Monday, August 13, 2012

Blogging & the City 2.0 (Part 1): My Adventures in New York City for #BlogHer12

I finally used the New York City Subway...cheapest way to get around
My photo of Times Square - It's busy - day and night...
Doing New York City, BlogHer Style....

I recently returned from visting New York City to attend my third BlogHer Conference. BlogHer is the largest female blogging conference in the world with reportedly almost 5000 women attending this year. This is the second time that the conference has been in New York City (hence the post name Blogging & the City 2.0) and again my partner in crime and travel buddy for this conference trip was Laura from

BlogHer is still a great value for the Money...
I have saved lots of money over the years on my vacations by traveling as part of business conferences and BlogHer is one of the cheapest blogging conferences to attend. The conference fee has remained only $199 since the conference inception and that fee includes all sessions, daily breakfast and lunch and nightly parties. The price also includes the admittance to the Vendor Hall where brands and bloggers connect and massive swag is available for all.

The BlogHer organizers always negotiate very reasonable hotel rates for attendees. This year's conference was held at the Hilton and attendees only paid $229 per night, which is great for a 4 star hotel in downtown Manhattan only two blocks from Radio City Music Hall.  The Hilton did have its challenges, including slow elevators and less than optimal air conditioners, but overall it was a nice hotel.

Thanks to BlogHer, I got to dance with The Radio City Rockettes! - FOR FREE!!!
Lots to do in the Big Apple..
I had a really great time this year at BlogHer and had some extraordinary experiences in New York including Dancing with the Radio City Rockettes and dining at the famed New York Ruth's Chris Steak House as part of the Glamorous Moms Luncheon hosted by metro Detroit's own Shannon Lazovskin of the Glamorous Moms blog. I will be sharing stories about all those adventures in future posts. But in this post I just want to share some of Laura's and my New York adventures during our first day in the city, before the conference started.

During our 2010 trip to New York for BlogHer10, Laura and I played it pretty safe and stayed close to the hotel and only took cabs to get around. But this year, we decided to venture out more and also try out the New York city subway system.

Pazza Notte - still YUMMY!
But before we started our adventures, we decided to have lunch at an old favorite - Pazza Notte. We discovered this Italian restaurant on our trip to BlogHer10.  The food is wonderful and the location is only 2 blocks from the Hilton. In 2010, the food was a real bargain since we paid only $19 for a 3 course lunch called "The Recession Special". Although the price for the same meal had increased to $25, our stomachs still could not resist eating there again and the Pollo Alla Cajun was just as wonderful as I remembered.

New York City Subways - Cheap but Hot as Hell!
After lunch we decided to take the subway to visit Ground Zero. This was both Laura's and my first time using the subway so we really did not know what to expect, other than it being the cheapest way to get around New York City.

Laura was able to figure out the subway system using Google Maps on her iPhone so getting around was not an issue. But what was an issue was the temperature of the subway platform. Since the subway is underground, I of course thought it would be cool. But the temperature was off the charts HOT and HUMID, two things that I don't do well. So I was very glad when the train finally came to take us to Ground Zero.

Photo Credit: Century 21
Century 21- A Discount Designer Shopping Mecca
When we exited the subway, we were in the financial district which is also home to one of the best designer bargain stores in New York City - Century 21. I had only seen Century 21 on cable television shows like "The Look for Less" so I knew I had to go in and at least walk around.

The inside of the store looks like a Walmart (no thrills), but with all designer clothing at cheap prices. There was so much merchandise on so many floors that it was hard to know where to start. I am not a fan of organized chaos, but the prices in this store are hard to beat. If you are a bargainista visiting New York, this store is a must stop.

Ground Zero - Lovely and Sobering...
Getting to Ground Zero takes some patience. First you have to get a FREE vistor pass online at and pick the date and time that you want to visit. When you get to the gate, you have to have your Visitor Pass out at all times since you will go through multiple police check points, including a bag search. But the experience it worth the process.

