Travel Guide | New York City

Weekend Guide to New York City

Treat yourself with a quick weekend trip to New York City. Here’s where to go and what to eat.

You can never run out of things to do when you spend a summer weekend in the Big Apple. Between the touristy sightseeing, shopping districts to choose from, and national landmarks to visit, it’s likely that your two-day schedule will be overflowing with activity options. Last weekend I said goodbye to my home city of Chicago and took a gander at New York City life. Here’s how I spent my time:


Friday

10:00 PM-12:00 AM: After a long workday, I hopped on an evening flight from O’Hare International Airport to New York, arriving late at night to our hotel, The Plaza. Eager to eat as many New York meals as possible, we found a trendy Chinese restaurant called “TAO” a few blocks away from our hotel. Surrounded by a great dining atmosphere and delicious food, we were pleasantly surprised when the bill arrived, realizing our meal cost was equivalent our typical Chinese takeout orders at home.

door image12:00 AM-12:30 AM: The Plaza Hotel is known to be the location of the Eloise children’s book series and film, the story of a young little girl who lives in a penthouse at the top of the Plaza Hotel. Keeping with the theme, at The Plaza you can find various rooms covered in pink stripes—symbolizing the “Eloise Suite.” When booking rooms, guests have the option to stay in the Eloise Suite. During our first night at the hotel, we decided to go searching for an Eloise room—and found one on the 18th floor!

Saturday

10:00 AM-11:30 AM: The New York equivalent to Michigan Avenue, Fifth Avenue is lined with high fashion and mainstream shops. Walk a few blocks and you will also pass by Trump Tower, the Today Show Plaza and Rockefeller Center. This summer, right behind the Atlas statue at the Rockefeller Center you can see Split-Rocker, a flower covered dog-like sculpture created by Jeff Koons, which looms over the crowds. The presence of this new sculpture initially baffled crowds, creating debate over what it was supposed to be.

statue image

11:30 AM-12:30 PM: Once you have had enough of Fifth Avenue, make your way to the SOHO district by cab. From Manhattan to SOHO, the ride could take about 15 minutes, depending on traffic. After arriving in SOHO, my family and I spotted an old looking diner at a street corner called “Fanelli’s Café,” and we walked in for brunch.

diner image

12:30 PM-5:00 PM: The rest of the day my family and I spent our time roaming the streets of SOHO, a shopping hot spot of New York. Shopping highlights:

•  Free People – Typically, I would never step foot in a Free People store at home, primarily due to their pricey items. But after going into the Free People store in SOHO, I was in awe of all of the great (and reasonably priced!) jewelry and smaller accessories they had available.

•  Brandy Melville – Shopping in this store in New York was a nightmare because it was swarmed with young high-school aged girls browsing the racks. The waiting line for the dressing room and cashier took at least ten minutes each, and I realized that most of the clothes in the store are one-size-fits-all, and that I am better off ordering my Brandy Melville clothes online.

•  DASH – If you have ever caught at least 10 minutes of any Kardashian show, you should definitely take a quick stop in the DASH store. While the clothes prices could be a bit intimidating, there are great little key chains, pens, perfumes, lip-glosses and smaller accessories that make the best souvenirs.

•  Small boutiques – You can find random, petite boutiques everywhere in SOHO! They completely vary by target audience, but are a great stop if you are looking for a “unique” item you can’t find at home.

•  Birchbox store – Who knew that cosmetic and lifestyle website, birchbox.com had it’s own store? I sure didn’t! Stopping in the Birchbox flagship store was very exciting, especially due to the variety of products and beauty services they offered.

•  Street vendors – Stumble upon the right one, and you will be whipping out your wallet in an instant. As a little girl, I was a Barbie fanatic, and after finding a street vendor selling photographs of retro Barbie dolls hanging out on the beach, my inner child screamed in delight and I bought a small portrait to hang in my room. Many other street vendors my family and I found were selling jewelry, movie and television scripts, and knock-off designer purses.

barbie image

Mid-afternoon go-to snacks:

•  Chobani – Chobani yogurt is head quartered in New York and has the most fantastic yogurt store I have ever visited. At first I assumed it was a Chobani version of a yogurt bar, but instead, at Chobani you have a menu to order off from, offering sweet and savory yogurt options. While I was there, I stayed on the safe side and ordered myself a fruit and granola cup. Even though I got my yogurt to-go, it was so special to still receive it wrapped up nicely in a small glass container (which also makes the best souvenir and ice cream bowl for later!).

•  Macbar – If only I wasn’t so full from my Chobani yogurt snack, I would have stuffed my face with mac and cheese at Macbar. Macbar is an exclusive dining experience because it has a complete mac and cheese focus. I never realized how many dishes you could create with mac and cheese before I visited Macbar!

chobani image5:00 PM–7:00 PM: Exhausted from the afternoon, my family and I headed back to the hotel for a nap and shower before we were ready to start our evening festivities.

7:30 PM-10:00 PM: There is no way you can take a trip to New York without witnessing a Broadway musical. I used to be a Broadway fanatic and listening to show tunes is my guilty pleasure, so when my family and I went to go see Kinky Boots, 2013 Tony Award winner for best musical, I was thrilled. We were also lucky enough to witness Billy Porter, 2013 Tony Award winner for Best Actor for his role in Kinky Boots, play Lola/Simon.

10:00 PM-12:00 AM: Just like the lyrics to the song, “New York, New York,” the city truly never sleeps. After seeing the musical, my family and I walked into an Italian restaurant right off of Times Square. Unlike many Chicago restaurants I have visited, 10:00 PM in New York brings in the “early crowd.”

 

times square image
Sunday

10:30 AM-12:00 PM: Allow yourself to recuperate from the day before by sleeping to at least 10:00 AM. Once out of bed, walk downstairs in the hotel for a continental breakfast. It will be delicious and just the right amount of energy you will need to conquer the day!

12:00 PM-2:00 PM: On a beautiful summer day, there is nothing better than taking a stroll through Central Park. Whatever you do though, do not, I repeat not, visit the Central Park Zoo, unless your definition of a zoo is random birds and sad trapped penguins. As a big fan of zoos, especially of the larger animals such as giraffes, elephants, and lions, I was deeply disappointed.

intrepid image

2:30 PM-4:30 PM: The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space museum is probably one of the coolest museums I have ever visited. It is an old aircraft carrier and National Historic Landmark, and houses the space shuttle Enterprise that helped spark NASA America’s space shuttle program that retired in 2011.

4:30 PM-5:30 PM: With a flight to catch, my family and I had to cut our Sunday activities short. After visiting the museum we drove back to our hotel, bought some candy at FAO Schwartz, and took pictures of the famous Zoltar Fortune Teller Machine from the popular movie, “Big.” After that, we loaded up a cab to the airport and made our way back home to Chicago.

Looking back, one of my biggest regrets was not having the time to visit Ground Zero. I had been there before in 2003 when the site just looked like a giant construction zone. Although I was able to see the Freedom Tower easily from a distance, it would have been an experience to stand on the grounds again.

A weekend spent in New York is far from enough time to fully explore the city’s treasures, but it’s the best mini-vacation to come by when you have a work schedule to return to on the following Monday.

Hanna Handler

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign | 9 stories

Hanna is a junior student at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign studying communications, public relations, media sales, and art and design. She is a member of The Illinettes Dance Team, the official dance team of the school, the Vice President of Public Relations for Panhellenic Council, and the Vice President of PRSSA. She is also a sister of Delta Gamma. She will begin her first internship experience at Edelman this summer in Chicago and in the past year, has traveled to Mexico, Ireland, and Israel.


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