Empire State Of Mind

One night my best friends and I had a few glasses of wine and planned a spring break trip to New york. Now, this wasn’t our fist tipsy vacation we planned, but it was the first that made it past wine night, and I’m so glad it did. I love theatre and the arts, and all of my favorite TV shows are based in the city, so theres always been a part of me that missed New York, even though I only went once in third grade and I didn’t remember a thing about it. Because of this, I knew I needed to make the most of my four days in the greatest city in the world, because I knew I would never be satisfied until I did everything on my bucket list. So I scoured the depths of Pinterest, made a Google map/itinerary, and now I’m sharing it with you! Honestly though I just miss it and want to relive the best four days ever, but maybe you’ll enjoy it too?

Day 0- Welcome to New York

After multiple midterms and projects, we could not have made the drive to the airport any faster on Thursday (within the speed limit of course). We landed at JFK airport at 8:00, and almost turned into icicles while we waited for a taxi. On our way into Manhattan we were greeted by a massive Hamilton mural and I knew I never wanted to leave.

Our first stop was our airbnb to put our bags down before we made our way back out into the cold to get some dinner. We stayed on 31st and Broadway in the heart of Korea Town. It was a cozy one bedroom apartment with exposed brick and hardwood floors (my favorites!) that they managed to squeeze three beds into. It was a bit tight, but with rates reasonable enough for college students to afford, it was definitely with it. We were right next to the Empire State building, within walking distance to times square, and just a few blocks away from the subway. Here’s the link if you are ever in the city and need a place to stay!

Day 1- The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway

We had heard rumors that it might snow our first night, but we didn’t think it would stick or last into the morning. But SURPRISE! It was snowing when we woke up and kept snowing until early afternoon. This Florida girl was pumped. On top of the good news of snow, there was more good news because Tara got an earlier flight and got almost a full extra day with us!

I knew I wanted bagels for my first NYC breakfast, so I looked up places that we would pass on our way to Times Square, and found a place that was literally just called “Best Bagels.” I was a little skeptical, but it had almost 5 stars on its reviews on Google, so we gave it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised. I ordered an everything bagel with plain cream cheese, because I wanted to be able to compare it to the bagels I normally eat to see what all the hype was about NY bagels. The hype is real. I don’t know what it is, but that was a real nice bagel.

With bagels in hand, we headed towards Times Square. Or we tried to at least. We got lost almost every time we went somewhere new on our first day. Eventually we made it and were immediately approached by many sub-par Disney characters who wanted us to pay to take pictures with them and people trying to get us to take their bus tours. While the lights and buildings were fun and all, we were ready to move on. So we snapped a few pictures and made our way to the Richard Rogers theatre. This is where Hamilton lives, so obviously I needed to go since I knew I could’t be in the room where it happens. Being on the sidewalk where #Ham4Ham happens was great but I’ll never be satisfied until I win the lotto one day, fingers crossed.

From there we went to Grand Central Station and made our first attempt at navigating the subway. We were not successful. We ended up in Queens at one point and had to switch trains because we were trying to go to the Met and that’s definitely not in Queens. Eventually we made it to the right subway stop, crossed through Central Park and arrived at the Met. Student tickets were only a suggested donation of $10 and we were in. Holy smokes the Met is massive. We were there for a few hours and only made it through about half of the museum. My favorite wing was the modern and contemporary wing. Tara cried when she saw a tribute to one of her favorite artists so you could say it was a good trip (also this is a recurring thing, Tara really loves art). Here’s a few of my favorite pieces!

From there, Austin and I headed out on date night while Tara went to get dinner with her sister. Our first stop was dinner at Remi. We felt a little out of place here since we were easily the youngest people there by 10 years, but the food was good so all was well! I started with a glass of white wine and we snacked on some complimentary bread and olive oil (my fave). For dinner I had ricotta and spinach filled ravioli and Austin had some kind of pasta that we had to Google because we didn’t know what it was. Both were delicious! Obviously, we ordered desert because why not. We had a fresh chocolate lava cake with vanilla gelato- super yummy.

For date night, I ordered tickets to Fiddler on the Roof, and I was pumped. One of my all time favorite So You Think You Can Dance winners is currently cast as Chava so I couldn’t say no. I ordered our tickets through the TodayTix app. Tickets are released a week at a time and are very, very discounted. All I had to do was pick the show, day, and seat I wanted on the app, pay for the tickets and wait for the show. Once we got to the theatre I found a man in a TodayTix jacket and he handed me my tickets and we found our seats- so no waiting in line at the box office! The show itself was fantastic. I love a good dance break, and the wedding scene exceeded all of my expectations. We may have been in the nosebleeds, but I’ll take any seat they’ll give me in a broadway theatre so I was so, so happy.

