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
After-work cocktails are kinda a thing in New York City. While my drink of choice is usually a cracking cold glass of white (or champers if I’m feeling really fancy), I’ll occasionally splurge on a $14 cocktail…and savor every last sip. But, like many New Yorkers, I’ve often wondered what makes these cocktails so special…how hard could it be to add a splash of vodka into a glass of cranberry juice?
When I’m ordering a fancy bevvy, how do I know the bartender is giving me $14 worth of spirit? Perhaps most importantly, why are there never cocktails made with Dr. Pepper?
So to get some answers to my questions, I headed to Hardings for their monthly Bartending Class with Mixologist Derrick Turner.
Ok, onto the class. Derrick taught us 3 different drinks, all featuring St. George Spirits (themes change monthly though, often according to seasonal variety.) My favorite was the “Simply Wicked”. I included the recipe below for your drinking pleasure;-)
How do you know your bartender isn’t skimping on the booze? An 8 second pour, my friends (8 seconds = 2 ounces of liquor). Any less, just give him/her the stink eye and they should know exactly what you’re referring to. (Thanks, Derrick!)
Oh, and I have a totally new appreciation for paying top dollar for the fancier drinks…seriously, not easy work! By the end of class I had splashed liquid all over my work station (and myself!), and while my drinks certainly tasted delicious, they were no where as pretty as Derrick’s…in fact, they were pretty sloppy. Bartending fail, Jess! And the fact that bartenders have to memorize all these crazy concoctions, while making them, AND carrying on a conversation about your day?! Major, major props, mixologists!
1/4 oz. St. George absinthe
1/2 oz. agave syrup
Pinch of watercress
1.5 oz. gin
Garnish with watercress and give it a proper mixing in a chilled glass with ice, and then strain into your glass. as Derrick said, “you’ll be drinking pure happiness.”
When I moved to New York City 9 years ago, one of the first solo exploration outings I did was to hop on the F train and ride it to the very last stop (mind you, I lived in Jamaica, Queens at the time, so I was essentially riding the train its entire length…enough time to finish a short novel.
Needless to say, I’ll never forget disembarking the train in the July heat…the smell of hotdogs wafting along the salty sea air, the Cyclone rumbling along its rickety track, and the beach dotted with so many towels, you had to squint real hard just to see the sand! It is really something special.
However, if cozying up to a complete stranger on the shore isn’t your jam, I have a beautiful alternative for you: Coney Island in the off-season. Not only is it barren of locals and tourists trying to soak up some sun, but the isolated theme park paired with the crashing gray waves gives a sort of urban beauty you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else. Here’s 5 things you can enjoy in this hood during the off-season:
1. Take a Tour
Coney Island Tours have a special touch because the tour guides are born and bred Brooklynites, who are crazy passionate about their neighborhood, and can give you the inside scoop on anything and everything. I had a guided tour led by owner Michael Quinn, and seriously left armed with so much fun knowledge about Coney Island’s history (but the fun stuff, like gangsters and the evolution of Nathan’s Hot Dog!) Tours are year round, by appointment.
2. Eat a Famous Hot Dog
Okay, okay, I understand that you can get a Nathan’s elsewhere in the world, but this, my friends, is the original, founded in 1916! And originals always taste best, right? Open year round (and inside seating!), you’ll get to enjoy the experience, sans a long wait and fight for seating you’d encounter during the summer months.
3. Stroll the Boardwalk
Urban hikes have long been a NYC fave, but the boardwalk is certainly a way to mix up your walking regime from other city faves such as the Highline or Central Park. The historic 90-year-old Riegelmann Boardwalk, stretching 2.7 miles, is open year round, and despite being the off-season you’ll surely run into a plethora of walkers, runners, bicyclists, parents with strollers, neighborhood folks out and about, and of course tourists from around the world. Insider’s Tip: as you head towards Brighton Beach you’ll get to take in some of the Russian vibe the hood is so known for.
