Currently: August 2016

 

San Francisco-style building on the Lower East Side, New York City

I love this building on the Lower East Side – it reminds me of San Francisco!

It’s August! I’m actually really excited for this month – some people I love are celebrating birthdays, the summer excitement is still in the air but the promise of cooler weather is looming, and I have some exciting travels coming up – more exciting than New Jersey and Long Island, I promise. Here’s what I’ve been up to for the last 30 days!

Reading: I finished Americanah this morning, and I loved it, but was super disappointed in the ending. I have a couple “easy” reads lined up next.

Wearing: It’s been too hot and humid lately to wear anything but shorts (or skirts, to the office) and cotton tops.

Buying: Just ice cream, mostly. (See: Way too hot outside. I’ve definitely become a hardened New Yorker!)

Listening to: I recently discovered the Best of Friends podcast and have been listening to old episodes on my commutes, especially when election coverage sends me running from NPR (I love NPR and their coverage, but sometimes you just need some humor in your day!)

Eating: Lots and lots of salads and fruit. I was REALLY proud of this fruit tray I put together for the opening ceremonies!

Watching: Mostly re-watching old shows for the summer (FriendsGrey’s Anatomy, Parks and Rec), and getting SO excited for the Gilmore Girls revival in November!

Planning: My sister is doing most of the planning for this, but I’m going to visit her in Texas NEXT week! And then I’m heading upstate for Labor Day – but again, letting my friends do the planning. I think I wore myself out planning trips earlier in the year!

Excited for: TONS of travel, my best friend’s birthday this week, seeing my sister for the first time in over a year, picnics, my best friend from college visiting in October, etc etc etc

Books read: 25/52

Trips taken: 12/12 – That’s right, I’M FINISHED! But not really. I can’t wait to see how high this number gets before January!

And how is YOUR August going?

World Trade Center, New York City, at sunset

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?

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?

NYC from the water

As much as I love seeing cities from above, for my friend Emmie’s birthday this summer we decided to see our city from another perspective: The water! Three of us grabbed tickets to Circle Line Sightseeing’s Harbor Lights Cruise and set off on the most exciting after-work adventure any of us had had in a while.

As soon as we got going and were allowed to roam about, we made a beeline for the front of the boat so we could stand outside. (Pro tip: wear water proof shoes. Trust me.) Inside, there were food and drinks and guides pointing out the landmarks, but we were perfectly content out in the elements, providing our own commentary to bewildered tourists.

The cruise took us from 42nd Street on the Hudson river, down south of Manhattan, and up the East River to Long Island City before looping back. On the way back we sailed out to the Statue of Liberty, perfectly timed at sunset!

Midtown and the Financial District

Midtown and the Financial District

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Had literally never seen the downtown skyline from this angle before!

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Bridges: The Brooklyn Bridge in the foreground; the Manhattan Bridge behind

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The Williamsburg Bridge with midtown behind

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Midtown Manhattan, including the Empire State Building

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Long Island City, Queens, as the boat was turning around

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Sailing under the Manhattan Bridge, with views of the Brooklyn Bridge, downtown Manhattan and a stunning sunset

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Downtown Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge

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The Statue of Liberty

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Downtown Manhattan

If you want to go, and I highly suggest you do, you can purchase tickets here, or at Pier 83 (walk west on 42nd Street until you get to the Hudson River). Our tickets were $36 each, which we agreed was great value for a sail that lasted about two hours, but there are less expensive options available. I also have to give a shoutout to Circle Line’s customer service: We originally booked for a day that turned out to be rainy, and although the cruise still went on, we were allowed to swap our tickets out later in the week, no questions asked.

This cruise is my favorite thing I’ve done in New York so far (and I realize I use the term “favorite” a lot, but it’s true!) I already can’t wait to do it again!

The Getty Museum

In all my trips to Los Angeles, the J. Paul Getty Museum never even crossed my radar. This time around, we only really ventured out there because it was a good middway point between Kathleen’s neighborhood, and where my aunt and uncle live. So we drove out to Brentwood on a Saturday, and can I just say – I was blown away. The architecture, the gardens, the views – I could have an entire day of fun here without even setting foot in the museum itself. The best part is that it’s free, aside from the $15 parking fee – completely worth it, especially if you carpool!

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The architecture couldn’t have been more stunning on a sunny summer day.

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The garden isn’t at its best this year, thanks to the infamous California drought, but I was impressed even by its design. I can’t wait to go back in the future to see it fully in bloom!

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The sweeping views of Los Angeles rival those at the Griffith Observatory (which I visited back in my pre-blogging days). It was a little smoggy so we couldn’t see out to the ocean, but it was still great to look out.

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As for the museum itself, we saw some pretty cool exhibits, including some ancient bedding that child Leigh Anne would have loved. For the most part, though, the best parts of the Getty were outside.

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Special thanks to this guy and his wife for always making time for their nieces.

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And thank YOU, Los Angeles, for yet another incredible visit. I assure you, I’ll always be back.