7.28.2015

Tiny City Guide-Top 10 THINGS TO DO and SEE in New York City


     Growing up in New Jersey provided me with many life skills such as talking REALLY loud, cursing at strangers, talking with my hands and mouth simultaneously, driving like a crazy person and getting to know neighboring NYC really well. As an actress, I spent many of my weekends in high school around the Broadway theaters in mid-town Manhattan. Now, even though I no longer live in the Tri-State area, I do still consider it home and head back as often as I am able to. In fact, last week I was able to return to NYC with a friend who was unfamiliar with the city and wanted to see some of the sights. So while I took her around the city, I compiled a list of the 'Top 10 Things to Do and See' in NYC (it was difficult to only include 10 of them...believe me!). I have also included some tips at the bottom of this post that I recommend ALL tourists follow. Anyway, I hope this small list helps you make your next trip to 'the city that never sleeps/concrete jungle/big apple' a bit easier.





See a Broadway Show-

         This is a MUST in NYC and don't give me the excuse 'I don't like musicals!' There are plenty of shows on Broadway each season that don't include ANY music.

My top Broadway picks (as of July 2015)

-The Phantom of the Opera, Majestic Theater
       (I suggest sitting in the middle of the orchestra for this show). Box seats can be purchased for $62 (a steal) but just know you will be missing a good portion of the side of the stage (you will however get a great view of the orchestra pit). The music is gorgeous, it is the longest running show on Broadway plus the Majestic *in my opinion* is one of the prettiest Broadway theaters. I've seen the show 15 times and it never gets old.

-Jersey Boys, August Wilson Theater
       Be aware this show does contain a bit of language, even so, the story of the Four Seasons is a classic and so is the music. You will be singing "Walk Like a Man, Sherry, and Big Girl's Don't Cry" the rest of the week.

-Wicked, Gershwin Theater
       Do you love The Wizard of Oz? Then you will love this backwards round-about tell-all from the Good Witch/Bad Witch perspective. Great music and wonderful for the whole family.





Eat at a GREAT NYC Restaurant/Gourmet Shop

      Skip the eateries IN Time's Square and the Themed Restaurants. Sorry to tell you but Olive Garden is NOT REAL AUTHENTIC Italian Fare. I know, I know...how could I EVER choose just a few restaurants in NYC to go to? Believe me, there are SO many places to choose from...but here are just a few;

My top picks;

$$$$
-Picholine (Near Lincoln Center)
    Yes this place is super expensive but honestly it is the best meal I have ever had.

$$$
-Buddakan (Meatpacking District)
   Asian fusion with a bit of flare (Sex and the City fans may recognize the scene of Carrie Bradshaw's engagement party as it took place at Buddakan )

$$
-Carmine's (Theater District + other locations around NYC)
    Family Style Italian food...great for a large group wanting to share!

$
-Balducci's (Midtown)
    This quaint 'Gourmet Grocery Store' is the perfect place to pick up a quick bite for breakfast or lunch. Their products are fresh everyday, they give back to the community and carry local pastries and more. They also have specialty products that you won't find anywhere else in the city. We stopped in and wanted to buy EVERYTHING. All products in store are chosen with care and are of the highest quality. Their lunch salads are a HUGE favorite with everyone in the Hearst building....in fact, the salads are so large that many people eat half for lunch and half for dinner (that's a steal in NYC). Rick, the manager is the nicest, humblest man and truly someone who LOVES his job. Say "hi" to him when you stop in! (Check out Capital Mom's amazing Balducci's review here.)

P.S. Pick up a few packages of Salt of the Earth Cookies while at Balducci's--they are AMAZING (and a favorite of Ricks'!)

$
-Paris Baguette (32nd and 6th + other locations around NYC)
    This chain first started in 1988 out of Korea and has since expanded into the United States. The pastries in each shop are made fresh daily and you can find new items every few hours on the shelves. I became obsessed with their Almond Rum Pastry, Lemon Cronut, Rice Donut and Horchata Frappe. 

