A Perfect Portland Weekend

Portland is one of my favorite cities. It’s has a great blend of both city and suburban charm. I love that you can spend the morning drinking coffee downtown and spend the afternoon hiking a waterfall. You could spend a jam packed weekend here and still be excited to return! I’ve been several times and want to share what I would consider the perfect Portland weekend:

Day 1 – Ice cream, roses, and books!

There is so much to see in downtown that it makes sense to start the weekend in downtown. Start your day with a cup of coffee (it’s a must in Portland!) and get ready for a lot of walking!

Powell’s

Powell’s is the bookstore of your dreams. They literally give you a map when you walk in because you can really get lost in this store. But isn’t getting lost in a bookstore half the fun? This is definitely a place you want to get lost in! Leave room in your luggage for all the books you will inevitably walk away with.

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The directory – it’s insane!

Salt & Straw

This is arguably the best ice cream around. The line always wraps around the corner and while you’re waiting you can smell them making the waffle cones inside (which is a bit torturous). They offer both traditional favorites and exciting strange flavors you would never have thought of. My favorite is the snickerdoodle, but the blue cheese and pear was also a hit with my family. This place is more than just exciting flavors though – you can taste the quality. I’m just craving it thinking about it…

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Amazing ice cream and amazing waffle cones

I also love the area around Salt & Straw. Grab your ice cream and then shop in the boutiques around the area. There is also a ton of cute cafes around Salt & Straw so this would be a great area to find a lunch spot.

Washington Park/International Rose Test Garden 

Washington Park is a collection of different gardens and parks just outside downtown. I visited the International Rose Test Garden, but there are so many other options. If you are going in the spring, then the rose garden is a must see. I visited the second week of May and everything was in bloom. They didn’t name Portland the City of Roses without good reason! You can also visit the Japanese Garden, the zoo, the Hoyt Arboretum…and the list goes on. I love Washington Park because it’s a good spot to see the green natural beauty of Portland without traveling far outside the city. Plus on clear days you get gorgeous views of both the city and the mountains.

 

 

Day 2 – A Day of Waterfalls

Hands down my favorite thing about the Portland area is the amazing hikes. I cannot visit Portland without making a trip out to the Columbia Gorge for some gorgeous waterfall hikes. I have a lot to say about these hikes, so check out my post on Portland Waterfalls for Your Bucket List. It’s too much to list here!

 

 

Day 3 – Beer and/or Wine

IMG_4706Portland is a city that can boast both amazing beer and wine. They are known for their plethora of brewpubs in the city and the Oregon Pinot Noir is loved by wine fans across the country. You can easily spend an entire day doing tastings of either beer or wine (or both!).

There are over a hundred vineyards across the Willamette Valley (most within an hour drive). To start planning your day in wine country, check out the map of vineyards. For beer, you can easily stay in the city and hop from brewpub to brewpub. I went to many of the big names and my favorites were Deschutes and Widmer Brothers. There are tons of small local breweries so discover your own new favorite craft brew!

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An overcast day in beautiful wine country

 

So many more things in Portland…

There are so many things to do in Portland that I can’t fit them all in one weekend! If you need additional ideas here are more things to do and see:

Alder Street Food Carts – There is a square downtown that is filled with every kind of food cart you can imagine. It’s fun to go with friends and each person can get exactly what kind of food they want. Address: Between SW Alder St. and 10th Ave, Portland, OR 97205

IMG_4761Voodoo Doughnuts – Voodoo is a famous doughnut shop that offers crazy combos like Captain Crunch doughnuts. I didn’t feel like it was a “must do” but it was still a lot of fun. The line here is always nuts so be prepared to wait for a while. If you don’t have time to wait in line, I have heard from locals the Blue Star Doughnuts is just as good without the line.

