Meet Me at Serendipity

Ah yes, Serendipity. Nothing says star-crossed love and rom com magic quite like a gigantic goblet of a frozen concoction with 14 different types of chocolate, ready to send you into a diabetic coma. I’m of course talking about the legendary Serendipity 3 on NYC’s Upper East Side and their equally iconic menu staple, the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate.

If you didn’t get my quippy reference in that first line (shame on you), then allow me to explain. Once upon a time (2001), there was a movie that was the epitome of everything most people hate about romantic comedies.

A clandestine meeting of two very unavailable people in a department store at Christmastime sparks an unlikely love story complete with two gorgeous stars du jour, John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale, implausibly good jobs/nice NYC apartments, obscure literary references, predictable character arcs, a cosmic misunderstanding and - you guessed it - a short resolution and a happy ending. It’s ridiculously cheesy and has every rom com trope you could possibly think of, but you better believe I watch it EVERY time it’s on one of the movie channels…

Anyway, a major plot point centers around the time they spend together towards the beginning of the movie at Serendipity 3, a cafe who’s been pretty well known since its beginning in 1954. Marilyn Monroe and Jackie O were known to frequently visit and enjoy their different extravagant desserts, but it was the 2001 movie that thrust it moreso into popular culture, attracting visitors from everywhere, looking to have the same experience as Jonathan and Sara.

I hadn’t been to Serendipity 3 in a few years, because I’ve only ever gone when people were visiting New York, so I figured it would be the perfect experience to write about here. Because I didn’t have my own clandestine department store meeting with a handsome stranger, I dragged my friend Liz along to help me eat dessert (and split the bill). Such a trooper!

We came for a late lunch around 4:00 and surprisingly only waited around 10 minutes for a table, which is unheard of as far as I’ve seen. I’ve heard of people waiting up to 3 hours for a table there, which, in my opinion, is just dumb.

Fun Fact: Serendipity has also been featured on numerous food and travel shows since 2007 for introducing the Guinness World Record holding "Golden Opulence Sundae" that will only set you back a meager $1000. 

I won’t spend a ton of time on the lunch itself, because honestly it was nothing super crazy. I knew that I couldn’t just drink a milkshake for lunch, so I got their BLT, because most of their other entrees and sandwiches were just a little too pricey to eat two days before payday (money was tight that day, folks).

It was definitely good, but I was there for the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate. Oh baby. I’ve only had it once before, so I was excited to rediscover their iconic dessert. After lunch, Liz and I immediately regretted getting our own separate entrees because we barely had room for dessert. But we pulled through…#fortheblog.

Lucy Baker at Serious Eats once described the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate as “the love child of a milkshake and a slushy” and I couldn’t have said it better myself. We paid $11 for a fishbowl sized chalice of chocolate that could’ve easily been split with another person or two, so we were definitely satisfied.

Serendipity 3 is one of those places you might, at first mention, roll your eyes at, but there’s absolutely something to it. The inside is cozy and quirky, filled with vintage tchotchkes and Tiffany lamps that set it apart from the other restaurants in that area of the city that boast a more subdued, sophisticated, or refined kind of look. It's homey.

The wait and the crowds may be unbearable for some, but I would be lying if I said I’d never go back for one of those ridiculous, amazing, gut-busting Frrrozen Hot Chocolates.

Escape From New York: The High Line

Hey everyone! I know, I know I promised a regular Monday/Thursday schedule - unfortunately I dropped the ball yesterday. I was running around prepping for my trip to Firefly Music Festival this week! I'm excited to post about that when I get back, but without further ado, here's a little look at my first full walk down the High Line on Manhattan's West Side.

Last week, I got tickets to the Whitney Biennial, which has since ended, but you should go watch their video series about the stories behind the exhibit anyway! It was incredible. The Whitney happens to be right at the end of the High Line, so I wanted to walk it from start to finish, about 1.5 miles from west 34th St. to Gansevoort St. in the Meatpacking District.

For those of you not familiar, the High Line, or High Line Park, is an elevated garden built on the now abandoned train tracks that once accommodated the West Side Line. From the elevated path, you're able to walk through some of the city's most beautiful (and expensive) neighborhoods, Chelsea and the Meatpacking District, as well as all the new construction being done at the Hudson Yards (which looks amazing, by the way).

