This may sound a bit cliché, but New York is truly a big ol' melting pot. You'll meet people from diverse backgrounds (and all walks of life), and be able to try cuisines from a mixture of various cultures. Being born and raised in New York, I've come to realize the major role this city (and my friends + family) has played in shaping me into the stand-up citizen I am today. Now that I'm residing in the suburbs of Pennsylvania, life is going at a much slower pace. From time to time, I miss the people, places, and things I used to do while living in Queens and Brooklyn for almost 25 years of my life, and I wanted to share some of those favorites with you.

Superthumb Superthumb Superthumb food Superthumb Superthumb

Places to Eat

For Breakfast/Brunch/Lunch/Dinner

Café Habana - Folks line up at this NoLita mainstay for its grilled corn and other well-priced Cuban-Mexican eats. I can totally go for their Mexican style grilled corn and the portobello y guacamole burger with fresh hand-cut fries.

The Bagel Store - Home of the rainbow bagels that broke the internet. All of the bagels are hand-rolled and the bagel art is on point. Their french toast cragle (croissant + bagel hybrid) with cinnamon toast crunch cream cheese is to die for!

Cha Chan Tang - Bustling, cash-only Hong Kong-style diner dishing up a mix of Chinese standards and American fare. Do yourself a favor and order the fried buns with condensed milk and a special Hong Kong style iced milk tea (it comes in a mini champagne-esque bottle).

Max Brenner Chocolate Bar & Restaurant - This place is a dream that encourages you to experience chocolate with all of your senses. Real-life Wonka factory vibes. My usual is "The Best B.A.L.T." sandwich, it's served with waffle fries (dusted with chili and cocoa powder) and slices of pickles on the side. It's a sin to leave without ordering dessert and a chocolatey drink, I highly recommend the classic European fondue for two experience and a classic milk chocolate hot cocoa in a hug mug.

Dodge the long lines at Joe's Shanghai and head on over to either Shanghai Asian Manor or Shanghai Cafe. Both are just as good, if not even better than Joe's, especially for soup dumplings!

North River Lobster Company - Part fish shack, part boat with seafood & cocktails that sails around the Hudson a few times a day.

Hudson's at Pier 81 - Surf ’n’ turf, tapas & cocktails served on a multi-level yacht with a large deck and 2 daily sailings.

An endless curated list of even more eateries for you to check out: La Chacra, Pietro NoLita, Sweet Chick NYC, Yum Yum Too, While We Were Young NYC, Totto Ramen, Shake Shack, Percy's Pizza, Sadelle's, The Pokespot, Union Fare Gastrohall and Bakery, TAO, 99 Cents Fresh Pizza (gotta grab a $1 NY slice), The Thirsty Koala, Petite Abeille, NoMo Kitchen, Qi, Dos Caminos, Maharlika, Buddakan, Russ & Daughters Café, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, theBoil, Sea Restaurant, Midwinter Kitchen, Delicatessen (best truffle fries on earth!), Milk & Roses, Thai Villa, Hundred Acres, Pig and Khao, Set L.E.S, 99 Favor Taste St. Marks, Pio Pio, Legend Bar and Restaurant, Boka, Southern Hospitality BBQ, Miss Lily's Jamaican style Diner & Juice Bar, Palma, Yuca Bar, Mad for Chicken, Maison May Dekalb, Freemans, La Lanterna di Vittorio, Rosemary's, Burger & Lobster

Superthumb Superthumb Superthumb ice cream

For Coffees/Teas/Juices/Desserts

Spot Dessert Bar - It's like no other, home to a whole new world of delicious flavors and tastes. Traditional confections are re-imagined and spiked with a healthy dose of Asian flare.

Maman NYC - Beautiful café and bakery that serves family-inspired recipes from the south of france and north america, bringing to life both savory and sweet childhood favorites. Homemade Oreo cookies, Nutella beignets, and lavender hot chocolate in the prettiest to-go cups - simply devine! To top it all off, the aesthetic is totally my jam.

Sweet Moments - Bringing the sweetest moments to all. They're known for mountain high Bingsoos (shaved ice desserts) in many different choices of flavors, cute and tasty bottle cakes, in-house made cookies and pastries, and can't take my eyes off of it - kind of latte art.

Cafe Henrie - Quirky art lines this hip, offbeat cafe serving espresso, salads, açai bowls & pastries.

Cha Cha Matcha - Inspired by the people, passion, and warmth of Uji, Japan. This is a matcha shop that embodies both the New York sensibility and the stateliness of Eastern tea practices. Armed with inspo and tea leaves straight from Uji.

More cafés, tea houses, and juice bars: Chillhouse, Spreadhouse Cafe, Two Hands Cafe, by CHLOE., Saturday's Surf NYC Coffee Bar, Happy Bones NYC, Ladurée, Alice's Tea Cup, Boba Guys, Tea and Milk NY, Vivi Bubble Tea LES, Coco Fresh Tea & Juice, Jamba Juice, Pressed Juicery, Juice Generation

For Ice Cream & Popsicles

Melt Bakery, Milk & Cream Cereal Bar, OddFellows Ice Cream Co., Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream, Amorino Gelato, WOWFULLS, Snowdays, Ample Hills Creamery, Taiyaki NYC, Chloe's Soft Serve Fruit Co., - 321 ° Ice Cream Shop, Magnum, 10Below Ice Cream, Popbar, New Territories NY, Soft Swerve, Wu Kong NY, Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, Eggloo, Juicy Spot Cafe, il laboratorio del gelato

For Milkshakes & Decadent Baked Goods

Bibble & Sip, Dough Doughnuts, Georgetown Cupcakes, Doughnuttery, Dominique Ansel Bakery (the original cronuts), Ladurée, Serendipity 3, The French Workshop, Black Tap NYC (crazy good milkshakes), Gelso & Grand (smash cannolis!)