   



   -Sure, there are tons of hotels to choose from when heading to NYC but if you want to stay 'in the middle of it all' (while not feeling like you are sleeping 'in the middle of it all' the next morning) take my advice. The Hilton Garden-Inn Central Park South is close walking distance to Central Park, Times Square, Broadway theaters (Studio 54 is literally across the street) and Fifth Avenue/Columbus Circle shopping. The beds are plush (thank you Serta), the amenities wonderful (Keurig to the rescue), the staff outgoing and helpful and the rooms are very spacious and clean. We booked the 'Jr. Suite' which consisted of an huge outdoor patio overlooking 54th street, a bathroom with two sinks and two showers and a microwave and refrigerator. Believe me, I have had some pretty interesting hotel stays in NYC and from now on the Hilton Garden-Inn Central Park South is where I am staying from now on. It is the perfect hotel literally in the center of it all (for a more in-depth review visit Capital Moms). 



See Times Square at night

  - Times Square (where the New Year's Ball is dropped) always seems a bit less crowded to me late at night. I would recommend heading there around 11pm (when most of the shops are closed) and taking a few photos. 



Ground Zero- 9/11 Memorial Pools and Museum

   -Plan ahead if you are heading down to the financial district as it is a bit far from mid-town (23 minutes or so depending on traffic). I visited the 9/11 museum last June (click here for my post) after it opened and I am so glad I did. I highly recommend setting aside a whole day to experience the museum and memorial pools (bring plenty of tissues). I wouldn't recommend bringing children to the museum or memorial pools unless they are older and can be respectful and quiet. Also, many restaurants close early in the financial district so don't plan on finding lots of restaurants open in the area if you are there past 6pm.


Walk down 5th Avenue

  -If you love fashion and shopping then you are definitely going to want to walk down 5th Avenue in NYC. No matter what your budget you will be able to find something for you. 
Hint: The best shopping takes place between 39th and 60th st. 





 See the Empire State Building

 -Let me just say that again 'SEE' the Empire State building. You won't find New Yorkers lined up inside to pay the outrageous prices and stand in the crazy line ("You kiddin' me?). The Empire State Building is pretty much a tourist attraction-plain and simple. Sure, if you want to wait in line for hours to get to the top or skip the line and pay close to $65-$85 (per person) go for it...but honestly, just seeing from the outside or stepping inside the lobby is good enough. 


The MET

   -If you LOVE art then the MET is for you. Take my advice and carve out a good portion of your day if you are heading to the MET. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the largest art galleries in the world so thinking you will be able to see everything in one day is preposterous    The MET has over two million works of art that have been divided into 19 curatorial departments. 




 Rockefeller Center, 
Rink at Rockefeller Center/Christmas Tree
     -Rockefeller Center is made up of a collection of buildings that have been featured in many Holiday movies (my all time favorite is Home Alone 2). It is also recognizable for having one of the biggest tree-lighting ceremonies (and one of the biggest Christmas trees) in the United States. Even if it isn't 'the most wonderful time of the year' there is still lots to do in Rockefeller Center. Head down early in the morning and you might be featured on the 'Today Show.' The Skating Rink is open from October-April and features a gilded statue of Prometheus. Make sure to make a skating reservation in advance...the line can get crazy around the Holidays.


 Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island

   -The Statue of Liberty is one of New York's most recognizable landmarks. It stood as beacon to generations of immigrants who came to America in search of a 'new life.' Before 9/11 you could schedule your trip once you arrived at Liberty Island...sadly that isn't the case anymore. You must buy tickets in advance to 'guarantee' access inside the Statue of Liberty. Be aware that you will have to walk up 393 steps to reach the crown (the steps are narrow and small from the top of the pedestal to the crown-with no elevator access in those areas either). Oh, and a heads up there is also NO air-conditioning. I did the climb twice in elementary school and even as a kid it was pretty boring. While climbing there isn't much to see, it is crowded and when you reach the crown the windows are teeny. 

