Monthly Archives: October 2013

Hotel Week NYC Offers Room Rates Starting at $100

It can be cold outside in January. Here’s another good reason for staying indoors that month — and saving a great deal of money. Book a room at a stylish New York City hotel, starting at a rate of $100.

From January 3 through 12, the third annual Hotel Week NYC will offer specialty savings for stays at nearly 30 different Manhattan properties. This selection ranges from budget accommodations to posh lodging, with the latter charging normally up to $500 a night.

Hotel @Times Square lobby_horiz_0012_T

Source: nyma, the new york manhattan hotel


Source: Pod 39


Source: Cosmopolitan Hotel–TriBeCa

Rates of $100, $200 and $300 will be offered. Along with Midtown, locations will include SoHo, Chelsea, Flatiron, Murray Hill, Fashion District, Greenwich Village, and Tribeca.

Although January is a quiet time for visiting the Big Apple — particularly in the wake of the heavily visited holiday season — Hotel Week NYC provides an affordable option for staying in the city’s different neighborhoods. And why not start off the New Year right by do some exploring.

Plus, guests who choose to book a room during the earlier part of Hotel Week NYC can still catch some festive remnants of 2013. The Rockefeller Christmas Tree will remain up and lit for viewing until January 7. Ice skating still will be ongoing at the Rink at Rockefeller Center as well as at Bryant Park and Central Park.

hotelweekIf the temperatures get to be too much, step inside a museum like the Metropolitan Museum of Art or Museum of Natural History or inside a restaurant or café for a warm and filling meal. Even plan ahead for some time for theatrics by buying advanced tickets to a Broadway show.

Whether you’re a visitor looking to take advantage of vacation days carried over from 2013 or a resident seeking a staycation, Hotel Week NYC has a place for everyone and every interest.

2014 participants include these properties shown below. For a full list, visit this link.

Ace Hotel, Flatiron, Chelsea
Rate: $200 – Book Online or call 1 (212) 679-2222 and mention “Hotel Week”

Affinia Manhattan, Midtown
Rate: $100 – Go to and enter code HTWEEK or call 1 (866) 246-2203 and mention “Hotel Week”

Hotel Americano, Chelsea
Rate: $200 – Go to and enter code Hotel Week

nyma, the new york manhattan hotel, Herald Square
Rate: $100 – Call 1 (800) 567-7720 or 1 (212) 790-2710 and mention “Hotel Week”

Ramada New York/Eastside, Murray Hill
Rate: $100 – Call 1 (800) 567-7720 or 1 (212) 790-2710 and mention “Hotel Week”

The Hotel @ Times Square, Times Square
Rate: $100 – Call 1 (800) 567-7720 or 1 (212) 790-2710 and mention “Hotel Week”

Hotel Chandler, Flatiron
Rate: $200 – Go to or call 1 (866) 627 7847 or 1 (212) 889 6363 and mention “Hotel Week”

Cosmopolitan Hotel – TriBeCa, Tribeca
Rate: $100 – Go to and enter code HOTELWEEK or call 1 (212) 566-1900

The Jade Hotel Greenwich Village, Greenwich Village
Rate: $100 – Book Online or call 1 (212) 375-1300 and mention “Hotel Week”

The James New York, SoHo
Rate: $300 – Go to  or call 1 (888) 526-3778 and mention “Hotel Week”

Pod 39, Midtown East, Murray Hill and Times Square
Rate: $100 – Call 1 (212) 865-5700 and mention “Hotel Week”

Go on a Dishcrawl of SoNo, Connecticut

Imagine a pub crawl that centers on eating instead of drinking. That’s the main course for Dishcrawl, a digital start up founded in 2010 in San Francisco that schedules specialty food experiences. These nationwide foodie crawls are currently being served in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and even Connecticut’s Fairfield County region.

400831_10151055106943099_179744370_nIn Fairfield County, a Dishcrawl around South Norwalk is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 20, at 7 p.m. Nicknamed “SoNo,” this section of the City of Norwalk has a happening dining and nightlife scene.

“The purpose of this communal gathering is to bring people together over food and to highlight the best restaurants in the area,” said Jesse Leeds-Grant, Dishcrawl’s Fairfield County ambassador. This evening of food and footsteps will be quite filling.

general2In setting up the itineraries for all of Dishcrawl Fairfield County, Leeds-Grant handles every task with preparations, from selecting the locations to initiating customized menus.

For each Dishcrawl, Leeds-Grant picks four restaurants to go to and dine in. “I try to choose restaurants that embrace the community and have a common love of the ‘foodie scene.’”

