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Polaroid Of The Week: Manhattan’s Skyline From The Water

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One thing I wanted to make a priority this year was spending time in New York City. After traveling for almost eight months in 2017 and barely spending any time in my adopted hometown, this year I wanted to take advantage of everything New York has to offer, especially during the warmer months: free outdoor movies, concerts, kayaking, rooftop bars, picnics in the park, beaches, island getaways, and exploring parts of the city I’d never been to. While I feel like I succeeded in some of these things, others got completely neglected, and I only made a small dent in my ‘New York Summer To-Do List’ that I created in the spring. Well, I guess there’s always next year..

Looking back at the summer, among my favorite days were a lazy day picnicking and cycling on Governors Island (a small tranquil island just south of Manhattan with great skyline views), taking in New York from above from both the Empire State Building and One World Observatory, relaxing beach days in the Rockaways, an island getaway to Fire Island (off of Long Island), and more recently a quick ferry ride over to Staten Island to visit a microbrewery I’ve had on my ‘to-do-list’ for a while.

I usually take the ferry every time I have visitors in town, because it is free and it offers some of the best views of the Manhattan skyline, pictured above, especially during the Golden Hour, just before the sun sets. But for some reason, I hadn’t gone a single time this summer, even though I had a long list of things I wanted to do in Staten Island (I admit that most of them included pizza).

I figured taking the ferry would also be a good mental preparation for the marathon – in less than three weeks, I will be taking the ferry again, then to get me to the starting line of the New York Marathon. Running 26.2 miles across the five boroughs has been a dream of mine for years, and I am stoked (and slightly terrified!) that I’ll be running it this year, among 50,000 other runners. Admittedly, I am feeling anything but prepared right now, but I will continue to follow my strict training plan and hope for a great race day on 4 November.

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Polaroid Of The Week: Hiking the dramatic cliffs of Gertrude’s Nose

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Just a couple of days after returning to New York, I found myself at Grand Central Terminal, ticket in hand and ready to board a train to New Hamburg, a small town on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

This wasn’t going to be a long trip, but even a couple of days away from the city are enough for me to recharge my batteries, and I was on a mission to clear my head with another great hike, after all the fantastic hikes I did in Tennessee last month.

The Lower Hudson Valley has enough hikes to keep me busy (and in shape!) for the next few years, but somehow I haven’t made it up there one single time since a long day hike last summer.

We consulted our hiking guide book to find a great day hike and finally settled on a trail inside the Minnewaska State Park preserve: the 7-mile Gertrude’s Nose Trail with a detour to Lake Minnewaska.

The hike started off fairly easy, on a gravel road, until we turned off the road onto a smaller trail. The entire morning we didn’t see a single other person, and the first sign that we weren’t the only ones in the woods were fresh bear tracks which made me slightly nervous. For the next couple of hours, we followed the path along the edge of steep cliffs, always overlooking the vast forest that was surrounding us. It never ceases to amaze me how close I am to so much untouched nature – just a couple of hours north of New York City.

We walked for over three hours until we ran into another pair of hikers, and only when we got closer to Awosting Falls, we started seeing more people, who had taken the shorter trail to the Falls, which we would use to conclude our loop and get back to the parking lot. The waterfalls were nice, but there wasn’t enough water when we went to make them as impressive as they would be after heavy rains, and so we didn’t spend a lot of time lingering there. Instead we decided to make a little detour on the way down and stop by Lake Minnewaska, which we’d seen in the distance at the beginning of the lake and which was now calling us for a quick dip. When we reached the lake, we were sweaty and hot, and we didn’t waste much time – we took our clothes off and ran straight into the lake for a quick dip. I am not sure if this was allowed, but it sure was refreshing!

We left Minnewaska State Park talking about possible fall hikes – not long until the fall foliage hits peak season, and I hope I’ll get to go upstate to see it when the colors are spectacular.

Looking for a fall foliage getaway in the U.S. this year? Here’s a great fall foliage forecast & map.

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Polaroid Of The Week: Austin, Texas

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Last week I returned to one of my favorite cities in the U.S.: Austin! This was my second trip to Austin this year, after a long weekend in February (which was a great escape from the East Coast winter back then). My main reason for this visit was a travel conference, the inaugural TravelCon, which brought 80 speakers and 600 attendees to Austin, and which turned out to be fantastic. (You’ll definitely see me at the next one in Boston in June 2019). But I also wanted to make sure I’d have time to visit all my favorite food haunts and places around the city, and so I booked flights that allowed me to spend three days pre- and three days post-conference in Austin.

And how glad am I that I decided to fly in early – as soon as the conference started, I was busy attending workshops, talks and keynote speeches, attending meet-ups and parties, and bad weather arrived in Austin. While it was still hot and humid, it was overcast and rainy, and a post-conference day trip that I’d been very much looking forward even had to be canceled, because of the high level of bacteria in the water at Hamilton Pool, where I was supposed to go yesterday. But I guess that gives me an excuse for another trip to Texas – that along with my failed trip to Big Bend in 2016.

