Featured

Top 10 things to do in Hawaii (Oahu, Maui and Kauai)

The older I get, the more I realize how precious TIME is. We only get 1,440 minutes each day and the choice to do what we love – something we’re passionate about. If you’re blessed enough to live an average lifespan of 79 years old, that’s 28,835 days of opportunity to create a life of purpose and one that you love living.
Facts above are why I live for travel moments like this one: Standing in front of Manawaiopuna Falls, the famous 400 foot waterfall in Jurassic Park, that can only be accessed by helicopter.The 1.5 hour helicopter ride with Island Helicopters in Kauai was one of my favorite experiences in my entire life and one of my top ten recommended activities to do in the Hawaiian Islands!

Read my full list below and get ready to have the time of your life!

1. Hike to the top of Diamond Head Volcano on Oahu

The view from the top of Diamond Head is my favorite view of Waikiki! The view alone is likely the reason why visiting Diamond Head National Park is the #1 rated thing to do in Honolulu on TripAdvisor.
Anyone in good health can compete this hike. It’s pretty easy and is a partially paved walkway with railings all the way to the top. Even if you walk slow, you should be able to make it to the top in 45 to 60 minutes or less as the trail is only 1.6 miles. Oh, and don’t worry – Diamond Head is an extinct volcano that erupted more than 150,000 years ago so there’s no need to worry about anything catastrophic happening to you during your visit!
My advice: Get there early to get a good parking spot! Otherwise, you might end up having to park in one of the lower lots which are further from the entrance.
Admission is $5 per vehicle to park in the main parking lot, plus $1 per person to go into the park. Treat yourself to a tropical smoothie or açaí bowl in the parking lot after you finish your hike!

More info here.

2. Visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial and USS Arizona on OahuImage from NPS.gov
The Pearl Harbor Memorial is one of the most visited places on the island of Oahu – and for good reason! There is so much history here as this historic landmark is iconic of the United States entering into World War II. Don’t be surprised if you get emotional during your visit here!
You can book a reservation online up to 60 days before your visit, however, it’s somewhat difficult to get tickets in advance. If you’re unable to reserve tickets on the website, arrive at Pearl Harbor early enough in the morning to get your tickets on a first come, first serve basis as 1,300 tickets are held each day for visitors.

There is no admission fee but note that the the memorial opens at 7am and closes at 5pm, 7 days a week. Check out more details here to make a reservation.

3. Book a Surf Lesson at Waikiki Beach on OahuOk, I know the idea if surfing can be intimidating if you’ve never done it before, but if there’s one place to surf only once in your life, it’s Waikiki! The water is so shallow for so long that you can literally ride a wave for a good 10-20 seconds.

I took an hour lesson for $99 with Dive Oahu because they were conveniently located on the beach. They offer group or private lessons with an instructor who will take you out and teach you how to get up on a wave, guaranteed!

The group lesson was with 4 other people and I got up on my board without falling off on my very first try! Don’t worry if you do fall off though..it doesn’t hurt and it’s really easy to get back up on your board. If I did it again I would book a private lesson next time for $149 as I didn’t have much luck catching additional waves after my first time. Totally worth it though! The photo above was taken from my GoPro mounted on the front of my surf board, but note that they take professional photos of you which you can purchase afterwards for an additional fee if you wish.
4. Take a movie set tour at Kualoa Ranch on OahuKualoa Ranch is a 4,000 private nature reserve located about 45-60 minutes from Waikiki and the drive alone is absolutely breath taking. A number of movies and TV shows have been filmed here and for good reason – the Kaaawa Valley surrounding it make it one of the most beautiful places on the planet! It’s most famous for part of the original Jurassic Park movie being filmed here, which has dubbed it ‘Jurassic Valley’ as well as the TV shows Hawai’i Five-O and Lost.
You can book several different movie set tours and they also offer other fun activities such a kayaking, biking, horseback riding and zip lining. Check out their full list of offerings here.
Tips: If you begin your trip to Oahu with staying in Waikiki for a few days, I would recommend heading up to the North shore and stopping here on your way! It’s basically half way between both locations. After your visit at Kualoa Ranch, drive up to the North shore to stay for a few nights. Also, be sure to rent a convertible to enjoy your drive around the island a little more than you would in a regular vehicle! Jeeps are also a great choice.
5. Swim with Sharks on the North Shore of OahuImage from IslandViewHawaii.com
This was at the top of my Oahu list, but the weather was unfortunate the day we were supposed to go. I guess that just means we will have to go back, right?! I’m dying to free drive with sharks!
After doing a ton of research, the top recommended company to dive with in my opinion is Island View Hawaii. Click here to check out their incredible adventures and book your free dive!
If you’re terrified of free diving and would rather be in a cage because you’re convinced a shark will eat you, check out North Shore Shark Adventures.
6. Enjoy a smoothie bowl, a shave ice and shrimp on the North Shore of Oahu (obviously not all at once!!)Favorite Smoothie Bowls: The Tropical Bowl from the a Sunrise Shake (They also have AMAZING bullet coffee here) or the Maui Sunrise from Banzai Bowls.
Favorite Shave Ice: Matsumoto is one of the most famous and iconic shave ice places in Hawaii because it’s been around since 1951!
My favorite is the Hawaiian bowl (pictured below) with pineapple, coconut and banana, but you can also mix and match your favorite flavors to create your own. They have over 40 flavors to choose from! Be sure to add a scoop of vanilla ice cream underneath and top it with condensed milk. (It might sound odd but I promise it’s 100% worth it!)
Tip: While you’re in Haleiwa, make sure to check out all of the cute boutiques and souvenir shops!

Favorite Shrimp: Garlic Butter Shrimp and Coconut Shrimp from Fumi’s.(My mouth is literally watering just thinking about it!) Need I say more??


7. Snorkel and/or Snuba dive at Molokini Crater on Maui

Molokini Crater is a crescent shaped, partially submerged Crater 2.5 miles off the coast of Maui. It’s home to about 250 marine species which makes it an excellent spot for snorkeling and snuba diving.

We toured with Pride of Maui which was a fantastic experience! I would highly recommend touring with them. The tour itself was $99 for 5 hours and included 2 stops – one at Molokini Crater and one at ‘Turtle Town’ to snorkel with sea turtles.

The boat provided sunscreen, snorkel gear, underwater photography and a water slide which was really great for kids! The tour also included breakfast (muffins and bagels), lunch (grilled burgers, veggie burgers, chips and cookies) as well as unlimited soft drinks and cocktails. Mai tai anyone??

If you’re super comfortable being in the water, I would totally recommend tacking on the optional $68 addition of snuba diving at Molokini Crater as it allows you to go as far down as 30 feet under water.
7.  Watch the sunrise at the top of Haleakala Volcano on Maui (and hike into the volcano if you’re up for an adventure!)Image from HaleakalaCrater.com

This was an experience I will never forget! YES, it will suck to wake up before 4AM to drive all the way to the top of a volcano in the dark, but I promise it’s worth it!! There’s nothing like watching a Hawaiian sunrise break through the clouds and feeling like you’re on top of the clouds. You’ll feel like you’re dreaming!

