About Jessica Tiare Bowen
Jessica Tiare Bowen lives in the juicy Big Apple with her adorable pink-nosed chihuahua, Gillman. He's the inspiration for her first published children's book, "Park Avenue Pound Puppy." The book is the combined result of her two greatest passions: pooches and penning stories.
Her passions include art, urban hikes through Manhattan, drinking coffee with 3 creams and 6 sugars, making extremely detailed itineraries and traveling to far away places, singing along to Broadway shows, Netflix movie nights, discovering incredible treasures at Goodwill and thrift stores, and listening to stories from little people under 7 and big people over 70.
She started her career as New York City Teaching Fellow, teaching elementary school and theater arts at a special education school in the South Bronx for 6 years. She is now a Special Education School Improvement Specialist working in public schools throughout New York City. She is the Editor-In-Chief of the online New York City travel magazine, Used York City. The magazine focuses on finding the best of New York...as used by New Yorkers. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and an ASPCA Ambassador.
Latest Posts by Jessica Tiare Bowen
Often, I joke around that I’m “staying on the island for the summer”…meaning the island of Manhattan, of course. But there’s another island right next door that’s super quick and easy to get to (no car needed!), and offers a lot of quiet, solitude, and nature that we’re not necessarily swimming in on the island of Manhattan. No, I’m not speaking of the Hamptons…I’m talking Roosevelt Island!
My favorite way of getting to Roosevelt Island is taking the RI Tram from 59th Street and 2nd Avenue (video of the ride below!) If heights aren’t your thing, you can hop on the F train and take it underground to the Roosevelt Island stop.
What To Do
When you disembark the tram, you’ll see the teeny tiny Visitor’s Center right in front of you. The folks manning the desk are super helpful and knowledgable about anything you might want to know about the island, so I’d definitely suggest popping in for a chat and to get yourself orientated. If you’re into history, ask lots of questions! Roosevelt Island has a fascinating past, including hospitals, asylums, and correctional institutions.
Southpoint Park & Four Freedoms Park
A 10 minute walk south once you exit the tram or subway, these parks are clean (with public restrooms, yay!), and offer breathtaking views of the city. You’ll come across Southpoint Park first (which is dog friendly, Four Freedoms is not.) It is also home to a landmark building: the old Small Pox Hospital, which is pretty cool to see up close and personal. Be sure to walk down to the end of the island to Four Freedoms Park, which is where you will see a gorgeous memorial to President FDR himself. The parks are hosts to lots of fun outdoorsy, summery events, so be sure to check out their website for times of outdoor films, dance lessons, tours, etc.
Blackwell Island Lighthouse
Now hop on the red bus (which picks up back at the tram) and ride it about 10 minutes to the last stop on the North point of the island where you will see the Blackwell Island Lighthouse. Built by convict laborers in 1872, this lighthouse lit the way for boats navigating what was then referred to as the “Hell Gates waters”. The lighthouse is also surrounded by a park, so this is a great place to lay out with a blanket and read a book, take a snooze, or play some frisbee.
Walk The Promenade
After a bit of rest, head back down the West side of the island via foot for a nice little stroll…it’s about 2 miles (or you could always hop back on the bus!) You’ll capture beautiful views of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and see the Coler Campus of the Coler-Goldwater Hospital on your left. The hospital is a long-term care facility for patients with live-in needs, hence you’ll see a lot of wheelchairs and scooters about. I love how universally designed and accessible the island is to all…kudos, NYC!
You’ll run smack into Eleanor’s Pier, which is a cute wooden pier with tables and a container of takeout menus. You can either order takeout right from the pier, or walk just another block to the town center where the restaurants are located, and then bring your food back. (Or packing a picnic is always a great option!) There’s not a huge variety when it comes to dining on the island, but they have all the staples: bar food, pizza, and sushi. It should be no surprise what I went for! Three hours should be plenty of time to see the above mentioned sites and to enjoy some quietness on the island. Although it’s not quite a beach getaway, I promise you’ll leave feeling rested, recharged, and ready to tackle whatever may lay on the other end of your tram ride.
What’s your favorite afternoon getaway? Share below!
Recently I went to the Boston Ballet. A childhood ballerina myself, I had no doubt I was going to adore the dances going in, but had little hope for the hubby. ”Please just stay awake, and I promise we’ll go to The Smith afterwards and order all your favorite things!”, I pleaded.
Come to find out, the Boston Ballet at Lincoln Center was a game changer. He LOVED it*. And honestly, I had never seen a ballet quite like it, it reminded me of the edgier troupe at the end of Center Stage that stole the audiences heart…a little less ballet that we think of in the traditional pink tutus and toe shoes, double pirouettes sense, and more theatrical performance art accompanied by techno rock music that keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering, “What’s next?” We saw the performances The Second Detail (my fave), New Work, and Cacti (the hubby was completely enchanted by this one!)