  -If you are into genealogy then Ellis Island will be fascinating for you. The Immigration Museum is once again open (after some damage from Hurricane Sandy was repaired). Here, you can search ship manifests for passengers and explore the building that was the first point of entry in the US for 12 million immigrants. 


Transportation

Cabs-Listen, if you need to have the 'quintessential' near death experience of riding in a NYC Taxi then do it-just make sure you tip the driver *if you survive the experience*. 

Subway-I don't recommend the Subway unless you live in the city and know it REALLY well. It is REALLY, REALLY confusing. REALLY, just trust me.


My recommended method of transportation:
Walk or use Uber- This is If you would like to save yourself some $$ and anxiety use UBER. Download the app on your phone and it will basically send a car to get you. It is fast, convenient and UBER cars are WAY nicer than riding in a smelly Taxi. 
Want $20 off your Uber ride? Use code: kileys86ue

 Don't

Don't use Unmarked Cars/Taxi's-Don't EVER take a ride in an unmarked NYC cab or car-this DOES happen. In fact, last week while in the City my friends and I were asked if we wanted a ride somewhere-the car was unmarked. Uh, no thanks buddy-think we'll pass. 

Don't stop walking to take photos-Don't stop in the middle of a crosswalk or in the middle of the sidewalk to take photos. First, it SCREAMS 'tourist' and second, New Yorkers HATE it and thirdly, you will get run over. If you want to take photos step back close to a building to take them.

Don't count your Millions-Don't take out a wad of cash and count it in the street...just don't.

Don't photograph Costumed Characters-Don't take photos of the weird looking 'costumed characters' around New York City (they roam where there is lots of foot traffic usually around Rockefeller Center and Times Square). If you take a photo OF them or WITH them be prepared to be accosted for money. 

Don't hang in the subway-Don't hang out in the subway (but more importantly don't hang out there at night). It is smelly and dirty and if you are lucky, you may just spot a rat or two.

Don't wear your Rolex-Use common sense, keep your money close to you at all times and leave valuables at home. Don't carry more money than you need to. 

Don't Assume-all New Yorkers are rude. Now get out of my way!

Don't engage with Catcallers/Whistling- and don't look at your harassers

Don't Do Central Park at night-Central Park at night is a bit sketchy, just don't do it. 

Don't Pull out a HUGE Map- really? Come on people.



DO's


Diamonds are a girls best friend-If you are traveling with valuables please use the safe in your hotel room.

Do ask for help-If you are lost or need directions, pop into any hotel and ask the concierge. Also, most NY'ers will help you if you need it-just keep your question short and to the point.

Keep walking-past people pan-handling and handing out fliers

Be Assertive- Know what you are going to order before you get to the front of the line, know where you are going to go before you leave the hotel...just be in control.

Wear Sunglasses- these will keep the dust, grime and smoke out of your eyes. 

Wear black-if you want to blend in...

Follow Foot Traffic-Even if the lights are flashing telling you not to walk--if everyone else is--then you better walk.

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7.25.2015

Review: SensoGlove



Golfing... an American pastime... or is that Baseball? Either or, Golf has become a prominent sport in our country. My childhood home was on the 16th hole of a golf course in Utah. I took golf lessons every summer as a kid and found a true love for the game. I spent my days selling lemonade and used golf balls I dug out of the pond to golf cart passerbys, and my evenings waiting for lulls on the course so I could sneak on with my clubs to hit a few balls.



I was lucky to find a husband who has an even greater love for Golf than I do. Practically every time we go on vacation, he tries to squeeze his clubs into our over-packed mini van in case there is any chance he might be able to break away from us and find a local course. He is always trying to improve his game and this summer I wanted to get him something that would give him an extra edge on the golf course.

