Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01

You guys know how much I love playing tour guide. And one of my absolute favorite locations to do it? My home state of New York. It’s so easy to fall into a routine when you’re back on your home turf, there’s nothing like seeing it through the eyes of a traveler to make you fall back in love with the place they call you one of their own.

Which is one of the many reasons I was elated when my very own Bearded Bartender booked a week-long New York stopover en route back to his native Newfoundland for the holidays.

Playing Tour Guide in New York

The trip began, like all Meihoukai-led excursions, in total chaos. Ian arrived to an apartment full of Saturday evening energy and all my Brooklyn besties, and the weekend kind of continued on in that tone. We went to a birthday party in the old loft apartment building I used to live in, we dropped in on local favorites like , we watched sunset over the bridge, we walked what felt like the entire length of Franklin Ave, we hit up the , and we (read: Ian) cooked a big Mexican feast for all the roommates letting us crash.

Brooklyn Dough Doughnuts

Dough Brooklyn

ODB Mural Brooklyn

Brooklyn Tour

We also did something new even for me — ice skating in Prospect Park’s . I give major kudos to new friend Brianna for getting us out on the ice in honor of her birthday. It was so lovely to spend a rare blue-sky December day outdoors!

Ice Skating in Prospect Park

Ice Skating in Prospect Park

Ice Skating in Prospect Park

Ice Skating in Prospect Park

I loved this beautiful Brooklyn weekend, celebrating all the people and places that make up my favorite borough.

New York City Sunset Photography

New York City Sunset Photography

New York City Sunset Photography

New York City Sunset Photography

However, this being Ian’s first ever trip to New York, I wanted to make sure he saw the basics in addition to the offbeat. So for a few nights mid-week when all my friends would be busy working anyway, we checked into a small apartment rental in midtown Manhattan. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t typically do apartment rentals because I think that for me personally, they’d be too isolating when I’m traveling alone. But I’m getting much more into them when I’m traveling with others.

I kind of cringed when I was browsing apartments on and realized my favorite studio was located on 39th and Park. It’s a pretty charmless area that I would never consider living in — but, I’d soon realize, was absolutely perfect for all the tourist-happy activities we had in mind.

Flipkey NYC Rental

First of all, the place was cute and perfectly sized for two. It was moments away from Grand Central station which made getting around the city painless, but tucked away enough that it wasn’t too noisy at night. It had a desk that I spent a few hours working at each morning and much more floor space than the average Manhattan hotel room. And at $159 a night, it was a lot cheaper, too!

There was a tad bit of drama when we got into the apartment and Ian detected a gas leak (left to my own devices I would have probably cracked a window, called it a day, and perished alone in my sleep), which led to the property manager trying to move us to a much less appealing room, us refusing, them turning off the gas, and us not having access to the stove for the duration of our stay. To my disappointment I never received a response to my email to the renter, but what can you do. We did love having a fridge, a microwave and a full set of dishware for making breakfast and snacks and storing and reheating our many restaurant leftovers.

Flipkey NYC Rental

Flipkey NYC Rental

Flipkey NYC Rental

Flipkey NYC Rental

Flipkey NYC Rental

From our little home base we hopped all over Manhattan. To a vinyasa class at , to a laundry list of new and old favorite restaurants, and to some very Ian-specific destinations like , a must-do for any bibliophile.

The Strand NYC

One stand out highlight was a double date to with hometown bestie Kristin and her man Mark that overshot our expectations by a mile. From the burlesque dancers to the fire-eater to the magician to the talented vocals of the emcee and the live jazz band that accompanied him, we were wowed. And the food and service, easy to neglect when there’s so much emphasis put on the show, was both fantastic. Definitely a fun new find for me — and the perfect place to recommend for special occasions.

