Monday, March 23, 2015

11 Free Things To Do in New York City

It's no surprise that New York City is one of the most expensive ones to visit. After paying for your cost of getting there, a hotel or hostel, and food, you may find that you don't have much money left for sightseeing. But even though NYC is so expensive, there are still so many free ways to experience the city! If you take a trip to New York but can't afford to spend too much, you definitely need to add these places to your to-do list:

Times Square

Times Square is probably the most famous tourist attraction in New York City, and the best part is you can walk around for as long as you like for no charge! It's impressive during the day, but especially amazing at night, and there is never a shortage of street performers. Just beware of the restaurants surrounding Times Square...they are much more expensive than restaurants in most other parts of the city!

Rockefeller Center

Right around the corner from Times Square is another major NYC attraction, Rockefeller Center. Of course the best time to visit is around Christmas when you can see the huge tree and the ice skating, but it's beautiful all year round!

Central Park

You could dedicate an entire day to exploring Central Park and not get bored. There are endless things to do and see, especially if you visit during the Spring or Summer!

The 9/11 Memorial

While the 9/11 Museum charges a fee to enter, you can walk around the outside portion for free. There are two huge fountains where the Twin Towers stood with the names of everyone who died around the edge. When you see a rose like in the photo above, it means it would have been that person's birthday. It's sad to visit but definitely so impressive.

**UPDATE: After publishing this blog post, I found out that the 9/11 Museum is free to visit on Tuesday nights! Tickets go so quickly, but if you can get there right at 4pm for a ticket, it's a great museum. Powerful and sad, but definitely a museum worth visiting.

The Staten Island Ferry

Don't pay the expensive ticket price to visit the Statue of Liberty! You can get an even better view of the statue and the downtown skyline from the Staten Island Ferry, which takes a half hour and is free to ride! The best times to ride the ferry are during the warmer months so you can stand outside. And if you can, try to time your ferry ride so it's daylight on your way over to Staten Island and the sun is setting on your ride back to Manhattan!

The High Line

This mile-long park in Chelsea is built on an abandoned railroad and is a must-see if you visit New York in the Spring, Summer, or Fall. You get an amazing view of the Hudson River, Chelsea, and lots of art along the way.

The Museum of Modern Art on a Friday night

If you enjoy visiting museums, you have to add the MoMA to your list. On Friday nights, everyone gets in for free and you can spend hours looking at the impressive exhibits featuring Van Gogh, Matisse, Andy Warhol, and Jackson Pollack!

The Brooklyn Bridge

This is becoming a major NYC attraction and for good reason! You get an amazing view of the Manhattan skyline, the river, Brooklyn, and the Statue of Liberty. I would recommend walking the Brooklyn Bridge and then walking back on the nearby Manhattan Bridge...hardly any tourists, same great view of Manhattan, and a view of the Brooklyn Bridge too!

Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market is one of my favourite places to visit in New York City and is exciting all year round. It's full of cool shops, restaurants, and a flea market. And if you're in New York on the first Friday night of the month, you can see a free concert featuring some local artists!

The American Museum of Natural History

While the website and signs say there's a ticket price, if you read the fine print, you'll see that it's just a recommended price. If you wait in the longer line to get a ticket from a counter rather than an automated kiosk, you can pay whatever price you'd like for tickets: $10, $3, or absolutely nothing! You might get some disappointed looks, but if that doesn't bother you, take your free ticket and explore the museum that has awesome exhibits about animals, dinosaurs, prehistoric people, and lots more!

Just walk around, get lost, people watch, and explore!

I think the best way to really experience a city is to wander around aimlessly observing all the interesting sights and people that you come across. My favourite places to explore and people watch: Soho and Greenwich Village.