As promised, we did stop by the UWS’s Smith for a dinner of all his favorite things: cheesy grits, french fries, gnocchi, and baguettes. Carb-loading for a full night’s sleep, darlings!
Besides the ballet, Lincoln Center has plenty of other reasons to pay them a visit this summer, some of which are absolutely free. Here’s 5 of my fave freebies:
1. Midsummer Night Swing (You have to pay to get onto the dance floor, but you can enjoy the music, people and dancing from the sidelines without paying a cent!)
2. Napping on the Illumination Lawn.
3. Enjoying free musical performances at Target Free Thursdays.
4. Visiting the exhibit “Launchpad of the American Theater: The O’Neill since 1964” at the New York Library for the Performing Arts.
5. Meet The Artist Saturdays, happening the first Saturday of each month.
Which of these would you most like to check out this summer? Share below!
For those of you hosting parties this summer, I have a super adorable, no-bake, no-work, 5-minutes-and-you’re-done, festive recipe*! Trust me, your vegetarian friends who are skipping the hotdogs will love you, as will your gluten-free friends who are skipping the apple pie, and your vegan friends who are skipping the ice-cream.
Needless to say, you really can’t go wrong with fruit (although go organic, just in case), and as you can tell from the photos, there’s virtually no work required other than cutting up bananas and sticking the fruit on skewers. Voila, fruit kebabs! And seriously guys, how cute is this?!
A lover of children’s literature, A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh books were always in heavy rotation in my library as a child, and the cartoons played pretty much on repeat on our trusty VHS player. That being said, I never pondered much on the origins of the 1920′s series, basically assuming it was the fictional creation of some brilliant author, generations before my time.
“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?” -Winnie-the-Pooh
Imagine my delight when, on a recent stroll of the New York Public Library’s Main Branch, I stumbled (literally) onto a glass case filled with the original Hundred Acre Wood’s gang, tattered and loved unconditionally by a child, just as I would expect.
“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.” -Winnie-the-Pooh
The child that loved this gang of characters was the author’s son, Christopher Robin (also a main character in the stories!) The story has it that the actual Christopher Robin received the stuffed bear on his first birthday, which he originally named Edward, and added his friends to the collection over his childhood years. He used to spend summers in the real Hundred Acre Wood (located in southern England), and hence switched Edward’s name to “Winnie-the-Pooh”, originating from the Winnipeg black bear, the one Christopher Robin used to visit frequently at the London Zoo. Christopher Robin’s father quickly realized that this collection of characters would make for wonderful bedtime stories, and thus, the series was born.
“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.” -Winnie-the-Pooh
Winnie-the-Pooh and his besties, Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga, and Tigger, have been living at the NYPL since 1987, and I like to believe that, minus the cuddles, they are just has happy being loved and adored by Winnie-the-Pooh fans that pay frequent visits as they were living in Christopher Robin’s home, some 90+ years ago.
What childhood literary character played an important part of your life? Share below!WHERE: Children’s Center at the NYPL Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street New York, New York COST: Free
The very first movie my mom ever took me to see in theaters as a kid was The Jungle Book, setting the stage for my love of all things Disney and musical. In 1992, the Disney version of Aladdin came to the screen, and my siblings and I must have watched that VHS copy, oh, a proper 1,572 times over the years.
Flash forward to 2014 when Aladdin comes to the biggest off-screen of NYC, Broadway! My hopes were high, and only to be exceeded by the brilliant directing and choreography (Casey Nicholaw, Tony award winner for directing The Book of Mormon), music (by composer Alan Menken), design of the massive sets, glittery costumes, and other worldly-lighting (Bob Crowley, Gregg Barnes, and Natasha Katz) and the crazy-talented cast (seriously, James Monroe Iglehart who played the Genie just blew the performance out of the park!
He also took home the Tony for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical, just FYI.) A special shout out to the special effect team (led by illusion master Jim Steinmeyer) who was charged with everything from creating magical books to materializing Genies to creating flying carpets (with no strings to be seen anywhere, folks!)
For those of you who perhaps haven’t seen the Disney version, Aladdin tells the story of a young lad in Arabian times, who gets three wishes from a genie trapped in a magic lamp. Throw in a princess who doesn’t want to get married to just any old prince, an evil villain who’s trying to steal the throne, and mix this all together with some truly incredible music and dance numbers, and you have the recipe for a hit. A spot on one at that.
While the musical is certainly kid friendly, it has some great adult humor in there, too. And while, yes, it’s a musical inspired by Disney, it’s important to note that this production is packed with more old-school Broadway pizazz then you’ll find anywhere else on the stage right now. We’re talking high kicking, show stopping, over-the-top-in-all-the-right-ways numbers that will have you singing the likes of “Friend Like Me” and “A Whole New World” for weeks to come! This is one all generations will enjoy so much, you’ll be wishing for your own magic lamp only to request to see it over, and over, and over again.