Duane Park NYC

Duane Park NYC

Duane Park NYC

Duane Park NYC

Like I said, the apartment could not have been more perfectly located. It was a bitterly cold week in New York, and we were both completely under-prepared for it. Had we been staying further than a few blocks away, I doubt we ever would have made it to the tree at Rockefeller Center, to the neon lights of Times Square or to the charming holiday markets at Bryant Park and Central Park.

As we stood under the flurry-filled night sky looking at that famous star-topped tree, it started to feel like Christmas for the first time.

Rockafeller Center at Christmas

Rockafeller Center at Christmas

Rockafeller Center at Christmas

Rockafeller Center at Christmas

We were also a bearable distance from Harlem, an area I’d previously avoided due to the two hour commute from Brooklyn via public transportation. But once we arrived I couldn’t believe I’d waited so long to go. On a hot tip from Harlem resident , we headed to for dinner and for a crazy diverse lineup of live music. I will absolutely be back.

Shrine Harlem

To complete our borough hopping extravaganza, we spent one final night in Queens with a friend from back in Koh Tao. And then, the next morning, we were waving goodbye to the city and hopping a train upstate.

Goodbye NYC

New York City is almost impossible not to make alluring — Albany, however, takes a little more creativity to entertain visitors in. Especially in the winter, my admitted least favorite season.

Hello Albany

Still, I’m proud to say, I think I did a pretty bang up job. In addition to the requisite time spent lounging in front of the fire, cooking my mom and her man dinner (read: Ian cooking my mom and her man dinner), and taking Tucker-centric field trips, we also did a fair amount of Capitol Region exploring.

We strolled through the , walked through the Empire State Plaza, and went to a boozy brunch at , my favorite hometown hotspot with my favorite hometown friends.

Downtown Albany

Brunch at City Beer Hall

We discovered adorable new establishments like (yay to the entrepreneurs bringing adorable new establishments to Albany!), and hit up old faithfuls like the and .

The speakeasy in particular — not pictured for obvious reasons — is probably one of the coolest things to ever happen to the New York state capitol, and I sincerely hope I am not banned for life for writing about it on an internet weblog. Considering phones and cameras are strictly banned inside, I have a feeling they don’t take kindly to all this newfangled modern technology.

Cider Belly Albany

The week (okay, if you’re wondering how we fit all this into a week, technically it was eight nights) culminated with a runner up in the coolest things to ever happen to the New York state capitol contest — John Oliver performing at .

I hadn’t been inside since I was a kid and my mom used to drag us to Albany Symphony Orchestra events on the regular, and as soon as I stepped inside I vowed not to let another fifteen years go by before I did so again. It’s a stunning, historical theater that has hosted everyone from Bruce Springsteen to The Rolling Stones. And John Oliver brought down the house with a perfect blend of hometown humor (I can’t believe how much he knew about Albany!), national politics and pop culture references.

Nope, there’s nothing quite like being a tourist in your hometown(s). Especially a home as great as this one.

John Oliver at The Palace Albany

Stay tuned from for one final post from the Empire State. (Hint: it involves lots of red and green.) What’s your favorite thing to show off in your hometown?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Many thanks for for providing me with a booking credit and Duane Park for hosting us. As always, you receive my honest opinions regardless of who is footing the bill.

3-devide-lines
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY
62 Comments...
  • Martha
    March 8 2015

    I’m from California so no tour is complete without a visit to Farmers Market and because it’s California the market is open year round! I am heading home in April and all I can think about is delicious farm to fork food. And my friends, of course.
    Martha recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 8 2015

      Ha, I´m at the six week mark on this trip — that is ALWAYS when I start obsessing about the food I miss from home. Always!

  • Becky
    March 8 2015

    Wow – New York looks amazing. I love your photos of the city!
    Becky recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 8 2015

      Thanks Becky! It is only really when I have visitors that I ever think to take my camera out at home!

  • Frances
    March 8 2015

    Albany! I’m originally from about an hour away from there (now am half living there, half living in Sarasota, FL). One of my all time favorite things to do with my family when I was a kid was visit the Albany museum, and I love the style of the houses there. I’m hoping to take a trip home this summer and visit both Albany and New York City. Saratoga is a nice area too-I went there for New Years with a friend and we had a great time.