TravelCon, the conference that brought me to Austin last week, felt like a high school reunion. Among my fellow speakers were some of my favorite blogging buddies (Shannon of A Little Adrift, Dalene and Pete of Hecktic Travels, Laurence of Finding The Universe, Jeremy of TravelFreak) and fellow bloggers I’ve been following for several years but never had the chance to meet in person, such as Kiersten of The Blonde Abroad, AngieAway or Kristin of Be My Travel Muse. I got to catch up with Wandering Earl, Audrey and Dan of Uncornered Market, Cailin of TravelYourself, Alex In Wanderland, Amanda of A Dangerous Business, Matt of Expert Vagabond … to name just a few… and to listen to some inspiring talks, even though I missed the one I was most excited about – internet marketer Pat Flynn’s talk, the man I owe it to that I started making money blogging in the first place.

I missed his talk because it took place at the same time I spoke about LGBT Travel Blogging with my blogger BFF Adam. As every conference I ever went to, I left feeling motivated and inspired by the workshops and presentations of my peers, the success stories of the people I met, and the travel industry professionals I had the chance to network with. It still blows my mind to see how far the travel blogging industry has come since the early days in 2010, when Globetrottergirls was launched.

Before the conference started I managed to check out the latest street art at Hope Outdoor Gallery, I went to Barton Springs (a large swimming pool fed by natural springs), I watched hundreds of thousands of bats emerge from their hiding place underneath Congress Ave Bridge at sunset, I tried out Austin’s awesome new dockless bike sharing system and the new dockless scooters (I preferred the bikes because whizzing around Austin on the scooters was fun but I felt lazy) and I made sure to hit up all my favorite taco places (Veracruz Natural and Pueblo Viejo) as well as my beloved Gourdough Doughnuts. To offset all the tacos and other delicious food I ate, I did some stand-up paddle-boarding and I went for long runs along the Colorado River, finishing strong with a 28k (17 miles) run yesterday (I should probably mention that I am training for the New York marathon, I am not crazy!).

Every time I run along the river and Lady Bird Lake I marvel at how active Austinotes are – kayaking, standup paddle-boarding, running or cycling – and how many of them exercise with their dogs. And every time I see this it makes me think I should just get a puppy and move to Austin. But I am not ready to leave New York just yet – in fact, after enjoying the extension of my summer thanks to the glorious Texas heat, I am ready to return to New York and take in the fall colors before leaving for my next trip in a few weeks.

If you go:

Here’s my guide for 48 Hours In Austin

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Polaroid Of The Week: Nashville’s Famous Broadway

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After only two trips in seven months (the least traveling I’ve done in years!), August marked the month that I finally started traveling more again. And with trips lined up every month for the rest of the year, I decided to revive my Polaroid Of The Week series.

This weekly look back at what I’ve been up to might not be a full travel article on a destination, but it’ll give you an idea of what I’ve been up to and include at least one useful tip.

To kick off my late summer travels, I flew down to Nashville, Tennessee, a city I’ve been wanting to visit ever since watching The Thing Called Love with Sandra Bullock and River Phoenix in 1993. In recent years I kept hearing great things about the city, and after only one quick stop in Memphis years ago, I was excited to finally visit Nashville and to see more of Tennessee. Because Nashville was just the jumping-off point for a Tennessee road trip, or if I want to be 100% precise I should say Tennessee & North Carolina road trip because adding Asheville and the Great Smoky Mountains to our itinerary meant dipping into Tennessee’s eastern neighbor state for a few days.

Nashville did not disappoint – even though the famous Broadway lined with honky-tonks and bars felt a bit tacky, I enjoyed popping my head in some of them and lingering for a while in those that had great live music.

I was glad though that we had time to explore Nashville beyond its famous music district, and got to see striking mural art in various neighborhoods, the famous Parthenon (a full-size replica of the original Parthenon in Athens), check out some micro-breweries and even take a quick side trip to Franklin, a historic town with beautiful Antebellum homes just south of Nasheville.

If you go…

Don’t miss:

  • A Bushwacker, Nashville’s famous boozy milkshake. Apparently Edley’s Bar-B-Que has the best ones, and on Wednesdays they’re only $5!
  • Bearded Iris Brewing if you like craft beer
  • Live music on Broadway – Tootsies Orchid Lounge is the most famous one
  • 21c Museum Hotel for great art inside a hotel
  • Biscuit Love for a great Southern brunch

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Last-Minute, Low-Budget Niagara Falls Itinerary

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As the largest and most magnificent waterfalls in North America, Niagara Falls rightfully holds a place on most people’s travel bucket lists. Yet, due to centuries of world fame, the destination has become a popular tourist attraction, bringing in more than 30 million visitors every year. As a result, Niagara Falls isn’t always ideal for the globetrotter: Prices can be high, and reservations can be necessary.american falls and bridal veil fallsFortunately, it is possible to see the best of Niagara Falls on a whim and on a budget. Here’s how you can see the most of these famous waterfalls and the surrounding countryside on a short, affordable trip to Niagara:

