NYC in January: what we did, ate, and saw!

dreaming about spring staples…

Justin and I took a quick trip to NYC recently for what is now our 2nd annual “beginning of the year trip to recap the year prior and make plans for the new year” trip. I got this idea from my friend Ashlee and loved the concept of having an intentional time to discuss specific topics while also enjoying some kid-free time as a couple!

Last year we went to Lake Tahoe, which was fun and beautiful, but this year we wanted to stay in the same time zone and make the traveling part a little easier, so we went to NYC! This is our third trip to NYC together and we always have a lot of fun.

The Hilton Garden Inn New York/West 35th Street hosted our stay, which was a welcome gift! The location was perfect because it was close to Times Square without being in the thick of all the people/madness. Plus there was a subway stop just steps outside the hotel doors, which made it very easy to hop on and off.

I’ve stayed at several different hotels around different parts of the city, but this was honestly the most spacious room I’ve stayed in yet. The rooms were newly renovated, with views of the Empire State Building, and the bathroom had a sink with actual space on them for your toiletries, and the showers were equally spacious and nice.

Next time I’m visiting, I will absolutely look at this hotel for availability and would highly recommend it if you are visiting anytime soon!

I’ll breakdown the trip into a few sections, so let’s start with what we ate!

What we ate:

Tender – our only “splurge” meal and the first thing we ate in the city. It was possibly the best steak I’ve ever had. Absolutely delicious, great side options, and even offered a few different sauces to try with your steak as well. I’d love to go back there next time I’m in the city.

Grey Dog Cafe – We chose this spot for breakfast on a whim and it was great. It’s near NYU campus so it catered to a slightly younger crowd, but it wasn’t noisy or anything. You order at the counter and then a waiter brings your food to your table. The service is minimal (you have to get your own water and cutlery, for example) but the food was great. It was a hearty breakfast for a typical NYC price tag.

Doughnuttery – We were still stuffed from Grey Dog Cafe so we just grabbed a few doughnuts to eat before heading to a movie in the middle of the day. These are tiny freshly fried doughnuts, and you must try them when you visit!

Joe’s Pizza in Times Square – This was a last minute grab before seeing Hamilton. I had actually gotten sick earlier in the afternoon, but after a reprieve and nap in the room, I was feeling up for doing something again. We grabbed a slice here on the walk to the show.

Spoon Table & Bar – This was a really cute breakfast spot near our hotel. The food was really great, and Justin was happy to find biscuits and gravy on the menu. I’d certainly return here for breakfast!

Rare View – Rooftop bar at the Hilton New York Fashion District just blocks from our hotel. We grabbed drinks here and hoped to have time to grab appetizers but we ended up running out of time before going to Pizza School.The staff was very friendly and the rooftop was really cool. This would be a great spot to visit in the warmer months!

Pizza School – After we learned to make pizzas, we were able to eat the ones we made for dinner. And DANG they were good, if I may say so myself.

Andrews Coffee Shop – Justin found this breakfast spot, also near our hotel, the morning we flew out. It was really popular, and the prices were great for the amount of food you got. Would definitely return here!

Where we stayed:

Hilton Garden Inn on 35th street, only a few blocks south of Times Square.

What we saw/did:

We only had 2 things planned during this trip. The first was seeing The Lion King and the second was a surprise trip for Justin to Pizza School on Friday night. I fully admit that going to a pizza cooking class is more my speed than Justin’s, but based on the reviews of Pizza School I thought it could be something that he would also enjoy! He loves pizza as much as I do, and it seemed like a fun, relaxed, casual place to learn and be entertained as well. As it turns out, it was even more fun than we both imagined, and I’ll write more about that below.

I saw The Lion King when I was in NYC last time for work, and wanted Justin to see it. I think he enjoyed it, but halfway through the show he admitted that he didn’t even really know the storyline of The Lion King, so it wasn’t as nostalgic for him as it was for me. The costumes and dancing are the real stars of that show, and I loved seeing it again.

The following evening, we didn’t have plans and I actually got a little sick that afternoon. During my nap, Justin found 2 tickets to that evening’s show of Hamilton. We decide to “yolo” it, grab a piece of pizza on the way, and race over to the show. My only regret was not listening to the music beforehand, because I think I would have followed a few details of the storyline better, but it was a great, great show. Fantastic music, great acting, and very entertaining. I learned a bit of history too! I would most definitely see it again, and would say it’s worth seeing if you are going to be in NYC soon.

During the daytime, we took our time at breakfast, wandered around different parts of Manhattan, and took it slowly. It’s so rare for us to not be on a rigid schedule, so the simplicity of just wandering and deciding what to do on the fly was a treat. We considered going to a museum, but we weren’t feeling it so we opted to go see The Post on the one of the colder days of the trip. That movie was good, although a bit slow. I love Tom Hanks, but I would have to say this is more of a rent-at-home versus pay-to-see in the theater kind of movie.

During our last full day, after a short break from all of the walking around the city (we walked nearly 7 miles each day!), we stopped by Rare View for drinks before heading to Pizza School. After I ordered a Coke, the waitress offered to get me a virgin cocktail. As it turns out, margaritas are just not the same without tequila but I really appreciated their effort to make me something special to drink!

After drinks, we hopped in an Uber and went all the way down to the bottom of Manhattan for Pizza School. This was the highlight of the trip for me. Not only were the 3 guys there running the place very entertaining and likable, but I also learned so much from Dano, the head teacher. I mean, I’ve been doing pizza crust wrong for YEARS and now I cannot wait to test out my new skills at home. A hotter oven would surely help, but Dano gave me some suggestions for the best way to make the most of my home oven.

I don’t want to give too much away, but I can tell you with confidence that the entire evening was worth every penny. I thought 4 hours was going to feel a bit long, but one of the first times I actually checked the clock I noticed it was already 9:15, and we had been there for 2.5 hours already.

The next morning we grabbed a big breakfast before heading over to LaGuardia Airport for our flight. I’ve never in my LIFE gotten out of LaGuardia on time but we managed it this time. It helped that it was Saturday, so the airport was basically empty, and it was also a beautiful and unseasonably warm day as well!

Getting home was great because I’m always anxious to see the boys. My sister and her husband Mike stepped in at the very last minute to watch the kids, since my original plan of sending them to my parents’ home in South Carolina was foiled by the flu! It was so kind and generous of them to drop everything in Virigina and come stay at my house with the boys. We happened to get over 6 inches of snow the day that Justin and I flew out, so not only were they there to watch the boys but they were snowed IN as well! Mike had to head home for school in the middle of their stay, so the majority of the time with the kids was just my sister, and she fell into the routine easily. I mean, I came home to clean sheets (on my bed, the guest bed, and David’s bed) and an organized fridge, all while she was “mothering” my two boys during a snowstorm. Impressed doesn’t even begin to explain how I felt when I got back!

I’d love to answer any questions you have about visiting the city, things to do, etc. Feel free to leave those in the comments below and I’ll check back to answer them when I can!