Quick Trip to New York City

Jake recently had to work out of the New York City office for a few days which meant he had to get a hotel room. Since my work schedule at the moment is flexible, I decided to be his plus 1. While he at work, I could spend the day in the city and meet up with him for dinner later. I took the train with him to NYC on Sunday afternoon and we made our way to the Knickerbocker Hotel near his office. Jake has stayed at this hotel a few times for work and we booked this hotel for our Valentine’s Day NYC trip last year. It’s in Times Square and is a very nice luxury hotel that can be affordable depending on what type of room you get. We were upgraded to a Junior Suite since we were a returning guest which was really nice! After a work Zoom meeting in the room, we walked to the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It’s similar to the gift shops at Harry Potter world at Universal theme parks. When we looked online, the virtual reality experiences were sold out a week in advance so be sure to plan in way advance! There is also a virtual queue to get into the store and you have to sign up in person at the store. No biggie, but we were told once we got there that sign ups for the virtual line start first thing in the morning and sell out fast. so we waited less than 10 minutes in the walk-in line. I’m sure it depends on the day but be sure to get there in the morning and get on the virtual line so you have a guaranteed time just to walk in. It seems annoying, but it was so nice to have room in the store to walk around and see everything without bumping into people. There are two floors to shop and I wanted everything! I took a ton of photos to send to my friends and family and felt like a little kid while walking through the store. It truly is a very magical place! We will definitely be coming back to walk through it again and for me to buy more things LOL! By the checkout, there is a Butterbeer Bar that is SO cute! We each got a Butterbeer and a tasty themed cupcake.

Since Jake had to be in the office early the next day, we got Five Guys to-go on our walk back to the hotel and ate dinner in our room. While Jake worked on his laptop preparing for a meeting, I got to enjoy our king size bed to myself for a bit before I passed out. The next morning we were both up early and when Jake went to work, I went down to get breakfast at the hotel. After a tasty breakfast, I stopped at Starbucks to get a coffee and went to Bryant Park to read for a while. Most trips to New York are busy days filled with lots of things to do. It was nice to have a trip where I had downtime and could sit in a park and people watch. I didn’t have much planned for the day but wanted to just walk around the city. After sitting in Bryant Park for a few hours, I had to walk through the New York Public Library. It’s one of those places you need to go at least once!

From there, I walked down 5th Avenue and popped in and out of stores as I made my way to Central Park. I walked around the park for a while until I found a good spot to sit down and read my book for a few hours. It was so calming to be able to sit on a bench, listen to someone playing music, hearing bits and pieces of peoples conversation as they walked past me. The weather was warm and sunny with a slight breeze.

I made my way back to the hotel to rest a bit before Jake got out of work. Another nice perk of getting a hotel room! We both changed outfits before walking to dinner at The Smith. To be completely honest, I only picked this restaurant for dinner because the day before we had walked past it and I thought it looked pretty! I posted a picture of the bar on my Instagram story and had a flood of messages come in about NYC locals and friends who have been there before. The food was delicious! To start, I got a glass of wine and Jake got a cocktail with a heavy pour. We ordered crab cakes as an appetizer, for the main course, I got the salmon and Jake ordered squid ink pasta Of course we both had to get dessert! I ordered a vanilla fudge sundae and Jake got a mini blueberry pie. I’m not a big dessert person but that was beyond yummy!

When we got back to the room, I took a bubble bath and watched Bridget Jones Diary while Jake got some work done. After a long day, I was excited to get into bed and watch movies in our big bed. Talk about a relaxing way to end the day!

On Tuesday, we got a late check out so I slept in a little and brought my book with me to breakfast. I spent an hour or so reading my book and enjoying my coffee after I finished eating. After this trip, I’ve become a cup and saucer type of gal! It’s so chic to use for morning coffee. Jake stopped by on his lunch break to pick up my overnight bag and he checked out of the hotel. After walking 27,000 steps the day before, I didn’t want to do too much walking so I walked around Times Square which looks so different since we were there a year ago. I remember going at least once a year as a little kid and there were so many stores. Now with the pandemic, most businesses are gone. It was also very warm that day so I walked towards Herald Square and popped into some stores to get a break from the heat. I spent a few hours at Macy’s because it is so iconic and got some inspiration to redo our master bedroom bedding. I was sending pictures to my friend and mom of different comforters and cute home items. My feet needed a break so I walked to Bryant Park and sat at a table for an hour while I read my book waiting for Jake to finish up with work. Luckily, he didn’t have to work late so we had time for dinner at a small dinner near Penn Station and got to our train on time.

