How to Maximize a Weekend in NYC

Have A Free Weekend And Want To See The Big Apple?

What to Eat | What to do | How to Enjoy

The crew and I ( Adham, baby Amirah, and I ) decided to take a family weekend trip to New York City and it was awesome! Of course the travel planner and Virgo (like Beyoncé) in me wanted everything to go by the itinerary, however, with a baby its just not that easy. I’ve been to NYC plenty of times but never had I been traveling with an infant and she showed me that I had been doing NYC wrong the whole time anyway! She has taught me that if you truly want to enjoy NYC have a light itinerary, I now believe it is incredibly advantageous to leave quite a bit of room in your itinerary to go with the flow. There are so many things to do in New York City and you can make yourself feel like you have to do everything in one weekend or even in a week. However, YOU WON’T and you shouldn’t.

 

For example, normally when I am in NYC I have so much that I want to do and see (so I can tell you all what to do when you get there), but also because people tend to make you feel like if you don’t do “this or that” in NYC then you missed out on something. However, we went to go have a picnic in Central Park, which I recommend you all do and baby Amirah just didn’t want to leave. I had a Michelin star restaurant I wanted to try for lunch but Amirah had her bottle, a blanket, the shade under the sun and she just wasn’t in the mood to leave. So of course, we stayed, Her and my husband both fell asleep and I ended up reading a book and people watching. When both of them woke up, I wasn’t disappointed at all that we skipped the restaurant! It was relaxing, it was peaceful, and even though it wasn’t a museum or a must-eat restaurant, it was still a very New York City thing to do.

Picnic in Central ParK

Adham and Amirah Asleep in Central Park

Later that night, we ended up going to a Midtown Michelin star restaurant, Cafe China, that was incredibly delicious and surpassed our expectations. Midtown’s Cafe China is unassuming, traditionally Sichuan, delicious and its the only Michelin star Chinese restaurant in NYC. The 1930’s Shanghai decor is sure to make you feel like you’ve taken a short journey to China. Our favorite dish their was the Chungking chicken which is only for someone with an appetite for spice, and by spice I mean an abundance of dried chilies.

At around midnight, while many people are out clubbing (I used to do this well) or grabbing drinks with friends. The foodie, parents, and Muslim in us decided to grab desserts instead. We continued to stay with our various Asian cuisine palette for the day and go to Grace Street Coffee and Desserts. Everything we ordered was nothing short of amazing so we ordered our first order twice. I recommend the Ho-Dduck Korean Donut (vegan option available), Apple Cider, Hong Kong French Toast, and he Mango Madness Shaved Snow.

The next day, the crew still wanted to take it easy, I obviously ignored their request because we ended up in Times Square. Walking around with a stroller and a baby in Times Square was not fun to me but my husband thought it was and seemed to think navigating with the baby in Times Square was a fun challenge as if he was in a video game. They ended up loving their navigation adventure and I throughly enjoyed taking pictures and people watching. Sponge-bob Squarepants on Broadway was showing at the Palace Theatre, if you are a Sponge-bob fan I would definitely see this. I preferred Aladdin, which was showing at the New Amsterdam Theatre.

Times Square

After a great show, you must eat and we decided to go to Miss Lily’s. Miss Lily’s is one of my favorite places to eat in NYC. The food is incredible and I have never had a bad experience food or service wise. Everyone there is extremely sweet and accommodating and they want you to have a good meal. I actually found out about Miss Lily’s a couple of years ago while watching Chef Andre Fowler’s of Miss Lily’s win ’Chopped’ on the Food Network. He brings authentic, and vibrant Jamaican flavor to Manhattan and crowds do indeed flock to experience it.

Miss Lily’s Restaurant

The weekend wasn’t over yet and even though there are so many incredible museums to see and many people purchase the New York City Pass, which includes admission into NYC’s top attractions, if you are only there for a weekend all of the attractions can be a bit overwhelming and it might not be worth the money. One of the museums that the New York City Pass includes is the Guggenheim museum which is a must see but due to my tight schedule this time we went to the Brooklyn Museum as I like the Brooklyn museum a bit more. It is NYC’s second largest museum and it features electrifying art, inspiring and educational exhibitions, and right now a David Bowie tribute display.

