Disclaimer: This trip was sponsored by the Independent Collection Hotels. All opinions are my own.
There are undeniable perks related to traveling the world, but that shouldn’t deter you from occasionally staying (relatively) close to home for a relaxing staycation.
So, when I was invited to be “Independent” in NYC and Boston, (just one day before leaving for Costa Rica) I jumped at the chance.
All of the properties within Independent Collection have a boutique hotel-feel and have been designed to feature the culture and unique nature of of each city.
This ensures that travelers will experience more authentic city breaks, and the local “must do” checklists on each key card (listed below each city) add a bit of fun to exploring the destinations.
Our city break began in downtown Brooklyn at the quirky/cool NU Hotel.
We first dropped our things at the NU, and headed north to Williamsburg for a private tour and tasting at the world renowned Brooklyn Brewery, followed by lunch at nearby Café Collete.
Being that we were just a few blocks from Greenpoint, I couldn’t leave the area without stopping at NYC’s best doughnut shop, Peter Pan Donuts and the eccentric “Roller Aid“, which both got a stamp of approval from the group.
Next, we were treated to a very special tour of Brooklyn Museum‘s fantastic exhibit: Impressionism and the Caribbean: Francisco Oller and His Transatlantic World.
Musuem curator Rich Aste, led us through Oller’s incredible journey across the Atlantic from Spain to the Caribbean, and back, and a stop in Paris before returning to the Caribbean again.
It’s truly a special collection. Unfortunately, the exhibit is closing on January 3rd, but if you are going to be in NYC this holiday, I highly recommend a visit.
Culturally satiated, we returned to NU to freshen up, enjoy a few cocktails at aptly dubbed lobby bar, Misdemeanor (named for the prison located across the street), and were given a look at the different rooms in hotel.
This is where the NU shines. The lobby was bursting with activity – even early in the evening – and each signature room has a different mural painted by a different Brooklyn-based artist.
All of the rooms’ mini bars are stocked with locally sourced snacks, treats, and libations, and are also available at the bar.
Dinner was just a couple of blocks away at French Louie, a beautiful little bistro with the hearty cuisine and decor reminiscent of Montreal (despite its name).
I slept soundly that night, gathered my things in the morning, and enjoyed a complimentary breakfast (free for all hotel guests), before leaving Brooklyn and moving on to Manhattan.
But, before we go, here is a list of the must do’s while staying at the NU.
- Enjoyed a slice at Grimaldi’s?
- Grew a beard and wore some plaid?
- Dined Michelin-style in Brooklyn?
- Valeted my bike at Barclays?
- BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music)
- Borrowed a Brooklyn cruiser & biked Prospect Park?
The Duane Street Hotel is sultry older sister to NU, in the way that Brooklyn is to Manhattan.
The vibe was relaxed elegance when we arrived mid morning, and although it seemed we had breakfast not long before, we walked to The Odeon, a Parisian style restaurant and neighborhood staple.
I ordered a fall vegetable “stew” that was quite warming and delicious.
Post lunch, we embarked on a tour of One World Observatory. I had never ventured to the original WTC, so ascending the Freedom Tower was a thrilling and emotional moment.
Chef Jehangir Mehta’s East Village eatery, Graffiti was a cool, calculated, and choice spot for dinner.
The amazingly tiny and creative Asian/American/French restaurant was recently voted among the top 20 restaurants in New York by Zagat, and, it was revealed that in just a few months, Chef Mehta will open a second restaurant, Mehtaphor, in the lobby of the Duane Street Hotel (this can’t come soon enough, in my opinion!).
I joined my boyfriend and another friend for a post drink dinner, but called it an early night. I was convinced that my bed was fashioned from the fluffiest of clouds, and I swiftly drifted off and fell asleep
The following morning, I again, packed up my belongings and had breakfast at Bubby’s, a popular weekend brunch destination serving classic American fare with locally sourced ingredients, and now a new favorite a.m. dining spot for myself.
We said our goodbyes to one of the other journalists, and to New York as we boarded the train at Penn Station en route to Boston. But first,
- Walked the High Line?
- Got Bullish on Wall Street?
- Watched an Indie flick at the original Tribeca Film Festival Theater?
- Sampled the apple pie at Bubby’s?
- Met Chef Bouley & he gave me a kitchen tour?
Exhausted from the train, we arrived at The Boxer Hotel and were given some time to unwind (and check out our great welcome packages!) before a special bourbon/burger experience at the Boxer’s Finch restaurant.
The Finch serves breakfast, dinner, and, cocktails in a casual, pub style space, and has an extensive bourbon list that features local distillers as well as nationally known brands.
The burger was one of the best I’ve ever tasted, and had as much flavor as an Italian meatball (the food and beverage director, Xochitl Bielma, confessed that was her inspiration!), and while I’m not a huge bourbon fan, I did sample some ryes that I would definitely consider sipping again.
I felt the chill of Boston air the next day, and filled up on the breakfast buffet at the Finch. I bundled up (and purchased an extra hat) and joined a historical walking tour by Freedom Trail Players.
Our guide, Rob Crean “Isaiah Thomas”, took us to several famous Boston sights on the 90-minute tour, including Sam Adams’ grave, the site of the Boston Massacre, and the Old State House (pictured above).
To warm up after the tour, I ordered a Bloody Mary from the posh restaurant Stephanie’s on Newbury. Selecting the add ins and types of juices and spirits was a lot of fun.
I settled on the blue cheese stuffed olives as my accent splurge, and crab cake Benedict for a late brunch.
The afternoon was up to me, as I was given a CityPASS that works at a lot of nearby attractions. I picked the Skywalk Observatory, in order to give the Boston skyline its due (after seeing New York’s so grandly), and the New England Aquarium, because… cute animals.
We stopped for a cocktail at Drink, which came highly recommended by several Bostonians, but unless you are extremely patient, I suggest skipping it.
Drink does not take reservations, and plays the city standard “door game”, but given the vast windows facing the street, waiting an hour to enter a near empty bar is, in my opinion, a waste of time.
During the waiting period, you are relegated to a hideous stairwell, or forced to go outside.
When we were finally able to enter, we were instructed that there is no menu. Tell the server your preferences, and the mixologist will craft a cocktail especially for you.
I responded “no brown, not sweet, bubbles appreciated”, and after one sip, I knew that my drink was a French 75 – hardly a “crafted” cocktail and one I make better at home in much less time (and $).
Dinner, however did not disappoint. Marliave was opened by French immigrant Henry Marliave in 1885.
The stark black and white decor is reminiscent of the late 1980s, but the menu curiously skips French cuisine, and instead spans several different cultures including English and Scottish.
The cocktail menu is scattered with popular drinks from Prohibition times, and there is a vast wine menu as well.
The final meal before returning to New York was the lobster Benedict at the Finch.
The huge chunks of lobster were appreciated, and very tender, but, the dish was served a bit too cold for my liking (especially on a chilly morning).
I have to admit that The Boxer was my favorite hotel of the three, and a place I hope to revisit when I return to Boston, and finish this checklist:
- Walk the Freedom Trail?
- Score a table at Neptune Oyster Bar?
- Ate chowda?
- Had a date with the Green Monster?
- Cannoli war? (Mike’s Pastry vs. Modern Pastry)
- Everybody knows your name at the real Cheers?
So, to sum up my trip and the properties: If you are looking for a youthful, artistic hotel, The NU is for you.
For those with more sophisticated taste, with a penchant for a bit of a “scene”, check out The Duane Street Hotel, and if you love a well designed, homey feel, The Boxer is a perfect choice.
Have you stayed at any of the Independent Collection Hotels? Let me know your thoughts below!