Along the way, if you go from the North to South entrance like I did, you'll begin with views of the Hudson River and pass by various art installations nestled within the greenery and the trees as you make your way down the West Side.

This victrola played sounds of the ocean (I think?) in a little seating area between giant fruit trees!

This victrola played sounds of the ocean (I think?) in a little seating area between giant fruit trees!

These 'Giant's Shoes' were hidden in the heavily wooded area near the birch trees.

These 'Giant's Shoes' were hidden in the heavily wooded area near the birch trees.

My friends and I struggled to figure out what these were, but settled on the theory of casted dinosaur prints.

My friends and I struggled to figure out what these were, but settled on the theory of casted dinosaur prints.

This creepy little dude prompted the, " is" conversation, as he was just kind of chilling at one of the tables near Gansevoort St. By far the funniest and most terrifying piece of art we came upon.

This creepy little dude prompted the, " is" conversation, as he was just kind of chilling at one of the tables near Gansevoort St. By far the funniest and most terrifying piece of art we came upon.

My absolute favorite part was about halfway through; we came to a part where the promenade widened and was turned into an open, grassy field. It was a great place to stop and rest, take a photo, and enjoy looking up at the skyline without being pushed by people in the street or, you know, run over.

One thing that I really loved about the aesthetic of the High Line is that a lot of the flora took on a haphazard look (though I'm sure that was fully intended), and kind of gives me "plants recolonize urban space after apocalypse ravages human life" vibes.

Bleak? Sorry. 

All joking aside, I really, really love it. While I enjoy gardens and anything natural as much as the next person, I've never been a huge fan of super manicured lawns and landscapes. There's something about a gorgeous field of wildflowers, or buttercups popping out from between the cracks in a sidewalk that are more striking than any perfectly pruned shrubbery will ever be.


Only having seen it once before, I was so happy I decided to walk the entirety of High Line Park. The walkway is definitely a really great place to people watch, and provides a welcome change of scenery if city streets are all you see day in and day out. Its unobstructed city views, various art installations, and surprisingly quiet atmosphere make this truly one of the most unique spaces in New York - or any city for that matter.

While much like Central Park in the sense that tourists and locals seem to coexist in perfect harmony, a refreshing aspect about this park is the lack of gimmicky stands, attractions or lines you might see at New York's other major sites. It simply exists as a tiny little jungle above it all, there for you to sit, relax and escape - even if it's just for a minute.

The Not So Little Italy

To brush up on my knowledge of Little Italy before I embarked on my latest mission, I just thumbed through some travel articles and Youtube videos before writing this to get a good sense of what people’s initial impression of the neighborhood would be. It was a mix of visitors running excitedly for a cannoli at Ferrara’s and people in their 60’s and 70’s wistfully lamenting their former stomping grounds.

It was clear that Little Italy has become a place to simply pass through - sure you could sit at one of the streetside cafes, have and espresso, do as the Italians do, but the atmosphere is more comparable to the pedestrian plaza at Herald Square. A once expansive neighborhood has boiled down to, primarily, Mulberry St. between Spring and Canal, a mere 6 blocks in Lower Manhattan near the 6 train.


I joined these hordes of people late one Thursday afternoon to take some photos and sit down for some, ahem, “authentic Italian food”. Around Spring and Mulberry is where it all really begins, and where you routinely witness people narrowly escape death as they try to get the perfect shot of the “Welcome to Little Italy” sign spanning the width of the street.

In this tiny area, the competition to get people to eat at your restaurant is fierce, simply because there are dozens to choose from. Seriously. I was walking with a friend down Mulberry, not planning on sitting down anywhere quite yet, and were descended upon by at least five or six different hosts, all toting pretty much the same thing - happy hour, homemade pasta, fresh sauce, yadda yadda.

They were extremely deliberate in their pursuits, and while I’ve gotten used to shooing people away on the street, I can easily see how an out-of-towner could be roped into sitting down for a $28 plate of penne vodka (which is ludicrous).