Before I start, I’d like you to all take a good, long look at this pretzel. Soft, warm, salty, and when dipped into that piping pot of cheddar ale dip…hot diggity! Loyalty for life is what I call that, Flatiron Hall!
Nestled in NoMad, Flatiron Hall is the sister restaurant to further-downtown’s Houston Hall (and we all remember how much I love that place! But in case you forgot…!)
This two level complex houses the restaurant on the main floor and the rowdier hall one level down in the “beer cellar”. The vibe is 1920′s New York meets 2014′s influx of craft beer lovers. This place puts the meow in the cat, my friends. And the service? Top of the line. We never sat with an empty glass, and our server went above and beyond to be so accommodating with my picky vegetarian tastes.
As obsessed as I am with the aforementioned pretzel, there’s still a bevy of menu options to please your pallet…(my husband has returned 3 times already for the Beef Filet Mignon Sandwich. I wonder if it’s too late to get stock in this place…?) Other favorites of ours were the Mediterranean Platter (great for sharing!), the Big Bowl Garden Vegetable Plate (great for veggies!), and the Dark Chocolate Mousse.
And being a beer hall, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention the frothy suds. New Yorkers will be pleased to know that their beer is produced locally, as in right over the bridge, by Greenpoint Beer Works. Besides what they have on tap, the bartenders also mix up a mean cocktail. Runaway American Sidecar and Burnham’s Folly were particular favorites of mine, and not just cause of their cooler than cool names, promise.
Truly a great spot for a group meet up, lively date night, or throw-back evening to the
crazy partying simpler times of the Roaring Twenties, Flatiron Hall has the recipe for success down. Now if only they’d share the recipe to that pretzel and cheese dip…
Until then, here’s some food porn to tickle your fancy…
What’s the most memorable dish you’ve eaten this week? Describe below!
WHERE: Flatiron Hall 38 West 26th Street New York, New York
We love coffee and it isn’t something we New Yorkers don’t take lightly: besides finding a spot with spot-on baristas that perfect your cup of brew every single time, it certainly helps for the place to have a bit of character of it’s own. We asked some in-the-know New Yorkers what their go-to coffee shop is and why, and here’s what they had to say:
My favorite in NYC is Aroma Espresso Bar. They have fantastic coffee, hot and ice, fresh food and a welcoming atmosphere. At their location on the Upper West Side, they also have a nice outdoor patio! -Eric Levy, Co-Founder and CEO of YourNeighborhood
OST in Alphabet City might just be my all time favorite spot for a chat over a gossip magazine, latte, and street-style watching. The store front is lined with massive window panes, allowing that enchanting spring light to flow in from Avenue A (I must admit, it illuminates the space perfectly for a Saturday afternoon selfie). Add a little cinnamon to their cold brew and life is good! While relaxing in that warm sunlight, try their decadent Nutella cookie sandwich. A cup shouldn’t run you more than $3-5, and there is no pressure to vacate your seat, so bring a book or work assignment. They even have games and wine for our more adventurous morning coffee-goers (you know who you are). Enjoy! -Rebecca Levin from The Knew York Her
Il Café in Harlem on Lenox. I actually don’t drink coffee too much but I love a good Chai Tea Latte with Whip Cream and a cinnamon stick from here. -Monroe Steele from Fashion Steele NYC
I get my morning coffee from Stumptown on 18 West 29th Street, there are lines around the block and it’s all cash- but highly worth the dead presidents for it’s raw deliciousness. -Brian Hopson @actorbrian
Stumptown has been a West Coast institution since 1999 and only since 2009 has it been seen on the East Coast. This particular branch, which is one of my favorite coffee shops in NYC, is on W 8th St (at McDougal St). It’s open from 7 AM onwards. They have two different sections – the one in the front has “regular coffee” and the one in the back has specialty coffee made and it’s called the brew bar. There is free tasting every day at 2pm in the brew bar which is pretty popular. They serve amazing coffee and great pastries and donuts on the side. If you include in the amazing décor, complimentary Wi-Fi and ample seating, the flagship store in the Greenwich Village is an all-round hit. -Admin of @WeAreNewYorkers
In my old neighborhood, I used to love to go to Maison Kaiser and sit at a table for a mocha and a croissant. I thought their mochas were pretty delicious and they always gave you a little sweet treat on the side. -Natalie Stanton from NatFlyLove
Dichters Pharmacy/Soda Shoppe. It’s a throwback to the old timey lunch counter soda fountain places. -Rachel Figueroa-Levin @Jewyorican
I often make it at home with beans I get from Long Island City’s Sweetleaf or local Astoria roaster Native Coffee, but when I go out, I often get it at The Coffee Pot, which is a little deli near my apartment. Their iced lattes are my favorite – just a little bitter and very refreshing. I’m also a fan of the coffee at The Queens Kickshaw, where I’ll always get a strong cup and gorgeous streamed milk; the abovementioned Sweetleaf is my go-to in neighboring LIC, where their lattes are fab. -Meg Cotner from We Heart Astoria
Sweetleaf is the best coffee on the planet. I use it in my personal restaurant. No one cares about coffee as much as the owner Ritchie. -@liceateries
I love the espresso and pour-over coffee at The Queens Kickshaw (40-17 Broadway, Astoria, NY) but when that’s not possible, it’s our trusty old Keurig, cause THREE KIDS. -@AstoriaHaiku
I get my first cup of jo at The Warehouse Cafe in the Powerhouse Arts District of Downtown Jersey City where I used to work as a barista. They brew Intelligentsia Coffee and have the best-looking industrial decor. The space is a great place of pilgrimage for creative types like me. I personally spend long work hours here. You’ll find knick-knacks, trinkets, books and magazines sprinkled about the bare space – those and the communal tables are great brainstorm-instigators. At the same time, because it’s a little out of the way and tucked in between old warehouses, it’s also a great spot to unplug, start and finish a book in one sitting, or play chess and Scrabble and no one will bother you. -Marinell Montales from Downtown, Natch!
