Spring Break 2018 in NYC

Top Reasons To

Spring break, for many, is a time for travel. Its a chance to get away from the madness of school, relax and take a break–for most at least.

This was not the case for me.

While I did take a step back from school work, my week in NYC was not your typical “lay out on the beach, soak up the sun and relax” trip. Instead, it was a jam-packed week filled with sightseeing, delicious food and endless miles of walking and riding the subway.

My boyfriend, Ethan, and I arrived on Friday, March 23 in the evening and took a taxi from LaGuardia to his aunt and uncle’s apartment we were staying at on the Upper West Side. On Saturday morning, we hit the ground running and it was non-stop until we headed back to the airport on Friday, March 30. The week was a whirlwind and we somehow managed to fit in everything we wanted to see, do and eat, in a cost-effective manner nonetheless!

The following is an itinerary of all of the incredible things we packed into each day. We combined our trusty sneakers with an unlimited ride metro pass for $34 for the entire week, making transportation incredible cheap, easy and efficient. After studying abroad in London, I am a huge fan of the CityMapper app, which provides transportation suggestions and maps routes for major cities in the world, and I used this app to figure out how we got from place to place on the subway.

Saturday

  • 9/11 Memorial and Museum
    • We bought our City Passes here. The City Pass was a great option for us as it included all of the major things we wanted to do and for a much cheaper price. Not only that, but we were able to skip many of the ticket lines at locations such as the Empire State Building (had to wait in line but not the ticket line) and we simply had to exchange our City Pass voucher for a ticket at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island ticket booth.
    • I had been to Ground Zero before, but did not have the chance to go in the museum. The museum was moving and filled with people there to remember what happened. If you haven’t been, I highly suggest it.
  • Lower Manhattan
    • For the majority of the afternoon, we walked through Lower Manhattan just looking at different sights. The first few things we saw were Charging Bull in the Wall Street area, then we walked through China Town and Little Italy. It always amazes me how quickly the neighborhoods change in New York City. We then walked through the shopping district in SoHo. We stopped in Stance, where Ethan bought a ton of socks. We then bounced back and forth between other stores and then took the subway back to the apartment we were staying at.
  • Dinner at El Centro
    • We went to dinner at El Centro in Hell’s Kitchen area. El Centro was incredibly busy and dim lit. We almost had to pull out our phones to use as light to read the menus. While it was loud and difficult to hear each other, it was a great place to people watch and had delicious food!

Sunday

  • Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
    • We got up early to beat the crowds at the pier for the trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Our City Pass covered the excursion which was great since it was on our must see list. While it was a rather cold and windy day, we were lucky to avoid the rain while out on the water. We did not spend much time at the Statue of Liberty, but both of us truly enjoyed Ellis Island and learning about the history of the gateway to the U.S. for many immigrants. It was incredible to read personal anecdotes from individuals who came to the island.
  • Times Square
    • In the afternoon, we went to Times Square. We first stopped at the TKTS booth to check to see if there were any shows we wanted to see later that evening that had discounted tickets. There weren’t, so we explored Times Square for a bit stopping in at different shops. The longer we stayed in Times Square, the busier it got so we headed out to get dinner.
  • John’s Pizzeria NYC
    • We went to John’s Pizzeria NYC for dinner. The restaurant is located in an old church, so it is an awesome environment. The stained glass ceiling is my favorite part. The restaurant is always extremely busy, and we waited nearly 45 minutes to be seated. The pizza was delicious though and I would highly suggest going!