I think that was the one thing that really ruined the atmosphere for me. I was happy to take in all that Little Italy had, to stroll through souvenir shops and look at the weird things for sale, to stop in for a pastry at one of their many bakeries, and just explore.

But often with looks of desperation in their eyes, the restaurant hosts and store owners started to resemble auctioneers, frantically screaming at anyone to come in the door and give them business not because they had something spectacular to offer, but because they just had something to offer.

Seeing as I’m doing the whole “tourist” thing, I decided to sit down and try the food at the place that gave me their best spiel. The lucky winner was Caffe Napoli - the guy outside was nice and didn’t curse at me in Italian when I hesitated. My friend and I decided to split a plate of gnocchi pomodoro that we were promised was fresh (it wasn’t). Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t terrible at all - in fact the sauce was homemade and pretty delicious. But it was exactly what I feared about the gimmicks and the facades of many of these “authentic” Italian eateries.

For anyone who says Little Italy has lost all its identity as an Italian cultural center, I can tell you from experience that is absolutely not true. A lot of the same establishments still exist, so do the same markets where you can buy fresh mozzarella and olive oil from the counter,  and the same pastry shops that serve up incredible cannolis and Neapolitans.

What’s changed is the major transition from being a simple neighborhood, an alcove where Italian-Americans lived together and functioned as its own little center of commerce within itself, to a cut and dry tourist destination.

If you’re from New York City, or any of the surrounding suburbs like Long Island or New Jersey, Italian food is NOT a commodity. Most of us know where to get a great dish like linguine with clam sauce, and know exactly how to pronounce words like “gnocchi” and “calamari”.

Little Italy, however, is not for these people. It has it’s purpose, and kind of saddens me to say that it’s not the authentic, tradition filled experience you’ll often see in shows, in articles, and in the retellings of people that knew Little Italy in years past. I was met with the cultural dilution that I sort of expected, but was disappointed nonetheless. I can’t really say it wasn’t worth the trip, because it really is an interesting little microcosm just blocks away from SoHo - but my advice to anyone visiting is to adjust your expectations, and appreciate it for what it once was in spite of what it is today.

Wildlife In A Concrete Jungle: The Central Park Zoo

So this post is a little annex off of my trip to Central Park featured in this post - check it out if you haven’t already!

I was originally going to mention the Central Park Zoo with the larger post, but I really enjoyed my experience there and definitely felt that it needed a little spotlight this week. At $12 for general admission, it really isn’t the most expensive thing you can do, specially in the Upper East Side of Manhattan at an attraction that can keep visitors engaged and happy no matter their age.

I’ve only been to the Central Park Zoo one other time, for “Brew at the Zoo” last summer; it was a ridiculously fun event where we paid one price for unlimited beer, but most of the animals were away in their pens for the night and we missed out on basically everything. That being said, I was really excited to finally visit the indoor enclosures, walk the entirety of the zoo, and most importantly, meet my spirit animal: the red pandas.

My first stop was the Tropic Zone just a short walk from the entrance. This ended up being by far my favorite exhibit because, hot and humid as it was inside, it was super immersive. I got the chance to be really up close and personal with some beautiful exotic birds, bats, reptiles and lots of other cool critters.


From there, I made my way to the absolute most important area which was, as I mentioned earlier, the bamboo lined outdoor enclosure with the elusive, the adorable, the magnificent red panda. There were only two of them, and I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I stood at the fence for fifteen minutes to get this mediocre shot with a branch in its face. You’re welcome.

The Central Park Zoo is much, much smaller than most other zoos you’ll visit in the US, so it was easy for me to cover most of it in less than two hours, only leaving out the 4-D Theater, which was available at an extra cost. After taking my time at the Tropic Zone, I strolled underneath the vine-covered trellises past the sea lions, the snow monkeys, and finally up to the grizzly bears and the penguins before heading out.

I found that this was a great place to visit on your own, because not unlike a museum, you can move at your own pace and really just take it all in as leisurely or quickly as you want. The Central Park Zoo as part of the Wildlife Conservation Society is committed to the preservation of wildlife, which is a cause that is really near and dear to my heart. It’s refreshing and uplifting to visit a facility like this, where the price of admission goes right back into education about both local and exotic wildlife.

