New York City – Lower East Side ramen/donuts/art/beer/Tenament Museum

After multiple visits to NYC, I’ve finally gotten around to checking out other areas of island that aren’t Midtown. My friend had just recently gone to the Tenement Museum and loved it. I hadn’t heard of it, but I trust her recommendations and Yelp also had tons of great reviews. I decided to make a day out of being in the area.

Like everything in NYC, this itinerary is walkable. It’s also pretty cheap, except for the Tenement Museum tickets, which are about $25 each.

1. Start your day with some lunch at Lam Zhou Handmade Noodle. It’s a tiny ramen shop with only 4 tables and there’s barely a sign outside the door. That’s how you know it’s freaking delicious. They speak some English and it’s cash only. However, me and 3 friends went, stuffed ourselves, and the whole bill was $26, which is basically what brunch costs per person anywhere else in NYC. Who wants to feel like a baller and cover the whole bill?! Here’s a picture of the outside so you know where to walk in.

Lam Zhou Outside Entrance
The awning has no lettering anymore

 

2. There’s always room for dessert. Make your way to the Donut Plant. They highly recommended the creme brûlée donut, which I had and pretty much saw new colors after eating it. I also had the hot chocolate with a giant handmade marshmallow cube in it. This hot chocolate was basically like drinking a delicious creamy, chocolatey cloud. Check it out:

Beautiful donuts!
Beautiful donuts!
It's amazing
It’s amazing

3. On the way to the museum, there’s a really cool bar/liquor store called Top Hops Beer Shop. It’s basically a bunker full of an insane number of craft beers and all goods/services beer-related. You can also get/bring a growler to fill up full of wonderful beer. It’s a pretty heavenly place.

Over 600 different beers here
Over 600 different beers here

4. Ever thought there could be a bakery that’s vegan, gluten-free, and good? Me neither. But then we went to BabyCakes. This place is rated very highly by a lot of people, including Martha Stewart.

And here we see a fresh baby being dropped off to be made into cake
And here we see a fresh baby being dropped off to be made into cake

5. You’ll run into a lot of art galleries on the way. They’re free, but there’s a range of what’s good and bad.

6. The final stop was the Tenement Museum. We did the Shop Life tour. This was a really unique museum experience because it’s guided and interactive and you see replica/restored rooms that are historically accurate. I was skeptical about how much fun it would be, but all the Yelp reviews convinced us. Even my friend who doesn’t really like historical museums really enjoyed herself. Definitely check it out.

 

Walking directions in LES
Walking directions in LES

 

 

 

Chicago – Get fancy in River North night

This itinerary is about 6 hours long and is best for going out a celebrating something, like a birthday, bro-night, or friends in town. This is kind of similar to the Get Extra Fancy in West Loop itinerary, but a little cheaper and good for red/brownliners.

This will cover dinner, fancy drinking, and clubbing in River North. Everything is walking distance for guys and pretty walkable for the girls in heels (if they’re able to walk 3 blocks). Each place is spaced about 3-5 minutes away from each other.

1. Eat some of the best sushi ever at Sunda for dinner. It’s Michelin rated and is pretty reasonably priced. The cocktails here are also pretty excellent. Everything there is delicious.

2. Walk a few blocks southwest to the Gilt Bar Library. You’ll most likely need a reservation to get to the library downstairs, but it’s perfect for actually being able to talk to your friends while having expertly crafted cocktails and good food too.

3. If you’re down to go out drinking and partying, go to these next few places – Untitled, American Junkie, and Social 25. Untitled is big and awesome. It has multiple rooms, which include a whiskey room, a dining room, and a dance floor. American Junkie has a retractable roof and really hot bartenders. Social 25 has two floors, has great dance music, AND is open until 5AM. It does get hot though, just a warning.

Screenshot 2015-01-10 22.28.12

 

 

 

 

 

Chicago – Get extra fancy in West Loop

For Red or Brown-liners, the West Loop can seem like the next state over. But the West Loop has some of the coolest/fanciest places in town. I like going here when I’m trying to show off the best that the city has to offer. This itinerary for the evening is about 5 hours long, but can extend to all night if you want to go clubbing afterwards. Dress to the 9’s and prepare to eat, drink, and dance at the best venues in Chicago.