If you’re healthy enough and are up for an adventure, I highly recommend hiking into the volcano. It feels like you’re on Mars! And is totally unlike any other experience. We hiked the Sliding Sands Trail 30 minutes in and 50 minutes out.
My advice: Keep in mind that it will take you almost twice as long to go back up as it took to go in downhill. The hike back up is pretty steep. Make sure you bring PLENTY of water!!

Image from HawaiiMagazine.com

8. Complete the famous Road to Hana on Maui
If you go all the way to Maui, you must do the road to Hana! If you’re on the fence about it because it will take a full day, I would recommend at least doing half of a day OR staying overnight in Hana once you compete the trek. (Hana Hotel recommendation: Travaasa)

The drive is absolutely stunning and there are so many cool things to stop and see along the way like scenic ocean overlooks, lush waterfalls, a hidden bamboo forest and a black sand beach!

My advice: Download the GyPSy guide app on your phone BEFORE you start this drive and make sure you have a portable phone charger with you. Your phone GPS will track where you are and an automated guide will speak through your car stereo as you drive. It’s basically like having a tour guide in the car with you. You will learn about the history of Hawaii and the tour guide will tell you where to pull off the road whenever there’s something amazing to see!

WARNING: DO NOT GO OFF ROADING, even if you rent a 4 wheel drive car or Jeep. We spent half a morning helping 2 girls who got their car rental stuck in the mud in the middle of a sugar cane field the first time we did this drive. And they were lucky as hell we happened to come along because they had no cell service to call for help!
YOU WILL HAVE LIMITED OR ZERO CELL SERVICE THE ENTIRE DRIVE. Do not put yourself or the people you’re with at risk. And remember, the road to Hana is a journey, not just a destination!
9. Enjoy the thrill of a helicopter ride in Kauai to see the Napali coast
Ok my friends, if there is ONE thing you do in life, it’s gotta be a helicopter ride in Kauai!
I’ve jumped out of airplanes, I’ve been in hot air balloons and I’ve swam with sharks, but nothing will EVER come close to the thrill of landing in front of a 400 foot waterfall that can only be accessed by plane OR seeing the Napali coast with my own two eyes from the sky! Trust me when I say that YOU WILL NOT DIE, and YES, IT IS WORTH EVERY SINGLE PENNY!!
We flew with Island Helicopters and the experience blew my mind!

10. Take a boat ride along side the Napali coast in Kauai

Image from BestKauaiTours.com

We chose to see the coast by helicopter, but if you REALLY aren’t convinced a helicopter is the way to go or if you’re not comfortable, your other option is to see it by boat. Book your tour with Na Pali Coast Tours here.

I hope this blog post is helpful in planning your Hawaii trip and that you enjoy each of these activities and places as much as I do! I promise none of them will not disappoint.

Mahalo!
Featured

5 Day Travel Guide to Grand Cayman

I surprised my fiance with a 30th birthday trip to Grand Cayman for 5 days, which literally felt like 5 days in paradise! We were absolutely blown away by the beaches, the food, people and of course the ever famous String Ray City. Even after a month of vacationing there, I can’t stop thinking about going back for another visit. For me, Grand Cayman tied with Turks and Caicos as my #1 favorite island in the Caribbean!

GETTING THERE
Grand Cayman is the most developed island of all the Caribbean islands. It is a British Territory with a population of around 53,000 people and is the largest of the three Cayman Islands (Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman).
Situated 272 miles below Cuba, Grand Cayman is only an hour and a half flight from Miami. If you can visit sometime in January or February, you can usually find flights for under $500 roundtrip from anywhere in the US. We visited in mid January and a non-stop flight from New York City was only $350 roundtrip on JetBlue. Most people travel less after the Holidays so you can score cheap flights almost anywhere in the Caribbean during these months. We’ve made it an annual tradition to spend a week in the Caribbean this time of year because it’s so affordable and because you can’t beat spending a week in 75 degree weather when it’s 30 degrees in New York City!

WHERE TO STAY
The main beach on Grand Cayman is Seven Mile Beach. Most of the resorts located here are pretty expensive, but worth the money if you’re looking to lounge on the beach all day. When we travel, we typically stay in an air bnb because we spend most of our time out exploring and therefore, don’t feel that resorts are worth the expense. At the end of the day, it’s just a place to sleep! I booked an affordable air bnb in South Sound which was a 5 to 10 minute drive from Seven Mile Beach about 70% less in price than the resorts located on Seven Mile Beach. The cheapest hotel I could find on Seven Mile was around $350 after taxes and resort fees vs. our $110 per night air bnb.

I like a good mix of relaxing beach days and adventurous days when I travel anywhere, so we opted into renting a car while visiting to explore different areas of the island. You will not need a car if you plan to stay at a resort as many places are walkable on Seven Mile Beach and most resorts have fantastic bars and restaurants. However, I highly recommend a car if you plan on exploring different beaches and are looking to snorkel or do other activities around the island.
Grand Cayman itself is only 22 miles long and 8 miles wide so you can get from one end to the other in about an hour with no traffic. It’s about a 33 mile drive from the Northwest area of the island to Rum Point, the Northeast end of the island.
Side note: If you rent a car, keep in mind that you will drive on the LEFT side of the road and that you must yield to oncoming cars at round abouts. Most Caribbean islands have round abouts instead of traffic lights!

Here is my 5 day trip itinerary for Grand Cayman with a good mix of relaxing beach time, snorkeling, animal adventures, bars and restaurant recommendations. Note that we didn’t have enough time to go everywhere on my list so I included a top rated restaurant list at the bottom of this itinerary as well as other island activities. I guess that just means I’ll have to plan another visit to Grand Cayman soon!

DAY 1: EXPLORE GEORGETOWN
Our nonstop flight from NYC was about 4 hours and we landed in Grand Cayman around 12:30pm, picked up our rental car, and dropped by The George Town Yacht Club for a quick bite to eat.
I recommend starting your trip here because it’s right down the street from the airport and you will most likely be starving when you arrive! The George Town Yacht Club features casual outdoor dining by the dock where you can watch boats come in and out of the club. Sip on delicious tropical cocktails while you enjoy fresh seafood and a beautiful view. I would definitely recommend the rum punch (my Caribbean go to), the conch fritters, coconut shrimp, fish tacos and fresh Mahi Mahi.
IMG_7613IMG_7618After your meal, check into your hotel or air bnb, get settled and get ready to explore Georgetown!
Tip: If you’re like me and want to stock up on snacks for your trip, drop by Foster’s Food Fair, located right by the airport before you head to wherever you’re staying.

Georgetown is the capital of Grand Cayman and is a major cruise ship port. It boasts a plethora of coffee shops, bars, restaurants and souvenir shops. You’ll want to explore this area of the island in the afternoon as most cruise ships arrive early in the morning and the area is overwhelmed with tourists. Go in the afternoon around 2pm or 3pm as most cruise ship passengers are heading back to their boat by then. It’s pretty deserted after 5pm so would not recommend this area for dinner while you’re visiting.

