New York

Off the beaten path

    If you have ever visited Manhattan, you have most likely experienced the popular, touristy (and overcrowded) main points of interest. If you have seen the must-do's, including the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Central Park, 5th Avenue Shopping, the 9/11 Memorial, and are looking for new trails to blaze, this post can give you a sampling of some of the best things to do. New York City has such a wide variety of things to do and see, and this list provides some hidden gems I have discovered. Come rested, hungry, ready to shop, and ready to take in all the wonderful things this city has to offer!

    This blog post is designed to take to you "off the beaten path" and to offer some alternative places to see, experience, and dine. Between countless visits, and splitting my time between NYC and Nashville for the past 2 years, I have the perfect list of suggestions for you to experience at a decent price point. These suggestions give a slower paced, quaint, and more intimate experience of the greatest city in the world. As I always say, “Besides snow skiing, you can literally do anything you can name in NYC, all within walking distance or a quick train ride away”.  From trapeze school, to writing classes, boating, kayaking, enjoying a quiet spot in a park, experiencing a different cuisine every night of the week, or shopping in trendy shops, NYC has it all. These are a few of my personal favorites, and I hope you take the time to check them out, and enjoy them as much as I have!

    Our first stop is to caffeine up for ouradventure, at an amazing little coffee shop called Kaffe 1668. With 2 locations, one in SOHO and one in Tribeca, Kaffe 1668 has an amazing array of fresh juices, salads, sandwiches, and of course, the most delicious coffee in the city. They serve, what is, in my opinion, the best almond latte in the U.S. The atmosphere is quaint and cozy, and small fluffy wooden sheep decorate the walls. This is also a wonderful stoop for a mid morning snack, or a quick grab-and-go lunch.

    Next we will head North to Chelsea to stroll the High Line. This old abandoned railroad, turned art-deco decorated walking path, is a beautiful (and free) way to spend an afternoon. Start on the South end and work your way North, giving yourself a good hour to an hour and a half to enjoy the scenery. If you have time, stop and walk down below to Chelsea Market, where you can dine at one of many delicious restaurants and also check out their shops which include consignment clothing, art, gourmet foods, and souvenirs.

    If you are looking for a refreshing and healthy juice option in the city, check out Juice Press. With three locations, Tribeca, SOHO, and East Village, the Juice Press offers a rainbow assortment of different juices. My personal favorites are the Tumeric Power Blend, the OMG green juice, and if you are brave and needing an immune boost, the Ginger Fireball is a must (it completely cured a bad cold I had once). Its a quick and easy way to get in your vitamins and nutrients for the day, and their juices are organic, yummy, fresh, and made daily.

   For an amazing way to get in a great cardio workout, and work up a sweat while you are here, definitely catch a SOULCYCLE Class.  You can download the free SOULCYCLE app, and sign up for your class and bike here. SOUL CYCLE offers many locations throughout Manhattan. Be sure to sign up early, as most classes fill up. You will sweat like a maniac, burn off any anxieties, and find a power inside of you never knew you had. These classes are intense, but so rewarding physically, mentally, and emotionally. Its one of the best cardio workouts you will ever experience! My favorite location is the Tribeca location, and definitely sign up with Bevin as your instructor! She is rad and will kick your butt!! Each location provides showers, hair dryers, and toiletries if you need to get ready after a class. You will feel like Beyonce, and like you can take on the world after you are done!

   Fancy bike riding, and want a casual and scenic experience of Manhattan, definitely rent a bike from one of many CITI BIKE kiosks on the South End of town (Financial District or Tribeca) and ride North on the HUDSON RIVER BIKE PATH. This is a great way to get exercise, and see beautiful sky lines of the city. You can always dock your bike, walk around and check out any given area, then hop back on for the remainder of your ride. Bike rentals are for 12 or 24 hours, so you have plenty of time to leisurely ride and see the sights! This is a really fun way to explore the west side of the Manhattan, with amazing skyline views.

  If you are near the Financial District or the WTC, definitely check out Brookfield Place, a beautiful and upscale indoor mall, featuring designer stores such as Babesta, Lululemon, Salvatore Ferragamo, Warby Parker, and a brand new French Market, Le District, where you can purchase crepes, pastries, deli items, candies, groceries, and French noveltiesto go. On the second floor is a gourmet food court, with cuisine including BBQ, Cambodian, Japanese, and organic farm to table foods, and definitely don't forget to grab a Sprinkles cupcake on your way out.

