I frequently joke that I plan my life around feeding time. In New York, I really did. Some call it the Big Apple. To me, it’s a big, gluttonous smorgasbord. A place of insane overindulgence where everything from your wildest fantasies is available on a silver platter. You’ve gawked at the photos in amazement: rainbow bagels, unicorn ice cream, and freakshakes galore. This is the most Instagrammable places in NYC.

In a city where black is the only socially acceptable color to wear, somehow, everything to stuff your face is rainbowed out and decadently topped in glitter (and I don’t just think it’s because it’s LGBT-friendly). I’d love to know how that came to be, but for now, all I can tell you is… I freaking love it.

Simply follow my treasure map to each and every photogenic, frosted bite around town. And be happy I did all the diabetes-inducing research for you.

Day 1

Home Base: Hotel Giraffe

Perfectly primed on Park Avenue, Hotel Giraffe is in the NoMad neighborhood of New York City. Wedged between downtown and Midtown Manhattan, the area is home to major dining hotspots like three-Michelin starred Eleven Madison Park (make reservations well in advance if that’s on your to-do list). Most of my recommendations are within easy walking distance of each other once you take an Uber or Subway to Chinatown/Little Italy, but distances are calculated from the hotel, not the previous stop.

The ultimate NYC travel photography guide with bucket lists of things to do in New York in Manhattan, Brooklyn and beyond. Where to find the best Instagram spots, restaurants and food, nightlife, hotels, and picture ideas from Central Park and top of the rock to Times Square, DUMBO and the high line. Plan your photoshoot and feast for the ‘gram with this full weekend itinerary with map + local tips. #newyork #nyc #iloveny #travel #food #instagram #usa #eat #rainbowfood #foods #photos

Breakfast: Sweet Moment

  • What to Get: Cream art Drinks (like latte art…but not) and Watermelon Bigsoo (Korean Shaved Ice)
  • 15-minutes by Subway

Drinks at Sweet Moment are more than just a pretty face; they’re pleasantly tasty too. Simply choose a base of milk tea or cold brew and a flavor (taro, chocolate, red velvet – my personal favorite, or Thai), and they’ll draw the cute faces with chocolate and a pin with such precision that quite frankly it’s mind boggling. Bigsoos are another one of their signature desserts, made of chopped fruit, condensed milk, syrup, ice cream, and gelatin that surprisingly wasn’t too sweet (unlike the rest of this list). If you’d prefer a savory breakfast, they also have waffle boards topped with eggs or fruit that are somehow just as photogenic.

Midday Treat: Taiyaki

  • What to Get: Unicorn Taiyaki or a Unicorn Float (a purple drank in a pool float that you get to keep)
  • 13 minutes by Subway

Taiyaki is a traditional Japanese dessert served in a cone is made of red bean paste with custard fillings and a crunchy waffle shell. The shape fish is a symbol of prosperity and luck. There are a bunch of tasty sounding ice cream flavors, but matcha or black sesame is the most common, topped with mocha. If you’re going for the ‘gram, though, it has to be unicorn.

The ultimate NYC travel photography guide with bucket lists of things to do in New York in Manhattan, Brooklyn and beyond. Where to find the best Instagram spots, restaurants and food, nightlife, hotels, and picture ideas from Central Park and top of the rock to Times Square, DUMBO and the high line. Plan your photoshoot and feast for the ‘gram with this full weekend itinerary with map + local tips. #newyork #nyc #iloveny #travel #food #instagram #usa #eat #rainbowfood #foods #photos

Lunch: Gelso and Grand

  • What to Get: Giant Stuffed Cannolis
  • 14 minutes by Subway

Despite what looks like a normal Italian restaurant from the outside, Gelso and Grand’s dessert is larger than life and as eccentric as they come. A massive, foot-long cannoli meant for sharing, the flavors and toppings rotate from birthday cake to matcha, but one design element stays the same. They’re all served with a wooden mallet so you get stress therapy along with a sugar rush.

