This past weekend, I had the exciting experience of exploring and staying in NYC for 2 days with my college bff (shout out to Anna B for coming to #thenorth).
New York is unlike any other place. It’s magical, filled with wonderfully unique and odd people, all experiencing New York in their own ways. The honks of the taxis that crowd the streets fill the air like a New York melody. People pass and push and rush to wherever their lives are taking them. New York has a way of making you feel extremely small, while, at the same time, making you feel as though you are a part of something much bigger.
Nothing can truly be planned in New York. If you read my last article about my 2 days in D.C., everything pretty much went according to plan. We knew where we were and what we were doing mostly at all times. D.C. is a pretty planned city, everything going to schedule.
Not so much with New York.
Sure, you can make an itinerary, and plan the things you want to see or do. But NYC has a way of taking those plans, and making them its own. That’s why New York is so intriguingly fascinating. It draws people into the chaos and beauty, and people fall in love with the madness.
Let me share some of the beautiful madness NYC planned for Anna and I.
Anna and I woke up at 5am to catch our 7am bus into the city. Tickets for the 3.5 hour bus ride into the city were around $20 each way (you can get them cheaper if you plan more in advance, and don’t wait until a couple days before). If you’re an east-coaster, definitely check out Megabus, it’s a super cheap bus ride to a lot of cities on the East Coast.
One of the many perks of going to an art school like SCAD, is that you always know people who live and work in the city, as that is where a lot of creative careers take place. For us, we know a former fibers major named Katie, who graduated not too long ago, and currently resides in Brooklyn. She is probably the sweetest person you will ever come in contact with, and very graciously let us sleep on her bedroom floor while we spent time in the city (shout out to Katie for being amazing and sweet and hospitable to us!)
Anna and I knew going into the trip that we would not be able to drop anything off at our Brooklyn abode, and therefore needed to pack very lightly. No one wants to lug around a heavy bag for 2 days in NYC. Our plan: buy a $5 Madewell canvas tote (matching, of course, because deep down we are still 12-year-old gal pals), and pack only the essentials: toothpaste & toothbrush, deodorant, a pair of clean underwear, a long-sleeve shirt for sleeping, phone charger, go-to lipstick color, and makeup wipes. To cut back on space, we decided to sport the same outfit for 2 days (hey, we changed out underwear, stop judging). With this packing method, we were good to go for the day, and ready to crash in Brooklyn at night.
Once we arrived in the city around 10:30am, we headed to brunch in the West Village, at a place called Jack’s Wife Freda. Super small, Mediterranean, jammed-packed with trendy New Yorkers, this place was the perfect first taste of New York (literally). I ordered a rosewater waffle, with mixed berries on top. Now, if you know me, it sounds like a way healthier version of what I usually eat for breakfast (aka chocolate chip waffles with maple syrup), but it was surprisingly satisfying and extremely refreshing.
After brunch, we headed to Washington Square, peeped around in a bookstore, walked the streets that make up NYU, and then made our way to Soho. I absolutely adore Soho, the people, the energy, the vibes, the shopping, the apartments. Anna and I spent our afternoon walking around Soho, going into stores where we fall in love with all the products that we most certainly cannot afford, and walk away with wishful thoughts of what we would have bought if we weren’t broke college students.
Once we charged up our phones in a coffee shop in Soho, we decided to check out Little Italy for dinner. We decided on a hip, highly-rated place on Yelp, which looked super cool and yummy. We walked there, and were so excited when we saw it was lit up with Christmas lights. We walked inside, to find no one sitting at tables eating, and just the staff standing around. We (I and the staff) both stared at each other for a couple of seconds before one of the guys said, “oh, we’re closed for a private event,” as he pointed to a piece of paper on the door that we neglected to read. So yeah, that was awkward.
But surprisingly not as awkward as the next restaurant we found ourselves in.
As we walked the streets of Little Italy, feeling bummed from the last restaurant flop, but optimistic about the future, we stopped at a place that beamed with ambiance. Curious, we glanced down at the menu, not realizing the owner of the restaurant was standing right next to us. He immediately starts heckling us about how much we need to come to his restaurant, how his restaurant is the best, and how we would be making a huge mistake if we did not eat there. Insanely uncomfortable, Anna and I decided to give in, and get a seat in this very aggressive but also persuasive Italian guy’s restaurant.
The moment we step into the restaurant, we hear silence. No music, no chatter, no people. We were the only customers in the restaurant. We start to read the menu and realize that everything is super over-priced. I look up and see 3 male servers literally staring at us.
“Yeah, we need to leave, Reb” Anna whispers to me. I couldn’t agree more. We awkwardly stand up, eyes still pierced at us, as I tell them, “Yeah, I think we’re going to go. Sorry.”
We grab our things and hope that we can sneak by the aggressive restaurant owner. Of course he noticed we left, we were the only customers around his shop. We told him it was a little too early to eat dinner, and sped down the street.
Having gained some restaurant trust issues, we decided to walk to a pizza place that Anna had successfully eaten at and knew would be a good experience. She was right, and we finally got our Italian food in a public, non-awkward setting.