Stay Close to the Falls

Since you likely don’t have much time to explore the whole Niagara region, you should try to find accommodations close to the action. On the Canadian side of the falls, there are a number of affordable, deluxe hotels and resorts within walking distance of major attractions, and many of these accommodations boast rooms with outstanding views. I highly recommend the Marriott on the Falls, which is the closest hotel to Niagara Falls and offers award-winning amenities, including a spa and an upscale restaurant. Plus, you can usually find last-minute bookings for low prices because major hotels like Marriott are eager to fill their rooms.niagara falls

Invest in a Niagara Falls Trip Package

During a last-minute vacation, you don’t have time to waste trying to plan an itinerary, compare prices or perform other preliminary research on your destination. Therefore, it is likely worth your money to buy a vacation package, which will include admission to various attractions as well as some meals during your trip. Because Niagara Falls is a popular tourist destination, you have hundreds of tour packages to choose from, but I suggest choosing one offered through your hotel. These will be more convenient, often including transportation to and from different attractions. Marriott’s Niagara Falls, Canada vacation packages include family-friendly waterpark days, adult casino nights, wine-tastings, luxurious breakfasts, spa services and more.niagara falls american falls &mist from river

Decide How to Get Around At Niagara Falls

As long as you stay in the heart of the tourist areas of Niagara Falls, Canada, you won’t have to worry too much about transportation – you can just use your two feet. Major attractions like Queen Victoria Park, the Rainbow Bridge and boat tours are easily accessible by pedestrians. If you want to venture slightly farther afield, perhaps to the wineries of the Niagara countryside, you might consider renting a bike or even signing up for a cycling tour of Niagara’s vineyards.Niagara Wine countryIf neither of these sounds appealing, you shouldn’t opt for a rental car just yet. Niagara also boasts a unique visitor transportation system called WEGO, which connects hotels with all major attractions in the Niagara area, from Niagara-on-the-Lake in the north to the Floral Showhouse in the south. For two days of unlimited rides, you pay only $12.50 per adult or $9 per child between 6 and 12 years. That’s a steal compared to rental car prices, which can be upwards of $25 per day – and that’s for compact models.

Can’t-Miss Niagara Attractions

Now that you have your logistics sorted, you can focus on the fun. Niagara Falls has grown into a tourist’s playground, filled with adventures and excitement that can last weeks, so if your time is limited, you will have to pick and choose from the following list of low-budget activities you can’t miss.niagara falls horseshoe falls

Niagara parks and gardens. Queen Victoria Park offers the best view of Niagara Falls, but you can also mosey around Dufferin Islands, Niagara Glen, and the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens to see beautiful scenery.

Clifton Hill. Playing any arcade games will cost you a few quarters, but you can also enjoy the lights and action of the iconic Street of Fun for free.niagara falls canada ripleys

Niagara Falls History Museum. If your last-minute trip coincides with a Thursday evening, you can get into this museum free of charge. Exhibits include the history of Niagara Falls, especially the region’s role in the War of 1812.

Niagara Falls Farmer’s Market. Niagara is one of the must productive regions in Canada, bringing forth bushels of fresh produce. You can sample the fare at local farm-to-table restaurants, or you can create your own culinary masterpieces by picking up ingredients at the Farmer’s Market, open 6 A.M. to noon on Saturdays.niagara wine country fruit stand

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Guide to a Romantic Stay in Miami

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Miami is one of the most romantic cities in the United States. With crystal clear oceans, luxury beachside resorts, and some of the best nightlife in the world, it’s hard to go wrong with a romantic stay in Miami. Whether you’re visiting Miami for the first time or you’re practically a local, there are a lot of ways to make your stay in Miami special for you and your partner. Read on for a guide to having the best romantic stay in Miami.MIAMI SKYLINES | 2016

When is the best time to visit?

When you think of Miami you probably think of white sand beaches and walking along South Beach. Those are definitely some of the best sights in Miami, but you might be surprised if you visit them during the wrong time of year. Miami is a popular destination, and that means millions of tourists flock to these favorite spots each year. There’s nothing romantic about fighting through crowds or having groups of people in the backgrounds of your romantic photos with your partner! Avoid the crowds by visiting Miami in the off months. That means skipping popular times of the year like in the winter and over Spring Break. It might be hotter in the summer, but you’ll have much more time to yourself!

Planning romantic activities with your partner

When you visit with your partner, you want to have the best activities planned to make the most of your time together in Miami. You can go as elaborate or as simple as you want in Miami! Relaxing on the beach counts as an activity, right? If you want to spend your time on the beach, consider renting a beachside cabana from one of the resorts so you can lounge the day away with your special someone._MG_4256For more excitement, go further into the city and explore the many unique neighborhoods like Little Havana or Bayside. Don’t forget about Miami’s diverse food scene! Miami is home to some of the best restaurants in the country, and this is the perfect place to plan a romantic date night! It’s also fun to get out of the city for a bit and see what else South Florida has to offer. There are a lot of great day trips you can take like kayaking through the Everglades or even traveling down to Key West!