A word of warning when following this itinerary: it is $$$$, but it’s incredible. It’s also best for those with lots of energy.

1. Start your night off at Moto. Its concept is beautiful, sustainable, molecular gastronomic creations. You can choose between an 8-course or 16-course tasting menu with a beverage pairing option. Make a reservation long ahead of time.

2. Continue the molecular gastronomy theme next door at the Aviary. They literally have a guy whose job it is to make ice. There are apparently 36 different kinds you can make. One of these drinks comes out in basically a chemistry set. One of my favorite drinks is the ice ball in a whiskey glass that disintegrates and becomes the drink when you break it using a weight on a rubber band. If you go early enough, you can walk in, but reservations are recommended. Outdoor seating is first come first serve. For even more exclusivity, make a reservation at their hidden downstairs speakeasy, The Office. You need to be invited and be given the number to call. Both areas have food too.

3. To keep the night going, go party at The Mid. It’s two floors with multiple rooms, really hot bartenders (of course), and really good DJ’s. People actually dance here. Just don’t go outside once you’re in because they won’t let you back in most of the time.

 

West Loop Fancy Night Map
West Loop Fancy Night Map

Chicago – Walking tour from Old Town to Signature Lounge

This itinerary is about 2-3 hours long and is a really cool and delicious way for people to see some of the best parts of Chicago. Wear comfortable shoes to walk in. I’d say each person will spend $25 total for this.

This will cover breakfast, coffee, walking through Old Town and Gold Coast and ending at the Signature Lounge for lunch and drinks. You can also walk back from the Signature Lounge back through Gold Coast on an alternate route to see more mansions as well extend your outing to see one of the most realistic statues ever created of Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln Park.

1. Start at Delightful Pastries in Old Town. It’s one of the best bakeries in Chicago and were low-sugar, no preservative, organic, etc. before it was cool. The chocolate chip croissant is really good. 1710 N Wells St.

2. Walk through Old Town and head to Intelligentsia Coffee and get the best coffee you may ever have. Yes, this is a bold statement, BUT has been verified by multiple coffee-snob friends of mine. 1233 N Wells St.

3. Double-back half a block then walk east on Goethe until you reach Astor St. Make a right (south). Take the time to admire the mansions. I recommend reading about some Gold Coast history while walking on this street.

4. Make a left (east) on Division until you reach Lake Shore Dr. Make a right (south). You see less houses and stores, but it’s more direct and you get a view of the lake. This turns into Michigan Ave (Magnificent Mile), which has the best shopping in Chicago. Keep walking until you reach the John Hancock Tower, which will be on the left side of the street. Go there and head to the 96th floor, which has the Signature Lounge. Reasons why it’s better than the Sears (Willis) Tower: it’s free to go up, there’s no long waiting in line, you can eat and drink up there, and the view is better. 875 N Michigan Ave.

5. Relax and have a drink and an appetizer in one of the tallest places in the city. Fun fact: The women’s bathroom apparently has a ridiculously awesome view to the outside. Where’s my equality??

Alternate route:

  • Instead of doubling back after coffee, keep walking south and make a left (east) on Division, then a right (south) on Rush Street then a left (east) on Delaware until you reach the John Hancock Tower. You’ll see less mansions, but you’ll see more restaurants and shops.

Extended outing:

  • After the Signature Lounge, go burn off your lunch by walking back north to see more mansions and the statue of Abraham Lincoln. Go west on Delaware then make a right (north) on Rush St. Make a right (east) once you reach Division. Make a left (north) on Astor St. Keep walking north. Eventually you’ll pass a plaque on your left that describes a wooden alley. Read it and learn about its history. It helps you understand why everything burned during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The big house in front of it is the Bishop’s house. The Pope stays there when he visits.
  • Make a left (west) on North Blvd. You’ll pass a statue of the man who invented crowns for teeth by teaching himself dentistry. He became the chairman of Northwestern dental school, which now longer exists (unlucky coincidence lol). Once you reach Dearborn St., look to your right. There’s Lincoln.

My friends and I really enjoyed this. I hope you will too.

Here’s the map of the walk:

Chicago - Walking tour map
Chicago – Walking tour map