4. Visit the NY Aquarium
There’s something so relaxing about watching fish swim round and round in brightly lit tanks, making the aquarium the perfect way to while away an afternoon. The daily penguin feeding has been a long time favorite of mine. Insider’s Tip: If you visit on a Friday afternoon after 3pm, it’s pay-what-you-wish admission.
5. Watch (or join!) the Polar Bear Club
One of the crazier things you’ll stumble upon in Coney Island during the off-season is the swimmers of the local Polar Bear Club. These guys and gals take a dip in the icy Atlantic ocean every Sunday at 1pm, November through April, and outsiders can join for “guest swims”. They also organize the legendary New Year’s Day plunge (which anyone can join, no membership required!), and the proceeds go to charity.
Have you been to Coney Island? What stood out most in your mind? Share below!
It’s always exciting when a bucket list item can be checked off your list, exceeding the expectations you’ve set in your mind. Somewhere on my list (ahem, #72) was “sleep in a castle.” Regardless, I never would have expected an opportunity to arise to stay in a castle just under an hour outside NYC…and not just any old castle, but one you’ve probably seen before from the comfort of your own TV. Here’s the deets.
Why Oheka May Look Familiar
Oheka Castle made its first film debut back in 1941 for a little movie called Citizen Kane. Ever heard of it?;-) Since then it has been gracing the screens as backdrop to films, TV, commercials, music videos, and photography shoots. One of my faves is Royal Pains, a show that is set in the Hamptons and uses the castle as the residence of the main bizillionaire on the show. (Sidenote: it’s on Netflix Instant, check it out for more castle views!) Not too shabby, eh?
But let’s back up just a bit…Oheka didn’t start off being the backdrop for Hollywood. Almost a century ago, financier and philanthropist Otto Hermann Kahn built the castle on the highest point on Long Island for an estimated cost of $11 million dollars (which would be about $110 million dollars in today’s currency…yowzers!) At the time of its construction, the French-style chateau was, and still is today, the second-largest private residence ever built in America. During the 1920’s, Kahn used the 127 room estate as a summer home where he hosted lavish parties and regularly entertained royalty, heads of state, and Hollywood stars. Does it remind you a little of Jay Gatsby? Yeah, me too.
With Kahn’s death in 1934, the estate changed hands several times, serving as a retreat for New York sanitation workers, and a government training school for Merchant Marine radio operators. I mean, you gotta think how crazy expensive this thing is to maintain…electric bills alone!
In 1948, the Eastern Military Academy bought the castle, bulldozed the gardens, subdivided the rooms and painted over the walls. After the school went bankrupt 30 years later, Oheka stood abandoned, except by vandals who set numerous fires over 5 years. In 1984, developer Gary Melius purchased the castle and the remaining 23 acres which surrounded the estate and began the painstaking challenge of restoring the Castle to its original grandeur. Not an easy task, but he certainly did a sensational job.
Today, the castle is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is used as a historic hotel with 32 luxury guest rooms, and is also a proud venue to many, many NY weddings and galas. Seriously guys, it’s gorgeous. I love the traditional decor, grand paintings, and how easy it is to imagine Kahn’s 1920’s parties taking place around you. We had dinner at the onsite restaurant (delicious), stayed in the Fairbanks Suite, and had breakfast the next morning buffet style in the grand ballroom.
Probably my three favorite things about the castle are the library, the gardens, and the Charlie Chaplin room.
Even if you don’t stay overnight in the castle, you can still join for one of the mansion tours, so, so worth it. Our guide was passionate and knowledgable, and truly made the estate come to life with the stories she told.
Getting To Oheka
While we chose to drive out to the castle, it’s definitely accessible via public transportation. You’ll want to hop on the Long Island Railroad at Penn Station and take the Huntington Line to Cold Spring Harbor Station. Once there, you can call a local taxi to pick you up and take you to the castle (there’s no taxi depot at the station): Orange & White Taxi, 631-271-3600 | Ecotaxi, 631-624-3727.
