One of the nice things about working for a bank is that we get the Federal Holidays off work—if the stock market is closed, we are closed! And that means that I had Presidents’ Day Weekend off work. In the before times, I used to travel to New York City about every other month for work (you can view my New York City Travel Guide here!), which means I was able to rack up quite a number of Amtrak points. After I got home from Charlottesville in January, I really wanted something else to look forward to, so I decided to book a trip to NYC for Presidents’ Day Weekend to visit my friend Emma. And since I already had the aforementioned Amtrak points, it was free for me to book a train up.
So that I didn’t have to take any time off work for the long weekend, I booked a train that left Union Station here in Washington, DC around 5:15pm. While I’ve traveled to New York all the ways over the years—plane, train, car, bus—I think the train is the easiest and usually is most affordable. (If you don’t have Amtrak points like I do, the cost of a ticket right now is so cheap, so definitely keep that information in your back pocket if you’re looking to skip town, too.)
This was my first time taking the train since the pandemic, but I felt very comfortable. I booked a business seat class on the Northeast Regional and had an assigned seat; to accommodate for social distancing, no one is able to purchase the seat next to you. You’re required to wear a mask the whole time. On both my train there and on the way back, there were no more than five or six people with me in my train car and neither train station was all that crowded. It was easy to keep your distance from people.
My train pulled into Penn Station’s new Moynihan’s Train Hall around 8:45pm on Friday night and I was blown away. The new train hall is gorgeous, clean, and so much better than the old Amtrak waiting room. (If you know, you know!) It’s right across the street from the old Penn Station, so it’s still in a super central location. I grabbed a cab to Emma’s apartment and we kept things really low key on Friday night—we ordered in Shake Shack and drink champagne. My idea of the perfect night in!
On Saturday, Emma planned such a great day in Brooklyn for us—whenever I go to NYC, she always finds us the most fun things to do and the best restaurants to eat at. Since I had never taken the ferry to Brooklyn and it only costs $2.50 for a one-way ticket, we decided that would be the best way to get over there from Manhattan. We walked down to the East 34th Street Landing to catch the 11am ferry and it was super easy to do—there’s a kiosk to buy your tickets and the boat ride is relatively quick, plus it offers great views of the city!
When we arrived to Brooklyn, we walked around for a while—it was a cold day, but not too windy, so once you got going, it really wasn’t too bad. We then made our way to Gran Electrica for brunch with our friend Bridget. If you have been reading here for any length of time, you know that I love Mexican food, so I loved this brunch. We drank margs, ate chips and guac, and I had some delicious chicken tacos. We loved that their wallpaper had scenes from around Brooklyn, it was such a nice nod to the neighborhood.
After brunch, we walked over to Washington Street to the famous Instagram shot of the Manhattan Bridge—in normal times, I’ve heard this place is a madhouse. While there were several other groups there taking pictures, we were able to get plenty without other people in the background of our shots. I’ll definitely call that a win! We then spent a couple of hours walking along the riverfront and through Brooklyn neighborhoods to admire the beautiful brownstones. We ended our walk with a round of drinks and some snacks at the Henry Street Ale House before grabbing an Uber back to Manhattan.
On Saturday night, after we warmed back up from our trip to Brooklyn and refueled with some New York pizza, we went to the coolest speakeasy. I am OBSESSED with this place now and can’t wait to go back one day! It’s called The UES and the front of the store is a working ice cream shop. (For what it’s worth, I’ve heard the ice cream is great, too!)
Behind a door that looks like a wall of ice cream containers is “the storage room”—a beautiful bar that was decked out for Valentine’s Day when we went! They had heart balloons everywhere, Valentine’s Day cups, napkins, and straws, and gave us candy jewelry when we left. I loved their commitment to the theme. We were greeted with sangria shots and then tried a couple of their signature cocktails—I tried a Girls Gossip on the East and Emma had the I Left My Heart in Yorkville. New York State requires you also buy food right now when purchasing alcohol, so we enjoyed our fancy cocktails with a side of dinosaur chicken nuggets.
After our cocktails, we switched to sparkling rosé and could not get enough of the playlist they had going—it was a ton of classics you hear at weddings, beach music, and oldies. I had the best time and I think it will definitely be one of my top 10 moments of the year!
If you want to go, I highly recommend getting a restoration, which you can snag on Resy. They’ve also got a dress code—we wore cocktail dresses, tights, and booties. It was fun to have a reason to get dressed up.
On Sunday, Valentine’s Day, we spent the day bopping around Manhattan. We started with brunch at Hillstone, which is one of our favorite restaurants in the city. Whenever I used to come to New York City on work trips, Emma and I would always meet at their midtown location for a nightcap and to split the burger and fried chicken sandwich for a snack. (It always seems like you never eat enough at work dinners!) I was so excited to be back, and started with the Caesar salad and then enjoyed the fried chicken sandwich and French fries for my mail meal. Paired with a Diet Coke, it was such a delicious meal.
After brunch, we took the subway down to Union Square. What is really cool about the subway is you no longer need to buy a MetroCard to ride—if your credit card is contactless or you have Apple Pay, you can just hold either over the reader when you’re entering the turnstiles, and you’re good to go!
We stopped at The Strand, which is an amazing bookstore. If you’ve never been, I can’t recommend it enough—in addition to books, they’ve got stationery, journals, and plenty of gift items. We then walked around the West Village and ended up sitting outside under a heater at Joseph Leonard for a few hours, enjoying a few rounds for Sunday funday. I have been so impressed with how restaurants in NYC—and DC and other cities!—have built such cute outdoor seating areas for patrons. We walked by so many cute ones, and I took pictures of a lot of them to help me remember these wild times we are living through.
We wrapped up the day with a delicious Italian dinner at Roey’s in the West Village—bread, Caesar salad, and meatballs? Sign me up! We called it an early evening and headed home to watch TV.
On Monday morning before I caught my train, we went to the Lexington Candy Shop, an original New York City Luncheonette! It was such a cool spot—I felt like we were walking back in time. I enjoyed chicken salad on a sesame bagel. I so wish I had been in the mood for a milkshake because theirs looked amazing. A reason to go back next time!
After breakfast, I headed back out for the new, beautiful Penn Station and took the train home. I’m looking forward to the days when work brings me back to New York City often—this was the longest I had been away from NYC as an adult! x