Now that it's starting to get warmer, I'll be able to explore New York a lot more over the next few months! I know of so many more free things to do in the city that I can't wait to check out and post about :)

*all photos in this post are my own except the exterior shots of the MoMA and the Natural History Museum

Saturday, March 21, 2015

My Favourite Beauty Products for Spring 2015

Working in the beauty industry, I like to try out as many different beauty products as I can. I've been really lucky to get some products free or discounted from work and have been able to try a lot of different products over the past several months. Recently, I've discovered (or rediscovered) some products that I just can't get enough of! These are my favourite beauty products going into Spring 2015:

Kat Von D Tattoo Liner

I got a Sephora gift card in a Christmas Yankee Swap and knew I wanted to use it on a new liquid eyeliner. I researched a couple different kinds and decided to try out the Kat Von D Tattoo Liner. It's the perfect eyeliner, and I'm so glad I decided to give it a try! I got the shade "Trooper" which is a basic black. The eyeliner's formula goes on smooth and stays on so well. And what really set this particular eyeliner apart for me is the fact that the tip is a tiny brush instead of foam like most liquid eyeliners. The brush makes it so much easier to draw a perfect line and you can make a thinner line than you could with a foam tip. I have especially loved doing winged eyeliner with this product, and I would 100% recommend it!

Maybelline Lash Sensational mascara

This mascara just came out at the beginning of the year and after hearing some great things about it, I decided to buy it in my company's store. After trying it for the first time I was amazed by how great it looked, and it immediately went right into my everyday makeup bag. The shape of the brush really separates your lashes so they don't clump together, and it makes them look so long! My eyes looked so much brighter with this mascara, and I have worn it almost every single day since I bought it!

Urban Decay Naked 2 Palette

If you've tried any Urban Decay eye shadows, you will know just how amazing they are. I bought this palette discounted from my company store a couple months ago and have used it so much already. There are 12 eye shadows ranging from neutral tan shades to darker browns to black. There is a mix of both shimmery and matte shadows and you can create SO many different looks with them! The shadows are amazing quality and stay on so well throughout the day, especially if you use the Urban Decay eyeshadow primer too. If you want to read more about this palette, I did an entire post about it a couple months ago :)

Garnier Beach Chic Texturizing Spray

I was on the hunt for a good texturizing spray for a while and decided to try this one out. I really like the smell, and it works better for me than other texturizing sprays that I've tried! My natural hair is completely straight and smooth, but this spray has helped bring some more texture and style to my hair. On days I want a different look, I'll spray this into my wet hair, blow dry it, and then put it in a bun while I do my makeup and finish getting ready. When I take the bun out and spray my hair with a little hairspray, it has beachy-looking waves! Usually when I do this my hair stays wavy for about a half hour before looking totally straight again, but the Beach Chic spray has helped it stay wavy for at least a couple hours...really impressive for my hair!

Essie "In the Cab-ana"

I think this Essie shade was new this year, and when I first saw it I immediately fell in love. It's such a beautiful bright turquoise blue shade and is so perfect for Spring and Summer! I'm a big fan of Essie nail polishes, and I know this will be one of my go-tos through the next two seasons!

L'Oréal Eye Defense eye cream

I have always struggled with inherited dark under-eye circles (thanks Daddy!) and am always on the hunt for different products to make my dark circles look a little better. Lately I've been using the L'Oréal Eye Defense eye cream, and I have definitely noticed a difference in my eyes! The skin around my eyes is firmer, looks smoother, and the fine lines are less noticeable. I also feel like I look less tired than I usually do! This eye cream definitely gets my approval!

Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate

Next up is another skincare product. I tried this for the first time over the Summer and loved it. But during the Winter when my skin got more dry I tended to use a stronger moisturiser instead. The past month or so, I've gone back to using my Midnight Recovery religiously and have noticed how great my skin is looking! I use two or three drops of the serum at night, and by the time I wake up, my skin always looks so bright, glowing, and well-rested. If you find that your skin gets dull looking from lack of sleep, you have to try out this product! It's amazing!

