Editor’s Note — if you’re looking for additional New York City recommendations, here are some other posts to check out:
- New York City for New Year’s Eve
- Life Lately December 2022
- Life Lately October 2022
- Life Lately August 2022
- A Bachelorette Party in New York City
- My President’s Day Weekend in New York City
- New York City Travel Guide
- New York City at Christmastime
- Champagne at Bergdorf Goodman
- How I Spent a Very Rainy Friday in New York City
Earlier this summer, I went on a work trip to NYC and enjoyed it so much that I had another trip booked before I left the city. My best friend from college, Emma, lives in Manhattan and invited me to come stay for a weekend, and it instantly became the thing I was looking forward to most on my calendar. One of my best friends from blogging (and old neighbor!), Monica, also lives in the city with her husband—because of the pandemic, it had been a while since we were able to spend quality time together, so I was excited to see her on this trip as well.
I have spent a lot of time in New York City as an adult, but one of the great things about the city is that you can go a hundred times and have a different experience each time. There are still so many places and restaurants on my NYC bucket list, but on this trip, I was able to check off two that had been on my list for a long time—Bemelman’s at The Carlyle and The Polo Bar by Ralph Lauren. We also really lucked out with the weather—I went in late August and while it was hot, there were no summer storms, which meant we could easily walk or take the Subway without having to deal with umbrellas or getting soaked going from point A to point B. I’m already dreaming about my next trip!
MY FIRST AMTRAK ACELA EXPERIENCE —
I’m of the opinion that the train is the best way to get from DC to NYC. While I have flown into LGA a few times, the train is a much smoother, and more convenient, experience. For one, unlike the airport, you don’t have to get to the station early enough to go through security, so there’s less wasted time in transit. And for another, once you arrive to NYC, you’re in the heart of Manhattan and can easily take a taxi or Subway to wherever you need to go. It’s also usually cheaper, especially if you book early.
Because we had 6pm dinner reservations at The Polo Bar on Friday night, I wanted to get into town on Thursday night. I took an Acela up after work, and since I take the train quite a bit for work, had a coupon that allowed me to upgrade to Acela First Class. It was such a delightful full-service experience. When you board the train, you’re immediately greeted, served water and a snack bowl of nuts, and given a food + beverage menu. Everything in First Class is included in your ticket, so I indulged in a few glasses of prosecco and ordered the cheese + fruit plate as my meal.
I highly recommend taking Acela First Class if you ever get the chance—I have one more upgrade coupon in my account and am hoping to find an excuse to use it this year!
A FRIDAY MORNING WORKING FROM EMMA’S APARTMENT —
On Friday morning, I took advantage of the flexibility provided by remote work and logged in from Emma’s apartment. I took the afternoon off, but had a few meetings and things to get done in the morning. Emma’s cute pup, Jackson, kept me company and on track with my to do list. And, we were fueled by some breakfast from Daily Provisions, which is known for their crullers. I did the August seasonal flavor, which was blueberry, and it was so good. A nice Friday morning treat! To balance out the sugar, I also did an avocado toast, which was equally as delicious.
A HAPPY HOUR AT BEMELMAN’S —
After Emma and I closed down our laptops for the weekend, we headed over to Bemelman’s at The Carlyle for a late Friday afternoon happy hour with Monica + Sarah! Bemelman’s has been on my list for years as they are famous for their masterpiece murals by Ludwig Bemelmans, the creator of the classic Madeline children’s books. Because it’s a popular spot, and on the smaller side, it often is crowded and hard to snag a spot. We arrived around 4pm on Friday afternoon and got a table for four no problem, but when we left around 5:45pm, it was packed!
I loved it—it felt so cozy and romantic and classic New York. Jackie Kennedy Onassis was a huge fan of Bemelman’s, and so they have a cocktail named after her, the ‘Jackie O.’ That’s what I opted to drink and it was delicious. It’s made with made with passion fruit-infused vodka, fresh lime juice, and topped off with champagne. They also provide you with a sampling of bar snacks complimentary. It was so great to catch up with three great friends in such a fun, special occasion place.