Multnomah Whiskey Library – I haven’t been here, but I know it’s very popular and a whiskey lover’s dream. It looks amazing inside. Website 

Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade – I went here with some friends and felt like I was transported back to the 80’s. This is a two story arcade with everything from multiplayer PAC-MAN to pinball machines to Tetris. What makes it more fun is that they have a bar and a DJ (the DJ might be a weekend only thing). It’s open each day at noon and only 21 is allowed after 5pm. Website

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The line at Nike

Nike Employee Store – You have to know someone to get into this Nike Store, but if you do get the chance to go then definitely take the opportunity! This is a warehouse filled with all the new releases (and items that haven’t reached stores yet) and every item is 50% off. You have to get there about half an hour before the store opens to get in line. They only let a certain number of people in so it’s wise to be there early.

Bike Ride – If you are a confident bike rider in a city then I would suggest seeing the city by bike. It’s fun to explore farther sides of Portland via bike. Check out some loops on this website

Lan Su Chinese Garden – I didn’t feel like this garden was a must see, but it is still definitely fun. You would never guess that this quiet garden is in the middle of downtown. They also have many different events like Tai Chi classes, culinary tastings, and poetry tours. Website

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You wouldn’t believe this peaceful spot is in downtown

Now are you ready to start planning your Portland trip? Check out my All the Planning Details post on Portland. I list out all the tiny details about hours, transportation, and more.

 

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Portland Waterfalls That Need To Be On Your Bucket List

I’ve always lived in California so every time I visit Oregon I am in awe of how wonderfully green it is. One of my favorite spots in Oregon is the Columbia River Gorge. The Columbia River Gorge is the gorgeous area around the Columbia River which separates Oregon and Washington. When you are in the midst of all the trees and waterfalls you would never guess that you are only half an hour away from downtown Portland. Whenever I visit family in Oregon, I make it a point to have a hiking day in the area. It is always a big highlight of my trip. These are my favorite hikes in the Columbia Gorge area. There are endless possibilities of which waterfalls and hikes to choose from. All of these hikes are right off the Historic Columbia River Highway (which is a gorgeous drive itself.)

Horsetail Falls

I love the Horsetail Falls hike because you can see two waterfalls in less than a mile. Horsetail Falls hike starts out with an amazing waterfall you can see right away – even from the parking lot!

 

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Horsetail Falls – The first thing you see as you start the trail

 

The trail starts to the left of the first waterfall and begins with a bit of a steep incline. After about ten minutes it levels out and you get amazing views of the Columbia Gorge.

 

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The view of the Columbia River from the trail – just gorgeous!

Continue walking to see Ponytail Falls. (Side note: Ponytail Falls is also called Upper Horsetail Falls – the trail sign calls it Upper Horsetail Falls.) Ponytail Falls is very scenic because you can walk behind the fall! This is also a place where some (brave souls) can wade in the water or at least dip your feet in. I didn’t get in the water so I can’t comment on how strong the current is.

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I turned around here but if you want to continue, the trail leads on to Oneonta Falls and even farther to Triple Falls.

Stats

  • Round trip mileage: .8 miles (to and from Ponytail Falls)
  • Difficulty: Moderate – steep incline at the beginning that levels out. Children will be able to hike but beware of the steep edges of the cliff.
  • Parking: There is a small lot right in front of Horsetail Falls. If you can’t get a spot there, try (safely) parking along the street.
  • Address: There is no exact address for the waterfalls, but it will pop up if you type “Horsetail Falls Trailhead” into Google Maps. From the 84 freeway, take exit 35 towards Historic Hwy/Anisworth/State Park and turn right onto Historic Columbia River Hwy then make a left to stay on Historic Columbia River Hwy. You will see the waterfall from the highway in about 3 minutes.

 

Oneonta Gorge

I was extremely excited to hike Oneonta Gorge after gazing at magical photos of the hike online. This place looks like a dream. To reach Oneonta Falls, you walk along a creek in the middle of a chasm. I felt like an explorer discovering a hidden place. I had high expectations and Oneonta Gorge did not disappoint.