The SensoGlove; the world's first digital golf glove with wearable sensor technology. With the SensoGlove, you can "instantly improve your grip". A lot of people don't realize that the way you hold your club and the amount of pressure you use in your grip, greatly influences the way you swing the club and ultimately determines the course of your game and skill. My husband loved the way the glove fit, and he said the sensors in each finger were hardly noticeable after three or four swings with the glove on. Because there are sensors in each finger of the glove, he was able to distinguish which individual finger/fingers were gripping his club too tightly. The tricky part of the glove is that the alarm sounds when your grip is too tight, but you have to lift your hand and change your grip to see which finger is causing the alarm. But, he said it was nice to know when he needed to make a change to his grip.


SensoSolutions, the company behind the SensoGlove, is the leading provider of innovative IT systems for sports analysis, motion, and performance measurement. The glove was developed based on feedback from PGA professionals, and acts like your own professional on the golf course with you! My husband believes the SensoGlove would be best utilized at the driving range or putting green, where you are already practicing your swing. These would be the ideal locations because you can take the time out to focus on your grip and look at which fingers are triggering the alarm. If you are looking for something to give you the extra edge on the golf course this summer, the SensoGlove might be just what the PGA Tour ordered :)



I received this item free of charge for the purpose of this review. 
This has in no way affected my opinion. 
This review is my opinion and has been written in my own words.

7.24.2015

Review and Giveaway: My First FlyBar Pogo Stick


When I was a kid, probably about 10, my mom got my siblings and I a Pogo Stick. We spent hours and hours on that thing having bouncing contests and marathons. How far can you get down the road without falling off? How many bounces can you do without tipping over? We really perfected the art of the Pogo Stick. It was the talk of the neighborhood for a long time. I have really fond memories of my long lost Pogo Stick which is why I was super excited to discover there was a Pogo Stick for toddlers. This meant my little munchkins could also try their hands-- and feet-- at this wonderful energy user :)

The My First FlyBar Pogo Stick is fabulous and definitely fit the bill for a beginner Pogo Stick. My oldest little had her birthday recently so I wrapped up the FlyBar Pogo Stick and gave it to her with her gifts. She opened it and said, "what is it??" She had no idea that it would soon be one of her favorite presents. Since we opened the box, my littles have barely put it down. They are constantly bouncing and begging for me to watch how good they are getting at the FlyBar Pogo Stick. I love it because I'm sure I am not alone in saying that my kiddos seem to have extra loads of untapped energy in the summertime. The FlyBar Pogo Stick is a perfect remedy for this because it's a way to harness all that extra energy in the comfort of your  own air conditioned home. They get exercise and I get to do some much needed house work while they play.




The colors are super cute (I chose the Pink on account of my three little girlies), but you can also choose Red or Blue. It's made from durable, thick foam and can accommadate up to 250 lbs. You can even adjust the bungee above 12 inches long for children or adults. Truly fun "flying" time for everyone. Although we have chosen to use our FlyBar Pogo Stick indoors, it can also be safely used outdoors for extended fun, and possibly more surface area to cover. An added little bonus is the cute squeak it makes every time you bounce making it even easier to count your jumps.

We've had a blast with the My First FlyBar Pogo Stick and reccommend it to all families looking for a new adventure in fun. You can find it on Amazon here but make sure to also enter our Giveaway below!


Giveaway
My First FlyBar Pogo Stick
US Residents only please!
~enter after the jump~

7.23.2015

Back to School with State bags & SoCozy


"Backpacks help children carry their future and dreams, and every child should be given that opportunity." – Cozy Friedman, SoCozy Founder



I am so excited to announce that SoCozy has partnered with State bags to create a LIMITED EDITION backpack available exclusively to SoCozy.

So whats the big deal?     

     Well aren't you feisty! On July 24th SoCozy along with STATE Bags will be hosting a Back to School Bag Drop in connection with Roads to Success in New York, providing STATE Bags backpacks to children in need, leaving 300 kids with a renewed spirit and belief in themselves (and brand new backpacks). For every bag purchased, SoCozy will donate a backpack-packed with a colorful set of school supplies from Yoobi will be donated to an American child in need. This will give the child the essential tools for success.

SoCozy’s hopes by providing children with these basic scholastic needs that they may be afforded more opportunity, and are able to gain confidence and self-esteem as they learn and grow.