Even though this was technically a work trip, I am so happy I went with Jake for a solo trip to walk around New York City. It’s a city my family and I went at least once a year growing up because we lived so close in New Jersey. Those were always day trips so we all would wake up early to drive into the city and then kind of be limited on staying where we parked. This is the second time I’ve been to New York City and had a hotel room to be able to have a slow morning and be able to come back to the room to relax before heading out again. Seriously, it’s a game changer! I knew that I could have gone to the MET or seen a show by myself while Jake was at work, but I honestly had such a fun time just walking around and sitting in parks. Hopefully next trip will be for pleasure for the both of us!

Carnival Cruise Travel Guide

I am usually the type of person who likes to unpack the day they get home from a trip because I hate to keep tripping over a suitcase. However, this week I finally finished unpacking from our cruise even though we got home two weeks ago. What took me so long? There was a lot to unpack and there was a lot to do at home after traveling almost all of August! Now that everything is put away, been through the wash and luggage put back into storage, I’m excited to sit down and share about our trip! It was my first cruise and Jake was in charge of planning because he has been on a few with his family in the past. We originally booked this cruise last July for our three year anniversary back when everything was shut down. When the world looked bleak, it was nice to look forward to something. We had fun shopping for new vacation clothes, excursion supplies and picking out what book we would read on our balcony while sailing through the ocean.

What to Pack

It depends on where you are traveling to and what you plan on doing. It’s not a bad idea to overpack a little but I found that I really didn’t need to bring all that much with me on the ship. Most cruise websites give you a packing itinerary based on where you are sailing to that can be helpful!

  • 1 dress per day for dinner, casual or dressy
  • 1 coverup
  • 1 formal outfit if you choose to participate in the formal dinner night on the ship
  • 2 shorts and a t shirt outfits for leaving port and getting off the boat your last day
  • Comfortable outfits for Day at Sea activities, shorts and a top
  • Overpack on undies because you will do multiple outfit changes a day
  • Overpack on bathing suits so you always have a dry one available
  • Sneakers, sandals and a fun shoe to wear to dinner
  • Socks
  • 1 workout outfit
  • A light sweatshirt in case it gets chilly at night
  • 2 sets of pajamas
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • Outfit for excursions
  • A hat
  • A clutch for carrying your things around the boat
  • A beach bag
  • A dry bag
  • Waterproof phone case
  • A good long book
  • Sunglasses

Toiletries

Don’t worry about forgetting to pack something because the boat will have it! The rooms will have shampoo, conditioner and there are items you can purchase in the shops if you need them. I like to accumulate trial size versions of products I use everyday so when I travel I can just pack those instead of needing my full sized versions of the product. For this trip, I brought my own high end shampoo and conditioner because I am picky about what I wash my hair with along with a small lotion, toothpaste and a toothbrush. If you have a smaller version of a product that you need to bring, be sure to use that to leave as much room as you can in your suitcase!

  • make-up, same advice as above, use the trial size versions if you can to save room!
  • deodorant
  • sunscreen and face sunscreen in a high SPF
  • aloe lotion for post sun
  • hair straightener, I barely used mine though
  • 1 hairbrush
  • leave in conditioner, I love this one
  • hair ties, a headband and bobby pins
  • a razor
  • contacts, another set of contacts just in case
  • glasses
  • Tums, Advil and a daily vitamin
  • hand sanitizer

What to Do

Since this was an anniversary celebration trip, we had a suite with a balcony and chose to have our luggage brought to the room for us. If you are able to do it this way, I highly recommend it! It makes the days at sea and mornings so much more magical. A helpful hint, be sure to walk around the ship the first day to get an idea of where everything is and make notes of what to do on the boat. We started each day with room service so I could enjoy a cup of coffee and croissant on the balcony before getting ready for the day. We also agreed to wake up and get moving before 8am every morning to enjoy every minute we could on the ship. We didn’t want a trip where we were to busy to enjoy it, so we planned some downtime in our day as well as an excursion or activity on the boat.

Excursions

Since this was my first cruise, I let Jake plan all of our excursions. Of course I had a say in what I wanted to do, but I put his planning skills to good use and let him plan. At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend more money on excursions. Couldn’t we just walk around once we got to port? I’m happy Jake insisted we plan excursions ahead of time because that is what made our trip. Do your research and homework and plan out your daily game plan way in advance. Excursions do sell out and a lot of people were stuck at Port because they didn’t realize that going to the beach in the Bahamas was considered an excursion you had to sign up for ahead of time. Our first stop was Ocho Rios, Jamaica and we hopped on a bus to climb a waterfall and swim with dolphins. It was an amazing experience I will never forget! The staff went out of their way to make sure we had a memorable experience and kept us on schedule to get back to the ship before it left port.

Our second stop was Bimini, Bahamas and we signed up for a day at the beach as our only excursion. It was $60 for 2 beach chairs and an umbrella for the day at a beach resort and while it may seem silly to pay for, it was a guaranteed spot to sit at the beach with an option to leave and come back at any time because we had a wrist band. We ordered food to our chair and enjoyed a few cocktails. It was the perfect relaxing beach day! There were other excursions to do in the Bahamas but we wanted our last day to be a lazy one because it was a much needed vacation for the both of us!

