A Coloradan’s Guide to Exploring NYC

Well, everyone, I made it to New York. It’s been quite a whirlwind of two weeks. I left my home of Colorado in the good ol’ western United States to settle down in the busiest, loudest, and down-right angriest cities in the country. Okay, angry is a little bit harsh. But really, how can you expect anyone who grew up smiling at literally everybody on the street to easily transition into an environment where people are hustling to the next task, eyes to the ground? “Good morning! Oh, okay, I’ll just continue talking to myself then. You take care now!” I’ll get used to it.

Despite the general disregard for the fellow human being I’ve been seeing on the daily, the past two weeks have been the greatest. There is so much going on here, and so much to explore. I live on campus on the Upper West Side, and Columbia University is an amazing place to learn and thrive. And, unlike in undergrad, where college was just something you did, not necessarily what you were driven to do, everyone wants to be here as much as I do. These are my people! In the past, I was in countless classes where I was the only weirdo sneaking a salad into class or sipping on a new flavor of kombucha. Now, I look around, and instead of monster drinks or some new variety of Fritos, they’re all eating apples! And drinking water! And munching on, wait for it… CELERY AND CARROT STICKS! I no longer feel like the odd one out. And it feels phenomenal.

And while I no longer have my mountains to explore, I get to explore a jungle of a different kind. One full of the newest fusions of culinary roots, the latest and greatest form of group and class exercise, and grocery store after grocery store teeming with delicious health noms (what I call, in a very cutesy manner, hard-to-find healthy brands of fairly unorthodox food). It’s almost too overwhelming. And, lucky for me, the work load for my masters classes (GULP) hasn’t gotten too heavy yet. Emphasis on the yet. So I’ve had all this time to explore everything. And figure out the NY Subway system. So, here’s the lowdown on what I’ve done so far…

The Eats (AKA, the noms):

Whole Foods, multiple locations. I have been to five different Whole Foods in two weeks. Clarification, I have been to Whole Foods many more times than that, just five different Whole Foods stores. Glad we have that down. Sounds weird, but I love exploring grocery stores in different cities, mostly because of the local food companies; and Whole Foods is GREAT at recognizing smaller, local companies in their stories, by use of a cute little sticker on the label. I’ve already located the best hummus I’ve ever had (Ithaca Cold Crafted. Dill lemon hummus. You’re welcome). I’m going to keep updating y’all on New York-specific noms I find.

As far as restaurants go, I’ve been trying to balance sit-down restaurants with fast-casual places. Mostly because restaurants in general are VEEERY expensive here, and dining out can get really painful. Lucky for me, I have a boyfriend who loves to explore food as much as I do, and is willing to try all the weird (to most people) vegetarian and vegan places I throw at him. For example…

Dirt Candy, Lower East Side. The Brooklyn Boy’s coworkers have been on his back trying to get him to take me here since we first started dating. It’s all vegan and vegetarian food, but plant-based, meaning the menu stars the vegetable and not a meat dish made vegetarian. They’ve recently changed their menu from a-la-carte to prix fixe, so we chose the “Vegetable Patch,” about five courses of their favorites. Dishes include: Korean fried broccoli (BB’s favorite), Portobello mousse (like a pate), grilled and smoke broccoli dogs (Yes. Hot dogs. WHAAT.) with kraut and barbecue sauce, carrot sliders (I looooooved them), brussels sprout tacos (BB did not like these), and an onion chocolate tart (yes, you read that correctly). Probably the most inventive, almost cerebral dining experience I’ve had. BB seemed skeptical. I’m going to do my best to drag him back there for another go. I loved it.

Dig Inn, multiple locations. I popped into Dig Inn on an afternoon when I was supposed to be back in my dorm to make lunch, but ended up roaming around the Upper East Side until 3 pm, when I was about to collapse from hunger. Dig Inn is a fast-casual chain of buildable, vegetable-forward bowls with a green or grain, and veggie sides on top. You have the option of adding a protein like tofu, chicken or meatballs, but I’d rather add another of their delicious and creative sides — like broccoli three ways, candy cane beets, or the phenomenal kale salad with cashews and shaved cauliflower (insert Homer Simpson hungry “GAAHHH” sound effect). I’m addicted to this place. I’m already a rewards member and have been there four or five times for lunch. There could be worse problems.

Greggory’s Coffee, multiple locations.What a fantastic cappuccino. Enough said. I have yet to venture to the window with the scrumptious-looking baked goods.

Pressed Juicery, multiple locations. To be fair, BB and I have been here before, but we love it. We don’t get the juice, we get the soft serve made out of the juice. Light and refreshing, and topped with fruit and other goodies, the freeze creations are to die for. They’re like sundaes, but healthy. The last one we had was matcha green juice with coconut, honey, and granola. YUM.

By Chloe, Flatiron District. BB and I have made this our place. I dragged him here because I had heard of this vegan heaven several times. Again, he was skeptical. Now, we go through extraordinary measures to make our way to this place. We’re working our way slowly through the menu, but so far we usually get the Guac Burger (made with black bean, sweet potato, and quinoa), I get the air-baked sweet potato fries (with beet ketchup, of course), and he gets the sweet potato-cashew mac and cheese (with shiitake bacon on top, his favorite). The espresso chocolate chip cookie is also delicious.

