There have been a million New York City travel guides written, and I’ve probably read them all when googling “NYC what to do”. Despite that, I wanted to share with you my guide to the Big Apple, because everyone can enjoy the city in their own way. My way is through staying at hip hotels, eating delicious authentic Italian food and shopping until I max out my credit cards. But, that's just me. If you are anything like me, this is the guide for you:
WHERE TO STAY
The exterior of the Hudson Hotel looks like the entrance of a night club, with the neon lights and a minimal faé§ade. When you walk through the glass doors you must go up an escalator, again twinkling with neon green lights. Once you reach the lobby, suddenly you are outside (or what looks like outside) under a canopy of trees. It is hard not to be intrigued by the dé©cor that keeps you guessing, which was dreamt up by Phillippe Starck. The hotel has three cool places to hang with friends: Hudson Common is the coolest beer hall and burger joint I’ve ever seen, somehow they managed to make both of those things look urban-chic. Sky Terrace is an English garden overlooking New York City, and Hudson Lodge is a ski-resort themed outdoor bar with a food cart that serves grilled cheese and delicious, to-die-for cookies.
In town on business? The executive floor is by far my favourite feature in this massive hotel of almost 2,000 rooms. The rooms have recently been revamped, with a modern art-deco dé©cor and a focus on connectivity for those wanting rapid-fire Wi-Fi and enough ports for all your electronics. One thing I really like about this Hilton is the covered entrance, so rain or shine you are not jumping out of your cab onto the sidewalk and awkwardly carrying in your luggage. The new Herb N’ Kitchen restaurant is grab-and-go, so you can take your food (which they’ve done a great job curating and keeping much of it local) to go, sit down in the gorgeous dining area or have it sent to your room for way better prices than you’ll find elsewhere.
If you want privacy, an A-list crowd and a cool vibe, this is the hotel you need to stay at. Established in 1995 by Founder and CEO Nick Jones, Soho House originated as a private members’ club for those in the film, media and creative industries. If you hang out at the bar during New York Fashion Week you are guaranteed to see a few familiar faces. Guests of Soho House have access to all the areas, including the restaurant and roof-top pool lounge, which would typically be for Soho House members only. Each of the bedrooms in the hotel have a different look and views of downtown Manhattan. The freestanding tubs are my favourite, giving the dé©cor a perfect retro feel. Soho House has locations around the world (the Toronto spot is a regular hideout of mine), including their latest location in Chicago which boasts a hotel, bar, spa and two restaurants – Pizza East and Chicken Shop.
WHERE TO SHOP
The West Village is by far my favourite nook of the city and there is nothing I’d rather do in NYC than take a stroll down Bleecker Street. You’ll spot the Burberry, Marc Jacobs Beauty (see the picture above) and Cynthia Rowley shops, plus many more mid to high-level brands. It is a short strip, but you’ll find the neighbourhood is so lovely you’ll be stopping every few steps to take a snap of the iconic brown-stones, pretty parks and gorgeous shop windows.
This is a given, so I couldn’t ignore it in my round-up. If you are going to go on a shopping vacation to New York City, you can’t miss Soho. There are shops for every budget and everyone’s personal style. From Chanel to Top Shop, you’ll find what you are looking for in Soho. The cobblestone streets and stylish boutiques are a perfect place to snap a selfie with your new finds.
Union Square/Flatiron District
If you want to avoid the craziness of 5th Ave, you can find all the same shops in this area. J.Crew, Zara, Forever 21, GAP and many more all have large locations in this neighbourhood. Plus, you are steps from the Museum of Sex (if you’re into that) and The Gershwin.
WHERE TO EAT
If I am going to recommend one dish for you to eat while in New York City, it is the mouth-watering carbonara at this restaurant owned by Mario Batalli and Joe Bastianich. If you love authentic Italian dining, this is the spot for you.
If you are looking for an unforgettable experience, look no further than this restaurant on a boat! Their dinner cruises have live music and views to die for. The glass-roofed boat lets you take in all the sights of New York, including the Statue of Liberty, as you travel down the Hudson River. The cruise takes place year-round and departs from Chelsea Piers. If you are planning a big group event, Bateaux is a no-brainer.
Yes, another Italian spot (what can I say, I love my carbs!). I found Rosemarys while shopping in the West Village and was immediately taken by the restaurant, which (by the way) has the most delicious paninis you’ve every feasted on. It is the ideal brunch spot. Oh and did I mention that they have a rooftop farm? Yes, the food you are eating was farmed just a floor up from where you’re seated. It doesn’t get more local than that.
WHERE TO WORK OUT
I have been taking spin class for years and I’ve always loved the experience, but SoulCycle truly takes it to the next level. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bigger puddle of sweat under the bike than I did in my SoulCycle class (gross, but it gives you an idea of how intense this is). I love that they believe fitness can be joyful. They incorporate choreography and hand weights into your workout, making it more of a full-body exercise. The music gets you in the mood and the instructors know what to do to get you fired up. The facilities are exceptional, with brand new showers, makeup stations and lockers. There are ten locations in New York, so no matter where you are staying you are probably five minutes away from getting your sweat on.
WHERE TO RELAX/GET GLAMMED UP
If you need to decompress from running around the city, take an hour or two to relax at the Guerlain spa in the Waldorf Hotel. My favourite treatment is the Urban Island Escape which is inspired by the hotel’s rooftop beehives. The treatment starts with the hydrating and toning effects of honey and organic coconut oil which is massaged all over your body. Then you’ll receive a sugar glow scrub, rinse off and finish with a relaxing moisturizing massage. You’ll walk out of the spa feeling smooth and rejuvenated… and you’ll smell ah-mazing! I like to get a makeup touch-up after so that I am not walking out looking like I just napped for an hour. My girl Amanda hooked me up with a glamourous look (ask for her if you are visiting!) and gave me some great beauty tips as well! When booking my appointment I got to pre-order my drink of choice (a mimosa) and what music I’d like playing in my room when I arrive (so chic!).
Off to an event and want to look your best? Stop by Drybar to get a blowout that is so good, and so popular that they’ve created an entire line of products and styling tools from the brand that you can also get here in Canada at Sephora. The experience is also much better than doing your own hair. You get a comfy seat, a drink and while I was there watched The Devil Wears Prada on their flatscreen TVs. What more could I ask for?!