Things to do in New York

Taking the Train to NYC

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I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t been to NYC in almost two years. With all the crazy that’s gone on since my last real visit – two hurricanes, getting married, buying a house, dealing with a deranged stalker – it’s no wonder I haven’t had time to visit my old stomping grounds in the Big Apple. The good news is that my feelings for New York are as schmoopy as ever, something confirmed the moment I stepped onto the train platform and felt the same butterflies I got the first time I visited as a kid.

But I’m jumping ahead of myself!

Girls Getaway in New York City with Amtrak

A few days before the 2nd Travel Blogger Summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship was set to take place in Manhattan, I met up with my pal Keryn in Washington, D.C. to work on a few blogging & writing projects. We needed some dedicated time to focus before our girls getaway in New York because when it comes to the city, the last thing I want to do is hole up in a hotel room and work on a to do list while everyone else frolics outside. So we partnered with Amtrak Virginia to take the train from Alexandria to Penn Station, using it as our cozy and convenient mobile office en route.

Girls Getaway in New York City with Amtrak

I get more work done on trains than anywhere else. There’s something energizing about chugging along the Eastern Seaboard in business class, bypassing all the folks sitting in traffic on I-95 and tapping out presentations and projects … all the while feasting on the adorable picnic Keryn packed for us to share. With WiFi included, plugs for our electronics and lots of legroom, we smashed through our to-do list and arrived in just a few short hours. With no tolls or traffic jams and no need to deal with the hassle of New York’s airports, I have to say I found myself wondering why I don’t travel by train more often?! I really had no idea it was so effortless to get to the middle of NYC.

She dreamed, lulled by the train, of getting off at heaven or New York City, whichever she got to first. -Mary Lee Settle

Girls Getaway in New York City with Amtrak

Once we arrived at newly renovated, so-shiny-as-to-be-unrecognizable Penn Station, we packed the laptops away and let the girls getaway in New York City begin. Living here for five years wasn’t enough to satisfy my love of this town, but it did give me a solid list of habits I like to stick to on subsequent visits.

Here’s my time-tested formula for a girls getaway in New York City:

blowout | pedicure | sushi | boutique | broadway

Girls Getaway in New York City with Amtrak

Girls Getaway in New York City with Amtrak

Girls Getaway in New York City with Amtrak

Girls Getaway in New York City with Amtrak

Get Blowouts at DryBar

I don’t get as many blowouts as I would like when I’m home in Jacksonville. TBH, it feels like a waste of money when I work from home most days and the only person who sees me is Rick. (He’s not the kind of guy who notices a professional blowout vs. unwashed, unbrushed hair). So I save my Jacksonville blowouts for special occasions. In NYC though? It’s basically the price of admission. We made our way straight to Drybar where I got a Cosmo-Tai with Southern Comfort roots. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, get thee to a Drybar post-haste to find out. I had the best blowout of my life that night and was sure wishing some Travel Channel producer would see us strutting to our next stop… but no luck!

Find Cheap Pedicures

The only thing you can get cheaper in NYC than anywhere else is a pedicure. I don’t know why that is, because heaven knows everything else is 10 times as pricy as it is in the rest of the U.S., but I always save my toes and head to any hole-in-the-wall nail salon upon arrival. It takes me right back to the days when I lived here and it was my No. 1 indulgence on my itty-bitty publicist budget.

Devour Expensive Food

With gorgeous hair goals and polished nails achieved, we rushed to our dinner reservations at BondST. Yes, you can eat cheaply and deliciously from food or hole-in-the-wall joints, but you’ve got to splash out for a few meals to really do it right. The tuna tart was one of the most magnificent fish dishes I’ve ever had, and the Wagyu steak was perfect.

This is a very scene-y restaurant. Everyone was so stylish and fabulous and trendy! I remember a time in my life when I was (some of) those things. Even with my blowout, I felt a little out of my element – a new sensation for me in my adopted hometown. Flashbacks of wild nights came back to me and I made a few notes of tales to add to my memoir as I recounted them to Keryn.

Girls Getaway in New York City with Amtrak

Treat Yo’self to a Schwanky Boutique Hotel

It wouldn’t be a visit to the Big Apple without checking out a trendy hotel or two. When I’m not staying in my old apartment in Hell’s Kitchen (yes, my old roomie still lives there!), I like to book hotels in different neighborhoods so I can explore different pockets of the city. In Midtown, check out The Row. It’s perfect for the first-time visitor because it’s just so stinking close to everything – Broadway, Times Square, Hell’s Kitchen, Madison Square Garden and Penn Station, so when you hop off the Amtrak, you’re already practically in your room. I also really enjoyed the ACE Hotel near Madison Square Park and the Flatiron District. It is always a good thing to be within walking distance of the original Shake Shack, you know?

See a Broadway Show

The best part of staying in Midtown is proximity to Broadway, but this time, it was also the worst part because we didn’t have time to see a show! I didn’t even bother to sign up for the Hamilton lottery because if I won and went without Rachel, she would probably go all Hercules Mulligan on me, quit being my business partner and disown me legally. So I’m saving that adventure for my next girls getaway in New York City.

What’s on your must-do, must-see, must-eat list when you’re in Manhattan?

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