College Girls Guide to New York: Under $100

The Big Apple. 

The city that never sleeps, the overpopulated and congested city that everyone loves to hate. Set foot there and your life will never be the same. New York City sells a dream that many long to buy into; however, reality sets in making the city feel unobtainable and only for the rich and fabulous. However, I was determined to prove everyone wrong about their preconceived notions of needing boatloads of cash to really enjoy the city. Candidly, I couldn’t force myself to settle for the traditional touristy style trip. I wanted to explore the new and unknown, and I was determined to do just that.  This is an introspective look at a college girl's guide to enjoying New York City: Harlem with activities all under $100. 

I was incredibly proud of myself; I mean, I think any girl would have been. I didn’t die, nor was I  mugged, robbed, or hit on by some creep looking to take advantage of a young girl who feels she is ready for the world, yet isn’t quite ready to spread her wings. Yes, I did it! With a leap of faith and my kind Uber driver coaching me through the steps, I made it. Well, I am so glad you asked: the front doors of Chinatown Bus, that soon opened and released me, seemingly, into a whole new world. 

The bright lights seemed to penetrate my eyes; while, the sound of blaring car horns fascinated me just as if I were a two-year-old child. The stench of garbage and carted goods permeated my nose. I believe it was sensory overload for a small-town girl like myself. “Well don’t just stand there, girl. We have places to be, so move it,” shouted an anxious passenger of the bus.  This was my official welcome to New York City, and there was no turning back. Now, come along with me as we explore all that Harem has to offer. 

Ready To Chow Down? 

Let’s get started my friends. Put on your walking shoes; we are heading to the Upper West Side to check out the Angel of Harlem, a lively Caribbean restaurant with Spanish flare nestled on the corner of Frederick Douglass Boulevard. 

Taking the first step inside reminds you in the words of Bob Marley that “every little thing is going to be alright.” The large, colorful contemporary paintings that depict the beauty of island living cover the walls of the tiny dive. The sound of blaring Reggae hits fills the air, along with the smell of fresh rum and warm coco bread. A crowd of fun,loving party animals attracted to the melodic beats fill the dance floor. Conversation is stifled by the DJ hard at work playing nothing but the hits. I’m sure you are thinking that this is a killjoy, right? No, not at all. A  warm tap on the shoulder and smiling hostesses guiding you to your desired location makes you feel as if you are an extended family member, being reacquainted with family and friends.  

Sherry Ann Joseph, a lifelong Brooklyn resident, believes the food has an authentic taste and is appealing to Caribbean natives. Joseph stated, “The Angel of Harlem brings the spice of the Caribbean to Harlem. I am a proud Haitian, who is a  tough critic when it comes to food, Caribbean food in particular. The food at the Angel of Harlem tastes like my Tutu (grandmother) made it.” 

Joseph, also believes the ambiance of the Angel of Harlem truly matches the Caribbean way of life. She also believes this is place to be if you are seeking a combination of  good food and fun. Joseph said, “I love the oxtails and rice with corn elote; it is heaven on a plate. If you are looking for a mix of good food and music, the Angel of Harlem is a sweet surprise. Give it a try and thank me later.”

Restaurant: Angel of Harlem

Address: 2272 Frederick Douglass Blvd. New York, New York

Hours of Operation: Monday - Tuesday Closed

        Wed.: 5 p.m. - 1 a.m.

        Thurs. 5 p.m.- 2 a.m.

        Fri: 4 p.m. - 3 a.m.

        Sat. 11 a.m.. - 3 a.m. 

        Sun. 11 a.m. -1 a.m.

Price: $30 and below

As a tip, I would suggest going on a Saturday evening when the energy is high. Saturdays nights are designated specifically for a younger, more trendy crowd. Get ready for contemporary Hip-Hop jams that will make you want to get up and groove. Remember to bring some form of identification for entrance.  If you are under 21 years of age, be sure to reassure security that you are only there for the food and R&B music. Also, don’t be shy, give the virgin mojito a try and ask for extra mint to enhance the flavour. Good News! Every feature on the menu is under $30 dollars, so be sure even factor in another activity with the remainder of your budget for the day.   