Grab a delicious cup of coffee from South West Collective. We liked this place so much that we came back every single morning for the balance of our trip! Not only do they have delicious handcrafted coconut milk lattes, but they also serve all natural food and fresh smoothie bowls. In addition, the view from the coffee bar is pretty unbelievable. You can see all of the cruise ships parked out in the water.
After grabbing a coffee to go, walk around and explore the many souvenir and gifts shops near the cruise port and take a photo with the “Welcome to the Cayman Islands” sign. Be sure to also pick up a Tortuga Rum Cake which Grand Cayman is famous for!
IMG_8040IMG_7971IMG_8055
After exploring downtown Georgetown, head to Pure Art Gallery, one of the top ranked gift shops in Grand Cayman on Trip Advisor. This unique, colorful gift shop features art, gifts and accessories that are handmade by local artisans on the island! You can find jewelry, housewares, home decor, and more. Be sure to take a photo out front by their cute swing and decorated store front!
IMG_9093IMG_8724IMG_0039Following your visit to Pure Art Gallery, enjoy a refreshing sunset cocktail at Grand Ole House just down the road. This is one of the oldest establishments in Grand Cayman and features premium waterfront dining, an award winning wine list and live music. You can also have a romantic seaside dinner here following cocktails if you wish!
Unfortunately Grand Ole House was closed for a private event when we we arrived so we decided to grab drinks at Lone Star Bar & Grill before dinner instead. This outdoor sports bar was the perfect location because it was walkable to our dinner reservation at top rated Italian restaurant, Ragazzi.
Dinner at Ragazzi was one of my favorite meals I’ve ever had! You absolutely must book book a dinner reservation here during your visit to Grand Cayman.
Ragazzi is an Italian restaurant featuring wood fired pizzas, house made pastas, an excellent wine list and delicious desserts. We ordered the Lobster Penne which had chunks of fresh lobster and the creamiest, most delicious roasted garlic cream sauce. We also ordered the Frutti Di Mare pizza with lobster, scallops, shrimp and mussels, tomato and basil an it was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had in my life! If seafood isn’t your thing, they have a ton of meat and vegetarian pizza and pasta options as well.
A huge plus for me was that they had gluten free pasta and pizza dough.
IMG_7652.jpg

DAY 2: RELAX ON SEVEN MILE BEACH
You deserve a relaxing beach day! On your way up to Seven Mile Beach, start your morning with breakfast at the Marriott hotel. Anchor & Den is a top rated restaurant on the island to have brunch and features eclectic cocktails and the ultimate comfort food menu. Enjoy breakfast classics like eggs benedict, pancakes and french toast with a modern twist.
The Marriott is located on Seven Mile Beach, but the best area to park closest to beach access is a little but further North of the Marriott, across the street from the Westin. Typically you can find parking on the street just about anywhere, but there is beach access located at Governors Beach. Make sure to pack your beach towels and plenty of sunscreen!IMG_8864IMG_7852After a long day in the sun, enjoy a beautiful evening with sunset cocktails and dinner at Camana Bay, one of the island’s newest shopping developments with plenty of bar and restaurant options to choose from. Enjoy outdoor happy hour at Karoo followed by dinner at Mizu Asian Restaurant or Agua.
If you’re looking to splurge on a special occasion or love a fantastic 5 star dinner experience, I totally recommend Upstairs at Kaibo. Upstairs has been Grand Cayman’s #1 rated restaurant from 2012 to 2018, featuring artisan cocktails and superb dishes, including locally line caught fish and fine Caribbean ingredients. Inside, the Rare Rum Bar houses Grand Cayman’s widest selection of rums.
We took a 6pm ferry from Camana Bay to Kaibo, located on the opposite end of the island and enjoyed the 6 course tasting menu, which was excellent and I highly recommend! We like to eat dinner pretty late, but if I could do it over again, I’d add the wine pairing and book a 6pm dinner reservation here to watch the sunset and enjoy pre-dinner cocktails downstairs at Kaibo’s Beach Bar.
Ferry tickets are $20 CI roundtrip. View the ferry schedule and book your reservation in advance HERE.
Note that the last ferry back to Camana Bay from Kaibo is at 9:30pm.

If you have a major sweet tooth after dinner like me, enjoy freshly made gelato at Gelato and Co. or house made desserts at Agua once you arrive back at Camana Bay on the ferry. In addition, if you want a late night spot for drinks and dancing, check out Royal Palms Beach Club, a local favorite located across the street from Camana Bay. We liked this place so much that we went back later in the week to watch the sunset on the beach. Have you ever seen a more beautiful sunset than this one?!
warm sunsetIMG_0195

DAY 3: CHECK OUT WEST BAY & SNORKEL
Start your morning with a delicious smoothie bowl for breakfast at Island Naturals and head up to West Bay to check out the Cayman Turtle Centre, the island’s only turtle sanctuary. Here you will find a giant green turtle breeding pond (where some turtles weigh up to 500 pounds!) and you may be lucky enough to spot a female turtle’s nest.
There are turtle touch tanks where you can take a photo holding a green turtle, a butterfly garden, the island’s largest swimming pool and more. There are several great activities here, especially if you are traveling with children.

After a few hours of exploring at the turtle sanctuary, enjoy a casual, waterfront lunch at The Cracked Conch and a delicious cocktail from Macabuca Tiki Bar before heading to snorkel at Cemetery Beach, the best snorkel spot in West Bay.
We chose to snorkel at Smith’s Cove in South Sound, closer to where we were staying which is another great snorkel area to spot tropical fish and jump off of the rocks into the water. Spotts Beach is also noted as a top snorkeling destination on the island because you can often swim with turtles.
IMG_4504.JPG
smith coveIMG_9031
End your day with sunset cocktails and dinner at Catch, one of Grand Cayman’s best waterside seafood restaurants. I highly recommend their Mahi Mahi Schnitzel, another one of my favorite meals while one the island!

DAY 4: SWIM WITH STRING RAYS AT STRING RAY CITY
Grand Cayman is famous for String Ray City, a giant sand bar where you can swim with and feed string rays! Start your day bright and early with a String Ray City & Star Fish Point snorkeling tour. We toured with Aquarius Sea Tours and our 4 hour tour started promptly at 9:30am, leaving from the Grand Cayman Yacht Club. The tour company provided snorkel gear and was $55 USD per person. The other note worthy String Ray City tour company on the island is Red Sail Sports which also offers water sport rentals.

The first part of our tour was 45 minutes of snorkeling out on the reef where the water was about 15 feet deep. We saw plenty of tropical, colorful fish along with a couple of small string rays.
IMG_8948IMG_8954IMG_8952Our second stop was Star Fish Point where our tour guide parked the boat and gathered several star fish for us to take photos with in the shallow water on the beach. It was pretty cool to hold a star fish for the first time! They were about the size of my hands. Star Fish Point is where star fish gather to procreate. The water temperature and climate are perfect for them to make babies here. During your visit at Star Fish Point, remember that star fish are animals and absolutely need to stay in the water to survive. Grand Cayman actually charges a $5,000 fine if you remove them from the water!
IMG_9059
After 45 minutes at Star Fish Point, it was time for the main event: String Ray City. Our tour guide brought us to a large sandbar with the clearest, most beautiful blue water I’ve ever seen in the Caribbean! As soon as we jumped into the water, our boat captain pulled out fish bait and lured a friendly female string ray over that he has ‘known’ for almost 40 years. She was beautiful and BIG! Shortly after, we were surrounded by 30 to 40 string rays of all sizes which was kind of overwhelming at first. Many of them swim straight at you which made me a bit uncomfortable, but they will swim right past you and are harmless. Just be prepared that they will rub up against you! We each got to pet and feed the the string rays straight out of our hands which was pretty cool. This was definitely one of my top favorite life experiences with animals and I highly recommend you do it during your visit to Grand Cayman!
sting ray city
Travel tip: Water is provided on the boat but make sure you bring a beach towel, sunscreen and plenty of snacks!