Monday

  • Brooklyn Bridge Park
    • We took the subway almost an hour from the Upper West Side to Brooklyn. Our first stop was the Brooklyn Bridge Park. The park consists of six piers that offer different facilities. Pier 2 was really fun to explore as it had a roller rink, covered basketball and tennis courts and what looked to be a turf soccer field. I had never seen such an innovative athletic complex before situated on a pier overlooking Manhattan.
  • Dumbo
    • Next, we headed to Dumbo, a trendy warehouse district of Brooklyn. The area was filled with upscale clothing stores and restaurants as well as cute little cafes. I found the perfect street (Washington Street) to take a photo that framed the Manhattan Bridge between two buildings. Ethan stopped for a slice of pizza at Front Street Pizza, which he said was delicious!29694630_1877943042224718_5762089606043719519_n
  • Islanders Hockey Game
    • Monday night, we headed to the Barclays Center to watch the Islanders play the Florida Panthers. It was an entertaining game, but most of all, it was great to see Ethan so happy watching the sport he loves. He was very excited to watch some player named Barzal… We also ran into a friend from school at the game, so overall it was a great time!

Tuesday

  • TKTS (Round Two)
    • Tuesday morning we got up and headed to the TKTS booth in Lincoln Center. I read that it is much easier to get tickets at the TKTS booths not in Times Square, plus the TKTS location at Lincoln Center opened at noon which allowed us to get an earlier start on our day rather than waiting around later in the afternoon. We were able to purchase discounted tickets to the showing of Kinky Boots that evening, which we had heard great things about!
  • Empire State Building
    • We then walked from Lincoln Center to the Empire State Building. It was a long walk. But we made it and luckily it was early in the day and the line was not too long to go up in the Empire State Building. We also did not have to stand in the line to get tickets as the Empire State Building was including in our City Pass. That saved us a lot of time. It was still incredibly crowded, which helped to add to my distaste for the Empire State Building (my parents decided to take my brother and I years ago around midnight right after we had gotten off a plane from Milwaukee and it was not the most enjoyable experience).

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  • Dinner at Barilla
    • Who knew that Barilla, the mass producer of boxed noodles, had a small chain of “upscale Noodles & Co.” restaurants in New York City? I found them online and we went before going to Kinky Boots as it was close to the theatre. The food was actually delicious and reasonably priced. If you’re looking for some good pasta (that reminds you of home but is still fancy) I would highly suggest Barilla.
  • Kinky Boots
    • After dinner, we walked to the Al Hirschfeld Theatre for Kinky Boots. Both Ethan and I did not know much about the show coming in, the most I knew was that it was funny, heart-warming and had great music. Needless to say, we couldn’t stop laughing and the show portrayed a message everyone needs to hear, to accept people for who they are. It was truly a fantastic show. Ethan thoroughly enjoyed it as well as Wayne Brady (who has appeared on How I Met Your Mother) starred as Lola and he had an incredible voice.
  • Black Tap Midtown
    • Post Kinky Boots it was time for dessert! We made our way to Black Tap, a restaurant known for its burgers and its “Crazy Shakes” (aka milkshakes). We went for the milkshakes and wow, they are good! After waiting in line for about 30 minutes, New Yorkers love their lines, we made our way into the funky milkshake hotspot. We ordered “The Cookie Shake” to share, but substituted the vanilla shake for a cake batter shake. Greatest decision ever. It was delicious. Highly, highly recommend.29594478_1877955428890146_7309439998022462890_n

Wednesday

  • Central Park Bike Ride
    • Despite Ethan’s grumbles about hating biking, I ensured him that the best and fastest way to see all of Central Park was by bike. So Wednesday morning we went to Bike Rental Central Park to pick up our bikes. I had already rented the bikes online where they are not only discounted, but also found a coupon for 15 percent off, which made our two hour rental incredibly cheap. We walked our bikes from the rental facility to Central Park and then we were off! We managed to see most of the big sights, such as the Alice in Wonderland statue, the Great Lawn, Kerbs Boathouse, Bethesda Fountain and Terrace, the Loeb Boathouse, the Reservoir, Strawberry Fields, Cherry Hill and finally I danced in the Cherry Hill Fountain (aka the Friends Fountain). We did it in under two hours and had our bikes back before time was up!

