Since I began blogging over three years ago, I’ve never taken any real time off. I’ve gone on a ton of trips, but I always found time to work throughout them. I’d wake up early and write before I started my day, head back to the hotel and edit photos or do SEO late at night (which technically didn’t feel like work because of the beautiful environments that I would vacation in). This past December, Billy and I took our annual trip to the East Coast. We spent five days in New York City, followed by time at my parents’ home in Massachusetts to celebrate Christmas and the New Year. Before I left, I told myself I would take a break from all things A Girl in LA and use the occasion to unwind and just hangout. Here’s how I made the most of my 2019 East Coast trip.
PS: Here some of my Instagram vacation highlights and everything I wore in NYC.
The day we arrived my dad drove Billy and me to the New Haven Train Station and we took the Metro-North into Grand Central Terminal. (My family’s home is about an hour from New Haven, and the train ride takes about two-and-a-half hours, making the total travel time around three-and-a-half hours.)
We stayed at the New York Hilton Midtown, which had an incredible view of the Manhattan skyline. I loved the central location because it was a few steps from all the must-see holiday attractions like the Rockefeller tree, the Saks Fifth Avenue light show, Times Square, and Central Park.
Being a diehard fan of The Deuce and seeing the realistic portrayal of how sleazy and gritty Times Square once was, it was hard to believe that 42d street, one of the world’s biggest tourist meccas was once lined with strip clubs, brothels, and pornography theaters.
We discovered the most delicious vegan burger place called MTHR VEGAN. I ordered the Mthr Cruncher (a Beyond Meat Burger topped with special sauce, potato chips, cheese, and tomato), and Billy got the Nacho & Beyond. Then we split a side of tater tots and dipped them in a variety of sauces. They were so mouthwatering that we ordered seconds.
Billy was searching for something to get my dad and we discovered these handcrafted caramels from Izzy & Tallulah. We sampled all of the flavors and it was hard to narrow down the tastiest one, but ultimately we chose chai spice.
We stepped out of our hotel to the pleasant surprise of seeing Santa in a convertible blasting Christmas music.
Before our dinner reservation, we took the subway to the Lower East Side and explored the neighborhood. We stopped at Beauty & Essex. This is where we had Christmas Eve dinner in 2016, and it was then that I fell in love with this trendy place. As soon as we entered, “All I Want For Christmas” (my all-time favorite holiday song) blasted throughout the bar.
We headed to Gnoccheria for a pre-birthday dinner which is one of my favorite restaurants in New York City. This Italian eatery is renowned for its homemade pasta and gnocchi. I ordered the Tres Signature Dish (which had three different types: Pesto Genovese, Quattro Formaggi, and Sorentina) just like I did a few years ago.
After dinner, we continued to sightsee throughout the Lower East Side. I love the hustle and bustle of Midtown but it was nice to be in a neighborhood that was quieter and gave off a low-key vibe. I made a point of stopping at Exit9 Gift Emporium, (a little shop I spotted a couple of years ago). I purchased an NYC coffee cup pin, The Truffleist truffle oil, The New Yorkers Guide to LA / The Angeleno’s Guide to NYC, an NYC pizza rescue kit, and a pack of glitter candles.
Before heading back to our hotel we walked along Bowery. I had read and watched countless amounts of documentaries about this ever-changing neighborhood. It’s the oldest street in New York and it has been home to the rich and the poor, hipsters and hippies, beatniks and rock stars and the cultured and uncultured. In other words, this small section of Manhattan has seen everything. It was also the home of the infamous CBGB, a place where some of my favorite artists became legends.
On my Birthday we had plans to meet up with my parents and sister for dessert and macarons at Ladurée. But, our first stop of the day was a stroll through Central Park. I love the contrast of the busy New York City skyline that encompasses this beautiful (and at times quiet), nature-filled park.
We discovered these giant Christmas lights on 6th Ave.
It’s not a trip to New York City without visiting Bryant Park’s Winter Village. We wandered around the little shops and then had a quick bite at The Lodge. I had the same dish as last year; truffle mac and cheese from Mayhem Smokehouse and Billy got a veggie burger from Two Tablespoons. Luckily, it wasn’t too cold so we sat outside and listened to the Christmas music that played over the rink. Later on, we took a short walk to Herald Square and did some more holiday shopping and explored the area.
