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NEW YORK CITY | The Travel Empire - Part 3


New York’s Trapeze School

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Flying trapeze lessons may not necessarily be something you think to put on your itinerary when you visit Manhattan, but through Trapeze School New York you can take full advantage of the city’s urban playground by spending a few hours learning and practicing the aerial art. The school has a unique outdoor location atop Pier 40, open May through October, which offers spectacular views overlooking the Hudson River. During colder months, there is an indoor facility in Midtown. Lessons are 2 hours, beginning with some brief instruction in technique and an overview of the facility’s safety mechanisms. Before long, you’ll be instructed to climb to the top of a platform, about 25 feet above the ground (add a few stories if you’re taking your lessons at the outdoor rooftop facility) where you’ll grab the trapeze bar with one outstretched hand while using the other to balance yourself between the platform and open-air. Your instructor will give the count, “1, 2, 3…hep” and you jump. Once the terror subsides or you channel the adrenaline, depending on your propensities, you’ll begin attempting a few basic maneuvers such as swinging hands-free by your legs and the back-flip dismount. If you are able to get those skills down, towards the end of the class you will have the option to attempt a catch with an accomplished trapeze artist. Class prices vary, generally ranging from $50 to $70, plus the one-time registration fee of $22.

NYC’s Speakeasy Guide

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“After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors is hereby prohibited” THE 18TH AMENDMENT, ratified January 16, 1919. The Prohibition Era in the United States stemmed out of the Temperance movement, which perceived that alcohol was the cause of many of society’s tribulations. Prohibition lasted thirteen years from 1920-1933, following the ratification of the 18th amendment. The Prohibition Era saw the rise of organized crime as the black market demand for bootleg liquor increased with the popularity of the speakeasy. As saloons were forced to close, a hidden, underground society for drinking developed. Hidden behind secret doors, in basements and attics, and disguised under the names of legitimate businesses, the patrons who knew the secret knock, password or had the right connections could gain access to one of these forbidden drinking dens. Prohibition and the 18th amendment were repealed on December 5, 1933, but the essence and culture of the Prohibition Era speakeasy can still be found around modern day New York City.

The Back Room: The entrance is only marked by a small sign reading ‘East Side Toy Company’ that will lead guests through a narrow alley bar. Beer comes in brown paper bags while liquor is served in tea cups. The bar infuses its own flavored vodkas and has an additional private room hidden behind a false door disguised as a bookcase at the back of the bar.

102 Norfolk Street between Delancey & Rivington

Death & Co.: Identifiable by the carving of the bar’s name into the sidewalk in front of an imposing wooden door, Death & Co. opens up into an elegantly lit, wood-paneled room lined with elegant suede banquettes to one side and a long, back-lit bar to the other. The cocktail list is conveniently broken up by alcohol and offers a diverse selection of drink choices regardless of what your alcohol of preference may be.

433 East 6th Street between 1st Avenue & Avenue A

Employees Only: Employees Only is hidden behind the windowed room of a fortune teller, the inside of the bar blocked by curtains from people passing on the street. This bar meticulously crafts classic cocktails and offers a full menu throughout the day as well as an exceptional late nite menu. Some of the creative cocktail creations include the Fraise Sauvage, gin shaken with wild strawberries and Tahitian vanilla, topped off with prosecco or the Amelia, vodka and St. Germain elderflower liqueur shaken with pureed blackberries and fresh lemon juice.

510 Hudson Street between Christopher Street & West 10th

Little Branch: Once through the entrance, descend down the steep staircase to access this drinking den. Attempt to grab one of the few coveted tables or elbow up to the tiny bar. The integrity and quality of your cocktail is the main focus here. Only the freshest ingredients are used in each drink and single over-sized ice chunks have taken the place of tradition cubes to ensure your drink is cold and never diluted by melting ice. If you can’t choose from the many drinks offered on the cocktail list, you can’t go wrong by testing the Bartender’s Choice, an impromptu concoction of your chosen ingredients.

20 7th Avenue at Leroy Street

PDT at Crif Dogs: Entrance is gained through a wooden phone booth with a false wall that will open to reveal the hidden speakeasy within the unassuming hot dog shop. The hostess will take your name and offer you a chance to wait for a spot at the bar or one of the few coveted tables, but those lucky enough to have the secret number can call ahead and make reservations. A limited Crif Dogs menu is available inside the bar.