What about Yoobi?

   Yoobi a cool school supply company that makes learning fun while giving back. For every Yoobi item sold, a Yoobi item is donated to a classroom in need, right here in the US.    


The bags are available at SoCozy.com for $55 

So head on over and purchase a bag or two to help children in need! 


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Cantu Care for Kids Curling Cream and Styling Custard

I have always been jealous of my sister's curly hair.  I was born with stick straight hair and I thought it was so unfair that she woke up with beautiful spirals every day.  So I was so excited when my daughter was born and I discovered that she had the coveted curly hair gene!  However, being a straight haired girl, I had no idea what to do with her little blonde locks.  Luckily, I tried Cantu Care for Kids Curling Cream and Styling Custard.  In the past, I would always just get my daughter's hair wet and scrunch up her little curls and it would look cute, for a while, but my daughter is a bouncing, running, twirling, two year old and her little curls could not take all the commotion.  By the end of the day, her hair looked wild and messy with only remnants of her once defined curls.  This time, after her bath, I added the Curling Cream to her damp hair.  It says to apply from roots to tips.  I figured out the first time that all I needed was a little dab for her little curls to stiffen up and become more defined.  The best part is her curls stayed that way all day!  No more fluffy hair head!  Just beautiful goldy locks! 


 The Styling Custard is great for doing up-do's like ponytails or pigtails.  With just a spray bottle and a comb, I could get her hair up into a hairdo but an hour later, whispys would escape from the bottom of her hair and I would have to keep redoing it throughout the day.  The Styling Custard keeps her hair the way I want it the first time!  Hooray! No wild girl hair!



Cantu Care for Kids Cream and Custard does not contain harsh ingredients.  They use a combination of 100% pure shea butter, coconut oil, and honey that is gentle on sensitive scalps.  I'm so glad I tried their products because it makes doing her hair in the morning so much easier and I think I'm finally getting the hang of taming those wild curls!  If you'd like to try it too, you can find these products at select Target and Sally and Beauty Supply Stores.


 
I received this item free of charge for the purpose of this review. 
This has in no way affected my opinion. 
This review is my opinion and has been written in my own words.

7.22.2015

Review & Giveaway: K'NEX Mighty Makers; Up, Up and Away!

   


   My eight year old daughter absolutely adores learning, exploring and building. She also loves items that fly (that may be because she has a great-grandfather, grandfather and uncle who were all pilots/engineers). She loves flying so much that she tells me about 5 times a day that she wishes SHE could actually fly...maybe we have another pilot in the family?
   
   When I learned about Mighty Makers, a line of engineering toys for girls I knew I had to get a set into my daughters hands. I adore educational products and Mighty Makers are just that! They help teach girls about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts as they follow the adventurous story of the included figure and build along the way. 

My Review
  We were able to review the Up, Up and Away; Mighty Makers Building Set. This building set features Ava and her bird, Jay. Ava of course loves ALL things that can fly (much like my own daughter). Using the set you can help Ava build three different items; an airplane or your very own invention. This set features over 110 super colorful K'NEX pieces and parts (featuring a star/flower snaps, cock pit seat and Ava's very own googles). The set also
includes full color instructions for three aviation themed builds and an exploration card that challenges builders to investigate additional themed concepts. 

My daughter absolutely adores her Up, Up and Away! Mighty Makers Building Set. In fact, when she received it in the mail she worked on it all day long to create the airplane. She loves that she can create three separate items from one kit too. This K'NEX set makes for hours of imaginative play and keeps her mind busy even in the middle of summer. As a Mother I love seeing her use her creativity and problem solving skills. It is fun that I can sit down and build something with her and that it is also easy enough for her to build something on her own. 




The Giveaway!
Open to US Residents Only

Enter to win your very own Up, Up and Away! Mighty Makers Building Set from K'NEX!

Enter after the jump!

7.21.2015

Healthy Choices with Panera Bread

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. This has in no way affected my opinion. This review has been written in my own words. 

