive over it too, but what’s the fun in that? When we walked it on our first visit to New York City in the summer, it was packed with photo-happy tourists and savage cyclists showing no mercy to those in their path. Travel vloggers beware.

Brooklyn Bridge

Dumbo

Whether you make it all the way across the bridge or go the route of Subway, once you’ve arrived in Brooklyn you must go to to the Pinterest-famous photo spot on the corner of Washington and Water Street. Old-fashioned red-brick buildings frame an iconic view of the steely-blue Manhattan Bridge. This photo-taking venue is located in the artsy neighborhood of Brooklyn named Dumbo. Your Instagram feed will thank you. From there, we walked to the waterfront and passed by Pebble Beach and Jane’s Carousel, stopping for a rest in the Time Out Market. Further walking adventures carried us all the way to 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge for the most expensive chai tea latte of my life in their coffee shop, Neighbors.

Brooklyn Nets Game

What do you do to reward your Instagram husband for taking countless pictures of you during your New York City trip? You agree to an NBA basketball game and will yourself to stay awake through all 4 quarters. Go Nets! Kevin Durant? Love that guy!

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Where to Go Out in Los Angeles: A Basic Girl’s Guide

Where to Go Out in Los Angeles: A Basic Girl’s Guide

This summer was my first time ever visiting Los Angeles. I went with my three best girlfriends from high school. We hadn’t seen each other in over a year and we were ready to paint the town red. We wanted to leave it all on the dance floor. (But not all of our money). A few Google searches on clubs in LA had me feeling apprehensive. A $1,500 minimum table reservation was definitely not in the cards for us.

Where could we go for maximum fun at a reasonable price? After much research and a little bit of “living in the moment” spontaneity, our night moves landed us in a tequila bar, a mafia-esque restaurant, two gay bars, and finally, the wildly fun Harlowe Bar. Not coincidentally, 4 out of 5 of these places are located in West Hollywood. It was definitely a vibe! Read on to discover what we loved about each of these spots! Add them to your LA itinerary and you are guaranteed a fun night out.

#1 Lanea

The only place on this list NOT located in West Hollywood is Lanea, a trendy tequila bar in Santa Monica. Our AirBnB was in Santa Monica and we wanted somewhere easy to walk to on Friday night. They offer margarita flights and a handpicked selection of over 400 tequilas and mezcals. How is that even possible? I myself ordered a simple margarita on the rocks (I did say this was a basic girl’s guide), while my friends opted for unique cocktails such as Watermelon.Sugar.High and Paloma. I recommend Lanea to all you basic girls out there because its stylish lounge vibe will have you feeling like a sexy someone sipping your adventurous mezcal cocktail. (Just pretend to know the difference between tequila and mezcal). The music selection was also perfection!

lanes, Santa Monica
Image Source: Lanea, Twitter handle

#2 The Nice Guy

As a first-time visitor to LA, I conjured up many ideas of where to go in the city from Instagram influences and YouTubers. (Not proud). That being said, I of course tried my luck with Nobu in Malibu and Catch in West Hollywood. No dice. A month in advance wasn’t good enough apparently for a reservation. Somewhat miffed, I continued my research and landed on an absolute gem of a restaurant: The Nice Guy. This bar and restaurant with its low lighting and vintage design oozes Mafia era vibes. The four of us girls kicked off our Saturday night here with dinner and cocktails. I made my basic-self proud by ordering something dangerous — Squid Ink Campenelle as an entree and the Spicy Siena as a cocktail. We also ordered truffle fries (BASIC!) and Brussel sprouts as appetizers.

I recommend the Nice Guy to all you basic girls out there because it’s an enticing alternative to the disgustingly flashy Catch (I’ve never actually been there, LOL). It makes you feel like you’ve been transported to the ’20s and you can start your night off in a decisively sophisticated way. As they say, pay more for the fancy drinks and the beginning of the night. We all know what happens later.

the nice guy
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Daniels

#3 Rocco’s

Here’s where the gears shifted. From the Nice Guy we walked to Santa Monica Boulevard (not at all near Santa Monica, I don’t really get it). Rocco’s was a place that we stumbled upon by accident on our way to somewhere else which we never actually found. It is a gay bar with AMAZING music and a crowd that isn’t afraid to dance. We thought about leaving so many different times but good songs kept coming on and we couldn’t bear to leave the dance floor.

I recommend Rocco’s to all you basic girls because it is undeniably fun and you can wear whatever the hell you want and you’ll probably fit in. You can also watch some shirtless cowboys ride horses on the TVs which is great. We soon discovered that this was just one of MAAANY gay bars on Santa Monica Boulevard. If it isn’t obvious you certainly don’t have to be gay to hang out/party at Rocco’s. It truly is for everyone! The party started early with the dance floor filling up around 10:30, 11ish. It is a great place to turn the notch up on your evening out!