  Choosing a restaurant in NYC can be overwhelming, so if you are looking for a great spot to have a nice solo dinner, with that special someone, or with a group of friends, the David Burke Kitchen is a great option. Located in the James Hotel, in the SOHO district, this restaurant is in a prime locationIf the weather is nice, as to be seated on their rooftop “Garden” patio, and enjoy the sunset over SOHO. This restaurant offers an edgy, colorful, calm atmosphere, and decadent food and drinks. Definitely try the lobster toast, “canned” vegetables, and for a main dish, the Goffle Road Farm Chicken Breast.

  After dinner, I highly suggest grabbing a nightcap at the Grand Banks oyster bar. Located on an old remodeled wooden schooner, this floating restaurant and cocktail bar (which does not set sail, but stays stationary at Pier 25) is truly an experience. Offering beautiful views of the skyline (especially at night), and providing a unique and fun atmosphere, it was voted one of the best outdoor restaurants in the city. The head chef uses herbs grown in hisherb garden, located on the front of the ship, and great detail is given to sustainability and proper harvesting of the oysters and food they serve.

    If beer is your muse, make sure to visit McSorley’s Old Ale House, a 162 year old pub located in NOHO. This is the oldest bar in Manhattan, serving only two kinds of beer: dark and light. It is cash only, and the floor is covered in sawdust, just like it was when it opened in 1854. This is an historical pub, with several US Presidents having imbibed here, including Abe Lincoln and JFK, and which first opened its doors to include women in the year 1970. It's a cozy little watering hole, with relics and artifacts decorating the pub from as early as when its doors first opened. If you love history and beer, this is a must do on your visit to Manhattan.

    Last but not least, a free and scenic excursion: walking the Brooklyn Bridge. As you take the 20-30 minute walk from one side to the other, you will get the best views of the skyline that the city has to offer. Take your time, and for a real treat, go at night, and see the Big Apple lit up in all its splendor. This is an iconic, historic,  and awe-inspiring attraction that comes highly recommended.

    These are a few of my favorite sights, shops, and eats in the Big Apple. If you ever go to NYC for an experience beyond the “main attractions”, I hope you will consider checking out some of my suggestions listed. They promise not to disappoint, and they offer a NYC experience “off the beaten path”. NYC is the greatest city on Earth, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!


Santa Fe



When I heard that I was headed to Santa Fe, New Mexico for a work trip I immediately thought of the desert, sand, adobe homes, heat, and temperate winter weather. I was surprised to find out that, in fact, Santa Fe was covered in a blanket of snow and our weekly highs would be in the 20’s. Surprised and excited, I pulled out my thickest winter coat, furry snow boots, and gloves. As we flew in to Albuquerque, the closest municipal airport to Santa Fe, I was delighted to see the ground covered in white. It seemed as if this was going to be the ideal winter destination. Santa Fe proved to be the perfect spot to enjoy some invigorating and crisp winter weather, view some beautiful historic sights, nosh on delicious “New Mexican” food, indulge in an afternoon at the spa, and find some keepsakes shopping at local art galleries, and at the Indian market.

Photo by: Rachel Ramsey - The plaza of downtown Santa Fe

The trek from the Albuquerque airport to Santa Fe was about an hour drive. We rode through endless picturesque miles of flat brown land, as far as the eye could see. I felt like I was taken back in time, back to the wild wild west. I could imagine covered wagons coming over the horizon, and battles between cowboys and Indians taking place.

 As we pulled into Santa Fe, pops of color began to dot the khaki colored scenery. Entering the downtown area, we drove down Canyon Road, a spot know for its multitude of fine art galleries, including sculptures, paintings, metal work,  jewelry, and everything in between. I began to notice a pattern on the facades of most homes and art galleries: vivid and colorful turquoise windows and doors, one after another.  According to the Native Americans, legend has it that the turquoise windows and doors are designed to keep evil spirits away.

Photo by: Rachel Ramsey- A local art gallery

 Photo by: Rachel Ramsey- The farolitos lining the roof

Photo by: Rachel Ramsey- The farolitos lining the roof

Driving around the city of Santa Fe, I noticed that the rooftops of most homes, churches, and businesses were lined and lit with luminaries. These white paper bags filled with sand and a candle, called “farolitos”, dotted the dark sky and gave a cozy and ambient glow to each building. Farolitos are used during the holiday season in the southwest, specifically the cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. They make a festive touch to each of the structures they adorn.

Santa Fe is a hidden gem, a quaint and lovely destination, filled with rich history, charm, friendly locals, beautiful architecture, and some of the most delicious food I have tasted. The city sits at approximately 7,000 ft above sea level, which makes for a very cold and blustery winter. Winter temps average at a high of around 19, and summer temps average around 85-90. Santa Fe is the state capital of New Mexico, and is the oldest state capital in the US. Founded in 1610 by Spanish colonists. Santa Fe means “holy faith”, and the rich history of Catholic faith is evident in and around the city. The culmination of Spanish, Mexican, and Native American influences all converge here, and there is no other city like it in America.

