What NYC looks like after months of struggling with COVID-19

Today marks three years after I left my country to try to live the so-called American Dream, just like thousands of immigrants naively do. I chose moving to New York City because this place stole my heart the very first time I landed at the JFK. Its excessive dimensions, recurring noises, extra energy and limitless possibilities got to me and made me change everything I’ve ever known to chase a more interesting and challenging life. But this city looks so different now…

Having it been hit badly by the COVID-19 pandemic, I didn’t take the train uptown for three long months. Because of the lockdown, I had to stay at home in a Brooklyn basement to save myself from getting sick or spreading the virus to others. Now, some might say things are better, safer, even calmer. I sort of beg to differ.

Black Lives Matter signs are everywhere

NEW YORK LOOKS DIFFERENT

I believe the pandemic might have brought some advantages such as pollution and traffic reduction, but Manhattan looks dirty and grim, resembling more the infamous Gotham City than the well-known Big Apple.

Perhaps I was desensitized before but I also noticed more people living on the streets this time around. I was hoping it was just my distorted vision of things until I found this Politico article talking about an increase in homelessness in New York.

Then, something else caught my eyes. Even though my favorite cookies shop remains closed and I received a text message saying that a Brazilian beauty salon wouldn’t reopen at all, I believed these were exceptions. After I finally return to the city, I’m forced to face reality. The Indian eyebrow threading place I used to visit seems to be abandoned and so is the deli next door with a sign hanging on its wall that reads: FOR RENT.

It’s sad to see how New York looks broken down, desolate, sketchy. As if it has become partially a ghost town or been dealing with of the toughest economic crisis in history. Well, as a matter of fact, it’s both.

Loads of positive words can be found on NYC city walls to motivate residents.
Loads of positive words can be found on NYC city walls to motivate residents.

NEW YORK SMELLS DIFFERENT, TOO.

The subway is busier nowadays if you compare to the beginning of the outbreak. But if you ever have the chance to ride it in the middle of a random afternoon, some stations can be found totally empty. Its quietness leaves room for more perceiving and less complaining.

The tiled walls look cleaner and more charming. But it’s the stuffed air that touched me. New York subway is old, we all know that. The first station was opened to the public in 1904. And boy, now I can smell how ancient it is. Think about visiting an old house that has been turned into a museum. Just like the Montmatre Museum in France. It smells exactly the same. Funny fact: this time I didn’t recognize piss or sweat in the air. More than sniffing old wood or rusty structures, what I inhaled was history and the good old days.

It’s possible that you will find more pigeons than people on the streets.

I know things might never be the same after this health disaster we’re all going through. Jobs have been lost, businesses closed doors, people lost loved ones. Still, oh, how I wish I to see the New York tough that Cuomo insists on calling the state and its residents. NYC was built to be lively, busy and resilient. Not drab or deserted. So yes, it will get through this. I know. It just might not be enough to survive the illusion of my three-year-old American Dream.

Things To Do in Spring in New York

Phil predicts an early spring this year. Even though Groundhog Day’s results are far from being accurate, it’s always good to plan ahead and prepare for the coming season. If you’ve already booked a trip to New York, let me help you with some ideas on what to do when the cold is finally replaced by heat waves in the city!

The Edge

After the craze that came with the Vessel, now there’s a new spot that is expected to attract a high volume of tourists and locals. I’m talking about the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere: The Edge. The newest (and coolest?) observatory will be open to public in March but you can already buy tickets online. Regular passes include:

  • access to glass floor (look 100 stories straight down);
  • a free digital souvenir photo;
  • angled glass wall (yep, you can lean on it!);
  • the skyline steps;
  • the eastern point.

Before you head all the way up – note that you’ll be 1,100 feet above the ground – you’ll be marveled with an immersive multimedia experience. Then, once you get to the observation deck, you can also grab a cocktail at the champagne bar while you enjoy the 360° views.

FYI: prices are a little cheaper if you buy in advance on the website. The flex pass – it allows you to pick a date and time slot with flexibility – is a lot more expensive!

For more information: https://www.edgenyc.com

Brooklyn Botanical Garden

This is for people who don’t mind a big crowd: visiting the Brooklyn Botanical Garden in spring a classic for most residents who want to be around some nature without traveling far.