Day 2- Brooklyn, Brooklyn Take Me In

We started our morning with bagels again, but this time we knew exactly where we wanted to get them from. You may have seen those crazy rainbow bagels all over Insta and Pinterest, and that was the plan for today. The Bagel Store was about 10 ft x 12 ft and had about 30 people squeezed in it, so we knew it had to be good. After reading the menu, I decided that I could have eaten there every day for two weeks and still not have tried everything I wanted to. I ordered the garlic bagel with spinach artichoke cream cheese and I still dream about it today. But the real star here was the rainbow bagel with CANNOLI CREAM CHEESE. I could have eaten that cream cheese with a spoon and been more than happy.

Next up was Tara’s pick- the Brooklyn Museum to see her favorite piece of art ever. There were a few cool pieces here, including real life mummies (which made Brit cry), The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago (which made Tara cry), and an Andy Warhol (which made no one cry, but was pretty sweet).

From there, we headed towards the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge itself is beautiful, but the view from the bridge might be the real winner here. Not only was the Manhattan skyline killer from here, but we also caught a sneak peak of Lady Liberty herself! Tara was a bit of a bad influence here and convinced me to sit on the ledge to take a picture, but it was worth it. Also, pro tip, don’t walk in the bike lane or you’ll be yelled at and/or almost run into head on by an impatient New Yorker and that’s a real bummer.

For dinner we met up with one of our sorority sisters. Betsy is currently the Collegiate Leadership Consultant for the new Gamma Phi chapter at Columbia, so we figured she should make our dinner decisions since she’s a local now (also the rest of us are honestly the worst at picking out restaurants). We ended up at a place called Vanessa’s Dumplings in China Town. This place was great because I got four of the best pork pot stickers I’ve ever had for a dollar. If you’re trying to save money in New York, this should definitely be on your list!

Day 3- Their Milkshakes Bring All the Millennials to the Yard

It was Sunday, so the first thing on my to do list today was brunch, obviously. We went to a place called Harry’s Italian in the financial district. I found this place on a Buzzfeed article called “17 Affordable All-You-Can-Drink Brunches in NYC” so I knew it would be a good fit. For $25 (after tax) we each got an entrée and two hours worth of unlimited mimosas. The waiters here are also very good at making sure your glass was never empty, so it was definitely a good value for our money. The food wasn’t bad either, and came in nice sized portions which is all you really need with your bottomless mimosas.

After brunch (and a post brunch cat nap), we headed to Chelsea Market. This place made me feel really hip, which I’m not, so that was cool. Also the first store in the market is Anthropology and I really think I deserve a prize for not buying anything while I was there. Chelsea Market has an exit near one of the staircases onto the High Line. The High Line is an old raised railroad track that has recently been renovated into a park and walking/running path. There were a couple really nice views and sitting spots along here which was great to take a break at while we figured out what comes next.

The trail ended just a few blocks away from the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre, where we had tickets to ASSSSCAT 3000 that night, which was very convenient since there was little chance we would get lost. Also convenient, was the World of Beer right across the street from the theatre, where we hung out and grabbed a snack before the show. The show itself was pretty funny. UCB is where people like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler got their start, so I had pretty high expectations, and I wasn’t disappointed. The whole premise of ASSSSCAT 3000 (their most popular improv show) is one story teller who talks about something that happened in their life based on key words suggested by the audience, and then the rest of the troupe reenacts the stories. The actors are all very talented, which would explain why tickets sell out so fast, also the fact that tickets are only $10 might factor into that as well.

 

Next on our list was Black Tap– you know that place with the crazy milkshakes you see everywhere? Well it turns out they sell more than just milkshakes. After waiting in line for about 30 minutes (at 10:00 at night might I add) we were pretty hungry, so Austin ordered a burger and the rest of us ordered french fires and onion rings. All of the food was good, but we were all anxiously awaiting our milkshakes. They were a bit smaller than I anticipated, and pretty hard to Instagram because the restaurant was so dark, but they were still delicious!