If Caribbean cuisine is not your thing, remember Harlem is a diverse place and there are a plethora of restaurants to choose from. The next featured restaurant demonstrates this idea that no two places are alike. Let’s take an 11 minute stroll over a few blocks to Ginny’s Supper Club. 

Ginny’s Supper Club, a dimly light lounge oozing with 1920s charm, seeks to please with its  live sensual jazz performances, thought-provoking spoken word, live musical performances, flavourful cocktails and modern twist on soul food. 

Raheal Neequuaye, a student at State University of New York at Plattsburgh, suggests taking a step back in time and enjoying Ginny’s Supper Club. The supper club is located in the basement of Red Rooster, the sister restaurant of Ginny’s Supper Club. 

Photo Caption: The inside of Ginny’s Supper Club

Address: 310 Lenox Ave. New York, NY

Hours of Operation: Sun. Brunch – 10.30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Thurs. – Sat. Dinner – 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Price: $ 30 and up 

Recommended Menu Items: Mac N Greens, Uncle T’s Meatballs, Yep Chicken and Waffles 

Neequaye believes the experience extends far beyond the food. She said, “I came for the food to satisfy my appetite, but I left with my soul filled. Ginny’s gave me the opportunity to share in on what is was like during the Renaissance.” 

She also believes the restaurant is showcases African-American history and culture in a positive light. Furthermore,  she wants others to enjoy the club and new genres of music showcased during the week.  

Neequaye said, “A sense of pride washes over me as a African-American woman knowing that was and is a valuable part of my history. I use to think that Tuesday nights were awesome because of the Latin Jazz, but now I am totally in love with Thursday nights. Don’t take my word for it, go experience the club for yourself.”

In my opinion, Ginny’s Supper Club is more than a modern recreation of a cultural artifact.  This club and the culture surrounding it demonstrates black excellence and prosperity of African-American people, by enlarge.

If you decide to check out Ginny’s, be sure to dress smart casual and be prepared to pay a cover charge of $15. The menu is a bit pricey, so this may be your only activity for the day. I would recommend getting an appetizer as your meal to save a bit of money because you will want to save room for Cake by the Pound, a peach pound cake.

I am certain that your belly is full and your heart's content after indulging in the wonderful delicacies, but a vacation is not a vacation without sightseeing and exploring.  Follow me as we head to Midtown West. 

Want to take a look around?

Take On Times Square 

Photo Caption: Time Square in action. 

Location: Broadway St. 

Price: Free

Regardless of the time of day, Time Square is an unforgettable experience. In the words of Alicia Keys, the big lights will inspire you. Well, prepare to be inspired by bright billboards, and take a look in front of the Time Square. If you are lucky, you never know what surprises that you may find. Adom Abatkun, a senior Criminal Justice major at Georgia Southern, confirms this idea. 

Abatkun stated, “My best friends and I decided to come to the City for a mini day trip. I was so set on being going to Time Square to see the Apollo Theatre. My friends and I were not aware that tours are not available of the Apollo.  This disappoint led to an unexpected surprise: a local caricature artist. This local artist made a collage drawing of me. That made my day ten times better.” 

If you are interested in purchasing tickets for a show at the Apollo, be prepared to purchase tickets in advance to watch a live performance. This might require a bit of planning ahead, which can be a hassle, but the joy of experiencing a live show makes for a worth-wild memory. Tickets for Amateur Night at the Apollo start at $41 dollars and up. Tickets sell quickly, so be sure to purchase them a month or so in advance. 

If you are looking to purchase a collage, expect to spend anywhere from $20-$40. Don’t be afraid to haggle with the artists; the worst that you can hear is no. If you hear no, simply say I will take my money elsewhere. 90 percent of the time you will win the battle and the war: which is saving money and getting what you wanted. Sounds like a win-win to me. 