While many visitors focus on Manhattan’s Central Park, keep in mind there’s a lot to see in the other boroughs. Brooklyn, for instance, has the amazing Prospect Park, where you can find beautiful cherry blossoms in the Botanical Garden. But as I said previously: during peak season it is often full.

Prices:

Adults $18; Seniors (65+)$12; Students 12+ with ID $12; Children under 12 Free; Winter weekdays (December–February) Free.

For more information: bbg.org

Central Park & Conservatory Garden

If you’re not in the mood to cross the East River and hop on the subway all the way to Brooklyn, it’s okay: Central Park is always a good idea. But this time you might want to walk a bit further: the Conservatory Garden can be found on 5th avenue and 105th street.

This is a good option if you’re looking for a free of charge, quiet and formal garden with three distinct areas. It’s usually open from 8am until dusk. Additionally, you can make the most out of this experience and take the time to also visit the Museum of the City of New York located on 5th avenue, between 103rd and 104th street.

For more information: https://www.centralparknyc.org/attractions/conservatory-garden

Planting Fields Arboretum

You might need to get a car for this one: located in Long Island, Planting Fields Arboretum is a perfect place to go on a family day trip. The arboretum and state park cover over 400 acres which also includes the Coe Hall Historic House Museum, The Camellia House, The Main Greenhouse and the Italian Garden.

It’s ideal for those who want to learn more about history, architecture and botany, take some beautiful pictures or just have fun around some dazzling trees, flowers and plants.

For more information: https://plantingfields.org/

Which of these spring activities sound like a great idea for you? Share in the comments below!

THINGS TO DO IN NYC: A Rainy Day in Downtown Brooklyn

Sometimes you plan your trip, and then rain happens to be on the forecast. If this happens to be the case, it’s totally cool since there’s a lot to do in New York even when the weather is not that great. So this is what I like to go on rainy days in downtown Brooklyn:

New York Transit Museum

Everyone who visits or lives in NY might complain as much as they like about the city’s subway, but we can’t deny how important it is to keep this city running. That’s why I recommend visiting the New York Transit Museum. You’ll get to learn its history and see how trains looked like through different times. I like the fact that is not that big so you don’t spend so much time there and the price is definitely affordable. In case you type the address on your maps app and still struggle to find the location, note that the entrance is actually a deactivated subway station. Super cool!

More information on tickets and hours: nytransitmuseum.org‎

Go thrift shopping

Buffalo Exchange in Brooklyn

Feel like shopping but still don’t wanna spend a lot of money? Thrifting is the answer! Here are some options in the Downtown Brooklyn area:

  • Buffalo Exchange (walking distance to the New York Transit Museum) – 109 Boerum Pl, Brooklyn, NY 11201, United States
  • Housing Works Thrift Store – 150 Montague St, Brooklyn, NY 11201, United States
  • Goodwill – 258 Livingston St, Brooklyn, NY 11201, United States
  • Out of the Closet – 475 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217, United States

Visit a cute bookstore

Books Are Magic

This is a tip for my fellow bookworms: check out the cutest bookstore of all Kings County: Books Are Magic. You can find other independent stores nearby and the good old Barnes & Nobles. Here are my suggestions:

  • Books Are Magic – 225 Smith St, Brooklyn, NY 11231, United States
  • Greenlight Bookstore – 686 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11217, United States
  • Unnameable Books – 600 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238, United States
  • Freebird Books & Goods – 123 Columbia St, Brooklyn, NY 11231, United States
  • Barnes & Nobles – 106 Court St, Brooklyn, NY 11201, United States

Eat something GOOD

Not into ramen? Grab a bite at Luzzo’s!

Rainy days call for a special and warm meal. I strongly suggest you to stop by Danbo for some mouth-watering ramen and juicy dumplings – the best part is that you get to order as many portions of noodles as you like. Oh, prices are fair! Now a friendly advice: try to arrive early as the place is usually busy!

Plan B: If you’d rather eat pizza, head to Luzzo’s for delicious Neapolitan pies. For coffee lovers, I think Swallow Coffee is an excellent pick. Now, if you want to keep following a healthy diet, go to B.Good!