    • Meihoukai
      March 8 2015

      Aw, love to hear some fellow 518 pride! I love the Albany museum too, Frances!

  • This makes me want to play tour guide! I love having an excuse to go out and do things I wouldn’t normally do at home. Looks like you guys had fun!
    Sonja @ Breadcrumbs Guide recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 8 2015

      It is the best. Plus, it is refreshing to see a place you know so well through the eyes of someone seeing it for the first time!

  • Woah! A bar that bans cellphones. You mean you actually have to talk to a person now?! Oh the horror! Ha, that’s pretty cool. I love speakeasies. There’s a pretty awesome one I went to in Montreal recently.
    Katelyn @ Diaries of a Wandering Lobster recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 8 2015

      Ha yup, this one is really dedicated to authenticity! When you call they say a fake business name, and when you ring at the door they stare at you blankly — no sign of course, just a red light above the entrance and a small doorbell!

  • TammyOnTheMove
    March 8 2015

    My hometown is so small, but is so picturesque that I love showing off the stunning scenery surrounding it (i.e. a 30m high viewing tower from which you can overlook the lovely hills of my home region). There is not much else to do there, but people seem to like it.
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 8 2015

      That´s in Germany, right Tammy? Sounds scenic!

  • becky hutner
    March 8 2015

    why did i click the link to dough? now i want doughnuts! if i click cider belly, it is all over.

    i’m headed to ny for the first time in almost 5 years (!) so i’m taking these rec’s with me. you know what i’m looking forward to? ian playing tour guide to YOU. as a canadian, i am hugely fascinated by newfoundland, that mysterious green island in the east, dancing to its own fiddle. where everyone’s funny and they eat really good seafood & there’s that one street in st. john’s where it all goes off. go THERE. (but bring a parka)

    • Meihoukai
      March 8 2015

      I am pretty pumped too! It will be my first real TRAVEL trip to Canada, and it seems like I picked a good place to start.

  • I love your introduction to your hometown! I’m not traveling at the moment so I’m trying to experience Denmark through a traveler’s eyes as well. It’s a great way to see one’s country from another angle.
    Miriam of Adventurous Miriam recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 8 2015

      Makes all my trips home that much more fun! New appreciation for a familiar old place.

  • Chris
    March 8 2015

    Some great ideas for when we hit the Big Apple later in the year!

    I’ll pester you for other tips closer to the date (whenever that may be) 🙂
    Chris recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 8 2015

      Absolutely! I´d recommend waiting till the snow melts though, at least 🙂

  • BEAUTIFUL photos. I really enjoyed this post and found it inspirational. It’s easy to become complacent in our hometowns, but there’s always something or someplace to explore! I want one of those donuts 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      March 10 2015

      Having someone to show off to definitely inspires you to dig deep and find things to be proud of 🙂 And yup — I could go for some donuts right now too!

  • Emily
    March 8 2015

    I always love your pictures! New York sounds magical, especially around the holidays. Living on the coast of Florida, my guests are guaranteed to see some of the many, many beaches near my house. Much warmer than the Big Apple for sure!

    • Meihoukai
      March 10 2015

      I love visiting my friends and fam in Florida — posts on that topic coming up soon! 🙂

  • Julie @ A Life Exotic
    March 8 2015

    Okay, I am definitely digging up the deets on that speakeasy. I had no idea we had something like that in the 518!!
    Julie @ A Life Exotic recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 10 2015

      It’s so cool! Don’t be confused if you call the number and they say a fake business name — it’s part of the fun 🙂

  • Justine
    March 8 2015

    How fun to be able to look at your hometown(s) through the eyes of a tourist. That’s something I haven’t really done in my hometown of San Diego. But now that I’ll have been abroad for two years, I think I’ll look at San Diego in a whole new light whenever I do return.
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 10 2015

      The first time I returned to New York after almost a year abroad I definitely saw everything through new, rose tinted glasses. It was an amazing feeling!