Brooklyn Museum

Every time I come to NYC I find so much more do and so much more to eat and I recommend that you visit the following on your next visit:
* You can find many discounts to attractions on Groupon as well

Central Park
Such a great time as aforementioned with bike and pedestrian paths, jungle gyms, ball fields, a zoo, picnic areas, carousel, and awesome city views,

Times Square
In the heart of the Theatre district where you should find a good show, do some shopping, and people watch .

The Empire State Building
Sweeping city views, museum, and history.

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
National Monument, museum, history, and guided tours.

Brooklyn. Museum (my favorite)
Incredible large art museum as aforementioned above

Grand Central Terminal
Iconic train station, shopping, dining, and feeling like you’re on the set of NYC romantic comedy as you can’t watch one that doesn’t feature a scene in this station.

Brooklyn Bridge
Picturesque bridge that connects Brooklyn and Manhattan

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One Week Maui | Hawaii Itinerary

Your 7 Day Guide to Maui

There are so many different types of travelers and vacation styles and everyone knows someone who they “just can’t vacation with”. This could be because they don’t like the person entirely or they just don’t have the same travel style. The below itinerary is for someone like myself with an adventurous personality with a luxury budget who still needs R&R (rest and relaxation). If you don’t have a luxury budget, I have included alternative options as well. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what your budget is if you have an adventurous personality but still love to just lay out and soak up some sun at the beach (it is Maui after all)….this 1 week Maui Guide is for you!

I understand how overwhelming planning a vacation to Maui can be and each link provides additional information to help you further plan and experience all that Maui has to offer.

I recommend 2 weeks in Maui, however I understand most people don’t have 2 weeks time to take off. Check out Maui Must Do’s for more to add to your schedule for a 2 week Maui Vacation.

First Day: ARRIVAL
I recommend staying at the Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort. If you don’t have a luxury budget, check out “How to go to Maui for free”. Check in and enjoy all this massive resort has in store and if you get in early, hang out at the beach.

What to eat: Mama’s Fish House Restaurant and Inn

Second Day: HALEAKALĀ CRATER
Hiking Haleakalā Crater is one of my top things to do in Maui. If you aren’t a hiker you still must go and at least see the incredible views and enjoy the ride up the mountain there. Not only that but, if you arrive at Haleakalā Visitor center 30-45 mins before sunrise, you can watch the beautiful colors of the sunrise and then follow the Hosmer Trail. You will not take a more scenic photo in Maui than on top of Haleakala Crater.

What to eat: Paia Fish Market

Take the rest of the day to enjoy the amenities of the Grand Wailea resort and lay out at the beach or one of the Grand Wailea’s 7 pools. I prefer the adult only Hibiscus pool, I have a small child and when my husband and I are on vacation together by ourselves we truly want it to be adults only. All of the pools either have a restaurant or bar right next to or inside the pool that you can swim up to or order from your pool lounge chair.

Third Day: ALI’I KULA LAVENDER FARM
Don’t let the name “lavender farm” fool you into thinking this farm is all about lavender. It is true there is a gorgeous lavender field with views out of this world overlooking mountains and sea cliffs. However, this farm also has many other species of plants as well. Forget the nurseries you’re used to, this lavender farm makes you feel as if you are Alice in Wonderland and all you are missing is a friendly rabbit.

If you have a green thumb and are really interested in gardening and different species of plants then you can take a guided tour. If you are like me and just want to enjoy the scenic views of Maui from the lavender field and surround yourself with the aromatic smells of plumeria and lavender then you can self-tour and leisurely enjoy the atmosphere.

What to eat: Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman

Fourth Day: SUNRISE and SNORKELING/BEACH HOP

What to eat: Plantation House

Fifth Day: ROAD TO HANA
For my adventurers and photographers, the Road To Hana is a long but incredibly fun and sometimes scary drive filled with stops that feature Maui’s most picturesque waterfalls, gorges, streams, caves, fresh fruit stops and cool food stops.