  • Danbo – 52 7th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217, United States
  • Swallow Coffee – 156 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11201, United States
  • Luzzo’s – 145 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11201, United States
  • B.Good – 141 Montague St, Brooklyn, NY 11201, United States

Wander around town houses

Brooklyn architecture is Instagram-perfect!

If it’s just drizzling or you really don’t mind the rain, grab your umbrella and walk around those lovely streets to look at those historical town houses. If you’re into photography, bring a camera (or a tripod and a friend) to take pictures with Brooklyn in the background. I bet it will make your Instagram look awesome!

What do you like doing on rainy days? Share in the comments below!

Outdoor Activities For Each Season in New York

If you think of New York as a concrete jungle where dreams are made of, think twice. First of all, it’s tough as hell to make your wishes come true here. Also because there’s a lot of nature to explore in this area. Obviously I’m talking about places beyond crammed Manhattan!

Truth be told I’m super into city life, but every now and then I like to have a weekend getaway to explore different spots of the state. That’s why I gathered a few outdoor activities you can pick for each time of the year. Whether this is your first time traveling to NYC, you reside here or you’ve come countless times, there’s always something new to try. Wanna bet?

A campsite in Hickock Brook - pond view
Lake view in Hickock Brook Campsite

SUMMER: GO CAMPING UPSTATE

With a view to the pond and the trees, I strongly suggest going fishing or camping in the remote area of Hickock Brook, in the village of Eldred. It’s a beautiful location and the water is amazing to go for a swim during summertime. Plus, you don’t need to pay any fees and there are many campsites along the public forest access road and near the water. Try to bring your crew early that way you can easily park and set up your tents in the best area: by the pond!

Another option: Go kayaking in Long Island!

Ocean view Caumsett Park
Feel the ocean breeze in Caumsett State Park

FALL: RIDE A BIKE IN CAUMSETT STATE PARK

Most people like to go apple or pumpkin picking, but if you’d rather skip the Instagram tour, I strongly suggest driving to Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve in Long Island. It’s perfect to breathe some fresh air, watch the ocean waves, take a look at the pond, have a picnic, go hiking or riding your bike (or a horse!!!) with family and friends. Okay, I admit it: it’s also very instagrammable.

Park hours:

The park is open from sunrise to sunset, 7 days a week, year round.

Price: $8 per vehicle. They have bathroom and vending machine by the entrance.

Fall in Caumsett State Park
Great spot to ride bikes in the fall at Caumsett State Park

WINTER: SPEND THE WEEKEND IN CATSKILLS

If it’s snow you want, why don’t you book an airbnb and spend the weekend in Catskills? The peace, the quiet and the cold – all in one place. Now if you’re thinking of doing some exercise or practicing some winter sports, there are many hiking trails or ski resorts – the latter found in Hunter Mountain and Belleayre Mountain.

Another option: see a lighthouse in Fire Island.

Coe Hall Mansion in Spring
Beautiful view of the Coe Hall Mansion
Bleeding Hearts Flowers in Planting Fields Arboretum
Bleeding Hearts Flowers in Planting Fields Arboretum

SPRING: EXPLORE AN ARBORETUM

If you’re thinking of a short trip to appreciate spring beyond cherry blossoms, you should definitely check Planting Fields Arboretum. It’s also a historic state park where you can visit greenhouses, take pictures of different kinds of flowers and trees, learn more about architecture and even travel back in time by going inside the amazing Coe Hall Mansion. I promise you’ll have a wonderful time in spring if you decide to go there! It’s awesome to go with all your loved ones and they offer a bunch of activities for kids, too!

Park hours:

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM every day
Price: $8 per car every day between Memorial Day and Labor Day
Free for Seniors 62+ Monday through Friday

Greenhouse in Long Island
Greenhouse in Long Island

If you’re a bit indecisive or don’t know when is the best season to book a flight to New York, I strongly suggest you check this article right here.

Hope you enjoyed the tips! Follow me on Instagram to check out more of my NY adventures!

The Vessel: NYC’s Newest Attraction

New York really does not stop. The city is always reinventing itself and making sure you keep coming back. This time the hottest spot is located in Hudson Yards, a brand new neighborhood in Manhattan – yes, apparently there is always room to fit some more buildings for the upperclass in this crammed island.

The area is not entirely finished, therefore it is full of construction sites. However, the giant sculpture called Vessel and the shopping mall are already open to the public.

