Date Night Spotlight: City Winery

Best For: Bringing Your Parents Out OR Double-Date

INSIDER'S TIP: All seats are pretty good, but request ones that are centered so you have a good view of the stage. Also, this is a great spot to get a bottle of wine for the table - an affordable and satisfying selection.

Will Set You Back: $60-80 PP taking into account the ticket/seat (depending on where you sit) + 2 drinks/shared bottle and an appetizer.

Atmosphere: Intimate and casual. Guests are requested not to speak loudly while the musician is on stage and there is some "shushing" that goes on in between songs and during quieter ones. The decor is extremely pleasing to the eyes, however, and waitstaff is very friendly.

Twas’ an early Monday evening as I climbed tirelessly on the stepper at the New York Health and Racquet Club. While the daytime had held clear blue skies and a relatively easy start to the week, I was still feeling remnants of the Monday blues wearing me down.

That is, until I received a text from my boyfriend stating the following: “Me and my parents are about to head over to City Winery for Kenny Loggins. Extra seat. Want to join us?” The opportunity could not have come at a better time.

In accordance with their website, "City Winery strives to deliver the highest-end combined culinary and cultural experience to our customers who are passionate in sharing wine, music, and culinary arts." It is a full winery, an intimate concert venue, and a gorgeous space complete with fine dining.

I raced home, threw on my go-to LBD and caught the 1 train downtown to Houston St. Since I had never been to City Winery before, it felt particularly special upon entrance. The exterior provides a welcoming feel on an otherwise empty block. Al fresco dining, sprawling greens and bright pops of burgundy line the large wooden doors that invite you in. The staff continues the theme of cozy service inside, greeting patrons at the door and seamlessly placing delectable cheese dishes on the table while quietly filling glasses of champagne throughout sets.

Of course, the atmosphere, service and surrounding company were not the only wonderful aspects of the evening. Kenny Loggins brought down the house with reverberations of classic tunes and little gifts in the form of new music alongside Blue Sky Riders partners Georgia Middleman and Gary Burr. In between songs, the audience was treated to personal anecdotes and background into when and how various songs were conceived. The whole evening truly was a treat.

After enjoying a show at City Winery, I am thrilled to have a new regular spot for enjoying live music. I mean, how often do you have the chance to see such raw, classic talent in such an intimate and friendly setting? While I love getting up and jamming out as much as the next rocker, I also loved having a designated seat, perfect view, and tableside service to go along with the music. What can I say? I’m spoiled.

The atmosphere at City Winery is simply unparalleled and the lineups are more-than-reliable. With tickets starting as low at $25 for barstool seating at certain shows and often coming in as low as $45 for table seating, City winery is a win-win situation. Not to mention, the food is on-point to an artisanal level and actually affordable. While I was lucky to be treated on this fine occasion, I still scoped out the menu to get the inside scoop on pricing.

The Verdict?

In exchange for that $22 plastic cup of house cabernet you’ll receive in the Delta Sky Lounge at an MSG concert, you can get two glasses of high-quality, sommelier-selected wine at CW. Not to mention, a selection of appetizers and flatbreads are available for under $15. Oh, and in case you needed one more reason to get down to City Winery, Tuesday nights have been declared “free music night” for the rest of summer. I mean, seriously: food, wine, friends and music. Does it get any better?

All in all, City Winery was more-than-well-worth-it for experience…. even if I did take an elbow to the head during the encore rendition of “Footloose.”

I mean, girl's gotta dance.

Perfect For: Bring-Your-Parents-To-Town-Night, Date Night, Friends Night

Price Level: A seat, two drinks and some food will cost you about 5 days worth of groceries. But it's okay - this is what ramen was made for. (No, not the momofuku variety.)

The Weekend Getaway: Niagara Falls

Click through the pictures and the link below to read on!

In a world where vacation can be so limited that some workplaces go so far as to refer to it as “a four-letter word” (e.g. “you shouldn’t use it”), making the most of your precious time off is crucial to staying sane. After all, we all know that there’s nothing worse than coming back from a vacation only to find yourself exhausted and already in need of another one… especially after you’ve just used the majority of your 10-15 measly days off.

For my fellow planning and activity addicts out there, this can be even more of a challenge. Ever-impulsive and enamored by possibility, I have a genuinely ridiculous need to try doing as much as I can during my time off. In terms of vacation, it has led to burn out, over spending and a kind of anxiety comparable only to that of a little girl’s on her birthday.

I know. I’m dramatic.

But in an attempt to quell the drama and enjoy the moment, I’ve recently taken up a new love for the extended weekend escape, otherwise known as the “Mini Vacation.” I'll be sharing a series of these trips throughout the summer. The first trip featured is Niagara Falls and falls in line with the diva-free theme of "affordability."

