A Weekend in New York City: A Local Girl’s Guide
When you think of New York City, you immediately think of the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, or Times Square. People visit from all over the world to see these iconic monuments but as a New York City local, I often have friends or family who have visited multiple times and want to “do what the locals do” as they have already visited the tourist attractions. This guide is intended to give you some insight to how I might spend my weekend as a woman in her 30’s in NYC. Full disclosure, these are things I never get tired of, and you may find some pet friendly activities hidden in here as well.
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The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel, Upper East Side
A New York City classic hotel with elegant rooms, delightful service and the swanky Bemelman's Bar.
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Glamorous NYC icon steps from Central Park, with an Old New York vibe and essential Afternoon Tea service.
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The Mark Hotel
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Day 1: Friday night
After a long week of work, my boyfriend and I typically love nothing more than a perfectly made martini followed by a delicious meal cooked by somebody else. Going out to dinner Friday night is a part of the weekly ritual and in a city that never runs out of new places to try, you have to have your go to spots! If you love a perfectly made martini like I do, start with your pre dinner cocktail at The Hotel Chelsea. They are known for serving ice cold Dukes martinis tableside on their adorable bar cart. The ambiance in the lobby bar is cozy yet upscale, making it the perfect date night spot. After having a martini at Hotel Chelsea, walk a few blocks down to Portale for dinner. This is one of my absolute favorite restaurants in the city. The chic interior is definitely a draw for anybody looking for a night out in the city, but the insanely fresh Italian food is what keeps me coming back. In my opinion, the polpette at Portale is the best in the city. They always have specials and I highly suggest trying them. I once had handmade pappardelle special with heaps of freshly shaved truffles and it was so good that I ordered one to take home for lunch the next day.
Depending on the level of exhaustion from the week, we will grab a nightcap with some friends before heading home for the night. You will see this thematically throughout any guide or itinerary I write, but I love a hotel bar, and New York City is full of some of the best hotel bars in the world! The Ritz Nomad has two gorgeous bars, the Lobby Lounge & Bar, and Nubeluz, their rooftop bar which provides stunning views of Manhattan. Opened in July 2022, this hotel is new to the NYC city scene but came in with a splash. The design, ambiance, and drinks are impeccable delivering the experience you would expect from any Ritz Carlton property. This hotel’s location also makes a great central meeting spot for friends all traveling from different neighborhoods.
Day 2: Saturday
NYC is nothing without its neighborhoods. You can experience so many variations of life and really feel the sense of community in each of its distinct neighborhoods. The Upper West Side is charming with its brown stone lined streets and close proximity to Central Park. On any given Saturday, you can find me on the Upper West Side with my dog, Kane, grabbing breakfast and taking a walk in the park.
Depending on the mood, we may sit down on the patio of French Roast and have an iced oat milk latte and a full breakfast of scrambled eggs with toast. If we are feeling a more grab and go atmosphere Daily Provisions is hands down the best gourmet bacon egg and cheese breakfast sandwich and iced coffee in the area. If it is a bit later in the day, their chicken salad sandwich is also one of my favorites. Full disclosure, I always have a sweet tooth and a savory breakfast is always followed by a little snack to nibble on later. If you are on the Upper West Side do not miss a stop at Janie’s Life Changing Baked Goods. The name is what it is for a reason! They make this pie crust cookie that is otherworldly to say the least and don’t sleep on the half-baked chocolate chip cookie.
Once we have had our morning sustenance we obviously head into Central Park. Central Park is huge so let me give you some of my favorite areas to walk. While the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir is a hit amongst walkers, joggers, and tourists, I usually avoid the loop. Bias: it isn’t dog friendly and leaves very little coverage for shade on a hot day. Pop in on the north end to take in an incredible view of the reservoir with the skyscrapers in the back and then move along, there are better areas to explore! One of the attractions in Central Park that often surprises my visitors is the Shakespeare Garden. While the perfectly arranged and vibrant floral gardens are especially gorgeous in the spring, they look beautiful any time of the year. Another perk if you are a visitor is this puts you close to Belvedere Castle which seems to be on everyone’s Central Park adventure list. Bethesda Terrace and the fountain are always worth a pass through, and to be honest, I still love a quick walk through to this day. Pretty much every movie that shows people on a walk in Central Park is filmed on The Mall and Literary Walk. The stunning trees arching over a wide open pathway lined with benches, it is the backdrop of rom coms for a reason and I never grow tired of taking a walk down this lane.
After enjoying some fresh air and exercise, Saturday often involves a bit of shopping. Another notorious part of NYC is the fashion and the shopping. It can be paralyzing for a visitor to decide on where to spend their time. If I plan on staying uptown Saks 5th Avenue is obviously an option. You can spend hours here and they have every designer boutique you can possibly want on the first floor.