Tanya Burr Lip Gloss in "Picnic in the Park"

I have been a big fan of Tanya Burr's YouTube channel and blog for a while now, and when I was in London this past October I was so excited to buy one of her lip glosses. I got the shade "Picnic in the Park" and think it is so perfect for Spring! It's a really pretty bright pink shade and the formula stays on really well. I'm a big fan of lip glosses in the warmer months because I feel like they can look more fresh and dewy than matte lipsticks. I know this will be one of my go-to lip products this Spring and Summer!

Maybelline Dream Fresh BB cream

And my final product is the Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Cream. I typically use this on days that I don't want to do a full face of makeup or if I'm in a rush and don't have time for foundation. I put it on with my hands like I would with moisturiser. It definitely doesn't have as much coverage as my foundation does, but if I put the BB Cream on and then top it with some concealer in spots, it looks really good! Since it's so moisturising, it's also great to use on days when my skin is feeling dry or sensitive because it doesn't dry it out the way foundation can. BB Cream just feels so much lighter than foundation, so I think as it starts getting hot and humid this Spring and Summer, this will become my go-to face product.

We've finally started getting some warm weather in NYC! (Well, we did for about a week, but it snowed again yesterday.) I'm so excited for it to start feeling like Spring, because this Winter has been so cold and brutal! And when it's so cold, I tend to just hang out at home watching Netflix and drinking hot chocolate to stay warm. But now that it's getting warmer, I'll finally be able to get back to exploring my city as much as possible! I will definitely be posting lots more about NYC over the next few months... :)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

City Spotlight: Seattle

In the Summer of 2013 I interned in the Seattle area, so I got to know the city pretty well. The entire suburban area reminded me so much of the Boston South Shore where I'm from, except it's even nicer! I've heard Washington referred to as "New England on steroids" and I couldn't agree more! It has the same feel as New England with the coastal towns but it is so much greener, the trees are about ten times taller, the mountain ranges are bigger, and the people are even friendlier. The entire area has such a laid-back vibe, which I loved. And don't believe all the rumours you hear about Seattle having awful weather! Yes, it does rain a lot in the Fall, Winter, and Spring, but once Summer arrives, it is beautiful and sunny almost every day. The best part about Summer in the Pacific Northwest is that there is hardly any humidity, so the hot weather actually feels nice! And even though it's pretty rainy the rest of the year, it's just a constant drizzle rather than a downpour, and it doesn't get too cold. Amazingly, the annual rainfall in Seattle is actually lower than it is in most major cities in the US! During my Summer in Seattle, I developed a big love for the city, and I could definitely see myself living there one day. If you go to Seattle, these are the highlights of the city that you definitely need to check out:

The Space Needle

First up is the most iconic landmark in Seattle that you have definitely heard of before. The Space Needle was built in 1962 and was once the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River, which is pretty impressive. The Space Needle is located in a central area of Seattle and has amazing views of the city, the Puget Sound, and the several mountain ranges that surround the area. There are elevators to take you up to the top of the Needle and once you are up there, you can spend as long as you like walking outside on the observation deck taking in the view. You can even have a meal or glass of beer or wine on top of the Needle! While I would highly recommend venturing to the top of the Space Needle, tickets are about $20. So if you don't want to spend money, you can get an amazing view of the Space Needle from many parts of the city.

Pike Place Market

The next must-see place in Seattle is the famous Pike Place Market. If you have been to some other markets like Chelsea Market in NYC or Borough Market in London you may have a picture in your mind of what Pike Place Market is like. False! Pike Place Market is so enormous and has way more shops and stands than any other market I've ever been to! Any food you could possibly want, you can find in Pike Place Market: Korean, French, Italian, Greek, Turkish, specialty food imported from Europe and Asia, and anything else you could think of. And since Seattle is right on the water, of course there is plenty of fresh fish! Many of the stands offer free samples, and there are lots of benches overlooking the bay so it's a perfect place to get lunch or a snack. And in addition to food, you can buy fresh flowers, spices, and handmade crafts. Walking through Pike Place Market is so fun and could keep you occupied for hours!