My photo of the 9/11 memorial - The fountain is beautiful
Laura at the memorial wall
The designers of the 9/11 memorial have done a wonderful job. The memorial is both lovely, with the beautiful fountains, and sobering with the names of the victims forever etched in granite on the site of both World Trade towers.

As we stood there watching the fountains, Laura and I remembered where we each were when the towers fell.  Others around us were having similar conversations and touching the engraved names with reverence. I am very glad that we made the time to finally visit.

Police are Everywhere in Manhattan...
One thing that I noticed while traveling in Manhattan is the heavy police presence. There are pairs of police officers in all the tourist areas, seemingly on every other block - day and night, regardless of the weather. During one of our city tours later in our trip, the tour guide told us that Manhattan is now one of the safest places to walk day and night because of all the police. I have to say that I felt really safe especially as Laura and I walked from the Financial district to our next stop in Tribeca.

Aire Ancient Bath House...HEAVEN!!!
Before we left for BlogHer12, Laura sent me an email asking if I wanted to be part of her review of a business in Tribeca called Aire Ancient Baths. I am usually all in for a new experience that I don't have to pay for, but the term "ancient baths" brought up visions of ancient Romans sitting around naked in steam rooms - not pretty. But I figured I had nothing to lose by going. I am happy to say that my initial thoughts were way off base.

The Aire Lobby - Photo Credit: Aire Ancient Baths
As we entered Aire Ancient Baths, we were greeted in a lobby that contained comfy couches and a wall of relaxing scented candles. After we filled out our forms, we walked to the women's locker room to change into our swimsuits. We actually did not have to bring our own swimsuits since Aire provides everything from swimsuits to robes to bath shoes, all included in the price of service.

The Baths - Photo Credit: Aire Ancient Baths
The baths are located on the lower level and are pools of water of varying temperatures ranging from hot to cold, plus steam and massage rooms. Keeping on our bath shoes was extremely important since the floors are made of marble. We started in the salt water pool which was my favorite of all them all. Due to the salt in the water, it is impossible to sink in this pool so you just lay on top of the water. After the salt pool, we were told to go into the steam room so the salt would be absorbed into our skin. My skin ended up feeling like a soft baby's bottom.

We next went into the massage room for our 15 minute massages. Since the walk to Tribeca was a long one, the massages were wonderful, especially of my feet. After only 10 minutes, I felt like a new woman.

We tried some of the other pools and Laura even tried the 50 degree cold pool - brave woman.  The whole experience was wonderful and I cannot thank Laura enough for inviting me to tag along. The staff even dried our swimsuits for us while we showered. Click here to read Laura's full review of Aire Ancient Baths including prices.

Street Vendor Eating for only $5....
After our great time at Aire Ancient Bath House, Laura and I took the subway back toward our hotel and started thinking about what we could have for dinner. We didn't want to spend lots of money on food in New York. Since most of our meals were included as part of the conference, we only had to cover a few meals on our own. Walking back to the hotel, we found a Subway where we bought a meal for a decent price. But we also found during our trip that licensed street vendors cooked some great meals (including huge gyros and other sandwiches) that start at only $5 total. These vendors ended up saving us lots of money on food.

Me in Rockefeller Center, BlogHer12
Lots more adventures to come...
Our first day in New York was filled with great experiences, as was the remainder of our trip.

So stay tuned for my next posts in my series "Blogging & the City 2.0" where I will tell you about my New York Walking Tour sponsored by StumbleUpon, the "Christmas in July" event sponsored by Hallmark (which will include a GIVEAWAY), the Verizon Luncheon featuring their domestic violence charity - Hopeline, dancing with the Radio City Rockettes sponsored by Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, working out on the new CoreBody Reformer sponsored by Bowflex, attending the Glamorous Moms Luncheon sponsored by Detroit Blogger Shannon Lazovskin and much more...



Disclosure: I was the guest of Aire Ancient Bath House and received complementary bath services. My massage was not complementary. All my trip photos were taken with the Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone loaned to me for trip to BlogHer by Verizon Wireless. All opinions are my own.

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