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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Taking a Bite Out of the Big Apple

As a first timer to New York City, I wasn’t sure what to expect…I mean sure I have heard plenty about it and my husband has been several times and LOVES it.  But this mountain loving open space seeking girl isn’t exactly super excited about all the tall buildings and city life.  So to say I was a bit worried I might not love it is an understatement.  BUT, it was truly fabulous!  There are so many fascinating things such as the sheer number of Starbucks in a 10 block radius, or the number foreign languages I heard…but what stood out the most is the number of people ALWAYS around…not matter what part of town you are in or what time of day…there are so many people.  In a good way – mostly.  ;-)

When starting to plan our trip I did what any good travel consultant does…research.

When it came to trying to figure out where to stay, there were so many great choices of course.  But we landed on a new hotel that has a totally different approach to hotel living.  We stayed at the EVEN Hotel near Penn Station.  The reason I wanted to check it out is because it has a unique opportunity for the hotel guests.  Each room has a workout space in it equipped with an exercise ball, yoga mat, exercise bands and loads of workout options from a booklet to multiple workout channels for you to  turn on.  From the catchy slogans on their signs to the water bottle for us (to be more green) this place impressed me the most by their outstanding service.  Some of the best service I have ever had at a hotel to be honest.  They have a healthy option restaurant, Cork and Kale, for breakfast, dinner and on the go meals.  Of course this type of hotel wouldn’t be complete with a 24 hour fitness center with more equipment for you to use to make certain you can stay healthy while traveling!

Since we chose to stay there, I made sure to get over to a couple other hotels so that I can see which room I will stay in next time I visit.  The first stop was the JW Marriott Essex House.  WOW.  What can I say?  Luxury feel, fabulous location, amazing views of Central Park and the city, great restaurant and bar, the list is long.  What stood out the most you might wonder?  The size of the rooms!   Even the standard room is quite big for New York hotels.  Plenty of space to move around, ample storage for your luggage - you don’t ever feel cramped.  The overall vibe of the hotel was really nice, not pretentious, but rather a pretty affordable luxury hotel.   The ballroom is remarkable for your next wedding or other event  - where you will always be the ONLY event going on in that space, not matter how big or small.  We dined in the restaurant and were impressed by the food and wine selection as well the ambiance.  If you want to buy a table for breakfast the morning of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, you can enjoy a fabulous meal while watching the parade cruise by your table.  You will even have street access if you prefer that.  It would definitely be great to go back there for that event.  To sum it up, you just can’t go wrong with this luxury hotel.  The JW Marriott Essex House – a must!

One other hotel I wanted to check out was the Lotte New York Palace Hotel – it is right across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  Another fabulous location with great city views as well as views of the famous historical St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  This luxury hotel is another gem of New York City.  The attention to detail and the thought behind each finish is truly amazing.  The standard rooms and suites are also quite large with several great options for families or multifamily travel.  There are a few options to have a cocktail at, a breakfast lunch/coffee place, and a restaurant that will be serving breakfast only soon with lunch and dinner to come in the months ahead.  The most interesting place to get a drink there is Rarities.  This place is essentially a drinkable museum.  You must have a reservation to get in, but once you are in, you can try liquors and wines that have some amazing story behind them and were likely purchased at an auction.  It truly is a “rare” find.  You do not have to stay at the hotel to have a drink there…just be sure you get your reservation made in advance!  My absolute favorite place in the hotel though is the Jewel Suite.  A 3 story room with your own personal elevator, outdoor patio with fireplace and hot tub as well as plenty of tables and chairs to sit around while enjoying the stunning view of the city.  Jewelry designer Martin Katz helped create this stunning room with his jewels showcased in the room for you to enjoy.  This room has multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, an office that is too pretty to work in really, and the most amazing gathering area with the 3 story windows for you to take it all in.  This suite is only matched by one other suite in town – and happens to be right next door in the Champagne Suite.  A much more masculine room, but the same amazing views and features, the completely different d├ęcor including much darker wood finishes.  This suite will not disappoint the Dom Perignon lover with the displays of Dom around the room and the glass chandelier that was made to look like champagne bubbles in your glass.  Yes, the attention to detail is unmatched.

So many things to do and see in NYC and too many to try to list here in this blog.  One of the most unexpectedly interesting things we did was the Rockefeller Center Tour.  I had no idea it was going to be mostly outside and all about the 19 buildings that make up Rockefeller Center.  Who knew?  Our tour guide was amazing and just the right amount funny!  We learned a ton and were in awe most of the 75-minute tour.  It is worth it if you haven’t done it.  Some must-do’s in my opinion would be to visit the 911 Memorial, walk the financial district, get to the Top of the Rock and for the romantics out there, take a carriage ride with your sweetheart through Central Park.  That is just the beginning of things to do over a long weekend in the city that never sleeps.

 New York is known for great food…and it did not disappoint.  We had dinner at Minetta Tavern – a great spot in Greenwhich Village that seemed filled will locals.  It’s been around since 1937 and for good reason.  They are known for their Black Label Burger, but have a wide range of options from Roasted Bone Marrow to King Salmon and so much more.  Great wine list, excellent Martini, and impeccable service.  If you decide to go, be sure to make reservations a few weeks in advance!

We also hit David Burke Kitchen in SoHo.  My husband has been there for dinner a few times so we had planned to have brunch there, but ended up doing breakfast, which was amazing!  Best French Toast I have ever had!  Most unique Bloody Mary we have come across – but the hubs says it was amazing!  You can’t go wrong with anything you order any time of day!  Reservations are ideal.

Of course we hit the random pizza joint on the street to grab a slice and it was great! 

One more place to note that we hadn’t planned on going to but SO glad we did is Patsy’s Italian Restaurant New York.  It is a family run restaurant that has been there since 1944 in the Theater District in Midtown Manhattan.  From the moment you walk in the door you are greeted with fabulous service and likely to see at least one of the family members.  They have only had 3 chefs – the late Patsy himself, his son Joe, or Joe’s son Sal (who has been running the kitchen for the past 29 years).  The best service we have ever had, some amazing Italian food and we even got to see Tony Danza dining at his regular table.  And yes, we made eye contact but I did not bother him.  ;-)  This restaurant is a must!  And you will want to have a reservation there also!     

If you have the opportunity to go to the Big Apple for the first time or your 10th time, there is always something new to see or a restaurant you haven’t hit.  Needless to say, his first time visitor will be back!
(Article contributed by Jamie Eldridge, H&K's adventure travel expert.  You can see her profile by clicking on this link H&K Luxury Travel)