L’Avenue in Saks is also a great spot to grab lunch and a drink. The views of Rockefeller Center from above are incredible and they have a lovely terrace for an outdoor option. Indoor or outdoor, I always feel like I can get away from the hustle and bustle, which is hard to accomplish in this area of the city. If I feel like heading downtown to Soho, my recommendation is get off of Broadway! Tourists often stick to Broadway and it is essentially all big box retailers that are packed to the gills and can be found in pretty much any mall or shopping center. Venture onto the side streets such as Greene, Mercer, and Rooster if you want luxury boutiques such as Celine, Chanel, or literally anything in between. If you love luxury vintage do not sleep on What Goes Around Comes Around. I would say they have the best luxury resale stock in the city and the store is gorgeous. If you head East into Nolita, you can also find stores like Everlane, Cuyana, and Sezane which are typically limited to larger cities otherwise online only. If you are down here stop in to Champers Social Club for a boozy lunch of bubbly and caviar. They also have a super fun playlist going most of the time. Other dining options in this area are, not surprisingly, the forever staples, Rubirosa, or Lure Fish Bar. While you can’t go wrong with any of these options, if I am in the mood for a no fuss shopping lunch break I personally love Sugarfish. The wait can be long as they don’t take reservations, but the sushi is always high quality plus, you can order it for take out and eat it anywhere you want. Find a nice bench along the west side by the water and enjoy your adorably packaged sushi lunch.
Ending Saturday is done with cocktails and dinner with friends! More food, and drinks…I know…you can tell I am a person who lives to eat and indulge. Estela is a favorite in the friend group. We often meet here, and it can be for a drink and an appetizer or a full meal. Everything on the menu is stunning and their wine selection is extensive. The bartenders will take care to perfect a cocktail to your liking, or find a wine suited to your meal. My favorite menu item is a seasonal dish, typically in winter, but if you ever see it on the menu, order it! The dish is a scallop served with dates and uni and this dish melts in your mouth. It is absolutely stunning. If we are simply grabbing a drink (and hopefully the scallops) a restaurant on the regular rotation for dinner is Lavagna. Surprise! More italian. To be clear I probably won’t eat Italian two nights in a row, but I simply can’t leave this one out of the guide for you all. This romantic restaurant with its tin ceilings and candle lit tables has been open for 30 years! In this city, you have to be serving up pure magic to achieve that. Top three dishes: Wood fired pizza with wild mushroom, rigatoni with spicy sausage, and the fresh pappardelle with rabbit ragu.
After dinner, it's off to yet another buzzing hotel bar in New York City, Public Hotel. The lobby bar is up a creatively lit escalator that has made many instagram stories and the bar has almost a luxury library feel. There is plenty of space for a group to mingle, listen to some music yet doesn’t launch you into full on club style nightlife. I would say it's a great middle ground. They also have a rooftop bar if the weather is nice.
Day 3: Sunday
Sunday is a day of relaxation. A walk in Riverside Park is a great way to start the day and enjoy views of the Hudson River. I feel that Riverside Park is often forgotten in favor of Central Park so it is nice to switch it up from time to time. Similar to Saturday mornings, I will grab a coffee. If not from Daily Provisions, I will swing by Maman or Bluestone Lane. After a leisurely stroll in the park and stretching the legs, it is time for everyone’s favorite Sunday pastime, brunch.
Just like anything else, there are a plethora of choices for brunch. Two of my favorites are: The Consulate and Buvette. Both French style restaurants but on my regular rotation list for different dishes. The consulate is on the UWS with a rustic feel and a robust menu. Two favorites: The croque madame and the mussels in white wine sauce with fries…with a glass of sancerre of course. Buvette is a West Village staple serving French inspired small plates and has locations in a few major cities. I have had the pleasure of not only dining regularly at the NYC location but have stopped in for my go-to dish at the Paris location in Pigalle and the London location in Notting Hill.
The Jambon Cru is what I recommend anybody order. Steamed eggs, prosciutto, and freshly shaved parmesan on top. This may sound so simple but these are the fluffiest eggs complimented perfectly with the saltiness of the prosciutto and parm. Sometimes simplicity with the right flavors delivers the best dish and this dish fits that bill.
Just like any major city, New York is full of luxurious spas, and I like to try them all! All spas have their unique offering like the Equinox Spa at Hudson Yards and their signature Dr. Lara Devgan facial, or Aire Ancient Baths with their sultry candle lightening and plunge pools of all different temperatures in what feels like a brick lined cave. A personal favorite is the Shibui Spa at the Greenwich Hotel. Their seasonal body treatments or Osen Rituals give your body a full rejuvenating experience. For example, you can have a full body scrub, with a clay wrap and a scalp massage, followed by a full body 60 minute massage. I promise, you will feel like a new person. I can’t think of a better way to melt away all the weekend indulgence and center yourself for the week ahead.
If the weather is nice and it is the spring/summer season, taking a walk from the Greenwich Hotel over to Grand Banks is a great way to end your Sunday afternoon and watch the sunset with a glass of wine. Grand Banks is an old sail boat turned into an oyster bar and restaurant. I recommend trying to grab a seat at the bow of the boat if you can because it is the best space to take in the views of the iconic city skyline. While the food here is good, it can often leave me wanting more so I prefer to have a drink and some oysters, enjoy the sway of the boat and the view, and then head somewhere else for dinner.
A place loved by all New Yorkers can’t be a bad choice and that is why Minetta Tavern is always an excellent option. There is a warm buzzy feeling as soon as you walk in the door and whether you can snag a seat at the classic wood top bar or squeeze into a cozy booth, you are sure to enjoy the experience. Like everything else, there are a lot of delicious burgers in the city, but the Minetta Burger is something special.
My friends and I have often conversed about where the best burger in the city is, and this one always makes the top of the list. After Sunday dinner it is time to hop on the train or grab a cab home and rest up for another week!
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to New York City.