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The log jam

This trail is different from the rest of the trails because there is no “trail”. The trail is actually just the creek itself. It’s a more challenging trail because you have many obstacles along the way. First you have to crawl over a huge log jam. Please be careful because the logs can be wet and slippery. After the logs you have to wade waist deep in VERY cold water. It is all worth it though! And sometimes I think that the harder something is to reach, the more you appreciate the beauty! But PLEASE use caution and common sense when hiking this trail. If the water is too high or the logs are not sturdy, then don’t continue hiking. The water levels and log positions change all the time and you don’t want to risk anything!

Something I didn’t think of when I went was how the time of day will affect the photography. Since you are in a narrow gorge the sun will only come through at mid-day when the sun is directly above the gorge. I went in the afternoon and by then the gorge was a bit darker and it was much harder to take good photos. So just know that this is much prettier than my photos show!

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Don’t forget to dress in proper “wading” clothes for this hike. Also make sure to bring a change of clothes (especially shoes and socks) if you want to continue hiking after this trail. I made the mistake of making this my first hike of the day and had to wear wet clothes the rest of the day!  Also, how deep the water will be depends on what time of year you visit. I went in mid-October and the water went to my waist. I have read that during the summer the water is much lower.

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The trailhead is not quite as obvious as other trail locations. It is not a paved area with directional signs like most of the other trails in the area. Park along the highway and walk to the pedestrian bridge. If you are looking at the Oneonta Gorge Tunnel from the south side, the rocky creek area to your right is actually the start of the trail. There are steps down the side of the bridge.    

Stats

  • Round trip mileage: 0.8 mile
  • Difficulty: Difficult – not because of elevation, but because of the obstacles, not suitable for children
  • Parking: Park along the highway
  • Address: 48636 Historic Columbia River Hwy, Corbett, OR 97019

 

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls is one of the most well known waterfalls in Oregon (and maybe even in the country). Towering at 611 feet, it is one of the tallest waterfalls in the United States (there are many different factors to determine how “tall” a waterfall is, so it’s exact ranking is unknown). Multnomah Falls is a fun spot because with just a few minutes hike you can access a bridge that crosses halfway up the waterfall and essentially stand in the middle of the fall. The other great thing about Multnomah Falls is that there is a cute lodge restaurant at the base of the falls and they also have a snack bar with coffee and treats. I love getting a warm coffee and seeing some beautiful waterfalls!

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My family on the bridge – this was in June

Multnomah Falls is the easiest waterfall to access in the area, which makes it very popular. Crowds of people flock to take their picture in front of this gorgeous spot. I enjoy stopping by to look at the waterfall and then continuing on to smaller falls for hiking. If you do decide to hike Multnomah, one cool thing is you can hike to the top! To hike to the top of Multnomah, just cross the bridge and continue up the steep path. I have never done this hike since it is always very crowded when I visit. However, I do know that this is a very popular trail and for good reason. After reaching the viewpoint of Multnomah you can choose to turn around here or to continue on to the Wahkeena Trail to see even more waterfalls.

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Multnomah had less water when this picture was taken (October)

There is a large parking lot right in front of the falls, but at busy times it will quickly fill up. They also have a parking lot across the freeway with a paved short walk to the fall. If you are going on a weekend or a busy time, I would suggest starting with the farther parking lot. I visited on a Saturday in October and the traffic just getting off the freeway towards the closer lot was insane.

Stats

  • Round trip mileage: 2.6 miles to the top of Multnomah Falls or around 5 miles to Wahkeena Falls
  • Difficulty: Moderate (some steep inclines)
  • Parking: If you are going on a weekday, try parking in the lot in front of the lodge. If you are going on a weekend or any day in the summer, try the lot across the highway first since the closer lot fills quickly.
  • Address: To the lodge and closer parking: 53000 Historic Columbia River Hwy, Corbett, OR 97019
  • To the farther parking lot: Take the left hand exit 31 to Multnomah Falls. The freeway exit ends at the parking lot. (There is no exact address.)

