Sometimes Lanna and I just need a trip. This whole traveling with kids is good n’ all, and let’s be honest, the boys are at a perfect age to where it’s pretty easy and straight up fun. But sometimes our travel bug bites just the two of us.
So when Lanna had to sandwhich something between a conference in Lexington, Kentucky and a meeting in Scranton, Pennsylvania (yup, that Scranton) and the most accessible place was a little town called New York City, we had the boys holed up with her parents faster than you can sing a Broadway show tune (if you actually knew some Broadway show tunes that were a little shorter in nature…)
We were stoked.
Neither of us had ever been and while we had just experienced a vast Hong Kong and Lanna had grown up in the huge metropolis of Buenos Aires, Argentina (I won’t mention my hometown size here:), this is New York. This is some deep history, some classic sights, and great food. This is an amazing city.
We tried to pack as much as we could into our three full days so it was up early and back to our AirBnB late. We stood in line for to-die-for cronuts (croissant + donut: it’s a thing), waved from Lady Liberty in the rain, walked about 10 miles of Central Park, scarfed dumplings in Chinatown and pizza in Greenwhich Village, hit up a Broadway show, and scored two free beers from Brooklyn Brewery and one free hotdog from Papaya King… right? I know, New Yorkers are some of the nicest people. One guy even laid out the whole way the subway works on our first “we’re lost” moment.
And, surprisingly, the two cities that bookended the trip were a blast as well. We discovered the vast, beautiful world of horse and Bourbon culture in Kentucky. The people were so nice, the grits were delish (though Lanna tends to avoid this delecacy), and the countryside was beautiful. Fun fact: there are more places to eat per capita in Lexington than anywhere in the country besides San Francisco. Third on this list? New York. And the food scene was good. The focus on local ingredients at some of these places (often a renovated house from the 1800’s) was astounding and while we were bummed to miss it, apparently they have one of the better farmer’s markets in the country. Yup, Lexington: a metro area less than 300,000 people is rockin’ the culinary world better than most major cities, ya’ll.
Meanwhile, a good friend and whiskey aficionado met up with me and we did a good chunk of the Craft Bourbon Trail. We were in massive, oak-barrel filled warehouses that smelled like a bowl of your favorite sugar cereal and poking around glorified garages listening to a passionate distiller in a dirty t-shirt describing their process while wiping off grass clippings because he’s also the landscaper. We dipped fingers into fermenting corn vats, bottles into hot wax, and lips into smooth samples of bourbon, moonshine, and a smattering of other local delicacies.
Scranton had me humming the theme song to “The Office” pretty much for the full 20 hours we were there. Aside from the obligatory pic from the opening credits, this city offered up some great coffee (Cadbury creme egg latte… right?!) and some really nice Pennsylvanians. Unfortunately, no Michael Scott or Jim Halpert sightings… maybe next time.
And then it was done. We were so stoked to see our boys and while they had an absolutely fantastic time with grandparents and cousins, even they were excited to be together again. Although after squeezing Aven for a solid two mintues, he pulled away from me and asked “So, when is your next trip?”
Love you too, buddy. Love you too.
Below I’m listing some of the sights we loved, places we ate, and little tips from our trip for those that are curious. If you’re thinking of hitting any of these places in the near future, by no means am I an expert, but I learned a few things by being there for a few days. Let me know!
Do: Kentucky Horse Park had everything you wanted to know about horses and a lot you didn’t. You can ride a horse, meet a Derby winner, groom a pony and lots more. At the Mary Todd Lincoln House you can get your history on with the wife of one of the most famous presidents. The Bourbon Trail is awesome. There’s tons of distilleries within a hour or so of Lexington. Check out TripAdvisor for the craft distilleries where you’ll get smaller, more intimate tours. But do one big one to see how Bourbon goes big. Also check out Universtiy of Kentucky and the Farmers Market.
Eat: Stella’s, Village Idiot, Kentucky Native Cafe, Lexington Diner, Vinagrette
Stay: Everything from a modern, sleek studio condo to an 1860’s townhouse on AirBnb.
Tips: It’s horse country so if you go during auctions (4x a year) or a couple weeks pre-Derby (the big race), it’s expensive. Otherwise, it’s a super affordable spot. Uber was easiest to get around, but rent a car if you want to hit up the Bourbon Trail
Do: everything. Seriously, the tourist stuff is all great. We got cheap Broadway tix with an app (TodayTix) for “School of Rock.” We love history so look up “Free Tours by Foot” for great walking tours. If nothing else, it gives you an idea of the area and the guides hook you up with eating suggestions, where to go next etc. No cost, it’s tip based. (We usually give $10-15 a person) Carry a bit of cash: many smaller restaurants/food carts don’t take cards. Take the subway: You’ll get lost at least once, but for $30 a person for seven days, it’s your cheapest option by a long shot. Yelp and TripAdvisor are big in New York; find good stuff to do on there. And yeah, you should walk the Brooklyn Bridge: It’s really cool.
Eat: We hit Bleecker Street Pizza and Papaya King Hotdogs (cash only) for street eats. Superiority Burger (veg burgers) the Little Beet and Buddha Bodai Vegan (dim sum… so good!) for great, healthy vegetarian options. And Trader Joe’s is a cheat place to grab snacks, breakfast/lunch on-the-go to save some money. Brooklyn Brewery is LEGIT: they’re one of the oldest craft breweries in the country and they have a pizza truck parked outside the tasting room. Great beer, cool vibe, and good tours.
Stay: definetly AirBnB. Hotels start at $150 and you’re not close to anything. We stayed with a woman who gave us a room and one breakfast for $70 a night. Since you’re in the city that never sleeps, you won’t be home much so don’t splurge on anything fancy… at least, that’s how we roll. 🙂
OK, this is shorter because we weren’t there long and we stayed in the Hilton courtesy of Lanna’s work. But, stay close to downtown and walk by the brick “Dunder Mifflin” building, eat at Bar Pazzo, and grab anything at Northern Lights Esspresso Bar. Everything is good there.
Every trip has learning experiences; even if you’re a world traveler. Here’s a few from this one…
– Carry at least $24: a twenty and four ones. This covers lunch in case they don’t take cards and money for tips. I was scrambling in Papaya King. They’d already made my hot dog, it was 11pm and I couldn’t scrounge up the money. But they were awesome and I got my dog for free.
– Google Maps is your friend and knows NYC subways better than you do. (Can you hear Lanna saying that to me?)
– Even with some research, let yourself be surprised. Lexington was way cooler than I thought it might be. Be open.