Vessel, a giant sculpture in Hudson Yards.
Vessel, a giant sculpture in Hudson Yards.

WHAT IS THE VESSEL?

The Vessel is a landmark that has been attracting both locals and tourists due to its innovative design and access to a cool view of the Hudson River and, of course, numerous skyscrapers! Not to mention the possibility of shooting many pictures to keep your Instagram feed fresh – I dare you to go there and not come back with one single photo!

Shaped like a beehive, it was designed by Thomas Heatherwick. The monument is a 16-story structure of connected staircases with 2,500 steps. There is also a curved elevator, making the site accessible to everyone.

Vessel, a giant sculpture in Hudson Yards.
Vessel, a giant sculpture in Hudson Yards.

HOW TO ENTER THE VESSEL?

The entrance is free but it might take you a while to get those tickets. If you want to book in advance, you might have to wait two weeks. Now if you’re in a hurry to check it out, they offer an option for the early birds: go to their website and wait in line. Due to its high demand, it can take up a long time (I waited an hour!). Also, you can get more than one ticket (I got 5, for my friends and I hehe!)

HOW TO GET TO THE VESSEL?

If you are somewhere close to Times Square, take the 7 train! It will take you all the way to the west side. It’s just one stop and a lot of flights up. It will be incredibly easy to spot the Vessel once you get off the station.

View from the floor, in the center of the Vessel.
View from the floor, in the center of the Vessel.

WHY VISIT THE VESSEL?

Aside from having fun climbing stairs, taking the best pictures and enjoying the view of the city from a new angle, you can also go shopping or grab some food or drinks at The Shops, a luxurious shopping mall. Nearby you can also walk along The High Line, once train tracks that were turned into a cool suspended park. But honestly the best part of visiting the Vessel is seeing how the Big Apple is always reinventing itself!

Would you like to visit the Vessel on your next trip to NYC? Leave your comment below!

10 Coffee Shops To Visit in New York City

If there is one thing that pleases all nationalities, this thing is coffee. It brings people together, gives us energy and makes us work better. Therefore, whether you’re visiting, having a business meeting or looking for an unusual office to work on your projects, I gathered a list of some great NYC cafés you should check out.

Madman Espresso

In the heart of Midtown, Herald Square more precisely, Madman Espresso is a good choice if you’re in the middle of some shopping spree and need a coffee break to recharge batteries – it’s near the Macy’s flagship store, by the way. However, there’s another branch close to Washington Square Park, in case you’d rather spend time with locals. The coffee menu is great, staff is friendly, the decoration is pleasing and the environment is very warm and comfy. Also, the pastries are amazing – seriously, go for one of the croissants they offer! They’re so good!

Address: 234 W 35th St, New York, NY 10123

Woops! Bakeshop is in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Woops! Bakeshop

After scavenging for some great finds at thrift shops, visiting art galleries and eating in hip restaurants, this cozy and very instagrammable café in Brooklyn is a perfect stop while you spend the day in Williamsburg. Macarons, éclairs, cookies, sandwiches, hot chocolates and, obviously, espressos are in the menu of this little but happy place in Brooklyn.

Address: 548 Driggs Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Brigadeiro Bakery

I had to include a Brazilian establishment here. In between SoHo and Greenwich Village, there is a bakery entirely dedicated to “brigadeiro”, a traditional and heavenly sweet made out of condensed milk and chocolate. There are other types of brigadeiro as well, such as dulce de leche, salted caramel, oreo and white crush. Clearly, they have coffee, cakes, cheese bread and guaraná (Brazilian’s most popular soft drink). I absolutely love coming here because of the excellent snacks and nice workers. The area is full of interesting bars, restaurants, newsstands and the architecture depicts the stereotypical New York from the movies!

Address: 156 Sullivan St, New York, NY 10012

QWNS

Croissants, croissants, croissants. This cafe in Astoria, Queens, has (probably) one of my favorite croissants in the area. It’s super fresh and crunchy. Speaking of location, this coffee shop is in a busy – yet not so touristy – district. But if you want to make sure you step your feet in every borough of NYC, you might want to check out this place in Long Island City while you’re on the way to Corona Park, Queens Museum or even Rockaway Beach.