113 St. Marks Place between 1st Avenue and Avenue A

The cocktails may be inspired by the 1900’s but the prices certainly are not reflective of the times. Expect cocktails to range from $12 -$20 at any modern day speakeasy.

NYC Cupcake Wars: Magnolia Bakery & Billy’s Bakery

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Magnolia Bakery: The famed, tiny West Village bakery is best known for its colorful cupcake offering, but also offers a large selection of cakes and traditional American deserts, such as ice box cake. The bakery has been featured in Sex and the City, Saturday Night Live and the Devil Wears Prada among others. Cupcakes are limited to twelve per person and expect long lines on the weekends. There is no seating inside the old-fashioned bakery so take your cupcakes across the street to the neighboring park.

401 Bleecker Street at 11th Street

Billy’s Bakery: This is the Chelsea outpost of a former original employee of Magnolia Bakery. This shop offers a similar nostalgic atmosphere of the American kitchen with old-fashioned recipes to match. Billy’s offers up his own version of the traditional cupcake without the long lines you will find at Magnolia.

184 9th Avenue between 21st & 22nd

NYC’s Dive Bars

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If you are searching for the perfect casual, no frills hangout then one of the city’s dive bars might be your safe haven from the growing popularity of the $15 cocktails and $8 beers gaining prominence in the city’s nightlife. Unguarded and generally unmarked doors provide entrance to dimly lit, laid back drinking dens where the featured drink is generally a PBR and a shot for $5. Beat up foosball tables, Jagermeister machines and well-played jukeboxes are the staples of these haunts. So gather your friends and enjoy a few rounds without having to take out a line of credit.

Max Fish: Come early as the small front room around the bar gets crowded on weekends or fight your way past the crowd to the back room, which offers seating around a graffiti covered pool table that makes you feel like you are hanging out in your friend’s basement.

178 Ludlow Street near Houston

Johnny’s Bar: One of few rare dive bars in the West Village, Johnny’s is marked by a simple outdoor neon sign reading “Bar.” Inside, this narrow bar offers little standing room, so come early to grab a coveted seat at the bar. If the eclectic mix of patrons in the bar don’t provide enough entertainment the jukebox is on the most varied in the city.

90 Greenwich Avenue at 12th Street

Welcome to the Johnson’s: Like an discarded time capsule from the 1970’s, this bar is a popular favorite on the Lower East Side. The inside of the bar, lined with faux wood paneling,  is furnished with a Pac-Man tabletop game, well-worn living room furniture and tiny black and white television playing movies on loop. Either embrace the living room feel or crowd around the pool table in the back, no one is going to care if you rest your PBR can on the table.

123 Rivington Street near Essex

Blue & Gold Tavern: Nothing fancy about this place, which is probably why mixed drinks have remained under $5. If you’re lucky you will snag one of the coveted tables around the perimeter of the bar, but more likely, you will be dealing with standing room only. Just try not to stake out a spot by the pool table because no matter how crowded the bar gets, there is usually a group who will still be defending their right to have a game.

79 E. 7th Street near 1st Avenue

Holiday Cocktail Lounge: The decor of this East Village landmark consists of decades old cigarette smoke stained walls and cracked wood furniture. It’s never really crowded so getting to the bar is not a problem. This dim haunt would be a more than suitable place to hunker down and drink through a job loss or bout of depression.

75 St. Marks Place between 1st & 2nd Avenue

Canstruction NYC-Annual Design Competition & Food Drive

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Embarking on its 18th year in New York City, Canstruction is an international design competition that challenges architects, engineers, contractors and students to design and build enormous, colorful sculptures entirely from cans of donated food. A unique event that incorporates design and art to raise public awareness for hunger in New York City, Canstruction fuels  the call for donations by creating a pop-up art gallery, where for a recommended canned food donation, visitors can view all of the design entries. Following the exhibition period, all of the canned food used in creating the sculptures is donated to City Harvest, the world’s first and New York’s largest food rescue organization. The annual event runs during November and December and is a great way to make a contribution while raising awareness and enjoying an event unique to the city during the holiday season.