10 Things to do in New York City

We spent a long weekend in the city exactly a year ago and we loved every minute of it. We walked miles and miles and visited dozens of restaurants and bars, but we didn’t even scratch the surface of what New York has to offer.  

Here are a few of our favorite parts from our weekend in the Big Apple:

 

  1. The New York Botanical Garden (The Bronx)

The whole reason we went to New York in the first place was the New York Botanical Garden. They were hosting a Frida Kahlo exhibition, and my parents got me two tickets for graduation. I obviously brought Paul as my guest of choice and we made a whole weekend out of this awesome event.
The show was a combination of Frida’s stunning art and her love for horticulture. There was a full recreation of her garden in Mexico and free margaritas for all of the guests. Aside from all the Frida-inspired wonderment, people were genuinely in awe of the gardens as a whole. It’s amazing to have this lush, colorful paradise right in the middle of the city. Their exhibits are always changing, so check their website before you go!

NY flowers

(flowers at the botanical garden) 

 

  1. Roosevelt Island

Roosevelt Island is a tiny island between Manhattan and Queens that is the length of just 35 city blocks. The island used to be home to mental hospitals and prisons and you can still visit the remnant of these places on the island. A beautiful pathway along the river provides one of the best views of the New York Skyline by far.

If you’re not afraid of heights, take the tram to get there. For just the cost of a Metro Card swipe, the five minute tram ride is one you won’t forget.    

NY roosevelt

(Paul checking out the amazing view from Roosevelt Island)

 

  1. The Bitter End (Greenwich Village)

The Bitter End is the oldest rock & roll club in NYC and has hosted thousands of amazing bands. My parents visit this place every time they go to New York and they recommended we go. For a small cover charge + a “two-drink-minimum,” you can watch three or four awesome bands play for a few hours.  We’ll definitely go back next time we’re in the City.

 

  1. McSorley’s Old Ale House (East Village)

This little gem opened in 1854 – making it one of the oldest pubs in New York. They only offer two kinds of beer: “light” or “dark” and you are given two glass mugs of the one you ask for. (Pro tip: if you go with a friend, order a light and a dark and take a mug each!) This bar is truly reminiscent of it’s place in history: cash only, no website, Irish bartenders, sawdust on the floors. You have to see it to believe it.

 

  1. B-Rated Chinese Food Restaurant

You’re probably wondering why this is on our list, but it’s all about the experience. As we were walking back to our hotel after visiting quite a few bars, we found ourselves desperate for food, but with nothing in sight. We finally stumbled upon a Chinese Food restaurant but it had a B rating! (All New York City restaurants are rated with a letter which is displayed in their front window – A is obviously the best and you usually will only eat at A restaurants – even fast-food restaurants are rated with A’s normally. B means that they might have failed part of their health inspection).

We decided that we’d take the risk and order a couple dishes to go from the vacant Chinese Restaurant and take it back to our hotel. The table we sat at while we waited was kind of sticky, but the server was really friendly and the food came out in just a few minutes. Do we recommend taking risks? Yes. Do we recommend going to B-Rated restaurants? Not necessarily. 

 

  1. Brooklyn

We had to put the whole borough of Brooklyn as one item because we had so much fun there as a whole. We spent our first several hours in New York at the Brooklyn Museum. There were a few really interesting exhibits on display in addition to their impressive permanent collection. The fountain outside of the museum is mesmerizing and we sat for almost an hour watching it. People continually filtered through on their lunch breaks or with their kids to sit and watch the water.

Next we went to Park Slope to stay with a friend. We ate the first of many slices of pizza for the weekend and got a tour of the neighborhood the next morning. On our way out of Brooklyn we walked all the way through Prospect Park. This vast, green landscape is always filled with people exercising, biking, reading, hiking, you name it.   
ny skateboards

(cool skateboard exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum – there were hundreds of them!)

 

  1. Arriba Arriba (Midtown)

This was one of our favorite meals during our weekend trip to the City. If you should know one thing about Paul and I, it’s that we love Mexican food (we met while working in a Mexican restaurant, after all) so when we find good Mexican, we are very happy campers.

We sat outside in the beautiful spring weather and had a few margaritas before our food came. We got chips & guac, and we each got a burrito. We left feeling super full and happy.

 

  1. Dog Park

While standing in line at Ess-A-Bagel, we found out that our flight was delayed 8 hours, so we took our time, ordered extra bagels and tried to think of what to do with our extra day in New York. We walked to a nearby park and were surprised and delighted to see that there was a dog park attached to it. Dogless, we went into the gated park, plopped down, and let all of the curious pups come up to us at their leisure. We stayed there for at least an hour, beginning what was to become our wild flight-delay adventure.

NY bagel

(bagel with tofu spread, lox, tomato and lettuce, aka my dream come true) 

 

  1. Molly Wee’s Pub (Midtown West)

It began to storm during our flight-delay adventure, so we started bar-hopping to kill time. We stopped into Molly Wee’s, sat down at the bar and ordered a couple of beers. After no more than a minute, the two men next to us struck up a conversation. They were old Irish expats who told us stories and taught us how to drink whiskey the “right way.” We still think of this experience as one of our favorites from the trip.