  • Stephanie
    March 9 2015

    I love your take on NYC. I’m moving to Boston soon and I really can’t wait to explore this city. I will definitely be hitting up The Strand and checking out some of these other spots!
    Stephanie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 10 2015

      The Strand is great — check their calendar, they do cool readings and signings there!

  • Sarah
    March 9 2015

    I miss my NYC. Craving that beautiful city! Was last there in Dec 2013, and this post reminds me of it so much.

    (P.S Brooklyn is the best! Bay Ridge ftw ;))
    Sarah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 10 2015

      I always miss New York when I’m away. But if it’s winter I quickly remind myself there is snow on the ground and I’m healed 🙂

  • This is making me super excited about NY – I’m moving back in the area in a few months. I can’t wait to explore more of Brooklyn. And I’ve never been to Albany or thought of it as a place to travel to honestly, but the places you introduced in Albany have me intrigued!
    Sara @ Simply Sara Travel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 10 2015

      It’s far from a tourist destination, but not a bad place to stop between New York and Montreal 🙂

  • Eh, Meihoukai, you sound like the best tour guide ever! What a whirlwind, this post has made me want to go back to NYC and soon. Also, your Bearded Bartender is a handsome man 🙂
    Grace | The Beauty of Everywhere recently posted..

  • Rachel
    March 9 2015

    I get so nervous playing tour guide in my city, just wanting everything to be perfect and all the food to be fabulous. Looks like you did an awesome job. That burlesque show looks amazing and I’ve always wanted to try Red Rooster (love Marcus Samuelsson). And that speakeasy looks badass.
    Rachel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 10 2015

      I definitely do too — I need to remind myself to relax when I’m playing tour guide as after all, what’s more important than a happy host to a good trip? 🙂

  • Polly
    March 9 2015

    I love the picture looking straight up between the tree and the GE building, especially with the snow. New York City is the best place to play tour guide!
    Polly recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 10 2015

      It is insanely pretty at Christmas time, too 🙂

  • Sarah
    March 9 2015

    This looks like an awesome tour. Need to add NYC to my list! Duane Park looks really cool. I can’t look at women spinning around poles without cringing a little bit about how much pain it would cause my own body haha! But respect..wish I could do it.

    • Meihoukai
      March 10 2015

      Yup — having recently taken a pole fitness class in Koh Tao I was in AWE of these women. Seriously core strength up there!

  • Beth
    March 10 2015

    I’m always amazed with the way you pack so many sights and restaurants into one visit. Eight days is impressive, and I definitely am itching to visit New York after reading this!
    Beth recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 10 2015

      Ha, yeah, this trip might have been a little TOO overambitious with packing things in. We were exhausted by the end of it!

  • One of my dreams is to “live” in New York city for a few weeks. It’s an incredibly alluring city to the Aussie traveler! I was there just three days last year, far too short!
    Michelle | Lights Camera Travel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 10 2015

      New York could take a lifetime to explore! You can always do it bit by bit 🙂

  • Amy
    March 10 2015

    I am salivating over both of those doughnut places 🙂 This post makes me so excited for my visit to the US in the autumn!
    Amy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 10 2015

      I could go for a doughnut right about now myself! Autumn is a GORGEOUS time to travel in the US. Enjoy!