 

Elowah Falls

Elowah Falls might just be my favorite of the group. It has the perfect combo of a gorgeous, peaceful hike and an enchanting waterfall. I went one time on a busy Saturday and while there were hundreds of people at Multnomah Falls, there were only about 3 at Elowah Falls. Having a waterfall all to yourself is an amazing feeling! The hike to Elowah starts out with a bit of an incline (like most of these waterfall hikes) and then declines back to the waterfall. You are on a steep edge so make sure to be careful! The hike itself is just gorgeous so enjoy the whole experience! I had to make an effort to look up while I was walking because the scenery around is breathtaking. (It’s easy to get too focused on not tripping on rocks that you miss the beauty around you.) 

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I love this waterfall because you could spend forever staring at the way it hits the rocks and the magical way the mist falls over the creek. I couldn’t stop taking pictures! This is also the perfect spot to sit on a rock and eat a snack.

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Stats

  • Round trip mileage: 1.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate, children will be able to come along but watch the cliff edges
  • Parking: There are a few spots at the trailhead or spots along the highway.
  • Address: Once again, there is no physical address since directions are just based on trail numbers, The trail is on NE Frontage Rd, Cascade Locks, OR 97014 and is 2 miles north of the Historic Hwy/Anisworth/State Park exit. I suggest dropping a pin on Google Maps and routing it that way.

 

Getting to the Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge begins about half an hour outside of downtown Portland and runs along the 84 freeway (most falls are about a 45 minute drive). All of the hikes are located on the Historic Columbia River Highway which runs adjacent to the freeway. To get there, you will have to rent a car. I am a big fan of public transportation in cities, but I would suggest having a car in Portland in general because there are so many great things outside the city. (Just watch out for high parking rates at hotels though!)

There is a new service called the Columbia Gorge Express that gives you transportation between Portland and Multnomah Falls. This route is brand new (its first ride departs today) but hopefully this concept will catch on and there will be more options for those who don’t have a rental car. 

There are so many hikes in this area that it can be hard to choose! In addition to the ones I have here, there is also Triple Falls, Fairy Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and the list goes on. Do some more research and find your own favorite spot! A good resource to check out is Oregonhikers.com. I used this site frequently when deciding on my hikes!
Happy hiking!

For more info on Portland, be sure to check out my posts on The Perfect Portland Weekend and All the Planning Details for Portland.

 

A Weekend in Seattle

Seattle is such a fun city to explore! It’s the perfect place for a weekend trip. Here is my suggested itinerary for a great introduction to the city:

 

Friday Evening

Space Needle

You have to start with the most iconic spot of the city! I always love seeing aerial views of cities because it gives you a great overview of the city. Buy a ticket to the observation deck to see Seattle from above. If you want a longer experience, there is a revolving restaurant at the top of the Space Needle. It takes one hour to make a complete 360 turn around the needle. If you purchase a meal there, you get free access to the observation deck. I got lunch there and loved that I was able to see the city while I leisurely ate. (I would suggest making a reservation if you decide on that route.) Admission to the observation deck is $22 for adults. The restaurant has a minimum charge of $25 per guest for lunch and $35 per guest for dinner.

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One of the many views from the restaurant

*I would suggest visiting the Space Needle while it is still light outside. I’m not sure how much you would see once it’s dark. If you arrive later in the evening, I would suggest saving the Space Needle for Sunday when you go to the EMP Museum.*

 

It is quite windy at the top, but so much fun!

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Saturday

Coffee!IMG_1014

The best way to start your first morning in Seattle is with a cup of Seattle coffee. It would be a shame to go to Seattle and not have a cup of coffee! There are so many cute coffee shops with high quality coffee. Make it a point to get a cup as often as possible! I won’t suggest any particular coffee shops here because half of the fun is finding one yourself – plus there are so many good ones everywhere in the city.