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  • Lunch at Burrito Box
    • Directly across from our bike rental was a small, hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Burrito Box. I had read reviews online that raved about the food, and when we walked across the street to grab lunch, the tiny space was already packed with locals and tourists alike. Ethan got a steak and ground beef burrito while I got a quesadilla. The food was delicious and cheap!
  • NBC Studio Tour
    • The last time I was in NYC, I had done the NBC Studio Tour, and as Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show was on a break that week for Easter, the only way into Studio 6B was via the tour. Apart from loving The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, I also really enjoyed the tour the last time I went and wanted to experience the magic of NBC again. The Pages lead the tour and give a behind the scenes look at the making of various NBC programs such as Saturday Night Live, Late Night with Seth Meyers and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. They also show you what it looks like in the sound, audio and lighting studios and basically how they put television together and get it to viewers around the country. If you are ever in NYC and have any interest in the shows I mentioned or simply the television industry, this is a great experience!29594599_1877964708889218_1748460956714507432_n
  • Top of the Rock
    • After the NBC Tour, we stayed in the Rockefeller Building and headed to the Top of the Rock, which was also included in the price of our City Passes. Unlike the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock was much less crowded and we made it to the 67 floor in no time. From the 67 floor we could head up to the 69 and 70 floors and by stair. From the top of the Rockefeller Building, we had a great view of the Empire State Building, Central Park and the entirety of Manhattan. Personally, the view and experience of the Top of the Rock was much better than the Empire State Building.
  • American Museum of Natural History
    • Later that afternoon we walked from the apartment to the American Museum of Natural History. It was only about an eight minute walk, and while the museum admission is pay what you like, our City Passes covered our admission and we had the choice of one special exhibit. I was most excited to see the Easter Island head that says “dum dum give me gum gum” from Night at the Museum. Meanwhile, Ethan enjoyed looking at all of the animals from around the world. 29573365_1877954885556867_3230761022699380232_n

Thursday

  • The “Today” show
    • On Thursday morning we got up at 5 a.m. You read that right, 5 a.m. From there, we took the subway a majority of the way to Rockefeller Plaza so we could get in line for the “Today” show. We were near the start of the line and got a great spot behind one of  the clothing displays for a style portion of the show. While there, we saw John Cena, I got a photo with Al Roker and we got a photo and had a conversation with Hoda Kotb. All in all, it was a great experience and I would get up at 5 a.m. to do it all over again tomorrow if I could!

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  • Cookie Do NYC
    • We headed down to Greenwich Village to go to Cookie Do NYC, where they make cookie dough that you are able to eat raw without worrying about getting sick. We got there before noon and there was literally no line, allowing us to walk right in and look at all the flavors they had to offer. The cookie dough shop is a cute venue with pretty lights and decorations. While the cookie dough was delicious, I got a scoop of Brookie Dough and Cake Batter in a cake batter cone, there was so much dough and there was no way I cold finish it. I didn’t even finish one scoop! It was oh so good though!

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  • Exploring Gramercy Park
    • After Cookie Do NYC, we walked around the Gramercy Park area. We popped into The Strand to look at the monstrous book store, Flight Club where I saw the most expensive pair of sneakers I have ever seen and NYU. 29684076_1877967182222304_3941625900558741695_n
  • The High Line
    • Post Gramercy Park, we walked to the north entrance of the High Line and walked south towards Chelsea. The High Line was really cool and very nature-y compared to the rest of NYC. We walked through the art district and could see so many art galleries from the High Line. We ended our walk on the High Line at Chelsea Market. The market was filled with people shopping and grabbing lunch and we found lunch for ourselves there. It was a super cute market that I would go back to in a heart beat!

Friday

  • The MET and Central Park
    • Friday was our last day in NYC. We were planning on going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art as it was the last thing on our City Pass that we had not used. We walked through Central Park to the MET, but due to the longest lines I had seen in New York City ever, we decided against going inside the museum. Instead, we spent the next hour or so walking through Central Park and exploring the park by foot, as we had only biked it before.
  • Levain
    • After our walk through Central Park, we headed back towards the apartment to finish cleaning and packing, we made a second stop at Levain Bakery. Levain was highly suggested by Ethan and his mom as they make some of NYC’s most sought after cookies. We went to not only buy one each for ourselves, but also got a few to bring back as a “souvenir” for our parents. Ethan’s favorite are the oatmeal raisin cookies, while my favorite is the dark chocolate peanut butter chip cookies.

