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A California Girl's Guide To New York City

After spending a summer in New York City, the concrete jungle has definitely won my heart and I now find myself in a long-distance relationship with the "city that never sleeps," constantly looking to plan my next visit. So whether you are just in town for a weekend or moving to NYC for good, here is your guide to some of the best spots that the Big Apple has to offer.
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Born and raised in California, I was brought up to believe that the west coast is indeed the best coast. But I must say, after spending a summer in New York City, the concrete jungle has definitely won my heart and I now find myself in a long-distance relationship with the "city that never sleeps," constantly looking to plan my next visit. So whether you are just in town for a weekend or moving to NYC for good, here is your guide to some of the best spots that the Big Apple has to offer.

Where to Stay:

Gansevoort (18 9th Ave, New York, NY 10014)

This trendy hotel located in the heart of New York's happening Meatpacking district, has an unbeatable view of the city's signature skyline. Beat the summer heat by taking a dip in their rooftop pool, which is sidelined with comfy lounge chairs and a bustling bar (comparable to West Hollywood's Mondrian Hotel.)

The Dream Downtown (355 West 16th St, Near 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011)

Nothing but sweet dreams at this hotel. The best part? The penthouse floor is home to one of the city's most popping rooftop bars: PHD. They're known for "Sunset Saturdays," which celebrate the golden hour with guest DJs, live performances and a unique crowd of partygoers from all over the world. If you happen to visit in the winter, The Dream provides complimentary hot apple cider in the lobby to save you from the cold.

The Pierre (2 E 61st St, New York, NY 10065)

Positioned just off Fifth Avenue on East 61st Street, one of the perks of staying at The Pierre is its location - just a short walk from the city's best shopping area and Central Park! Built in the 1920s, its classic architecture and luxurious rooms are timeless and coupled with top-notch service (their concierge is among the best and can help you snag reservations at some of the city's most in-demand restaurants!) Just off the lobby you'll find their Two E Bar & Lounge, which offers a delightful afternoon tea service featuring traditional teas, freshly-baked pastries and of course, champagne if you're in the mood.

Where to Eat:

Beauty and Essex
(146 Essex St, New York, NY 10002)

A trip to NYC is not complete without a visit to Beauty and Essex. Located beyond the doors of an old jewelry store-converted restaurant, the food itself is nothing short of dazzling. Their menu offers tapas ranging from tuna poké wonton tacos to grilled cheese and tomato soup dumplings to "orange kissed" salmon ceviche, perfect for big groups and special occasions. Rumor has it that "Chopped" judge Chris Santos is planning on opening a Beauty & Essex outlet in Hollywood sometime in 2016, so get excited fellow Californians!

Tao Downtown (92 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011)

Behind its larger than life buddha statue, Tao is home to both a top notch Asian-fusion cuisine and a raging nightclub that is a go-to spot for a night out, New York style (especially popular on Tuesdays!). To drink, you must try their Tao-tinis or a Peach Cosmopolitan. For food, you can't go wrong as their menu offers the classics such as chicken satay, while also mixing it up with their own signature dishes including miso-glazed sea bass, lobster wontons, and the Tao "surf and turf" roll. To end your meal on a sweet note, be sure to order Tao's giant fortune cookie dessert filled with both white and chocolate mousse and paired with mochi ice cream and fresh fruit on the side.

Bar Pitti (268 Ave of the Americas, New York, NY 10014)

Stationed in West Village, Bar Pitti is about as close as you can get to an authentic Italian trattoria. Their well-known dishes include their tomato and burrata salad and the spaghetti with truffles. Be sure to sit outside, as their Sixth Avenue post offers a prime spot for people-watching.

Where to Brunch:

Lavo (39 E 58th St, New York, NY 10022)

New York City does brunch like no other. With their signature Saturday champagne brunch, Lavo takes it to a whole other level. You can be sure to expect some table dancing, popping hip-hop music, strobe lights and fog machines. Keep in mind that Lavo brunch is an all day affair, so mark your calendars! They even have special occasion brunches such as their holiday Santa themed brunch - a great way to kick-off your weekend!

Two Hands (164 Mott St, New York, NY 10013)

If you're looking for a healthy start to your day, try Two Hands, a cafe seeking to provide simple and nutritious food to get your day going on a high note. Their avocado toast and acai bowls are made to order!

Sarabeth's (40 Central Park S, New York, NY 10019, also locations in Tribeca, Upper East Side and Upper West Side)

Live life like Gossip Girl with Sarabeth's brunch (Blair and Serena were spotted brunching there in an early episode!) A New York classic, Sarabeth's has all the bases covered with extraordinary omelettes, a salmon eggs benedict and if you have a sweet tooth, their lemon ricotta pancakes are to die for. With your omelette, you can choose from a variety of homemade scones paired with fresh-made jam as an added bonus. Complement your meal with the Sarabeth's "four flower" mimosa or a peach bellini!

Where to Go Out:

Loopy Doopy Rooftop Bar (102 North End Ave, New York, NY 10282)

Located in the financial district on the top floor of the Conrad Hotel, Loopy Doopy is known for their signature popsicles and prosecco drinks. With 360-degree views of lower Manhattan, this buzzing bar is definitely one of the city's most picturesque.

Le Bain at The Standard
(444 West 13th Street, New York, NY 10014)

For arguably the best view of New York City, check out Le Bain - The Standard Hotel's rooftop bar and lounge. With panoramic views of Chelsea and beyond, there is no better place to enjoy a drink and the city's skyline. The best part? If you go around sunset, they have a crepe stand with both sweet and savory crepes, made in minutes!

B Bar (40 E 4th St, New York, NY 10003)

If you're looking for a college reunion, head to B Bar where you will surely run into someone you know from either high school or college. Known as a popular intern bar, grab some of your co-workers and head to East Village for a fun night on the town.

Up 'N' Down (244 W 14th St, New York, NY 10011)

If you're looking to go clubbing, be sure to add Up 'N' Down to your list - a bougie nightclub with two levels; the upstairs features modern hip-hop music and the lower floor plays tunes from both up-and-coming DJs and well-established artists. Get ready to break out your best dance moves and don't be surprised if you run into your favorite celeb on the dance floor!

For Dessert:

Black Tap (529 Broome St, New York, NY 10013)

Don't be turned off by the lines that wrap around the entire block. Black Tap's milkshakes are nothing like any milkshake you've ever had before and well worth the wait. Each shake is over the top and adorned with all kinds of sweets ranging from cotton candy to brownies to lollipops. Get your camera ready because these shakes are definitely insta-worthy!

Dominique Ansel Bakery (189 Spring St, New York, NY 10012)

If you need a little afternoon pick-me up, stop by Dominique Ansel Bakery in Soho for their signature after school special: chocolate chip cookie shots. An edible shot glass made out of chocolate chip cookie and filled with milk is hands-down the tastiest shot you will ever take.

Levain Bakery (167 W 74th St, New York, NY 10023, note: another location in Harlem)

Levain is in a league of their own with their hamburger-sized chocolate chip cookies that are baked to perfection with just the right consistency that leaves them crispy on the outside and ooey gooey on the inside. Tucked away on the Upper West Side, you'll be able to smell their treats from blocks away!