A Top-Ten List of Our Best NYC Experiences
I enjoyed an absolutely incredible trip to Inspirato SoHo at the Dominick in NYC with my two daughters a couple of weeks ago. It was my best trip ever to Manhattan, hands down! In reflecting on how to do a proper write-up of our trip, I was inspired by my favorite New York Late Night host, David Letterman, who made Top-Ten lists famous back in the day. So without further ado, let’s get things started…
Wait! Hold up a second, allow me a quick side note: It’s impossible not to mention the value component of this trip. Our four-night stay, if booked through The Dominick Hotel online, would have cost right around $20,000 for a Junior Suite Penthouse. If you’re so inclined, you can look it up on their website. Our cost was around 45 Pass Days, or approximately $3,500. When you achieve this type of value, your trip is already off to a great start! And my goodness, it eased the pain of how much everything costs in NYC. For four straight days the dollars flowed like a mighty river out of my bank account or onto my credit card. But, this trip and the associated experiences with my girls were worth every dang penny.
Now then, back to our Top Ten List of the best experiences with my girls in NYC. Don’t lend much credence to the order of the list. Each experience was extraordinary. Now, in my best Letterman voice impression…
#10 – Jack’s Wife Freda
We had Sunday Brunch at Jack’s Wife Freda. This spot was recommended by my daughter’s friend who is an NYU student. He, along with another friend of hers at Fordham University, joined us for this fun meal. I knew absolutely nothing about this place. It’s a few minute walk from The Dominick so we just plugged into our map and headed over. We had no reservation, but I’m not sure they even take them. There was a long cue out the front door and down the block a bit. We could instantly tell this place had a great vibe. One of those places where everyone is just happy to be there. Waiting in line for around 30 minutes was perfectly pleasant as we met my daughter’s friends, quizzed them about college life in the city, etc.
Once seated, we were surprised to the see a full jazz band march out of the kitchen a play some great tunes as they paraded through and between the dining room booths and tables. The more outgoing patrons (or those who had already enjoyed their fair share of Bloody Mary’s) jumped out of their seats and formed a makeshift conga line…dancing, clapping, and high-fiving the seated patrons, most of whom had quickly grabbed their phones to document this fun surprise. As my girls said, “it was such a vibe”.
I was completely sold on this place before having any idea how our meal would be. Nonetheless, the food was as delightful as the live music. I started things off with a Hot Toddy that went down oh so smooth. It was a chilly spring morning in Soho and this concoction warmed me right up. Hosting a table full of minors, that was the extent of any interesting libations. The food was perfect New York café fare. Our spread included Jack’s Burgers, Rosewater Waffles, Kale Greek Salad, and a Peri-Peri Chicken dish. All terrific. What I found to be out of this world were the Fried Zucchini Chips with smoked paprika aoli. Wow. Thinly sliced, lightly breaded, perfectly crispy…hand’s down best fried zucchini that I’ve crossed paths with.
We wandered out of this place as happy as could be. I highly recommend this spot. They have a few locations in the city, but I believe this one in SoHo is the largest…and certainly the most entertaining.
#9 – Kith Ice Cream
I’m curious how many people know what Kith even is. I had no idea. But, I’m a 48 year-old dad whose level of cool is…well, exactly that of a 48 year-old dad. Kith is a very hip boutique store in SoHo. It’s young, it’s urban, it’s high fashion for the set under 25-ish or something. My girls loved this place. And I get it, although not exceedingly cool myself, I’m still able to infer coolness at times. The girls had both been there the previous day without dad, so they were excited to show me their favorite new store. I’m sure they just wanted to share a fun place with me, and that it had nothing do to with the fact that my credit card would be accompanying me. They broke me down (not too hard for my daughters to do to their dad) and we did enjoy a bit of a shopping here.
But, here is why Kith made it onto this illustrious list; the ice cream. I found it strange but wonderful that this uber cool fashion joint included a small ice cream shop up in corner of the third floor. My daughters had grabbed some ice cream here the day before and went on and on about it, saying that it was “literally the best ice cream they had ever tasted”. Now, I’ve had my fair share of ice cream over the years, and I of course considered this to be nothing more than excited hyperbole coming from my girls. Nonetheless, not one to ever reject excellent ice cream, I was more than happy to give it a go. Oh good Lord! It was actually true. This ice cream was freaking amazing. They basically create each scoop by adding in your custom mix of sugary breakfast cereals and then blend it all together. I know this tactic exists elsewhere, but the delivery here was so dang good. I opted for The Witness, a blend of vanilla ice cream with Frosted Flakes, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cap’n Crunch, crushed Oreos, and Twix. And it was even better than it sounds.