Whether you’re going for a quiet escape from the city, romantic getaway, a slice of history, or to check off your bucket list that you’ve slept in a castle, we know you’ll have the best time. We sure did!
Have you ever visited a castle? Impressions? Let’s talk in the comments below!
Hey New Yorkers or those who may be in the Big Apple on Halloween. Since it’s around the corner, here are some fun things to do in the city.
- Take a ghost tour and learn about Manhattan’s most scandalous tales. Led by the most passionate ghost gurus you’ll ever meet, these creepy tours meet at dusk and take you through the East Village’s dark, dark past.
- Visit a haunted house. With NYC’s surplus of talented actors and actresses who haven’t quite made their Broadway debut, a haunted house in the city promises to hold some of the very best (and creepiest!) talent!
- Drink a pint at a NYC haunted pub. There’s something enticing about knowing that the souls of NYC’s past are lurking right behind you as you sip your pumpkin ale, right?
- Dress up your four legged friend for the cutest costume parade, ever!
- Dress yourself up for the NYC Halloween Parade, a legendary event that’s the largest of its kind in the nation. Oh heyyy, NYC! Grand Marshall this year is Whoppi Goldberg, woo hoo!
- Sleep No More. Alright, I know I’m ALWAYS telling you guys about a “must do” that is simply THE BEST EVER, right? (Kinda the point of the website?!) But promise, this is definitely an event you should add to that list, and no better time than Halloween. This interactive piece of performance art/theater combines Shakespeare’s MacBeth with a wild and crazy trip through floors of the McKittrick Hotel…we’re talking bodies in bathtubs, secret lairs, haunting music…oh, and you’ll be masked the entire time. It’s unforgettable.
Halloween is nearly here, the time for all things haunted and ghostly! We’re delighted to welcome NYC’s resident ghost guru, Gordon Linzner, who shared a round-up of haunted pubs perfect for kicking back with a pumpkin ale this month (or anytime!), in the company of past New York souls. Goosebumps, anyone?
Ear Inn 326 Spring Street
Built as a private home in 1817, became a saloon in 1890. Haunted in particular by Mickey, a sailor who was killed by a car just outside the bar. He likes to pinch the bottoms of female patrons and staff, drain cell phone batteries, and sometimes play with fire.
Landmark Tavern 626 11th Avenue
Opened in 1868, it is haunted by several ghosts, most notably a Confederate veteran who was stabbed in a fight and crawled upstairs to die in a bathtub. The tub remains in the upstairs bathroom. An Irish immigrant girl who died of cholera wanders the third floor. This was a favorite location of the actor George Raft, who some patrons have also claimed to see.
The White Horse 567 Hudson Street
A favorite tavern of the poet Dylan Thomas, who allegedly drank himself to death there in 1952. Morning staff will often find his favorite table tilted at an angle, the way he liked when he was writing, despite having been neatly straightened the night before.
Waverly Inn 16 Bank Street
Several ghosts call this home, but one in particular seems to favor the former smoking room here, occasionally rearranging furniture and lighting the fireplace. In 1997 a fire damaged every room in the restaurant – except the smoking room!
One If By Land Two if by Sea 17 Barrow Street
Aaron Burr and his daughter Theodosia are among the spirits haunting this restaurant, on the site of a carriage house that once belonged to Burr, often spotted on the second floor. Since Theodosia’s earrings were taken by a pirate just before she walked the plank, her spirit seems to have an affinity for such jewelry, often tugging on female patrons’ ears.
KGB Bar 85 East 4th Street
Once home to a speakeasy run by Lucky Luciano, whose spirit has been seen on the lower floor. A headless ghost is thought to be that of a rapist who was decapitated by his victim in the 1920’s, and the mirror on the 2nd floor, near the bar’s entrance, has sometimes reflected a demonic face with red glowing eyes.