Address: 22-35 31st St, Long Island City, NY 11105

Chelsea has one of three biggest – and coolest – Starbucks in the world.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery

I know, you did not expect to see Starbucks here. But I promise this is one of the things you can’t miss out once you’re in the big apple. This upscale version is one of the three biggest branches in the world (the others are based in Seattle and Shanghai).

With a whole different – I mean fancier, more expensive and more tasteful – menu, visiting this Starbucks store in Chelsea is a tremendously cool experience. Staff here wears different uniform and are 100% friendly. By they way, they come to your table to serve you water and offer free samples of exclusive or different types of coffee. null

Starbucks Reserve Roastery provides a gourmet and pricey menu!

The atmosphere is modern and futuristic despite the industrial decor. Speaking of which, you can actually see coffee beans being roasted while you’re sipping your Brazilian espresso. Once you’re tired of all the food, head upstairs to get a drink (yes, alcoholic drink) at the bar. Unless you are underage, then don’t do it. Stick to the pizzas, cornettos, sandwiches, cookies, pies, and other delightful pastries.

Address: 61 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011

Little Cupcake Bakeshop

This is another famous pick because of how good is looks on social media. And due to its popularity, it’s always busy with a young crowd. In spite of its Instagram craze, the food is actually very good and very earth-conscious. Cupcakes, puddings, cakes and pies are made with sustainable ingredients – a very positive part of being millennials’ favorite spot! Additionally, it’s in SoHo – close to the awesome McNally Johnson Bookstore, art galleries, bistros and stores.

Address: 30 Prince St, New York, NY 10012

Two Hands Cafe

This Australian haven is somewhere in between Tribeca and Chinatown. The options include very healthy meals, so if you’re down to have a very nutritious “brekky” after digging so many pizza slices and bagels, I suggest adding Two Hands Cafe to your list. I gotta be honest: I don’t come here for the coffee, but for the 100% real freshly squeezed orange juice. Oh, I also enjoy the salads, toasts and sandwiches. Plus, everybody here is the nicest – they’re aussies after all!

Address: 164 Mott St, New York, NY 10013 or 251 Church St, New York, NY 10013

10 coffee shops to visit in New York City
Kos Kaffe can be found on Brooklyn’s 5th avenue!

Kos Kaffe

On the other fifth ave – yes, I mean in Brooklyn – you can find Kos Kaffe. The coffee shop is located in a very busy area with many other shops and restaurants around waiting for you to explore. My favorite part – besides the food, obviously – is the decoration and how cozy and comfortable it feels to be there. On the menu you can find coffee, tea and many light bites.

Address: 251 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215

Sweets by CHLOE

Trendy, healthy and vegan. Sweets by CHLOE has cakes, cookies, muffins and they sell creative types of juice, too. Unfortunately, this is not a sit-down kind of place. So, if you’re avoiding New Yorkers’ grab and go style, go to the actual by CHLOE restaurant (found in West Village, SoHo or Flatiron). You can select one of the many beverage options, like a hot or iced coffee, drink a smoothie and attack some other savory items such as sweet potato fries.

Address: 185 Bleecker St Suite B, New York, NY 10012

Sweet Corner Bakeshop

Greenwich Village has a tiny yet charming café and bakery called Sweet Corner Bakeshop. Cookies and pastries are delicious along with some light savory eats and, well, coffee. I like how the workers are usually very kind and warm. Moreover: this address is super close to another very popular tv location – hell yes I am talking about the Friends building. If you’re a diehard fan of Phoebe, Joey, Rachel, Monica, Ross and Rachel, make no mistake: write down these recommendations to your New York travel plans.

Address: 535 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

Do you know any other coffee shops worth passing by in New York? Share with me in the comments below. 😉

Things To Do in NYC: Visit Red Hook

Visiting New York requires time. This city has so much going on that I doubt you can do it in a few days and say that it was enough. There’s always something new to see, a neighborhood to explore or a new dish to dig in.

That’s why I highly recommend saving one day to go to Red Hook. Originally a Dutch settlement, this very industrial-looking point located in the western part of Brooklyn has a lot of art galleries, restaurants, bars and shops to explore.

Hometown BBQ has long lines so follow my advice: arrive early!