So, I recommend you at least go grab Kith ice cream. One additional note, I was impressed by how kind and customer service oriented all of the workers were at Kith. I’ve come to expect an I’m-way-too-cool-for-you type of vibe at places like this. But not here, the workers and servers at Kith were great, kind and gracious in every way. It was refreshing. Thank you Kith!
#8 – My girls hanging out with their NYC friends
This was a special, unexpected one for me. Watching your kids grow up in front of your eyes can be an emotional thing. I wouldn’t say my wife and I are super strict, but we do fall on the more cautious side of parenting. Our girls are at the age now where they are being launched (in many ways) into adulthood. My oldest has two close friends that live and go to the school in the city. And as fun as it is to hang out with dad , it’s even more fun to hang out with good high school friends who are now NYC locals. And I was pleased that they turned out to be super nice kids as well.
My girls settled into NYC local scene with apparent ease. I was starting to get concerned that my high school junior would decide that she wanted to go to NYU after this trip, a distance from home that mom and I would not be too excited about. (She’d actually have our blessing, but it would be real tough to have her on the other side of the country for four years).
So, Sunday after our brunch at Jack’s Wife Freda, the girls trekked off with their friends to do young people in the city type of things. They shopped, walked, got coffee, walked more, shopped more, got ice cream, and then walked a bit more. They had a blast. They spent several hours with their friends and were excited to tell me all about it afterward. I guess that’s why this made the list. They were just so happy and full of joy. And as a dad, that’s what gives me happiness and joy. It was a blessing all the way around.
By the way, kids that go to school in NYC seem about ten years older than your average college student. Their level of sophistication and maturity increases by leaps and bounds…I think simply through osmosis from being surrounded by all things Big Apple. That being said, I feel like my own daughters level of sophistication and independence leaped a few years from just four days in the city. And I love it. That’s the beauty of these experiences. Once again, Inspirato creating the context for transformational experiences.
#7 – City solo walk
On Sunday afternoon, when my girls headed off with their friends, I had my window of solo time in New York City. It was beautiful and sunny 50 degree day, perfect for walking. I walked out of Jack’s Wife Freda with no agenda except to walk and walk…and walk for a few hours. I headed north out of SoHo and up into Washington Square Park, enjoying wandering all around NYU. From there, I headed west through Greenwich Village. After exploring some nooks and crannies of Greenwich Village, I shot back over to 5th Avenue and headed north again. Madison Square Park, Empire State Building, all the way up to 42nd Street. Then it was back down 6th, more Empire State Building, then down 34th St. to Penn Station and Madison Square Garden. 9th, 8th, and 7th Ave down through Chelsea, back through another side of Greenwich Village, and eventually back to Inspirato SoHo at The Dominick. I was beat. A four-hour walk with no stops, except to snap the occasional photo.
I don’t know a better way to experience a place, a city, and all that it is, than by walking its streets. You actually get a feel for the living, breathing metropolis. I love the sound of the subway passing by under the metal grates at my feet, the diversity of demographics as you from block to block, gazing at the locals in the small, nondescript cafes, the tourists wandering around the Empire State Building with cameras pointed to the sky, the travelers rolling large suitcases down 8th Ave after exiting Penn Station, seemingly lost but surely with some known destination nearby. The waiter taking his smoke break. The woman walking her dog in a designer sweater (on the dog not the woman), speaking loudly on the phone in an intriguing language completely unknown to me. It’s all so good, so rich. I could take a trip to New York for a week and just walk around the city all day long, take an afternoon power nap, and wrap things up with a great dinner. I’d be a happy man.
A walk may not be on everyone’s top ten list, but it’s kinda my thing and I loved it. Looking forward to covering more NYC ground on my next trip.
#6 – Chinese Tuxedo
The. Best. Meal. Ever! I think that’s how the kids write these days to emphasize something. In order to not exaggerate, I won’t push that claim too hard. But, it was legitimately in the top five meals I’ve had in my life. It scored a perfect 10 in every measurable aspect.
I had told our Inspirato concierge that we were looking to hit up somewhere in Chinatown that was authentic, fun, maybe a bit different. Once again, Inspirato concierge nailed it! I would have never come across this spot without a concierge recommendation. Having access to an Inspirato concierge to help guide your travel adventures across the country and the world continues to prove invaluable.
