New York Now: Where to Shop, Dine & Play

We sat down with three transplanted Alabamians to find out their favorite things to do and see in the Big Apple.

Central Park in New York

Emily Dance

Mississippi State and Auburn graduate Emily Dance is well-versed in Brooklyn and Manhattan, having lived in both. She has worked in the fashion industry at Lele Sadoughi as director of sales and operations for the international and domestic wholesale accessory business, but now she’s switching gears to work as a software engineer sourcer for Google. Emily’s ultimate goal? To be the in-house talent acquisition specialist for a fashion brand. 

HOME IS: A four-bedroom apartment in Chelsea that I share with friends. My room is 11 feet by 6 feet, so I sleep in a twin bed next to wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling clothing racks. 

CITY ADVENTURE: There’s no better way to see the Statue of Liberty than from the seat of a Jet Ski! Book a guided tour with Sea the City Tours.You’ll ride your own Jet Ski across the East River, around Staten Island and Lady Liberty, and up the Hudson. 

BRUNCH: Get to Ruby’s by 10am to beat the crowds (there are three locations). It’s an Australian cafe known for its mix of hearty burgers, pastas, and fresh grain bowls. Get the fried chicken burger with fries and garlic aioli. 

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LATE LUNCH: American Bar in the West Village offers classic American food with a clubby, English vibe. It is also a hotspot for sighting celebrities. 

DINNER: Don Angie, my favorite Italian restaurant in Manhattan, is known for the lasagna for two. It comes cut like slices of a roulade served in a shallow casserole dish topped with cheese and sauce. 

LET’S GO SHOPPING: I like to start on Bleecker Street in the West Village. I stop at Maje, LoveShackFancy, Anine Bing, Cynthia Rowley, and local designer Dauphinette, just to name a few. Once I hit Houston Street, I wind through SoHo to check out Kirna Zabête, The RealReal, Zara, and Bloomingdale’s. Madison Avenue favorites include The Westside and Everafter (for kids). Also, it’s hit and miss, but don’t skip the 260 Sample Sale. They have locations in Nomad/Flatiron (260 5th Avenue) and in SoHo on Wooster.

COCKTAILS & LATE NIGHT: Sometimes you have to travel over to Brooklyn to appreciate Manhattan in ALL her glory. Westlight in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn is a rooftop bar at The William Vale hotel. It offers 360-degree views of New York City. Be sure to make reservations beforehand so you can skip the line. After cocktails, head over to Pete’s Candy Store, a Williamsburg local favorite. Different local musicians play on the hour, every hour. Grab a drink, take a seat, and pass a few dollars to the fresh talent serenading you. End your evening at Ponyboy, a funky dance club in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood with the best new and old disco hits around. 

STAY: Other than the Plaza Hotel and Lotte Palace, I would recommend The Standard. Both locations (Meatpacking District and NoHo) are superb and in the middle of everything. The service is consistently good, and the rooms are spacious with great views. Tip: Choose your hotel largely based on location and what part of town you want to spend most of your time (up vs. down, east vs. west).

MOST EXCITED ABOUT: $30 for 30 at Lincoln Center! The New York City Ballet offers discounted tickets ($30) for patrons ages 13-30. I cannot wait for live performances to ramp back up.

Mean Girls has the absolute best set design and hilarious pop culture references. Moulin Rouge is all the rage right now. And I am still waiting for the revival of Legally Blonde the Musical. 

Run. I never thought I would say that in a million years!! I picked up running during the pandemic with a local run club, West Village Athletic, just to stay social since we couldn’t do much. We run 3-5 miles and always end with a coffee and chat together at Bluestone Lane. It is the best way to see true ins and outs of the city. We run three different routes per week down the Westside Highway, across the Brooklyn Bridge, and up Central Park. The views never get old, and I have met my best friends through it all!

Delia Folk & Alison Bruhn

Delia Folk moved to NYC in 2014. She worked on the buying team at Barneys before she and her mom, Alison Bruhn, co-founded the lifestyle brand The Style That Binds Us ( “It’s a resource for all things style,” Delia says. “We created it so our community can live their most fashionable and fearless life.” Alison, a style and image consultant who studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology, lives in Birmingham but travels to New York almost once a month. Here, they share their Big Apple favorites.

HOME IS: A studio apartment in the West Village that currently serves as a live/work space. 

TIMELESS TOURIST SPOTS: The permanent and rotating exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art are always interesting. And there’s always something happening at Little Island at Pier 55, the manmade island park supported by 132 pot-shaped sculptures in the Hudson River. Another must-see for some sparkly jewels is the newly reopened Hall of Gems and Minerals at the American Museum of Natural History.

