Since I started taking these NYC getaways, I’ve realized that one of my favorite parts about exploring a new area is visiting the often overlooked (by everyday tourists, at least) towns nearby. So on our recent trip to LA, I wanted to make sure to include a trip to one of the nearby desert towns. I thought about Palm Springs, but after seeing several posts about Ojai on my Instagram feed (yes, that’s really how I make travel decisions!), that sealed the deal. Ojai it was!
Ojai is a tiny town of about 8000 people, located in a valley about an hour and a half drive northwest of Los Angeles. It’s a sleepy little town, with a small main street area, an emphasis on locally made goods, cute restaurants, health food, and healthy (hippie?) living.
As you may know, I’m from the west coast. And though the feelings are not quite as intense as they once were, whenever I make my way back there, it feels like returning to the homeland. The second I land, my body just knows…it’s California. The air smells different, it feels different. The sky seems like a different color and all the plants seem to be whispering in a different way than they do in Florida (where, really, they’re screaming–not sure what types of fucking bugs live in there) or New York (where you can’t hear anything they’re saying, anyway). So it never matters what time of day I arrive–the initial high I get from being in California keeps me awake and moving until I’m finally peeled away.
When the first inklings of spring arrive after an unbearable winter, New York City is a madhouse. You know it’s happening because all the crazies come out–in the best and worst way possible. The streets are suddenly alive (although it’s possible I feel like that because I’ve finally rejoined the streets after months of hibernation). Whatever it is, I feel like I’ve never seen so many people wandering around. (I swear New Yorkers will stand on random street corners looking up at the sun, eagerly trying to soak it in.)
You also learn, quickly, that any thought you have is unoriginal. In a city of 8 million or so, with a (lot of, but) limited selection of outdoor hangouts, you can expect to see your neighbor, and your neighbor’s mother, and every tourist imaginable at every location that feels like a great idea. Like, that brunch spot near the park. The Brooklyn Bridge. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Sheep Meadow in Central Park. Yea, someone else thought of that.
So how do you enjoy the warm weather without being overwhelmed, as a tourist or native? Read on… (and share your own tips, if you dare).
When I was feeling antsy this month, it occurred to me that every year for the last several years I’ve taken a vacation in April. Three years ago it was our engagement trip to Paris. Two years ago it was a friend’s birthday trip to New Orleans. Last year, it was a group trip to Austin, Texas.
We called it a friendcation, and it involved 5 couples from across the country. We had friends coming from the west coast, upstate New York, Philadelphia and New York City. Somehow, we coordinated schedules, flights, and even airport rides from our various starting points and ended up in Austin, Texas for a long weekend. It was so. much. fun.
So how did this all come about, and how can you plan your own successful friendcation? Read on for my tips.
By the third day in Lisbon, we’d just about recovered from jetlag and decided to do some of the more quintessential touring activities (to the delight of my dad)! First, we took one of the trams to Belém, which is the most historical neighborhood of Lisbon, a bit removed from the city center.
The first stop was the Jeronimos Monastery. This is a World Heritage monument and the resting place for Portugal’s explorer, Vasco da Gama. The cloisters, following the trend, were unfortunately closed, but apparently worth the visit.
We broke for lunch after that, at a nearby cafe. In the sun, it was warm enough to take off our coats and enjoy rosé at a table outside. We were so, so lucky with that weather!
The days following Christmas in Lisbon were warm and sunny, relative to New York, anyway. The highs called for around mid-50s, but on some days, in the sunshine, you could take off your jacket and sit at an outside cafe table for lunch. We couldn’t ask for better tourist weather!
I’m lucky enough to have parents who live in Florida–which means when we visit for the holidays, we escape the beginnings of New York’s winter and land in warm, humid climates down south. This isn’t something I appreciated when I lived there (who wants to sweat ALL year round?) but, now, it’s something I look forward to.
Sometime between the end of summer and the winter holidays comes a lull that calls for staying home, nesting, and prepping for a new school year (even if actual school years are long gone). I try to stave off my need to escape by planning new restaurants to go to and revisiting old neighborhoods. Last month, we took advantage of one of the last nice days to check out the fall foliage in Central Park.
Eat: bring a picnic to eat on the grounds (the cafe food was pretty good but not a must)
Sometimes the urge to get outta town can’t immediately be filled with a train ride or a plane flight, so I have a collection of “local escapes” to choose from on those days. Most of them came from reading TimeOut NY and tabbing the corners to remember… lo and behold, 9 years after moving to NYC, I haven’t done the best job at hitting all the spots. I decided this weekend to finally check one off the list.
Towards the end of last summer, I had this itch to get the hell out of Manhattan and go to a big house somewhere with a pool. That was literally my only criteria. I searched high and low on Airbnb for anything within two hours of the city that had a pool and there was…. nothing. So, I learned my lesson, and in February or something nuts like that, I booked a house with a pool for August. Luckily, we were able to recruit my freshman college roomie and her man to come along and, it turned out, she actually knew the place that I’d picked totally randomly.
Warwick is a small town at the southern tip of Orange County, NY, just about an hour and a half drive from Manhattan. Jen actually has a bunch of family in that area, some of whom were very connected to one of our main points of entertainment… but more on that in a bit.