A self-guided tour of Lower Manhattan’s ice cream shops

During the dog days of summer in NYC, it feels like there’s a new ice cream shop opening every weekend, and they all have a gimmick: They roll their ice cream, they shave their ice cream, they serve their ice cream with marshmallows or gold flakes or potato chips. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and you can let that feeling drive you to the bodega for a classic pint of Ben & Jerry’s – or you can dive right into the world of New York’s boutique ice cream shops.

When Emmie and I realized our list of places to try was growing exponentially, we decided that the only way to make a dent was to visit more than one at a time. So on Sunday, we put on our loosest clothing, feasted on carbs in preparation (it soaks up the dairy, probably) and ventured out in the rain to five of the trendiest, most Instagram-able ice cream spots in Lower Manhattan. Here’s what we discovered.

Magnum bar at Magnum Store in Soho, New York City

Magnum NYC Store

In this beautiful space – it’s seriously so bright and classy – you can customize your own Magnum bar. For only $7, you get a chocolate or vanilla bar dipped in chocolate (dark, milk or white), sprinkled with three toppings and drizzled with more chocolate. And then you can blast it on social media using the decorated light boxes that are everywhere you turn. The Magnum Store knows what the people want.

I opted for a vanilla ice cream bar dipped in milk chocolate, covered in mint chocolate chips, mini marshmallows and gold flakes, and drizzled with white chocolate. In case you were wondering.

Strawberry balsamic ice cream at Morgenstern's, New York City

Morgenstern’s

Our next stop was perhaps our most traditional of the day. Rather than crazy concoctions and presentation, Morgenstern’s is known for their adventurous flavors. I had the strawberry balsamic (strawberry is my favorite flavor, but I knew I had to branch out a bit here) and Emmie had green tea pistachio – both of which we highly recommend!

Mango ice cream at 10Below, Lower East Side, New York CityMango ice cream at 10Below, Lower East Side, New York City

10Below (Lower East Side location)

If you’ve been on Instagram in the past few months, you know 10Below. Here, cream and toppings are transformed into ice cream before your very eyes, and then rolled and placed into cups, just waiting to be Instagrammed. It was fascinating to watch the employee beat nothing but cream, mango chunks and strawberries into what became a creamy and delicious treat. I can speak highly of the mango flavor, and Emmie loved the Oreos variety, although another friend mentioned she wasn’t a fan of the Oreos when she visited. This place is a MUST if novelty is at all important to you when picking an ice cream spot.

Shaved cream at Snowdays, East Village, New York City

Snowdays (East Village location)

Snowdays specializes in “shaved cream,” which as far as I can tell, is ice cream with the texture of shaved ice. The portions here are HUGE, so Emmie and I decided to split a regular (small isn’t an option!) We opted for NY cheesecake flavor with rainbow sprinkles and blueberries (because it seemed like a good time to start caring about our health). The shaved cream was delicious, but the absolute highlight for both of us was the spoons: They change color when they’re cold!

Soft serve and friends at Chloe's, Union Square, New York City

Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co.

I admit, this was a nostalgic choice for us rather than an adventurous one: Emmie and I met here in July 2014! This whole day was a celebration of our friendship and the shared love of frozen treats that brought us together. Chloe’s is one of my absolute favorite places, bias aside: It’s delicious AND healthy! I ended our adventure with strawberry soft serve – no toppings, because my stomach was DONE – and Emmie had mango with kiwis. Wonderful, as always.

Some notes:

  • This ended up being an excellent order to go in: Not only is it a relatively sensible walk (straight east, then straight north), but the ice cream really goes from heavy and extravagant to simple and light.
  • Sunday started out as a rainy day, so we got lucky and didn’t have to fight crowds. Some of these places – particularly Magnum and 10Below – are notorious for lines that wind around their blocks. We didn’t wait more than five minutes anywhere.
  • Eating ice cream all day makes one crave salt. We ended up at Friterie in the East Village shoving fries into our mouths, in between 10Below and Snowdays. Don’t judge.
  • We really, truly loved all of these spots! For more dessert and NYC recommendations, check out my delightful guide to New York City.

What’s your favorite ice cream spot in New York City?

