Last summer, Trazzler and nycgo.com launched a travel-writing contest, the winner of which would receive round-trip airfare to the five boroughs courtesy of JetBlue and a 14-night stay in an AKA luxury hotel residence. Our lucky recipient turned out to be California-based scribe Stephen Bramucci (whose Trazzler trip about visiting a pirate graveyard in Madagascar won the contest judges' respect—and earned the writer a two-week trip to NYC). While he was here, Bramucci visited a host of the City's attractions. In the following slideshow, read about some of his experiences around town. For a full list of places he visited in New York, go to trazzler.com.
Nuyorican Poets Cafe
Come in. Take a seat. Anywhere will do. Let your conversation wander idly—but be ready to abandon it completely at a moment's notice. At the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, the words being spoken from the stage deserve your full attention. Since 1973, the Nuyorican has given a voice to the marginalized, becoming a boundary-free melting pot for genre-busting artists. Every night of the week, performers step into the spotlight to shed light on their corner of the world, facing even the grittiest truths head on. Attend the Wednesday Night Slam Open and you're sure to witness a few expert wordsmiths, but what's more, you'll hear poets putting their longings, their fears and their personal histories out on display. Think twice before volunteering to be a judge; if the crowd doesn't agree with your score, they'll boo, but it does give you the chance to represent when someone says something that sends chills racing down your spine. Like finger-snapping or foot-stomping, it's another way for you to let them know: "I hear you."
El Museo del Barrio
From the outside, the glass façade of El Museo del Barrio looks similar to many of the museums lining Fifth Avenue. Inside, however, it fits seamlessly with its Spanish Harlem zip code. The museum's mission is to preserve the art and heritage of Latin Americans, Puerto Ricans and people of Caribbean descent living in the United States—and it has been doing just that for more than 40 years. The exhibits hosted aren't simply of aesthetic interest, they strive to say something about the artists themselves and how their cultural experience marks their work. Step inside and have a chat with the smiling staff about which bodega serves the best red beans and rice for lunch (the museum also has a café). As you move into the galleries, it quickly becomes clear that the selected pieces represent both the challenges and joys faced by people of Latin and Caribbean descent living in the melting pot of New York City.
Feinstein's at Loews Regency
In New York's olden days, the word "nightclub" didn't mean techno music, glow-lights and watered-down drinks. It referred to a place where discerning adults went to enjoy dinner and a show. Frank Sinatra played at nightclubs, and so did Sammy Davis Jr. They sang and danced while the patrons sucked down top-shelf martinis and ate their meals in courses. New York has changed a lot since those days, but the old-fashioned nightclub still exists at Feinstein's at Loews Regency. With its oak-paneled walls and tuxedoed waitstaff, Feinstein's exudes a certain refined elegance. Check the schedule to see Broadway stars like Jane Krakowski croon in an intimate setting or visit on Sunday, when magic takes center stage. On these weekly Magical Nights, conjurers rotate from table to table as you peruse the menu. Once the food arrives, a polished headliner plies his trade against the backdrop of a velvet curtain. Raising one of Feinstein's signature cocktails, you offer a sly wink to your date—here's to the nightclub, may it never die.
Scoops Ice Cream Parlor
To the uninitiated stranger on the bustling sidewalks of Brooklyn's Flatbush Avenue, Scoops Ice Cream Parlor looks pretty typical. Sure enough, Scoops does sell ice cream, but that's only a small taste of what's being served at this beloved snack stop. Like other eateries in the neighborhood, the food at Scoops is influenced by the guidelines of Rastafarianism and the Ital movement. That means that the West Indian fare is strictly vegetarian and immaculately prepared. More importantly, it's delicious. Start with a homemade ginger beer or a vegan smoothie. Take a look under the hot bar at the selections of the day—if you're in the mood for something light, try a veggie patty. Sweet rolls, mixed nuts, and Ital grocery items line the counters. Time permitting, pull up a stool (there are only two) and soak in the friendly vibe as a steady stream of locals pop in to show love to the Trinidadian proprietors.
In the great debate over New York pizza, one record is safely locked in the history books: in 1905, an Italian immigrant named Gennaro Lombardi opened America's first pizzeria. As it turns out, a century of practice gave Lombardi and his descendants plenty of time to get their recipe just right. From the second your pie is set on a tray, a foot above the gingham red-and-white tablecloth, you realize that in the case of pizza, experience matters. You'll do everyone a disservice if you can't cajole your friends into ordering both a white pizza and a more typical "tomato pie" (as Lombardi himself once dubbed them). Baked in a coal oven, Lombardi's pizza is crispy underneath yet somehow retains the pliable quality that's come to mark the New York version of this Neapolitan classic. The toppings are creative (clam pizza is a specialty) and fresh. As you lock eyes across the table, in a silent struggle over the remaining slice, you realize that in this case, "first" also may very well be the best.
You heard about it as a kid, maybe in a movie or an episode of Behind the Music…The Apollo. Never has one venue launched so many future stars as this Harlem icon. As you pass under the glowing marquee, you can already feel the energy pulsing through the terraced theater. The house band is on stage, playing the hits of Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder—each of whom caught their first big break between these hallowed walls. Visit on Wednesday's Amateur Night to watch a new generation of aspiring singers, dancers, comedians and poets squaring off. They take the stage one by one, touching the stump of the "Tree of Hope" for good luck. Still, no one expects any mercy from the notoriously difficult-to-impress Apollo crowds. You may cringe when you see a performer booed, but if they manage to turn the tide (as Lauryn Hill did at age 13) and avoid the dreaded Executioner sweeping them offstage, you'll admire their fortitude—certain that if they can make it here, they can make it anywhere.