NYC Favorite Things - Adventures Beyond

One of our favorite things about living in New York City was not just the adventures that we had in the city, but also the adventures beyond the city. We got to experience some incredible places beyond New York City over the past 2 years as well. Here were some of our favorites:

     Cooperstown - I had a blast driving up to Cooperstown with my Dad (Greg Smith) and best friend (Chris Tripputi) to see Craig Biggio get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. This had been a bucket list for some time and to get to do it during this season of life with my Dad and Chris made it extra sweet.

     Washington DC - one Saturday morning we woke up and asked what we should do today. We decided Washington DC was the answer, so in less than an hour we booked a hotel room, packed a couple bags and loaded up the family to DC. While it was a quick trip, it was so cool to get to spend a couple of days in the country’s capital and experience this together as a family. Thanks also to the Cunningham’s for hooking us up with a sweet hotel room!

     Boston - while I wish I could have spent more time here to see family, it was very cool to spend a half day in Boston seeing some historic spots, passing by Fenway Park, and eating some clam chowder. I definitely hope to make it back to Boston again soon!

     Maine - we had a blast with my in laws renting a cabin on a lake in Maine and simply relaxing and taking in the beauty of Maine. I also ate a bunch of Lobster!

     Philadelphia - noticing how close Philadelphia is to New York we decided to take a day trip. We saw the Liberty Bell, walked around downtown, ran up the Rocky steps and ate some Philly Cheesesteak (wit wiz)!

     Toronto - one of our last trips we took was with my Mom and explored beyond the United States into Canada. We found an incredible AirBnB 20 floors up with floor to ceiling glass windows in downtown Toronto. We got to explore a castle, go to a Blue Jays game, eat some Tim Horton’s, walk along the beach and really take in the beauty of Toronto. Very cool city!

     Niagara Falls - while I had been before, this is one of those sights that a picture (or video) cannot fully capture. We explored the falls on both sides and still blown away by the power and beauty of the falls!

     Snow Tubing in Poconos - if you ask my kids what the highlight beyond the city was, they would tell you Snow Tubing! We explored out one Saturday and found snow tubing in the Poconos. It really was so cool and something I hope we get to do again before too much longer! We’re not patient enough for ski lessons and snow tubing gave us the thrill of going down the mountain without all of the work.

     The Jersey Shore - we had low expectations for the Jersey Shore (based on the TV Show) and were blown away. Pete Scazzero tipped us off to a more family friendly beach and we loved it! The sand was great, water was beautiful and the weather was perfect. Other than some sunburn the next day, this was our favorite beach trip in the Northeast!

     Maritime Aquarium in Connecticut - this was another favorite of the kids. Katie found this aquarium and we went back as a family. It was a full day and the kids continue to talk about the shark tank and touching the stingrays. This is a really unique experience if you have kids.

     Hershey Park - while adventuring out to Canada and Niagara Falls, we also squeezed in a day and a half at Hershey Park. The amusement park was great, but the experience within the chocolate factory was tremendous getting to design your own bar, learning about the history and even doing a chocolate tasting. This was a really unique experience that the whole family enjoyed.

I feel like we could still do so much more, but grateful to have been able to so easily adventure beyond the city to these unique places. Also grateful for our little Mazda 3 that we bought when we first got married (almost 12 years ago) and continues to take us on so many of these great adventures.

NYC Favorite Things - Churches

It feels weird to list my favorite churches, but it has been a privilege to get to know several of the incredible churches in the city. God is moving in New York City and it has been fun to get to know the diversity of churches that are collectively connecting the body of Christ in the city. Here are some of my favorite churches that I have had the privilege of worshiping alongside:

  • New Life Fellowship Church - our first church to visit and definitely would have been regulars if it wasn’t an hour + commute. This is likely the most diverse church on the planet.

  • Trinity Grace - this is probably the church we were most engaged in. While we never connected deeply, we appreciated so much the time we spent here getting to know some incredible people and sitting under the teach of Jon Tyson.

  • Liberty Church - we really enjoyed visiting Liberty Church, but honestly the struggle of the commute here created the greatest challenge as we had to take a bus which can be challenging with bad weather and kids.

  • Hillsong Church - the past few months we have made Hillsong our go to place to worship as a family. The worship experiences are powerful and while we haven’t established many relationships here, we have enjoyed everyone that we have gotten to know during each visit.

  • Brooklyn Tabernacle - while we never attended a weekend service, I did have the privilege of attending a prayer service. It was an experience that I will never forget.

 

Here are a few other great churches we had the privilege of either attending or connecting with while in New York:

NYC Favorite Things - Networking Highlights

While being intentional about networking in NYC was something I intended to do, I never anticipated the variety of leaders I would meet. Here were some of the highlights of those networking connections:

  • Gary Vaynerchuk - Gary Vee has been a hero for many years. Getting to meet him at a book signing after one of his speaking events on a Sunday evening was definitely a highlight of my time here in New York. Just a couple days later I was privileged to visit his office at Vaynermedia! Gary was so friendly and great to connect with face to face.