Major Highlights:
Twin Falls
, Bamboo Forest, 
Waikamoi Falls, 
Keanae
, Three Bears Falls
, Beaches (Black sand, red sand, Koki)
, Seven Sacred Pools, 
Pipiwai Trail, 
Alelele Falls

Bamboo Forest

What to eat: Bruddah Hutts BBQ truck or Huli Huli Chicken, and Auntie Sandy’s Banana Bread.

Sixth Day: SPA DAY at the GRAND WAILEA or BEACH/POOL DAY
The Grand Wailea is home to Spa Grande, one of the best spas in the US and once you experience it for yourself there is no doubt about it. We did the “Tropical Paradise For Two” which includes the “healing waters”, sauna, steam room, exfoliation, scrub, lunch, 50 minute massage, and pedicure. This treatment lasts 4 hours and will run you $$$$ (699). However, afterwards my husband and I looked at each other and he said it was “worth every penny” and I concur! If you are not on a luxury budget then I would enjoy some more of Maui’s beaches or have a pool day at the Grand Wailea. One of the things about being an adventurous traveler is sometimes you forget to rest on your vacations but you are in Maui for heaven’s sake, get to a beach or enjoy what the Grand Wailea has to offer!

What to eat: Try Kimo’s

Seventh Day: HELICOPTER TOUR
A helicopter tour is a great way to close out your time in beautiful Maui, Hawaii. Honestly, words cannot describe how incredible the experience is, the lush 3000 ft sea cliffs (highest sea cliffs in US according to our guide) and the many, many waterfalls cascading down the mountains are some of the most beautiful things you will ever see your life.  Sunshine, Air Maui, and Maverick are some of the most common and trusted helicopter tour companies in Maui. My favorite route was the West Maui/Molokai tour. In all of my travels I haven’t seen anything like it, if you love Jurassic Park this is your chance to see it. Feels like a dinosaur could start swinging at your helicopter at any moment.

If you do not have a luxury budget,  parasailing will also give you an opportunity to see Maui from a completely different perspective, flying above the sea and by the mountains.

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Reasons Why Tanzania is a great destination for a Honeymoon AND a Family Vacation

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Looking for an adventure to a destination with idyllic beaches, a captivating culture, wildlife, and friendly people? Tanzania should be your next travel destination for your honeymoon and even your family vacation. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Tanzania and can’t wait to go back. You won’t find anywhere else that you can experience volcanoes, one of the world’s tallest mountains, stunning white sand beaches, and an island with pivotal history surrounded by the Indian Ocean, incredibly friendly people, and also happens to be known as the land of safaris.

———- The Safaris ————–
A safari is a perfect adventure for a honeymoon or a family vacation. If you’re looking for a honeymoon destination, I can’t recommend a romantic hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti or an overnight stay in a luxury camp in the Ngronogoro Crater where you can have dinner by a campfire in the middle of true wildlife underneath the stars. Both the Ngronogoro Crater and the Serengeti are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are home to the greatest wildlife spectacle on earth-The Great Migration where you can see the “Big Five”:
Lions, Leopards, Buffalo, Elephants, and Rhinos.

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I loved experiencing the Serengeti and the Ngronogoro Crater with my family. It was absolutely incredible and something that we will never forget. Whether you are an adult or a child, most people love animals! We used Good Earth Tours for our safari experience and our tour guide was incredible and everyone we encountered was incredibly hospitable. We did a 3 day safari and stayed at Ngronogoro Farmhouse and Mbugani Ndutu Camp. We even saw the Big Five and were able to watch a lion catch a wildebeest in its natural habitat! The accommodations were great at Mbugani Ndutu Camp and it was the most luxurious Camp experience I’ve ever had and the food was great. Ngronogoro Farmhouse is also a great accommodation for kids as well, at the resort you can go on a coffee tour and learn how to make coffee with the coffee grown on the farm. There is a nice pool and an interactive dance performance during dinner. Kids can learn and check about the farm which is full of diverse fruits and vegetables, some you’ve probably even heard of. The rooms are spacious and comfortable at the Farmhouse and it was incredibly peaceful.

