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Alas, I got it. I’m sick…with the travel bug. Nope, not the nasty flu that’s been flowin’ through the streets (…check back with me in a week & I’ll be pissed that I jinxed myself). But really, we just got back from NYC & I am ready to book another flight for some more exploration. Mateo & I love to explore new cities, with the mindset of a tourist as well as through the eye of a local. We spent four days in NYC (had the privilege to stay with a friend in Brooklyn) & experienced some of the most Instagram worthy spots. Better yet, we made NO reservations.

At first, this strategy made the “planner” in me panic, but because we were reservation-less—we discovered where the locals go & had an open mind for the adventures to follow. I also believe we saved a lot more money this way! Below, you will find our mash-up of places you MUST visit through the eye of the local AND the tourist:

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LOCAL HOT SPOTS

GOLD STROKE


Velvet Brooklyn  (174 Broadway, Brooklyn)


With $5 happy hour on wine & draft beer from 4-7pm, this stunning Brooklyn lounge was the perfect place for us to get away from the busy streets. We popped in here after walking the Williamsburg Bridge (read below for those deets) & enjoyed a beautiful dim lit bar with happy hour drinks & bomb ass music. We were the only ones in here at that time & we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. You can also head to their back room, the velvet lounge, for some live music where you’ll find velvet couches, another bar, & an all-around gorgeous aesthetic. See it for yourself & click here!

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Codino Wine Bar (62 Carmine St. West Village/SOHO)


We were strugglin’ with where the hell to go for some bomb Italian food while sippin’ on a beer in SOHO. So, we settled for Little Italy & as we were about to head out, a kind local stopped us & insisted that we skip out on touristy Little Italy & go to Codino, instead! THANK GOD FOR HIM. 

We were seated instantly (NO RESERVATION MADE) & obsessed over this rustic & cozy gem. It was utter perfection, delicious, & affordable! All apps are $12 & all pasta dishes are $14—that means Mateo scored delicious homemade Lobster Ravioli for that low of a price. 

We finished our meal with the creamiest & decadent tiramisu alongside some strong ass cappuccinos. This was a date night like no other & we only wish we could ship their bread to Chicago! See the menu, here!


Ramen Zamurai (126 N. 6th St. Williamsburg & 52 7th Ave., Brooklyn)


If you know Mateo & I, you know we love a big ass bowl of ramen. This CASH ONLY joint was the perfect way to end a cold day. For $12, we got a big ass bowl (this is the Spicy Miso) with their soy sauce soaked molten egg. Shit, I am drooling. The vibe here is super relaxed while the food is on another level. 


Carmine’s Pizzeria (358 Graham Ave., Brooklyn)


Not sure about y’all, but I am not a big fan of Chicago Pizza. NYC pizza has my heart, forever. Carmine’s is the cutest local ‘za spot & the first place we hit when our flight got in! We strolled Graham Ave (too cute by the way) in Brooklyn & knew this tiny Italian joint was going to be top notch.

With pizza ovens fired up & ready to go, you can get pizza by the slice or enjoy their awesome dining room for a full italian experience. This slice was crunchy, greasy, cheesy….need I say more?!!! GO HERE. 


Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop (727 Manhattan Ave., Brooklyn)


When I say this place is a gem, I mean it. We scored two coffees, two donuts, & a bacon, egg, & cheese sesame bagel sandwich for a whopping….wait for it….$8! If we discovered this hot spot in the beginning of our trip, we would have been here for every breakfast. But get here fast, this place fills up with locals & we were pumped to get a front row bar stool seat to watch the servers workin’ their asses off!

(We got the blueberry lemon buttermilk donut & a chocolate!)

 Located on Manhattan Ave down the streets from stellar vintage shops, this Brooklyn staple is a breakfast joint that has stellar service & fresh baked goods for all their locals. Oh, how we will miss you, Peter Pan.


Bagelsmith  (189 Bedford Ave. & 566 Lorimer St., Brooklyn)


There isn’t much to say except for these bagels will put you in a food coma in the best way possible. Get it toasted with some jalapeno cheddar cream cheese & you’re good ’till noon. We also hear their bagel sandwhiches are TO DIE FOR. Don’t expect to sit, this fast-paced bagel shop caters to New Yorkers who need a quick to-go bagel fix! 


Variety Coffee (368 Graham Ave., Williamsburg & multiple locations)


When I tell you this was the creamiest soy latte I have ever had, I am not lying. We hit up the Williamsburg location to get away from the rain & I am so glad we did. It was the cutest rustic spot with damn good coffee & espresso. Although we were eating our bagels from Bagelsmith, this coffee spot also has BOMB baked goods! 

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Berry Park (4 Berry St., Brooklyn)


Views for days. This local brunch spot is a must see just for the rooftop views. When you walk in, you’re greeted with lively sports fans & a stunning warehouse space. If you are a soccer fan or just like being in a lively environment with a bloody mary, this is the spot for you. Don’t even get me started on the huge projector screen for game days & the indoor fireplaces to keep you cozy all day long. See for yourself, here!

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TOURIST HOT SPOTS

GOLD STROKE


Williamsburg Bridge


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Connecting across the East River, this bridge has stunning views! If you walk the whole bridge, it will lead you directly into the Lower Eastside in about 40 minutes! We decided to enjoy the views instead of walking it, and it was simply stunning! This is a MUST.


Milk Bar (382 Metropolitan Ave. & Multiple Locations)


DELICIOUS. I am sure you have heard of the cereal milk soft serve? Yeah, Milk Bar is THE hot spot to go in NYC for one of those delicious concoctions. We got the Salted Pretzel Chocolate cereal milkshake, & had to resist from buying a dozen of cookies. TIP: YOU CAN PUT BOOZE IN YOUR SHAKES, TOO! 

The Loeb Boathouse Central Park (E. 72nd St. & Park Drive North, Midtown East)

Located in the middle of Central Park, this boathouse restaurant and cafe is an NYC landmark seen in movies & one of the most popular (& expensive) wedding venues. We were strolling through Central Park on a super cold day & decided to sit by the fireplace where we were greeted with a complimentary cup of hot apple cider.

You don’t even have to purchase anything to visit! The views are stunning & the building itself is full of light. I recommend grabbing one cocktail at the bar to channel your inner Upper East Side persona. 

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The Museum of Sex (233 Fifth Avenue., Manhattan)


Holy shit, this was some fun. This was such a unique experience & a nice change from typical museums that you find in big cities. For $18 a person (including $3 for the boob bouncy house) we learned all about the history of sex & human interaction. The best part, for $3 extra you get to jump in the boob bouncy house (yes…boob) for some childlike fun. Just check out my “explore” highlights on my Instagram story, here to see the boob bouncy house for yourself! This was the perfect activity for a rainy day. 


Brooklyn Brewery  (79 N. 11th St., Brooklyn)


Beer, beer, & did I say beer?! This spot is a relaxed space with picnic tables & loads of freshly brewed brewskis. The tour is short & sweet, leaving you time to enjoy & taste all of their stellar options.

We fell in love with the warehouse-style building, leading us down the street after drinking to one of the best views of the concrete jungle sky line. See for yourself…

& there you have it. This guide is meant for adventurers who love to hit up local spots but also want to stick with the tourist-driven “must see’s”! When you get a chance to get to NYC, put on your wanderlust cap & let the day take you in any direction. I promise you will see the city in the most amazing way possible, with no strings attached, & no reservations needed.

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Special thanks to my partner in crime & love of my life for letting me experience this unforgettable trip. I’ll never stop adventuring with you. 

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See more of my adventures on Instagram!