Take A "Destination Vacation" Without Leaving New York City!

by CARSON GRIFFITH · March 25, 2009

Have the below average temperatures and mounting recession foiled your destination vacation plans this year? Well look on the bright side, you're still in the best city in the world! Try and enjoy NYC for all it's worth by traveling to one of its many "foreign locations." Think of all the money you’ll save on travel agents, airfare, and hotels when all you have to do is travel from neighborhood to neighborhood! Okay, we understand Astoria is not quite the Greek Isles but a baller on a budget has got to do what they got to do when in desperate need of a vacation.

Check out our ideas on where to eat, what to do, and where to party when taking a “Destination Vacation” in New York City! 

Little Italy:

Food

Nothing can compare to the actual ambiance of Italy, but when it comes to the food department, New York’s Little Italy, primarily stationed on Mulberry Street, comes pretty close. There are a few that stand out above the competition though. Pellegrino’s on 138 Mulberry St is always a favorite, and Il Cortile on 125 Mulberry St has a romantic roof deck as well. Angelo’s, on 146 Mulberry has been opened since 1902, and is a New York establishment.

Nightlife

While many of the restaurants on Mulberry street have their own bars, Da Nico, on 164 Mulberry street, has been called the “hip” place to go in Little Italy; probably due to the amount of celebrity customers they’ve received. If you’re looking to get rowdy, you can also try La Mela on 167 Mulberry, who is no stranger to loud and drunk diners. The restaurant, which serves family style portions, has all you can drink deals, video cameras with televisions broadcasting group’s actions up on the walls, and hanging from the ceiling is a statue of a male’s, well, uh, let’s just say this restaurant is reminiscent of an Italian frat house, making it a good choice if you want to relive that college study abroad program you had.

Astoria, Queens:

Food

If you’re looking for some authentic Greek meats, then Tony’s Souvlaki Opa! on 2844 31st St is where to go. If you really want to pretend you’re on the islands, ask them to throw some French fries on your gyro (pronounced ‘euro’ – and yes, French fries!). And free of charge, the guys will even pose for a photo opp while cooking your meat for you. For some sweets and more, hit up Ya Ya’s Bakery on 2846 31st St. With a wood-burning oven, you can smell this place way before you walk in. With everything mysteriously about $3 (the spinach pies, the baklava), you could probably get an entire meal for less than the cost of a Tropical drink. And for something even more authentic, try Zenon Taverna Meze House on 34-10 31st St.

If you’re into Greek mythology or just want to experiment a little with some authentic Greek dishes, this Cypriot restaurant is a good bet. While the majority of the patrons do not speak English, the staff does, but was more than willing to humor my elementary Greek while ordering. All dishes are fresh to boot.

Nightlife

So if you want to party like you’re in Athens or on Bar Street on the island of Rhodes, then heading to Asteria on 25-22 34th Ave might be a good way to start. With intense purple lighting, Greek and Middle Eastern music, and belly dancers, the party gets wild like Greeks are known to love. If you’re looking for something a little more traditional, head to Taverna Vraka at 23-15 31st St, for bouzouki with traditional Greek dance with napkin tossing.

Chinatown:

Food & Fun

Taking a walk through Chinatown is enough to make you feel like you’ve flown across the world, with its exotic grocery stores and markets. But you’re on vacation, so no food preparation for you! Ping’s Seafood, on 22 Mott St, is a good option if you’re in the mood for dim sum, and unlike a lot of places in Chinatown, they’re credit card friendly. There’s always a line (but they're quick!), so you know it must be good. For something a little bolder, there’s Grand Sichuan, on 125 Canal St, which is seriously authentic.

Now here’s something you can’t pass up, especially since you’re saving so much money on your “vacation”: Modern Wave, on 92 Elizabeth Street, will give you a wash,cut and head message for about $25-30. It’s a great deal considering everyone who works there has the hair of an Asian Pop Star.

Nightlife

Unlike some other neighborhoods of NYC, Chinatown does a pretty good job of emulating its home country’s nightlife scene. Yello, on 32 Mulberry St, a bar that had some problems with some controversy back in the start of the century (hello, Chinese gangsters), is lit by –what else? – yellow lighting and traffic lights, and is big on karaoke and dance space. There’s also always Happy Endings on 32 Broome St… alright, it’s not really a Chinese bar, nor is it really in the heart of Chinatown, but with that name we just had to give it a shout-out to it in this section.

Koreatown

Food

Interested in heading to Korea? While many people aren’t familiar with the cuisine of the Asian country, just as few may be aware that New York City actually has an area that specializes in it. We have some choices if you’re ready to head East, or at least pretend to, starting with Gahm Mi Oak at 43 West 32nd St, a restaurant that features a specialty of Korea: a soup made of a milky white melted bone marrow. For $7, it’s definitely recession friendly, and as a bonus the restaurant is open 24 hours, but if you’re not ready to try this delicacy maybe you should head over to BonChon Chicken on 314 5th Avenue, and try the Korean fried chicken wings, which are crispy and sweet and pretty non-adventurous. After, head to Koryodang on 31 W 32nd St for a Korean snow cone: shaved ice with fruit syrup and sweet red beans.

Nightlife

If you only go to one place and one place alone for nightlife in Koreatown, I would recommend Camel, on 28 W 33rd St. While I personally had some trouble getting in with my mass of blond hair (and once I did, it stuck out in a sea of ebony), but regardless you will certainly feel like you are in another country. Although small, people utilize the space with their dance skills, making the experience worth it.

Spanish Harlem

Food & Fun

Both Puerto Rico-USA Bar and the Spa Ha Lounge in Spanish Harlem have something in common and I’m not talking about their neighborhood: They combine serving cheap drink specials and food to keep the party going. So if you can’t make it to South America or one of the Spanish speaking islands, we’d advise hopping on the 6 and heading up to 1634 Lexington Ave to the Spa Ha Lounge, where the lines are long just about every night and the accents thick. If you’re not in the mood for dancing as much and you feel like something a little more casual, you can walk a few blocks up to 124 E 107th St, where the drinks are even cheaper, to Puerto Rico-USA Bar.

Murray Hill

You may be wondering: What location would be I be visiting exactly if I “vacationed” in the neighborhood of “Slurry Hill”? Why, college of course! And here’s a few tips how…

Food

Blockheads, on 499 3rd Avenue, is the perfect way to emulate that hungover cafeteria brunch you had every weekend in college. You know, the one where you ate crappy food and poured over all the embarrassing things you and your friends drunkenly did the night before. For $9.99, you get a plate of par to sub-par Mexican food and all you can drink Andre Champagne. So collegiate we’re squirming in our sorority sweatshirts.

Nightlife

Besides the requisite Joshua Tree, you also have Galway Hooker at 1 E 36th St, and Butterfield 8 at 5 E 38th St, which are all pretty much the same: barely out of college kids, drink specials, and a delightful mix of pop and 80s music. But here’s a treat for all of you planning on taking a trip back to your fraternity years: The Hook & Ladder Pub on 611 2nd Ave is equipped with 5 beer pong tables and an outside beer pong patio. And rumor has it the bartenders will even permit the occasional beer bong. All you need now is a keg stand and some fist pumping and you got yourself a frat party.

So don't worry about renewing your passport and put the luggage back in the closet. Who needs a REAL vacation when you live in New York City? Let us know how it goes!