We eventually had to leave the pub so we could make our flight, but we stopped first at a Bar-B-Que place around the corner to grab a snack for the road. We were so glad that we didn’t just hang around the airport all day waiting for our flight.

 

  1. Walking Around

Emphasis on “walking”. We only used public transportation two or three times during the weekend, because we wanted to discover new things, people watch, and have the ability to stop and go as we wanted. We walked sixty (!!!) blocks to get the aforementioned bagels!

During our exploration we found a twenty-piece band playing in Washington Park, a full on soccer match on the steps on Union Square Park, kids racing on scooters in the Bronx, etc.

 

New York is full of amazing sights, sounds, music, food, and people. Give yourself plenty of time to explore and plenty of freedom to take risks.

If you have any questions about these places – or any of the other things we did in NYC, send us an email at happyhazardtravel@gmail.com or send us a Facebook Message!

Start Planning Your Trip

  1. You’re Here

If you’re reading this, it means you’re interested in traveling enough to search for travel blogs and that’s a great start! We’re not experts by any means, but we’re learning along the way and we’ll teach you whatever we can. Here are a few important steps to take in order to start planning your trip:

 

  1.  Figure Out What You Want 

Ask yourself the following questions: Where do you want to go? What do you want to do and see? Why do you want to do and see each of these things? Do you want to travel solo? What can you afford? When can you leave? Write down the questions and answers and refer back to them during planning. Your answers will begin your long, exciting research process.

 

  1. Save  $$$

As soon as you decide that you want to travel, you should try to cut excess shopping, going out, drinking, what have you, and save all of that extra cash for your trip. We try to remind ourselves that the money we spend on a beer in Syracuse could buy us a beer in London. It’s our money-saving mantra.

I used a literal piggy bank to save up my money for a while and at one point had over $1000 crammed into it. Paul cashed each of his paychecks so he could split up his travel money, gas money, spending money etc.  Do whatever it takes to get the cash out of your hand and into your travel fund.

 

  1. Research, Research, Research

We went to the library (fortunately I was working part-time at a library in Syracuse so we had easy access) and rented dozens of travel guides. These really are your best friends when you want to learn about a new culture, budgeting tips, and what to see or what not to see. We rented guides for countries that we might not even go to, but there’s no harm in learning what you can when you have free resources at your fingertips.

We’ve also spent countless hours reading blogs by other travelers like us. Many are relatively new to travel, but some have been on the road for years. Blogs give you a great sense of what it’s actually like to be a new explorer from a relatable and reliable source. Travel blogs are also where we read about which gear to use for our trip – this is a crucial part of the research process.

 

  1. Commit

This is the hardest step. You know that you want to travel, but now you need to actually do it.Buy your tickets. Our first conversation about our trip was December 28, 2015 in our church parking lot and we bought our tickets just a few weeks later. We decided that this was the perfect time for us, so we found a super cheap flight and went for it.

You can do this. You just have to come to terms with leaving your job, family, friends, and comfy home life in exchange for the experience of a lifetime. It’s not easy, but all the stress you feel now will disappear when you hit the road. Go for it!    

The Monster: The Indian Visa Application

So it might not be as scary as zombies, but it’s pretty scary.

We’re leaving for our trip a month from tomorrow and we don’t plan on going to India until the end of the summer, but we had to complete our applications before we left. This application has been hanging over our heads as one of the major tasks on our to-do list for weeks. In true Paul and Olivia fashion, we waited until the last minute to start what is potentially the most stressful and convoluted process ever.

We had to submit three separate documents about our personal information, proof of address (which consisted of my parents’ water bill and my birth certificate), a US passport, a copy of the passport, a new passport picture (glued to the first document), a copy of the payment, and a copy of the checklist that explains all of these documents *sigh.*

It took about three hours to complete all of the paperwork online. We then had to pay $15 for new passport photos — we probably could have done this at home but we wanted to make sure they were done correctly. We then had to make copies of all of our documents – some of which we had to dig out of storage. All in all, we spent a week gathering information and paid $170.00 each for the Visa processing, new photo, and shipping both ways.

If you’ve ever completed a Indian Visa Application you’re probably reading this and thinking “HA! I feel your pain, dudes.”

We cannot wait to have that feeling. Hopefully soon we’ll be sitting on an elephant in India; laughing and thinking about how stressful this dang application was.

This morning I sent my application and successfully resisted the urge to jump on the FedEx counter to scream-cry. Paul, however, is waiting to hear back from the folks at Cox & Kings because he has a mistake on his application that he may or may not have to correct before sending it in.

We’ll refrain from giving advice until we know that we got accepted, but we’ll do an update if/when we do.

For those of you currently filling out an application and trying not to pluck your own eyes out: imagine yourself a few months from now, laughing about this moment on a beach in Goa. You can do this.