Lovecraft Bar 50 Avenue B
The murals were painstaking painted over months in the first half of 2014 by Benjamin Enzfelder who, working one night into the early morning hours, started a conversation with one of the owners, he presumed, who’d dropped by – only to find no one there when he turned around. After a couple more of these visits he decided to no longer do his art when there was no one else in the building.
Library Bar 425 Lafayette Street
Originally this building housed the Astor Library, and head librarian Joseph Green Cogswell encountered the spirit of businessman Austin Sands three nights, finally discouraging the tight-fisted Sands by insisting the ghost pay him overtime.
MacDougal Ale House 120 MacDougal Street
Strange noises and cold spots reported by the staff when they’re closing up.
Ghost Bar 132A Eldridge Street
Got its name from accounts of a ghostly appareitiion seen in front of the building when it was first built.
Photo Credit: ScrapbookofTruth.net.
I love cute names and Podunk totally wins all the points for cute names and its adorable in person, too. Located in the East Village of New York City, it’s not your traditional high tea you’d expect at a more uptown location. Instead, you’re greeted with whimsy, character, and eclectic charm…all the elements you’d hope to find at a downtown tea house.
With mismatched chairs and tea pots, shelves stuffed with books and nicknacks, and the cheerful owner who greets her customers at their tables, it’s more than afternoon tea in NYC…it’s more like afternoon tea in your childhood home. (Or maybe just the home we sometimes associate with the childhood of our imaginations, even if it didn’t actually exist quite like that, you know what I mean?)
The menu is just as eclectic as the decor, offering many variations to suit your palate. I opted for the Blunt and Savory, which included mini-tea pies, savory filled scones, cheddar biscuits, focaccia and goats cheese, and of course tea. My tea dates went with the sweeter option (think sweet scones and cakes) and gobbled them up just as fast. The food definitely wins for being the tastiest of any tea joint I’ve tried in NYC…each piece really packed a punch of flavor, rather than the bland so-so scones we grow too accustomed to at hotels. Oh, and another bonus? Priced between $17 and $35 for the entire setting, it’s about half the price of Uptown afternoon teas, too.
Man, I love cute teas, don’t you?
Insider’s Tip: Despite being a restaurant, this place unfortunately has no bathroom (I didn’t even know that was legal?) So go before you go. Or walk down the street to Bareburger and use their WC, the hostess is super friendly. Also, the teahouse is quite small, so making a rezzie will only work in your favor, promise.
What’s the cutest tea house you’ve ever been to? Share below!
When we think of spending the day in New York City’s SoHo, the first (and perhaps only) activity that pops into our heads is SHOPPING! And while, yes, it’s totally the truth that SoHo is filled to the brim with any and every store you could possibly imagine–all the way from the top designers to tiny boutiques with budding no-names–there’s more to SoHo than clothes.
Today, we’ve partnered with our friends at TripGo to take you around to all our favorite non-fashion forward stops in SoHo. TripGo is a handy dandy app that connects your calendar with real-time transport suggestions, providing all your door-to-door options for easy breezy comparison. Basically, a New Yorkers best friend. Before heading out for the day, I plugged in my locations (below), plus my travel preferences (subway + walking), and was provided an optimized schedule for my day in SoHo. First stop…breakfast!
While a yogurt bar may sound about as exciting as a bag of rocks, let me promise you, this place is deliciously worthy of a visit every single time I’m in the neighborhood. They have Sweet (toasted coconut + pineapple), Savory (cucumber + olive oil), and Seasonal creations that are hands-down out of this world! Since it’s the start of fall, I opted for the seasonal special of the day, pumpkin + cranberry.
2. The Earth Room
What would you do if given a 3,600 square foot loft space in the prime real estate area of SoHo? I bet 9.5 out of 10 of you sure wouldn’t say “fill it with dirt”…which is exactly what you’ll find at 141 Wooster Street. This free exhibit has been open to the public since 1980…although there are no huge signs or fanfare letting you know the gallery exists. A bit of a hidden gem (or if not gem, at least hidden!;-) You go to the address, press 2B, and wait to be buzzed in. Upon entering the building you’ll smell the room right away (I mean…280,000 pounds of dirt!) Unfortunately, no photos are permitted, so you’ll just have to go and experience this one for yourself!
3. Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art
A quick walk down the street will land you at another under-the-radar museum, featuring LGBTQ art and the artists who create it. Also a free museum, you can walk right in and enjoy the art, or check out their calendar for a host of events…film screenings, opening receptions, talk back with artists…lots of greatness going on here.
4. The Mondrian SoHo
When you’ve reached a point in your day when you’re ready to kick those feet up, there’s no better place to go than the Mondrain Hotel in SoHo. From its entrance, you’ll get a glimpse of just how cool this place is. You can sit anywhere on the first floor, grabbing a cup of joe or glass of bubbly if you’re feeling festive. My favorite place to go is on the second floor. Across from the reception desk is a darling outdoor terrace with comfy lounge seating. Perfect place to catch up on emails or call your mom;-)
5. Housing Works Bookstore
It’s no secret I love bookstores (especially this one, which is where we had our wedding reception!) Housing Works sells used books, and the proceeds then go to help the local homeless with HIV/AIDS. Besides being an awesome charity, the two-level store has a vintage feel, tons of seating, and a cafe in the back. Oh, and TONS of special events here, guys! We’re talking author readings, story time and sing-a-longs for kids, free films…you name it!
6. Pearl River Mart
Besides being a place to get inexpensive, adorable gifts, let me tell you the real reason to visit Pearl River Mart. Okay, you know that store Anthropologie (please tell me I’m not the only one obsessed with everything there?! Well, everything BUT their price tags…crazy town!) So here’s the insider’s scoop: a lot of the very same home goods that Anthro sells can be purchased right at Pearl River Mart for a FRACTION of the cost. Seriously, this chihuahua nut bowl was $10 at Anthro, and $5.95 at PRM.
7. The Angelika Film Center
No secret to movie buffs, as this fabulous theater is where to go to see the artsier, more independent films that aren’t at your local AMC.
8. La Esquina
When asked about the best Mexican food in NYC, this place is always first out of my mouth. While the fancy rezzie-only restaurant is downstairs (call ahead, wayyyy ahead, people!), you can grab some of the basic goods at the faster-food joint upstairs. Like these avocado veggie tacos. Oh.Emm.GEE!!!
9. Street Art
And of course, I would be amiss if I didn’t draw your attention to the huge amounts of random street art you’ll be encountering along your SoHo adventure. Here’s a few snaps of some that caught my eye.
While Manhattan may be the main hub many non-New Yorkers think of when they hear NYC, there’s a lot of greatness residing in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and yes, even Staten Island, too. To kick off this new series, I jumped on the D train and headed up to the Boogie Down Bronx to check out the New York Botanical Garden. From the subway, it’s an 8 block walk (or you can jump on the bus if the weather is shoddy.)
The garden is a living museum, chock full of so many exotic plants and blooms it’s difficult to believe you’re still in NYC…let alone in the middle of the Bronx! An oasis of green standing at 250 acres, it provides the perfect getaway to wander aimlessly and soak in a ton of Mother Nature. Do note though, that if just the idea of walking that many acres exhausts you, the garden does have a free tram to tote you about from collection to collection.
And of course, if you’re not the wandering type, the garden offers plenty of structured classes, events, and volunteer opportunities. A few that piqued my interest are Jazz Age Evenings (filled with cocktails, concerts, and dance!), iPhone Nature Photography classes, and their annual Antique Garden Furniture Fair. A full list of activities can be found on their calendar.
Here’s a few snaps from my most recent visit…ever the girly girl, I was quite partial to the rose garden. No surprise there, right?
Insider Tip: Grounds admission is free all day on Wednesdays and from 9-10am on Saturdays. However, Wednesdays is also when the school field trips are held (because, free!), so be prepared for lots of elated children running about! Fresh air does wonders for city kids;-)
What’s your favorite Botanical Garden? Share below!