There are two things I know about New York: One, New York is a place that’s perfect for celebrating, and two, summer is a magical time to visit.
These two certainties are what prompted my husband and I to spend a week in New York late last month celebrating our anniversary. This time of year, the weather heats up (but it’s still cool by Texans’ standards), outdoor concerts and events are in full-swing, and days seem made for walking, eating and sightseeing.
This time, we traveled to New York without our kids, who were busy having their own adventures –– our boys flew to Colorado to join their best friends for the week while our daughter got some solo time with her grandparents on the Texas coast. And while there were countless moments we wished we could teleport our kids to join us at a certain museum or park we knew they would love, it was also nice to enjoy the simplicity and spontaneity that comes when traveling as a couple.
Just like finding balance in your life and in a marriage is key, I also love to apply the concept to travel whenever possible. We balanced our week in New York between the city and country, spending half the time immersed in the constant energy and excitement of Manhattan and the other half soaking in the bucolic scenery and quieter pace that unfolds just beyond the big city’s buzz.
If you’re heading to New York this summer, here are some highlights from our recent trip –– both in the city and the country –– to consider.
Walk through New York City’s greenspaces
During our late-June visit, Texas was already knee-deep in a triple-digit heat wave. We relished New York’s 60-degree cloudy mornings and savored the temperate 70-degree afternoons, walking blocks upon blocks without breaking a sweat.
Walking through Manhattan’s greenspaces is one of the best ways to explore the city –– and unlike most things in New York, it won’t cost you a penny. One of my favorite places to walk or run when I’m in New York is, of course, iconic Central Park –– whenever I’m here, I forget I’m smack dab in the middle of the country’s most densely populated city. We spent a cool and cloudy morning wandering past the colorful Central Park Carousel we once rode with our kids when they were little, laughed as children jumped up to pop giant bubbles in front of Bethesda Fountain, and soaked in the sweeping panoramas from Belvedere Castle.
Another fantastic place to stroll is along the High Line –– the architecturally-enchanting public park built along the historic freight rail line hovering above Manhattan’s West Side. Walking along this elevated park fringed by art, native plantings and vibrant flowers with my husband, an architect, came with the added perk of getting a personal audio tour of the surrounding architecture designed by high-profile architects such as Renzo Piano, Frank Gehry, and the late Zaha Hadid. It’s nice to linger in front of the viewing windows at 10th Avenue Square and Overlook and the Flyover between 25th and 27th Streets. From the High Line, you can even spy the Statue of Liberty far off in the distance.
We discovered a new favorite place to walk on this trip: Little Island –– New York City’s new, free public park at 13th Street in Hudson River Park that’s unlike any other greenspace in the entire city. Just steps from the High Line, Little Island at Pier 55 is a lush and whimsical artificial island rising up from the water designed by Heatherwick Studio. Marrying serene spaces and lush landscaping, Little Island is an imaginative, verdant oasis that serves as a captivating escape for locals and visitors to enjoy free live performances throughout the week, soak in the stunning sunsets over the Hudson, or grab a bite or drink from the colorful food kiosks.
Because summertime in New York felt so much cooler than back home, we walked everywhere, never even riding the subway and logging at least 10 miles (according to our smart watches) each day. I even trekked a mile to and from Broadway (in heels!) to see Hamilton, which was worth every step.
Book a Broadway show
Speaking of, put a Broadway show at the top of your New York bucket list. During the pandemic, our family streamed Broadway’s Hamilton starring Lin-Manuel Miranda from our living room. However, we hadn’t seen Hamilton live, so our night on Broadway was a no-brainer. I will spare you a full review, but let me just say that Hamilton moved me to tears on my couch two years ago, and I cried even harder sitting in our lower Mezzanine seats in the ornate Richard Rodgers Theatre. If you find yourself in New York City and you haven’t seen Hamilton, it’s an absolute must.
If you’ve already seen Hamilton, there are dozens of popular Broadway shows playing right now, including Wicked, Sweeney Todd and the bright and moving musical Kimberly Akimbo, which tells the story of an upbeat Jersey teen who happens to look like a 72-year-old lady due to a genetic aging disorder. When I was in New York last fall, it was brand-new-to-Broadway and still in previews, but it has since blown up –– you’ll laugh a lot, cry a little and love every musical minute.