After 4 hours of sun and snorkeling, you’ll likely be starving. Opt for a casual lunch at a local favorite: Pepper’s Bar & Grill. This was easily another one of my favorite meals on the island, so much so that I actually placed a pick up order on our way to the airport before leaving the island so I could enjoy it one last time on the plane!
Pepper’s is famous for their authentic Caribbean baby back ribs and jerk chicken. They also have burgers, grilled fish and my personal favorite, loaded disco fries!
IMG_8853After being in the sun and water most of the day, we opted into catching the sunset at Royal Palms Beach Club and relaxing instead of making a dinner reservation. The food here was just as great as the view!
IMG_8985

DAY 5: EXPLORE RUM POINT
Spend your last day in Grand Cayman at Rum Point. Known for white sandy beaches, picturesque hammocks and delicious food, you can sip on rum punch and snack on conch fritters, all while enjoying the view!
Be sure to also add a mudslide to your list of items to oder at Shipwreck Bar & Grill. This is where the original mudslide was invented! After exploring Rum Point, we decided to check out Kaibo’s Beach Bar down the street before heading back to South Sound.
rum point entranceIMG_9024IMG_8486IMG_9018 3FullSizeRenderIMG_8509Snapseed 4Reserve a table at The Brassiere or dinner, another one of the top rated restaurants on the island with a very unique and delicious dining experience. The restaurant has it’s own fishing boat and serves fresh daily caught local fish along with fresh ingredients from the restaurant garden. Don’t skip out on dessert!

All and all, Grand Cayman is a romantic destination for couples and would be a great honeymoon spot. It’s also very family friendly and has a ton of activities for children and adults. I can’t wait to go back!

Here are some additional top rated activities, restaurants and bars I’m saving for my next trip to Grand Cayman that I would recommend checking out. Happy trip planning!

ADDITIONAL ISLAND ACTIVITIES
Queen Elizabeth Botanical Park (Open from 9am to 4:30pm, $10 for Adults & Children 6-12 $5, Under 5 FREE)
Distillery Tour at Cayman Spirits Company in Georgetown (Tours are at 11am, 1pm & 3pm daily, but closed on Saturdays)
Helicopter Island Tour with Cayman Helicopter Company
Crystal Caves Tour (on the way to Rum Point)

ADDITIONAL NOTEWORTHY LUNCH SPOTS
Sunshine Grill
Vivo
Veranda
Sunday Brunch at Ave (Kimpton Seafire Resort)

ADDITIONAL NOTEWORTHY RESTAURANTS FOR DINNER
Luca
Calypso Grill
Blue Cilanto
The Warf
Morgan’s Seafood Restaurant
Bacaro

NOTEWORTHY COCKTAIL BARS
Bar Jack (Beach Bar at the Ritz)
Beach Terrace (Beach Bar at the Westin)
Ave at the Kimpton Seafire Resort
Anchor & Den at the Westin

Featured

Top Things to do in New York City during Christmas

There is no place better to celebrate the holiday season than New York City! With countless annual holiday traditions and decked out places to shop, dine and drink, NYC is the place to be to get you in the Christmas spirit.

The Annual Christmas Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center
Kick off the holiday season in New York City at the world’s most famous Christmas tree lighting! When most people think about Christmas in NYC, one of the first things they picture is the famous, giant Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.
The annual Christmas tree lighting is usually the last week in November or the first week in December, is completely free and is open to the public on a come, first-serve basis. Every year, thousands of people come to witness the live broadcast and musical guests while millions of people around the country watch it on TV. Check out the website here for details on when and where the annual Christmas tree lighting occurs.

Did you know that before the first ever formal Christmas tree was placed in Rockefeller Center, it served as a gathering place for the holiday season where construction workers would come to collect their paychecks during the Great Depression? The annual tradition of placing a tree in Rockefeller Center to kick off the Christmas season started shortly after in 1933!

The Christmas Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes
The Christmas Spectacular is by far my favorite holiday activity in NYC and in my opinion is just as great as any show on Broadway! It should definitely be at the top of your to-do list during your visit.
The show is 90 minutes long and features music and dancing with 140 talented performers and REAL camels!
The first ever Christmas Spectacular performance was on December 21st, 1931 and is one of the most popular holiday traditions in New York City today. Purchase your tickets here.

Ice skating in New York City
There are multiple places you can go ice skating in New York City during the Christmas season. Choosing the location really just depends on your personal preference. Here are my top 3 recommendations:
1. Wollman Rink in Central Park
Wollman Rink first opened in 1949 and is a popular location to go ice skating for both New Yorkers and tourists today. Located in the heart of Central Park, this ice skating rink is open from October through April and features spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline. You can find pricing and rink hours here.
After working up an appetite from ice skating, I would recommend brunch or lunch nearby at either Sarabeth’s or Rue 57.
2. The Rink at  Rockefeller Center
Located in midtown Manhattan, The Rink at Rockefeller Center is steps away from Times Square and Bryant Park. In my opinion, the ice skating here is the best location in New York City because you can take iconic photos with the famous Christmas tree and you’re surrounded by some of the best shopping and dining in the city.
You can find more information including pricing and rink hours here.
After working up an appetite from ice skating, I would recommend brunch or lunch nearby at either Rock Center Cafe or Del Frisco’s Grill.
3. The Rink at Bryant Park
Open from late October to early March, The Rink in Bryant Park is the only free admission ice rink in New York City, but you do have to pay for your skate rental.
You can find more information including pricing and rink hours here.
After working up an appetite from ice skating, I would recommend brunch or lunch nearby at Bryant Park Grill.

