Humor Travel Life
This might seem like the silliest, most mundane idea for a travel blog post, but in the name of practicality, I realized that it might, in fact, be a great topic to discuss.
When it comes to travel blogs, we’re all looking for places to see and where to stay, but the truth is that when we’re actually out in the world traveling, we’re also trying to stay hydrated and connected. To put it bluntly: we will inevitably need to pee and/or charge our phones.
Right?! RIGHT?! We’ve all been there. You’re in some city you don’t know enjoying the day and instead of heading back to your hotel, you end up looking for somewhere you can use the bathroom or charge your phone for a bit without having to spend a bunch of money.
New York City is one of the busiest travel destinations in the world. As a writer who needs frequently works in coffee shops, which is usually a go-to option for travelers in need of a bathroom or an outlet, I’ve discovered some useful information along the way.
I’ve been residing in the Hell’s Kitchen area of Manhattan, so these locations will be near Midtown and Hell’s Kitchen, which is right near Times Square as well. Hey, there’s like a thousand coffee shops in Manhattan alone. I can’t reach them all!
Here’s my breakdown of places where there’s a (free) bathroom or outlet for you to charge your phone.
First up: Starbucks
This international coffee chain is not only a symbol of over-priced coffee (no joke, prices jumped again), it’s also a beacon for bathrooms and outlets. What’s important to remember is that not all Starbucks are alike when it comes to outlets, bathrooms, and seating.
Starbucks at 8th Ave & 52nd St. (Times Square/Hell’s Kitchen/Midtown)
What they offer: outlets, good seating, and bathrooms
Starbucks at 57th & 10th (Hell’s Kitchen)
What they offer: lots of seating, outlets, and a bathroom
Starbucks on 57th St. between 9th & and 8th Ave. (Hell’s Kitchen/Midtown)
What they offer: outlets and bathroom, but very minimal seating
Starbucks at 53rd and 6th (Midtown)
What they offer: No outlets, bathrooms, or seating. Basically, it’s just a pit stop to get coffee.
Starbucks on 53rd near Madison Ave. (Midtown)
What they offer: bathroom and good seating, but no outlets
Another place for free bathroom access near Times Square is the Macy’s store at 34th St. between 7th & 6th.
That’s it for now! If you find yourself in NYC, use this small but handy guide, because to quote the great Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, “When you gotta go, you gotta go.”
Even though it’s a coastal city, New York tends to be more known for giant skyscrapers and larger-than-life Broadway shows than it does for beaches. In the summertime though, there’s access to many different beach spots like the celebrity-filled Hamptons, Brighton beach, and Jones beach. However, if there’s one iconic beach spot that you have to head to when visiting New York, it is definitely Coney Island.
Coney Island is located on the southwest tip of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. The good news is that it is easily accessible too. From Manhattan, take the Q subway train all the to the last stop, which will be Coney Island. From there, just exit and walk over.
Coney Island features a beach, boardwalk, amusement park, food, pier, and aquarium. I’m happy to report there are also plenty of bathrooms there too.
When it comes to the amusement park portion of Coney Island, the ride you have to go on is called the Cyclone. It’s the most famous ride. In fact, the baseball team The Brooklyn Cyclones were named after it! It’s $10 per passenger, and they do take credit cards. It’s well worth it too! The ride is really fun and features a lot of dips.
Food! OK. So, when it comes to food obviously there’s lot of choices. Don’t go to Coney Island thinking you’re going to get some sort of organic chicken salad; it’s traditional park food. The famous spot to head to for a bite to eat is Nathan’s hot dogs. Eating a hotdog from Nathan’s is a Coney Island rite of passage. A regular hot dog from there will cost about $5 with tax (officially $4.75).
The two biggest annual events at Coney Island are the Mermaid Parade and the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. The Mermaid Parade takes place in June, while the Hot Dog Eating Contest happens on the Fourth of July. It’s safe to assume those guys eating hot dogs will be passed out or throwing up by the time fireworks roll around. Yikes!
Thankfully my trip to Coney ended with just a mild sunburn, as opposed to an overdose on hot dogs.
