4 NYC Essentials

As you might recall from my Rainy Day in New York City post, I had a fun opportunity to visit New York City earlier this month, and had an absolute blast. I’m sure everyone can name ten must-see spots in the city, so I wanted to give you my take on some of my faves that are under-the-radar, unique, or just a great experience. Here are four “things” you will need to pack:

nyc packing essentials |

Comfortable shoes and walk everywhere you can

I’ve been digging the High Line for many years, before rails-to-trails parks seemed to be in every city. I loved the concept of a park high in the sky, seemingly floating through the neighborhood that surrounded it. The High Line runs 1.5 miles along the Hudson River, with plenty to see, eat and do along the trail. We had a big lunch before we walked, and were kicking ourselves for having to pass up the adorable food carts at 15th Street.

the high line nyc |

There are no bikes, skateboards or pets allowed on the High Line, but anticipate this to be a slow walk, as there is plenty to see (and Instagram) along the route.

A few must visits around the High Line are: Frankie’s 570 Sputino, Artists & Fleas, Chelsea Market, and any of the side streets in this area, just to marvel in the beautiful brownstones and views of the river.

the high line nyc |

A notebook in case you get inspired

If you saw my Instagram post last week, Bryant Park is my new favorite place in the city. Tucked into Midtown away from the craziness of Times Square is the most perfect oasis of park meets destination. Bryant Park is home to more than a thousand free events every year, including fitness classes, movie nights, language lessons, a free outdoor reading room, an art cart, and the Southwest Airlines Back Porch bar.

bryant park |

We found ourselves here every day, and the mix between urban and oasis left me feeling so inspired. The New York Public Library main branch is in Bryant Park, and is open to the public. If you know me, you know I was furiously writing down book titles in a notebook as we wandered through, and of course my ears were tingling at the French lessons happening outside.

NYPL & Bryant Park |

Bryant Park is open until at least 11:00 PM in the summer, making it a great spot for trying to decide where the night should take you, or for those who aren’t ready for bed just yet.

Your most trendy outfit and be ready to rock it

New York is a seriously fashionable city, there’s no question about it. I feel like the city and its residents are always ready to be seen, and everyone and everything looks its best (except on garbage day, but I digress).

We snagged some great restaurant reservations for dinner at Vandal and Sunday brunch at Beauty & Essex and I wanted to be sure that my outfits were as on-point as the restaurant concepts, decor and menus were. Aside from the awesome vibe, the grilled cheese, tomato soup and bacon dumplings at B&E are the end-all-be-all. Every single morsel of food that we ate at Vandal was the best thing I ever tasted!

beauty & essex, nyc |

Any of the Tao Group restaurants are a must-visit when in New York, although we enjoyed everywhere we stopped to eat at, including the 99c pizza place we came across.

A return ticket to visit all the things that you missed

While New York may be the city that never sleeps, I fit into the demographic of people who need a solid eight hours of sleep every night. In the four days we were there, I saw more than I imagined I would be able to, but still had about 90 things on my list that we didn’t get to. Brooklyn and its beautiful bridge are still uncharted territory, and I only got to see the Upper West Side as we went speeding through it in a cab on a rainy day.

Hope you enjoyed my roundup of things to “pack” on your trip! I’m not here to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t bring on a trip with them, as I’m best known as someone who brings three pairs of shoes per day of a trip, but forgets underwear. Happy adventuring!

i haven't been everywhere but it's on my list
image from pinterest

6 Must-Visit Places in New Orleans


It goes without saying that my favorite place in the continental United States is the city of New Orleans. Despite growing up in the amazing Chicagoland area, nowhere else has worked its way into my heart and soul like the Crescent City has. My parents raised me to live and die by Saints football, and Drew Brees is the end-all-be-all in our household, whether my Bears fan husband acknowledges this or not.

