Last week I had a work trip to New Jersey (more on that another day…) and I did that thing I do when heading somewhere: is there anything interesting nearby/can I pull off an extra day to make it happen? As it so happened, the timing worked out and within an hour of landing in Newark, NJ a day ahead I was pulling into Penn Station in the middle of Manhattan. I highly recommend taking the train from Newark into NYC – it’s $12.50 and it is pretty much a non-stop ride in.
Alone? All alone in the big city? You bet. Fun fact – I played a game with myself and any time I thought of it I would look up and around and try to find a cop. EVERY time, under a minute, I could find a uniformed officer. In other words – hanging out in midtown Manhattan might be one of the safest areas I’ve ever traveled to alone! Today I will share with you my thoughts on traveling solo (and why it is AWESOME), as well as my favorites/highlights from the trip. I never really felt lonely or the need to speak to people. Quite honestly being able to NOT talk to anyone while being in this huge bustling city was quite fun.
Exploring by myself means I get to pick and do anything I want, and always on my own schedule. I don’t have to consider anyone else. If I want to take a taxi to get ice cream then walk to a fantastic craft supply store and take 2 hours lingering? I can. Speaking of cabs – I used Uber twice and was very impressed with the drivers and ease of service. It really was more that it helped set my mind at ease that I would not get stuck somewhere or have to walk miles. I also was able to hail a cab which delighted me to NO end. I really do love this city…
There is one key to travel like this: before leaving I compiled a list of locations and places for all kinds of food, shopping, and entertainment that I might be interested. This worked out GREAT because when the mood struck for a caramel filled, chocolate dipped, soft serve cone I knew right where to get an amazing one. This lets me be spontaneous and explore, while not making the tragic mistake on falling back on some familiar (inferior!) place I happen to see. Don’t even get me started on people eating at fast food/casual dining chains when so many independents and unique food experiences await!
So that is a key: do your research, and have options/ideas available. So, for example, when tired from your red eye flight and so very hungry but not wanting anything heavy or high calorie you know that you ought to head to Ippudo for life changing ramen.
Seriously how do they get that level of flavor into broth?! Fantastic. With tip around $20. Fast. Totally a unique dining experience. Not just excellent food (Thanks to Julie Fei-Fan Balzer for the recommendation!) and a great vibe, but really friendly service. They helped me navigate the menu and make my choice.
Speaking of unique, I decided for entertainment it was just too late to deal with getting to a museum and I didn’t want to be up walking. I wanted to sit on my behind. TKTS was the recommended option given to me for discounted theater tix. Here’s the thing. It was HOT, HUMID, full sun, and there seemed to be about 1,000 people in line when I walked past. Oh boy. Yeah no. So I started looking at individual theaters. Most had same-day tickets, some had their own discounts, lotteries, etc. Just a few blocks from Ippudo I found the one I wanted.
Being a single traveler, it was easy to grab a ticket directly from their box office – and definitely a good deal. If I was traveling with adult friends I would still do this method of discount/day of and just sit separately. It isn’t like you can talk anyhow! The show was great and a perfect choice. My family wouldn’t have picked it, I got to sit in a cool theater, and it was super inspiring to watch a cast and crew so clearly passionate about what they do – and so talented. The sets, the singing, the detail – awesome.
Ah, but the big question – where to stay? I took a gamble and didn’t book any hotel until under a week ahead of time. At the time I booked I could have stayed at a number of high end places for right around $200/night. Sadly, my dream of the Plaza didn’t happen. Let’s just say the cost of 1 night at the Plaza would have bee more than everything about this entire trip combined. So no discount there – but do note that all of the discounted hotels including the one I picked were double or more in price just a few weeks before I booked!
I went with a hotel in the Kimpton Hotel family because having stayed at their properties in Denver, Boston, and San Francisco I know that they are fun, friendly, and that it would be a good choice.
I also was able to score a room at a great price, and the location just off Times Square put me in the heart of midtown and near absolutely everything I could want. Dessert craving? Bouchon and Magnolia bakeries at Rockefeller Center just a few blocks one way. Ready to see a show? Just walk a few blocks the other way. Central Park? You guessed it, not a bad walk away. So location wise I was in the perfect spot. There were some chain hotels – but they wouldn’t have been much cheaper if at all – and I would far rather stay somewhere unique.
Hotel wise? The staff was fantastic. Always checking on me when I was in the lobby. Did I need a cab? Helpful info? Just to chat? Need help getting into my room early because I’m exhausted and need to change? No problem. They were smiling and friendly from front desk to bell services to housekeepers passing in the hall. This hotel was super simple décor wise – it worked. I ended up being upgraded to one of their suites (SCORE!) and I was really happy with how this smaller hotel was so quiet and how peaceful my room was. If I get to return to Manhattan any time soon – I will definitely try to stay here again.
Oh because let me tell you at the end of this epic day of travel and adventure I was ready to crash and this place was perfection. I strongly recommend this hotel (and the Kimpton brand) to travelers.
My last trip today is to not underestimate humidity. Ladies, wear bike or compression shorts under your dresses/skirts. Beware arm chaffing from a purse strap. Drink a lot of water. I came home with blisters and rash despite all my prep – it really was hot and miserable outside. Ah, but so worth it.
I’ll be back next week with part 2 of this trip – including MoMA, my favorite breakfast, places still on my wish-list, the coolest store ever, and the dessert I dream about…