All in all, it was an amazing trip and not much went wrong (until we were at LaGuardia waiting to go home and our flight got delayed nearly four hours!). While I saw some things I had seen already, I saw so many other things and got to explore New York City at a relaxed speed because we were there nearly a week. These were some of my favorite places, restaurants and things that we did while there. It was no doubt a spring break I will never forget!

Top reasons you should travel solo

Top Reasons To

While traveling abroad in a group has its advantages – safety, someone to take photos for you and it helps your parents to relax a bit – traveling alone can be one of the best decisions you can make. Here are the top seven reasons to travel abroad alone.

1. You can do what you want to do

When traveling alone, it’s completely up to you to make your agenda for the day. Wake up early to head out to explore or take a morning to sleep in, it’s up to you. Rather than collaborating with friends to determine a plan, all the decision making is in your hands. Not only that, but if you don’t want to spend money on an excursion your friend wanted to go on, you don’t have to!

2. You will meet so many new people

It’s a misconception that if you travel alone, you will always be on your own. When traveling with a big group, it would be unusual that you would go off on your own and end up meeting new people. Traveling alone forces you to go out of your comfort zone and talk to people you normally would have no reason to.

3. You can wander aimlessly

Sometimes, it’s fun to just go out in a new city and walk, taking in the sights with no set destination in mind. Traveling alone allows you to truly connect with the city and take your time while doing so. Wandering in to quaint little stores or inviting coffee shops, there are limitless possibilities when wandering alone in a new city.

4. Only one spot left? No problem

Whether it’s the last bed in a hostel, the last spot on the excursion you wanted to go on, or the last seat on a train, bus or plane, you can say yes and take it. There’s absolutely nothing, or anyone, holding you back from doing so.

5. Independence is the best

There is absolutely no more freeing feeling than hopping on a train and traveling to a new city alone. If you’ve been looking for independence and autonomy, traveling alone is the single-best way to feel free and independent.

6. You can eat when and where you want to.

Whether you’re a picky eater or adventurous eater, traveling alone is the best decision you can make. If you prefer to play it safe and stick to pizza and pasta or if you are all about trying the most out-there local cuisine that you can find, that decision is completely up to you when traveling solo.

7. Quality photography, of you!

Traveling alone does not mean that all your photos will consist of selfies. Instead, you’re forced to talk to strangers and ask if they can take a photo for you. Pro-tip: scope out a fellow sightseer with a fancy camera as they will most likely take a quality photo for you.

Take a Trip to Madison, Wisconsin

Over the summer I’ve been interning at Milwaukee Magazine and have had the opportunity to write for their website. While many of the stories are regular weekly pieces, I have had the opportunity to get creative and write a few stories I’ve pitched myself.

Milwaukee Magazine has a series dedicated to “Weekend Getaways” that are just a few hours drive away from Milwaukee. Upon learning this, I immediately checked to see if an article had been written Madison, Wisconsin, a place I call my home for a majority of the year. Lucky for me, no such article had been written and I immediately pitched the story to my editor.

“Take a Weekend Getaway to Madison, Wisconsin” has been one of my favorite pieces to write so far at Milwaukee Magazine. Writing about a city I call a home away from home was a nice change from my typical assignments and made me evermore excited to head back at the beginning of next month.

If you haven’t seen the piece yet, you can find it here or below. Where would you spend your time if you had a weekend trip planned to Madison? Let me know in the comments!


TAKE A WEEKEND GETAWAY TO MADISON, WISCONSIN

Looking for a short trip away from Milwaukee this weekend? Head to Madison, just over an hour’s drive west of Milwaukee. Here’s a tentative weekend itinerary.

City life meets life at the lake(s) in Madison, Wisconsin.  Located on an isthmus nestled between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, Madison is one of the country’s best known college towns, but also boasts various family friendly activities, quality restaurants and rich state history.