Leeds-Grant also is the guide for each crawl, leading guests from one establishment to the other.

IMG_9836Dishcrawl Fairfield County had its inaugural event in May, crawling along Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich. The Fairfield County happenings take place about once a month. Other Dishcrawls have jaunted through Old Greenwich, Stamford, and New Canaan.

Along with varying locations, each Dishcrawl involves different tastes. Once the participating restaurants are set, Leeds-Grant works with owners and chefs to create a specialty menu with unique flavors.

Tickets for the November 20 Fairfield County Dishcrawl in SoNo are priced at $45 each. Hurry; they go fast. They can be purchased at

An Evening at The Explorers Club with Kensington Tours

On Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to visit The Explorers Club, an elite yet eye-opening venue in New York City that has been the headquarters for this organization of world explorers since 1904. Here, I got to meet and learn more about a different group of explorers, so to speak, that Kensington Tours has brought together to kick off its latest venture.

For Kensington’s “Explorers-in-Residence” series, each explorer will serve as the main guides for specialty, small group tours whose itineraries mix in their expertise with once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

photo-22photo-13 photo-12This team includes celebrated Fellows of the Royal Geographical Society and Explorers Club, television hosts and well-renowned researchers, among others. Here are some of them:

– Jeff Fuchs, an expert in indigenous mountain culture, will lead “China & The Tea Horse Road,” which follows the legendary Silk Road. Fuchs spent the last decade living in China. He will apply his expertise in having trekked this route, along with his research on oral histories and his fondness for tea.

– Storm chaser and Discovery Channel host George Kourounis will direct “Iceland: Land of Ice, Fire, & Northern Lights,” an eight-day tour of country’s natural wonders. Nicknamed the “Modern Day Indiana Jones,” Kourounis will take guests along the Golden Circle and will top off his tour with a viewing of the Northern Lights.

– Lee Abbamonte, who is the youngest American to visit every country on Earth, will be focusing on his other pursuit: sports. He will be leading a pilgrimage to Augusta for an up-close view at The Masters Golf Tournament. Other plans for him include jaunts to Brazil for the World Cup and to Monaco for the Grand Prix.

In between chatting with these explorers, I walked around different floors — and, in a sense, the footsteps of past and present members — inside The Explorers Club. Being transported back to an era of high status and opulence, this Upper East Side townhouse is graced with fireplaces and other Victorian era furnishings. Objects used and artifacts found in once hard-to-reach destinations are all around, hung up on mantles and walls or stored in glass cases.

photo-16photo-18 photo-17photo-23Feeling a bit adventurous myself, I headed up to the fifth floor to peak inside the Trophy Room, a members’ only area. Inside this room, other unique finds are stored. The floor’s hallway is a showplace of black and white photographs of explorer members, past and present. I recognized a few faces: astronauts John Glenn and Scott Carpenter, who recently passed away, and film director James Cameron.

Downstairs, guests were able to have a taste of adventure. In what could be referred to as “edible exploration,” certain hors d’oeuvres featured a specific item that is eaten in certain parts of the world – insects! Choices were scorpions, mealworms and crickets served on crackers or endives. And a lovely second-level open patio offered a quiet space to sip on my drink and relax after what I had just tried.


In all, the evening gave me a peek into an elite group of explorers, and the opportunity to meet those who still continue on today.

Along for the Ride: A Tour of Citi Bike Warehouse

Since its launch in May, Citi Bike has been getting a lot of hype and use on New York City streets. This past weekend, the bicycle sharing program participated in the openhouseny series through holding tours of its headquarters in Brooklyn next to the Gowanus Expressway.


On Saturday, Citi Bike’s Office Manager Justin Salsberg led my group around this warehouse on 3rd Avenue and 52nd Street. Taking us up and down levels and through the entire facility, Salsberg showed us every aspect of Citi Bike’s operations. Pretty much, it’s a round-the-clock command center.

The upper level houses customer service representatives and dispatch operators, who both are busy 24/7. Citi Bike staffers receive about 1,500 calls daily, according to Salsberg, with inquiries often involving “how-to” questions on even, yes, how to ride a bike. Emails are another story, as Salsberg mentioned that about 350 email responses are sent per day.

photo(65) photo(64) photo(63) photo(59)With dispatch, a logistics team monitors station needs, such as when to refill stations and tracking the rental status of 6,000 bicycles currently on the street. Staff members also interact with their colleagues at Alta Planning + Design, Citi Bike’s parent company in Portland, Oregon.