Pike Place

While in Seattle, have to visit the city’s most recognized location. It’s a tourist must to sample all the food and watch the fish merchants throw fish across the market. My favorite spot was Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. The fun part is watching them make the cheese while you wait. And you can definitely taste the quality! Their mac and cheese is creamy goodness. The market is such a fun place to explore. My friends and I wandered until we found a tiny shop that sold old magazines and other printed materials. We spent an hour in the shop. That’s the fun part of visiting Pike Place – finding fascinating places like that. 

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Starbucks

It may seem odd to go to Starbucks in the coffee capital of the world. The awesome thing about this Starbucks is that the very first Starbucks was at Pike Place. This particular store isn’t the “exact” spot of the first location, but is considered the “first Starbucks” since it was moved to this location after only 5 years. If you are a Starbucks fan you have to stop by and get original Starbucks memorabilia. Have you ever wondered why Starbucks’ house blend is called Pike Place? It’s named after this location! Be warned: there is always a long line at this location. If you don’t want to wait in a line that long, you can also get some Starbucks memorabilia at the location on Pike St. and 1st.  “First Starbucks” is at 1912 Pike Pl, Seattle, WA 98101. The nearby Starbucks (but not the first) is at 102 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101.

Gum Wall

The gum wall was recently cleaned (yes, they steam cleaned off 1.75 tons of gum), but rumor is it is already returning. Maybe this will become a tourist attraction once again? It is definitely worth a peek! Some people think it’s disgusting and some think it’s fun. You decide for yourself! The gum wall is located on Post Alley – the tiny alley right under the Pike Place sign. (Walk to the left of the Pike Place sign.)

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This was before the wall was cleaned

Underground Tour

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Walking underground

Did you know that Seattle burned to the ground in 1889 and they just built the current city right on top of it? The fun part is they have tours of this “underground city”. You get to walk under the current sidewalks and see the storefronts of the 1800’s. The underground itself is dark and damp, but the commentary by the tour guides is very entertaining. During the tour you learn about Seattle’s gritty, dirty and quirky history. (Tours are 75 minutes and start on the hour or more often during busy times. Check the website for exact times. Tickets are $19.)  

 

Sunday

EMP Museum – Experience Music Project Museum

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Costumes from The Princess Bride – one of the many fun things to see at EMP

The EMP Museum was one spot that I didn’t realize I would like so much. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t heard of it before and had no expectations? I definitely wish I had more time here! This museum is fun because there are so many different types of exhibits – many which are interactive. And who doesn’t enjoy learning more about music? My favorite part of the museum was an entire section dedicated to fantasy movies and books. They had costumes and props from The Wizard of Oz, Princess Bride and more. (Open 10am-7pm in the summer and 10am-5pm in the winter, $25/adults, $22/online)

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How cool is this??

If you didn’t see the Space Needle on Friday, this is your chance to see it. You can’t miss the big tall needle right next to the EMP Museum!

Chihuly Garden and Glass

The EMP Museum is right next to the Chihuly Garden and Glass so it’s very easy to see both on the same day. This museum is not like anything you have seen. The glass art is amazingly beautiful and intricate. It’s almost unbelievable. I loved this spot because it’s something unique. (Open 11am-6pm Sun-Thurs and 11am-7pm Sat/Sun, tickets are $22)

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Can you believe that it’s all glass?

If you have more time…

There are so many more things to do in Seattle than can fit into a quick weekend trip. I already have a list for when I return! Here are some more additional suggestions for your trip to Seattle:

Food Tour: Seattle is a great place for foodies and for people who just enjoy food (so that means everyone). There are tons of food tours of different varieties available.

See the beautiful nature of Washington: What’s a better way to see green Washington than a hike? This site and this site list hikes close to Seattle.

Wine and/or Beer Tasting: Washington is known for good wine and beer. There are so many places to choose from for a great afternoon tasting.

Seattle Aquarium: See seals, otters, octopuses and more! For more info check out their website.