The ultimate NYC travel photography guide with bucket lists of things to do in New York in Manhattan, Brooklyn and beyond. Where to find the best Instagram spots, restaurants and food, nightlife, hotels, and picture ideas from Central Park and top of the rock to Times Square, DUMBO and the high line. Plan your photoshoot and feast for the ‘gram with this full weekend itinerary with map + local tips. #newyork #nyc #iloveny #travel #food #instagram #usa #eat #rainbowfood #foods #photos

Midday Treat Take 2: Flour Shop

  • What to Get: Rainbow Push Pops or if you want to splurge, Explosion Cakes
  • 13 minutes by Subway

If we’re being real, Flour Shop’s main appeal is the décor more than the dessert so buy a cake push pop so you don’t feel guilty about your impromptu photoshoot. However, the rainbow wall and life-sized gummy bears have gotten much love over the years, so they’re pretty used to it. If by some act of god you are still hungry, their signature dessert is called an explosion cake, which is seven-layers of rainbow-goodness with a hole cut in the middle that vomits sprinkles and candy.

Happy Hour: Pietro Nolita

  • What to Get: A Drink (or just take photos outside and donate a dollar)
  • 14 minutes by Subway

Also known as the “pink as f*ck” palace, this tiny 25-seat restaurant isn’t super keen on Instagrammers, which is funny considering their eccentric design choice. A downhome Italian hole in the wall, the owner is from Milan. One of his fondest childhood memories was a pastel restaurant near his grandma’s house, which he modeled this hideout after. The name roughly translates to “Peter’s house is the beginning of little Italy.” Inside, absolutely everything is pale pink from the plates down to the toilet. The real photo opp is outside though, on the pink patio with a heart graffiti backdrop. If you stop to snap a shot, they encourage donating a dollar to the Susan G. Komen foundation, which I can certainly support.

Dinner / Drinks: Magic Hour

  • What to Get: Party Pouches (aka. Adult Juice Boxes)
  • 8 minute walk

The hottest spot in town, if you can get into Magic Hour, you simply have to go. The neon tunnel will have you feeling like you fell down the rabbit hole despite riding the elevator upwards to the roof. Designed with rotating carousel tables and a mini-golf course called Foreplay, bunnies and other cartoons stand stoically doing unmentionable things in this alternate reality. The adult drink pouches are dangerously good (not too sweet) and they have tiki cocktails that serve 6-15 in giant gummy bears, popcorn boxes, and disco balls. In short? Bring a crew and plan to uber home. The one quirk was the all-black, unisex bathroom (so good luck with that).


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Late Night Treat: Tipsy Scoop

  • What to Get: Boozy Sundaes
  • 5 minute walk

Playfully called a barlour (bar – ice cream parlor), Tipsy Scoop is known for their liquor-infused ice cream that gets you “ice cream wasted.” Served as sundaes, ice cream sandwiches, flights, and boozy pops, flavors like strawberry rhubarb bourbon and red velvet martini go quickly so if you have your heart set on a specific treat, get there early and request it in a martini glass or flamingo float. Sorry kids, this ice cream shop is 21 and up.

Day 2

Home Base: Casablanca Hotel

Just steps from Times Square, the Casablanca Hotel feels like a hop, skip and a jump across the pond. And despite being right heart of the action, we’re actually heading to Brooklyn for most of our foodie adventures today (hipsters, rejoice). Same deal as before: distances calculated are from the hotel even though they’re in the same general area.

Photo Spot: the Brooklyn Bridge

  • 20 minute drive / 25 minute Subway

If you want to actually be in the photo and walk on the bridge, your best chance of not being photobombed is at sunrise. Basically, if you don’t go early or you’ll end up with an Instagram vs. reality pic like I did because there were hoards of people everywhere. It’s also important to note the only public bathroom is the Starbucks, which has one stall (with waits upwards of 30 minutes) so get in, get out, and keep it moving.