Before I left for New York, I was searching for a place to celebrate my Birthday and I decided on Ladurée (The Madison location). Ever since I read the colorful coffee table book, Ladurée Savoir Vivre: The Art of Fine Living, I’ve wanted to try their gorgeous macrons. My parents and sister met up with Billy and me and we had a wonderful time celebrating my Birthday. I ordered the Ispmontblanc; a pastry with chestnut cream filling and vanilla chantilly in between a giant macaron shell, and it was a-m-a-z-i-n-g! Then I purchased two small boxes of macarons to go (one for me that I devoured later that evening, and one to go with my aunts Christmas gift.)
This was our last night in the city and we still had two of our favorite holiday attractions to see; the Rockefeller Christmas Tree and the Saks Fifth Avenue holiday light show. During our previous trips, we visited both at peak times, and saying there were enormous crowds would be an understatement. Around 11pm we walked from our hotel, three short blocks to observe the tree before the lights went out. Then we went across the street to watch the five minute light and music display at Saks Fifth Avenue. Viewing them both when the crowds had thinned out made for an even more entertaining experience.
Christmas Eve was our last day in the city and we kept up with our annual tradition. Each year we end our trip by spending the afternoon having lunch at The Plaza Food Hall, visiting the shops, and viewing the breathtaking tree in the hotel lobby. This brings back memories of growing up looking forward to watching one of my favorite holiday films, Eloise at Christmastime.
My parents picked us up at our hotel and we headed to my sister and her boyfriend’s new place in Bed-Stuy. Before we left for our annual Christmas Eve dinner, we indulged in drinks and hors d’oeuvres.
This year we dined at Modern Love, a vegan restaurant in Brooklyn. I ordered the Swiss Fondue which came with grilled garlic bread, broccolini, rainbow carrots, and cauliflower. For my entrée, I got the Modern Cheeseburger—a veggie patty topped with cashew cheddar, tomatoes, special sauce, and onions. Both were insanely delicious.
Before we drove back to Massachusetts, we stopped at a bodega in Brooklyn to stock up on snacks.
Once we arrived home, I snapped a photo of our Christmas tree. This was my first time seeing it with all the presents underneath!
On Christmas morning, after we woke up, we gathered in the family room to open our gifts. I loved everything I received and it’s impossible to narrow down my favorites. For breakfast, my mom served an assortment of tea cakes from Harry & David, and I made mimosas with Moët & Chandon. Later on in the day, we had dinner which was truffle mac & cheese from The Federal Restaurant, and a variety of vegetables, crackers, and dips.
That evening my dad lit a fire in the living room and we all watched The Night Before. Then I made my mom’s tasty hors d’oeuvres that she serves at her holiday party (but I switched out the bacon for garlic). Before we went to bed we all played Fake News, a game that I begged Billy to get me. We split up into three teams of two and Billy and I tied with my sister and Hunter.
The rest of the week flew by. Unfortunately, Billy caught the flu, so we hung out and relaxed rather than going off to sightsee. It was great being in my childhood home and having the chance to catch up with my family. I binge-watched Season 2 of You on Netflix and then I started watching Shameless—which I’m now addicted to. For the first time since I started A Girl in LA, I employed an automated email response and took the opportunity to clear my mind. Billy and I have been tossing around the idea of moving when our lease is up, so I devoted a lot of time looking at apartments.
For Christmas, I asked for a Ban.do planner, a wellness planner, and a sticker book. I devoted time to organizing them and preparing for 2020. I looked at my 2019 planner and the goals I had achieved and set some new ones for the year ahead (both personal and business). I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions because I believe positive changes can (and should) be made regardless if it’s January 1st.
I had an awesome time touring to the big apple, a fabulous birthday and Christmas with my family and it felt great taking time to decompress and get ready for the upcoming year. How did you spend the holidays and what are you most looking forward to in 2020?
*This article contains some affiliate links.