For all the information about transportation, hours, tickets and more check out the page on All the Planning Details for Seattle.

All the Planning Details for Seattle

This post is in reference to the blog post on A Weekend in Seattle. Check out that post for an ideal weekend itinerary!

Transportation

Seattle is a very easy city to get around as a tourist. There are really only two forms of transportation you need to use to get to the major tourist spots:

The Link light rail takes you from the airport to most of the major spots in the city. It’s also the easiest way to get around within the city. For more info click here.

IMG_1047The monorail was built in 1964 for the World’s Fair. It’s an extremely easy form of transportation because it only has two stops. The Westlake Center station is in the heart of downtown and the Seattle Center station is right next to the Space Needle, EMP Museum and Chihuly Garden and Glass. The monorail departs every 10 minutes and tickets are $2.25 each way.


Airport to the city: 
When arriving at the airport, just follow the signs to the Link light rail. The train departs approximately every 10 minutes. If you are heading downtown, your stop will most likely be Westlake. (It’s the last stop of the line.) The ride to downtown is around 40 minutes and is $2.25-$3 for one way depending on where you exit the rail.

 

Activities

 

IMG_1066The Space Needle is easy to get to on the monorail. Take the monorail from Westlake to Seattle Center. Hours are 10am-9:30pm (ticket office closes at 9pm). Admission to the observation deck is $22 for adults. The restaurant (SkyCity) serves lunch and dinner every day and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. The observation deck is free with a meal purchase, but there is a minimum charge of $25 per guest for lunch and $35 per guest for dinner.

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Pike Place: Take the Link to the Westlake stop – Exit the station at Pine St and head south a few blocks. You will run right into Pike Place Market. Hours vary depending on the business, but the general market hours are 9am-6pm and 9am-5pm on Sundays. Since the Pike Place Market is very popular, it will get very crowded during peak season. The least crowded times are weekday mornings. For more info, check out their website

Gum Wall: Is located on Post Alley. Follow Pike Street (Not to be confused with Pike Place) until it ends. The entrance is directly under the Pike Place Sign (on the left side of the sign.)

Original Starbucks: Is in Pike Place Market. The address is 1912 Pike Pl, Seattle, WA 98101. Open 6am-9pm.

Underground Tour: Starts in Pioneer Square – 608 First Ave. Take the Link light rail from Westlake to Pioneer Square. You can buy tickets online ($19/adult or $25 if you want a flexible ticket and don’t want to choose a tour time). Tours are 75 minutes and start on the hour or more often during busy times. Check the website for exact times. 

IMG_1074EMP Museum is open 10am-7pm in the summer and 10am-5pm in the winter. Cost is $25/adults or $22 online. Take the monorail from Westlake to Seattle Center. the monorail will literally go through the museum. You can’t miss it – it’s the big, very strange looking building.

Chihuly Garden and Glass is right next to the EMP Museum and the Space Needle. It is open 11am-6pm Sun-Thurs and 11am-7pm Sat/Sun with the ticket booth closing one hour before closing time. Tickets are $22 for adults.

 

 

More Info

IMG_1013CityPASS: If you are planning on visiting many of the tourist attractions, the CityPASS will save you money. It includes admission to the Space Needle, a harbor tour, Seattle Aquarium, EMP Museum or Woodland Park Zoo and Pacific Science Center or Chihuly Garden and Glass. The adult price is $69, which means if you go to three or more of these attractions then the pass will save you money.

The Space Needle has a website that will create itineraries for your weekend depending on your interests. Check it out for some great ideas!

 

Four Days in New York City

The hustle and bustle of New York City creates an excitement that is contagious. I love visiting NYC because it is unlike anywhere else. Each time you visit you could fill your days with new and exciting things. I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I’ve had enough time in New York. You could live in New York City for your whole life and never run out of things to do.

