For the last five years, my friend Sara has sent out an email in early spring asking if we should start planning for our annual fall trip to New York City. And each year I’ve felt like life is too busy and crazy for such an extravaganza. So perhaps, it’s a good thing that I never say no! ;)
And if I am being honest here, I have to mention that I stay super anxious about leaving the kids behind. I don’t suffer from fear of flying usually, but sure enough, when I am flying solo for this trip, I have all sorts of terrible thoughts about what if my plane crashes. This is perhaps the worst way to start a fantastic weekend.
But thankfully, all these feelings dissipate as soon as I land in New York and see some of the best pals a girl could ask for. Chicago was were we all met and it’s nice to have this time to seriously reconnect and catch-up with everything that is going on.
And now that we’ve done this so many times, I feel like we’ve achieved a basic formula for how to plan the weekend and make sure that it feels super special instead of rushed or too packed with activities.
Fancy Hotel + A Show + Afternoon Tea + Museum + One Fancy dinner = Perfect Girl’s weekend
Basically, these five elements require planning ahead of time. The rest, like special shopping destinations, neighborhood exploration, hole-in-the-wall-pizza joints, bagels, etc. fall into place easily once we get there.
1. Fancy Hotel
The first couple of years we stayed at the Pod Hotel and an Airbnb in Brooklyn. They were both great options because there were more of us and also because they were much more budget friendly. These days, it’s usually 4 of us coming from out of town, so we’ve upgraded to accommodations that feel more luxurious, like The Roger, or the Intercontinental Hotel where we stayed this time (pictured above). While I know for sure that we would have an excellent time no matter where we stay, I am glad that we get to indulge in a fancier place that elevates our time together that much more!
2. A Show
It’s hard to imagine a trip to New York without squeezing in a show or two. I am lucky to have girlfriends who are on top of such things and always have the best recommendations for what to watch on or off Broadway. In past trips we’ve done immersive theater like Sleep No More at McClintock Hotel, intimate shows at the Bedlam Theater (we watched Sense and Sensibility adapted by Kate Hamill which is still my absolute favorite to this day), and American in Paris in Time Square’s Palace theater. For this time we watched the Tony award winner, Once On This Island, at the Circle in the Square Theater (pictured above).
If Broadway shows and musicals aren’t your thing, or sound too expensive (because they are), look no further than one of the many comedy clubs in NYC. This time around, we spent an evening at the Comedy Cellar in Greenwich Village and for the cost of $14 + 2 items off the menu, we had some really good laughs. It was non-stop really! Also Mamoun’s Falafals is NEXT DOOR so I am not sure if there is a better “dinner and a show” deal in all of NYC.
3. Afternoon Tea at Bergdorf Goodman
I am not sure if a girl’s weekend in NYC should be allowed without afternoon tea at the BG restaurant. Reservations are required and the cost is not cheap (although I think it’s still a great value considering the quality, ambiance, service, and the view). It’s basically one of those things that you can’t experience anywhere else. And for that (and the scones + clotted cream) it always makes it on our list of things to do! I am sure guys would enjoy this experience too.
NYC has way too many cool museums with ever changing exhibits. The MoMA, the Met, and the Guggenheim are the ones that everyone knows about, but there are so many more (check out this list by Conde Naste). We try not to overdo the museum experience even though all of us seem to love that kind of thing. Sometimes we even split up in case our interests are divided. Either way, adding one or two museum to a weekend trip feels like the right balance. Mixing a big museum with a small one keeps things interesting. This time around, we visited the Whitney in it’s brand new location (bonus, the High Line park is right next to it). Saw a free but superb exhibit called PINK (pictured above) at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). And took the Under One Roof tour at the Tenement Museum (I might have shed a few tears here. It was so moving).
5. Fancy Dinner
I should preface this by saying that there is so much good affordable food in NYC that going fancy is absolutely unnecessary. Also, I am happy eating pizza and falafals all day long. But, keeping the occasion in mind, we try to book one nice dinner where we can wear the dress that usually hangs out in the back of the closet. And since I am not up to date on fancy eating in the city, I let the girls narrow down the list and then vote on the one that looks good to me. This time around we ate at FIG & Olive and had a great time (their roasted cauliflower with garlic emulsion and pine nuts was pretty awesome).
So that’s it folks. Think of these five elements as a way to plan the weekend without feeling too overwhelmed given the sheer number of option in NYC. For my Saturday – Monday trip, we were prepared with a basic itinerary thanks to these prepaid tickets and reservations. Then we filled the rest with bagel shops (Kossar’s this time), coffee shops, cheap but good pizza, ice cream, and window shopping (Thanks to my friends, I always discover cool new brands that I would never have heard of otherwise, like MUJI)
It’s incredible that I get to repeat this experience every year. I’ve made the trip while pregnant, while planning to get pregnant, while nursing (just bring the pump along), and now with three young kids. As a woman, and as a mother, this trip is also a great reminder of my “village” that steps in and helps me take care of my kids even while I am not around.
Above all, good friendships are made to be celebrated and I hope that we continue this tradition even as old wrinkly ladies!