Finally, no trip to Miami would be complete without taking in the nightlife! With so many bars and clubs spotting the South Beach streets, it’s impossible to see it all in one trip. Whether you prefer cozy beachside bars or multi-level dance clubs, there’s a party for you in Miami! It’s so much fun, you’ll never want to go home!Hotels-68542

Stay in luxury with the right hotel

Miami has so many luxurious resorts and hotels, it’s no wonder so many of the rich and famous spend their free time in this city. For a romantic stay, you can’t go wrong with a romantic hotel with in-room jacuzzi in Miami Beach! Choose from the best hotels in the world and really experience the ultimate luxury in Miami! You and your partner deserve the best quality so you can have a great time together both in Miami and beyond!

Enjoy your romantic stay in Miami!

Miami, Florida is really one of the most exciting cities in the world. It’s known for its international culture, luxurious style, and gorgeous beaches! All these factors and more make Miami the perfect destination for you and your partner to enjoy a romantic getaway. Whether you’re celebrating your honeymoon or your first weekend away together, Miami is guaranteed to take your breath away!miami beach ocean rescue lifeguard tower

Photo Credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Miami Skyline by Robin Mehdee; (2) Miami by Peter Jakobs; (3) Miami at night by Ferd Brundick; (4) Miami Beach Rey Perezoso

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Why Go on a Tour of Central Park When You are Visiting NYC?

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When you think of New York City, you probably picture the soaring skyscrapers of Manhattan and the bumper-to-bumper traffic in Times Square. But this bustling metropolis is also home to one of the most famous urban parks in the world: Central Park. Spanning an astonishing 843 acres, this beautiful common area has been designated as a National Historic Landmark, and is up for placement on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites.central park summer 2015As such, the park is a must-see destination while you are in the Big Apple. Indeed, 35 million visitors explore its lakes, ponds, cottages, and other attractions every year. Nonetheless, it remains a great place to get away from the crowds.

There are many ways you can discover the delights of Central Park. You can venture out on a Central Park suggested walk, or you can take a Central Park carriage tour. But perhaps the best Central Park tours are the pedicab tours.

Why Consider Central Park Pedicab Tours?

If you have never been in a pedicab, it is like a small hooded vehicle driven by a guide on a bicycle. On a pedicab, you are able to travel more quickly than you could on a Central Park self-guided walking tour, but you can ride along the same routes, touring the major sites and enjoying the fresh air. Your guide will provide you with interesting facts along the way, adding to your knowledge and enriching your experience.

Could you ride a bicycle on your tour of Central Park?  Sure, but you would miss out on the chance to chat with a well-informed guide. You also would expend more energy, and there is a lot to see and do in the park. So you will want to conserve your energy for the various sites and activities you will encounter along the way.

Here are just a few of the famous spots that you can explore on the best Central Park pedicab tours:

  • Bethesda Terrace and Fountain: This famous location has been featured in numerous TV shows and movies.
  • Tisch Children’s Zoo: At this park, children (and the young at heart) can pet and feed animals such as sheep, goats and pigs.
  • Dairy: This beautiful structure in the Gothic revival style was constructed in 1870. Here you can view exhibits on the history and architecture of Central Park.
  • Victorian Gardens: This outdoor amusement park is like a year-round carnival. It’s the perfect place to bring small children.
  • Belvedere Castle: This legendary folly combines Romanesque and Gothic architecture and looks like a miniature castle. In it you can view exhibits and also climb to an observation deck where you can survey the park.
  • Conservatory Garden: This formal garden covers six acres and combines English, French and Italian styles. Those who are looking for a quiet place to relax can enjoy a peaceful stroll among the fragrant blossoms.

You can also stop by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Museum of Natural History. These are some of the world’s most renowned museums, featuring stunning collections of artwork and scientific specimens.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Central Park however is its simple beauty. No matter where you go on your tour, you will be surrounded in lush greenery and breathtaking tranquillity. With the New York skyline rising over the dense foliage and spacious lawns, you will experience many picture-perfect moments and your pedicab guide will be standing by ready to help you capture them.Central Park pedicab rates are quite reasonable, and it is up to you to decide on the pace of your tour and the length of time you want to spend in the park. You can head out for anywhere from one to four hours either on your own or with one or two other people. Lately, the Gossip Girl Sites Tour in a pedicab has been favored among teens.

While the neon lights of Times Square and the colorful markets of Chinatown have their draw, many visitors to NYC say upon returning home that their time exploring Central Park was the highlight of their trip. Where else can you get away from it all while still being right in the heart of everything? So check into Central Park pedicab tours. There is no better way to see America’s most famous urban park!