For Candy & Sweet Treats

The Sweet Life, Sugar Factory American Brasserie, Economy Candy, Stick With Me, The Sweet Shop NYC, Sockerbit, Stache of Goods NYC (custom macarons, pick-up orders only, location coming soon): https://www.instagram.com/stacheofgoods/

For Street Food & Dining Halls

Smorgasburg, Eataly, Canal Street Market, Dekalb Market Food Hall, Chelsea Market, Grand Central, Long Island Flea & Food, Turnstyle Underground Market, Kitchen 21 Coney Island Cafe, South Street Seaport

For Speakeasies, Tapas, & Bars (obvi, only if you're 21+)

Beauty & Essex, Sunshine Laundromat & Pinball, Refinery Rooftop, Oscar Wilde Bar, The Loopy Doopy Rooftop Bar, Gallow Green, 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar, The Mermaid Inn, The John Dory Oyster Bar, Sel Rrose, Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar

Superthumb Superthumb Superthumb Superthumb Superthumb Superthumb

Things to Do

For A Leisurely Stroll

The High Line, Fort Tryon Park (The Cloisters), Prospect Park, Brooklyn Botanical Garden, Alley Pond Park, The Bushwick Collective, Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, Hudson River Park, Coney Art Walls, Pelham Bay Park, Governer's Island, Riverside Park, Brooklyn's McCarren Park

For Fun

Jane's Carousel, Madison Square Garden/Barclays Center (Sporting Events/Concerts), The Spot Karaoke Lounge NYC, Ripley's Believe It Or Not, Dreamland Roller Disco, Chelsea Piers, SLATE NY, Brooklyn Bowl, Dave & Buster's Times Square, Madame Tussauds, Bowlmor Times Square

For Relaxation

Chillhouse, Valley NYC, Aire Ancient Baths Spa, Paley Park (a hidden oasis in midtown), Fort Tilden Beach, Jacob Riis Park Beach, Jones Beach, Long Beach, Rockaway Beach and Boardwalk, Robert Moses State Park, Coney Island Beach

Spend a few days in Montauk/Fire Island/Hamptons/The Rockaways/Catskills/Hudson Valley/Woodstock/Adirondack Mountains/Finger Lakes/Lake George/Seneca Lake/Lake Placid (Adirondack area)/Thousand Islands/Roosevelt Island

For Shopping

Local boutiques in SoHo, Marché Maman, South Street Seaport, Brookfield Place, thrift shops in Williamsburg, The Shops at Columbus Circle, Brooklyn Flea Market, Herald Square, Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, Long Island Flea & Food, Westfield World Trade Center

new york, city, and ideas image

Partake in some typical touristy things. My friends and I actually enjoy pretending to be tourists in our own city:

1. Catch a Broadway Show in Times Square
2. Take the Staten Island Ferry towards the breathtaking Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden
3. Grab breakfast and eat it in front of Tiffany & Co. on Fifth Avenue. (Feel free to claim you've had Breakfast at Tiffany's afterwards!)
4. Visit Ellis Island & The Statue of Liberty
5. Take a stroll on the Brooklyn Bridge/Williamsburg Bridge
6. Mingle with wildlife at the Bronx Zoo
7. Soak in our history at The Metropolitan Museum of Art or American Museum of Natural History
8. Explore the giant maze inside of Central Park
9. Pay tribute to those who have lost their lives on September 11th
10. Get on the amusement park rides, play street fair games, and grab a bite on Coney Island's boardwalk
11. Appreciate the architecture of the Oculus structure at the World Trade Center transportation hub
12. Experience the old stomping grounds of the 1964 New York World's Fair at Flushing Meadows Park
13. Visit the Empire State Building, Top of The Rock, or the One World Observatory
14. During the wintertime, watch the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree light up in the evening and go ice skating at The Rink
15. Before sunrise or sunset, head to the Hoboken Waterfront Walkway in New Jersey (a short ride away from NY) for the most gorgeous view of the NYC skyline

For your convenience, here are some rather popular neighborhoods in New York that are often filled with hip crowds: Tribeca, NoLita, SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown, Lower East Side (LES), Alphabet City, St. Mark's Place, NoHo, West Village, East Village, Greenwich Village, Koreantown, Meatpacking District, Chelsea, Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, Battery Park City, Governer's Island, DUMBO, Williamsburg, Coney Island, Astoria, Long Island City, Randall's Island, Fort Greene

Add a few of these places, neighborhoods, and things into your itinerary for the next trip to New York. Trust me - you won't regret it. Tell them who sent you! ;)

Superthumb balloons

P.S. I will always have a special place in my heart for this amazing city. Putting this local travel guide together made me really miss the five boroughs. There's so much more for me to explore in my hometown.

Until next time,
Lillian