Meals

I believe this is the hardest part of coming up with your Red Hook itinerary. I suggest Hometown BBQ if you like meat and arriving early at places – if you come in late, get ready to wait in a crazy long line. But the smell is so good, I’m sure you won’t regret it.

If you’re looking for something quieter, I’d go for the The Copper Pot, a latin restaurant/bar. Now if you want to stick to the traditional seafood (you’re in the seaside after all), choose Red Hook Lobster Rolls.

The Waterfront Museum is a great option since it’s free – they accept donations!

The Waterfront Museum

Founded in 1985, The Waterfront Museum is housed aboard the 1914 Lehigh Valley Barge #79, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its a great place for exhibition, school tours and performance arts (the latter happens in the summer). I really enjoyed learning about the barge and city’s history. The decoration and antique items are also really fun and interesting. Plus the people in charge of the museum are the nicest – they gave me a postcard and showed one of their art installations – both for free!

The Waterfront Museum is free – it accepts donations (and please do donate, the men who work here are truly devoted to making this an exception place to both locals and tourists).

The open hours are unfortunately very limited – only Thursdays (4-8pm) and Saturdays (1-5pm).

Stephen’s Key Lime Pie is worth the trip – and the hype!

Dessert

Okay, let me tell you a secret: I usually don’t like lime pie. But Stephen’s Key Lime Pie is to die for! Produced in Red Hook daily, the custard is so incredibly fresh and the crust is so crunchy. I also love the decoration, the view to the ocean and the surroundings – I saw a bunch of motorcycles, an abandoned trailer and an antique shop. This place is very busy in the summer, but I went in the winter and it was just as great. I can’t wait to go back on a warm summer day. Small individual 4″ pie costs $5.50, 8″ pie costs $20 and 10″ pie costs $30 (good to share with all your friends)!

Raaka for free samples of out of ordinary unroasted cocoa beans chocolate!

Shops

To be honest I didn’t go to Red Hook looking for shopping but two things did catch my eye: a bookshop called Pioneer Books and the fact that there’s a Tesla store. However, I did stop at Cacao Prieto, a chocolate store which is also joined by Widow Jane Distillery. You can buy chocolate and have some whisky tasting at the same time.

After that, I went to Raaka Chocolate – a factory that offers free samples of every single product they sell as well as tours to get to know how the magic of making vegan chocolate happens. They have a wide – and uncommon – variety of options – definitely worth checking out!

If you really want to go shopping for clothes or accessories, I recommend getting a bus, uber or subway to the other 5th avenue – yes, it’s in Brooklyn!

Lady Liberty is right there in the corner – literally! Red Hook comes the Dutch Roode Hoek, which “Hoek” means “point” or “corner”.

Other things to see and do in Red Hook

A free ferry from Manhattan to Red Hook will allow you to take a closer look at the Statue of Liberty. If you’re already in Brooklyn, it’s okay. You still can see NYC’s most popular landmark when you visit The Waterfront Museum. Another fun trip to those who love home decor is visiting IKEA! By the way, the store offers free shuttle buses to nearby subway stations.

Do you like visiting locations off the beaten track? Leave your ideas in the comments section below.

PS: If you want help planning your trip to NYC, I can help you plan your itinerary. Send me an e-mail to thisismarianaguido@gmail.com 🙂

Cheap Places To Eat in NYC

Being a tourist in New York is no joke. I know because before I moved here, I had visited the city many times. This place is expensive in so many ways. Accommodation, plane tickets, museums, observatories, broadway shows and other attractions can take a heavy toll on our pockets. Of course there are tricks to save money. Visiting museums on specific days that offer free or pay as you wish admission, trying the Broadway lottery or picking restaurants that are both tasteful and cheap are some of the traveler hacks.

I know the ideal trip to the Big Apple would include fancy bistros run by international acclaimed chefs. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford this lush life. I know I can’t – at least for now (hehe). That’s why I’m here to share with you five really cool and on a budget food places to dig in and not run out (of money, I mean)!

S’MAC is my favorite mac ‘n cheese spot in NYC!

S’MAC

I went to S’MAC for the first time with some friends in 2017. After that, I keep coming back. I always try to bring family and friends who are visiting, since it has a very American dish: mac ‘n cheese, but with a twist. Their menu is quite different as they have different types of macaroni &cheese served on 6, 8 or 10 inch cast-iron skillet.