Let’s talk about the food…

It is impossible to go hungry on a cruise! There is a buffet that is open most of the day and at night, there is a late night menu. In the main dining hall, it’s more of a restaurant experience which I preferred over the buffet and found the food to be better too. There are also a dozen eateries around the boat that are also included (aka free) that are open all day. While there are a ton of places to eat “for free”, you can also have a more upscale restaurant experience or a few eateries have delicious food for a small cost. We got sushi one night and it was $5 for a large portion. When you sign up for the cruise, you will be bombarded with emails about things to do, packages to sign up for and also helpful information about your trip. We looked into unlimited alcohol package for us but when we did the math, it was impossible for the two of us to drink enough for it to make sense financially. Instead, we got the free soda, juice and water package. I am so happy we did because I could stop at the bar at any time without having to pay. Being in the sun that long, I needed to drink water constantly and the soda was a nice sugar pick me up and refreshing after some time in the sun. There are a lot of bars on the ship and we luckily found a little quiet one in the back that didn’t have a lot of visitors. We got close to the two bartenders at that bar who let us bring our food from the eateries there to eat or just hang out and enjoy a cocktail when we needed a break from the sun. People are not joking when they say you will gain weight being on a cruise! Which is why I wouldn’t let us take any elevators and made us take the stairs so we could try and walk off some calories!

Fun Day at Sea

So let’s talk about what you can do on the ship. While I loved reading my book on our balcony in the late afternoon each day, we did venture out of our room to see what other fun could be had on the ship. We did a game of mini golf which had us laughing the entire time because wind was not our friend! There is a ton of organized fun to do on the ship everyday like themed quizzos, crafts, comedy shows, etc. We did a game of Bingo because you have to when you are on a cruise ship, a few games of quizzo, and spent our last night in the Piano Bar. Oh and there are plenty of kid-free places to enjoy around the ship if that is your thing. We spent an afternoon at the adult only lounge area which had cabanas and comfy places to lay out.

Last bit of advice, slow down and enjoy every minute at sea!

Playing Tourist in Philadelphia

After living in Philadelphia for four years for college and then three years full time now, I’m amazed how much there is still to do here! Recently my parents came to visit and we wanted to see as much as we could in Philly because we are all finally vaccinated. I thought it would be fun to share what we did on my parents short visit because I feel like we did so much in just a few days to get the full Philadelphia experience!

My parents got to Philadelphia late Sunday afternoon so my cousins nearby came over to my house for a little happy hour before we headed out to dinner. The one struggle right now after not being fully comfortable to dine at restaurants the last year is that we have so many options of places to go to! We decided to go to Sally’s down the street and I am so happy we went because it was so delicious! Everything on their menu sounded delicious so we got a bunch of small plates and four pizzas to try. The staff was so friendly and the food is so good so I highly recommend!

The next day we walked over to Rittenhouse Square which is one of my favorite parts of the city. Since I live nearby and go so often, I wanted to take my parents on the route I walk to run errands since I’m usually on the phone with them catching up while I’m walking there and back! I took them to my favorite streets to walk past and pointed out my favorite houses with the best architecture. Even though we have been in this house for a few years now, I am still in awe of this city. We browsed at books at Shakespeare and Co. after walking through the park and walked up and down Walnut and Chestnut. My parents lived in Philadelphia for 4 years in the 80s so it is a little different than what it looked like back then! When Jake got off of work, my parents drove us out to Ardmore to buy a car and we met up with them for dinner and drinks at the Iron Hill Brewery after. I love living in Philadelphia because the suburbs are a short drive away so we really do get the best of both worlds!

On Tuesday morning, my dad woke all of us up early to go to Reading Terminal Market because he really wanted a Pennsylvania staple, scrapple. If you do not know what it is, you are not missing out! We had breakfast at a cute little diner inside Reading Terminal Market and then walked around to look at all of the different food stands. The market has some of the best local food in the city and you can try a bunch of things in one visit just by walking around. We picked up some sweet treats and I picked up some fudge to bring home to Jake so he didn’t feel left out while he was at home working. We had some time to walk around in that part of the city so we walked through the new Fashion District Mall. It opened up just before everything shut down with the pandemic so we got some relief from the heat outside by walking around and did some window shopping. They really have everything in this mall without having to drive far out of the city to shop.

