(This arti­cle may or may not con­tain affil­i­ate links. What does that mean?)

I recent­ly took a week­end girl’s trip to New York City. (And no, that is not a mis­placed apos­tro­phe, because there was only one girl on this trip — me.) That’s right, I did New York solo. I did vis­it and spend time with friends, but much of the time I was alone, and it was great.

I love New York, but had­n’t been to the city in four­teen years, so when a busi­ness trip in Philadel­phia (just a short train ride away) was put in my cal­en­dar, I decid­ed to take advan­tage by head­ing out to New York the week­end before.

5th Avenue Stroll

5th Avenue Stroll

In my thir­ties, I used to head out to New York for a girls’ week­end once a year. My girl­friend and I would fly in on a Thurs­day after­noon and arrive at mid­night. After check­ing into our hotel we’d hit a bar and stay out until two o’clock (or four o’clock) then sleep late and go shop­ping and spend too much mon­ey on things we did­n’t need. We’d try to hit a Broad­way show. We’d go to a muse­um (she liked The Frick, I liked The Guggen­heim, we both liked The Met.) We’d pack as much as we could into those three short days, while eat­ing too much, drink­ing too much and spend­ing way too much money.

I want­ed to make this trip dif­fer­ent. I was seek­ing bal­ance. I real­ize that when seek­ing bal­ance, New York City is not the place that imme­di­ate­ly comes to mind, but I was deter­mined to find it. I want­ed to enjoy myself, but I did­n’t want to go over­board. I want­ed to eat good food, but I also want­ed to eat health­ful­ly when I could. I did­n’t mind spend­ing mon­ey on things that had val­ue, but I did­n’t want to waste it on things I did­n’t need. And above all, I did not want (and could not afford) to spend $400-$500 a night on a hotel room.

I arrived on Fri­day after­noon and stayed my first night at a friend’s house in Yonkers. Yonkers may also not imme­di­ate­ly come to mind when think­ing of tak­ing a trip to the Big Apple, but I found it delight­ful. My friend lives on a street with a cool vibe that has a beau­ti­ful view of the Hud­son. She and her fiancé treat­ed me to din­ner at Har­vest on Hud­son in Hast­ings and it was won­der­ful. After­wards, we went to a funky bar across the street from their place for a night­cap. And maybe a shot. (Hey, I said bal­ance, not no fun!)

view of hudson

view of hudson

Sat­ur­day morn­ing, I slept late (which for me is eight o’clock — even on vaca­tion) and lounged around, allow­ing myself to be lazy and hang out with my friends for a few hours. Then I took a Lyft to the city to check into my hotel.

I chose the EVEN Hotel in Mid­town due to its excel­lent loca­tion and even more excel­lent price. EVEN mar­kets itself as a well­ness hotel and was the per­fect hotel for me to stay bal­anced and on bud­get. The rooms are small, but effi­cient. Each room is equipped with a mini work­out stu­dio that includes resis­tance bands, an exer­cise ball, yoga mat, yoga block, foam roller, and work­out guide cre­at­ed by holis­tic well­ness expert (and fit­ness god­dess) Tam­my Stokes. The hotel will even wash your gym clothes for free dur­ing your stay! And if you pre­fer to work out in a hotel gym, EVEN had one of the nicest and largest hotel gyms I’ve ever seen. There was a ton of machines, work­out equip­ment and even a ping pong table! Oth­er great fea­tures are in-room cof­fee with liq­uid cream­er (because every­one knows pow­dered cream­er is the worst!), a stand­ing desk (also a sit­ting one), a good-sized mod­ern bath­room, and an iron and iron­ing board in a draw­er under the bed to save space. The room rate the nights I stayed in the begin­ning of Sep­tem­ber were $220 a night. (A bar­gain for New York City!)

 

After check­ing into my hotel I grabbed a quick mini sand­wich at Mai­son Kayser, a lit­tle French boulan­gerie across the street from my hotel and head­ed to The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art for a Muse­um Hack tour called Badass Bitch­es.

Me and our awe­some BAB tour guide Sarah.

Muse­um Hack is an inde­pen­dent tour com­pa­ny that give small group tours for peo­ple who think they don’t like muse­ums. I do like muse­ums, but this tour made me like them even more. Trust me, this is the best two hours you will ever spend in a muse­um. If you like to laugh, hear juicy gos­sip about dead peo­ple, and con­sid­er your­self a fem­i­nist, then the BAB tour is def­i­nite­ly for you. Our tour guide Sarah was spec­tac­u­lar. She told us the sto­ry of the awe­some and unnerv­ing Lilith stat­ue by Kiki Smith, the rea­son this Bac­cha­nte and Infant Faun was con­sid­ered scan­dalous (it’s not because the woman in the sculp­ture is nude ‑or hold­ing grapes and an infant like a drunk mom- but because she is smil­ing — the nerve!), Jack­ie Kennedy’s con­tri­bu­tion to The Met (and what made her a BAB), and about the gross inequity in the amount of art in The Met by female artists. (Spoil­er Alert: there’s not a lot.) And hey, if fem­i­nism isn’t your thing, no wor­ries — Muse­um Hack gives oth­er cool tours as well.

Bac­cha­nte and Infant Faun (AKA Drunk Mom Smiling)

After the tour I wan­dered around The Met for anoth­er hour or so. I went through The Tem­ple of Den­dur, wan­dered through the French Impres­sion­ism wing (swoon!), spent some time check­ing out some mod­ern art, then sat on the steps of the Met for a bit while tak­ing in the vibe of the city (as you do when in New York).