Catch you on the beach!
That’s right. I finally found it: the best place in the entire United States to watch the fireworks on the 4th of July. Are you ready? Hold your firecrackers kids, because this is where it’s at.
The best place in the U.S. to watch fireworks on the 4th of July is…
The Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.!
Yes! The iconic location where Martin Luther King Jr. made his “I Have a Dream” speech. The place immortalizing one of the greatest U.S. Presidents. A place of protest and celebration of democracy. This is one of America’s most symbolic landmarks.
You might be reading this and wondering, 'What about the White House, Capitol Building, or the Washington Monument?’. Good question!
Certainly, those are also famous U.S. landmarks, but here’s where the Lincoln Memorial outdoes them: the view
Not only are you getting a personal firework show, but you are looking out onto the Washington Monument and reflecting pool in front of you as you watch one of the best fireworks shows in the nation.
You can even sit right on the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial too as you enjoy the show.
There’s no need to worry about getting there super early either. I managed to still find a great spot where I could sit on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial a mere 10-15 minutes before the fireworks started.
So, if you ever get a chance to be in the capital city of the United States on Independence Day, head to the Lincoln Memorial.
A word of advice though: PUT AWAY YOUR PHONES! Take a few photos and then put them away for crying out loud. We get so focused on documenting everything we forget to live in the moment, and let me tell you something, experiencing a 4th of July on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial is something to remember.
This past 4th of July I traveled to the capital city of the United States, Washington D.C.
Depending on your political beliefs, going to Washington D.C. in 2018 can either feel exciting or depressing, and just like in the rest of the nation, you’ll encounter a mix of views in D.C. as well. I would say though, at the end of the day, visiting D.C. is necessary. What I mean by that is the history that surrounds this city in every way - both good and bad. Our nation’s history and its intended purpose is preserved in the museums, in the monuments, and in the atmosphere. That’s why in today’s political climate - both liberal and conservative, Republican or Democrat - I’d recommend D.C. in a heartbeat.
The words of our Founding Fathers, their intentions, and the truth of our history can get lost in the dark corners of Facebook and Twitter. This city will remind you of how far we have come, where we still need to go, and the importance of protecting democracy.
Another reason to go? It’s cheap!
Almost every major site and museum in Washington D.C. is free. You read that right. I’m not pulling an Ed McMahon Publisher’s Clearing House stunt on you.
Washington D.C. is full of famous monuments and buildings that you can see: The Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Capitol Building, Supreme Court, and The White House.
My favorite monuments were the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. The best time to visit each of these two monuments is at sunset. It's so beautiful!
Additionally, there are plenty of incredible museums that are free to the public as well. My top pick to see is the Holocaust museum. This is a thorough museum that provides education and insight into this tragic moment in history in very poignant ways, the most of which is the opportunity to sit down and speak with a Holocaust survivor. I’m not talking a lecture in a large room. This is an intimate conversation around a small table. It’s an incredible experience and something I would recommend to anyone who is visiting the museum to take part in. I believe that one of the best ways of improving this world is to learn from the past. Something else to make sure you do at this museum is watch the video documentary on Anne Frank that plays in the auditorium. It's about a half hour long.
Another museum to see is the Smithsonian American History Museum. It’s a pretty cool place to check out, especially considering it’s in the nation’s capital. During my visit there, I saw Muhamad Ali’s boxing gloves, the All in the Family set, personal items belonging to George Washington, and even an original Apple computer. To this day though, I have yet to own a Mac though…
Another one of my favorite spots was the National Portrait Gallery. This features portraits of notable Americans throughout history, including Presidents and First Ladies. I was so excited to see the portraits for Barack and Michelle Obama. They were incredible!
A fourth museum that I did not have the chance to see but is something that is on my bucket list is the Newseum, which is a museum celebrating journalism and the First Amendment. Unfortunately, this museum is not free though.
Another spot to visit is the Botanical Gardens that are located behind the U.S. Capitol Building. It’s a pretty area and also…free!