I personally love going there because nothing is processed and nothing is pre-cooked. Plus, it’s in the heart of East Village, a very unique and hip neighborhood.

Address: 197 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10003

Artichoke’s Basile Pizza

Still on the Italian cuisine field, I strongly recommend eating at Artichoke’s Basile Pizza. First of all, the slice is huge. Second, there are a bunch of them everywhere. Whether you’re in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the odds of you finding this pizzeria are high. My favorite location is in Chelsea – it’s close to the High Line Park. So after a very nice stroll on the former train tracks, you can take out or grab a table here.

Address: 114 10th Ave, New York, NY 10011

Pommes Frites

This restaurant, located in both West Village has authentic double cooked Belgian fries with a wide selection of sauces in a very rustic – sort of Viking – looking establishment. Ketchup and mayo are free, but the other sauces cost below $2 and the smallest fries portion costs around $7 but it will mostly definitely make you full!

But of course you’re in one the best cities to eat such food, so there are many other places you need to try. That’s why I wrote a post entirely devoted to New Yorker pizzas. After all, pizza is always a good and cheap idea!

Address: 128 Macdougal Street, New York, NY 10012 

Pommes Frites, in West Village, has a long list of sauces for you to explore.

Vanessa’s Dumpling House

I love dumplings and I cannot lie! If you’re on the same boat, join me at Vanessa’s Dumplings, a Chinese takeout food at its best value. Especially if you’re talking about eating in Manhattan. With a cost next to nothing, this restaurant is a godsend when you’re really broke and not very picky. Aside from handmade dumplings, they also offer buns, sesame pancakes, and noodles in five different locations. My favorite one is in Union Square, a very busy shopping area.

Address: 220 East 14th Street, New York, NY 10003 

Taqueria Diana

Craving Mexican food? No problem. From the eatery’s menu you can choose tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, salad and more. Made with fresh ingredients daily, Taqueria Diana’s appetizing food can be found in East Village, Hell’s Kitchen, Williamsburg and Lower East Side. If you’re down for an economical yet delightful experience, then this is the place to go! I recommend going to the address in Brooklyn, as there are many other things to do and see in the area.

Address: 367 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Do you know any other cheap places to eat in the NYC area? Share with me in the comments below!

Finding THE BEST Ice Rink in New York

There are more than 10 places to go ice skating in New York. However, not all of them are that perfect as you might have thought. Some are expensive, some are packed, some are both expensive and packed. I’ve been visiting ice rinks quite a lot lately – either as spectator, friend supporter or cautious adventurer. This is what I found out:

#5 Rockfeller Center
Probably the smallest, most crowded and expensive of all rinks in NYC. I know it’s magical, conveniently located in a very movie-like environment, but honestly there’s no need to spend $60 to $75 dollars on general admission. 
 
If you’re looking for VIP experience, be prepared to pay $175. With this luxury ticket, you’ll have access to a reserved skating time, complimentary skate rentals, in & out access to The Rink for the session, refreshments including hot chocolate, Nespresso coffee, bottled water and an assortment of freshly baked cookies. If you think you’re worth it, go for it!
 
The best part of ice skating in the  Rockfeller Center is checking out their huge Christmas tree!
 
#4 Brookfield Place
This ice rink is not very popular among tourists which could be a good thing if you’re looking for something less crowded. However, it’s not a good option considering there’s a time limit. They have fixed session times where you have to pay $15 for 90 minutes, plus $5 for skate rental.  
 
Now the coolest part about this venue is that they offer private skating lessons for men, women and children. The coaches? Oh, just two Olympian skates: Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov. No big deal, right? hahaha
#3 Bryant Park
Bryant Park’s ice rink is absolutely the best option in case you already have your pair of skates and is absolutely committed to going there more than once. Why? Well, it’s the only rink that provides free admission. But, of course, there’s a catch. Even if you bring your skates, you will have to pay a  20 dollar fee for sharpening them. After that, you’re good to go! If you’re just visiting, prices for skate rentals are $20. The Rink is open daily and on holidays through March 3, 2019.
If you just want to watch people jump, swirl and well, eventually fall, it’s okay. You don’t need to pay anything to hide from the cold in the Observation Deck!
After that, you can go shopping or eating in the Winter Village shops.
You can find ice rinks in Bryant Park (left) and Central Park (right).
 