  Just when I think, “Ah, the kids are out of school... time to relax!” I realize that my summer calendar is packed full of play dates, events and all types of appointments. 

Breakfast and lunch are usually rushed affairs, grabbing whatever is within grabbing distance on the counter or in my purse. By the time 5 o'clock rolls on by, I am usually stuck in rush hour traffic on 495. I wish I had time to make my family and I a homemade meal every night, but that reality isn't happening anytime soon.   When Panera Bread announced that they were planning to eliminate a variety of artificial preservatives, flavors and colors, as well as different kinds of sweeteners (by the end of 2016) I was thrilled. I really try to feed my family healthy and natural food as much as possible. It is important to me that my children learn that food is fuel and what you put in your body affects how you feel, look and function. I have raised them to appreciate foods in their natural form and that delicious food doesn't always need to be complicated. In fact, most times the simpler the meal, the better. 


I love knowing that I can rely on Panera Bread when I don't have time to make a healthy meal for my family at home. My kids absolutely love Panera's kid menu options, their favorites being the Grilled Cheese (organic American cheese on all-natural white bread) and the Peanut Butter and Jelly (creamy peanut butter and grape jelly on all-natural white bread).  

My husband loves the Low-Fat Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup in a bread bowl (a Mediterranean-inspired soup with chicken, orzo, spinach, carrots, oregano and basil simmered in a lemon-infused chicken broth and topped with a lemon wheel). While I absolutely love the “You Pick Two” Panini and Soup combo or Soup and Salad combo. My favorites are the Chicken Cobb with Avocado Salad (chicken raised without antibiotics, romaine, vine-ripened tomatoes, applewood smoked bacon, Gorgonzola and cage-free egg tossed with herb vinaigrette and topped with avocado), Roasted Turkey & Avocado BLT (Roasted turkey breast raised without antibiotics, applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, vine-ripened tomatoes and avocado with reduced-fat olive oil mayo on Sourdough) and the Broccoli Cheddar Soup (chopped broccoli, shredded carrots and seasoning in a smooth cheese sauce).  

I am getting hungry just thinking about all of the delicious options that Panera Bread offers! Aren’t you? Oh, and don't even get me started on the yummy bakery treats…  

So next time you are on the run or need to pick up a healthy breakfast, lunch or dinner, head to Panera Bread! 

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7.20.2015

Sweet Summer Memories with Tootsie Pops

This is a sponsored post for Tootsie Pops and this post has been written in my own words. 



  Growing up in New Jersey was a dream come true. My family and I were blessed to live in a really gorgeous little coastal town called Spring Lake. I loved summertime when the town would come alive with tourists from all over the world. I remember riding my bike all over town with my younger sister, Neely. We would ride to our favorite Chocolate Shop in the middle of town and stop at the local pizza place before dinner (even though we knew we weren't supposed to). Boredom is something I don't remember feeling when I was younger.

On hot summer days, my friends and I would grab sticky Tootsie Roll Pops and eat them while riding over to the park. It’d be tough not to bite in and get to that delicious chocolate center fast. Patience was key in just waiting to get through the delicious hard candy for that sweet end. 

We would swing on the swings until our limbs were aching and then ride over and lay on the beach until it got dark. As I got older and went away to college, I knew that when I went home for the holidays my friends and I would get together and talk about our past memories and our future plans. We always talked about the future with a bit of trepidation, as a part of us didn't want to lose all of those fun memories we had made years ago. We would go back to college with tears in our eyes but smiles on our faces. 

As the years went by, things in my little town changed. Friends moved away and eventually my family sold their home and left. Last summer, I went back and drove through the streets of the little town I still call home. There were new homes in place of many of the old ones I remember, and the park doesn't look as big as it used to. Like me, many of my friends are married with families of their own. As I walked along the sand and closed my eyes to breathe in the salty air of the ocean, my mind wandered back to those lazy summer days. Bikes scattered along the boardwalk, feet dug deep in the sand and Tootsie Pop wrappers scattered among beach towels. 

Misty watercolor memories of the way things were.


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