01/05/15 5:32pm
Trade city life for tropical paradise for a week or more. Photo: Joy Bergmann

Trade city life for tropical paradise for a week or more. Photo: Joy Bergmann

*Not quite. You will have to purchase transportation, food and your travel-reading of choice.

Long before Airbnb (and before we all grew weary of the term “sharing economy”), thrifty, adventurous travelers saved money on vacations by participating in home swaps–my NYC apartment for your Cape Cod bungalow, my Catskills cabin for your South Beach condo. Swappers find each other via listings in the back of travel magazines, or by going through a swapping service. Or, for the internet savvy, I highly recommend using the Housing Swap listings on Craigslist. With three successful swaps under my belt, I’m here to tell you it’s an easy alternative to the potential legal headaches involved with Airbnb.

If you read the recent New York Times story about house swapping, you may have thought, “neat concept, but I don’t have a Manhattan townhouse or a 4,000-square-foot loft, or a pied-à-terre overlooking the Seine to trade.” Trust me, great swaps are possible with normal New York apartments. Indeed, the whole concept may have you thinking, “Ohmygod strangers in my house and they’ll rob me blind and hold orgies in my breakfast nook and eeeeew my mattress and my Xbox and that is just crazy.” (more…)

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11/10/14 9:50am

I know we like to think of ourselves as the center of the food universe here in Brooklyn, but sometimes it’s good to get out of town and see what’s popping up on plates elsewhere. I always forget just how close Philadelphia is—just an hour and a half on Amtrak, a very easy weekend trip from NYC. It also has so much more to offer cuisine-wise than those tired old cheesesteaks and soft pretzels. On a recent weekend binge-fest through some of the city’s newest restaurants, I was constantly impressed with the originality of menus, by how many times I had to look up creative cocktail ingredients I’d never seen before, and by how affordable prices are everywhere—compared to these parts anyway. Here’s a look at five new Philly dishes worth the train ride. (more…)

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10/17/14 9:00am
The foliage is in its full glory at Mohonk Mountain preserve right now. Photo: Evan Groll

The foliage is in its full glory at Mohonk Mountain preserve right now. Photo: Evan Groll

As much as we love New York City, and as ideal as it is for many things, it is not the best place to enjoy fall foliage and get that taste of the outdoors that even the most seasoned city dwellers need from time to time. Here are two easy trips north where you can take full advantage of this gorgeous autumn. Both are much easier done by car, but if you want an autumn hike you can do completely car-free, check out this adventure in Peekskill, with foliage and beer.  (more…)

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09/26/14 7:41am
The view from the top of Photo: Kate Hooker

The view from the top of Overlook Mountain makes the hike well worth the effort. Photo: Kate Hooker

Everyone loves autumn in New York City, but it’s also a fantastic time to ditch the asphalt and head upstate for relaxing weekend of brilliant fall leafscapes and star-splattered night skies. About five years ago, a super-organized friend of mine rented a 10-person VRBO house outside of Woodstock one October weekend and started an annual tradition. Over time, couples broke up, people had babies, and the friend who started it all moved abroad, but some permutation of our original crew (along with a rotating cast of dogs) still finds our way to a rented house in the Catskills for one weekend every fall. For city dwellers like us, the call of things like giant decks with firepits, the opportunity to cook for more than two people in a real, adult kitchen, and watching the sun sink into the mountains from the back porch is tough to resist.

The area around Woodstock is particularly great for a group with disparate interests because there are so many different ways to fill up the day. In five years, I haven’t come close to doing it all, but here are some highlights that are worth exploring if a weekend upstate is part of your plans this fall. (more…)

08/08/14 9:49am
Bikes wait while their riders sample wines at Shinn Estate. Photo: Annaliese Griffin

Bikes wait while their riders sample wines at Shinn Estate. Photo: Annaliese Griffin

We originally ran this story in August of 2014–it’s been updated with additional information. After a return trip we’re pleased to report that the North Fork is better than ever. 

You don’t need a car to get out of town for a few days. Greenport, on the tip of Long Island’s North Fork is an excellent spot to explore by bike. Between the surrounding vineyards, Shelter Island and the town itself, a fishing village that is re-emerging from some pretty depressed economic times, with tons of new restaurants and shops lining the small downtown, there’s plenty to do, see, explore and taste.

