The Peace Foundation, New York City

A Slice of New York at 110th and Amsterdam

“A true community is not just about being geographically close to someone or part of the same social web network. It’s about feeling connected and responsible for what happens. Humanity is our ultimate community, and everyone plays a crucial role”.  – Yehuda Berg

I got off at 110th and Amsterdam to the of sea of humanity and life that defines New York. As I walked down Amsterdam through the neighborhood of Morningside Heights in the Upper West Side, I was flooded with curiosity at what I’d find. It only took a few blocks for a potpourri of senses to settle in. Flower stalls, coffee shops, a Hungarian bakery, and any ethnic eatery under the sun caught my attention. The smell of greasy hotdogs, freshly baked bread and chicken curry infiltrated my nose while the sound of car horns, trucks braking and the distant hum of Mexican music rang in my ears. And I had only walked a block.

At 111th, I see a homeless couple sleeping on a plastic mattress on the dirty sidewalk, he shirtless with his arm stretching across his bare chest and resting upon her smooth sweaty shoulder. Shoes off, dirty sheets, and all their life’s possessions in a couple of see-through plastic bags. A few blocks later comes the grand entrance to the elite grounds of Columbia University where students of every color are abound, wearing ear buds, texting on cellphones and toting backpacks in route to class. Millennials eating lunch inside the fenced off green grass at the university or atop the grand stone stairway to their future success. Meanwhile a bum wearing rags and pushing a shopping cart collects trash from a full garbage can about a block away.

As I continue on, I hear a melodic harmony of sounds floating out an open window of a piano hall. I stop for a moment and close my eyes to listen but am interrupted by the piercing sirens screaming towards the Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital up at 113th. I then realize that within these four short blocks is a slice of New York and I am dumbstruck of how every spectrum of humanity seems to live within this small radius of space.

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A Scenic Road Trip From New York City to Dutchess Country

I love big cities yet I also see the immense need to take a break from city life and escape. New York City is one place that has an enormous amount of cool day and weekend trips. My friend Jessie Festa, who lives in NYC and writes two awesome blogs, Epicure & Culture and Jessie on a Journey, shares a fun day trip to Duchess County in this guest post below. I hope you enjoy! 

 

Homemade ice cream on a tree-lined dock. A sky slowly transitioning from bright blue to a dreamy swathe of pinks and purples, streaks of bright yellow and holiday fireworks illuminating the skyline across the Hudson River. Beautiful church steeples soaring toward the sky, as a family of ducks swims by without hurry.

We certainly weren’t in NYC anymore.

In fact, my boyfriend Andy and I were exploring the many things to do in Dutchess County and its lovely Hudson Valley, known for its gorgeous scenery, outdoor adventure and hyper-local culinary culture.

My guide for this weekend road trip from NYC wasn’t a human, but Navdy.

Nav-who?!

Let me explain.

Navdy In Action

So you know how Chromecast pairs to your TV to put your phone on the big screen in front of you? Navdy does that for driving, hands-free. I loved being able to simply enter the name of a place into my phone or say it out loud to have it beamed right in front of me.

Beyond just navigation, Navdy will even project phone calls, messages, app notifications, music, and even emails (if I want it to) right in front of me, so I can stay connected while driving, keep my eyes on the road, and never have to touch my phone.

things to do in dutchess county on a Navdy road trip

Using Navdy as our guide around Dutchess County

If you’ve never used a Head-Up Display (HUD) for a road trip before, I suggest you try it. As someone who is not exactly tech-savvy — I still don’t know how to back-up my phone — I was intimidated by the big box full of accessories at first. The cool thing though is the Navdy app breaks down installation into short videos, so we were ready to go in about 20 minutes.

Instead of staring at your phone while driving (dangerous!) the HUD sits in front of you; rather than blocking your line of vision, the device blends with it so you’re actually seeing the map on the road.

At your fingertips is a button you attach to your steering wheel. Press once, tell Navdy where you want to go and what you’re craving (ice cream, please!), and the directions appear. I also loved being able to respond to texts and notifications with glances and hand gestures, without taking my eyes off the road. Like when it started raining and we needed to alter our kayaking reservation.

It’s like Tinder for driving (only you swipe right to ignore a call and left to answer).

And of course, no road trip would be complete without music; which I was able to control through Navdy.

We made a pretty sweet Spotify road trip playlist, too. Click here to swipe it.

Stay

The Hilton Garden Inn Poughkeepsie/Fishkill. For this trip we planned to spend most of our time outdoors, so wanted something simple, clean and comfortable. A budget-friendly hotel with a heated indoor pool and hot tub? Yes please! The staff was super friendly too. If you enjoy working out they have an on-site gym, and also offer complimentary access to the local Allsport gym.