Bring your appetite to Manhattan
There isn’t a better place to embrace your inner foodie than in New York, and fortunately, staying at the Martinique New York on Broadway with its convenient Midtown South location put every restaurant we dined at within walking distance. Built in 1898, the historic French Renaissance style hotel boasts a rich century-old history, beautiful recent renovation, and is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. Dining at The Press Club Grill, the hotel’s newly opened signature restaurant helmed by Chef Franklin Becker, feels a bit like stepping back in time to the Mad Men-era amid the restaurant’s sophisticated mid-century interiors, oversized crimson velvet booths, sleek brass bar and custom muraled walls featuring famous New Yorkers. I was half expecting to catch a glimpse of Don Draper as we sipped martinis, noshed on oysters Rockefeller and perused a throwback mid-century menu featuring prime steaks, tartare and caviars, and Beef Wellington for two. The restaurant also offers in-room dining, so we started off each morning at the Martinique with coffee, pastries freshly baked in house daily, bruleed grapefruit and omelets.
From The Martinique, nestled in Koreatown’s vibrant food scene, we were steps away from dinner one evening at Osamil, a lively Korean gastropub which cooks up bold Korean flavors. Start with squid fries served with soy wasabi mayo and vinegar gochujang dip before ordering the signature kimchi fried rice topped with a sunny side up egg and prime hanger steak. Sip one of the colorful signature cocktails like the Seoul-Mate, or select from the expansive soju menu.
Gramercy Tavern is hands-down my favorite restaurant in Manhattan, and I make it a point to savor a memorable meal here during each and every trip. We made a reservation for the last Greenmarket Lunch seating at 2:30 p.m., enjoying a decadent prix fix procession that served as both our lunch and dinner for the day: beef tartare, ricotta cavatelli, perfectly pan-seared halibut with fava beans and turnips, a seafood platter stacked with clams, oysters, caviar and ceviche, and a farmstead cheese plate for the finale.
We took our foodie adventure full circle by nabbing reservations the last night of our trip at Ci Siamo, also part of the Danny Meyer Union Square Hospitality Group’s portfolio. Helmed by Chef Hillary Sterling, Ci Siamo’s menu focuses on live-fire cooking and Italian-influenced dishes. Start with the pizza Bianca with anchovies and the caramelized onion torta with pecorino Toscana. Standout (and shareable) mains included the taglioni with tomatoes and buffalo butter and the cavatelli with crab and chili.
For a casual lunch below the High Line, sink your teeth into the oversized pizza pies served up at Artichoke Basille’s Pizza like the rich artichoke with spinach and cream sauce or the Staten Island topped with meatballs and ricotta. Generous salads come served in a pizza box brimming with spring mix, artichoke hearts and house dressing.
Meander Manhattan’s museums
Manhattan is a mecca for art museums. Spend a morning or afternoon wandering through the thought-provoking exhibits at The Museum of Modern Art –– Georgia O’Keeffe’s To See Takes Time is on exhibit through Aug. 12. If you’re a dog-lover, pop into the American Kennel Club’s Museum of the Dog which features one of the world’s largest collections of dog-themed art, an extensive library about various dog breeds, and high-tech interpretive displays and special exhibitions that pay homage to our four-legged friends.
We spent an entire afternoon wandering through the Renzo Piano-designed The Whitney Museum of American Art. Be sure to check out Josh Kline: Project for a New American Century, exhibiting through August 13. Kline’s immersive multimedia installations are thought-provoking and sometimes sobering, forcing you to examine pressing issues such as climate change and disease and ponder the disproportionately negative impacts they will inevitably have on our society’s labor force.
When you leave the city and head upstate, Manhattan’s constant cacophony of sounds instantly comes to a hush. We spent the second half of our New York trip exploring the Hudson Valley area, hanging our hats in Clinton Corners –– one of seven historic hamlets found in the rural town of Clinton tucked in Dutchess County.
You can rent a car and drive from the city, or you can arrive via train from Manhattan to the Poughkeepsie Metro-North Railroad station –– there are a dozen departure times staggered throughout the day. Both options will get you there in under two hours, but if you opt to take the train, you’ll want to rent a car once you arrive because restaurants, hikes, breweries, wineries and shops are scattered and all require a drive.