We decided to walk from The Dominick to Chinatown as it was a beautiful evening and there was still some light. This made for a great start to the experience. Nothing like feeling the grit of the city as you make your way to dinner. We stopped at a couple of street fruit stands as we made our way through Chinatown and bought some wonderful Asian fruits that we enjoyed the next morning. We eventually found our way down Doyers St. to the unassuming (no visible signage) entry to Chinese Tuxedo. Fortunately, a doorman asked if we were heading to Chinese Tuxedo, or we may have just walked right on by. Immediately upon entering, you get the vibe of this place. Dimly lit, bar packed with people, every table full…save for our table that was awaiting us in the beautiful downstairs dining area which was originally the Chinese Opera House which had opened in 1893.
My girls were digging the vibe big time. As was I, but I tend to be a bit more interested in the food at a place like this. But, the atmosphere was providing a perfect foundation to eat some modern, fine Chinese cuisine. I had relatively no expectations. I hadn’t heard of this place. I had no reason to believe we were about to stumble upon greatness. Every dish was perfectly prepared, presented, and pleasing to the palate. It’s hard for me to explain how delicious I found the wok-tossed beef to be. It existed in its own stratosphere of goodness. The dumplings, both the chicken-corn and pork, deserve mention as well. You really should check this place out. It will not disappoint. Oh, and a huge thank you to the local guy that chatted me up as we dried our hands next to each other in the washroom before dinner, asking me if it was my first time at Chinese Tuxedo and then proceeding to tell me that he comes every week for the wok-tossed beef. I may have skipped right over that dish had it not been for his recommendation. And thanks again to our Inspirato concierge for nailing it with this one! We left happy, fully satiated, and grateful for such a special evening.
#5 – Shopping with my girls
I am not a shopper. There is little about anything shopping related that I enjoy. I became an online shopper in the early days. When I shop, I rank stores by how comfortable the chair is that I can sit and wait in while my wife and daughters browse potential purchases. And when shopping for myself, I can grab an entire new wardrobe and be in and out of a store in five minutes sharp. So, that’s how much I generally like shopping. But, I’m a girl dad. And as I mentioned earlier, when my girls are experiencing joy and excitement in life, I’m in my happy place.
Inspirato Soho at The Dominick turned out to be the best place we could have possibly stayed at in the city, as far as my girls were concerned, because all the cool SoHo shops are within a stone’s throw. This created an abundance of shopping opportunities, while at the same time allowing me the luxury of being able to pop back over to the hotel when my shopping fatigue required some hotel down time.
But, here’s why I loved shopping with my girls in NYC so much. Of course they had fun having a fairly modest shopping spree with dad and were happy about the items they were able to purchase. But, like so many other things, shopping is just different in New York City. It is nothing like shopping at your local suburban mall. It’s a rich cultural experience. The energy and vitality associated with shopping in the city is unmatched. Shoot, if I stayed in NYC long enough, it might just convert me into a shopper yet!
#4 – 9/11 Memorial
This was my first time visiting the Memorial. Beautiful, tasteful, respectful, and honoring to the victims and their families. It was heavy.
Both of my girls had been to the memorial previously and they weren’t even born yet on 9/11/01 so their experience was a bit different, a bit less intense, yet still sobering.
I’m realizing that there isn’t much to put into words here. It was powerful. It’s a sacred place. I solemnly enjoyed our hosted tour and the additional time we had to wonder the fountain area and read the names of victims. And it was so good to stare up at One World Trade Center and see what beauty has been rebuilt. Thankful to have been able to visit and remember that day.
#3 – Penthouse views from Inspirato SoHo at The Dominick
I was happy every moment that we spent relaxing in our 42nd floor SoHo penthouse. 270 degree views…from One World Trade Center, to the Hudson River, to Empire State Building, up to the south end of the park. Amazing.
Most tourists need to take time to go up to the top of the one of the taller buildings to catch the Manhattan skyline views. Not us. Not when you’re staying atop the tallest building in SoHo. We caught these views numerous times a day. Actually, I even caught all these views each morning from bed as I’d wake up and turn my head toward the window. I loved leaving the blinds open all night. There’s something so cool about waking at any time of the night and being able see the entirety of the city from the comfort of your bed.