Starting rate: $139/night, including parking and Wi-Fi.

things to do in Dutchess County, stay at the Hilton Garden Inn

My room at the Hilton Garden Inn Poughkeepsie/Fishkill

There are also a number of bed & breakfasts and a ton of Airbnbs, including some fun-looking airstream trailer and RV rentals! Click here to get up to $35 off your first Airbnb!

Road Tripping Around The Hudson Valley

There’s so much to do and see in this beautiful region! And while inclement weather killed a few of our plans, mainly a hot air balloon ride with Blue Sky Balloons and a kayaking trip with Mountain Tops Outfitters, we still had a blast.

In fact, in just two days we covered a lot of ground.

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5 Cool Places to See Some of NYC’s Best Subway Art

Today I am featuring a guest post by Shania Russell, a senior at Bronx Academy of Letters who is passionate about writing and has a knack for discovering interesting things in the heart of New York City. Since I love street art, I wanted to share her guide on 5 Cool Places to See Some of NYC’s Best Subway Art. This post originally appeared on Epicure & Culture, my friend Jessie Festa’s amazing blog. Jessie is also the owner of Tours and Photo Safaris which brings enthusiastic tourists all over NYC. 

art in the subway

Post by Shania Russell 

Whether you’re a native New Yorker or a tourist looking to explore the wonders of the city, you’ll no doubt find yourself taking the subway. While there are certainly crazy NYC subway stories that’ll make you crave a cab, venturing into New York’s underground can be unforgettable for good reasons, too. This is especially true is you’re into colorful creativity, as art in the subway abounds!

NYC takes its title as one of the world’s art capitals seriously, so expect to come across some of the finest art in the city just taking the subway. Keep your eyes peeled for the various gems you’re sure to come across — especially when it comes to the five installations listed below.

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High Line Trail, NYC

The Extraordinary High Line in NYC

There is no place on earth like New York City. It is quite a city and I’ve been lucky to have visited on three separate occasions over the past six months.  If you have never been, It is hard to describe New York City. It is so busy, overstimulating, overwhelming and congested with people from all over the world that as much as I love it, it also wears me out. Just walking a few blocks down the streets of Manhattan is enough to make my mind swirl and go into overdrive trying to process everything I see. The people. The places. The restaurants. The shops. The poverty and the wealth to the extreme. The homeless living in the dirt of a noisy street right outside of Prada. The brand new Ferrari pulling up curbside at a small cafe in Little Italy to eat. It is sometimes amazing and other times overwhelming.

In my early twenties I had the opportunity to live in Chicago for five years, right in the heart of Lincoln Park, and I also lived in Paris for a semester abroad during college. While both cities are large and amazing in their own right nothing compares to the sheer size, concentration of people and magnitude of New York City. I am not sure I could ever live somewhere so intense, invigorating and so over the top without going mad. (I loved living in Paris and Chicago by the way).

In big cities I need to find space and solitude which is a rare commodity. In Chicago, I had Lincoln Park and the lakefront. In Paris, I lived right across from Parc Montsourris in the 14th and found tons of green spaces throughout the beautiful city. In New York, there is an awful lot of concrete jungle outside of massive Central Park. So you can imagine how utterly delighted I was to find the High Line during my past visit in April.

The High Line is an urban park-like oasis in the heart of Manhattan and ingeniously built on an abandoned, elevated railroad track high above the street below. It is an extraordinary concept and example of inviting nature into urban planning.

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High Line NYC

Urban Walks: NYC’s High Line to Chelsea Market

A few months ago, my husband and I spent a wonderful weekend without the kids in New York City. Although it had just snowed there and the weather was colder than at home in Minneapolis, we had a fantastic time exploring the amazing different neighborhoods, restaurants and culture of the Big Apple.

One place I’d heard about that I desperately wanted to see was the High Line. I’d read about it in a travel magazine on an airplane months ago and thought it sounded like a really interesting concept. The High Line is a 1.45 mile-long elevated park built on an old railroad line called the West Side Line. Jetting high above the city, beginning in Hell’s Kitchen and traversing through Chelsea Market and other neighborhoods, this tree-lined urban walkway is rather amazing.

Street Art NYC

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Street Art in New York City

Finding Street Art along the Walls of New York City

I was on the plane Friday morning heading to New York City when I opened my email to see that the weekly photo challenge was walls. Instantly I knew how I was going to spend my free afternoon in the city. A photo walk.

I did a google search and discovered that New York City has a tremendous wealth of street art along its walls, buildings and store fronts. I love street art and knew that it would be a great way to spend the afternoon exploring some of the back alleys and streets in the heart of Little Italy and NoLlta in search of street art.

I took the subway to Spring Street and got off with a map in hand and a few written notes of where to explore. It was a chilly early spring day yet the sun was shining strong and the city was alive as usual with activity. I could tell it was going to be a great afternoon.

Spring Street Subway stop

Spring Street subway stop offers my first look at urban wall art.

