The view from our hotel room at the Hilton Garden Inn!
If you follow along on Instagram, you know we took a quick trip to NYC a few weeks back!
The big apple is always such a magical place for me, not to mention, the EASIEST weekend trip to take from Chicago. They’ve got approximately a bajillion flights into NYC per day (okay, not a BAJILLION, but, you know) and travel there is usually pretty affordable, which make it a tempting and very doable getaway any time of the year. Read along for our personal NYC favorites and recommendations!
We took the “Delta Shuttle” that flies into LaGuardia, which we had no idea existed!
To be honest, it’s not the most glamorous experience getting there (think little plane, they make pretty much everyone check their carry-on bags, the staff are a far cry from the smiling service you’d get on Southwest) but after the trip, we truly came to understand how awesome the Delta shuttle is, and I’d highly recommend taking it!
Essentially, if you fly Delta into LaGuardia from Chicago, D.C., Boston, LA, San Francisco, or Seattle, you fly into the “Marine terminal” which is a terminal exclusive for passengers taking the “shuttle” flights. I would liken the experience to flying out of a teeny small-town tiny airport or even a train station, where you can arrive 40 mins before your flight, security takes two seconds (amazing!), there are no crowds, and you only have 5 gates to choose from. Flights leave every hour, and tickets are more flexible than regular airline tickets. Winner winner!
A word to the wise: walk everywhere!
That said, bring comfortable shoes! Our favorite way to get to know a new city is to walk it–you’ll pass so many cool places you wouldn’t normally discover otherwise, and get a real feel for the city. The subway system is also really efficient and easy to use!
I would also recommend taking cabs over Ubers. We found that Uber drivers weren’t as experienced navigating the scary driving situation of Manhattan, and that Cabs were pretty reasonable and will get you where you need to go faster.
Okay, so, now–where to go? Here are some of our favorite spots that we’ve been on our past couple of trips! (I would like to take this time to shout out our good friends Matt & Erin, and also Kelly and Mitch for being the best tour guides/giving us the best recommendations!)
Food Vendors at Chelsea Market
Gallow Green: This mighttttt top the list of the coolest place we’ve ever been to dinner. (Yes, bold claim, I know.) We had gone back to the hotel to take a nap and woke up to a text from Kelly–”I made you 10pm dinner reservations at Gallow Green under my name. Don’t ask, just go!” The entire restaurant is a rooftop in the summer months, but is converted into a cozy alpine-themed hideaway in the winter. They had the coolest cocktails and their pizza was delicious!
Little Owl: We went here with our good friends Erin and Matt during last year’s NYC trip–it’s the cutest tiny restaurant, and reminded me of something you’d find in Europe. The food was amazing–I don’t even remember what I had–but just order whatever they recommend!
Matisse: I actually went here with my best friend, Kate on one of my first trips to NYC several years ago when I was 24. It’s a very unassuming french bistro with really classic, but amazing dishes, the best cocktails (I kept ordering “french martinis” thinking I was so sophisticated), and the most amazing part–the most incredible live jazz band. I remember thinking this was the first time I really felt grown up.
The Meatball Shop: We went here our first night of our most recent trip! They have a few locations, but we went to the one near the West Village. It’s really affordable, casual, yet still really romantic. Go for the classic meatballs with pasta, and the buffalo chicken meatballs to start!
Spotted Pig: An adorable and fun brunch spot in the West Village.
Chelsea Market: Too many good spots to count in here! If you’re in the mood for thai, Chelsea Thai is an amazing hole in the wall. Los Tacos is a Mexican must-try that came highly recommended as a reader favorite, but we never got the chance! It’s going on the list for next time! I will warn you though, it is CRAZY busy on the weekends, so if you’re in NYC during the week, make sure to pop by here then!
Halal Guys: While they just came to Chicago, NYC was the first place I ever had Halal Guys, and it is not to be missed. Cheap and delicious, you’ve never had halal like this. Especially if you AREN’T from Chicago, you have to make this a late-night stop. Make sure you get the garlic sauce and if you like a lot of heat, go for the hot sauce. Best hot sauce I’ve ever had. (But it’s REALLY hot!)
Paulie G’s: Coincidentally, Paulie G’s has also opened a Chicago location since I first went there in NYC! This is a Brooklyn staple and some of the best pizza I’ve ever had. You have to order the Hellboy pizza with the hot honey!