The Sweats:

I’ve already frequented Central Park a handful of times, which is surprisingly manageable and not terrifying. Despite the reputation, as long as I run during the day, I do not feel unsafe running in the park. There are always other runners, bikers, walkers, and the occasional park official, so I’m never alone when I choose to go for a run. From what I hear, NYC is a great place to sign up for races, whether of short or long distances, so that’s the next item on my to-do list.

In regards to indoor exercise… Yeah. Exercise classes in New York are expensive. There’s no getting around that. Fortunately, there are ways of finding your sweat-inducing niche without spending a huge wad of cash every time you want to get your heart rate up. Most studios have a first-time or student discount, usually 20-50% off the price of a single drop-in. There’s also this phenomenon called Class Pass. Depending on how many classes you want to take, you purchase credits which can then be applied to studios around the city for a drop in class. It’s a great way to dip your toe into the HUGE selection of exercise classes without committing to anything. Here’s what I’ve found so far:

SoulCycle, multiple locations. SoulCycle does not participate in Class Pass, but they do offer a buy-one-get-one for the first ride. I took the Brooklyn Boy with me. As much as I love spinning classes, it’s not his thing. Bummer. But to be honest, SoulCycle isn’t my favorite. There’s something about the cultish, celebrities-for-instructors atmosphere that I find unappealing. But I still love the sweat and the beat, so I’ll go on occasion.

PureBarre Columbus Circle. Ah, PureBarre. My mothership. In Colorado Springs, I had an unlimited package, since I loved the studio, loved the instructors, and loved the friendly price tag. Not so true here. I still love the workout, and getting my lift-tone-burn and tuck on, I probably won’t commit to a monthly package here. There’s too many another things to do around here, and I feel such a strong attachment to my home studio to latch on to another one.

FlyBarre, Upper East Side. How interesting. The sister studio of FlyWheel, FlyBarre has similar technique to PureBarre and Barre3, but uses resistance bands and a different ball. The movements are also, in my opinion, much simpler and more repetitive. During PureBarre classes, you can find yourself in positions where you think to yourself: “Since when has my leg been able to move in that way?? Do I even have a muscle there?… Are you sure this is safe?” Here, the motions are more akin to resistance training moves rather than ballet, but BOY do they burn. I was walking funny for a couple days, I must admit. I would probably do this one again.

Cyc Fitness, Hell’s Kitchen. I found my replacement for Cycology (my home base in CO). What I loved about Cycology was its emphasis on choreography and killer beats, and its fairly humble atmosphere with instructors willing to make personal connections with riders. I found that here. I lucked out by accidentally signing up for a Disco theme ride, consisting of THREE ABBA songs. I had a blast, thanks to the awesome people here. I’m considering making this my cycling studio, I loved it so much.

Corepower Yoga, Upper West Side. Since I’m back into long distance running, and I learned my lesson after my stress fracture last year, I’m determined to incorporate flexibility training into my routine. To be honest, I’ve never been a yoga person. Easy explanation? I’m a long-distance runner. I crave the completely-exhausting, waste-away feeling of a long run. Endorphins make me happy. Yoga? Ehhh, it doesn’t push me. I’m working on it. Yoga is so important for stretching out those perpetually sore leg muscles (I forgot my hamstrings and calves could feel this way); But CorePower is great because they have community classes during which you can bring your mat and get your downward dog on for freeeeee. I’ve only been to one class, but I think I’ll keep going.

The Arts:

It’s no surprise that New York is the center for all things art and culture. Being a student at Teachers College gives me free access to most of the museums in the city, so needless to say, I’ve been taking advantage of the perk. I still have a long way to go in terms of the arts in the city, but here are the highlights:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Upper East Side. I could wander among French Impressionist paintings for hours. I know it’s not particularly unique, but I’m a sucker for the Monet lilies and irises, for the Degas ballerinas, and the Renoir pointillism. And every time I stroll among the paintings, I can pick out a pair of people discussing them in the language which describes them best: French. Please excuse me while I have a moment.

The Natural Museum of History, Upper West Side. BB and I have been here a couple times, mostly because I love to see him nerd-out when we go see the big whale in the Ocean Hall. There are no words. Oh, and the dinosaurs. He loves the dinosaurs.

Carnegie Hall, Midtown. Apparently, I fell in the trap when, upon asking which train to take to get to Carnegie Hall to see Mahler’s 9th Symphony (“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”). BB’s snarky response was: “Lots of practice.” I had my first Carnegie Hall experience with my boyfriend, the biggest classical music nerd I’ve ever met. Half the fun was, like with the whale, watching his reactions while the Cleveland Symphony played Mahler. I think he may have cried a little (BB – sorry I just shared that. Love you!).

Broadway, Midtown. I majorly lucked out my coming to New York at the beginning of Broadway Week, a short time where tickets are buy-one-get-one and anticipation is at its highest. So, I made my push for taking the boy to Broadway. My choice? Hello, Dolly! Not the most modern of musicals, but I’m a sucker for the classics, especially when the lead is BERNADETTE PETERS. Repeat: Bernadette Peters. I was in another place entirely, practically swaying my hands back and forth when the chorus sang “Put on Your Sunday Clothes.” I had another moment. I think I made an impression though, because I catch him humming along to the song when he thinks I’m not listening. Who says men can’t like musicals?

As you’ve gathered, it’s been a jam-packed two weeks. I’m learning a lot, meeting new people, eating new and delicious food, and finding my happy places. The best part? I’ve got many more months to go. I’m excited for everything ahead, and everything I’ll see and do. And because it’s so fitting, and I can’t resist… “Out there, full of shine and full of sparkle… There’s lots of world out there.”

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