The Elliott Bay Waterfront and Great Wheel

During the Summer, I don't think there's anywhere more beautiful than the Elliott Bay waterfront in Seattle. The waterfront is lined with so many different attractions like Pike Place Market, the Seattle Aquarium, restaurants, shops, the original Starbucks, and something new to the Seattle skyline: the Great Wheel. The Great Wheel was opened less than three years ago and is the only wheel of its kind to be built over water in North America! You stand in pods on the wheel, similar to the London Eye, and you get an amazing view of the city and the bay. Whether you decide to ride the Great Wheel or just view it from below, it is very cool to see and the waterfront area is definitely the place to be when it's warm and sunny out.


In general, Seattle is a pretty artistic city, but the section that is by far the most artsy is Fremont. Fremont is a neighbourhood in northern Seattle near the University of Washington and Lake Union. Fremont is full of quirky and unusual things, but that's what makes it so interesting! In addition to the many eclectic shops, restaurants, and cafes in the area, there is definitely not a shortage of art. Probably the most famous sculpture is the Fremont Troll. I recognised it from one of my favourite movies 10 Things I Hate About You and was excited to see it in person. There are also sculptures of Vladimir Lenin and a large rocket. The residents of Fremont like to refer to it as the "Center of the Universe" and there's even a sign that says so! And the unofficial motto of the neighbourhood is "Freedom to be peculiar", which I must say is pretty perfect! Fremont is such a cool, unique area and definitely a must-see if you take a trip to Seattle.

Gas Works Park

Located within Fremont, Gas Works Park is right on Lake Union and was one of my favourite places to visit in Seattle. The park was once the home of a gasification plant, and while the company is no longer operating, the equipment from the plant is still standing. It's strange but so interesting at the same time, and the view from Gas Works Park is really amazing! Looking out over Lake Union, you can see the Space Needle and downtown Seattle. In the Summer, there are lots of sailboats in the lake and even sea planes that fly in and land on the water! There's lots of grassy space, so the park is the perfect spot to meet up with friends or go to relax. And if you've seen 10 Things I Hate About You, you will recognise the park from the famous paintballing scene!

Kerry Park

Probably the only place in Seattle that could rival the views from Gas Works Park is Kerry Park. Seattle is a city of hills, and on one of the tallest hills is the Queen Anne section of Seattle. Located in Queen Anne is Kerry Park, which is on the small side, but has views that are brreathtaking. Whether you visit Kerry Park during the day or night, you will have amazing views of downtown Seattle, the Space Needle, and Mount Rainier. Kerry Park is a must-see if you are in Seattle!

The Monorail

The monorail in Seattle has been around for as long as the Space Needle and has become a pretty iconic part of the city. There are only two monorail stops, but it's a fun way to travel between downtown and the Space Needle. Tickets to ride the monorail are super cheap and you get a nice view of the city while you ride, so it's something cool to add to your Seattle to-do list!

Chihuly Garden

Located right next to the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden is an amazing collection of glass sculptures. The exhibit is made of three parts: the Garden, the Glasshouse, and the Interior Exhibits, and is basically a botanical garden made completely out of colourful glass. They offer tours of the Chihuly Garden and even a morning yoga class! And if you are visiting the Space Needle as well, you can get a joint ticket for the two attractions to save some money!

Mount Rainier

Driving around the Seattle area on a sunny day, you are almost always guaranteed a cool view of Mount Rainier, the active volcano that is located about 50 miles from Seattle. Mount Rainier is the biggest mountain in the continental US and is such an impressive sight. Mount Rainier National Park has hundreds of miles of hiking trails, and if you are truly adventurous you can even make the three-day journey up the glaciers of the volcano to its summit. I can't say I tried this, and you definitely shouldn't attempt to make the trek up Mount Rainier unless you are an experienced rock climber!