Breakfast: The Bagel Store

  • What to Get: Rainbow or Galaxy Bagels
  • 20 minutes by car

The Bagel Store is one of those places I ordered something I didn’t necessarily want to eat just to say I did. The rainbow bagels are vanilla flavored, the tie-dye one is cotton candy, and any of their playdough looking creations are commonly served with birthday cake Funfetti frosting. As a Jew and a bagel purist, it’s certainly not what I’d crave in the morning, but it’s kitschy, photogenic and sort of like a breakfast cake. It also stains your hands so be warned. They’re a cash-only establishment, but there are many ATMs close by. They also claim to have invented the cragel (croissant bagel) so you can also give that a try if the mood strikes.

 Photo Credit: Carol Johnson

Photo Spot: DUMBO (also known as “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”)

  • 20 minutes by car

Put Jane’s Carousel as your Uber destination and walk around from there. It’s a gorgeous jaunt along the water and a great way to burn off some calories strolling through Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Lunch: Industry Kitchen

  • What to Get: Pop Candy Land Pizza (or if you’re really a baller, the $2,000 24K Guinness World Record Pizza topped with caviar, foie gras, truffle and gold leaves, which requires a full 48 hours notice)
  • 25 minutes by car

Another one of those restaurants that looks totally normal from the outside, their chef had a field day with dessert. The dessert pizza is yet another rainbow monstrosity topped with cream cheese frosting, pop rocks, and cotton candy. The real food is actually really good though with both the pesto cavatappi and Diablo pizza (not nearly as spicy as I anticipated) hitting the spot. It’s also located right on the water so the views are 10/10.

The ultimate NYC travel photography guide with bucket lists of things to do in New York in Manhattan, Brooklyn and beyond. Where to find the best Instagram spots, restaurants and food, nightlife, hotels, and picture ideas from Central Park and top of the rock to Times Square, DUMBO and the high line. Plan your photoshoot and feast for the ‘gram with this full weekend itinerary with map + local tips. #newyork #nyc #iloveny #travel #food #instagram #usa #eat #rainbowfood #foods #photos

Midafternoon Treat: Black Tap

  • What to Get: Freakshakes
  • 15 minute walk

Freakshakes technically originated in Australia, but that’s not to say ambitious Americans haven’t tried to put their own spin on the steroid shakes. Essentially a milkshake topped with everything but the kitchen sink, they’re part edible art, part balancing act. Black Tap is one of the most famous restaurants to bring them to our side of the pond and people wait upwards of an hour to get their hands on the sticky dessert. They do have multiple locations around town so avoid the Times Square one if at all possible.


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Sunset Photo Spot: Top of the Rock

  • 10 minute walk

Sure it’s touristy, but the Top of the Rock in Rockefeller Center is a must-do. Offering sweeping views of Central Park and midtown Manhattan, buy tickets in advance because walk-up waits have been known to be upwards of an hour.

Dinner / Late Night: Bodega Negra

  • What to Get: The Fiesta Supreme (a three-tiered seafood tower, which actually causes stares) and a Don Huevo for dessert. This mustached, molten lava cake is encrusted in a white chocolate shell that melts and disintegrates as the hot caramel is poured on top.
  • 10 minute drive

Monday night in New York is crazier than Saturday’s elsewhere and Bodega Negra is the place to be. Known for their signature Loca Monday’s fiesta that doesn’t get started until 11.30 pm, you might need a nap for this one. After passing out giant sombreros and napkins to whip around, go-go dancers and a burlesque girl in a bathtub convert the tables into stages and it’s all blurry after that. While it feels like multiple health code or fire code violations, the energy is simply infectious. Drink packages which serve 4+ people include the biggest mules /copper mugs I’ve ever seen and the baller El Jefe, which comes with a bottle of Dom and a bottle of Don Julio for a cool $1500.

If somehow you’re still hungry and have more time…also nearby is:


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Serendipity 3

  • 15 minutes by Subway
  • What to Get: Any of their obscene creations. They’ve been awarded seventh Guinness World Records for most expensive milkshake (only $100, a steal), most expensive sandwich (the Quintessential Grilled Cheese), and the most expensive dessert (the Golden Opulence Sundae) valued at 7K. They’ve previously held the title of most expensive hamburger, most expensive hot dog, largest wedding cake, and largest cup of hot chocolate.