After­wards I walked the two-and-a-half miles back to my hotel, first through Cen­tral Park and then along 5th Avenue. Cen­tral Park always fas­ci­nates me. It’s like this huge piece of sub­ur­bia plant­ed right in the mid­dle of a bustling metrop­o­lis. (Which I sup­pose is the point.) I had fun win­dow shop­ping (as opposed to shop­ping shop­ping) and 5th Avenue tru­ly is a delight to stroll down.

Apple in the Big Apple

Apple in the Big Apple

I was get­ting hun­gry and would­n’t be hav­ing din­ner for a few hours, so I decid­ed to pre-din­ner with a slice of piz­za. Greasy New York piz­za cer­tain­ly would­n’t help me with my quest to stay healthy, but I ratio­nal­ized that it was cheap and I need­ed to eat some­thing. Plus no trip to New York is com­plete with­out it. (I’m sure there’s much debate over which piz­za place in the city is best, but I’m not a New York­er so for this Cali girl any piz­za shop will do, so I just found a by-the-slice place off of 5th Avenue and it met my needs.)

I feel com­pelled to tell you that I did blot off that grease. (Most­ly.)

Around nine o’clock, my friend Pat made a trek in from the sub­urbs of Rock­lyn Coun­ty to take me down to The Vil­lage to vis­it a few of his favorite dive bars. Pat and I met thir­ty years ago when we were both back­pack­ing through Europe and have remained friends ever since. We had bar food and beer (okay, not very healthy) but after­wards we worked it off (or at least part of it) when he gave me an hour-long walk­ing tour of the Vil­lage. High­lights were the Wash­ing­ton Square Arch, Car­rie Brad­shaw’s front stoop, and the Friends’ apart­ment build­ing. Pat’s son was rac­ing in a triathlon Sun­day morn­ing, so he had me back to my hotel by mid­night. (Def­i­nite­ly not like the old days!)

You can see night pho­tog­ra­phy is not my strong suit. (Or Pat’s!)

I slept late (this time until nine!), did my in-room work­out, and had a healthy break­fast at the hotel. My plan for the day was to vis­it the 9/11 Memo­r­i­al Muse­um. The muse­um is four miles from my hotel and because it was a beau­ti­ful per­fect-weath­er day (and I had a deca­dent din­ner planned), I decid­ed to walk. I loved watch­ing the neigh­bor­hoods change as I walked down 3rd Avenue and falling in and out of step with peo­ple. I’d walk more or less in tan­dem with some­one for a few blocks and then they would turn down a street or into a shop or restau­rant for Sun­day brunch and I’d fall in step with some­one else. I stopped about halfway through the walk at a neigh­bor­hood park called Stuyvesant Square and ate a deli­cious sum­mer sal­ad with water­mel­on, feta cheese, and roast­ed corn I’d picked up at Mai­son Kayser when I left the hotel. For me the best way to expe­ri­ence a city is to walk through it as the locals do.

The 9/11 Memo­r­i­al Muse­um was somber and heart wrench­ing and beau­ti­ful. The memo­r­i­al foun­tains sym­bol­iz­ing the build­ings with the names of the vic­tims and cas­cad­ing water is a love­ly and mov­ing trib­ute. Remem­ber­ing 9/11 may not be con­sid­ered a “fun time”, but it’s some­thing I felt was impor­tant to do.

Before my trip I had come across a restau­rant on Insta­gram called Raclette and became obsessed and told Pat we had to go there. Here is why:

Yes, that is cheese. All over your food. (Or rather my table-neigh­bor’s food. I missed the shot for my food, but if you’d like to see it, here it is.)

And I real­ize, what you’re think­ing. I was seek­ing bal­ance on this trip. Try­ing my best to be healthy. And to that I would say that I had a healthy break­fast and a healthy lunch and walked almost five miles so I earned this very deca­dent din­ner. Plus, look at all the pro­tein I was get­ting! (And there’s some green stuff on the plate.) In oth­er words: A lot of healthy + a lit­tle not-so-healthy = balance.

Raclette is small, so reser­va­tions are a must. The inti­mate and cozy restau­rant has a Euro­pean feel to it. And, yes, the food is as good as it looks. If you’re look­ing for a unique New York expe­ri­ence, and in your book (like in mine), cheese = hap­pi­ness, then din­ner at Raclette is mandatory.

Raclette All Done

All Done

I had an eleven o’clock train to Philly on Mon­day morn­ing, and had (more than) a bit of cheese to work off, so after my in-room work­out I went for a Mid­town run. Run­ning through the hus­tle and bus­tle of a New York Mon­day morn­ing was exhil­a­rat­ing. I loved see­ing the school chil­dren in their dif­fer­ent col­ored school uni­forms head­ing to their bus stops and the busi­ness peo­ple dressed up and ready for work. (New York­ers are such snap­py dressers.) Such a dif­fer­ent ener­gy from my (semi) dai­ly run through my sub­ur­ban neighborhood.

First resis­tance train­ing, then run.

After my run I enjoyed anoth­er healthy break­fast on the 2nd floor patio of my hotel before check­ing out. My stay in New York may not have been the extreme overindul­gence of my youth (okay, I may have overindulged a bit on the cheese), but I felt good about it. I looked at a muse­um in a whole new way. I ate deli­cious food that was a fair­ly even bal­ance of healthy and unhealthy. I was care­ful not to spend too much mon­ey, but knew when to splurge. And I actu­al­ly used the work­out clothes I packed in my suit­case more than once. It felt bal­anced. And just right.

New York Sunrise