#2 Central Park
This ice rink is massive compared to all the previous ones. But, you know, it’s Central Park. So it really doesn’t better the size because it’s always busy. Unless you avoid peak hours during weekdays or the weekends whatsoever. 
 
The Wollman Rink can be found on the east side, very close to the Central Park Zoo. It offers ice hockey, a skating school, party facilities, skate rentals, and lockers.
 
From Friday to Sunday and during Holidays adult pay $19, Kids: $6 and Seniors: $9. Plus you might need to add $10 for skate rentals. If you don’t want to skate, there’s a fee for spectators as well: $5. Ouch! 
 
All in all, it’ still such a picturesque and memorable experience! You might ask yourself: when am I going to have the chance of ice skating in Central Park again? Yep, that’s good enough to convince anyone. Bring your loved ones, thick socks and enjoy
 
 
#1 Prospect Park
 
Our winning ice rink has a great location for starters: it’s in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. But what really makes it the best option is that it’s probably bigger than the others. There are two rinks available (one indoors and the other outdoors) which distributes the number of people and it makes accidents and kids bumping into each other less likely to happen. It is also a lot cheaper compared to the other spots. 
 
It’s also the cheapest of all the rinks in this list. Adults and children pay $7.25; $10 on weekends. But attention:weekend pricing begins on Fridays at 4:00 p.m. Skates Rental in case you don’t have your own costs $7 and lockers are available for $3. 
 
More benefits: they offer programming and events such as Curling, Broomball, Youth and Adult Hockey, and Figure Skating. 
 
This is also a great opportunity to explore a charming park that is often neglected by New Yorkers themselves. So what are you waiting for? Talk to friends and family and make sure to put this ice rink on your plans.

Five New York Pizzas Worth Your Visit

If you know me just a tiny bit, I’m sure you heard me talking about pizza at some point. It might be part of my genetics, a real addiction or just a plain excuse to get some carbs in my blood. Whatever the main reason might be, I’m truly lucky to live in a city that has so many options of this popular Italian dish like New York City.

Even though I still need more time  – and money – to be able to afford all NYC’s pizzas, I can name five places that have already stolen my heart (not to mention my stomach and wallet). If you’re coming to the Big Apple, I highly recommend picking one of these places below:

– L&B Spumoni Gardens
Located in Brooklyn, this pizzeria has a squared Sicilian slice to die for. Aside from the pizza, you can find great gelato, nice staff and a long history. The family-owned restaurant has been in business for almost 80 years! Pizza pie is a good idea if you’re coming with a big party.

L&B’s Spumoni Gardens: long history and long lines

– Artichoke
Never in my life did I think I’d ever try an artichoke pizza, nor list it in one of my favorite spots. But you need to give it a try. It’s a distinct flavor, in a positive way, and the size of the slice is very generous. In case you’re quite resistant or absolutely hate artichoke, try the other toppings. They’re juicy, warm and tasteful as well!

– Luzzo’s 
If you’re a big fan of thin-crust pizza, Luzzo’s is the place for you. It follows a Neapolitan style and it’s actually made the time you get there in a coal-burning oven. It tastes incredibly fresh and light. I recommend trying one of their desserts as well. You won’t regret it!

Luzzo's in Brooklyn -  thin-crust pizza
Luzzo’s – Brooklyn. There’s also one in Manhattan.

– Joe’s Pizza
Most likely the most famous pizza in all New York City. A regular slice will do wonders in your mouth. I don’t know their secret, but all I know is that they don’t need much to work their magic. Many celebrities have visited Joe’s many locations. While you’re eating, you can spend some time checking out who has also been there. Photos of actors like Anne Hathaway, Owen Wilson or Bill Murray are displayed on the walls. Because it’s always busy, your food will surely come warm. Just a heads up: it’s cash only!

There are several stores in Manhattan. This one in on Broadway, close to Times Square.

– Joey’s Pepperoni Pizza 
From the $1 dollar pizzas out there, I’d say this one is a smart pick. It’s my go-to spot when I am broke and craving a cheesy pizza that is both good and cheap. Can’t get any better than this, right?

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