Do, Cookie Dough Confections

  • 10 minutes by car
  • What to Get: cookie dough in a cup or cone

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Sweet Churros

  • 10 minute walk
  • What to Get: Dipped churros topped with soft serve

Milk and Cream Cereal Bar

  • 14 minutes by Subway
  • What to Get: Cereal

 Stuffed Ice Cream

  • 15 minutes by Subway
  • What to Get: Donut ice cream sandwiches or an ice cream bouquet

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  • 15 minutes by Subway
  • What to Get: Hong Kong waffles

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The End – Brooklyn

  • 20 min by Subway
  • What to Get: A unicorn latte

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  • 15 minutes by car
  • What to Get: Hong Kong egg waffles

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Soft Swerve

  • 14 minutes by car
  • What to Get: Purple yam soft serve

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Ice & Vice

  • 10 minutes by car
  • What to Get: ice cream topped with a cake slice

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ChikaLicious Dessert Bar

  • 8 minutes by car
  • What to Get: Churro ice cream cones

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Pizza Barn

  • Further afield (Yonkers)
  • What to Get: The “super slice,” aka. pizza bigger than your head.

And More Photo Spots:

The Pint Shop

  • 15 minutes by car
  • The Museum of Ice Cream’s summer popup, you don’t even have to eat anything to shoot their backdrops. As a collab with Target, it is a cool (and free!) photo opp.

The High Line

  • 8 minutes by car
  • Converted railroad tracks, this new-elevated park is the perfect green reprieve.

Hudson Yards – The Vessel

  • 2 blocks

An insane new architectural marvel, The Vessel is an insane staircase / work of art. It’s free to ascend if you pre-book a time slot (available in 10-minute increments throughout the day) or $10 on-site.


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Central Park

  • 8 minutes by car
  • A staple of NYC and designated national historic landmark, Central Park is literally the crown jewel of the city.

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The Oculus

  • 12 minutes by car

The World Trade Center’s new transportation hub, the Oculus took over 12 years to build. An architectural marvel that replaced the train station destroyed in the 9/11 attacks, it’s a clear symbol of American ingenuity.

A Note on Accommodations:  

I intentionally stayed at two different hotels, Hotel Giraffe and the Casablanca Hotel so I could base myself in a different area each day and cover more ground. While some may say switching is a hassle, I think it’s a great way to explore the boroughs’ personalities and save $$ on transportation.

Both are part of the Library Hotel Collection, which kindly comped my stay, but beyond that, I am fully obsessed with their hotel group. My first experience with them was at the Aria Budapest, which is music themed (as is their Prague location). Their signature NYC property; the Library Hotel has wings that are different classifications of the Dewey Decimal system (obviously, making it another Instagram hotspot). All offer complimentary continental breakfast, passes to the NYC Athletic Club, daily wine and cheese happy hours, incredible rooftops and patios, and are regularly listed as the top five hotels in NYC on TripAdvisor for their impeccable service.

I wholeheartedly recommend any of their hotels, but if you’d prefer a b&b, the Funky Loft in Brooklyn is another popular Instagram spot (known for its retro kitchen and swing in the living room).

Or, if you’re looking to save money, the Yotel is SUPER affordable (rooms start at just over $100/night) futuristic millennial hotel that’s a 10-minute walk to Times Square. There’s a robot to check you in and store your luggage (because a front desk is so 2019) and anything you could possibly need available via high-tech vending machines. Plus, they have these fun, photogenic domes at the rooftop bar.

Pro Tip: Getting to/from any of New York’s airports can be expensive. Rideshare app Via just started offering a $15 flat rate from LGA to anywhere in Manhattan and $20 to the outer boroughs (vs. Lyft and Uber which were $40-50 each way). Use my code, lauren4v5e, to get $10 of free credit when you download the app here: http://bitly.com/1S72nYZ

Now eat, drink and be merry!

How many of these decadent treats have you tried? Any I missed?

Have more than 48 hours in the Big Apple? Here’s a more traditional four-day NYC itinerary.

Looking for edible Insta hotspots in Denver? I got you.

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