I loved Seattle and could definitely see myself living there someday. It's a really cool city and much smaller and more laid-back than NYC where I'm currently living, but is still full of exciting things to do. Seattle's a very modern city but also on the quirky side, which I find really interesting! If you have the opportunity to visit Seattle, you would be crazy to pass it up! If you've been to Seattle, leave a comment telling me what your favourite part of the city is, and if you haven't been to Seattle let me know what part of the city you would most like to see!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Mother/Daughter Weekend in NYC

Last weekend, my mom came to NYC for a few days to spend time with me, see a Broadway show, and do lots of other fun things! I don't plan on living in the Northeast long-term, but at this point in my life, it's so great living close enough to home that my family can visit me for a weekend, or I can head home to Boston for a few days!

The weekend started off on Thursday when I met my mom at Port Authority Bus Station. After meeting up with her, we went to a nearby Thai restaurant where I got delicious pad thai! When we finished our late lunch, we headed back to my apartment to relax and watch some tv. We found Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist on tv which I was so happy about! I had been wanting to re-watch that movie for so long, especially after we saw Michael Cera in a Broadway show back in November (and met him)!

The next day was full of fun things! First we took the subway to Soho and went into a bunch of different shops. There were some second-hand stores that were full of nice things and a shabby chic furniture store that was completely my style. I used to get so bored by interior design, but as I've gotten older I've developed a love for it!

Once we shopped enough to work up an appetite, we walked over to Chelsea Market. My mom had never been there, so I had fun showing her all the cool shops, restaurants, and food stands. For lunch, we decided to get a chicken pesto crêpe to split. We watched our crêpe being made (and lots of other people's crêpes that looked amazing), and it reminded me of being in France. It was so delicious, and I think I'll have to visit that place again to try a dessert crêpe sometime! After walking around and checking out a bunch of the shops (Italian cooking supplies, a wine shop, and an artsy flea market), we went to a bakery called Eleni's for cookies. We got chocolate with white chocolate chips, and they were so good!

getting ready to eat our delicious crêpe!
Next we headed up to Midtown to check out the Museum of Modern Art. I haven't been to many museums since I've lived in New York, so we decided to take advantage. And the best part was that the MoMA is free on Friday nights! We walked around and saw all the exhibits. I think my favourite artists we saw were Van Gogh and Andy Warhol. I recognised a bunch of the art and had a great time walking through and taking it all in. I know there are a bunch of free museums in NYC, so I defintiely want to try and visit some more while I'm living here.
posing with a pair of underwear...I mean, "art" ;)

After the MoMA, we went to a Brazilian restaurant for drinks and some food. We got margaritas and a dish with chicken, beef, sausage, and pineapple. The food was really good but the drinks were just average and really overpriced, so I don't think we'll be going back to that restaurant!

The next day, we took the subway up to Lexington on the Upper East Side. We did some shopping and got lunch at a little cafe. I haven't been up to that area too much but I really liked it! There were so many cute restaurants and cafes and it almost felt like we were in Paris. After spending some time on Lexington, we went down to Times Square to get some Broadway tickets. We got tickets to see If/Then starring Idina Menzel. We had tried seeing it once before but Idina wasn't in that day, so we didn't end up going. But it's about to end its run so we knew we had to see it while we still could! Before the show, we got some Italian dinner from Tony's near Times Square and then got a piece of red velvet cake, hot chocolate, and coffee from Junior's. Both were delicious, and then it was time for the show! If/Then was so amazing, and if you want to read about it in more detail, I wrote another post all about the show recently :)

On Sunday, we headed into Chelsea again. We went to a restaurant called Westville for brunch that was really cool, and the food was awesome! My mom got a Greek salad with chicken, I got a kale salad with poached eggs, bacon, and avocado, and we got sweet potato fries to share. I haven't been out for brunch quite enough since living in New York, but I definitely want to experience more restaurants like that one. After brunch, we walked all around Chelsea some more and then headed south through the West Village, Soho, and Little Italy. I really liked the areas we walked through because they were way less crowded and overwhelming than the Midtown area where I work. For dinner, we went to a little Italian restaurant for pasta and then walked around a little more before heading home.

