“One belongs to New York instantly, as much in five minutes as in five years.”
Tom Wolfe said it all. With unparalleled charm, New York City makes visitors feel at home from the moment they arrive. Only a five-hour bus ride away from D.C., the Big Apple is the perfect weekend plan for those seeking to change up their routines. The best part: with bus tickets ranging from $10 to $60 and AirBnB rentals from $44 a night, you can enjoy a dazzling trip without breaking the bank.
Breakfast at Two Hands, 9 a.m.
Start the day with a scrumptious brunch in Little Italy at Australian cafe Two Hands. Weekend brunch is served from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is the perfect excuse to indulge in Melbourne-born chef Frankie Cox’s delightful menu. The bright, cozy locale will help you start the day in good spirits with its lush plant decor and whitewashed walls. Cox’s menu envisions a nutritious, fresh selection of simple flavors that will both surprise and enchant you. A must-try is the signature homemade banana bread ($6), with espresso mascarpone, toasted buckwheat and honey. Those looking for a savory breakfast will find the perfect start with the smashed avocado ($12), served on sourdough bread with pickled shallots, cilantro, chili and lime, topped with a filling poached egg.
Stroll through the West Side, 10:30 a.m.
After breakfast, hop on the subway toward 8th Ave. and 14th St. Once you arrive, cross Chelsea’s large boulevards into 10th Ave. and 14th St. and head toward the High Line, the city’s newest urban garden. The 1.4-mile-long park, built on a segment of restored rail line, offers an elevated stroll above the streets of Manhattan’s West Side, featuring massive murals and abstract sculptures. The blooming flowers and indigenous plants are exquisitely paired with coveted wood lounge chairs, perfect for people-watching, reading or even taking a quick nap.
Whitney Museum, 12:00 p.m.
After four decades on the Upper East Side, the Whitney Museum of American Art has recently relocated next to the High Line. After an invigorating walk, head into the museum and enjoy its extraordinary collection of contemporary and modern American art. The light-filled titan of steel and glass offers breathtaking views of the Meatpacking District. Admission for students is $17 and includes both access to the permanent collection — featuring works by postwar and contemporary artists, including Jackson Pollock, Jasper Johns, Mark Rothko, Alexander Calder and Georgia O’Keefe — and the temporary exhibits. Start your visit on the eighth floor and descend through the beautiful terraces to avoid elevator crowds as you enjoy some of the extraordinary outdoor sculptures. Free tours are offered daily, and after 7 p.m. on Fridays the price of admission is an open contribution up to the discretion of visitors.
Cheesy Goodness at Raclette, 2:30 p.m.
Make your way to the other side of the city into East Village’s Raclette. This rustic eatery has taken up the challenge of reinventing the Swiss raclette method, by which the cheese — also named raclette — is melted to a velvet consistency and scraped onto varying dishes. The chefs press heated long knifes to the top of great half-wheels of warmed cheese and scrape down melted mountains of deliciousness onto baked potatoes, cornichons and baguette bites. Following the mantra, “you can never have too much cheese,” the restaurant features alternative upscale dishes, such as the fig tartine ($13), with Brillat-Savarin cheese, prosciutto and toasted hazelnuts, and the croque-monsieur ($11), with melted gruyere, jambon de Paris and topped with Mornay sauce.
Take in the view from Roosevelt Island, 4:00 p.m.
For some unbeatable views of the Manhattan skyline, take the Roosevelt Island tram. Running since 1976, the tram crosses the East River in less than five minutes. This hidden treasure offers one of the best views of New York City, both on board the 250-foot elevated tram — which runs higher than the Queensboro bridge at certain points — and from the parks on Roosevelt Island. Make sure to bring your student ID, as students board for free. With trams departing every five minutes from 6 a.m. to 3:30 a.m., you can take incredible pictures of the city skyline at any time of day.
Afternoon pick-me-ups at Vineapple, 6:00 p.m.
Change gears and journey into Brooklyn Heights for more jaw-dropping city views and quaint little cafes to recharge your energy. Self-described as “your living room away from home,” laidback cafe Vineapple offers a snug oasis to enjoy revitalizing drinks and snacks. Mismatched mugs, wooden tables and colorful couches provide a familiar, yet exciting atmosphere to take a little break before continuing the day. Sit back and relax while you enjoy a cup of masterfully brewed coffee from Oregon’s Stumptown and a treat from Brooklyn’s Colson Patisserie.
Iconic stroll on Brooklyn Heights Promenade, 7:00 p.m.
Walk around one of the most famous boardwalks in New York City, featured in classic films such as “Annie Hall” and “Moonstruck.” Approximately a third of a mile long, the promenade provides incredible vistas of the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge. Looking to the East River, the walk is bordered by beautiful flower beds, historic townhouses and charming brownstone mansions, making it Brooklyn’s first Historic Preservation District.
Brooklyn Bridge Walk, 8:00 p.m.
Save the best for last and see the mesmerizing city lights as you stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge back into Manhattan. One of the most iconic walks New York City offers to visitors and locals alike, the stroll across Brooklyn Bridge is arguably unequaled in its beauty. For those who prefer a bit of a breeze while taking in Manhattan’s nightly skyline, Citi bikes are available to rent ($12). Don’t forget to take many snapshots as the moon surfaces over the skyscrapers and golden street lights flood the landscape. This is the best hour to be suspended on the bridge, taking the magnificent views and feeling the fresh air.
Dinner at Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte, 9:00 p.m.
After such a demanding day, indulge in a much-deserved late dinner in Midtown Manhattan. Known for its fixed menu, this Parisian steakhouse serves only salad with home-made Dijon vinaigrette as a starter, followed by steak-frites — strips of grilled strip steak slathered in a rich, buttery sauce, accompanied by copious amounts of crispy fries. You get an unlimited amount of food for a fixed price of $29 per person, although after a second plate, you will probably be full. Focusing on the simplicity of flavors, this restaurant offers an unforgettable meal. The secret recipe of the silky gravy has become an enigma to regulars and visitors alike, and you will certainly enjoy every minute of it.
Live music and bowling, 11:30 p.m.
An old-school addition featuring eight bowling lanes and live music, the Gutter offers a unique experience for bowlers and dancers alike. The retro tone is aided by snuggly pleather captains’ chairs and stained-glass lamps advertising several brands of beers. Gutter has 12 craft beers on draft (from $5 a pint) and an extensive selection of cocktails (from $6), offering a $7 per game bowling alley.
As the day draws to a close, you may find you still long to see more of what New York City has to offer — and why not? In the city that never sleeps, there is certainly more than enough to keep you occupied until the sun comes back up and it’s time to go home.