No bike? Rent one. Dan’s Bike Rental includes a basket, lock, helmet, light and map, and they will drop a bike off at your hotel, or meet you at the train or Jitney. Rates start at $25/day, and they will come replace your bike and rescue you if you break down. Do note, these are easy-going, upright stance, city bikes, not serious road bikes. The general area is very flat, but if you’re traveling with speedsters on road bikes you should prepare yourself for a slower ride than the rest of the pack.

IMG_9274

Enjoy your private beach at the Silver Sands Motel. Photo: Annaliese Griffin

How to get there: If you’re planning on renting a bike, take the Long Island Railroad. Considering summer traffic, the three-hour trip is generally faster than the bus, and more comfortable. It is possible to take a bike on the LIRR, but only on certain cars on certain trains–it’s a pretty lengthy list of rules and regulations, and if you’re part of a group with bikes (unless you have nifty folding bikes) forget it. Depending on when you leave, the fare runs from $20-28, each direction. The Jitney on the other hand, is a snap with a bike. Just show up with your bike and they’ll stow it in a luggage compartment and then charge you once you’re on board. The fare is $23 each way ($19 if you reserve online), plus an additional $15 for your bike, and you get complimentary bottled water and chips onboard, usually. There are a few departure points from Brooklyn, as well as many in Manhattan.  Check the schedule for departure times and options–it’s very easy to change reservations from your phone, should your plans shift. The downside? Traffic.  (more…)

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05/02/14 1:30pm
Kid & Coe specializes in apartments and homes filled with toys and child gear that make it easy to travel with kids. Photo: Kid & Coe

Kid & Coe specializes in apartments and homes filled with toys and child gear that make it easy to travel with kids. This one is in Fort Greene. Photo: Kid & Coe

Flying to a city with young kids is never fun, and staying in a hotel doesn’t exactly provide a light at the end of plane ride with a squirmy toddler. Even the roomiest suite can’t compare to an actual home, with a life-size fridge and real bedrooms. Airbnb is an alternative, but sifting through the family-friendly homes on the site takes time, and trust. Who’s to say it will actually be available when you arrive, or that a porn video wasn’t filmed on the couch? Better to go with Kid & Coe, a NYC-based home rental site that curates a list of family-friendly properties around the world, many stocked with toys for your kids to play with, and cribs and toddler beds that will make it easier to tuck them in. (more…)

04/10/14 4:00pm
On the trail in Peekskill. Photo: Gabrielle Sierra

You can hit the trail in Peekskill after just an hour on the train. Photo: Gabrielle Sierra

Every once in a while you’ve got to spirit yourself out of the city to reset your brain. Here are three trips, no car necessary, that will have you breathing clean country air at lunchtime, and then back in Brooklyn in time for bed–unless of course you decide to really treat yourself and stay the night.

Hiking in Peekskill

New York City’s parks are wonderful, but sometimes you need a more challenging hike than you can find in Prospect Park’s Ravine. Blue Mountain Reservation in Peekskill, just an hour away on the train, has hiking and cycling trails, beautiful views, and best of all, a brewery nearby to get a bite and a pint before heading home.

To get there, hop a Metro North train at Grand Central to Peekskill. The ride ranges from $11.75-$22.00 each way depending on the day and time–on the weekend a round-trip ticket will run you $23.50 and trains leave once an hour starting at 6:43am.

Once you arrive in Peekskill, grab a cab (if there’s not one at the station, call Royal House Taxi, 914-293-0807) or take a half-hour walk through town–about a mile and a half–to Blue Mountain Reservation at 45 Welcher Avenue. At just over 1,500 acres, the park features trails for hiking, nature spotting and mountain biking. Most of the paths range from easy to moderate and following the middle of the road blue trails is usually best as they’re challenging but not grueling. If you’re looking for something steeper, the path up the side of Blue Mountain is perfect. Entry is free, just be sure to either download or grab a hard copy of a trail map. If you drive, parking is $10.  There are also extensive mountain biking trails, and bikes are allowed on Metro North with a bike permit, which is just $5.

Try a beer flight at the Peekskill Brewery. Photo: Gabrielle Sierra

Try a beer flight at the Peekskill Brewery. Photo: Gabrielle Sierra

Once you’ve had your fill of nature, make your way back through town to the Peekskill Brewery (47-53 S Water Street), conveniently located right across from the train station. The brewery offers their own beers as well as selections from other nearby brewers, and flights are available. If beer isn’t your thing, their wine list has a New York focus, there are close to a dozen ciders available, many made locally, and they specialize in quirky Bloody Marys. The brewery also has a restaurant with views of the river, and a limited (but super tasty) menu is available in the taproom. Relax! The last train doesn’t leave until 11:35pm (though the 10:35pm is direct and will get you back faster).–G.S.