Rocco's
Photo by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES

#4 The Abbey

WOW. Please don’t leave Los Angeles without a visit to the Abbey. It is a world famous gay bar also on Santa Monica Boulevard, only a few minutes walking from Rocco’s. Going to the Abbey was an EXPERIENCE. To start, this place is huge and has many different areas with distinct vibes. You could lay low by the bar, chill/eat on the patio, or move to house music alongside the dancers. A section of the Abbey is called The Chapel. They are actually two different venues but they flow together seamlessly, allowing you to move from one to the other.

The Chapel will have you feeling dark and dangerous with its gothic lighting and medieval statues. The DJ booth is reminiscent of a pulpit with stained glasses windows. The DJ when we were there was an old woman with gray hair…amazing, right? I recommend the Abbey to all you basic girls out there because it guarantees an unforgettable experience complete with elderly DJs, risqué dancers, and playful sacrilege. (Sorry, not sorry.)

abbey
Photo Credit The Abbey

*The Abbey requires proof of vaccination upon entry

#5 Harlowe Bar

The Harlowe is just a short Uber ride from the Abbey. This is where we ended our night and definitely where we had the most fun. (Although the level of alcohol in our systems could have also contributed to that). The entrance was a bit rocky because of the anti-vax protestors stationed outside the bar. Nothing kills a vibe like being called a nazi…and a litany of other things. But we shook it off and inside was a much different story.

The bar was packed and had an amazing atmosphere. The DJ and the dancing made it feel like a club but the small, intimate setting gave the impression of a private party. We met many people in a short amount of time, quickly feeling like locals ourselves. Service was top notch and one of the bartenders even gave us free shots for our friend’s “birthday.” They also have a small outdoor patio available for that one friend who randomly announces she needs a cigarette. (Even though she never smokes sober). I recommend the Harlowe to all you basic girls out there because you will make so many drunk friends who you’ll subsequently follow on Instagram. They will forever remind you of that crazy night out in West Hollywood.

*The Harlowe requires proof of vaccination upon entry

Harlow
Photo Credit Harlowe Bar

Well, basic girls. There you have it! Although I am just a first time visitor, I feel these are solid recommendations if you’re looking for fun places to go out in Los Angeles that won’t have you waiting in long lines and/or shelling out thousands of dollars. I would go back to all of these bars/restaurants on my next visit to Los Angeles and hopefully some new spots as well!

If you like what you read, please be sure to check out my Cayman Islands blog posts and get ideas for your next Caribbean vacation! Thanks for reading!

go out in Los Angeles

MEET KATE

 Hi, I’m Kate! I’m a Wisconsin native who traded her snow boots for flip-flops in May of 2020 when I packed my whole life into two suitcases and moved to the Cayman Islands with my partner, Bryan.  I created Island Diaries as a way to document my island adventures and share about the Cayman lifestyle. A Midwest girl at heart, I bring a fresh perspective to Caribbean life, serving as a guide for locals and tourists alike on all things Cayman Islands. Whether you are local to Cayman, planning to visit, or just curious about island life, I invite you to explore Island Diaries and let this site guide you on your next island adventure!

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7 Reasons Why Lake Life Beats Island Life

7 Reasons Why Lake Life Beats Island Life

Welcome to a very special edition of Island Diaries by Kate! While most of my writing thus far has revolved around island living, I am in fact, a lake girl at heart. Growing up I spent my summers in “Up North” Wisconsin at a cabin on the lake with my family. A few years ago my parents purchased an RV on the same chain of lakes and we have continued to enjoy our lake lifestyle, a la “glamping.” Because I moved to the Cayman Islands in May 2020, I missed out on our long-established lake vacation and all the activities that came with it. One positive thing that came from this absence was a fresh perspective on the Midwest experience, namely, summertime lake life.

Returning to Wisconsin this summer has been a joy-filled experience. It has allowed me to see everything as if for the first time. In writing this blog, I am not saying that Wisconsin is better than Cayman. I am simply sharing the areas in which lake life has a leg up on island life (according to me)! Keep reading to discover the 10 Reasons Why Lake Life Beats Island Life!

1. The Lake Community

Lakes are a very intimate setting, both on the water and in the surrounding neighborhoods. If you’ve ever been boating on a lake in northern Wisconsin you know it’s absolutely compulsory that at least one person wave at every single boat that goes by. Many times one person starts it and then it turns into a domino effect of waving across the water. This is also true while out for a walk or run in the lake neighborhood. Each encounter requires smiles, greetings, and without a doubt a mention of the weather forecast (good or bad). It’s not that these kinds of interactions don’t happen in the Caribbean; however, boating on the ocean is more spread out and not nearly as cozy as the lake setting. There are simply less opportunities to chat up fellow ocean lovers. This community effect is further strengthened through the honorary lake “sport” of bar-hopping. Read more below!

