How to See the Ball Drop Without Standing in Times Square

Hey there! It’s been a while since I’ve actually posted but I can’t wait to talk about my weekend in New York to watch the ball drop! My sister and I came into Manhattan from New Jersey on December 30th and we had a room at the Riu Plaza Times Square. If you’re looking for a hotel near Times Square, this one is a great choice. Literally a block away, next to an outdoor shopping market, and across the street from Pret A Manger.

Anyway, as this was my sister’s birthday/Christmas present from me, we went out for a nice dinner to celebrate and checked out Times Square on the way to The View restaurant, at the top of the New York Marriott Marquis. It was pretty interesting to see how Times Square was already set up – the stages were there and the fencing blocking out the space for the following night. Read more

Hipmunk Hotels: Tips and Hotels in Braintree, Allentown, and More

Photo by Love to Travel on

Thinking about a trip to New England? Here are some fun cities to check out while maintaining a budget!

Braintree, MA

A suburb of Boston that’s bound to be less crowded, Braintree, MA, may be a great option when looking for cheaper accommodation outside the hustle and bustle of the main downtown. Several examples include the Boston Marriott Quincy, Comfort Inn Boston, and Best Western Rockland. Travelers should also consider AirBnB, ranging in prices from $60 to $155 and higher per night. As with most cities in America’s north, winters can be harsh and freezing while summers can be downright scorching. It’s recommended to visit Braintree and the surrounding area in the autumn to enjoy the beautiful red and yellow leaves.

Allentown, PA

One of Pennsylvania’s largest cities, Allentown is a perfect New England town to take in America’s history. Tourists can visit the Allentown Farmer’s Market, Allentown Art Museum, Mack Trucks Historical Museum, and the famous Liberty Bell Museum. Travelers can go golfing at the Iron Lakes Country Club fishing enthusiasts will love the Allentown Fish Hatchery. Budget-friendly accommodations are abound and average $55 per night, including Value Place Allentown Bethlehem, Microtel Inn Allentown, and Howard Johnson Inn & Suites Allentown. Luxury accommodations, such as the Homewood Suites by Hilton Allentown, will be around $95 per night.

Rochester, NY

Those looking for fun restaurants, club, bars, and coffee shops can find it in the hip town of Rochester, NY. Tourists will want to check out the cultural district in the East End, and to be close to its festivals and Night Market concerts, travelers are encouraged to stay at Radisson Hotel Rochester Riverside or the DoubleTree by Hilton due to their prime locations to downtown or even search for great AirBnB accommodations. Historians and art buffs will enjoy the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, the world’s oldest photography museum, and the Genesee Country Village & Museum which imitates life from the early 1800s. Rochester is also extremely LGBT-friendly and known for its progressive work on civil rights

Jersey City, NJ

A nearby but not inexpensive alternative to staying directly in Manhattan, Jersey City is just across the Hudson River and provides quick access to the Statue of Liberty and more of what New York has to offer. Budget-friendly accommodations, such as the Ramada Inn Jersey City and Candlewood Suites Jersey City, are close to Liberty Park and provide access to the ferry to and from Battery Park and therefore downtown Manhattan. Travelers are also encouraged to check out AirBnB options and can stay for around a $100 per night.

Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh has something for every age and personality. Historians and architects will be excited by the Victorian architecture found in southern Pittsburgh, and food enthusiasts will enjoy the Strip district. Travelers will enjoy the array of museums, shopping, and great restaurants that Pittsburgh has to offer year round. The city is popular year-round, but winter will be the best time to find a good deal on accommodations with several hotel options, such as Hyatt Place Pittsburgh-North Shore, or even AirBnB rooms to stay on budget.

Samantha is currently working with Hipmunk on the #HipmunkCityLove project. Check out some of herlatest posts for more hotel and travel tips from Hipmunk!


The 5 Best Hotels for Experiencing Times Square

This post was originally posted by TheHipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on February 1st, 2016.

For a winter vacation that’s worth bundling up for, why not consider heading to one of the greatest cities on earth? Yes, we’re talking about New York City, which welcomes over 56.4 million tourists a year— with 50 million of them heading to Manhattan’s iconic Times Square for its legendary restaurants, broadway shows, street entertainment, and shopping options. (Bonus points if visiting to witness the New Year’s eve ball drop!)