Also up in the office level, the program’s first three bicycles are on display. Aside from marking the program’s official launch, these initial bikes signify some of the challenges faced in starting off its ride.

photo(61) photo(58)Based at its Gowanus location for half this year, Citi Bike’s HQ originally was in the Brooklyn Navy Yard right up before Hurricane Sandy hit in late October 2012. Due to severe storm damage, with the loss of almost its entire fleet of 2,000 bicycles, Citi Bike staff then relocated and launched from Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood. Only these three bikes escaped with no severe mash-ups.

Speaking of bikes, Citi Bike’s wheels are pre-made in Montreal, with some touch-ups added on. Each Citi Bike weighs about 42 and ½ pounds, with Salsberg describing the model as “street cruiser heavy,” the weight also acts as a theft deterrent and fits in mind with the bike sharing program as being used solely to get a rider “from Point A to Point B.” Additions for the NYC bikes include LED blinking lights on the rear tire and, on the front, a protective rack that consists of a half-open side basket with bungee cords can hold in items such as a bag or a briefcase.


The reason why there’s no full basket is due to safety reasons, such as riders who might think of a basket as an extra seat and try to place their young children in it. It also deters any garbage from being left with the bike.

Heading back downstairs, the lower level of the warehouse is a bike storage and repair station area. A good portion of space is for bike stacking, as Citi Bikes are lined up after being repaired for reuse at various stations through Manhattan and Brooklyn. Parked vans are used for loading and delivering bikes ready to go. When asked station region was the busiest, Salsberg quickly answered Midtown, particularly around Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal.

photo(57) photo(56)photo(57)On one side, there is a repair room called Station Tech, where maintenance on station parts such as docking ports and touchscreen kiosks take place here. Literally, the room is stocked with various pieces of hardware.

photo(53) photo(52) photo(51) photo(50)Another large space down here is a body shop where close to 20 mechanics work rotating shifts in either the morning, afternoon or evening to repair close to 10 bikes a day. Of course, tires get damaged by parts getting stuck in them, and there’s a container called Big Apple Shrapnel showcasing these bits and piece. Vandalism is the biggest repair issue, with most of it having to do with removing stickers.

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Salsberg also shared some tips and side stories. As Citi Bikes can go missing or get stolen, despite a tracking system and a hefty fee, DOT, NYPD and the general public have been helpful in calling in about spotting bikes out of their normal places. One interesting find was of a Citi Bike hanging from a tree in Harlem.

And for those riders who face a dilemma called the “biker bump”  – where a CitiBike is locked in but not correctly – Salsberg gave this answer. Lift the bike by both the front handle and back seat, and put it through in a motion that’s like you’re shoveling. It will click in.

Ladies, Get Set for Inaugural Women’s Travel Fest

Ladies, want to meet and learn from like-minded female travelers? Itching to hit the road but need a push on doing so? Then make a date to attend next year’s inaugural Women’s Travel Fest.
Created by Go! Girl Guides, this one-day conference on Saturday, March 8 in New York City is a fit for any woman who wants to travel but needs a self-confidence boost. The event schedule will feature discussions on how to handle common concerns that females often face on the road, directly by women that have experienced them. And these experts can provide you with sound advice.
Discussion panels will focus on specific travel needs, ranging from going solo to health/safety issues and LGBT and voluntourism.
WTF jump
As each lecture will be led by an incredible woman, so far for me two offerings really stand out. First, one of the main speakers is Sarah Shourd, an author and activist who spent 410 days in solitary confinement as a political hostage in Iran. The second highlight is a planned talk on a women’s “how-to” for traveling through the Middle East and Africa, as these places are often “dream trips.”
In addition to these talks, a travel marketplace will feature different vendors and giveaways. Lunch is included in the admission price, and the day ends with a festive happy hour!
Hours for the Women’s Travel Fest will be from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Angel Orensanz Foundation for Contemporary Art at 172 Norfolk Street, near E. Houston Street in New York City.
Early-bird tickets go on sale tomorrow. For ticket prices and more information visit this link.

Day Tripping at EscapeMaker’s Local Food & Travel Expo

This past Saturday, EscapeMaker, a travel website for day tripping, presented its third annual Local Food & Travel Expo inside Brooklyn Borough Hall. In keep with its focus on getaways, the expo showcased attractions in or connected to New York State, Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. And Brooklyn also had a big part.

photoHosted by Brooklyn Tourism, Brooklyn’s rising locavore scene took center stage at this year’s expo. In also celebrating the rebirth of the city’s agricultural past, a “best of” cornucopia of companies offered samples to visitors.