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9/11 Memorial Museum NYC

Remembering even when its hard: 9/11 Memorial Museum

Last week, I wrote about my emotional visit to the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.  It was a post that I sat on for a long time, not even sure how to begin to put my feelings into words. I realize that even thirteen years later, 9/11 still feels in some way like yesterday and the fear, emotions and horror of that day still remain vivid and raw within my soul. I didn’t lose anyone close to me that day. But many people around the world did. It is a day that we all would rather forget but can’t and should not.

Seeing the newly opened 9/11 Memorial Museum was very hard. It left me numb after walking through the remains of life and civilization within the very foundation where the two Twin Towers once stood. Yet, I will argue that it is a place that everyone should see and also that although the content and stories shared within the museum walls are tragic it also is done with hope, pride and resilience. A remembrance of the thousands of innocent and brave people who lost their lives that day and the ones that still remain alive.

Freedom Tower NYC

1 World Trade Center Tower or “The Freedom Tower” is the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere, in July 2013. She looms directly behind the 9/11 Memorial.

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Freedom Tower NYC

Descending into the depths of humanity: A visit to the 9/11 Memorial

“May the lives remembered, the deeds recognized, and the spirit reawakened be eternal beacons, which reaffirm respect for life, strengthen our resolve to preserve freedom, and inspire an end to hatred, ignorance, and intolerance”.       – 9/11 Memorial

Descending down into the depths of humanity lies the unexplainable. Within the two footprints of the North and South Towers, cries almost three thousand tears of the innocent lives lost from a horrendous act against our freedom.

9/11 Memorial

The water rushing down into the foundation of the North Tower felt like the tears of those who died.

9/11 Memorial

Three thousand tears descend into the foundation of one of the Twin Towers.

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Ellis Island Immigration Musuem

Ellis Island: The Gateway to America

No visit to New York City is complete without seeing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I had decided to do both in one day along with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, for a jam-packed Saturday filled with history, culture and emotions. I began my morning with a tour of our Lady Liberty followed by a visit to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. If I had known how much fascinating information was available in all these three attractions, I would have spread out my visits over the course of two full days. I was stunned to discover how much I was moved and interested in discovering my own heritage after touring the fabulous Ellis Island Immigration Museum. I could have spent at least four hours there but alas I only had two.

Ellis Island New York

View of Ellis Island from the Statue of Liberty.

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the Statue of Liberty.

Liberty: An Unrelenting Symbol of Freedom

I have always wanted to see the Statue of Liberty.  Although I’ve seen many monuments from around the world – such as Paris’ beloved Eiffel Tour, India’s Taj Mahal and Beijing’s Forbidden City – I had never quite made it to the Statue of Liberty, the symbol of freedom and the representation of American ideals.

I have been to New York City many times before, however, every time I was there the timing was never quite right and I had never had the chance to see Liberty. It felt just plain odd and somewhat embarrassing that as a 42-year-old world traveler, I had never seen America’s most iconic symbol.

the Statue of Liberty.

When I knew I was heading back to New York again for a conference, I made special plans to fly in a day early and put my regrets about not seeing the Statue of Liberty behind me. Little did I know that seeing Liberty, Ellis Island and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum all in one day under the continual threat of growing terrorism, would be an emotionally-charged experience that I would never forget.

Hundreds of years after Liberty arrived, her symbol of freedom remains, perhaps even stronger and more insistent than before. 

The Statue of Liberty

There she stands….rising tall and fighting for our freedom while the reminder of 9/11 looms in the distance.

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The Statue of Liberty

Why I love New York

I just returned from an exhilarating long weekend in New York City and as usual I was not disappointed. In my opinion, New York City is one of the most amazing, electrifying cities in the world and every time I leave I long to go back.

My whirlwind weekend in New York began on a Friday night with a full, nine-hour day of sightseeing on Saturday, followed by two jam-packed days as a participant in the fifth annual Social Good Summit at 92nd Street Y in the Upper East Side.  I crammed in as much as humanly possible and arrived home Monday night completely exhausted, so worn out that I left my laptop and camera in the back seat of the taxi cab and didn’t realize until the following morning (I got it back, thank goodness!).

photo-8 copy

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Midtown Mania

During my three day trip to New York City for the BlogHer ’12 conference we stayed at the Hilton New York (the largest hotel in NYC) in vibrant, fast-faced Midtown.  As a travel blogger, I found it irresistibly hard to be trapped inside the jam-packed hotel in sessions all day long with 5,000 fellow bloggers. My curiosity and desire to explore got the best of me so I snuck out during the live Katie Couric interview and hit Midtown.

Thinking the coffee line at Starbucks would definitely be better across the street of our hotel, I crossed the famous Avenue of the Americas to yet another Starbucks, equally full with a queue of at least 20 deep. Wow, Starbucks must really rake in the money and I don’t even like their coffee (it is bitter, expensive and reminds me of a coffee shop version of McDonalds).

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