  • George McGovern - Chaplain, Yankees and NY Giants - George actually reached out to me on LinkedIn and I had a blast connecting for lunch one day and having an ongoing relationship even bringing my family out to his house in New Jersey for a bar-b-q. George is one of the kindest and most humble men I’ve ever met.

  • Willie Morris - Founder, FaithBox - I have been following Willie’s story for some time and had a blast meeting up face to face at the VaynerMedia offices. Willie is one of the most creative entrepreneur’s I’ve ever interacted with and probably the friendliest dude I’ve ever met!

  • Will Anderson - CEO, Christian Post - I met Will at a roundtable conversation with a group of technology leaders at the Christian Post headquarters in Lower Manhattan. Will was incredibly welcoming and passionate about ministry impact far more that business development. Meeting Will gave me a new perspective of how a for-profit business can function very much as a ministry.

  • Scott Wennermark - Director of Strategic Advancement, American Bible Society - Scott and I met over the phone about a year before I moved to New York, but it was great to meet up a couple of times while he was in the area. We also had the privilege of worshiping together at Times Square Church at one of their prayer services. Love the unique work he is doing with DJ Chuang with the .Bible TLD.

  • Sean Coughlin - Co-founder and CEO, Faith Street - my friend DJ Chuang introduced me to Sean when he was in town and it was great to get to know him personally and hear about the unique work they are doing at Faith Street and how they are serving the Church using new technologies in a very unique way.

 

During my time in the city, I also had the privilege of also attending some unique networking events hosted by some unique organizations listed below. Each event led to meeting some of the most unique and creative people. Among everyone I met there was a commonality among each of them: hustle. Here’s a list of some of these events/organizations:

NYC Favorite Things - Food Spots

When people ask us what we’ll miss in New York, whether we admit it or not one of the very honest answers is the food. My encouragement to visitors to the city is to use Yelp as much as possible. We’ve yet to find a bad restaurant via Yelp and we’ve definitely found some incredible ones along the way. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Dizzy’s Diner - just a block from our house, this became our regular place. They have a casual atmosphere and everything on the menu is incredible. The Teo’s Eggs became a family favorite!

  • Bagel Pub - best Bagels in New York are on 9th Street in Park Slope! They make the bagels and cream cheese in house and everything is great! My go to was a blueberry bagel with strawberry cream cheese and an iced banana latte.

  • Patacon - this Venezuelan hole in the wall in Queens is so addicting! Everything is good, but the Pork Wraps (called something else) are so stinking good!

  • Juniors - when guests were in town and we were near Times Square we loved popping into Juniors. The food is okay, but the cheesecake is what they’re famous for.

  • Alice’s Teacup - this was hands down the favorite restaurant (other than McDonald's) of our girls. It’s a classy spot that’s fun for all ages (mostly girls)

  • Halal Guys - located right outside the Hilton on 6th Avenue this is the best food cart in all of New York. There are lots of impersonators, but you will always see a line at the real “Halal Guys” cart. Get the mixed plate with extra white sauce. You’re welcome.

 

Bonus Spots:

  • Shake Shack - great shakes and burgers, but always a long line

  • 7th Avenue Diner - classic New York diner in the heart of Park Slope in Brooklyn

  • Ellen’s Diner - food is okay, but great entertainment

  • Carmine’s - great family style Italian spot in Times Square

NYC Favorite Things - The Views

Sometimes the best thing to do in New York is take in the views. The New York skyline is unlike anything else and there are so many great places to take it in! Here are some of our favorites:

  • Top of the Rock - from the top of Rockefeller Center you can see all sides of New York with great views of Central Park and the Bronx, the Empire State Building and One World Trade, Brooklyn, New Jersey and so much more! On a clear day it’s hard to beat this view. Just a warning though, it often comes with a long wait and a pretty price tag.

  • Brooklyn Bridge Park - this was our most regular spot to take in a view of Manhattan. The park offers a great view of Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge.

  • Brookfield Place - we enjoyed taking in a movie at the Tribeca film festival here and loved the view of Manhattan, the Hudson river and Jersey City from this beautiful spot.

  • Staten Island Ferry - if you’re looking to see the Statue of Liberty we found the free Staten Island Ferry to be the best option. It’s free, runs regularly, and goes right by the statue!

  • Jersey City - one of the best views of the city is actually in another state. While we didn’t spend a lot of time in New Jersey, there are some great views of the city from the New Jersey side of the Hudson River.

Honorable Mention:

  • IKEA - surprisingly great view of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan from this spot in Brooklyn.

  • Empire State Building - while this is a great view, the one thing missing from the view is the Empire State Building itself which is such a key aspect of the New York skyline.