It’s hard to believe that after traveling to 16 countries and dozens of cities, up until last week I had NEVER been to New York City, let alone anywhere on the East Coast. It was kind of one of those things on my “list” but like not really top of mind. Like when someone mentions a movie you’ve never seen that apparently everyone has so you put it on your “list”. Well I knew I would eventually get to NYC but got more excited with opportunities to travel outside of the U.S. than exploring the cities right here in my country.
This all changed when I was scrolling through Instagram and came across the Curlfest festival announcement for it’s 6th annual event celebrating natural hair. I remember seeing the photos last year of black women with all forms of hair having a good time and I said I would be there next year. So next year came and I said welp this is finally my time to go to New York! I made a weekend of it and met up with one of my great friends from college. We were both really excited for Curlfest on Saturday and the Rollerset skate party on Sunday.
Planning and Preparation
I planned for this trip a lot differently than for other trips which ultimately meant… having more of a go with the flow approach. Honestly, the trip came up during the week I got back from an 8 day Vegas trip for a work conference and I had just 3 days in between to debrief and get on the plane again. I didn’t do the usual research of watching many YouTube videos and reading blogs and spending time to develop an extensive itinerary. I ended up making sort of a last minute list of things I wanted to see and my friend put together an itinerary of things I could do and see while in town. That helped a lot! People I talked to said 4 days in New York wasn’t enough but I didn’t let that get to me. I knew there were probably dozens of activities and things to do but didn’t want this trip to be about trying to digest all of NYC at once. I came in knowing there’s a sea of things to do and I would be happy just doing and seeing a few things each day. So that’s exactly what I did.
I took it really easy after arriving from Newark airport around 6am. A nap was much needed! I had the BEST food of my trip that day, a carribbean restaurant located by Utica Ave subway stop. All of my food choices were discovered by a “best food near me” search on Google Maps. This time it led me to Ali’s Roti shop. I didn’t know what to order but I heard the woman ahead of me order chicken roti so I guess what? I got chicken roti too lol. This is the one of few times I enjoyed trying a new dish at random. I am very picky when it comes to food sometimes. But this right here? This right here was EVERYTHING! Y’all it was so good that I didn’t even take a picture. But for what it’s worth I’m just gonna insert a general image of what chicken roti looks like.
Nonetheless, within my first hour out and about, I had actual conversations with people around me. I know that may sound odd but like it’s not common in the PNW for people to just have random conversations with people walking on the block. Like I could go the entire week without having anyone to talk to in the neighborhood or riding the bus. People stay to themselves way more out West. But in Brooklyn I found it so interesting how I could meet people in any place and spark up a conversation. Just after walking out of the Caribbean restaurant, a woman was dancing to some instruments a group of guys were playing and we both laughed. We talked for several blocks until she helped me get to the next place I was going. Simple interaction but representative of the overall vibe I got while in New York. People were a lot more open to talking to those around them. I found this out on the subway, stores, and just walking around. There was never a day where I didn’t meet someone new!
The highlight of my first day was seeing the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset. I learned quickly that the city is huge and going from one place to another sounds like it’ll be quick but could take from 20-45 minutes honestly. But nonetheless, I made it in perfect time to take in the city at a beautiful time of the evening. It’s still quite active even as it gets darker. I was already loving the hustle and bustle of the city.
After seeing Times Square so much throughout my life, being there in person felt like I had been there before. I think it’s one of the most popular settings for tv shows and movies. Like I have seen it so much that it was exactly as I expected. I liked it alot though! Working in brand, I couldn’t help but take in the advertising styles and make my own analysis of if the campaigns were impactful. It was interesting to see which brands were able to get a spot on the famous billboards. And I wondered how the companies selected which of their shows or products ton highlight. It was a marketers playground there.
With my first full day, I explored the Metropolitan Museum of Art, other wise known as the Met. All the Gossip Girl fans know about the iconic Met steps. It’s definitely a hang out spot for the teens these days. The museum is HUGE! Reminds me of the British Museum in terms of size. Just one wing could take well over an hour. I loved all of the art and learning about different cultures. There was an extensive Polynesian and Oceanian section which I hadn’t seen before in museums.
Central Park and the Met are right next to each other so you could see both in one trip which is what I did before exploring the museum. It was a day full of walking and from that day forward I wore my gym shoes instead of my sandals.
Curlfest radiated with such positive and exciting energy from the thousands of beautiful black women coming together to celebrate natural hair. It was totally my type of party and I loved just being around US and meeting new people. The festival is in its 6th year now and I can definitely see it growing even more. There was an agenda for the event with an area for panels and speakers. I intended to go check it out but once I got into the festival grounds there was just so much that kept me entertained. I was inspired by the array of black-owned businesses as vendors around the perimeter of the park. There is just so much creativity in our community. I learned once you see a shirt you like, just get it, cuz waiting to see if you want it will result in it being gone lol! I did get some cool shirts and a pair of Egyptian queen earrings.
We got a slew of samples from various natural hair brands like Creme of Nature, Palmers, and a new brand for me called Kiss. I really like the deep leave-in conditioner samples from Kiss. Takes about 6 sample packers to adequately coat my hair but I’m interested in buying a full-sized product. There was an option to purchase discounted hair products from popular brands and there was a hefty line for the Deva Curl sample bag but my friend and I decided to ditch the long line and explore other booths. There was a brand called the Natural Club with tons of people waiting to buy products and I was curious as to what all the hype was about. They were selling 3 packets of deep conditioners for $20! And that was considered a deal. I have never seen anything that expensive but I’m intrigued because it had tons of people waiting in the heat for it.
Each brand usually had a cute little photo booth for people to take pictures with. A great way to get brand visibility from user-generated content. I liked learning about the newer brands as well and seeing what their unique traits were. Oh and the music was popping! The main stage was where a lot went down. From afro-beats to hip hop, to the black classic of swag surfing. It was no wonder time flew by and after a few hours, I looked at my phone and it was almost 7pm! I really just had fun enjoying the company and joy of the event.
The following day was the Curlfest skate party at Prospect Park. A lot easier commute than Randall’s Island of course. The music was so good I probably danced more than skated. Creme of Nature gave out free hair color. I grabbed blonde but will probably just wait until I need a touch up of my highlights to use it. There was double dutch, photo booths, and a general dancing area. It takes a lot of work to dance on skates but I did it for the most part! Also, I made it to New York City just one week after the heatwave, and I am really glad I did because the weather was pretty tolerable but any hotter would’ve sent me.
The Rest of My Trip
The rest of the trip flew by after Curlfest. My final tourist attraction was visiting the Empire State Building. It’s $42 to visit the 86th-floor observatory. The museum leading up to the observatory is actually cool. There are visuals and artwork describing how it was made and how iconic the building has been since then. I was in awe to find out that the tallest building in the world was built in 13 months! It seems like it takes 13 months for a pothole to get fixed and that’s in 2019! I took my time taking in the city from the vantage point and took some great pictures.
It was a short and sweet trip to New York City. I know I’m just scratching the surface of all the city has to offer but I enjoyed even the surface. I look forward to exploring the Bronx and Harlem next time I go! But what a fun weekend I had.
Don’t forget to take it step by step and…