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Travel Advisory: Daryna Kulya on Cocktails, Lounge Time and Other Moments of Zen

Product Hunt Toronto founder Daryna Kulya shares five things she's learned during her frequent trips to New York and elsewhere

In 2014, Daryna Kulya founded Product Hunt Toronto. In her words it’s “an organization that is dedicated to discovery of great technology products. We gather every three months to learn about new technology products being developed in the city, as well as to learn what it takes to make these products.

In that role, she travels frequently to San Francisco and New York, and when she travels to the latter it’s usually via Billy Bishop. In fact, Kulya is such a regular flyer that she's featured in Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport's just-released It's My Airport campaign.

While she has her Midtown and Uptown haunts (“If I start my day with a run in Central Park, I consider it already a very successful day,” she says), Kulya is really more of a south-of-14th Street kind of person — because, among other things, that's where Manhattan keeps a lot of its best shopping and mixed drinks.

Here’s what else we learned from this frequent traveller.

The startup scene in Ontario: strengths and weaknesses

I think we’re leading in many ways, when it comes to talent, to innovation. There are fantastic companies, not just in Toronto but the Kitchener-Waterloo area. We’re doing very well in general community support, and that’s one of the reasons I started this organization and started hosting events. But I think we need to work on tolerance of risk and capital investment … when it comes to venture capital and supporting these early-stage startups.

Soho a good go-to New York neighbourhood

I really, really enjoy staying in Soho. There’s a lot of shopping there. The area feels local while accessible – it’s easy to get around, it’s easy to go to Midtown where I usually am for work. It’s easy to get to Wall Street, it’s close enough to Brooklyn.

New York is the place for world-class cocktail bars … 

I do enjoy the thrill of going to a place that’s maybe a little bit lesser known. Interesting cocktail bars inspired by the 1920s — the more mysterious, the better. I particularly like Employees Only, located in the Soho area. I really like their cocktails and the atmosphere – very classy. It’s a place I like to go to every time I get a chance. Another one where I (especially) love going to with friends who don’t know the city very well, to kick off the trip, is Apotheke, which is in Chinatown. It’s generally beautiful – the atmosphere and décor, and great drinks. It’s equally exciting on a Monday night as on a Saturday night.

Courtesy Apotheke

What I love about places like Employees Only and Apotheke, and several others is … the attention to detail they put into not only the décor and the vibe, but also the drinks (including) high-quality ingredients. I’m pretty picky when it comes to cocktails, and into food in general. The drinks are almost works of art. The staff is great, the service. Every element of the experience is truly world class. I also don’t feel like a tourist. I know there are a lot of tourists in New York. But because, perhaps, of (these bars’) locations further away from popular destinations like Times Square and Central Park, I feel like a local.

… and so is Toronto

Rush Lane at Queen and Augusta has amazing service, a friendly atmosphere and I love their décor. It’s very much like a library style. They’re paying a lot of attention to detail, but it’s also very welcoming. Even if you haven’t been there many times, you already feel like a regular. And it’s located in one of my favourite neighbourhoods, Queen West.

How to find peace at the airport

My biggest travel hack, and it’s just a habit I’ve developed, is I really like getting to the airport well in advance of the flight. I just eliminate the stress of potentially missing a flight. I would rather use the extra hour in the lounge catching up on emails, doing some work, reading, making a phone call. Just knowing I’m on time and I’m not missing my flight, it’s just one less thing to worry about.

Published Monday, April 4th 2016

Header image credit: Courtesy Daryna Kulya

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