The great news is that all these places I mentioned about are walking distance since they are all in the same area near the National Mall – and no, that’s referring to where you can locate a Hollister. Do people still wear Hollister?
On the next post, hear about the best spot in the United States to watch 4th of July fireworks!
One of New York’s coolest neighborhoods is Little Italy.
The city’s epicenter of Italian heritage and food has been featured in many famous films, including The Godfather Trilogy – with Part II featuring the most scenes there.
It’s unique because it feels very old-school New York and European at the same time, making it a fantastic blend of Italian and American culture.
The streets are decorated with bright colors of the Italian flag, flower archways, and even a large sign that reads, ‘Welcome to Little Italy.’
The biggest draw to Little Italy though is the food. You don’t have to venture here if you’re looking for great New York pizza, but this is certainly the place to go if you want to have pasta in New York City.
Everywhere you look there are options for delicious Italian food. One of the main streets in this neighborhood is Mulberry Street, which features a variety of local Italian restaurants to enjoy. The best time to visit here is in the summer when the weather is warm, so you can enjoy the outdoor seating and people watch as you eat your meal.
I had lunch at a restaurant on Mulberry Street called Ristorante Capri. As I was trying to decide where I wanted – and could afford – to have some pasta in Little Italy, an upbeat round-belled actor/writer/host-with-the-most named Gustavo practically ushered me to a table before I could decide if the lunch special was something I wanted. At the end of the day though, some charm and a nice personality will go far, and so I decided to have my Little Italy lunch at this restaurant.
I am glad I did. The staff was very friendly, and I got a fabulous outdoor seating spot. With my Eat Pray Love book in hand (I am reading that for the second time) I ordered the lunch special, with lasagna for my pasta choice. The lunch special is $15 (and this was one of the cheaper options). The special included bread, a salad, and lasagna. It was incredible! The food was delicious. Everything down to the bread was really, really good.
Even though you feel like you’re in Europe, you still get that New York sense of urgency in which they are trying to get customers and in and out as quickly as possible. I would have loved to sit there and read my book a bit while I was having lunch, especially considering they didn’t have a line of people waiting, but it seems that enjoying the moment was not included in the lunch special.
The interesting thing about New York is that even though I am living here – at least through the summer – it feels like a place where you can have a vacation on your day off. I don’t know whether to attribute that to the fact that it’s all new for me or if it’s the magic of this city, but either way my trip to Little Italy felt like a mini-vacation.
Something cool to note is that Little Italy, Soho, Tribeca, and Chinatown are all right next to each other. You could easily explore all of them in one day. I didn’t see Tribeca, nor did I venture into Chinatown for the simple reason that I had already been to San Francisco’s, which is hands down the best Chinatown in the States to explore.
I did, however, walk around Soho. If you’re not familiar with Soho, it’s an upscale New York neighborhood that has more character in the aesthetic as opposed to glam. This is where you’re going to find expensive boutiques among really cool architecture while also catching celebrities, paparazzi, or both. In my case, I saw Cindy Crawford and her family. I was tempted to say hello to Cindy and see if she remembered me from the day I did background work on a Kid Rock music video during my first year in Los Angeles, but something tells me that she would not have remembered me though…
In conclusion, here are three things to remember:
1. If you want to see celebrities, go to Soho
2. Visit New York’s Little Italy and get yourself some Italian food
3. Never do background on a Kid Rock music video.
I have been a fan of talk show host Wendy Williams for a few years now.
I mainly watch The Wendy Williams Show for the hot topics segment. Considering it feels like the state of the world is constantly about to implode (just watch 10 minutes of CNN and you’ll get what I mean), celebrity culture feels more trivial than ever, but it’s Wendy that can make a story about a random reality television star I know nothing about actually interesting. Wendy’s funny and real, which makes her show so much fun to watch.
The show films in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City.
Now, I only did two television tapings during my time in Los Angeles. The first was a sitcom taping that ran WAY too long, but the reason I wanted to attend that sitcom taping was because the legendary Rita Moreno was in it. The 5+ hours was worth it though, since I got to meet Rita, chat with her briefly, and even get an autograph.