Speaking of winning, Rebdolls and Express are two clothing and apparel stores where losing is not an option.  Both stores are trendy and affordable if you are looking to spice up your wardrobe. Or you could just enjoy the “free” benefits of window shopping, which makes the trip even more enjoyable. There is not more delightful than hearing it’s free, right? 

Shopping and exploring was delightful, but I have something that I really think you will enjoy. Come on, we are heading downtown, but taking it a little higher to explore the Highline. 

Take It a Little Higher and Hit Up the Highline  

Address: Stair Entrance begins at 18th, 20th, 26th and 28th Street

Hours of Operation: 7 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Price: Free

Background: The  High Line, is a 30-foot high, 1.5 miles, urban open space filled with vegetation and urban contemporary architecture. Way to go up, don’t you think?  The public project also showcases art. The High Line runs from the Meatpacking District to Hudson's Yard. Did you know the green space was once a major railroad? What a conversion!  Although the public project is quite a stretch, elevators and restroom access is provided over the course of the park. 

 

Photo Caption: A portrait of me taken along the High Line in NYC

“Fifty shades of green,” I thought to myself. Multi-colored flowers are nestled neatly along the trail creating a mini-path for tourists to walk along. The sweet smell of honeysuckle and clean linen linger in the air. The lush, green treetops act as a shelter from the vicious rays emitted by the sun, which account for the unbearable New York summer heat. The glorious treetops provide shade and a cool summer breeze to clammy tourist. The open and airy space acts as a transparent window giving tourist an inside look at some of the city’s best attractions, and did I forget to mention interesting people who are not afraid to conversate. 

While meandering along the urban open space and positioning myself for a memorable photo, three nasally voices screamed, “You are so beautiful, I mean so young and fabulous. Pose, honey! We use to be just like you guys,” shouted three seasoned middle aged women. “We aren’t college girls anymore. We are housewives with a ton of responsibilities. So enjoy your youth before it disappears,” said Jen, one of the middle-aged women. 

The euphermerial conversations during the tour made the experience even more memorable.  Don’t forget to enjoy the beautiful scenery and soak in the words of wisdom from those you encounter along the way. 

I think there is no better way to “zen” the day than by going to the Highline, before we set sail to our final destination. All aboard as we make our way Uptown to Harlem Spirituals. 

Ready to Top It All Off Before You Set Sail? 

 

 

Address: Pier 83 at West 42nd St. and 12th St.

Hours of Operation: TBD by the time that you book and the company’s schedule

Price: $37 Dollars (Other Cruises offered by the company are more costly)

Website: https://www.harlemspirituals.com/products/landmark-cruise

Before saying goodbye to the Big Apple, it's only right that we sail around it. Book a New York City Skyline Cruise to see the city’s biggest attractions. This hour and a half cruise gives passengers the chance to explore and discover parts of lower and mid Manhattan. You will also be able to get an up-close and personal look at Lady Liberty. While sailing, you will enjoy cruising around the United Nations to Battery Park and much more.  

I would suggest arriving 45 minutes early to prepare for any unforeseen issues and boarding time. Be sure to bring proof of ticket purchase and exchange it for a boarding pass. Bring extra money if you interested in eating and drinking while on the tour. Last but not least, breathe in the city’s air and take it all in. 

Harlem is rich with history, food, culture, and activities, yet it is enjoyable for budget conscious spenders. I must say it is anything, but mundane. The neighborhood lives up to motto of “Making It” because the neighborhood makes for such a memorable experience, one to share with generations to come.  

Visiting the Empire City can be exciting, yet overwhelming because of the endless activities to indulge in.  But remember college girls always keep it spicy, never bland or boring. So take a new approach. Remember fun is only $100 away. Until next time, happy adventuring travelistas!