The Gutsy Girl Road Trip Awards
Another startlingly fast year has passed, and another wonderful road trip is almost over. It's been great seeing old friends and getting to connect with family from all over the East Coast again. I was lucky to be joined by my boyfriend during one leg of the trip from Washington, DC to Long Island, NY and by my Dad from Long Island to Upstate New York. Blog post about that coming soon! Over my weeks on the road, I've loved experiencing beautiful mountain vistas, driving through crumbling ghost towns, feeling the sand between my toes, and exploring some of the coolest towns in America. Now deemed my Gutsy Girl Road Trip Awards, here are several moments and places that stood out most to me during my adventure.
Favorite Atmosphere to Grab a Drink with Girl Friends: Ambar - Washington, DC [Eastern Market]
Two DC friends and I stumbled across this charming bar & restaurant as we walked through the neighborhood of Eastern Market. If you're into adorable row homes and visiting a quieter side of Washington DC, check out this area that boasts a bustling market and tasty restaurants, like Ambar, which serves Balkan cuisine with a modern twist. It's like any trendy restaurant when you first walk in, but go up the stairs and you'll find a cute, rooftop oasis to enjoy appetizers and drinks with the girls. My friends and I shared a few tasty small plates, and I had a delicious margarita- you can pick from original or spicy mango. How about both? Try Ambar at Happy Hour like we did for some unheard of specials in the DC area. I promise you- $4 cocktails and appetizers. How is that even possible?!
Most Exciting Purchase: Millennium Broadway Hotel in Times Square - New York, NY [Manhattan]
When my boyfriend, Stefan, and I decided to stay in Manhattan for the night, I was expecting our hotel room to be the most expensive purchase of my entire road trip. I was so wrong about that! Through Hotwire, we ended up scoring a room for $146, all inclusive. Amazing! Though that still may seem pricey to some, you won't find a decent hotel for much less than that in the city. But I haven't gotten to the best part yet. I was under the impression that $146 would get us a dingy room facing rooftop air-conditioning units. So wrong. Stefan and I were placed on the 33rd floor with a corner room facing the Chrysler building on one window-wall and Times Square on the other. One block from all the action! It was stunning, and we had a blast that evening.
Best Area to Find Funky Treasures: The beaches of Great Peconic Bay - North Fork, Long Island, NY
If you're a lover of the beach and finding interesting treasures, visit the areas around Great Peconic Bay where there's a smattering of quaint towns around the bay and its smaller inlets on the North Fork of Long Island. Take to the beaches and you'll find everything from sea creatures to beautiful rounded stones to antique sea glass that's finally floated up onto the beach after several decades. The picture below documents some of the goodies that Stefan and I came across after just one hour of walking around searching the sand. I can't wait to turn the sea glass and little stones into a pretty display back home!
Prettiest Secret Place: Conservatory Garden in Central Park - New York, NY [Manhattan]
Okay, I'll admit that the Conservatory Garden isn't actually a secret. It's right in Central Park! But you'd never know it. There's only one entrance to it through a gate on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, so the garden is pretty easy to miss. If you're a flower-loving visitor to NYC, or a resident who needs some quiet time, this is the place to go. I was there at 10:30 AM on a Wednesday, and there was only a tiny handful of people in all the acres of botanical beauty. You'll find a giant Wisteria pergola with views of the fountain, tree-covered walkways out of a fairy tale, and my favorite space- an expansive flower garden. I loved relaxing around all of the bursting wildflowers and the waterlilies in the pond. It was such a stunning, peaceful place that you'd never know you're in the middle of New York City.
Most Picturesque Town: The streets of Old Town - Alexandria, VA
Old Town Alexandria feels so American that it's actually hard to describe. The hilly, cobblestone streets, history-drenched row homes, and flags flapping proudly in the river breeze just oozes pure Americana. Check out the waterfront area and King Street of Old Town next time you're in the Washington DC area, and you'll find plenty of restaurants and boutiques to keep you going as you admire all of the charming, colonial buildings.
Tastiest Food & Greatest Value: Sake Bar Hagi in the Times Square area - New York, NY [Manhattan]
This place might be my new favorite restaurant in the entire world. I know that's a bold statement to make, but everything about the experience was fantastic. It took Stefan and I a while to find the entrance, which was part of the adventure, because there's no sign for Saki Bar Hagi- just a random stairwell leading you down off the street. Imagine a restaurant with no sign in the Times Square area! It's pretty clear that they don't want loads of tourist crowds in their restaurant. And they don't need them- the place was packed with people eating authentic Japanese food, shoulder to shoulder with strangers. I loved the bustling intimacy of the restaurant, but I enjoyed the food even more. Stefan and I shared five small plates, the best being Tofu Dengaku. Now, Stefan and I aren't vegetarian or huge tofu lovers, but we both couldn't stop eating this dish! So delicious. The best part is that the meal was crazy inexpensive. Stefan got a huge 30 oz. beer for just $8. I don't even know how that's possible in New York City.
Most Amazing Lifestyle: Basking in the outdoors and enjoying local food - Aquebogue, NY
If you follow a similar road trip route that I took, you will have eaten your way up the East Coast and walked your butt off around New York City and the Washington DC area. Now what do you need to finish off the trip right? A beautiful and relaxing stop in nature. You might be surprised that I'm recommending a town on Long Island, which most people falsely assume is overcrowded and ugly. The North Fork, where you'll find Aquebogue, is actually filled with wineries, rolling farmland, and stunning views of the water. You'll get to eat loads of fresh seafood and vegetables from local stands, but the best part really is the pace of living. At my family reunion here, the huge group of us gathered outside on picnic tables to enjoy all of our meals in the dappled sunlight. Stefan and I got to walk along the empty beach and explore tiny coastal towns. The peaceful setting was very rejuvenating after a fun, but exhausting road trip up North. I would recommend traveling to the North Fork of Long Island to everyone!
So there you have it! I took hundreds of pictures and visited dozens of amazing places that I, unfortunately, don't have the space to write about. What a shame that I have to leave so much out! I hope that my Gutsy Girl Road Trip Awards has inspired you to visit even a few of these locations and restaurants. I truly had an amazing trip and can't wait for my next one!
Have you been to any of these destinations? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Have a great week,