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Visiting the Big Apple on a Shoestring

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There’s no denying in that New York is one of the most expensive cities to visit in the USA, which is why a lot of people put off the dream of visiting. But, it doesn’t need to be this way. In fact, you can visit the Big Apple on a shoestring and still have a fantastic time! Here’s what you need to know in order to take a trip there without drawing down your savings to do it…yellow cab on times square broadway

Affordable airfare

Your plane fare to New York doesn’t have to be as expensive as you first think – especially if you’re happy to fly to any one of New York’s three major airports. If you think flying into JFK, New York’s best known and largest airport, to be in the city quickly, you’re wrong: I sometimes even get faster to Manhattan from Newark, all the way over in New Jersey. So be flexible with your arrival airport. There are many budget airlines offering good deals, but you can make it cheaper by choosing to take indirect flight with a stopover or change, as well as considering alternatives to US airlines, such as Air France, IcelandAir and Lufthansa. Make sure to check flight comparison websites to find the best deal.lufthansa A380 LAX

Find cheap accommodation

The first trick to know is that you absolutely need to widen your search beyond Manhattan, as you’ll pay a premium to stay here. Airbnb isn’t always expensive (particularly if you book well in advance), and you’ll make your stay even cheaper if you’re prepared to rent a room through Airbnb rather than an entire apartment. But what if you want to stay somewhere centrally located without paying too much? There are so many hotels in Midtown Manhattan that you are often able to find a deal through a hotel booking website. I myself stayed in a gorgeous little hotel on the Lower East Side earlier this year for only $100 – an absolute steal!The Nolitan Hotel New York City

Taking public transport? Buy a pass

Taking taxis or Ubers is going to deplete your budget fast, so ride the subway instead. It’s quicker anyway – the main thoroughfare’s in Manhattan are always clogged with cars, taxis, trucks and tourist buses and it can be frustrating to sit in traffic for hours. On the subway, you don’t have this problem! If you know you’re going to use the subway more than once very day, consider buying an MTA pass: seven days of unlimited travel will cost you $32. It usually already pays off during a 4-day visit, if you take a minimum of four rides a day. With this weekly pass, you can also use the city buses.new york broadway taxis

Enjoy free activities

With all the shopping, food and entertainment to enjoy in New York, you could spend a fortune. But thankfully there are plenty of free things you can do if you’re travelling on a shoestring. Take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry for excellent views of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan – for free! Lace up your comfiest walking shoes and walk the length of Brooklyn Bridge (reward yourself with a slice of NY pizza on the other side, but skip the long line at Grimaldi’s and stop at Fornino’s instead – you’ll find it in Brooklyn Bridge Park), and enjoy one of the best views over Manhattan. Stroll along the High Line (a park that’s been built over an abandoned freight train line, which is popular with tourists and locals) and check out Chelsea Market, go for a walk in Central Park and go for neighborhood strolls in the West Village and SoHo. Be sure to visit Times Square at night, if only to marvel at the lights, hustle and bustle. Remember too that entrance fees to the city’s museums are generally actually just recommendations, and many will offer free admission during particular hours.brooklyn bridge new york

Get discounted entry to paid attractions

Of course, you’re also want to enjoy some attractions that aren’t free, so be smart and book them in advance. For example, seeing a Broadway show is an experience you definitely don’t want to miss, so look online to pre-book tickets for Broadway shows, taking advantage of the early booking discounts. If you’d like to go to the top of the Empire State Building or the Rock Observation Deck, fancy taking a Circle Line sightseeing cruise or paying a visit to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, you’ll get the best deal if you buy a city pass. If you are using all six attractions included in the pass, you save 42%!miss liberty

Eating out? Do lunch & food trucks  

Finally, you can eat out pretty cheaply in New York – it has a ton of food options, and the street vendors, food trucks and independent businesses offer authentic burgers, pizzas, bagels, hot dogs and shakes for a fraction of the cost the big chains are charging. If you’d like to enjoy eating in at least a few restaurants during your visit to NYC, make a reservation for noon: lunch is a whole lot cheaper than dinner, and you usually get a starter and a main for around $10 in a decent restaurant.don antonio pizza new york

Remember these cost-cutting ideas when you’re visiting New York – you’ll have a great time at a fraction of the price!

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Five Reasons to Spend a Day in Brooklyn on a Visit to New York

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It wasn’t Manhattan that made me fall for New York – it was Brooklyn that made me fall in love with the ‘Big Apple’. I had been to New York several times but it was in 2013, when I lived in Brooklyn for two months, that I fell so hard for the city that I decided I had to live in New York at some point in my life. While I had always enjoyed New York City tremendously on previous visits, it never felt like a place I’d want to call home – until the summer I spent in Brooklyn.Brooklyn New YorkAnd since then, not only have I made Brooklyn my home, but I’ve also spent countless months exploring this massive borough, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll never be done exploring it – because there are so many different neighborhoods to see, cool spots to stumble upon and hidden gems to discover.

Over the past few years, I’ve made it a point to introduce everyone who comes to visit me in New York to Brooklyn. Sure, I get it: Manhattan is still the biggest draw for 99% of people who come to NYC, but I feel like they’re missing out on such a big part of the city when they never leave that tiny island – they should at least add a couple of stops outside of Manhattan to their itinerary. Plus: There are plenty of cheap places to stay in Brooklyn – if you are familiar with Manhattan hotel prices, you know what I’m talking about.