We drove past my old apartment closer to Center City and circled City Hall which is one of my favorite buildings in the city because of the architecture. In the car I pointed out where we go grocery shopping and other places we run errands. My parents were shocked by how much walking we do in the city but I love any excuse to walk around the city ❤

That weekend after my parents left, Jake and I went to the Philadelphia Zoo to celebrate both of us being vaccinated. It’s a short drive from our house and it was so much fun to walk around and look at all of the exhibits. It has been on our list of things to do for so long and right now they have a dinosaur exhibit that is similar to the Jurassic Park attraction at Universal.

There is so much to do in this city and after a year of staying home, we have a very long list of things we want to do this summer! It’s the perfect city to walk everywhere and be able to try lots of restaurants. Even with a short visit with my parents we did so much and they were exhausted when they went home!

Weekend in New York City

Growing up in New Jersey meant that New York City was always a quick train ride or drive away. I was lucky to be able to make the trip at least once a year to sight see, walk around Central Park or see a show. You would think that after all of this time that I would grow bored of the City but that is the amazing part of New York City – there is always something new to see or do!

For my birthday, Jake got me tickets to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child along with a booking us a room at a nice hotel room so we could enjoy a long weekend in the city. What was nice about getting a hotel room was that we didn’t have to rush to see it all and got to have a place to go back to during the day to rest. I thought I would write up what we did over our long weekend in New York City because we tried to avoid doing the major touristy things and have a relaxing weekend.

FRIDAY

We took Amtrak into New York and were able to get really affordable tickets because we planned so far in advance. Since we were staying for the weekend, we took a 10am train so it was nice to get the extra sleep and not have to wake up super early like we usually do! After we got into NYC, we went to the hotel to drop off our things. Since Jake does a lot of traveling to New York for work, he has stayed at numerous hotels in the city so he was able to find a really nice hotel for us. We stayed at the Knickerbocker Hotel and everyone who worked there was so nice and friendly! We had planned on walking around the West Village before our dinner reservations at 7pm at Serra at Eataly but it was raining pretty hard by the afternoon. We ended up grabbing a late lunch at one of the food stations at Eataly. We both got pizza and a glass of wine to kill some time before our dinner reservation and stay out of the rain! The seating was limited so we sat at a counter that overlooked where they made the bread and it was fun to interact with the staff and see behind the scenes of the bakery. We made our way back to the hotel to nap a bit before dinner and then make our way back to Eataly for our dinner reservation. Everything on the menu is delicious and definitely get the cheese board! They turn the rooftop into a themed restaurant. In the summer, they have greenery everywhere and the ceiling is removed so you can dine outdoors. We were there when they were changing over from winter greenery to spring greenery but it was still really nice!

SATURDAY

We had tickets to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway and we knew it was going to be a long day since the play is in two parts. We slept in and took our time getting ready to head to the show because our hotel was only two blocks away from the theater. After the first part of the show, we grabbed lunch at The Counter in Times Square. Usually I am anti any restaurant in Times Square because it’s crowded and filled with tourists. The Counter however was amazing and the food was so good! We were able to sit down right away at the counter and had a good chat with the waiter. I try not to eat red meat because it doesn’t agree with my stomach but I have to say, that was probably the best burger I ever had! The staff was really friendly and we didn’t feel rushed which can sometimes happen in restaurants. It was the perfect break in between parts of the show and from there we headed back to the theater. The show was SO GOOD and a must see for any Harry Potter fan out there. After the show, we went to one of Jake’s favorite places to go when he goes to New York for work, Virgil’s BBQ. We definitely went back to the hotel full and ready for bed after a fun filled day!

SUNDAY

It was our last day in New York and luckily the weather was amazing! We checked out of the hotel at noon and were able to leave our suitcase with them while we did some walking around. We had coffee at Ralph’s Coffee which was on my to do list for a while now. There was a little bit of a wait for a table but not bad. I was also pleasantly surprised how affordable a coffee and croissant was! It was a short walk to Central Park so it was nice to walk and enjoy the warm sunshine! It was definitely a trip with a lot of eating so it was nice to get some walking in to burn it all off. Since I had never been, Jake took me to Serendipity 3 for an ice cream sundae to finish the trip. We did some window shopping as we made our way back to the hotel to pick up our suitcase and then made our way to the train station.

It was so nice to have a relaxing trip giving us enough time to see a show, walk around and try new restaurants. We have already made plans to visit again next Spring to do some more exploring!

Top Things to Do in Philadelphia at Christmas

This is my first Christmas living in Philadelphia and there are so many things in the City to get into the holiday spirit! One of my favorite things about this time of year is the lights. I love to see the strings of lights in Christmas Village and all of the trees lit up and decorated in the city. Living and working in Center City has made it easy to take a short walk after work to see the tree at City Hall or the Art Museum. There are endless ways to get into the Christmas spirit here in Philly and then go home to get warm by a tree while you watch a Christmas movie. 

Here are my top things to do in Philadelphia at Christmas!

Continue reading “Top Things to Do in Philadelphia at Christmas”