The other television taping was Jimmy Kimmel Live and that was also a good time – plus Jimmy is very nice as well.
FYI, unless you have a time machine to attend an I Love Lucy, Seinfeld or Friends taping, go catch a talk show instead. They are only several hours of your time, as opposed to the ridiculously long sitcom tapings.
Obviously, New York is full of amazing shows for you to be in the audience of. There’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live, and The View.
What sets Wendy’s show apart is how much her audience is included in the show – she even calls her studio audience her co-hosts. Originally, I had planned to go for my birthday, but since it would be during summer hiatus, I figured I better go as soon as possible.
I got my free tickets online via www.wendyshow.com. They gave specific clothing directions, which can best be summarized by ‘dress to impress’. Her audience is featured on-camera quite a bit, so yeah, it’s a great excuse to dress up!
We had to be in line outside the studio in Chelsea by 8:00 a.m. for the Thursday taping. Thankfully the weather was great, but if you are attending show tapings in the winter, be mindful to dress warm.
Once we got our paper ticket with a seating section, we went inside to the holding area. Before heading into the building though, everyone is required to go through security, so smaller purses are best.
In the holding area, we each wrote down a question to ask Wendy herself if picked for her Ask Wendy segment. Personally, I was hoping not be picked. I had three hours of sleep the night before after staying up late writing, so having a close up on camera for an extended amount of time was not on my to-do list. Truth be told, I had no interesting question anyway. I wasn’t picked. Thank God.
We were then brought into the studio itself. We went backstage and were given seating assignments by Wendy staffers. I actually ended up getting a great spot, and the good news is you can keep your purse with you – just make sure to turn off your cell phone though. As we were entering the studio, there was an incredible DJ playing an awesome set of 90s/early 2000s hip hop and r & b, creating a really fun club vibe in the studio. I have to stay, starting off with some fantastic throwback music is a great way to get the audience pumped up.
Once everyone was seated, the Wendy Show hype guy, Marco Glorious, came out and warmed up the crowd.
Normally at these TV tapings, it’s a mid-level comedian that comes out and tells some jokes. Meh. Whatever. But Marco was incredible! He didn’t do a stand-up set but instead got everyone excited by having us participate in the warm-up action. We were dancing, saying hello to our neighbors, and just having a fun party together. I hope other TV shows take note. THAT’S how you warm up a studio audience!
Right before we went to air Wendy producer and frequent on-camera personality Suzanne came out to say hello. I love Suzanne. She’s great and it was awesome to hear from her as well. 10 a.m. arrived and out came Wendy. I think I had been waiting all my life for that “how you doing?” moment.
The taping of the show went by really quickly, which was nice considering I was still operating on that 3 hours of sleep.
Wendy came up in the audience quite a bit actually, either between breaks or during taped segments. At one point she was standing right next to me. Afterward, she thanked us all for coming, and it was really nice to hear from her.
You can really tell that she appreciates her audience, and I think that is one of her best qualities.
Her entire staff was also SUPER NICE. I mean it. Every single person was fun, welcoming, and kind to us all. Lord knows I’ve encountered staffers who treat audience members like they are idiots (understandably some do act like that but not everyone). The Wendy Show crew though was hands down one of the nicest groups of people in entertainment. I made sure to thank them for that because it really does make a difference.
I will leave you with this:
If you are visiting New York City and want to attend a television taping – especially if you can only do one – go see the Wendy Williams Show. It is FUN. I promise you will have a great time.
HOW YOU DOING?
I finally understand why Samantha Jones’ favorite New York City ‘holiday’ is Fleet Week.
OK. If you don’t get the reference, let me explain…
Samantha Jones is an iconic character on the equally iconic TV series Sex and the City, which quintessentially changed the game for single women. I could dive into an entire on essay on the positive impacts of that show, but for the purposes of keeping this a travel blog, I’ll get right to the point. There’s an episode that is centered around the New York’s annual Fleet Week.