a cool pop-up store in Chelsea

The next day, I had to work but was able to meet up with my mom for one more lunch before she went home. It was such a great weekend, and I can't wait for her to come visit again. She just booked her bus to come again in April for a few days, and before that I'm going home for Easter weekend which I am so excited about! It was a great weekend and I was glad we were able to check out some different parts of NYC that we haven't experienced before!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

My Favourite NYC Neighbourhood: Chelsea

I have been living in New York City for exactly five months now, so I have had lots of time to explore the different parts of the city. While there are a lot of sections of New York that I really like, in my opinion nothing can compare to Chelsea. Chelsea is an artsy neighbourhood in western Manhattan near the West Village, Midtown, and the Hudson River, so it's in a really perfect location. Every neighbourhood in New York seems to have its own energy and personality, and these are the reasons why Chelsea is a neighbourhood that I keep returning to:

1. Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market is HUGE and full of every type of food you can imagine. There are sit-down restaurants, food stands, noodle bars, a crêpe bar, bakeries...pretty much anything you could want! I have eaten at a few places in Chelsea Market and been into a bunch of the shops, and I have loved every single one. There's a wine shop that does wine tastings, and you can even buy a bottle of wine and drink it at one of the many tables in the market. Something else that Chelsea Market offers (that I haven't experienced yet, but definitely want to) is live music on the first Friday of every month. They feature small local artists, and it seems like a great time. In the colder months, Chelsea Market is full of people, but the Summer is when it really comes alive!

2. the High Line

You've probably heard of the High Line in NYC. It has become really popular over the past few years and for good reason. It is a mile-long park on top of an old abandoned railroad in Chelsea. The historical aspect of the High Line is so cool, and the views from it are really amazing. You can get a good feel for the Chelsea area, and there are really nice views of the Hudson River. There are beautiful plants and flowers all along the park, and it's the perfect place to relax with some friends. And since Chelsea is so artsy, there's lots of artwork along the way for you to look at! Of course the best times to walk the High Line are in the warmer months, and if you want to beat the crowds, it's worth it to go early in the morning.

3. the huge variety of restaurants

New York City is probably one of the most diverse cities in the world when it comes to food, and Chelsea is no exception to that. Any type of food you could possibly crave, you can find in Chelsea. I've been to so many great hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Chelsea that have really impressed me. If you are hoping for a true New York experience, I would recommend getting brunch at one of the small, quaint restaurants in the neighbourhood. My mom and I got brunch at a restaurant called Westville last time she visited, and the food was so amazing!

4. the cool, eclectic shops

Almost any street you walk down in Chelsea, you are bound to come across a bunch of little shops. There are some chain stores of course, but there are so many independently-owned shops too. One shop that I recently discovered in Chelsea is Story. It's a pop-up store that changes its theme a couple times a year. Right now, their theme is "Your Story" where everything is really interactive and there are different sections of the store with products tailored to people with different interests. It's such a cool idea for a store, and I'm definitely planning to check it out some more to see what their future themes will be!

5. It's modern and historical at the same time.

You can be walking through Chelsea and be surrounded by modern skyscrapers. Then you can turn the corner and be on a side street with old-looking buildings and cobblestone streets. It's so cool and always keeps things interesting.

6. It's a bustling area of the city but way less overwhelming than Midtown and downtown!

Some parts of Chelsea, like Chelsea Market and the High Line, are full of people. But if you're looking to escape the crowds, Chelsea is the perfect area to wander down side streets where you can find some nice quaint and quiet sections of the neighbourhood. I doubt it comes as a surprise, but living in New York with almost 9 million other people can get really overwhelming at times, so it's nice to escape to more peaceful areas of the city from time to time!