Friday Afternoon

There is no shortage of great hotels to stay at when visiting Madison. The most recent addition is the stylish AC Hotel Madison Downtown by Marriott located just off of Capitol Square. The modern hotel offers fantastic views of Madison from the rooftop restaurant and bar, Eno Vino Wine Bar & Bistro, so it’s most definitely worth a stop even if you decide to stay the night somewhere else.

After checking in to your hotel, make your way to the Henry Vilas Zoo, located just south of the University of Wisconsin campus. The Henry Vilas Zoo is a 28-acre public zoo that is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The zoo is home to various animals, such as African lions, polar bears and of course three American badgers, fittingly named Bucky, Dekker and Kaminsky. Admission to the zoo is free.

Post zoo trip, make your way by bicycle or car to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, a teaching and research facility that offers more than 20 miles of footpaths, boardwalks and fire lanes to explore. You can stroll through the beautiful forests, prairies and wetlands for hours and snap some picturesque photos. The peaceful and stunning arboretum trails are open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

A day spent in Madison is not complete without stopping for an after-dinner dessert or late-night snack at Greenbush Bakery, which opened in 1996 and has been serving delicious donuts to the public ever since. Their late-night hours are ideal for a college town — they are open until midnight Monday through Thursday and until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Another perk of Greenbush: their classic donuts are only a dollar a piece. There’s no better way to spend a dollar in Madison.


Saturday Morning

Set your alarms and get up bright and early on Saturday morning. Saturday on the Square, the Dane County Farmers Market, begins at 6:15 a.m. The farmers market surrounds the Wisconsin State Capitol Building and offers many fresh and local vegetables, fruits, baked goods and fresh-cut flowers. Saturday on the Square is the place to be on Saturday mornings, and it fills up quickly, so be sure to go early to get the best selection.

Next, head west down State Street toward the University of Wisconsin campus. While the walk down State Street should normally only take about 20 minutes, there are numerous stores to stop in and explore. Ranging from chain clothing stores like Gap and Urban Outfitters to local bookstores and art galleries, State Street has something for everyone. If you didn’t get your fill at the farmers market, there are plenty of coffee shops, bars and restaurants to choose from along State Street. The street is closed to local traffic apart from buses — yet another reason to make the walk.

Saturday Afternoon

There’s no better place to spend an afternoon (and evening!) in Madison than at the Memorial Union Terrace, situated on the shores of Lake Mendota and recently renovated. After getting your picture taken in one of the large, iconic terrace chairs, head to Outdoor UW to rent a paddle board, canoe or kayak and spend the afternoon out on the water. If water sports aren’t your forte, locate a table on the Terrace and bask in the sun all afternoon while enjoying some delicious Babcock Ice Cream.

Saturday Evening

Not ready to leave the Terrace yet? No worries. There are plenty of dining options inside the Union, including sandwiches and grilled food from Der Rathskeller, Italian dishes from Strada and plenty of healthy options from Carte. Don’t lose your spot on the Terrace, though, as sunset over Lake Mendota is not a sight to be missed. The festivities don’t stop after the sun sets, either: Terrace after Dark, a summer program that includes free concerts and movies, runs from May 12 to September 4.


Sunday Morning

Sunday brunch in Madison is a must. And Madison’s brunch scene is an embarrassment of riches. Some of the most iconic venues include Bassett Street Brunch ClubThe Old Fashioned and of course Mickies Dairy Bar. Located near Camp Randall, Mickies Dairy Bar has been around since the 1950s and hasn’t changed much since then. Be prepared to wait, as there is most always a line to get in the door. Their scrambler is legendary.

Sunday Afternoon

Before leaving the city, visit the State Capitol Building and learn about the building’s and state’s history on a free guided tour. Tours are offered daily and begin at the information desk. If you don’t have the time to spend 45 minutes on the tour, at least wander into the rotunda and take a moment to appreciate the beautiful architecture.