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to New Orleans many times, and in fact, this post will go live as we’re there celebrating Mardi Gras (Follow along on Instagram to see what I’m up to -> @deniseadelek). Here are my six favorites:

6 places you must visit in new orleansOne- Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral
As my friend Mark of the Beyond Bourbon Street podcast puts it, there is so much more to the city than what you see on Bourbon Street, and even the French Quarter itself. To me though, Jackson Square is my favorite way  to start off a trip to New Orleans- something about the sound of the bells in the cathedral mixed with 8 different bands and street performers, palm readers, riverboats, locals and tourists alike is just so quintessentially New Orleans. Walking down Royal Street to Jackson Square feels like coming home to me.

Side note- Mark’s podcast is a great resource for those who are traveling to the city for the first time, or looking to experience the city like a local. And his Instagram account? Game-changer.

Two- Lionheart Prints & Three- Roux Royale 
There are so many great ways to experience the city as a visitor in the French Quarter, and of course it’s always best to grab your beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde simply to say that you went, but you’ll find so many great spots right off the square or in other neighborhoods throughout the city.. I love to stop and shop at Lionheart Prints, New Orleans Forever and Roux Royale for gifts (for myself, and others, I suppose), accessories and essentials.

Lionheart Prints is my new favorite store, thanks to their owner being featured on the Beyond Bourbon Street podcast. The staff there is incredibly friendly, and we even got a demo on how their letterpress works from Ross, who is often featured on their Instagram stories. Thanks Ross! I was excited to check out their Zodiac sign candles, but strangely found that I liked my husband’s one better than my own.

I’ve taken to collecting practical souvenirs for myself and those back home over the last few years (I collected thimbles as a kid… has anyone ever actually used a thimble before? Just sayin’), and I try to snag a Christmas ornament from every place we visit. One year, I did almost all of my holiday shopping at Roux Royale, and managed to get items for almost everyone on my list! I love Lionheart Prints because there’s always a great party item to grab that also doubles as a souvenir.

Four- Pralines from Southern Candymakers
I’m the kind of person who would willingly eat Sour Patch Kids for breakfast, so please believe me when I say it that Southern Candymakers has the best pralines, period. They have two locations in the Quarter, one right by the French Market, which is a nice way to spend a morning wandering through the stalls and tasting more local flavors. The market is covered, as well as the area that Southern Candymarkers is at, so if you ever find yourself caught during the rainy season but still want to be outside, this is a great spot!

My last stop in New Orleans before the airport is always Southern Candymakers to talk a pound or two of pralines home. Try not to act like a crazy person and pace yourself when you eat them. Sorry, dentists of the world.

Five- The Catahoula Rooftop (and a few other hotel lounges)
New Orleans has some incredible architecture, and the interiors also don’t disappoint. There are some amazing properties across the city to eat and drink in, notwithstanding where you’re staying during the trip. The Catahoula Hotel has a great bar on their property with an even prettier rooftop patio and amazing craft cocktail menu.

In the Warehouse District, the Renaissance Arts is a great place to stop on a rainy day. The lobby features a rotating art exhibit with a beautiful atrium and restaurant/bar. When my mom and I happened upon the hotel on our girls weekend last June, the hotel had a hand-beaded Mardi Gras Indian suit on display along with other local artists.

A few other picks: The Ace Hotel, Sheraton New Orleans, The Roosevelt (especially for Christmas!), The Ponchatrain Hotel and of course, the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone.IMG_4560

Six- Oyster Happy Hour at the Blind Pelican
I’m going to go right out on a limb and say that I know oysters a. are not for everybody b. look kinda weird c. are an acquired taste or d. are all of the above, BUT I LOVE THEM. Nothing makes me more excited for a trip back to New Orleans than remembering that oysters are cheap and fresh in the gulf. If seafood isn’t your style, there’s a million other amazing happy hour specials across the city and you’re sure to hit the jackpot somewhere. But if you’ve never tried oysters, this won’t hurt your wallet for ‘just a taste.’

The Blind Pelican is right off the St. Charles streetcar stop, near another great spot called The Avenue Pub. The Avenue Pub is open 24 hours (YASSSS) and has an incredible beer selection.

My list could go on and on, but six seemed like a great number to start. I hope that this post has you looking for airfare to the Crescent City, or at least scheming up ways to make pralines in your own kitchen.

Think I’m missing something? Want to hear numbers 7 thru 91,458 on my endless list? Leave a comment below!