Holiday shopping in New York City
There are a plethora of shopping destinations New York City during the holidays, but here are my top suggestions if you’re looking to be selective!
1. 5th Avenue
Start at 5th Avenue and 57th Street, working your way South. High end stores like Tiffany and Co., Bergdorf Goodman and Cartier have some of my favorite holiday decor, both inside their stores and in their front windows. Make sure to stop by Saint Patrick’s Cathedral for beautiful architecture and history, Rockefeller Center for photos with the giant Christmas tree and Sak’s 5th Avenue for their annual Christmas light show which is projected onto the front of the store.
If you’re looking to fuel up before your shopping journey on 5th Avenue, check out the Food Court at the famous Plaza Hotel between 58th and 59th street, located on the lower level of the hotel.
2. The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park
Every holiday season, Bryant Park sets up an open-air shopping experience with 170 boutiques that offer unique gifts and local food. You can find everything from winter accessories, Christmas ornaments, skincare products, kitchen seasonings and art to specialty coffee drinks and sweet treats.
If you get hangry (like me) after a lot of holiday shopping, I would suggest grabbing brunch or lunch nearby at Bryant Park Grill.
3. Chelsea Market
Chelsea Market is one of my favorite year round shopping destinations in New York City and is decked out in Christmas decor during the holiday season. It’s home to many different unique shops, boutiques, bakeries and restaurants.
This is a great spot to find a wide variety of unique gifts with a few of my favorites being Artists and Fleas, Sarabeth’s Bakery and Anthropologie. You can check out the full list of stores and hours here. My favorite brunch and lunch spot to check out after all your shopping nearby is Westville.
4. Macy’s at 34th street
The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the official kick off to the Christmas season.
If you don’t feel like doing Christmas shopping here, I would highly recommend making your way to the 9th floor to check out Macy’s Holiday Lane Christmas Shop. There are fantastic options for Holiday home decor, themed Christmas ornaments and giftable holiday sweets. My favorite thing to do is pick out a New York City themed Christmas ornament each year! Be sure to take the elevator up because I can guarantee you’ll get lost trying to navigate your way via the store escalators.
If you’re shopping with little ones, they can meet Santa and his elfs at Santa Land located on the 8th floor. Book your spot in line here.
5. Smorgasurg in Brooklyn
If you’re willing to make the trek, Smorgasburg in Brooklyn is another indoor unique, fun spot to explore with Holiday gifts and sweet treats. It’s a shopping experience like no other! Come with an empty stomach and leave with your hands full of goodies and gifts. You can check out more information and hours here.

Enjoy a Holiday Hot chocolate
There’s nothing better than warming up with a delicious hot chocolate after a long day of shopping in the city. My favorite hot chocolate is from Maison Kayser and La Maison Du Chocolat. Both places also offer specialty coffees, tea, delicious pastries and chocolates that are to die for!

End your night with a Christmas cocktail
Starting after Thanksgiving, most bars decorate for the holidays, but a handful are famous for their extravagant decorations in New York City.
The most famous you’ve probably seen on instagram is Rolf’s, a German restaurant that’s known for every single inch of their restaurant and bar being covered in Christmas decor! If you don’t book a reservation before October, you’ll have to wait in line outside in the cold and if even if you arrive by 10am any day of the week, you’re still pretty much guaranteed to wait. Rolf’s was great before it became insta-famous but now you’re pretty much crammed into the bar and it can take 15 minutes yminimum to grab an $18 cocktail.
if you don’t feel like waiting, two of my favorite bars down the street that decorate for Christmas include Lillie’s Victorian Establishment and Pete’s Tavern. Both have loads of Christmas decorations, plenty of space at the bar and cocktails that are just as good as Rolf’s, plus you won’t have to wait in the cold!

Happy Holidays!

Colorado Springs in 48 Hours

Mountain life is not for me…or so I thought! If I could have it my way, I would live by or on the beach 365 days a year.

When I arrived at Denver airport after a 4 hour flight from New York City, I wasn’t thrilled by the idea of Colorado. The only other time I’ve ever visited was a weekend in Denver nearly 10 years prior for a friend’s 21st birthday, during the height of the Winter. I’m the furthest thing from a “snow” person and don’t care for skiing, so you can imagine why I was underwhelmed.

Despite that, we arrived around midnight and stayed in Denver overnight since it was so late. I would highly suggest doing the same thing if you’re too tired to drive! We rented a car from the Denver airport and drove directly to Colorado Springs the next morning, which is about an hour and 15 minutes from Denver without traffic.
The wedding we went to was on a Sunday night so we flew in late on a Thursday and did a lot of exploring within the 48 hours leading up to the wedding. Based on our time in the Springs, here is my compiled list of the must see and do activities you should most definitely add to your list if you’re limited to 48 hours. Note that these are Summer recommendations ONLY as my time here was in late August. The weather is very pleasant during this time of year and was a perfect 75-80 degrees every day.

DAY 1
Visit Garden of the Gods Park

image 5Garden of the Gods Park should be your first stop in Colorado Springs. The park is located at the bottom of Pike’s Peak mountain and does not require any hiking to see the beautiful natural rock formations. There are multiple parking lots in various areas of the park, but I would suggest parking in the main lot. It’s free parking, free entry and there are public bathrooms that are pretty clean if you have to go!

You can walk through the park at your leisure and take as many photos as you’d like. There are a couple of areas where you can climb up on the rocks and others where you cannot as noted by many signs. You can hike, horseback ride and rock climb in the park and you might even get lucky enough to see some wild deer like we did!

Take a photo with Balanced Rock
balanced rock3.jpgWhen you go to exit Garden of the Gods Park, follow the signs to Balanced Rock. You will definitely know when you see it!
This stunning natural beauty is 290 million years old and weights 1.4 million pounds. There is parking right in front where you can get out and climb up the rock. Be sure to take photo with it to send to your friends! This rock is giant and a photo with it will showcase the rock’s massive scale.
balanced rock4.jpg

Spent time at the Air Force Academy
Open to the public and completely free, all you need to enter the park is a valid ID before driving through the security entrance. Unfortunately we were pressed for time so we only have a quick 15 minutes to drive up to Cadet Chapel and explore the inside. The campus is absolutely beautiful, even if you decide to just drive around it for a bit.

DAY 2
Drive up to the summit of Pike’s Peak

pikes peak.jpg
Start your day with a drive up of Pike’s Peak, the highest peak within the front range of the Rocky Mountains. Pike’s Peak is 14,000 feet above sea level and is 1 of 54 massive mountains in the state of Colorado. Make sure to have a FULL tank of gas before you go up the mountain and note that it costs $15 per person to drive up.
In all honestly, I’m a little afraid of heights so be prepared that it could be a little scary. There are not guardrails all the way around up so be sure you pay attention to the roads and signs.
Fun fact: When you get to the part of the mountain where the treelike ends (the timber line) you are 2/3rds of the way up the mountain. The trees immediately stop due to the lack of oxygen at the top of the mountain due to the elevation height!

When we visited, there was quite bit of construction at the top of the mountain because they are building a new visitor center. In addition, the cog railway no longer runs to the top of the mountain but was pretty cool to take photos with.

A little advice and a couple of important tips:
1. Make sure you purchase donuts in the gift shop! These special donuts are only made at the top of Pike’s Peak because the dough can only rise around 14,000 feet elevation at the top of the mountain.
2. Make sure you bring a jacket as it can be pretty chilly at the top, even during the Summer. Luckily it was a perfect 70 degrees at the top of the mountain when we visited but can drop into 30s and 40s depending on what time of day you visit, especially in the morning.
3. Wear sneakers. I made the mistake of wearing sandals and had a hard time taking photos close to the edge of the mountain in fear of falling. My sandal had no grip so I slid a couple of times and decided it was best to just take photos further away. (probably a smart choice anyways!)