Stinky Bklyn in Carroll Gardens had soft and hard cheeses on display. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que celebrated the opening of its Park Slope location with pulled pork. Kelso Beer Company in Clinton Hill served up two choices of brews while Williamsburg-based Brooklyn Winery poured tastings of its red and white labels. Right outside of Borough Hall, a small farmer’s market offered additional edibles for sale.

photo-9 photo-8 photo-7 photo-5Other Brooklyn-based outlets on hand included Edible Brooklyn, Allan’s Bakery, Coney Island’s Luna Park, Cacao Pietro, Urban Oyster Tours, and Brooklyn Museum.

While Brooklyn has much to offer visitors, EscapeMaker’s expo also recognized destinations within a day’s drive or train ride.

In heading upstate, the second level at Borough Hall centered on destinations outside of the city. New York State’s “Country Byways” encompasses a number of natural and historical attractions found in this region such as in the Finger Lakes and Greater Niagara. Howe Caverns Adventure Park offers hands-on activity, while town of LeRoy is known as the birthplace for Jell-O, invented there in 1897.

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From Pennsylvania, Brandywine Country Cooking School featured dishes from its classes. To further go on about food-related trips, Vermont is a good place to go for good eats, and not just maple or cheese. Visit Vermont tourism board featured the state’s “Dig In Vermont” campaign is flavored with specialty foods, wines, and microbrews. Outdoor pursuits and places to stay were also represented.


Apples are New York State staple, and, at the expo, the New York Apple Association had plenty to give away. Informational materials on apple picking and different varieties were also available. Of course, we need transportation to get to places. So, in keeping with that portion of travel, ZipCar, Metro-North and Amtrak handed out materials on promotions. For those who like to going on foot, the Appalachian Mountain Club gave presentations on backpacking and hiking.

Overall, the EscapeMaker Local Food & Travel Expo had good resources to encourage exploring – culinary pursuits, especially.

Connecticut PopShop Market Springs up in Fairfield

If a pop-up shop can make a business stand out, why not add in a few more merchants and turn the single venue into a one-stop shop?

Under a year ago, three stylish professionals from Fairfield, Connecticut decided to do just that by launching the PopShop Market. And the latest market will “pop up” in Fairfield this Saturday, October 5, at the Fairfield Theatre Company.

IMG_4793For their “pop up,” founders Andrea Espach (a graphic designer), Ashley Kane (a fashionista) and Kelly Scinto (an event planner) drew inspiration from open-air marketplaces in cities like London and Brooklyn. In keeping with the event’s “pop up” concept, the location is kept a secret until about a week or so before the scheduled date.

“The location is chosen based on where we feel the market’s theme would be represented best,” explained Scinto. For example, a “Back to School” inspired market happened at Yale in New Haven. This month’s PopShop Market is returning to Fairfield Theatre Company, following its stint there this past June.

IMG_4799Along with finalizing the site, Scinto and her business partners hold an equal say in who and what’s going in the marketplace. The showcase may be set up like a flea market yet with goods one might find at a trunk show.

Working in unison, all three ladies act as curators in selecting participating vendors by thoroughly doing their homework. They scour blogs and browse through Etsy shops to select locally-produced finds. Luckily for them, their work pile appears to be going down, as Scinto mentioned more vendors are now reaching out to them to inquire about future slots.

For Saturday’s PopShop Market, 50 sellers will tout antique and repurposed furniture, artwork, beauty products, jewelry, and clothing, all produced by artists, designers or merchants. To keep the younger set of shoppers busy, Hands on Pottery will hold a complimentary pottery painting station.

As browsers and buyers build up their appetites, the event will have a culinary mix of menu offerings. Edible options will include yes, pop-up restaurants. A collection of local-based food trucks will dish out mealtime servings throughout the day. For breakfast, Sugar and Olives in Norwalk, Connecticut will offer some tasty choices, and Deadly Grounds Coffee will be selling their wicked java. As the day goes on, Walrus + Carpenter, from neighboring Bridgeport, will be manning the “BarCar,” serving up signature cocktails and local craft beers. A mini-farmer’s market is also planned.

Admission to Saturday’s PopShop Market is free. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fairfield Theatre Company is located at 70 Sanford Street, off of the Post Road section of downtown Fairfield. Visit Try to make it down or, if not, have to wait until the next one comes up.