 Photo by: Rachel Ramsey

Photo by: Rachel Ramsey


 Santa Fe is known for their “New Mexican” cuisine, a cuisine that is not found anywhere else in the world, which is a fusion of Mexican, Spanish, and Native American foods. The New Mexican fare also includes a question each patron is asked at each meal: “red or green?”. Each dish, from breakfast to dinner, comes with the option of red or green chile salsa, and I opted to try them both, the term coined “Christmas”. So Christmas salsa, it was, served with every dish, from huevos rancheros, to enchiladas, and everything in between.

Our first stop was to a quaint little restaurant called “Cafe Pasqual’s”. Located near the downtown square (referred to as The Plaza), this colorful little corner stop offered me my first taste of New Mexican cuisine. The menu was overwhelmingly full of delicious options, and with the suggestion of my friends, I opted for the Huevos Rancheros with Christmas salsa. I also tasted my friend’s Las Papas Fritas. Both dishes were divine and delicious, and with each bite, I realized what all the fuss about the food here was all about. Full of flavor and spice, the New Mexican dishes were out of this world.

The second meal was had at a little hole in the wall, just north of town, in a pueblo called Tesuque. (pronounced ta-soo-kee). We pulled up, got out of the car, into a gravel parking lot, located (in what seemed to be) the middle-of-nowhere. It was freezing cold, and I looked up to a full moon, and followed the lights inside. The Tesuque Market was warm and inviting, half restaurant, half grocery store, with wood floors, and a kitchen and deli off to the side of the large room. Chili peppers and colorful skeletons decorated the space. We sat down at a large table, and the atmosphere was casual, friendly, and laid back.

We ordered a brick oven pepperoni and green chili pepper pizza, and a round of chicken tortilla soups and margaritas. We chatted, sipped on our ritas (one of the best I’ve ever had), ordered another round, and enjoyed an evening full of delicious food, laughs, and stories.



Several days into our stay, my boss treated me with an afternoon at the 10,000 waves Japanese day spa. Twenty minutes from the center of downtown, a visit to this luxurious spa, restaurant, and resort proved to be the perfect spot to wind down, decompress, and have some “me” time. I was treated to an 80 minute therapeutic massage, which was incredibly relaxing and rejuvenating. The massage was followed by some time in the women’s whirlpool bath and sauna, and afterwards, I walked the spa grounds of 10,000 waves. I gingerly strolled the winding stone paths, dusted in snow, which led through spruce trees to different pockets of the spa, including a selection of several whirlpools, waterfalls, a koi pond, foot spa, and meditation room. The spa experience was heavenly, and made for a perfect afternoon. Upon leaving, I was relaxed, grounded, and rejuvenated, and ready to take on more of Santa Fe.





On our last day, I decided to spend most of my time in and around the Plaza. The Plaza (also known as the town square), was surrounded by quaint shops, art galleries, and on one side, by the Indian Market. I arrived early, just as the local Native Americans were braving the frigid temperatures, and unpacking their goods for the day. Roughly 20-40 vendors set up shop and sit along a single wall on one side of the Plaza. They roll out their handmade crafts, including jewelry, magnets, leather goods, and turquoise. The vendors were incredibly friendly, and were open to bargaining. I bought some of the most gorgeous turquoise earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. The Indian market is one of the best places in town to buy original, handmade items at the best prices.

 Photo by: Rachel Ramsey

Photo by: Rachel Ramsey

After the Indian market, I explored other areas of the Plaza, including art galleries, souvenir shops, and a quaint hotel called La Fonda. Across the street from La Fonda, I noticed a beautiful chapel and decided to make a visit. Built in 1887, The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi makes a beautiful addition to the Plaza..  It Contains stained glass windows from France, and the largest statue of the Virgin Mary in the U.S.,

 Photo by: Rachel Ramsey

Photo by: Rachel Ramsey





this Catholic parish stands tall and stately, and offered a moment to get in out of the cold, warm up, see some gorgeous architecture, and observe a moment of gratitude and solace in the quiet corridors of the sanctuary.  




I was incredibly impressed with the city of Santa Fe. Having traveled extensively throughout the United States, and I found it to be one of the most quaint, historic, and finer cities I have visited. The locals are extremely warm and friendly, the architecture and history are one of a kind, and the vibe is laid back, artsy, and eclectic. I highly recommend Santa Fe as a travel destination, for a winter weekend getaway, or longer, if your schedule allows. If you visit, come ready to treat yourself and take in the rich history, delicious cuisine, and boutique shopping. You will be delighted to check Santa Fe off of your travel bucket list. I hope to be back very soon to enjoy more of this lovely city. Santa Fe, you took my breath away!