Day 4- One Last Time

Today was bittersweet. It was my last full day in my favorite city, but we also went to some of my favorite places from the trip. My friend suggested/insisted that we had to go to Eataly while we were in the city, and she wasn’t wrong. The place itself was way more massive than I could have imagined with rows upon rows of yummy looking italian food and fresh veggies. But the real treat was the rooftop restaurant called Baita that Austin happened to find (that’s why I keep him around). To start, this restaurant was beautiful- nice views, nice weather, nice decor. The room was decorated with flannel blankets at each table, Christmas trees with antler decorations, and strings of lights on the ceiling which was right up my alley. They also had a killer playlist with Alt-J, the Black Keys, and Alabama Shakes, and what more can you ask for in a restaurant, really? Oh yeah- good food, which they had too. Tara and I started with some wine which was so so so good, I’m thinking about ordering a case of it to be honest. But wine isn’t an acceptable meal, so I ordered a cheese plate that had five different types and a honey dipping sauce with peanuts. It was everything I’ve ever wanted.  I also split a gnocchi dish with Tara that was delicious.

Up next we went to a really tall building per Austin’s request. We chose to go to the Top of the Rock over the Empire State building, and I think that was the best choice. Not only did we get a sweet view of the Empire State building, but we could also see Central Park and the surrounding Manhattan skyline. There was a 360 degree view of the city and no bars to block it. There are also three different levels you can view from, which is nice. Also, probably one of the best parts of choosing Top of the Rock was that you can buy timed tickets so you don’t have to wait in line, yay!

In my Pinterest search I found a bar that served “everything bagel” french fries so obviously we had to try them. George Keeley is on the upper west side, which was a pretty neat side of town to try to navigate (turns out getting lost in New York is actually fun).Not only did they have delicious french fries but they also had over 20 beers on draught that are constantly changing. This was such a great place to wrap up our trip and decompress before a full day of traveling.

 

Unfortunately, my friend Linz developed a severe case of bacterial pneumonia while we were in New York and has been in the hospital for the past 20 or so days. Fortunately her parents were able to drive up and stay with her, and while she is getting better every day, the bills are not. Because of this I ask that if you are able, please consider donating to her Go Fund Me to help her parents pay for all of these unforeseen costs.

 

(P.S. Sorry for all of the Hamilton quotes I hid in here, but I just couldn’t help myself.)

Welcome Back, TOM’s

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A few weeks ago I wrote a post about TOM’s #withoutshoes campaign. This massive display of bare feet from thousands of individuals helped send more than 250,000 pairs of shoes to children who can’t afford them around the world. Because TOM’s is a for-profit company, you might be wondering why they would launch a campaign where non-paying customers can simply use a hashtag and in turn have the company pay for yet another pair of shoes. Of course, the executives at TOM’s want to do good in the world, but “doing good” doesn’t necessarily make a business succeed. This campaign was more than just “doing good” though. There are many business goals that can be achieved through a campaign such as this. Because there is not a published Social Media Strategic Plan for this campaign, I am simply making assumptions here, but if I were Blake Mycoskie (TOM’s founder) and his marketing team, my top goal for this campaign would have been to increase customer interaction with the brand. Many studies have shown that when customers are involved with a business in more ways than just purchasing, they are more likely to have repeated purchases and in turn become long term customers. A study done in 2011 by Averi Ahsmann describes the problem that TOM’s was having with brand awareness and purchasing influence. Her research included a survey sent out to 95 18-24 year olds, a focus group consisting of college students who both were and were not customers at the time, and an observational study of an Urban Outfitters in Syracuse, NY that sold TOM’s shoes. The studies showed that although many people are aware of the brand, only about half of the participants actually made a purchase from the company or interacted with them in any kind of way. This also creates an opportunity for the company to create new promotional strategies to reach the other half of their target market. From here, more research is needed to find out how many people are interacting with the company already, whether that be through purchasing, social media or traditional media. From that information, TOM’s would have reevaluated their target audience- did their current communication strategies align with their current customers? They also learned what drives their audience to interact with the customers, which based on Ahsmann’s research, is the more charitable aspects of their company rather than the product itself. This information about their market also helped narrow down which platforms will best support their efforts because traditional media engages a different segment than social media, and even within social media, Instagram attracts a different group than Facebook. They then also conducted secondary research about what their competitors are doing to drive customer interaction. Eventually, TOM’s realized that they needed to move their efforts to the Internet and the social media sphere. After running the #withoutshoes campaign, follow up research showed an increase in interaction online, which if measured now, would also show an increase in sales because of the relationships the customers now feel that they have with the brand. Overall, even without published research about this campaign, I can see its success. Through sheer word of mouth, I have seen so many more of my peers reposition TOM’s in their minds. Now thought less as a footwear company, and more as a way to save the world, something I think every Millennial wants to do but doesn’t know how to, TOM’s is back in the forefront of people’s minds, which is exactly what the company needs to remain successful.