This event happens every year around Memorial Day in the spring in which over 2,000 members of the U.S. Navy are in the city. Although they are here for special events, they are also here for a good time. Gorgeous, well-mannered, American men in uniform walking around Manhattan? It’s a dream come true. Did I mention they are well-mannered? Ah, chivalry…
After just recently experiencing Fleet Week myself for the first time, I totally get it.
My first Fleet Week spotting was while walking home from attending a taping of the Wendy Williams show. Thanks to Sex and the City, I knew exactly what seeing a U.S. sailor in Times Square meant.
At the Hudson River pier area on Manhattan’s west side was where the Navy was having ship tours and exhibitions, featuring, of course, members of the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.
While you do have to pay to take a tour of the massive ship called Intrepid, you can visit the pier and see other boats and military equipment on display for free. Just make sure to bring a government issued photo id with you either way.
While at the pier, we were greeted by incredibly nice servicemen and women who were happy to tell us all about their equipment, history, and take photos.
I had a tour of the Coast Guard ship named after Richard Snyder, a WWII hero, as well as a tour of a training boat used by students at Annapolis.
I may have initially gone based on my fandom for Sex and the City and all things New York City, but I left with an even greater appreciation for the work our men and women in the armed services do. They sacrifice so much for our country and are always so kind. It was a treat to be able to hear from them and learn more about their work.
And yes, the outfits are also really hot.
What can I say? I met some officers who were gentlemen.
As someone totally new to life on the East Coast, I also have an insatiable desire to experience as much as I can during my time here. The close proximity to so many nearby states is pretty fascinating. In less than an hour, I could walk from my apartment in Manhattan to a subway station and take a train to the state of New Jersey. For perspective, it can take at least an hour to just get from West Hollywood to Santa Monica during rush hour.
For better or worse, the first thing I associate with New Jersey is the show The Jersey Shore. Well, I wasn’t planning to head to the beaches of New Jersey, but I was going to check out a nearby city aptly called Jersey City. It was recommended to me by a friend of a friend, so I figured it would be a nice, easy day trip for my New Jersey tourist adventure.
From Manhattan, I took the PATH train from the 32nd St. Station toward Journal Square. When planning my trip to Jersey City, I had been told by Google Maps to take the train to the final stop at Journal Square, so that was my plan.
Upon arriving at Journal Square, I walked out of the subway station and well, didn’t see much at all. Sure, there were some buildings around but not much going on. I kept calm and figured the ‘exciting’ portion was probably a little bit of a walk away.
I walked, and I walked some more. Instead of finally finding something interesting, I was honked at three times and wandered into an even-more desolate part of town that had me slightly fearful for life. My first impression of Jersey was not so good.
I now understand why they had Kevin McAllister get lost in Manhattan. If they had him get lost where I was, it could have easily been turned into a far-less fun ½ hour PBS special.
I messaged my contact who had originally recommended Jersey City to ask where exactly I should be heading to, since it was safe to assume I was not at the right spot. I finally got my answer: Grove Street.
Important note: when heading to Jersey City via the PATH train, get off at Grove Street, not Journal Square.
I walked the two miles to Grove Street and found some cute restaurants, bars, and shopping. At Grove Street and Columbus, there is a farmer’s market Monday-Thursday from 4-8 p.m. and live music Wednesday evenings from 6-9 p.m.
By the time I actually made it there, I was pretty tuckered out. I wandered around for a bit but eventually made my way back home to Manhattan.
While I was glad I could cross visiting New Jersey off my bucket list, I also realized that there’s probably some other great parts worth seeing too, and you shouldn’t judge an entire state by one city – or a reality television show.
Every March, the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan comes together for LaughFest. This community-based comedy festival features local performers and events around town. Comedy events and shows include: films, stand-up, improvisation, and sketch. Local comedians have the opportunity to perform for the community and in addition, the festival also brings in big-name talent like Trevor Noah, Tiffany Haddish, John Mulaney, Anjelah Johnson, Joel McHale, Howie Mandel, Kathy Griffin, Seth Meyers, and George Lopez – just to name a few.
2018 was the first time I was actually back in Michigan for LaughFest. I had the opportunity to see Grand Rapids comedy all-stars like AnnaFlora Somers, Sean Francis, and Joe Anderson perform. Grand Rapids has a thriving arts community worth checking out if you live there or find yourself visiting GR someday.