However…if it is your first time to NYC, there are some essential tourist activities that you have to do! It can be hard to plan it all while keeping in mind where everything is geographically. Here is a four day schedule that allows you to see the most in the least amount of time:

Day 1

Times Square 

You have to start your vacation with a trip to this world renowned landmark. Make sure you take the essential New York City photo in the middle of Time’s Square. Beyond that, there is not much to see in Time’s Square besides retail stores that you probably already have at home.

You can't go to NYC without taking this essential picture

You can’t go to NYC without taking a picture in Times Square

Grand Central Station

GrandCentralTake the metro to Grand Central Station, the center of hustle and bustle of the metro. It’s so big that it houses what could be considered a shopping mall and full sized food court. The center of the station is a gorgeous atrium with grandeur ceilings and architecture. It is a surreal feeling standing in the middle of a massive atrium as the hustle and bustle continues around you.

5th Avenue

5th Avenue is the center of many major NYC sights. Plus any store you could want will be here on 5th Ave. You could spend all day on 5th Avenue!

Start at the New York Public Library. Any book lover will be in awe of the gorgeous building and ALL THE BOOKS. Take a tour or just walk around and discover the amazing rooms yourself. (Open Mon & Thurs-Sat 10am-6pm, Tue & Wed 10am-8pm, and Sun 1pm-5pm) For more info, visit their website.

The architecture of the library is gorgeous - the reading rooms are even more beautiful, but pictures aren't allowed

The architecture of the library is gorgeous – the reading rooms are even more beautiful, but pictures aren’t allowed

Next, stop by Saks Fifth Ave. Even if you just walk in to say that you went to Saks. (Mon-Sat 10am-8:30pm, Sun 11am-7pm)

Next door to Saks, check out St. Patrick’s Cathedral. 5th Avenue seems like the last place for such a stunning cathedral, which is probably why it seems even more beautiful. (Open 6:30am-8:45pm) Fore more info, visit their site.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

End at Tiffany & Co. Eat a croissant out front if you really want the true Breakfast at Tiffany’s experience. Go inside to marvel at all the shiny objects. (Mon-Sat 10am-7pm, Sun 12am-6pm)

Plaza Hotel

5th Avenue ends at Central Park and the Plaza Hotel. If you were like me and watched Home Alone 2 every Christmas, then the Plaza is a must see. Just wander inside and take it all in. I enjoyed a cup of tea from the coffee shop at the Plaza. They have a food court style area where you can shop and eat.

Every spot in this hotel is stunning

Every detail in this hotel is stunning

Central Park

There is so much to see in Central Park, you could wander for days! I love getting lost in the park and stumbling across new places. If you want to see something specific, look at the map to make a walking plan. Grab one at your hotel or check out this website.

You never know what you will find in Central Park

You never know what you will find in Central Park!

Eat at the Boathouse

There is something special about eating in the middle of Central Park. It could also be the gorgeous view of the lake. This restaurant is on the pricy side (but still not bad for New York standards). If you are looking to save some $$$ they have a cafeteria style restaurant right behind the boathouse. For all you chick flick lovers, this is where they filmed 27 Dresses. For hours and contact info, visit their website.

I visited the Boathouse in the winter when the lake was frozen over

Clearly I visited the Boathouse in the winter. It must be even more beautiful in the summer!

Empire State Building

This is a must in New York. Seeing NYC from up high is gorgeous during the day and at night. You can never go wrong with the Empire State Building. I am always stunned by how beautiful the view is from the top. Just make sure you leave plenty of time to visit the Empire State Building. You do have to wait in multiple lines to get to the top. Check out their website for tickets and more info.

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I loved going during sunset. Do views get more majestic than this?

Day 2

Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island

The boat ride to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island is a fun trip in itself! First of all, you get an amazing view of the New York skyline from the Hudson. Plus you can get some pretty good pictures in front of the Statue and in front of the skyline. You can choose between getting off the boat at the Statue, Ellis Island, or both. It is now possible again to visit the crown on the Statue of Liberty. These tickets need to be booked in advance online (they usually sell out months in advance).