A RIDE IN THE CARLYLE COURTESY CAR —
As we left Bemelman’s, we asked the doorman at The Carlyle to help us hail a cab, and he did one better—he offered us a ride in The Carlyle’s courtesy car, a Mercedes Benz, over to Polo Bar. We truly felt like queens! It was a short ride, but such a memorable one—and because of it, I’ll be a fan of The Carlyle for life now.
DINNER AT POLO BAR —
Scoring a reservation at The Polo Bar is hard as very few of them make it online. The best way to get one is to call one month ahead of when you want to dine when their reservations office opens at 10am. We were lucky enough to snag one, and it was truly one of the best meals of my life. For one, the decor at the restaurant is just unparalleled—Ralph Lauren knows what he is doing! And for another, the service was outstanding. Our waitress was attentive and anticipated our every need, yet wasn’t ever hovering at our table.
You enter through the bar upstairs—more on that in a bit—and then head downstairs to where the dining room is located. We were seated at a table in the heart of the restaurant, and it made for a great vantage point to enjoy all the decor. I would love to have a basement one day that gives off the warmth and hospitality of this restaurant! We enjoyed the bread serviced and a crab cake to start, and then all got the burger as our entree—they are known for them, and y’all know it’s probably my favorite meal ever. It didn’t disappoint!
Both Monica and Emma have summer birthdays, so we celebrated them with a round of dessert, and then had some fun taking mirror selfies outside of the ladies room.
A NIGHTCAP AT POLO BAR —
After dinner, we went upstairs to enjoy a drink at The Polo Bar’s bar. To drink here, you have to have a reservation for dinner, so it’s a great place to enjoy a pre- or post-dinner drink. And, because they limit it to patrons with reservations, it’s fairly easy to snag a barstool. Again, the service here was excellent. I went with a glass of bubbly, but this is the type of place where you could tell the bartender what type of cocktail you like and they could mix you up something great.
BRUNCH AT SUNDAY IN BROOKLYN —
On Saturday morning, Emma and I took the Subway down to the South Street Seaport and enjoyed brunch at the Sunday in Brooklyn pop up. It was a bright and airy spot, and the food was so good—I had the most delicious salad with a mimosa.
A DAY AT GOVERNORS ISLAND —
Following brunch, we took the ferry over to Governors Island, which sits in the New York Harbor. It used to be a strategic military base for the defense of the city, but has since become a National Park. It was a great place to spend a day—it felt like a college campus in many ways! When we arrived, we walked around the Historic Fort and down some of the walking trails to get the lay of the land, and then popped over to an area where there were lots of food trucks to pick up some to-go cocktails for the rest of our walk. I did a spiked lemonade—it was the perfect summer drink.
Once we had explored a good bit of Governors Island, we popped into Gitano for a round of drinks. They have a great bar area where we were, but also take reservations if you want to enjoy a sit down meal. It truly felt like we were in Tulum and not just a five minute boat ride away from Manhattan.
After drinks at Gitano, we kept the bar crawl going and headed over for another round at Island Oyster, which is right on the water and offers stunning views of Lower Manhattan. This would be a great happy hour spot as you could catch an incredible view of the sunset!
We then caught the ferry back to Manhattan—it’s free on weekends and runs every 30 minutes.
A PRE-DINNER DRINK AT TEMPLE BAR —
Once we freshened up from Governors Island—we walked almost 15K steps and it was hot out!—we went out for a pre-dinner cocktail at Temple Bar. This place was dark and moody and a really cool spot. Emma got us a reservation, which I recommend. They have an extensive cocktail menu and really talented bartenders. I channeled my inner Carrie Bradshaw and went with a Cosmo; it did not disappoint.
DINNER AT AMERICAN BAR —
After drinks, we had dinner at American Bar, which I had been seeing everywhere on Instagram and Emma was willing to indulge me and go back since she had been before. The food here was so good. We split the spring rolls to start, and they were so flavorful. Then, for our main, we split the burger and a chopped salad. While The Polo Bar did have a great burger, I have to say, I thought the one at American Bar was superior!
We capped off our day with a nightcap at Saint Theo’s nearby—and as per usual, I left NYC ready to plan my next trip back.
I was definitely humbled on my train trip home as I sat in coach on the good ol’ Northeast Regional—but I left New York City with a full heart and grateful for so many new memories with some of my best friends. Can’t wait to get back soon!