Eating and Exploring the Hudson Valley
There are some amazing farm-to-table restaurants in this area, such as Canoe Hill in Millbrook, where we tasted some of the most delicious oysters of the entire trip –– Fairhavens and Malabars from Massachusetts, Fortunes from Nova Scotia, and Valley Pearls from Prince Edward Island –– before indulging in the steamed mussels swimming in an orange wine broth and house made baked gnocchi.
We also enjoyed a fabulous lunch at the farm-to-table, student-run teaching restaurant American Bounty Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America’s beautiful New York Campus located in Hyde Park. The Hudson Valley campus is one of only three CIA campuses in the entire country (there’s also one located in San Antonio’s Pearl District and another in California).
In the charming, historic town of Rhinebeck, you’ll find a storybook main street fringed with art galleries, antique shops, old-fashioned ice cream parlors and bistros. We brunched at The Amsterdam –– an award-winning contemporary American restaurant serving freshly baked pastries made in house, sweet and savory brunch specialties and boozy brunch beverages each weekend. There’s also a wonderful outdoor market every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. throughout the summer where we picked up fresh cherries and local cheeses.
Wineries and breweries
We spent a beautiful and sunny Sunday afternoon at Millbrook Vineyards and Winery (www.millbrookwine.com) –– it’s just an hour and a half from New York City, but swirling a glass of their all-day Hunt Country Rose overlooking the picturesque landscape, we felt a world away. Tastings are offered daily inside the 1940’s Dutch-style barn overlooking jade green hills striped with vines, and there’s often live music or performances taking place on weekends.
Milea Estate Vineyard is another fabulous winery to sip and savor the flavors of the Hudson Valley, and Kings Highway Cider Shack is an award-winning cidery that serves up some of the best burgers in Dutchess County. We had the cheapest lunch of our New York trip at Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, the largest craft brewery in Hudson Valley, which offers a $25 weekday special featuring two pints of craft beer and an entire craft pizza, fired at 850 degrees in a rotating pizza oven.
Fresh off the farm
One of our favorite meals was sourced from the various surrounding farms, many of which have roadside shops set up through the summer months where you can pick up locally-grown ingredients and cook your own regionally-inspired dishes at home. We stopped at Meadowland Farm’s roadside stand for fresh eggs and asparagus and arugula grown on the farm, signing out what we took, adding up the total, and submitting payment via Venmo. At Ruby Hill Farmstead, we rounded out the evening’s dinner menu with fresh baked bread and cheeses, local honey, and farm-raised meats and polenta to grill. On the way out, we purchased a small bag of food and hand-fed resident goats, sheep and hens.
In this corner of New York, surrounded by sprawling green countryside, verdant hills, towering trees, beautiful lakes, orchards, wineries, and farms, you can’t help but feel further away than you really are. It’s an idyllic way to unplug between jam-packed days spent in the city, and the perfect way to balance out the constant excitement and magic of Manhattan.
If You Go
Multiple airlines including Delta, JetBlue and American Airlines offer direct flights between Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).
In Manhattan, book a room at the Martinique New York on Broadway –– it’s been a staple in the Midtown district since 1898 and it’s the perfect location for almost anywhere you want to go, from Broadway and museums to shopping and restaurants. For our last night of the trip, we stayed at The Standard, High Line –– a stunning stay along the High Line with sweeping floor-to-ceiling views of Manhattan and the Hudson River. In the Hudson Valley, there are countless Airbnb’s spanning cute cottages and spacious houses to converted barns and lakefront retreats. Or book a room or suite at the historic Beekman Arms, the oldest continuously operating hotel in America, nestled in charming Rhinebeck.
Explore the parks, museums, shops and restaurants in New York City. Then retreat upstate for nature, hiking, wineries and farm-to-table restaurants.
Eat and Drink:
In Manhattan, make reservations at Gramercy Tavern, Ci Siamo, Osamil and Café China and enjoy pre-dinner cocktails at Katherine or the intimate, dimly-lit Lobby Bar at Ace Hotel New York. In the Hudson Valley, brunch at The Amsterdam in Rhinebeck, lunch at the American Bounty Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America’s beautiful New York Campus in Hyde Park, and make a dinner reservation at Canoe Hill in Millbrook.