I must also share one of my favorite things about the view at the particular time we visited. There is a huge construction project right across Varick Street. Some people might think that would be a nuisance. No way. I loved it! There were two towering cranes just outside our window across the street. I could see the guy in the crane bubble thing (probably not the correct technical term for it) pulling on all the levers to control this marvel of engineering. I watched steel beams raised from the street surface up to the 30th something floor. It was awesome. I felt like a little kid, watching the workers and all their machinery in action. My girls called this my “uniquely dad” part of the trip. It was somehow lost on them. That’s okay. I loved sipping my coffee each morning and watching the work advance. So all of you dad’s out there, jump on a trip to Inspirato SoHo while the construction project across the street is still rocking. Also, even though the work was just across the street, construction noise was almost non-existent.
Room views are understandably an important consideration with an NYC stay. Inspirato SoHo at The Dominick’s views are spectacular, by far the best that SoHo has to offer.
#2 – Central Park walk
You already know from #7 that I’m a huge fan of city walks. The only walk that could surpass my solo walk would be a walk with my girls. And on our first full day in the city, we did some serious walking. We had our Uber drop us off at The Plaza Hotel so we could pop in the lobby and peak around a bit. It was 9:00am and a brisk and breezy 50 degrees. We contemplated taking a carriage ride or one of those bicycle carriage things, but decided that the experience would be so much more rich if we just walked. I didn’t have a goal in mind. The girls were freezing when we started out, so there was potential for this to be a short-lived adventure. With the sun getting higher and our bodies warming up with the each step, we realized after a few minutes that we could last a while. And we sure did.
We walked the entirety of the park from The Plaza Hotel all the way up to the south edge of Harlem. It was perfect. We walked, talked, snacked on Central Park hot peanuts, the whole nine yards. Upon reaching 110th, we decided we had perhaps just enough energy to walk on over to Columbia University to see the campus and grab a bite to eat. We made it to Columbia campus exhausted and “hangry”. It’s funny how quickly moods can change. It wasn’t helped by a terrible experience we had at Pret a Manger. We ended up refueling at Shake Shack and then called for our Uber. Both of my girls crashed in the long Uber ride back down to SoHo. I soaked in the Hudson views from the Uber, grateful for the few hours of walking and hanging out with my daughters in the world’s most famous park. It was a simple and free experience, but a huge highlight!
#1 – The in-between times
This may be a bit anti-climactic as the #1 experience of our dad/daughters trip in NYC. Not for me though. These were the very best of times. It wasn’t so much one experience. It was numerous little ones on each day of our trip.
These in-between times were all the times that we weren’t actively involved in any specific activity. Think flight times, airport lounge time, Uber rides, grabbing morning bagels, rest times in the room in the afternoons prior to dinner, late night movies, study and work times in nearby SoHo coffee shops, all that stuff. As a dad, those wonderful times with my daughters are gold, and they are fleeting (and being only a year and a few months away from my wife and I becoming empty-nesters, I’m more keenly aware of this than ever). I want to enjoy every moment I have with them, especially during special memory building trips like this one. I’m so grateful that we did have enough margin in our trip to have these times develop organically.
Wrapping it up…
What an incredible trip to NYC with Inspirato Pass. I can’t wait to get back there. I’m not one that could ever live in the city, but I sure could get excited about making this an annual tradition. We’ll see what happens. So many destinations, so little time!
I’m yet again reminded how Inspirato Pass creates such a beautiful context for growing relationships with those we love the most. I’m certain that we would not have made this trip if it weren’t for Inspirato. It didn’t make a lot of sense with our schedules. It was tough to figure out work and school dynamics. One of my daughters was flying in from Dallas (Baylor University student – Sic ’em Bears!) and flight schedules were a pain. However, we are Inspirato Pass holders. We’re locked into the habit of making family vacations a priority. And to this day, I’m yet to regret a single day spent vacationing or experiencing the world with my family.
So whether it’s a dad/daughter trip to Inspirato SoHo at The Dominick, Pelican Hill Villas with the immediate family, Los Cabos with a large group of friends and family, or almost anywhere else on earth that you can travel to with Inspirato Pass, let’s keep exploring the world with those we love the most. Our family plans to continue to remain on the receiving end of Inspirato’s mission; To inspire lasting memories and relationships by changing the way family and friends experience the world. Thankfully, we’re doing just that.
What’s this look like in the coming months for our family? A Justin Bieber concert in an Inspirato suite in Houston later this week, a 17th birthday family/friends trip to Pelican Hill in late May, a still to-be-determined June getaway for my wife and I, and then a four family adventure as a group of 21 to Costa Rica in July. So dang excited for ALL of these upcoming adventures with Inspirato!
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