I’ve started to run Brooklyn tours this year which I hope I’ll be able to launch on a larger scale later this year, but for now, let me take you on a virtual tour of Brooklyn and tell you all of the reasons why it’s well worth venturing into Brooklyn for a day while you’re visiting New York:

1 Explore Brooklyn’s diverse Neighborhoods

It’s funny that most people who visit New York only set foot in one of the five boroughs – Manhattan – even though it is by size the smallest of them all, and by population the third smallest. Manhattan has a population of 1.6 million, the Bronx 1.4 million, and Staten Island just under half a million – even though by land area, it is more than twice as large as Manhattan (Manhattan is 22.83 sq miles, Staten Island 58.5 sq miles).

Brooklyn is 71 sq miles, which is more than three times as big as Manhattan, so really, it’s impossible to overlook this giant borough.Brooklyn NYCAnd you shouldn’t just visit Brooklyn for its vast size, but also for its many diverse neighborhoods. Here are just a few that I think are well worth a visit:

  • Bushwick for the street art and epic dance parties in massive warehouses
  • Williamsburg for its hipster feel and fantastic eateries and bars
  • The predominantly Polish Greenpoint
  • Historic Brooklyn Heights for its grand homes
  • Fort Greene for the historic architecture
  • Dumbo for its beautiful waterfront and views over Manhattan
  • Red Hook with its large waterfront and freight port/industrial history
  • Predominantly Russian Brighton Beach
  • Coney Island for its famous boardwalk and the old-fashioned amusement park
  • Park Slope for some of the prettiest brownstones in New York City
  • Cobble Hill for its cozy atmosphere, little plazas and cute coffee shops
  • Sunset Park for Brooklyn’s Chinatown and the park that gives the neighborhood its name
  • Bay Ridge for its small-town feel and impressive gated mansions in the upscale, old-money Harbor View section

I could go on and on, but you get the point: Brooklyn is so diverse and large that you could spend days just exploring this borough. There are well over 50 neighborhoods you could explore here! In fact, Brooklyn was its very own city until 1898, when it was annexed to New York City.Brooklyn

2 Brooklyn has some of New York’s best Eats  

Yes, Manhattan has an amazing restaurant scene and definitely beats Brooklyn when it comes to rooftop bars, but foodies HAVE TO include Brooklyn in their NYC itinerary, because it is home to some of the city’s most iconic eateries. The borough’s dining scene has improved exponentially over the past few years and now almost every neighborhood has exceptional restaurants that are even attracting Manhattanites and visitors from all over. Here are some recommendations for places that are worth a trip to Brooklyn for:

Excellent restaurants:

  • Lilia’s (Italian restaurant in Williamsburg)
  • Five Leaves (American fare in Greenpoint)
  • Roberta’s (best pizza in the city, in Bushwick)
  • L&B Spumoni Gardens (old-school Italian restaurant, Bay Ridge)
  • Diner (a Brooklyn institution in a retro railcar in Williamsburg)

Noteworthy bars:

  • Sunshine Laundry & Pinball (speakeasy bar with a pinball arcade hidden in a laundromat in Greenpoint)
  • Boobie Trap (quirky breast-themed dive bar in Bushwick)
  • Radegast Hall & Beergarden (a German-style drinking hall in a converted warehouse in Williamsburg)
  • The Brooklyn Barge (floating bar with great skyline views on a ship in Greenpoint)
  • Weather Up (speakeasy-style bar that serves topnotch cocktails in Prospect Heights)

Iconic Brooklyn foods:

  • Red Hook Lobster, Red Hook
  • Dough Donuts, Bed-Stuy
  • Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, Coney Island

Food markets in Brooklyn:

  • Smorgasburg Williamsburg, a big open air food market (every Saturday)
  • DeKalb Market Hall, an indoor food market including a Katz’s, Arepa Lady, Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies, Pierogi Boys)
  • Smorgasburg Prospect Park, an open air food market in the park (every Sunday)
  • Industry City, food hall inside the iconic shipping, warehousing, and manufacturing complex on the waterfront in the Sunset Park, which includes the famous avocado restaurant Avocaderia, Ejen Korean, Blue Marble Ice Cream, Burger Joint and many more..

Brooklyn Food

3 Brooklyn has amazing art and culture

Manhattan is famous for world-class museums such as the Met, the MoMA and the Guggenheim, but Brooklyn has plenty to offer for art lovers, too! The Brooklyn Museum is NYC’s third largest museum and holds an impressive 1.5 million pieces, and the fantastic Jewish Children Museum is the largest Jewish-themed museum of its kind in the entire U.S. – and not just enjoyable for children. Another cool museum in Brooklyn is the Transit Museum, which is located in a decommissioned subway station at the corner of Schermerhorn Street and Boerum Place in Downtown Brooklyn.

Art aficionados should check out the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center, and ArtNet News introduces 15 Brooklyn art galleries you need to know. The New York Times recommends these ten art galleries in Brooklyn.Brooklyn Art

Culturists will love BAM, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which is a performing arts venue that is famous for its cutting edge performances and indie movies at the BAM Rose Cinemas. Check out the BAM schedule before your visit.