  • Julia Nix
    March 11 2015

    On a different subject (not solely touching on Ian 🙂 on this topic) Life has a funny way of bringing people together and things grew from there. Having dealt with this before, I am still not good at handling separations in what some might call it – er, holiday romance (when it’s time to say goodbye, never know when paths do cross again) Only people like us understand this. Some people who enter our lives are just truly, TRULY special… As a girlie girl, I do cry 🙁

    • Meihoukai
      March 11 2015

      It’s true! Romance on the road is never easy, and it’s hard to settle down when you’re a pair of people with itchy feet. I know this particular story isn’t over yet — and can’t wait to see where it goes 🙂

  • Great post! I’m definitely putting some of your adresses on my NYC bucket list! Duane Park seems really cool but I couldn’t find anything regarding the price. Can you give me an idea of how much an evening there could cost me? Thank you in advance 🙂
    Nathalie @ Borderless Travelers recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 12 2015

      Hey Nathalie! It depends on the night. On the weekends there are pre-fixe menus that range from $85-99, and on the weekdays there is a minimum spend that fluctuates depending on the show but is around $60 a person — just give them a call and ask about the nights you are interested in! Also, check Gilt Group and Groupon — they sometimes have pre-fixe deals available there, which is what our dining companions nabbed!

      • Wow! Quite pricy but I guess I could splurge on the last evening of my stay or something! I’ll make sure to look out for those deals 🙂 Thanks for your response 😉
        Nathalie @ Borderless Traveler recently posted..

        • Meihoukai
          March 13 2015

          Considering the quality of the show and what you’d spend for a comparable three course meal and cocktails… it’s a good value at least when you’re in the mood to splurge!

  • alexa
    March 13 2015

    So nice to see Albany getting some attention! I love City Beer Hall and I must say you made it look very pretty in the photo with the fireplace.

    I’m from the 518 as well and just started traveling around in August, and started a travel blog. Currently based out of Marrakech, Morocco but heading to Chiang Mai next month.

    I love your blog and hope to be where you are in a few years! Funny, I also went to school for fine arts and lived in BK for some years. Bushwick, anyone? Did you study graphic design or did you learn it yourself? I’m currently trying to build this website and teach myself coding and CSS… Blah. Would love it if you checked out my blog though!

    Anyway, great work and keep it up!

    Meihoukaia
    alexa recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 13 2015

      Hey fellow Albanian! 🙂 I studied graphic design at Pratt, which is what brought me to Brooklyn. Love the clean header and the script font on your site! If you want to up your blogging game, I’ll recommend the same thing I always do — Travel Blog Success! It’s the best out there. Check my Obsessions page for more gushing. Happy blogging, and safe travels!

  • I grew up right outside of Albany and have been in NYC for the last 11 years – how funny is it that you have mentioned these two places? Since I spent my entire adulthood in NYC I don’t really know everything that Albany has to offer, but some of the places you mentioned make me eager to pop back up and explore it soon! 😀
    Chanel | Cultural Xplorer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 15 2015

      I love discovering new exciting things in Albany — makes me swell with pride!

  • Rashaad
    March 14 2015

    I’m glad you were able to play tour guide. I’ve had a lot of fun when I’ve been able to be a tour guide. When I lived in Yamagata Prefecture (Japan), I would show CouchSurfers around my town. Granted there really wasn’t much to show them, but I was thrilled to show travelers “my” part of Japan. Also, I was very excited to play tour guide when my father visited me in Leeds (England) last year.

    Is the New York State Museum worth a visit?
    Rashaad recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 15 2015

      I think it is, Rashaad! It’s a really beautifully done museum and the Empire State Plaza, which it sits in, is a must for anyone interested in architecture. Sounds like you’ve had some great hosting experiences 🙂

  • amy
    March 17 2015

    Can’t believe the renter didn’t get back to you about the gas leak, horrible thing to have to endure. Glad you managed to enjoy the gas-less apartment though – it looks like a charmer!
    amy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 17 2015

      Gas leak aside, we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect apartment 😉

  • Meghan
    June 11 2015

    It was a hell of a tour! It seems that you had a lot of fun! 🙂 I would love to have a tour guide like you when I visit NY someday! 🙂 Thanks for sharing !:)

    • Meihoukai
      June 12 2015

      Ha, services are pretty limited on that front, Meghan 🙂 But I do try to give as many tips as possible so you can run your own!