Wandering Through Central Park

One of the most iconic parts of NYC is without a doubt, our own not-so-little green oasis, Central Park. While many may associate Central Park with a few famous locations like the boathouse, Bethesda Terrace, and zoo, the enormous urban landscape actually spans from 59th street until 110st St., covering 843 acres of land. With hundreds of paths winding throughout the park and several crosstown roadways, it’s so easy to get lost in the expanse - and that’s exactly what I set out to do.

I began my journey at Central Park West where I entered near 63rd street and started walking, kind of directionless. I stopped for a minute to eat my lunch on one of the gigantic rocks near the baseball field, which, in my honest opinion, is the absolute best way to people watch in a place that attracts so many.

In the few minutes I was there, I saw countless sunbathers, 5 dogs (very life-affirming), a young girl taking graduation photos on the rock above me, and a man doing tai chi in what looked like a business suit (on his lunch break?). What I love about Central Park is how easily these things can coexist without so much as a second thought - it’s a much needed escape from the busy, crazy, and sometimes frustrating world that surrounds it.


After lunch, I headed over to the Central Park Zoo, which you can read about here, before continuing my extra long stroll through some of the most well known and beloved parts of the park.

I made my way towards Bethesda Fountain/Terrace by walking up The Mall, a wider, more level walkway where one might say a lot of the “action” happens. There you’ll find, in stereotypical New York fashion, hot dog stands, caricature artists, kitschy vendors, performers and even a $5 massage lady.

I kind of love it but kind of (mostly) hate it. Definitely a great spot for vendors looking to grab the attention of tourists or people strolling by, but it sort of ruins the whole oasis vibe for me...but I digress.

What makes Bethesda Terrace so charming is the large lower level of the terrace called the “arcade”, where you’ll get to see some of the park’s more impressive, breathtaking examples of art and architecture.

Surrounded by arches and hand-painted murals, the second most striking quality of the arcade is how the high ceilings and layout lend itself to the acoustics of the entire area. Even the buskers in the arcade, who were playing “Besame Mucho” like every other sax player in the park that day, seem to draw an engaged, enchanted crowd.

Honestly I could go on and on about the arcade, but I definitely wanted to mention the other spots I managed to hit while blistering my feet and draining my phone battery that day. After walking past the terrace, I did actually go look at the menu of The Loeb Boathouse and entertain the idea of casually grabbing a drink on The Lake. Then I looked at the menu, saw the prices and promptly filled up my water bottle at the public fountain as I backed my proletariat self away. Look guys, I said I was gonna do the tourist thing, and I’m sure it’s a really nice environment to sit down for a meal, but what am I, a Rockefeller?

All jokes aside, a different way to get the whole “boathouse” experience while stretching your dollar a bit further would definitely be renting out one of the rowboats docked right near the restaurant. You get the same views, and at $15/hr, it’s a lot cheaper than I expected.

From there, I was determined to track a few of the famous statues everyone poses with on Instagram but I can never seem to find. Fun fact - most, if not all the major statues, structures and sites in the park are on Google Maps, so it’s easy to map out your time in the park if that’s more your speed.

I bumped into the Hans Christian Anderson statue by sheer happenstance as I was making my way around the conservatory pond, where they have the model sailboats for rent. It’s also how I ended up at the Alice in Wonderland statue which, by the way, had SO many people surrounding it, I basically stood in a line to get this unobstructed of a photo. Not my finest moment, I’ll admit.

On the way back out toward Central Park South, I found the famous Balto statue as well, while parents were trying to explain to their confused child who he was. HAVE WE FORGOTTEN ABOUT BALTO?! Keep him alive in your memory, folks.


By the time I made it to the southeast corner of the park to see the "Open House" art exhibit, my Health app told me I’d walked close to seven miles that day and frankly, I was pooped. I spent several hours walking around, and didn’t even hit some of the other noteworthy spots like Strawberry Fields, Sheep Meadow, Delacorte Theater and lots of others. While I’d definitely count this as a successful first dive into Central Park, there will be more to come.

If you haven’t read it already, make sure you check out my separate post dedicated to the Central Park Zoo!