beer pong

2. Dive Bars

A dive bar by itself is not a particularly alluring place to visit; however, a dive bar on the lake is the crème de la crème when it comes to summertime merriment. There is something so comforting and uncomplicated about pulling up to the bar’s dock after a lazy troll around the lake. Once inside the bar, each personality gravitates to their own unique vice. There’s the closeted alcoholic who orders the Bloody Mary they’ve been fantasizing about for the past week. The wannabe DJ who whips out their juke box app and queues up enough songs for the next two hours. The overly competitive bar shark who will challenge anyone willing to a game of darts or pool. The gambler who buys 50 pull tabs and doles them out like Christmas presents. Then there’s my Mom and I who make a beeline to the quarter machine and spend the next hour completely fixated on teetering coins, oblivious to the outside world. If you spend enough time at dive bars, you’ve probably been all of these people at one point in time (or maybe all in the same day). Whatever the case, bar-hopping is a quintessential lake life activity that allows you to relax, socialize, and simply be yourself!

dive bar

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3. Water Conditions

As a girl who gets seasick easily (even at paddleboard yoga) I am extremely grateful for the placid nature of lake water. In the Caribbean I have to start my sea preparations hours before getting on a boat. Dramamine, ginger tea, deep breathing, you name it. Lakes also have the obvious advantage of fresh water which is easy on the eyes and less damaging to the boats themselves. It feels so nice to jump into fresh water without having to brace for the sting of salt. One of the most beautiful phenomenons to experience on the lake is the glass water effect. The water is like a mirror; you can see the trees and clouds reflected on the surface. This is also known as prime time for water-skiers. I will talk about this more below in #4!

kayak

4. Lake Sports

While it is true that the ocean allows for a great variety of water sports (probably even more than lakes), lakes in my opinion provide a much better experience. Of course, water conditions have a lot to do with this. For example, waterskiing on the ocean is cumbersome and exhausting, requiring you to constantly adjust for the wavy surface. Lake conditions are much more conducive to an easy and graceful waterski outing. This is also true for the wake-boarders, kayakers, and the occasional paddle-boarder.

Another fun thing about lake sports is that you have an audience. At the risk of sounding conceited, it’s actually cool to have more than just your spotter watching you. Other boaters turn their heads to observe, people on the shore wave from their docks, a gaggle of geese scrambles away. It adds once again to the lake community feel. Likewise, it’s fun to watch other boats do their own sports. Unless it’s one of those horrendous surf boats putting up Poseidon level waves… (get off the lake!!!)

waterski

5. Floaties for the Win

It came as surprise to me that floaties are not all that popular in the Cayman Islands. While some stores do sell them, it is not common to see beach-goers with floaties. At the lake, floaties represent a culture in and of themselves. There are enormous flamingo floaties the size of a small cabin, 6-person floaties with drink holders and a place to dangle your feet. You may even see avocado, llama or unicorn floaties. Few things are more satisfying in this life than idly floating, face to the sun, with one leg lazily draped in the water. And of course this experience would not be complete without a drink in hand and a summer playlist in the background.

float

6. Cool Nights & Campfires

While it is true that campfires are somewhat of a universal pastime, Wisconsin simply provides the most ideal conditions for this quintessential summer tradition. Ever the more ideal if your set up is alongside the lake. (Ours is, hehe.) Wisconsin experiences notable temperature changes throughout the day, something I have missed desperately living in the Caribbean. Even if it’s 85 during the day, it might be 60 degrees at night (around 16 degrees celsius for my European friends.) This is sweatshirt, leggings, and baseball hat kind of weather… AKA every Midwest girl’s favorite outfit. (More about that below). These conditions invite you to throw on your favorite hoodie, huddle around the fire and roast the perfect toasty marshmallow.

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7. Lake Attire

Again, I know that people all around the world like to dress casual…the Cayman Islands included. But trust me when I say that Wisconsin lake life permits a certain level of laid back that I have yet to witness in the Caribbean. As mentioned above, night time calls for sweatshirts, leggings, and baseball caps. Day time is even more low key (if that’s possible.) Alcohol-promoting tee shirts and denim shorts abound. More often than not though you’ll just see people wrapped up in beach towels or life jackets. Up North the most important summer accessory is undoubtedly your can koozie (an insulating sleeve for your canned or bottled beverage). One thing is for sure, you will never have to worry about what to wear while on the lake in Wisconsin.

lake

Lake Life or Island Life? Which would you choose? For each one we can find points in favor and points against. Of course, when it comes to lake life in Wisconsin, we know it is fleeting. June, July, and August is our window to live it up on the lake. From my perspective, I think that is what makes it so special. We know it’s not going to last so we make the most of every opportunity. We live it to the fullest because we remember all too well what last winter felt like. Of course, if you’re really smart you’ll spend your winters in the Caribbean and summers in the Midwest… (wink, wink) 🙂 One thing is for sure, I wouldn’t trade this Wisconsin summer for anything!

Until next time! ~ “Lake” Diaries by Kate

MEET KATE

 Hi, I’m Kate! I’m a Wisconsin native who traded her snow boots for flip-flops in May of 2020 when I packed my whole life into two suitcases and moved to the Cayman Islands with my partner, Bryan.  I created Island Diaries as a way to document my island adventures and share about the Cayman lifestyle. A Midwest girl at heart, I bring a fresh perspective to Caribbean life, serving as a guide for locals and tourists alike on all things Cayman Islands. Whether you are local to Cayman, planning to visit, or just curious about island life, I invite you to explore Island Diaries and let this site guide you on your next island adventure!

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