What are we missing? Share your go-to coffee shop below!
Want to take in a little rest and relaxation next time you’re in the Big Apple? Here are some fun off the beaten path places to visit in New York for a little pampering.
The $40 Spa Day Pass
For $40 during the week or $50 on the weekend, you get complete access to what can only be described as a water park of relaxation for grownups (although let it be noted that children are allowed, and it can get pretty crazy on the weekends…if at all possible, take a day and go when they’re all at school!)
Located in Queens, this 100,000 square foot complex offers just about everything your mind, body, and soul could possibly desire: a gold sauna, jade sauna, salt sauna, color therapy sauna…not to mention the amazing rooftop pool and hot tub. Oh, and gender specific sauna, hot tub, pool, and steam room facilities where you are encouraged to relax in the nude…(I feel like it’s important to mention those things ahead of time, right?!)WHERE: Spa Castle 131 10 11th Avenue College Point, New York
The Manicure + Pedicure
I’ve been going to Aroma Nail & Spa for years, even though I live no where near the neighborhood. Seriously, for the price, they’re that good (I even went here for my wedding mani/pedi!). They take their time, focusing on making sure the cuticles are looking neat, that your polish is applied perfectly, and they even include a hot stone leg massage into the price.
Another bonus: unlike other nail salons, the ladies at Aroma are never pushy about upgrading your package.WHERE: Aroma Nail & Spa 349-399 East 13th Street New York, New York
The $20 Haircut + Blowout + Style
For those times that you want a quick trim/refresher, booking an appointment at this chic Japanese hair salon and training school simply can’t be beat. Granted, they are an actual salon too, but if you book with a master stylist, you will be paying master prices. However, the students are eager to please their professor/boss, and spend a crazy amount of time making sure your hair is nothing short of perfect before you leave.
I went here for my last cut (where I chopped 6 inches!), and could not have been happier. When booking, just make sure you request a student for the listed pricing.WHERE: Hayato 125 East 23rd Street New York, New York
The 60-Minute Foot Reflexology
Whether you believe in Eastern medicine or not, this reflexology leaves those tired, heel-wearing, over-walked NYC feet of yours feeling all kinds of happy again. (The medical part aside, it just feels like a really, really amazing foot and leg rub…I think that’s something we can all get down with!)
Like many Chinatown establishments, the decor is nothing to write home about…simple and sparse come to mind. You sit in over-stuffed chairs for the procedure, and as a bonus, nobody is pushy about small-talk so you can close your eyes and really enjoy the experience (a plus to limited English speaking!)WHERE: New Health World, Chinese Herbs Tuina 63 Mott Street New York, New York
The 60-Minute Full Body Massage
I’ve sung the praises of the Village Chinese Therapy folks before, but I’ll say it again: after 9 years of living in the city, I have yet to find a better full-body massage parlor. It’s nothing fancy: tables are separated by thin paper sheets hung from the ceiling, and there’s even a slight red-light glow that emanates from inside…and DON’T go to the bathroom if you are OCD in the least. But the massage seriously can’t be beat. I pilgrimage down to this place as often as my wallet allows.WHERE: Village Chinese Therapy Center 11 Saint Marks Place New York, New York
Obviously, we encourage you to tip generously on all these services (for the tourists: 20% is the going average for good service in the city.) And while some of the above will accept credit cards, I’d suggest bringing cash if it’s an option, they’ll forgo the sales tax that way (and in NYC sales tax is no joke!)