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The view from the ferry

I loved touring Ellis Island. It is set up almost like a museum. It’s amazing to see the place where millions of people passed through to start their life in America. It was very meaningful to me because I had many relatives pass through Ellis Island (and obviously so many others have relatives pass through here too!) You can even look up the record of your ancestors who came through Ellis Island. They have computers available after your tour, but I suggest you look it up online ahead of time.

Book your ferry and entrance tickets on http://www.statuecruises.com/

Millions of immigrants passed through this hall.

Millions of immigrants passed through this hall.

Wall Street

Since the ferry pier is in the Financial District, this is the perfect time to check out Wall Street. It’s an easy walk from the pier to the famous Charging Bull Statue and the New York Stock Exchange.

9/11 Memorial and Museum

After Wall Street, walk over to the 9/11 Memorial (7:30am-8pm daily, $24 or free with CityPASS) This is a profound and sobering experience. It is a surreal feeling walking around where the World Trade Center once stood.

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Broadway

End your day with a musical on (or off!) Broadway!

Day 3

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center is the center of many different famous locations including where the Today Show is filmed, the famous ice rink and Christmas tree, and the 30 Rock Building. There are so many things to do in this area! 30 Rock (short for its address, 30 Rockefeller Plaza) is home to NBC Studios. This is where they film SNL, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and the Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon among many more shows.

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The infamous ice rink

Star on a TV Show

If you can, I highly suggest you get tickets to be in the studio audience of a tv show taping while you are in New York. This will take a lot of planning ahead of time, but if it works out it is so much fun! To get more info on how to book tickets to see a show in NYC, click here. You have to get tickets very far in advance for most shows although some have stand-by for day of tickets. I was part of the audience of the Dr. Oz show and it was so fun to see the taping process and of course to see myself on tv!

Tour the NBC Studios

If you don’t get on a tv show you can still see all the behind the scenes of tv show tapings! The NBC Studios tour has been closed for some revamping, but will reopen in Fall 2015. This is a great way to see around the studio and see the sets of some of your favorite shows. Check out their website for more info.

Top of the Rock

Many people like the view from the Top of the Rock more than the view from the Empire State Building. You can see Central Park from much closer plus you can see the Empire State Building in the skyline along with all the other buildings. My suggestion on Empire State Building vs. Top of the Rock? Do both! I love seeing one view during the day when you can see all the details and one in the evening when all the buildings are light up against the night sky. For tickets and more, check out their website.

The view of the Empire State Building from Top of the Rock

The view of the Empire State Building from Top of the Rock

Ellen’s Stardust Diner

This diner is not known for their fabulous food, but they are known for their fabulous entertainment. All the servers in this diner are aspiring broadway stars. It is such a fun experience to eat a burger while your server belts out show tunes and dances around the restaurant. Definitely entertaining.

Day 4

Go to a Museum

There are so many museums in New York that it makes it hard to choose! The most well known are the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) and the Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art). Other popular museums include the Guggenheim, American Museum of Natural History, Intrepid Air and Space Museum…the list could go on forever.

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Beautiful Art at the MOMA

Finish Your Trip Your Way

I have found that it is always a good idea to leave some open time during your trip itinerary. You can visit something you might have missed earlier or something that you want to return to. Spend the rest of your last day in NYC eating pizza in Brooklyn, ice skating in Central Park, eating at the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park or taking a cooking class at Eataly (an indoor Italian market). Or maybe you got a deal on a Broadway show? End your trip on the right note!

This post is in two parts – for all transportation and specific details you will need to plan your trip, check out the NYC details page.

A Little Bit About the City Pass

I would recommend getting the New York City Pass before your trip. It is $114 which sounds expensive, but it includes most of the entry fees that you will need on your trip. If you plan on paying anyway for a few of the attractions included then it will definitely help you save. Plus you get to skip all the ticket lines! To purchase the city pass check out their website.