Things I Love In New York

Last week, I took myself on a little writing retreat to NYC. I know that’s probably not the place most writers think of when they want to go write, but I love New York. And I miss it! I knew going back to our old neighborhood would be a good muse as I write my book about the thing that happened that made us move to New York in the first place. So I went back to oHarlem and visited all of our favorite spots and it was cathartic and nice and restful and I’d move back in a heartbeat.


Anyway. Thought I’d share my favorite spots with you! I’m by no means an expert on the city, but it’s been a part of my life since before I could talk, so I hope this helps you figure out where you want to go when you visit!


Everyone wants to see the touristy spots in new york and I get it. I love them too! Times Square, Rockefeller, 30 Rock, Central Park. All fun places! But there is so much more to the city than where all the people go.

Harlem is my favorite part of Manhattan. It’s allll the way up, above Central Park. There’s good food, good music, brownstones, people, murals, parks, playgrounds, coffee, all the things you love about NYC, but without all the chaos. Sometimes I feel like I’m walking in a different time. Old men hang out in front of hair salons playing cards while their wives get their hair done. People sit on stoops playing instruments and singing but not for money, just for fun. Friends pass each other in the street and ask about their mama. If you walk the same street a few days in a row, you’ll start recognizing people and they’ll recognize you too. If you are any kind of creative, get yourself an Airbnb in Harlem and soak it uuup. It’s all the NY vibes you want, but a lot less elbow shoving and yelling.

Where to stay in Harlem :
There are a lot of great places to stay, but this is where I stayed and where I will stay every time I go back! if you’re a solo female traveler, highly recommend staying with Ashley! Click here to see her listing. She was super sweet and accommodating and has the sweetest pup. If you’ve never Airbnb’d before … it’s the best way to travel. We never get hotels anymore! You can rent rooms or entire houses, just depends on what you’re looking for and what your budget is! I paid $52/night this time. We pay a little bit more when we get whole houses .. like $100 or so. Sign up for airbnb with my link and help me go on more trips. LOL!!

my room :


Where to get coffee in Harlem :

Manhattanville Coffee - 142 Edgecombe Ave, New York, NY 10030 (my personal fave)
The Monkey Cup - 1961 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd, New York, NY 10026
Sugar Hill Cafe - 410 W 145th St B1, New York, NY 10031

Where to eat in Harlem :

Tsion Cafe (Ethiopian Food, Live Music, and Outdoor seating) - 763 St Nicholas Ave, New York, NY 10031
The Edge (Little bit of everything!) - 101 Edgecombe Ave, New York, NY 10030

Where to play in Harlem :
There are playgrounds and parks everywhere, but our favorite is the Jackie Robinson park. OR you can cross the bridge into the South Bronx and there are two playgrounds and a skatepark right by Yankee Stadium. My favorite taco spot is right there too!!


Ok we’ll talk about that for a second then we’ll move on. I can’t remember how we found this amazing gem in the South Bronx except that we walked past it everyday on our way to Target, but these tacos changed my liiiiife. My LIFE ya’ll. We drive into this neighborhood every time we come to the city because this is where we park our car! We find street parking (it’s FREE) and grab a couple of tacos on our way to the train. Highly recommend this life changing taco experience. You’re welcome in advance. San Jose Tulcingo Deli 109 E 153rd St, The Bronx, NY 10451


Places we go to often :

Columbus Circle : amazon store, good food, cool part of central park. It’s a good place to hang out if you have kids with you and want things to look at and food to eat, but also want a place to let your kids run wild for a few minutes. If you go here, walk a few streets down to our other favorite taco Place, La Esquina - 200 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019. The inside is super cute, but you can also sit outside! (There are plugs on one of the walls if you need to charge your phone! life tip.)

the only pic I have of the outside of La Esquina :


Washington Square Park : There is a huge fountain that your kids can jump and swim in if you’re cool with it. our kids always jump in and we’ve never planned ahead for it, but if we did, we’d bring swimsuits. Haha. This part of New York is really college-y (NYU is right there) and has lots of good, eclectic foods. But. Just be ready for a little more pretentiousness than other parts of New York. It’s a great place to people watch, I’ll say that. There’s a good Paletas place on Sullivan St. (La Newyorkina) and lots of great restaurants on MacDougal St. (We like Pommes Frites. Belgium Fries!). Joe’s Pizza is a few blocks away and is really good if you want an authentic NY slice. Once you’re in Washington Square, you’re not far from The World Trade Center and Battery Park. Might as well go down there too!

my kids respecting me as a parent and 100% on board with “just stick your feet in, guys” :


The Highline! 100% head down to Chelsea and walk up to the highline. It’s an old train track that the city has turned into a skyline garden. It’s beautiful and romantic and calm.

Central Park : The Park is HUGE. You will never see all of it in one trip, so I’ll tell you my favorite spots.

On the Upper West Side, you can enter the park Near John Lennon’s apartment and see the Imagine memorial. 72nd St on the West Side. There’s usually music happening right around there and a few open spaces where you can sit in the grass and have a break.

Directly across the park, on the East Side, on 72nd St, there is a little pond where you can rent model sailboats and drive the around the water. (There’s a scene from Stewart Little filmed here!) Right next to the water is a cafe where you can get coffee, tea, cold drinks, beer, and wine. There are tables and chairs with umbrellas and lots of shady spots!

THE NORTH WOODS!! Cannot recommend enough! There are waterfalls and wooden bridges. There are birds everywhere. You will honestly forget you’re in the city. It’s such a magical place.

The Umpire Rock - kind of a classic central park experience. climb the rocks, take a few selfies. there’s even one part of the rock you can slide down! It will hurt your butt but it’s worth it. That’s what I did on my 30th birthday a few years ago! lol. There’s also a really cool playground right there too!

When it comes to Central Park, our favorite thing to do is just take the train and pick a random stop along the park and get out and explore. There’s sooo much to see and do in there. Hiiiighly recommend getting rid of your plans for a day and just seeing what you can find in the park.



// Kids ride free on the subway. Just have them climb under the turn style. Rides are $2.75 a piece for adults.

// Bring your charger with you. There are charging stations all over the city and a lot of restaurants and coffee shops have outlets.

// Download Yelp. We don’t mess around with picking random places to eat in NYC. Get to where you want to go and pull up the Yelp recommendations around you. Trust the top 5.

// Take lots of playground breaks with your kids. You can find one on every corner and they’re almost always gated. Walking gets super boring for them. Grab some snacks and take a break every few hours in a park. You’ll get rested, figure out what you want to do next, and the kids will get to play and be free before they have to fall back into the stress of walking around the city.

// The Museum of Natural History is pay what you want. There’s a suggested donation, but you don’t have to pay that. Just tell them you’ll be paying what you want today and they’ll just say ‘ok, how much?’ The MET used to have this policy too but they changed it in March! Costs $25 for adults now.


Ok I feel like this is getting a little much now, so let me know if you want a part two!! I could write a novel on my love for NYC, but I’ll leave it at this. lol. enjoyyyy.

Kristen LaValleyComment