LaughFest also includes unique events that aren’t just about comedy performances, but the joy of laughter and humor. One of those, Laughter Yoga, was something that I had the opportunity to do with my good friend Allison. I knew of yoga and laughter, but not Laughter Yoga. I was intrigued and thought it would be something fun to try. The best part is that my friend Allison also happens to be the person I love to make laugh the most, so I knew it would be perfect for the both of us to experience together.
Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids is the charitable non-profit organization that puts on LaughFest every year. It offers free emotional support for cancer patients, family members, and friends. The great thing about LaughFest is that it is not just a comedy festival; It also raises money for Gilda’s Club to continue to help those affected by cancer. It’s a truly amazing event, because it brings the community of Grand Rapids together for a good cause.
Our adventure with Laughter Yoga took place on the very last day of the LaughFest program. It was a Sunday afternoon, and this event was going to be held at the actual Gilda’s Club location. I had never been there before, so I was excited to see it. Our group included people of all ages and backgrounds. Allison and I prepared by wearing out workout attire to this event, assuming there would be actual yoga work involved. Although we did a bunch of laughter exercises, the best way to describe our experience was very similar to that of a basic improvisation class more so than a yoga class.
Because laughter reduces stress, as does yoga, it would make sense to combine the two. I definitely felt the positive effects of all the laughing that we did that day, but I do think the marketing is a little misleading. It’s a free event so harm no foul, and more importantly, it was fun to do something with my friend and the Grand Rapids community. The thing is though, we were expecting more of a yoga-type class that included laughter. For marketing purposes, yoga sounds more appealing, but I would keep in mind that Laughter Yoga is more similar to that of an improv or intro-level theater class, than a fitness format.
At the end of the day though, being in my hometown and spending the day with one of my best friends made it a really great experience.
New York City is full of diverse museums to check out. From Ellis Island and the Metropolitan Museum of Art to even a Museum of Sex (I kid you not), there really is something for everyone here.
I love museums but visiting them can take a toll financially after a while. That’s why when I discovered that some of the museums in New York offer free entry on Friday evenings, I was ecstatic. My first free-entry-Friday was at the Museum of Modern Art, aka MoMA, in Midtown Manhattan. This isn’t just your standard museum full of paintings. It also features interpretive, unique art pieces, which included videos and photographs on display.
After looking at the museum's brochure further, I learned that one of the most iconic paintings of all-time and my personal favorite, Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night, was on display there. I was floored. I had been in Paris last summer and had heard that Starry Night was at another art museum I didn’t have a chance to get to, so when I realized that my favorite painting was a mere two escalator rides up from where I was standing, it was a surreal moment.
When it comes to seeing the more-famous paintings at a museum, always follow the crowds. While at the Museum of Modern Art, I knew that when I saw a bigger crowd standing around a certain painting, I knew it was the one. Starry Night was just as beautiful as I had imagined. I know that sounds cheesy but it really was. I love the color pattern and the connection with nature that it reflects. I’m a big nature person, so perhaps that is why I respond to this one more than others. No offense Mona Lisa; You are cool too.
I will say though, when it comes to traveling with young kids, I probably wouldn’t take them to this particular art museum if some edgier material may make anyone uncomfortable. It’s not that the museum is out of control with controversial artwork, but just some of the artwork was a little more graphic.
The fact that people in New York City can see Starry Night for free - at least for the near future - completely blows my mind. It’s a great deal!
If you are interested in visiting the Museum of Modern Art, free entry is every Friday from 4pm-8pm.
Jill Zwarensteyn is an actress, comedian, and writer who has been featured on Amazon, TruTV, The New York Times, Matador Network, BUST Magazine, Tiplr, YourTango, Thought Catalog, GoMad Nomad, Mashable, The Daily Mail UK, the Cannes Film Festival, LaughFest, Women's Lifestyle Magazine, and the Funny Women Festival LA. For more info visit: http://www.jillzwarensteyn.weebly.com