While New York is often considered the city that never sleeps, getting to experience Times Square and then walk right to a hotel to continue soaking in the sights is a real win-win. We’ve rounded up five hotels in the heart of Times Square that will make any trip to the Big Apple even that much more worthwhile. Read more

Travel Tips: 6 Tips for a Midwesterner Visiting New York City

New York City: The world’s capital in many people’s opinions and a dream vacation destination to a bored Midwesterner. However, one coming from the land of cows and corn might not know how to navigate the crowded city of suffocation. Here are a few tips I learned after my first time solo in New York City. Read more

New York City: A Day During Christmas Week 2013

New York City, New York
Yesterday my family and I returned from visiting relatives in New Jersey for Christmas. It was a fun but crazy week full of food and dancing/playing children. We visit them about once every couple years, and a trip to NYC is always on the schedule. This past week I had planned for us to go on Monday for my little sister’s 19th birthday, but the weather was going to be miserable, so we cancelled (which meant I lost my Statue of Liberty tickets). We ended up going on Saturday, a beautiful day that we could hardly believe was real (55 and sunny in NYC at the end of the year???). Being just myself, my sister, and my boyfriend who came along for the week, we had a short and simple to-do list while we were there.

First, which obviously made my boyfriend really happy, we made our way to Carrie Bradshaw’s front door step, located at 66 Perry St. You can’t go up the actual steps (well, you can, but you might get yelled at) but there were hardly any other tourists there. It seems to be a secret spot, and it wasn’t even advertised as being from the show (it is, though). It is a privately owned home so don’t be too much of a creep.

After Carrie’s, we walked a couple blocks north west to Magnolia Bakery ’cause our hunger pangs were sticking like duct tape. I wanted to take a picture of my cupcake, but I forgot and ate it too fast. 
One of the most famous bakeries in New York, we expected to be able to sit inside with a cup of coffee and see a ton of other people there. In reality, it was a super tiny shop with one little table, and the windows were fogging up so much I couldn’t wait for my sister and boyfriend to pay for their cupcakes – I had to step outside! It was awesome, regardless.

We hit up Magnolia and macked on some cupcakes 
No doubt that bakery’s got all the bomb frostings.

I loved my cupcake like McAdams loves Gosling

Being fans of Seinfeld, we naturally made our next stop Tom’s restaurant, which is called Monk’s in the show. I thought this place would be loaded with tourists but it turned out to be in a very quiet location north west of Central Park. Very easy to get the picture you want.


On our way to Central Park we stopped inside the St. John the Divine cathedral – absolutely beautiful from the inside out.

Adorned with origami doves.

Due to our time crunch and 1:30 9/11 Memorial tickets, we decided to skip our walk through central park and grab lunch on the way to the memorial. We stopped at this fantastic, hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant called Tajin that’s just a couple blocks south of the memorial. I HIGHLY recommend this place as it’s the best Mexican food I’ve ever had, and the prices are very reasonable, too.

Tacos Rancheros – so fresh and simple. Ate it all up.

The 9/11 Memorial was packed and unorganized. I could tell they were struggling to keep everyone in order. The mass of people had to get into a single-file area and of course a TSA-like security zone. It was pretty crazy until we got into the memorial site, which was big and open with the two beautiful pools. Unfortunately, the museum was still closed.

North Pool.
South pool.
Someone has left a rose in the name.
Beautiful picture on the way out.
A gorgeous day!
Then it was finally time for us to head to the Empire State Building, for which we had tickets to the 86th Floor Observatory and were hoping to catch NYC by sunset. We got in line at 3PM, figuring that we would be well up there by the 4:30PM sunset. WRONG. We only got up to the observatory by 5:30, by which time I was crabby and hungry and could already tell it wasn’t worth it. I can tell you what is worth it, though – paying $50/adult to skip all the lines and head right up (even though there is a wait for the elevator). Looking back, paying $23 more per person would definitely be smart especially if you want to be up there by a certain time. Once you’re up there, you can’t even appreciate it because of how exhausted you are by the line. We completely underestimated how long it would take and we definitely regret not paying more. Now, instead of the beautiful NYC-night time views, we only remember how stupid the line was and being so tired.
Entertaining ourselves in line.
My boyfriend and I.

Times Square and the Ice Rink.
Gorgeous view, but not worth the wait!
For dinner, my cousin invited us to join her and her husband at the Times Square Hard Rock Cafe, where we enjoyed a delicious dinner, dessert, and a few drinks.
The color-changing lights above the bar.
Sharing our dinner with Neil Young’s outfit.
Linkin Park autographed guitar!

Adam Levigne (sp?) autographed guitar. 
Giant brownie sundae.
Elton John’s outfit at the next table.
A smashed-up guitar, courtesy of Nirvana.
Spilling out into a brightly-lit Times Square.

What a beautiful and exciting day. Although it stinks that we missed out on the Statue of Liberty, I know we’ll be making another trip to NJ soon and with that comes its day-cation to NYC.

Happy travels!

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