This past weekend I attended an all day conference in my hometown of NYC. I was a bit nervous about traveling to The Big Apple during a Panini, so naturally, I made sure to book an obnoxiously extra full day of shopping to make the precarious trip worth my while. Here is what you can do if you have burning pockets and 24 hours in New York City.
*Have a copy of your Covid-19 vaccination card. A photo saved on your phone is fine. Many NYC establishments require full vaccination for entry.
- Wear: Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes. If you couldn’t be caught dead without your heels, just trust me on this one and carry some flats in your bag because I said so. And I’m not talking about your cute ballerina flats you scored at Target (No shade to Target). I’m talking about some high quality, thick-soled work horses. You’ll thank me later. The concrete jungle makes no apologies for plantar fasciitis and bunions incurred along your journey. And aching feet will ruin your experience by cutting your shopping plans short to find the nearest foot massage spa. You should also wear layers of clothing that are both easy to disrobe and fit clothes over. One reason is because New York weather can go through 4 seasons in a day. It might start out feeling like winter, but you’ll be sweating by brunch. Easy peel-off layers like an undershirt << long sleeve tee << light jacket << scarf will help. The other reason to layer up is because this makes clothing try-on much easier. I prefer shopping in a loose dress or in black leggings and a long sleeve fitted tee. Easy peel off or throw over. This saves major time when you have lots of places to go. Lastly, carry a bag that can fit a bottle of water and your layers when you get too hot. If you are as serious about shopping as I am, you’ll need your hands free. Carry a cross-body or stylish backpack.
2. Buy: Buy a metro card with at least $25 dollars loaded. Unless you don’t mind paying premium Uber prices to take you 5 blocks away, a $2.75 cross-town bus ride is a great way to see the city and save your feet. I personally love taking the city buses. They are plentiful and more convenient than going underground to wait for a train.
3. Research: Be sure to plan out your shopping excursion at least a day before the trip. It’s best to get there the night before or very early in the morning before stores open. Also, make advanced reservations for dinner using an app like Open Table if you want to eat somewhere popular. Look up all your favorite stores and shops you wish to visit. Jot down store hours and locations so you can set up your logistics. It so happens that the stores I enjoy shopping are clustered together in 2 or 3 neighborhoods – Chelsea, Soho, and Herald Square. I mostly wanted to go to favorite stores that I can’t find in Houston or that may have more variety than Houston locations. After I had all those details listed, I mapped out the order in which to start shopping based on opening hours and location. If a store had a late closing and was out of the way, I would save it for last. Likewise, if a store opened very early, I would be sure to arrive at opening time. I start from the highest point on my shop map (Herald Square) and work my way down the city streets on foot. I barely even notice I’ve walked 10 city blocks while going in and out of stores all along the way.
4. Warm up: If you’ve got a small bladder, skip this next tip. Traveling to NYC anytime between October and April, there will most likely be a crisp chill in the morning air. I enjoy a hot cup of tea first thing in the morning to warm up my insides and get my day on the right foot. Check out Citizens of Soho’s cute coffee shop. Or stop in any corner deli for a New York-style bagel and a cafe con leche, then you are off to the races.
5. Shop: Weekdays would be best to browse the shops, but if it is the weekend just get out super early! H&M in Herald Square opens at 10am. From there you can go to Macy’s or mosey down to Chelsea or Soho. Saturday’s are nice to walk through the Union Square Farmer’s Market which is one of my all time favorite farmer’s markets in the country. While you are there, you can cross the street to peruse the biggest bookstore in Manhattan – Barnes and Noble in Union Square. Or check out Nordstrom Rack, Burlington Coat Factory, DSW, Doc Martin. You can walk two blocks west and stumble upon Free People, J. Crew, Anthropologie. Keep walking north a few steps to Aritzia, Madewell, Club Monaco, and Muji. Muji is where I stock up on my fabulous writing pens, notebooks, toiletry essentials, linen dresses and flannel shirts. Muji is a nerd’s dream. Check it out. If you head all the way west to 9th avenue (long walk) Chelsea Market is worth a long browse. It is essentially an artisanal food hall and indie shopping mall tucked away on 18th & 9th Avenue.
7. Lunch: By this point you’ll be starving and I suggest you make your way to Eataly for an amazing lunch experience. You can dine in at this unique indoor marketplace tasting freshly made pasta and seafood sourced directly from Italy. Have a glass of Prosecco to celebrate your fabulous finds that you’ve scored thus far, and browse the Eataly market for treats to take back home. Before you leave, I suggest a chocolate chip cookie or a hot chocolate from their espresso bar. Probably not both because they are super rich chocolatey goodness on their own.
8. Wind down: I know your hands are full with shopping bags and cookies. Start planning your route back to your hotel room, but stop at some vintage shops along the way. Many stores will check your bags at the door so you’ll get a little break. Try Housing Works, Eye Candy or Second Time Around for some hidden vintage gems.
9. Refresh: Okay, you made it back to your room! Now unload your treasures. Freshen up. Rub your feet. Sip some water. Put on a cute outfit. And head back out for dinner. If you are anywhere downtown NYC, the options are virtually endless. You don’t need reservations to enjoy a spectacular meal in the Big Apple. However, if you want a seat at a popular locale, be sure to reserve something at least the night before. I went to Boucherie, a Parisian restaurant in Soho. The indoor ambiance is dreamy with trees and plants galore. If you don’t want to dine out, try Digg Inn for slow-cooked grab and go meals. Afterwards I had amazing hazelnut gelato at Venchi. They line their cones with cocao nibs or hazelnut crumbs. Delish!
I cannot end this post without a special shoutout to my beloved Two Bros Pizza. It tastes delicious, takes 45 seconds, and costs $1. They have locations throughout the city. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t get anything good for $1 in NYC. This pizza NEVER disappoints.
10. Wrap it up: To wrap up your shopping day in NYC, I would personally take some snacks (from Eataly and/or a local bodega) into my hotel room and watch NY One for nostalgia’s sake. I’m hoping you have more energy than me at this point. If you do, head over to a swanky rooftop bar and take in the undisputed, incomparable city skyline. I love 230 Fifth because they have a nightclub after hours. So you have the option of drinks and skyline on the rooftop or head down one level for DJ and dancing. Some other rooftop options are Magic Hour at Moxy Hotel in Chelsea and The Delancey which is further down in the Lower East Side.
11. Head home: Now is the time to take an Uber back to your hotel with the coins you saved by taking the bus and eating dollar pizza. I’m a glutton for punishment so you’ll probably catch me yawning while I’m waiting for a delayed “A” train way too late at night. I need to take in every city moment possible. Just kidding, it’s more a combo of me being super frugal and the fact that this is the only way I ever traveled when I lived here. I guess old habits die hard. If it is after 10pm, I recommend you get an Uber.
In Conclusion: With a little bit of Google planning, you can pack a whole lot into 24 hours in NYC. Without any planning whatsoever, you can still have an amazing and unforgettable experience exploring this energizing city. Be sure to pack your COVID vaccination card, comfortable shoes, and an empty luggage for all the fabulous finds you are sure to cop. You will no doubt be completely exhausted and achy the next day or two – like a truck hit you. But this is a small price to pay for living it up in the City of Dreams. So don’t hold back and try to take it all in.
Let me know how you spent your 24 hours in my home town.