Travel & Leisure
updated 12/5/2011 10:49:11 AM ET 2011-12-05T15:49:11

Day 1: Chelsea
Dream Downtown

9:02 a.m.: Wake up at Vikram Chatwal’s newest NYC property, whose design scheme has an almost dizzying number of circles, bubbles, and holes. 355 W. 16th St.; 212/229-2559;; doubles from $395.

Insider recommendations are the lifeblood of a good trip. Everyone wants to know the little neighborhood gem favored by locals, the nondescript door you should open rather than walk on by—because someone whose opinion you trust told you so.

For years while traveling I collected business cards and jotted down notes for the stories I was reporting and for my personal blackbook of favorites. Now, though I’m not wholly fluent, I love being able to communicate the things that I’m excited about right in the moment through social media outlets—and to spontaneously act on recommendations for where to go next. The bubble I used to travel in has expanded into a river of information flowing both ways.

Best of all, I can find out what excites you, the community of Travel + Leisure. Over the course of a few recent days, I set out on an experiment in my hometown, New York City, with Travel + Leisure fans as my guides and Facebook as our facilitator.

I chose to concentrate on three lively neighborhoods—Chelsea, Nolita, and Williamsburg—and began by asking for your hotel recommendations. The only advance reservations I made were at two hotels that you’d suggested.

So I woke up one morning of the experiment at the Dream Downtown—thanks to you—and set out to explore, checking in with you periodically for more tips on where to turn next. I’m always curious, and my experiences affirmed that you are, too (and knowledgeable as well).

In search of a breakfast spot near the High Line, I opted for Cookshop after seeing the suggestions from two T+L fans (“My favorite neighborhood resto,” one posted to Facebook). I understand why after enjoying what can only be called the consummate American morning meal: fried eggs with sausage, bacon, grits, and a buttermilk biscuit.

En route to another reader recommendation, I came across an establishment barely one week old and rare as hen’s teeth: a coffee shop fronting a speakeasy. It was a reminder that there’s always something new to discover, even in your own backyard, and that you shouldn’t get your head too buried in your smartphone.

Wandering New York City took on a new vibrancy knowing the T+L community was not only following but leading me. Read on for the results: the ultimate travel itinerary for three exciting city neighborhoods.

And which city should I explore next? Share your suggestions in the comments below, and keep up with us on Facebook and Twitter for updates—and to help me plan my next trip.

Copyright © 2012 Amex


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