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Getting to know New York’s beaches

When I moved to New York City from Phoenix two years ago, I thought one of the things I’d miss the most would be easy access to the Pacific Ocean. I was so used to packing my bags and jumping in the car on a whim every time I needed a beach vacation, and that became even easier when one of my best friends moved to Los Angeles after college. I thought having the beach a six-hour drive or 45-minute plane ride away was a luxury I was sacrificing in favor of my big-city dreams.

But as it turns out, New York has beaches. New York City even has beaches. And this summer in particular – my third on the east coast – I’ve become a bit of a beach bum and begun exploring what it turns out are the many, many beach options a day-trip’s distance from my Brooklyn apartment. Granted, they’re not Malibu – but they’re not bad.

Long Beach

Long Beach, New York

I think Long Beach is my favorite of the New York beaches I’ve explored so far. It’s easy to get to – right off the Long Island Railroad, which you can get at Penn Station or at any number of stations in Brooklyn and Queens. Long Beach is also incredibly well-kept. Its only downside as far as I can see is that there’s a fee. BUT – pro tip- if you buy a beach getaway package at your train station, you get a round-trip ticket and a beach pass for less than $25. Worth it.

Jones Beach

Jones Beach

I wanted to go to Jones Beach because I had heard it was a really nice beach – not as crowded or dirty as some of the options closer to the city. It turns out that the reason for that is it’s very difficult to get to! We took the Long Island Railroad again, to Freeport, and had to catch a bus there to the beach itself. And after all of that, the beach was still pretty crowded. We still had a great day, though – it IS a clean beach, and there are a lot of food options and indoor spaces you can hang out in if it starts to rain (speaking from experience here). And it’s free! All told, though, it’s just not worth the hassle, especially when you factor in the unpredictability of traffic.

The Rockaways

Rockaway BeachThe Rockaways are the furthest-out of the New York City beaches. You can get there on the subway, which is awesome because it’s no extra money if you have an unlimited metrocard. There are a ton of food options as well – I’ve had some of my favorite tacos in NYC out by the beach. The Rockaways are my beach of choice for solo beach trips, without a doubt – you just can’t beat the convenience and value!

Brighton Beach

Brighton Beach is in BROOKLYN, which blows my mind on a regular basis. It’s also accessible via subway, but since it’s off multiple lines and isn’t very far from Manhattan, it gets very crowded and VERY dirty. I haven’t ventured out there at all this season because I’m very much of the “once was enough” mindset on this one. Still, it’s ideal if you’re crunched for time – a full “beach experience” can be had in half a day, easily.

Coney Island

Coney IslandOK, I’ve never actually been to the beach at Coney Island (I walked out there just to take this photo), but I’ve spent enough time on the boardwalk to know that it’s not for me. It’s packed with tourists year-round, and is very much the east coast (and far inferior) Santa Monica. Hit it up if you want to eat at Nathan’s or ride the coaster, but if you want to lay out with a book – skip Coney Island.

Still on my list: The New York area has so many beaches and there are still so many I’m dying to visit! Next on my list are Jacob Riis Beach, Orchard Beach (this one’s in the BRONX of all places), and Sandy Hook in New Jersey. What are your favorite beaches in the area?

Catching up via Instagram: 7/17/2016

In between getting settled at a new job and taking a slew of day trips (to Philadelphia of course, and to the beach pretty much every weekend), I’ve also been having a lot of fun hanging around New York City! There are always a million options for things to do in the summer, and I’m trying to take advantage of as many of them as possible. Here’s a little glimpse at the start of the season…

Fourth of July at Rockaway Beach

For the Fourth of July, I booked it out to Rockaway Beach for the day with a big group of friends and an even bigger American flag to stage photos with. It was the very first holiday since I left the 24-hour news industry, and I loved being able to celebrate without half a mind on work.

Cookie from Momofuku Milk Bar, New York City

My friend Sara came to visit from Chicago, and somehow our casual lunch turned into a food tour of the East Village. This cookie is from Milk Bar, and we also ate at S’mac. Other NYC suggestions here! 