And for architecture buffs there are neighborhoods such as historic Prospect Lefferts Gardens with incredible examples of neo-Renaissance, Tudor, Romanesque Revival and neo-Federal architecture, all in one neighborhood. If you want to check out this unique historic neighborhood on a self-guided walking tour, make sure to check out the historic limestones on Maple St (between Bedford Ave and Rogers), the newly land-marked Tudor houses in Chester Court, the oldest home in the district on Midwood Street and Bedford Avenue, the wood-framed houses on Lincoln Road and the Alex Hedman houses on Rutland Road.
Brooklyn Prospect Lefferts Gardens

4 Brooklyn has the best street art in New York

If you are a fan of street art and urban art, you cannot miss Brooklyn! There is some street art in Manhattan, too, especially Spanish Harlem which has some great murals, and the East Village and Chinatown also stand out, but other than that, there just isn’t much street art in Manhattan.

Brooklyn, on the other hand, has an entire neighborhood filled with amazing murals: Bushwick. The Bushwick Collective, a conglomerate of street artists, made it their goal to transform the neighborhood with its formerly grey and ugly warehouses into a colorful outdoor art gallery. They have attracted street artists from all over the world, and the exhibits are changing all the time. Troutman Street is one of the most colorful streets in Bushwick, but there is also great street art to be found in the streets around there (Jefferson Str, Knickerbocker Ave, St Nicholas Ave, Wyckoff Ave; and nearby Grattan St, Thames St and Harrison Pl, plus the cross streets between them)

Another great Brooklyn neighborhood for street art is Williamsburg. This article has the exact spots of some of the best pieces in the neighborhood, including pieces by Kobra, Roa, Faith 47, Mr Brainwash and Icy & Sot. If you just want to wander the neighborhood and see what murals you come across, head north on Wythe Ave towards 15th Street, or south on Kent (south of Metropolitan Ave).

Brooklyn Street Art 2017

5 Brooklyn offers the most epic views over Manhattan

What does Manhattan not have? Panoramic views over Manhattan! And those views make for the best photos. And guess where you can find the most epic Manhattan vistas? That’s right, in Brooklyn. The views alone are worth crossing one of the bridges into Brooklyn (and honestly, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most scenic walks in NYC), and you can combine taking in the views with exploring the neighborhood around there. Here are three views you should check out, and one thing you can combine each visit with:

Pebble Beach, a small beach perched right in between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge. Grab a coffee at the Brooklyn Roasting Company in Dumbo (25 Jay St) and an almond croissant at Almondine Bakery (85 Water St) and take in the views for a bit.

East River State Park in Williamsburg: This one is best visited on a Saturday, when from March to October, the popular Smorgasburg food market takes place right in the park, next to a tiny stretch of sand beach on the East River. If you’re visiting on a weekday, go on a Williamsburg vintage shopping tour or stop at The Ides rooftop bar (at the Wythe Hotel) for even better views, or go on a pizza-themed walking tour of the neighborhood – stops should include Artichoke Basille  (148 N 7th St), Vinnie’s Pizza (148 Bedford Ave), Joe’s (216 Bedford Ave) and Best Pizza (33 Havemeyer St).

The Brooklyn Heights Promenade – I love watching the sunset on the promenade high over Brooklyn Bridge Park – which is directly on the waterfront and adjacent to the picturesque Brooklyn Heights neighborhood. You could combine a visit with a neighborhood stroll (don’t miss Joralemon Street, in my opinion the prettiest street in the hood) or a stop at the Brooklyn Cat Café on Atlantic Avenue.Brooklyn Views

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Five Reasons to Include Tacoma in a Trip to Seattle

mount rainier

I knew that during my month in Seattle, I wanted to explore Washington beyond the ‘Emerald City’ and the first place on my list was Tacoma, which shares the international airport SEA-TAC with Seattle. The cities do not only share an airport, but a stunning location right on the shores of Puget Sound, one of the most beautiful bodies of water in the Pacific Northwest.seattle pritchard beach lake washington1While I found that most Seattleites tend to look down on Tacoma, I found the city to be surprisingly charming with lots of things to offer visitors – so many that I returned several times. So if you are visiting Seattle or the surrounding region, or road tripping around the Pacific Northwest, I’d recommend stopping in Tacoma. And since Tacoma is less than one hour from downtown Seattle, you may even consider booking your accommodation here – hotels in Tacoma are much cheaper than a Seattle hotel.

Here are five reasons why Tacoma is well worth a visit:

1 The Bridge of Glass and Glass Art

What Tacoma is best known for is its glass art, and if you are not a fan of glass art already, you will be after a visit to the Museum of Glass. The famous glass sculptor Dale Chihuly was born here, and his remarkable glass blown sculptures can be seen all over the world. If you are planning to visit the Chihuly Gardens in Seattle, you also have to add the Tacoma Museum of Glass to your itinerary. In addition to installations by Chihuly, glass blown pieces from other glass artists around the world are displayed here, and there is a glassblowing studio on site.