There is more to Beacon than the Dia museum. Street art, galleries and shops dot the town's Main Street. Photo: Michael Hyman via Flickr.

There is more to Beacon than the Dia museum. Street art, galleries and shops dot the town’s Main Street. Photo: Michael Hyman via Flickr.

Art and Fleas in Cold Spring and Beacon

Beacon is synonymous with the Dia: Beacon art center, and for anyone who appreciates conceptual art, it’s well worth the pilgrimage to see John Chamberlain’s junkyard carcasses, and Sol leWitt’s very orderly wall drawings. If you suspect you will be unimpressed with the minimalists and are annoyed by phrases like “negative sculpture,” skip the museum. Visit Beacon just for the gorgeous train ride and a day spent popping into eclectic shops and galleries along the town’s very long Main Street. And if you’ve got a car, you can also hit two flea/artisan markets. (more…)

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11/20/13 11:50am

killington ski trip

 
The first day of winter isn’t for another month or so, but we’ve already got snowflakes, fireplaces, hot chocolate–and hot toddys–on our minds. It’s never too early to start planning a winter getaway, so we’ve partnered with The Trip Tribe to bring you a chance to win a four-day, three-night trip to Killington Mountain, Vermont, to ski and snowboard to your heart’s content.

Killington is one of the biggest, snowiest mountain resorts in Vermont, and if you win, you’ll get two spots on The Trip Tribe’s Ski and Snowboard Weekend, including three nights of lodging, two-day lift passes, organized cocktail hours, events every evening and a welcome party. The contest is only open until Dec. 1, so enter now for your shot at a snowy good time!

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09/26/13 10:10am

The web series, "This Is My City" will have you checking your frequent flyer mile balance.

The web series, “This Is My City” will have you checking your frequent flyer mile balance.


Ever get the travel bug, but not have the time or money to pull off a proper trip? Well, that’s a spot I’ve currently found myself in, so in lieu of emptying my bank account to get on a plane I’ve been watching This Is My City a new web series by Brooklyn resident Tim Kafalas and his Irish pal Thomas Beug. Honestly, it’s making the travel itch worse, because the series is so good–Kafalas and Beug travel to cities around the globe, including Lisbon, Tokyo, Belgrade and Beirut, enlisting the help locals in each spot. Instead of the usual glossy travel mag must-sees, they get an experience that feels like visiting a friend who lives in a different city and knows all the best places to go. This series will have you checking your frequent flyer mile balance and googling things like, “best time of year to visit Buenos Aires.”

08/16/13 8:05am


Matthew McGregor-Mento gets wet with his English wooden surfboard in Montauk last summer. Photo: Christiaan Bailey

Matthew McGregor-Mento gets wet with his English wooden surfboard in Montauk last summer. Photo: Christiaan Bailey

If you’ve ever enjoyed a hot summer’s day on the sand in Far Rockaway, you may have spotted a wetsuit-wearing fellow riding what looks like a wooden boogie board. It may well have been Matthew McGregor-Mento, a Long Island native who has surfed New York City’s waves since 1986. McGregor-Mento is part of a small but growing community of surfers who enjoy riding the waves while lying low.

According to McGregor-Mento, a traditional Hawaiian short bodyboard called a paipo (pronounced PIE-po) can enhance even an expert surfer’s day in the water. “They ride well in super, super, super, small waves, like almost no waves at all, and then they ride really well all the way up to like epic barreling,” he says. Given the streaky nature of New York City’s surf, which is smallest in the summer months and temperamental during stormy seasons, paipos can get board enthusiasts in the water even when the waves aren’t ideal for surfing.

Because of the similarities in technique to boogie boarding, which many of us associate with childhood trips to the shore, it’s easy to relegate the paipo and bodyboarding to the novice end of the wave pool. But during last year’s tornado near Breezy Point, McGregor-Mento was thwarted in the heavy surf on his standup surfboard, so he turned to his short wooden board instead.

“The waves were way too strong, and I was way too weak a paddler–it just wasn’t going to happen,” he says. McGregor-Mento had better luck on his wooden bodyboard, which he always brings with him. “I was basically one of the very, very small handful of people that even made it out that day, and then once I was out on the board, I was picking off all these crazy storm waves that were just like big and burly and weird.”

(more…)

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