The Benefits of a Mini Vacation

  1.  It's Good for Your Health! Research has shown that looking forward to a getaway is almost as gratifying and beneficial to our health as the actual trip itself. Why not shorten the trips and space them out? Imagine having a getaway to look forward to 6 times a year instead of once or twice.

  2. Less Stress. When we use the majority of our vacation in one shot, we end up accumulating that aforementioned anxiety of trying to fit everything in. With shorter trips, prioritizing how we spend our time is handled more naturally.
  3. Better for the Budget $ A three-night trip where driving is possible (especially if you already have a car) will amount to a fraction of the cost of longer trips and farther destinations. Worrying about money is just about the last thing anyone wants to do on vacation.

TIP: Putting an extra few bucks away the 3-4 paychecks leading up to a trip makes for a nice little cushion to support some splurging. I try to save an extra $175-$200.

Niagara Falls Overview & Tips for Doing it Right!

To kick things off, I started off at Niagara Falls and immediately learned a few generic tips for a successful weekend trip:

1.     Go Local!

Lucky enough to travel internationally through much of college, I had almost forgotten how many wonderful places there were in the states, particularly the Northeast, that I had yet to visit. A truly scenic 6.5 hour drive from Manhattan, we took a half-day on Thursday so we could get an early start and avoid traffic on our way up to Niagara. This allowed us to get a full three nights in and still only use 1.5 vacation days total. Definitely a plus.

Other Northeast Trips I’m looking forward to covering this summer: Montauk, Saratoga, The Real Jersey Shore and Baltimore.

Want some other suggestions? Check out this piece from Lonely Planet, featured on the daily beast.

2.     Plan Creatively: Live Large, Spend Less.

A little planning and creativity goes a long way when vacationing, especially in terms of budget. In one $50 grocery run, we stocked up on some craft beers, microwaveable appetizers and, duh, cheese and crackers. I don’t care how much food is in the vicinity, it’s always nice to have snacks on hand for that 4PM break time. And since we got in relatively late on day 1, it was convenient to be able to immediately heat up some spinach dip, break out a few drinks, and get comfortable in the new digs.

Getting there: A medium-sized rental car will run you around $200-$300 total for a 4-day trip. Amtrak (with some foresight) can be a $120 round trip, but then you have to plan for how to get around once you're there.

Of course, you could always fly, but a road trip in the summertime somehow feels more personalized. It makes the travel a part of the trip in the same way reading a book over a kindle or drinking wine out of a paper cup somehow feels more memorable, ya know?

Don’t roll your eyes at me.

Where to Stay: We opted for The Vintage Whinery rental on AirBnb and I absolutely recommend it. For $120 a night ($400 total for 3 nights after taxes and fees), we were a 10-minute walk to the falls in our own private space + free parking + a daily, home-cooked breakfast a la french-pressed coffee.

The downside? We didn’t have a view of the falls. However, with the cost of most fallsview hotels coming in around $225-$375 a night, the trade-off was well worth it for us.

Full Disclosure: Though I was happy to support the Niagara, NY economy and believe it is on the cusp of booming back to life, the Canadian side is currently much more manicured and built-up than the NY side... Bring your passport!

3.     Prioritize Your Time & Funds: What do you really want to do?

If you aren’t into tourist attractions at home, you probably shouldn’t spend all your time at them on vacation. My favorite part of living in New York isn't riding the TMZ bus around (shocking, I know). It's the mixing of cultures, the quality of the food and drink and the proximity of all things art that I love.  So, that’s what I wanted to experience in Niagara.

While we absolutely spent a day around the Falls, we also didn’t stand in line to pay for Maid of the Mist. Instead, we had lunch and cocktails at Elements on the Falls ($35) and perused an indoor art gallery. In the evening, we watched the fireworks from the Canadian side and listened to live music outdoors (Free!).

Okay and fine we gambled a little.

Saturday, we drove to Niagara-On-The-Lake, an easy 20-minute trip from our place. After an obligatory stop at Tim Horton’s, we cruised around the local area stopping at 4 of the 30+ vineyards. At one, we even took part in a fancy champagne tour. We had 1 map, no plan, and the whole day was a steal! Tastings are only $1 a piece and oftentimes they put the total toward a bottle of wine as an extra buying incentive.  I think we spent something like $25 altogether which included a bottle of wine.

Of course, it did help that we made friends with random Canadians whom we tagged along with to a few vineyards where they were VIP members (e.g. free tastings).

More Full Disclosure: I definitely threw up on the side of the road later that evening. Apparently, I could only handle so much class.

Afterward, we drove a quick 5 minutes to Old Town and snoozed off some of the wine alongside Great Lake Ontario, where I then was casually pooped on by a bird.

Supposedly this is good luck, but I’m still waiting.