Tip: If you happen to find yourself in Tacoma on the third Thursday of the month, the museum is free from 5pm to 8pm. Otherwise general admission is $15.Untitled

If you don’t want to fork out for admission into the museum, visit the Bridge of Glass instead. This unique bridge connects downtown Tacoma with the Thea Foss Waterway (it goes right over the Freeway, so you’ll probably see it – it’s recognizable by two large blue crystalline towers when you drive into Tacoma) and displays artwork by Chihuly. You can combine the bridge with a visit to the Glass Museum, which sits right on the Thea Foss Waterway side of the bridge.Clusterfark - Chihuly Glass

2 Ghost Stories & Local Brews

If you want to learn more about Tacoma’s past, which includes quite a few dodgy characters, serial killers, and dubious (ghostly?) events, the Booze and Boos Tour, offered by Pretty Gretty Tours, will be right up your alley. I learned much more about Tacoma during this tour than I did from any of the travel articles I read to research fun stuff to do in Tacoma.tacomaThe guides who run the tour are knowledgeable, entertaining and informative, and getting to see the city’s haunted places instead of the usual sights was a great alternative way to get to know the city. And because I love craft beer, the stops at local microbreweries were the icing on the cake – not only did I get to know the spooky side of Tacoma, but I also got to enjoy some topnotch craft beers.seattle craft beers

3 Art and Cars

If you love art, the Tacoma Art Museum is a must, as it is the only museum in the region with an emphasis on artists from the Northwest and the broader West of the U.S. There are 3,500 pieces of artwork in total, and in addition to art from the region, you’ll find exhibits that include Japanese prints and woodwork, European Impressionism and special temporary exhibits. And of course there are Chihuly glass sculptures on display.

I know that art is not for everyone, so if you’re not into art, you might want to check out the LeMay – America’s Car Museum instead. Or if you’re into art, and your hubby is not, this is where you can send him while enjoying a stroll through the art museum (both museums are a five-minute drive from one another)!

This automobile museum is not only home to the finest collection of cars in the Pacific Northwest but houses the biggest automobile collection in the entire world with around 2,700 cars – it even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records.1954 Hudson Hornet

4 Tacoma is Quirky

If you love quirky things, you’ll be happy to hear that Tacoma has quite a few quirky attractions, and I don’t just mean the various bikini barista coffee shops around town. If you are a coffee lover though, make sure to check out the quirky Pacific Northwest invention of ‘bikini coffee’ – there are several ones all over Tacoma.)bikini espressoIf you prefer coffee and other beverages in a less raunchy setting, make sure to head to Bob’s Java Jive (2102 S Tacoma Way), a 25-foot coffee pot music spot that has served up over 80 years of concrete kitsch, which earned it a listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

Another quirky place in Tacoma? Antique Row (near 9th and Broadway downtown), which is home to a number of antiques stores that are filled with everything from vintage clothes, antique furniture, old books, jewelry, photographs and other treasures.

It’s easy to get lost in these shops for hours, and you’ll definitely find some rare things here. The biggest and strangest shop in ‘Antique Row’ is Sanford and Sons, a giant store with 20 antiques vendors that is spread over three levels.bob's java jive

5 Nature Galore for Outdoors Enthusiasts

One of the most attractive features of Tacoma is its beautiful natural setting. Getting out on the water means you will get to enjoy the city skyline from a completely different vantage point – and it’s not just the cityscape you can enjoy from here, but also the Cascade Mountains Foothills, majestic Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains.seattle birdIn addition to kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding is becoming more and more popular, and the tranquil waters in Commencement Bay are the perfect spot for a couple of hours out on the water. You can rent kayaks at Owen Beach in Point Defiance Park and Ruston Way. Ruston Recreational Rentals in Point Defiance Marina has kayaking equipment; Dolan’s Board Sports on Ruston Way (open 2pm to 7pm Wednesday through Friday, 10am to 7pm on weekends) rents stand-up paddleboards.

If you don’t want to get out on the water, Point Defiance Park – a 760 acre park with beaches, natural forests and hiking trails – is still worth a visit, especially to hike the trail along the cliffs, which offers sweeping views over Vashon Island, Dalco Passage, Gig Harbor, and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. If hiking is not your thing, check out the scenic five mile drive through the park. Note that the road is closed to cars on Saturdays and Sundays until 1pm, making it a perfect spot for a weekend morning run, hike or bike ride.
seward parkWhile Tacoma may not have the metropolitan vibe of nearby Seattle, it definitely has enough to offer to make a visit worthwhile. No matter if you’re interested in art and museums or in outdoors activities – there’s something in Tacoma for everyone. If you are planning to explore both Tacoma and Seattle, consider staying in one the Sea Tac hotels around the airport, which is conveniently located right in the middle between Seattle and Tacoma. The Link light rail train goes straight to Seattle, and there is a bus that goes from the airport to Tacoma.

Photo credit: All images that are not my own are used under Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Tacoma Glass Bridge by Collin Votrobeck; (2) Chihuly Glass by CJ Oliver; (3) Tacoma Car Museum by Jim Culp; (4) Bob’s Java Jive by Kenji Ross.

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