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Glamping in the Serengetti

I’ve never encountered anything as truly beautiful as the Ngronogoro Crater and the Serengeti and being able to be in that breathtaking ecosystem was truly and experience of a lifetime. Any picture you take on your 4 X 4 safari journey there is Instagram worthy. You will not find a wildlife sanctuary with better scenery.

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——- Zanzibar Island ———

Zanzibar is an idyllic island off of the coast of Tanzania and could very well be the best honeymoon or family vacation decision you can make. On Zanzibar Island you can experience endless stretches of white powdered sand, water sports galore, a sail on a traditional dhow to explore and snorkel at sandbanks, incredible food made with world famous spices, and insight into infamous cultural highlights and historical remnants in Stone Town. Essque Zalu Zanzibar is a Resort on Nungwi Beach that exudes romance and luxury. It’s right on the beach and the architecture of the resort is captivating. The resort is known for its Swahili and Arabic architecture and has 40 suites and 8 villas overlooking the Indian Ocean. The Spa is absolutely incredible and if you’re hungry you have your choice of amazing food from one of the two restaurants and three bars. My family stayed in one of the huge 8 villas that had 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a private spa room, a family room, and dining room, a large porch with cool contemporary seating, a kitchen, a private pool, and an awesome rooftop patio! Most of the villas also come with a butler and ours was so friendly, hospitable, and one of the best parts of our experience there. I can’t say enough how friendly the people of Tanzania are, the staff was incredible. They also set up jet skiing and windsurfing as well for our family and that was a great time as well.

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Essque Zalu Resort

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You can’t go to Zanzibar Island without also going to Stone Town. I recommend staying at the Double Tree Hilton Stone Town during your stay in the town. Stone Town is where you will get to experience a ton of cultural highlights and if you are a history buff you will enjoy going on a Stone Town History Tour and to Prison Island. Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was an infamous trading hub between Asia and Africa where spices, goods, and people were traded. The island has a dark past but it’s extremely fascinating to learn about. The history is apparent and is illustrated by the diverse groups of people, from the mosques, the churches, Omani palaces, and Hindu temples. It is truly a harmony of diverse cultural regions. The architecture in the city is incredibly distinctive and features Arab, Persian, Indian, European, and African influences.

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Other things to do in Stone Town are:
– spice tour
– City tour
– Sandbank picnic: LOVED THIS
– Prison island: LOVED THIS
– Dolphin Tour

I really enjoyed the staff and experience doing the Sandbank picnic and Prison Island Tour with *“Nakupenda Isles Safari.” From families (there was even the most well behaved infant ever on our sailing tour) to honeymooners, everyone on the tour had a great time and it was so much fun. The staff was hilarious and they made sure we all enjoyed ourselves and were full during the Sandbank picnic. If you like seafood, you will love the picnic!

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*You can also do the tour privately as well.

——- Mt. Kilimanjaro ———

Mount Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano and is the highest the peak in Africa. If you are honeymooners who are active adventures you can tackle Mt. Kilimanjaro and experience hiking through lush rainforests, alpine deserts, glaciers, and sleeping closer to the stars than you ever dreamed possible by night. However, if you not an incredibly active adventurer but still want to experience Kilimanjaro there a many different routes and you can still try the climb without your goal being the top! If you are on a family vacation and are bringing children, they too can experience climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and climb the base. Mt. Kilimanjaro takes several days to climb but if you don’t have time for that you can do a day tour as aforementioned and trek through the rainforest and catch a view of a variety of animals including blue monkeys, birds, Columbus monkeys, and exotic variations of plant life.

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There is so much to do in Tanzania and so much to offer no matter what age or trip type. Whether you are on a honeymoon or on a family vacation, there are so many places and activities to choose from. It is as equally a relaxing vacation destination as it is an adventurous one. And it is also truly a perfect destination to create family memories. Would you like to add Tanzania to your honeymoon or family vacation bucket list??

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