LUNCH: L’Avenue at Saks Fifth Avenue in Midtown has a great balcony that overlooks Rockefeller Center. There’s a private entrance that adds to the mystique of the Philipe Starck-designed dining space. 

DRINKS: I love Bemelmans Bar in The Carlyle Hotel on Madison Avenue. The walls are covered in murals by Ludwig Bemelmans, the creator of the classic Madeline children’s books.

Little Island

DINNER: For something a little different, reserve the gondola at The Lavaux Wine Bar in the West Village. You can imagine you are in the Swiss Alps while grazing on a cheese board or dipping from a fondue pot.

TAKE US SHOPPING: I always find a great new outfit at Bergdorf Goodman or any of the wonderful boutiques in SoHo. Favorites are FARM Rio and A.L.C.

STAY: I like The Mark Hotel for celebrity sightings. (It’s one of Meghan Markle’s favorite places to stay.) The hotel is in a beautiful neighborhood and is consistently ranked #1 by luxury travel brands.  

ON MY LIST: The Dior exhibit at The Brooklyn Museum opens September 10th. I also am looking forward to “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” which opens September 18th at The Met. TheMoMA Sculpture Garden is featuring “Alexander Calder: Modern From the Start” through January 15. Tip: If you go at the end of the day, make reservations to eat at The Modern.

Jazz at The Whitby Bar in The Whitby Hotel (Oprah stays there) from 6 – 9 p.m. on Fridays, sunset drinks on the Cantor Rooftop Garden at The Met, and a meal at BG Restaurant at Bergdorf Goodman.

Julia Roddam

Julia moved to New York in 2019 to intern with Mignonne Gavigan ( She fell in love with the city and decided to stay. Now, as operations and special projects manager for the fashion jewelry company, Julia loves touting the company’s designs. “Mignonne Gavigan offers unique jewelry to elevate the everyday look, as well as special pieces for events,” she says. 

HOME IS: A two-bedroom apartment in the Lower East Side. I recently moved out of a studio to gain extra space for when friends and family come to stay. 

WHERE TO FIRST? Whenever family or friends come to town, I like to take them on the F or 6 train to Ralph’s Coffee on the Upper East Side for breakfast (the Greek yogurt with granola and berries paired with an iced latte is my go-to) and then take a walk around Central Park. We typically hit The Met right after since it is so close by. I would also recommend going to Jane’s Carousel in the Dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood of Brooklyn, not necessarily to ride it but at least to see it. If you can, try and take the ferry to Dumbo. You can’t beat a boat tour for $2.75. While there, stop in at Time Market for the most amazing view of the city and of the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg Bridges. And be sure to grab pizza at Juliana’s or a lobster roll from Luke’s Lobster.

WHERE ELSE SHOULD WE EAT? Have lunch at Serafina or Sant Ambroeus. Serafina is perfect if you want to split a couple of pizzas, and they have several locations around the city. Sant Ambroeus has a fantastic shaved brussels sprout salad. For dinner, visit either Aunt Jake’s or Dudley’s. Go to Aunt Jake’s if you haven’t had your fill of Italian food yet. The pasta is all handmade in-house each day, and you can build your own dish by selecting the type of pasta you would like paired with a great sauce. I also suggest trying their gin-and-pear cocktail. If you opt for Dudley’s, order the fried chicken sandwich or a burger. Either one will change your life.

TAKE ME SHOPPING: My go-to for fun jewels for any occasion is always Mignonne Gavigan. I am most definitely biased, but it’s hard not to be when you’re surrounded by it every day. Accessories are the perfect finishing touch and can change up anything you already have in your closet. Feel free to make an appointment to stop by our showroom, or book a virtual appointment through our website. If you want designer finds for a deal, hit Ina on Prince Street in Nolita. Then, head over to Bleecker Street in SoHo. Start at Ulla Johnson and make your way to the West Village, popping into stores as you go. Afterwards, drop by Dante for a cocktail. Their espresso martini is what dreams are made of. They also have a nice list of small plates if you need a snack.

HOTEL RECOMMENDATION: I always point to The Ludlow Hotel in the Lower East Side. It’s a boutique hotel in a great area with amazing views of the city. The coffee shop next door to the hotel has become my morning go-to.

GETTING AROUND: When Covid hit, I definitely adjusted the way in which I get around the city. While I mostly walk everywhere now, the subway is the fastest, cheapest, and most convenient way to get around. If you’re here for a full weekend, get a weekly unlimited card so you won’t have to stress about refilling the value if you swipe more than you anticipate. I like to reserve those Ubers for when my energy is low.

I can’t wait to get dressed up again and go out more with friends and family. In November, I’m going to a Heather McMahan comedy show. Music Man with Hugh Jackman is hitting Broadway in December. It’s definitely on the top of my list.

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Cathy Still McGowin

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