Hike up the Manitou Spring InclineThis hike is not for the faint of heart. Make sure you are in excellent health before committing to going all the way up. I had been a part of an intense work out class before doing this hike and it was still extremely hard. If you have knee, back or health problems in general, I would strongly advise you not do this hike!
The incline is 2,744 steps and you gain 2,000 feet of elevation within a mile which makes it that much more difficult to breathe. It takes the average person 2 hours just to go up which means it also takes 2 hours to get down, should you choose to go down the way you came up. The other option of going down is a 4 mile hike down Barr Trail which I would highly suggest doing because it’s absolutely beautiful and the views are stunning. It’s also a lot easier than going down the 2,744 stairs you just climbed!Make sure you well hydrated before you leave the parking lot and bring plenty of water with you to drink while you climb. In all reality, this hike is equivalent to being on a stair master for however long it takes you to complete it! FEEL THE BURN!!
Also note that parking is $10 per vehicle and that it’s only good for 4 hours. There is a gift and coffee shop by the parking lot with restrooms which I would suggest using before you start your hike.

Hike Barr Trail
If hiking up 2,744 stairs is too intimidating or challenging for you, but you still want a great hike with stunning mountain views, Barr Trail is for you. There is a separate parking lot just passed the incline lot where you can begin your hike. Go as far up as you’d like (or can) but just know the trail ends after 13 miles at the summit of Pike’s Peak!

Explore Downtown Manitou Springs
Manitou Springs is the cutest little town! There are a ton of restaurants, coffee shops, gift boutiques and ice cream shops. Parking is pretty cheap and it’s best to park and walk around. I would highly suggest dropping by Good Karma for a coffee (their nutty Carmel latte is incredible!) and/or dropping by Border Burger’s for a tasty hamburger.

Disneyland: 10 Things to Know Before You Go

Disneyland: The happiest place one earth where all your dreams come true!
Even at 30 years old, everything about Disneyland still gets me excited and every time I visit my family in Los Angeles, you can bet I’ll be planning a day trip to the park!

For those of you who have never been to Disneyland, there are many things you should know before you go to make your day at the park as easy and as memorable as possible. This blog post dedicated to a multiple of tips and tricks you can utilize to get into the park as quickly as possible, minimize ride wait times and ride every single ride in the park!
Disneyland Tips to Know Before you go California Adventure Travel Guide to Los Angeles California
1. Plan to go on an Off Peak Day
Not only is it cheaper, but the crowds are also minimal! For ages 10+, a one day off peak “value” ticket is $97, a “regular” ticket is $117 and a “peak” ticket is $135.
View the pricing schedule by day here.

2. Buy your tickets online
This one is obvious, but you’d be you’d be surprised how many people don’t buy their tickets beforehand and end up wasting 10 to 15 in line after they go through security to purchase them.
You can buy your tickets in advance on the Disneyland website here or from the Disneyland app (#3 below). If you work at a corporate company, you can usually get a 15% discount through Plum Benefits as long as you sign up in advance and purchase your tickets 48 hours or more beforehand!

3.  Download the Disneyland app BEFORE you go
Not only does the Disneyland app have an interactive map that tracks your location within the park, but you can save a ton of time by tracking ride wait times and you can also see when rides are closed for maintenance in advance so you don’t waste your time walking over to them.
There is also useful information including where to find the nearest restrooms and restaurants. The best part is that you can view all the food menus in the park and order food while you’re waiting in line for a ride or walking over to pick your food up!
Disneyland Tips to Know Before you go California Adventure Travel Guide to Los Angeles California Sleeping Beauty Castle
4. Plan to arrive an hour before the park opens
I know it might sound crazy, but by the time you arrive, purchase your parking ticket (which is $20 per car), actually park your car and take the drop-off shuttle to the entrance of the park, you’re already looking at about 20 minutes. You will also have to go through security and bag check so getting to the actual entrance can take a full 30 to 45 minutes from the time you drive into the parking lot. The other plus to getting there early is that your car will be parked closest to the park which will save you time when you leave (after you’re exhausted from walking 5 or more miles the entire day!)

5. Hit all the big rides first & map out a route BEFORE you go
As soon as you enter Disneyland, I would suggest hitting all the most popular rides first when less people are in the park. My plan of attack is usually to hit Tomorrowland first to ride Space Mountain and Star Tours. Then I would suggest popping directly over to Adventureland to knock out Indiana Jones, the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion and Splash Mountain, which are all in the same area. Afterwards, head to Frontierland to ride Big Thunder Mountain and over to the Matterhorn. That completes most of the most popular rides with the longest wait times within the first few hours! If any of the lines are already long, snag a Fast Pass! (See #6 for more info)

If you plan to do California Adventure (and I highly suggest that you do) I would head over there from 2pm to 7pm. You can typically knock out the entire park within a 5 hour time period. Don’t forget to utilize your fast pass! I usually use it for the Cars ride as it’s usually no less than a 2 hour wait.
Disneyland Tips to Know Before you go California Adventure Travel Guide to Los Angeles California Mickey Ferris wheel
6. Utilize Fast Pass
Fast pass is great to use between 11am and 5pm when the park is at peak capacity. It can sometimes save you and your group from having to wait in a 2 hour line. I suggest using it on rides with an hour and a half wait or more. You will scan your Disneyland ticket and get a print out showing the ride name and next time slot that you can come back to ride without waiting in line. The time slot is typically 2 hours AFTER you receive your ticket and it holds your spot for an hour. For example, if you get a fast pass at 11am, you will be able to return to that same ride 2 hours later between 1pm and 2pm and enter the Fast Pass line without having to wait in the normal line. It’s almost like being in two places at once!
You will usually get 2 fast passes a day, but 3 if you’re lucky and can time it right!

7. Eat at off peak times
If you can try to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at off peak times, it will maximize your ride time due to less people and less waiting when everyone else is eating in the park. This would mean eating breakfast at or after 9am, eating lunch before 11am or after 2pm and eating dinner at around 5pm or after 8pm. Less people at the restaurants at the same time means more ride time for you!

8. Use the Single Rider Line
If lines are more than an hour and a half long and you don’t feel like waiting, but you REALLY want to ride, you can wait in what is called the single rider line. You will be separated from your group (aka you will each have to ride solo) and will be utilized as a fill in for open seats not being utilized by groups riding the ride together that actually waited in the regular long line. It’s an easy way to save 2 hours or wait time!
Note that it could still be a 15 minute wait in the single rider line on a ride that’s a 2 hour long wait for the regular line.
Disneyland Tips to Know Before you go California Adventure Travel Guide to Los Angeles California Sleeping Beauty Castle
9. Skip the 8pm Fireworks
If you don’t care about the fireworks or the shows, take advantage of the rides while the 8pm fireworks are going off. Majority of everyone in the park will be watching them so if there’s a ride you’ve been dying to ride all day that has had a consist long wait, now would be the time to ride it!

10. WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES!
I can’t stress this tip enough. I would suggest no sandals and only comfortable sneakers. I tracked how many miles I walked last time I went and it was a total 7 miles! Trust me, you will thank me later!].
Disneyland Tips to Know Before you go California Adventure Travel Guide to Los Angeles California Sleeping Beauty Castle

Travel Guide to Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles is one of my favorite travel destinations in the US! The weather is perfect year round and there’s so much to do and see. I grew up visiting family in Huntington Beach and lived in Santa Monica for a year and a half. Based on the time I spent living there and visiting, I complied a list of the top places to see and best activities during your trip to Los Angeles. I would highly recommend spending at least a full day in each place!