After dinner, we decided to head over to Rockefeller Center and see the tree, because it seemed like the right thing to do, being in New York in December. Once we made our way through the crowds and crowds of NYC tourists, we saw the underwhelming tree in all its glory. Lots of press, lots of talk, but at the end of the day, just a tree. But it’s one of those NYC traditions that is fun to say you have experienced.
Something very exciting that happened to Anna and I while we were in New York was that snow was on the forecast. The first snow of the season! We wanted to be prepared for the next day of possible snow, so we ventured into Times Square to find a pair of rain/snow boots (both of us were wearing suede boots, which is not ideal for wet and snowy weather). You’d think with the amount of stores in Times Square that it would be easy to find affordable rain boots. WRONG. We looked everywhere: Target, Payless, Old Navy, Macy’s, even Sketchers, nothing. All we could find were designer boots from Macy’s and we weren’t about to spend $75 on boots we only needed for a day.
We searched and searched for boots until our feet were numb and our bodies were tired and cold, and decided it was time to make our way to Brooklyn for the night. Laying down sounded so good at this point in the night.
We pulled up the metro steps to make it to Brooklyn (which involved 2 subways and a bus), and as we began to make our way to the first subway station, both of our phones died. Frick. We had no idea how to make it to our friend’s place without our maps telling us how, nor would we even remember her address without looking at it in the text she sent us. Looks like we needed to charge up. No better place than Starbucks, right? It was only 9pm, so we found a Starbucks, and to our luck, or un-luck, it was closed. Really? 9pm in Times Square and Starbucks is closed? Is this a joke? So plan B, we found an outdoor outlet on the side of a bank.
Picture us, two tired college girls, freezing in 20 degree weather, charging our phones outside a closed bank. And let me tell you, when you’re staring at your phone, shivering, tired, and sore, that thing charges at a glacial pace. All we wanted in that moment was to be in a warm apartment in Brooklyn.
Once our phones were at 20%, we decided 1. Our phones would have to be at least 50% charged to allow us to use maps to make the 45 minute trip to Brooklyn and 2. We did not feel like waiting until our phones were charged that much.
Uber it is.
We called an Uberpool (for those of you who do not know, that is carpool Uber, so it picks up other people on your trip, and is cheaper than regular Uber). It came and got us shortly after we requested and we were so thankful.
Until the driver put his window down. The whole trip. In 20 degree weather. We were shivering the whole way, through 3 different stops for different people who joined our ride. 3 different girls came and went, and we remained in the back seat, freezing. Finally, after what felt like forever, we made it to our apartment in Brooklyn.
The rest of the night was lovely, catching up with our dear friend Katie, sitting in front of the heater, laughing at our city misfortunes. Day 2 was looking bright.
After a night of blanket hogging with Anna on the couch mattress, we awoke to beautiful white snow frosting the streets and fire escapes of Brooklyn. What a lovely sight to wake up to! We got dressed, said our goodbyes to our Brooklyn gal pal, and made our way to the Upper East Side for brunch (okay, I know that sounds super boujee and gossip-girl-ey, but we went to a humble cafe that had 1 dollar sign on Yelp, you know, Upper East Side brunch for a poor college student.)
We got to the cafe, ate yummy pancakes, and started walking toward Central Park. The streets were beautifully dusted with white snow, so quiet and peaceful.
Once we arrived at Central Park, our breaths caught in the chilled air. It was like walking into a Hallmark movie. All we could see was white, the city was in a snow globe state, and everyone in it was happy and cheerful and at peace. It was a beautiful and magical moment to see all of the smiling faces, the playful children, coming together to enjoy something as simple as a snowfall.
While we were in Central Park, we met up with another SCAD grad named Jordan who now works and lives in the city. I’ve only really talked to him about 3 times, but every time I do, I feel like we’ve known each other for years. Always friendly and conversational, we strolled through snowy Central Park with him laughing, talking, and singing Christmas carols, while he took videos documenting the first snow. (Jordan makes sweet Youtube videos, which you can find here.)
After our stroll through Central Park with our pal Jord, Anna and I spent a couple hours exploring the Met. What a fun way to warm up while still experiencing New York. I was all over the Egyptian exhibition, having a weird fascination with all things Egyptian. I loved seeing the statues and ceramics and jewelry and reliefs the ancient Egyptians left behind.
Hours spent in the Met left us a little bit of time before we needed to catch our bus, so we charged up in an open Starbucks, before making our way to the bus station.
We thought all of the crazy travel misfortunes were over after the night before, but we were wrong. Finding the bus was hell. It was dark, cold, windy, snowy, and the bus stop was not where the confirmation email said it would be. We stress walked blocks and blocks in either direction, wet, numb, and sore, looking for this dang bus. We finally found it just in time for departure. Thankful we didn’t miss it.
All in all, it was an exciting, beautiful, fun, chaotic, exhausting, magical weekend spent in the city, like all weekends in NYC. If you have not experienced NYC, I highly recommend it. Leave yourself time to get lost in the city, to let the city decide your itinerary. Don’t cling too hard to those schedules. That’s the beauty of New York, it’s another world that gives each person a different experience. What will yours be?