Freedom Tower at nightSunset from the Upper East Side, ManhattanMidtown ManhattanFreedom TowerWashington Square Park archRainy sunset in Crown Heights, BrooklynGrace Church, New York CityUnion Square, New York CitySunset over lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge

Sorry not sorry that I’ve been here over two years and I still stop to photograph pretty buildings and sunsets.

Cocktails at Please Don't Tell, New York City

When my friend Chelsea wanted to spontaneously drop into the speakeasy Please Don’t Tell, I balked – it has a reputation for being impossible to get into. But to my surprise, we didn’t wait long on a Friday evening and enjoyed some delicious cocktails!

New York Philharmonic at Central ParkSummer sunset at Central Park

One of my favorite summer adventures so far was going to see the New York Philharmonic play in Central Park. They do a summer park series every year and it was great to picnic with friends, watch the sunset, hear the music and even see fireworks after.

 

Four delightful highlights of Philadelphia

TRUTH TIME: I didn’t really like Philadelphia when I went down there for a day last month. I was all set to write a piece on how weird it is when I, a self-proclaimed City Girl, don’t like particular cities – and I still might. But for now, I want to inject a little bit of positivity into my memories and present four things that I found to be delightful, despite not loving Philly as a whole. Unsurprisingly, half of these things are food.

The history

Independence Hall, PhiladelphiaIndependence Hall, Philadelphia

The first thing I did after getting off the bus was tour Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Touristy to be sure, but it was so cool -at least to this history buff – to be standing where George Washington and his peers once stood and hashed out our freedom.

The architecture

Philadelphia City HallView from One Liberty Observatory Deck, Philadelphia

The observatory itself left much to be desired, but I can’t deny the beauty of Philadelphia’s architecture, both old and new.

Reading Terminal Market

Philly cheese steak at Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia

This food market – the oldest in the United States – is like Chelsea Market times 100. As soon as I walked in the door, my senses were assaulted and I was overwhelmed with choice for my lunch. I obviously settled on a Philly cheese steak (it was better than it looks!), but even then there were multiple booths to choose from! As a foodie, this place was heaven on earth – I even returned in the late afternoon to pick up donuts for the ride home.

Happy hour at Brü

Happy hour at Brü, Philadelphia

I passed by this bar in the afternoon. It was 95 degrees outside and I still had hours to kill before my bus, so I was drawn in by the happy hour specials and spent two hours at a table by myself, eating a pretzel and drinking local beers. I even pulled out my Kindle and did my community group reading for the week!

I do hope to return to Philly one day and do it “right” (I think some of my dislike stems from my own mistakes in planning). What should I see and do next time around?

Elfreth’s Alley, Philadelphia

If there’s one thing Philadelphia is known for, it’s history. The city played a crucial role in our nation’s early years, and when I popped down for a day last month, I was really excited as a history buff to learn as much as I could.

What I didn’t quite expect was that so many of the historical places are still open and thriving today! As much as I loved seeing things like Independence Hall (where the Declaration of Independence was signed) and the Liberty Bell, I also adored wandering Elfreth’s Alley, the USA’s oldest – and possibly cutest – residential street.

Red shutters in Elfreth's Alley, Philadelphia

Built in the early 1700s, Elfreth’s Alley occupies about one block in the Old City neighborhood and has been home to a diverse group of Americans over the centuries.

Elfreth's Alley, PhiladelphiaYellow shutters in Elfreth's Alley, PhiladelphiaAmerican window in Elfreth's Alley, Philadelphia

I was in town just a couple weeks before the Fourth of July, but I like to think this little street is this patriotic year-round.

Red door and shutters in Elfreth's Alley, PhiladelphiaElfreth's Alley, Philadelphia

Elfreth’s Alley has a museum which was closed, because I visited on a Monday (not my best planning job, I’ll admit). But one young (I assume…) resident had written up some facts about the street and displayed it in a  window!Purple shutters in Elfreth's Alley, PhiladelphiaLamppost in Elfreth's Alley, PhiladelphiaElfreth's Alley, Philadelphia

I sort of assumed it would be expensive to live here, but then I saw a woman about my age come out of one of the buildings and go about her day, so the dream is alive! Which house would you want to occupy? I’m calling dibs on the one with the yellow trim!