SANTA MONICA
Santa Monica Pier California Travel Guide to Los AngelesSanta Monica Pier Ferris wheel Pacific Park California Travel Guide to Los AngelesSanta Monica Pier Ferris wheel Pacific Park California
Things to Do in Santa Monica
Take a stroll down the iconic Santa Monica Pier.
Explore Pacific Park (located on the Santa Monica Pier). Ride roller coasters and the famous Pacific Wheel Ferris Wheel. It only costs $10 per person and provides amazing views of the beach and the ocean!
Visit the Santa Monica Aquarium at the Pier.
Rent a bike to ride down the beach.
Play Beach Volleyball.
Shop the Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade.
Hike in Topanga State Park. One of my favorite hiking trails is Temescal Canyon Trail.

Where to Eat in Santa Monica
Brunch: The Penthouse Restaurant at the top of The Huntley Hotel (One of the most incredible ocean views in Santa Monica!)
Brunch: Blue Daisy Cafe (American)
Bougie Brunch with delicious cocktails: The Bungalow.
Donuts: DKs Donuts.
Lunch or Dinner: The Misfit (American).
Lunch or Dinner: Pono Burger (Burgers and Shakes) or Umami Burger (Burgers and the most delicious truffle fries EVER!)
Lunch or Dinner: Blue Plate Taco (Mexican) Their margaritas are amazing!
Dinner: Sugarfish (Sushi). They don’t take reservations but it’s the best sushi on the planet! Get their early and be prepared to wait anywhere between 1 to 3 hours.
Dinner: Tar & Roses (Wine and cheese bar).
Cocktails: Bar Chloe or The Bungalow.
Rooftop Cocktails: ONYX Rooftop Bar at the top of the The Shangri-La Hotel.
Wine Bar: Sonoma Wine Garden.

MALIBU
Malibu California Travel Guide to Los AngelesMalibu Wines Safari Travel Guide to Los Angeles Stanley the GiraffeMalibu Wines Safari Travel Guide to Los Angeles Saddle Rock Winery VW Volkswagon Van

Things to Do in Malibu
Visit the Malibu pier.
Go shopping at the Malibu Country Mart.
Book a Malibu Wine Safari. You can sample wines from Malibu Wines and feed animals including Stanley the giraffe, zebras, llamas and more!
Go Wine Tasting at Malibu Wines.
Explore El Matador State Beach.
Hike Corral Canyon.

Where to Eat in Malibu
Brunch: Malibu Farm Pier Cafe (American). Located on the Malibu pier with beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean.
Brunch: Malibu Cafe (American) Large beautiful, outdoor space with cocktails, delicious food and games.
Lunch or Dinner: Duke’s (Hawaiian) My favorite restaurant in all of SoCal. I highly recommend their fish tacos, Mai Tais and famous Hula pie! Their patio is beautiful at sunset.
Dinner: Mastro’s Ocean Club (Seafood). Book a reservation a month in advance and definitely order the lobster mashed potatoes!
Dinner: Nobu (Sushi). Book a reservation a month out.

VENICE BEACH
Venice Beach Boardwalk Travel Guide to Los Angeles California
Things to Do in Venice Beach
Explore Abbott Kinney Blvd. with tons of shopping, restaurants and bars.
Take a photo in front of the famous Venice sign.
Rent a bike to ride down the beach.
Play beach volleyball.
Check out Muscle Beach.
Explore the Venice Canals.
Discover murals by local artists.

Where to Eat in Venice Beach
Brunch or Lunch: The Butchers Daughter (Vegan & Vegetarian)
Brunch: Eggslut (American). The best breakfast sandwiches you’ll ever have in your life!
Rooftop Cocktails: High Rooftop Lounge at Hotel Erwin.

HUNTINGTON BEACH (SURF CITY USA)
Huntington Beach Pier Surf City USA Travel Guide to Los Angeles CaliforniaHuntington Beach Pier Surf City USA Dog Beach Travel Guide to Los Angeles CaliforniaHuntington Beach Pier Surf City USA Banzai Bowl Travel Guide to Los Angeles California

Things to Do in Huntington Beach
Walk to the end of the Huntington Beach Pier and order a milkshake at Ruby’s Diner.
Check out Pacific City for shopping, restaurants and an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean.
Visit Huntington Dog Beach, especially if you’re traveling with your furry BFF!
Enjoy a smoothie bowl from Banzai Bowls.
Watch the surfers below the pier. Hopefully you’ll be visiting when there’s a surf competition going on!

Where to Eat in Huntington Beach
Lunch: Ruby’s Diner (Burgers and shakes).
Lunch or Dinner: Duke’s (Hawaiian) My favorite restaurant in all of SoCal. I highly recommend their fish tacos, Mai Tais and famous Hula pie!
Lunch or Dinner: Fred’s (Mexican).
Dinner: Sushi on Fire.
Lunch or Dinner: Aloha Grill (Hawaiian). Make sure you try one of their famous Rainbow cocktails! Their Kalua pork tacos are delicious.

LAGUNA BEACHLaguna Beach Travel Guide to Los Angeles CaliforniaLaguna Beach The Montage Pool Travel Guide to Los Angeles California
Things to do in Laguna Beach

Enjoy a beach day!
Hike ‘Top of the World’.
Drive through Laguna Canyon.

Where to Eat in Laguna Beach
Lunch or Dinner: The Beachcomber Cafe (On the beach at Crystal Cove. Perfect for cocktails at sunset!)
Dinner: Javier’s (Upscale Mexican and the best margaritas!)
Cocktails with a view: The Montage Hotel Bar

BALBOA ISLAND & NEWPORT BEACH
Things to do
Shop at cute boutiques on Balboa.
Rent an electric boat to ride around the marina. BYOB and enjoy the sunset!
Ride the Balboa Ferris Wheel.
Order a famous Balboa Bar (Chocolate covered frozen banana)
Where to Eat
Lunch or Dinner: Newport Landing (Seafood).
Lunch or Dinner: Woody’s Warf (Seafood).

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES
Hollywood Sign Hike Travel Guide Los Angeles CaliforniaCalifornia Donuts Travel Guide Los Angeles California
Visit the famous Chinease Theater & check out The Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Buy a box of donuts from California Donuts. They have a famous panda and unicorn donut. (Enough said!)
Hike to the Hollywood Sign.
Visit the Griffith Observatory.
Go to an Angels or Dodgers baseball game.

OTHER THINGS TO DO IN LOS ANGELES
Go shopping Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive!

DISNEYLAND
Disneyland California Adventure Travel Guide to Los Angeles CaliforniaDisneyland California Adventure Travel Guide to Los Angeles California

Blog post coming soon on tips and tricks to make your tip to Disneyland as easy as possibly and memorable. Make sure to explore Downtown Disney for shopping and dining if you have time!

Top 15 Things to do & see in New York City

You’ve got your first trip EVER planned to visit New York City?? Wondering what you should see and do but have no idea where to start? I know…you want to do and see it all!
And you’ve come to the right place.

Even if this is your SECOND trip to New York City, I bet you haven’t been to all 15 of these places on my list, but I promise to give you good enough reasons why you should visit them, some of which may have never even heard of!