Drinks and live band at The Heath
The Heath (Directly above): Also located in the McKittrick hotel (which, in fact, is not a hotel) with Gallow Green–The Heath is the downstairs bar where you can find live music and some awesome cocktails. Come here before or after you do dinner at Gallow Green!
Le Bain: An absolute MUST for anyone, but especially those who have never been to NYC before. Le Bain is the rooftop bar at the Standard Hotel and it has some of the coolest views of the city!
Arthur’s: Our favorite late-night bar that has a live band that always brings down the house, it’s a tavern that has been around since 1937 and it has become a bit of an NYC tradition for us! (Make sure to bring cash–they don’t take cards!)
The Ides: If you venture to Brooklyn, you absolutely cannot miss a drink at the Ides rooftop bar. It has some of the best views of the city! (Below!)
View from the terrace at The Ides in Brooklyn
The Garret: A swanky cocktail bar (the kind I want to move into) that has exposed brick and chesterfield sofas. To enter, you have to go through the Five Guys on the first floor.
Little Branch: The coolest basement speakeasy bar that serves some of the most innovative, custom-made cocktails I’ve had. Tell them what kind of liquor you like and what you feel like, and they’ll whip up something you’ve never tried before! Just watching the bartenders work is reason enough to come here.
Bathtub Gin: (YESSS) another speakeasy, but a really cool one. If I remember correctly (it’s been several years since I was there) you have to enter through a divey pizza joint, but even better to pick up a slice on the way out!
Other Fun Must-Do’s:
Sadly it was WAY too cold for us to walk through Central Park last time, but it’s one of my favorite things to do in New York. Locals and tourists alike absolutely adore this park for good reason, it’s arguably the prettiest park in the world! If you’re an early riser you can go early on the weekends during “off leash” time and there are SO many cute dogs to play with! (Am I a weirdo?)
I’ve made plenty of trips to NYC over the years, but seeing Times Square absolutely never gets old. The lights, the tall buildings–it’s incredible. If you’ve never been to NYC before, you HAVE to put it on your list to see at night. Bonus points if you can see it during the day, too!
Water Taxi to Brooklyn: If you’ve seen plenty of Manhattan, take a water taxi to Brooklyn! It’s such a cool way to see the city, and Brooklyn is an entirely different city to explore in itself!
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island: If you’re into history (or being an American) I would say Ellis Island is one of the coolest things I’ve done. I don’t know if I’d take half a day to do this if I only had 48 hours, but if you’ve been to NYC a few times and are looking to do something different, this is really an unforgettable experience.
Walk the Highline: The highline is essentially NYC’s way cooler equivalent of Chicago’s 606. It’s basically a 1.45 mile long elevated park/pathway that boasts some really cool views of the city.
Shopping in SoHo: I love shopping in Soho! There are so many cool shops and places to pop into! You could spend hours roaming around!
Washington Park: Okay there’s really not much to see here, but it’s pretty fun to take a photo with a little bit of “Paris in NYC!”
Where to stay
Our trip was in partnership with the Hilton Garden Inn Midtown Central Park South, which was super close to Central Park and Times Square. We loved that it was really centrally located, which means it was a hop, skip and a jump (okay, by New York standards) to pretty much everything you want to see on the isle of Manhattan.
If it’s your first time in New York, this is a really great location that can’t be beat. My other favorite spot to stay would be in the Chelsea area (there’s a Hilton Garden Inn there, too!)
After experiencing it first hand, I would highly recommend looking into staying here. First, the prices are really reasonable (especially for Manhattan!) and our room was immaculately clean and recently updated. They have great amenities (both the in-room Kureg machine, and the fridge for stashing gatorade come in REAL handy in the city that never sleeps!) and the hotel staff is amazing. (Shout out to my friend Suzanne at the front desk! She was the best!)
Other important factors: The bed was comfy (the perfect place to drink champagne for breakfast) and the shower was really nice! (Both things that are necessary after a classic “realize you’ve stayed out until almost 5am” NYC night).
What are your favorite spots in NYC? Any other questions about visiting? Leave ’em below!
Big thanks to Hilton Garden Inn for such a fun weekend in NYC and for sponsoring this post!