Lets get started…

1) Times Square
This one is obvious! The Mecca of the Big Apple and usually the very first place on everyone’s list when they come to visit. Not only is Times Square extremely iconic to New York City, but did you know the lights of NYC can be seen from outer space? An estimated 26 million people visit Times Square per year and a whopping 50,000 people walk through it a day!
Popular restaurants nearby I would recommend include Carmine’s (Italian Family Style), Ellen’s Stardust Diner (which includes singing and dancing entertainment during your meal) and John’s Pizzeria. My favorite spot for cocktails is Lillie’s which is right around the corner from Times Square or if you’d rather enjoy an awesome view, visit The View Bar at the Marriott Marquis Hotel.

2) The Empire State Building
YES, you should totally go up to the top! The views of Manhattan are worth every penny and minute of wait time. Tickets are $37 for Adults, $31 for children and $35 for seniors and hours are from 8am to 2am. Yes, I said 2am! Nighttime and daytime are just as beautiful, but I would recommend sunset so you can experience both. Purchase your tickets here.

3) Central Park
You’d be surprised how many people don’t make it to Central Park on their first visit to New York City. Obviously Spring through Fall are ideal seasons to spend a day in the park, but Winter is beautiful as well, especially when it snows! Central Park is pretty massive, spanning 2 and a half by 3 miles long. I would recommend spending an entire day in the park if your visit to NYC allows. Here is my one day guide to NYC’s Central Park. Make sure you dine at or have a drink at Tavern on the Green or The Loeb Boathouse which are two of Central Park’s most popular restaurants.

4) The Statue of Liberty
There are so many ways to see Lady Liberty! You can pay $31 for a 1 hour boat tour OR you can ride the Staten Island Ferry for free which passes by the Statue of Liberty close enough for a photo op. If you have time, I would also suggest spending time on Ellis Island to explore the National Museum of Immigration and the history of New York City.

5) Top of the Rock & Rockefeller Center
Located in Rockefeller Center, Top of the Rock is my favorite view of the New York City skyline because you get to experience 360 views of surrounding skyscrapers from see-through glass panels. It’s the best view of Manhattan in my opinion! Tickets are $36 for adults, $30 for children and $32 for seniors. Purchase your tickets here.
If you’re visiting during the Winter, I would highly recommend going to see the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular Show at Radio City Music Hall! It will get you in the Christmas Spirit, as will the famous annual Christmas tree in Rockafeller Center.

6) 5th Avenue
Shop til you drop! There is no other shopping area like 5th avenue. From luxury stores like Tiffany & Co, Louis Vuitton, Bergdorf Goodman to stores such as H&M, Zara and Forever21, there is shopping for everyone. Seriously, you could spend a whole day exploring! If your starving after your shopping, drop by one of my favorite brunch/lunch spots nearby, Sarabeth’s or Rue 57. Make sure you also check out the famous Plaza Hotel and if you’re willing to splurge, enjoy tea time at The Palm Court restaurant, located right passed the lobby.

7) The World Trade Center Memorial & One World Observatory
Both a somber and humbling experience, the World Trade Center Memorial is beautiful and honors the lives of those lost on September 11th, 2001. The memorial is open to the public and hours are from 7:30am to 9pm daily.
Afterwards, head up to the top of One World Observatory for amazing views of the city. Purchase your tickets for $34 here. You can also check out the new Oculus shopping center at street level below.
If you’re visiting during the Spring or Summer, pop down the street to Loopy Doopy Rooftop Bar, located at the Conrad Hotel and enjoy stunning views of the Hudson River as well as delicious boozy popsicle cocktails! Another great option for food and drinks nearby is Pier A Harbor House, with more spectacular views of the Hudson River and delicious lobster rolls.

8) Broadway Show
There are so many Broadway shows to choose from! My personal favorites include Wicked, Aladdin and The Lion King. For older audiences or if you’re going to see a show with your parents I would recommend Phantom of the Opera or Jersey Boys.

9) The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET)
The most popular museum in Manhattan is the MET because it showcases 5,000 years worth of art! You can explore paintings, sculptures and artifacts from before our time. Hours are Sunday through Thursday 10am to 5:30pm and Friday to Saturday 10am to 9pm. NY residents can pay whatever they wish, but tickets for out-of-town visitors are $25 for adults, $17 for seniors, $12 for students and free for children. Purchase your tickets here.

10) The American Museum of Natural History
This is my favorite museum in NYC! My favorite parts of the museum include the Dinosaur Exhibit, Butterfly Conservatory and Planetarium Space Show – all of which I highly recommend you check out. Tickets vary depending on which parts of the museum you wish to see and you can purchase them here. Museum hours from 10am to 6pm daily.
Looking for some awesome grub after a full day at the museum? Head down the street to Maison Pickle (my favorite brunch spot in NYC) for delicious southern comfort food or Shake Shack for the best burgers and shakes. If you’re looking for some sweet treats, dive into ice cream, cookies and famous ‘crack pie’ at Milk Bar nearby.

11) The High Line
The High Line is a 1.5 mile elevated park that is now walkable to the public but used to be part of the New York City Railroad. The high line runs from 14th street up to 34th and during the Spring and Summer you can grab coffee, lunch or ice cream on your walk through the park. If you choose to begin or end your walk near 14th street, I would suggest dining at Bubby’s High Line for incredible breakfast and lunch options. They also have awesome ice cream at their Ample Hills Creamy next door! Murray’s Bagels is also nearby which is my favorite bagels in the city.
Craving sweets? Drop by Billy’s Bakery. Their Banana Bread Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting are to die for!

12) Chelsea Market
Chelsea Market is a 13,000 square foot food hall and shopping center located in the heart of NYC’s well-known neighborhood, Chelsea. I always take friends here who are visiting for a local shopping and dining experience and they always love it because it has such a unique character! Check out all shopping and dining options at Chelsea Market here. You can get anything and everything from ramen and seafood to donuts and ice cream.
If you can make a reservation far enough in advance, I would suggest dining at Buddakan for dinner. It’s one of NYC’s top rated restaurants.

13) The Brooklyn Bridge
During your NYC visit, you should absolutely walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Not only are there fantastic photo ops and gorgeous views of the city, but there is a plethora of things to do and see on the other side of the bridge in Dumbo. Brooklyn Bridge Park has tons of shopping, bars and restaurants. Enjoy a cocktail on the rooftop of the One Hotel, grab a pizza from the original Grimaldi’s Pizzeria or have a margarita and Mexican food at one of my favorite spots next-door, Gran Electrica.

14) Smorgasburg
Located in Brooklyn, Smorgasburg is the biggest open air market in the US! With over 100 street vendors, you can enjoy delicious bites and shop from small designers and businesses. On average, 20 to 30 thousand people flock to Brooklyn each weekend for Smorgasburg, which is located in Williamsburg on Saturdays and Prospect Park on Sundays from 11am to 6pm both days. It’s totally worth the trek from Manhattan!

15) Circle Line Boat Tour
This was the first ever touristy thing I ever did in New York. Enjoy the breeze and beautiful views of the New York City skyline while your tour guide educates you on the history of NYC and each neighborhood. You’ll learn so many things you never knew about the city! There are a multitude of cruises to choose from and pricing ranges from $31 to $43. Purchase your tickets here.