Help four west-coasters find reasonably priced hotel in NYC?
September 21, 2009 5:08 PM   Subscribe

Four western ladies are gathering in NYC in October. We're from Washington, Oregon, California, and Nevada; the "other coast" is foreign territory for us! We'd like current wisdom on finding a reasonably priced hotel, with rooms that sleep four, in Manhattan, or Times Square, or the Upper East/West Side. We'll be happy with only the basic amenities. Also, what places/activities should take top priority in a brief visit? Our group is comprised of three 30-somethings...and their mother :-). Thanks in advance!
posted by ragtimepiano to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
We'd like current wisdom on finding a reasonably priced hotel, with rooms that sleep four

Sharing two queen beds? Or a large suite with four beds? (I've never seen the latter in New York, actually.)

And what do you mean by "reasonably priced"?
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:44 PM on September 21, 2009

Best give us a dollar figure on what you think is reasonable.

I have stayed at the Hotel Belleclaire in the Upper West Side, which has two bed room suites to sleep four at what I think are ok prices for a clean hotel and reasonably good location. But you might be happier with even less - I have stayed in cheaper places and found them a bit sketchy.
posted by AnnaRat at 5:46 PM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I should also say I have got good rates for hotels through Quikbook.
posted by AnnaRat at 5:48 PM on September 21, 2009

I don't think they have rooms that sleep more than 2 (twins or a queen), but Hotel 17 is cheap and clean and atmospheric and near Union Square. It's an old, narrow place that looks like it hasn't changed since 1925 (at any rate it probably hasn't had new carpets or wallpaper in decades, but again, it's clean). Shared bathrooms. A mix of American and European tourists and a few long-time residents. Beds are kind of hard. Very quiet. WiFi, but only works on the lower few floors. I slept well there, and really made myself at home, though it was very different from the pristine hotels I was used to. I paid $100/night, which was very cheap for Manhattan.

If you're willing to spin the roulette wheel, you might do well on I remember seeing some really nice New York deals on weekdays.

As for things to do: I came to visit after years living in CA and Oregon, and I found the size and pace of the city (and whole coast) so mind-blowing that I just walked around for most of my short visit, and felt like my mind was blown enough (places like the West Village or Central Park near MOMA). Whatever you end up doing, bring really supportive shoes.
posted by thesmallmachine at 5:54 PM on September 21, 2009

This question is kind of vague. I'd start with what you think are reasonable prices and go from there. Everyone's definition of reasonable is different.

As for places/activities, again, it's impossible to answer without knowing what your preferences are. Personally, I like the museums in NYC but loathe Broadway shows. Others very likely will have the opposite preferences.
posted by dfriedman at 5:56 PM on September 21, 2009

As others have noted, it's hard to say what's reasonable without knowing what your baseline is, but I stayed in the Colonial House Inn last spring and was very happy with it. It was clean, updated, and in a safe, cool neighbourhood (Chelsea) with easy access to the subway. I considered the prices very reasonable. There was also a free breakfast every morning in the sitting room--I don't know what it's like now, but when I was there we had a buffet of bagels, cream cheese, peanut butter, fruit, juice, coffee, cereal, and then whatever baked good (muffins, etc.) the staff felt like making that morning.

It looks like the price for a suite that sleeps four will start at $330/night. Personally, I think that's very reasonable for four people in a non-divey NYC hotel--that's $82.50/night each.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:29 PM on September 21, 2009

If a Mariott's not out of your range, there's a giant one right in Times Sq.

As for activities, a bit more direction might be a you like museums, like, at all? The Cloisters is beautiful but maybe out of your way if you've only got a day or so to pack things in. The Met is the Met; it ain't quite the Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum out of the Grover book, but it's close, art wise. The Gugg is more modern and funky and much more do-able in a day, the Whitney and the Frick even more so. If it were me I might plump for the International Center of Photography in Midtown. It's quite small but they usually have wonderful exhibits.

Otherwise --- have you considered a stroll around the West Village? That's what I did with my moms when she came down the other day. Went to some fancy wine stores, most of which had a tasting in the back, browsed the bookstores, bought some fancy coffee and chocolates. Magnolia's down there and always has a line, but Jacques Torres is shamefully neglected. Then we had a lovely dinner at a small greek restaurant and strolled over to Bleeker and got an espresso at a sidewalk cafe. And if it's a nice day you could hit up the Highline and get a unique view of the city.

But then again, maybe none of that appeals to you and you'd prefer to haunt the big stores on 5th ave and follow it up with a steak and a Broadway show. New York's big, you can have all kinds of different experiences and still have an only in New York time.
posted by Diablevert at 6:33 PM on September 21, 2009

Avoiding the question of hotel pricing for a minute, let's talk timing. Week? Long weekend? Overnight? If your priorities are the tourist hotspots, you can figure out how to get to the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Times Square, and Central Park on you own.

Let us know some more general fields of interest- museums or shopping? Shows or architecture? Favorite types of food? Best ways to see your must-see lists?

If you have a little time, here are my initial recommendations:
Tenement Museum, if you're into understanding local history firsthand.
Strand Book Store, don't miss it if you love books.
Union Square Green Market is very near the Strand, held on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Cloisters Museum of Medieval Art in Ft. Tryon Park is my favorite. Best walking paths and amazing views high over the Hudson.
Hells Kitchen Flea Market on the weekends for fun junk shopping instead of standard souvenier junk.
posted by alight at 6:34 PM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I meant Central Park near the Met. Near MOMA makes a lot less sense.
posted by thesmallmachine at 7:14 PM on September 21, 2009

Best answer: I always goto VRBO first when looking for lodging. You can almost always find a full apartment or condo (which means kitchen and living room) for the price of a hotel room. And often the owners are flexible on prices if you ask.

When I have visited NYC I find the best thing to do is get a map and simply walk. If you are all somewhat fit, plan on spending hours on foot each day. Walk one way and then don't be afraid to take the subway back to your lodging for some rest. Just wandering and going into restaurants and shops and galleries etc that spark your interest can be the best adventure. Get bagels and wander through Central Park to find a spot to eat. Walk along the river. Take the (free, commuter) ferry to Staten Island, and then turn right around and come back again. Hit Little Italy for FOOD. Check for culture parades and festivals going on, which can shut down street blocks and offer great times. I was never interested in Times Square or that area, I prefer the more neighborhoody areas such as the Upper West Side, Greenwich Village, Soho, etc.
posted by boulder20something at 8:41 PM on September 21, 2009

We had a very nice 1 week stay at the Affinia 50 in mid-town at a merciful distance from the tourist trap restaurants of Times Square. It wasn't the cheapest option I found, but it was far from the most expensive. The room was pretty roomy, clean, quiet, and comfortable. They have a variety of rooms and publish example floor plans on the web. There were decent, inexpensive restaurants around serving people who lived and worked in the neighborhood.

I agree with that advice to plan on doing as much walking as you can. You soak up a lot more of the city than you'd get if you just take cabs between popular destinations.
posted by Good Brain at 10:17 PM on September 21, 2009

Don't go to Little Italy for food unless by Little Italy you mean Arthur Ave in the Bronx. The so-called Little Italy in Manhattan is a pale imitation of what it once was and the food you can get there is better done at Babbo or Otto or any other number of places in Manhattan.
posted by dfriedman at 5:11 AM on September 22, 2009

You'll do much better - cheaper, nicer place - looking for an apartment in the short-term rentals or vacation rentals on Craigslist.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 8:58 AM on September 22, 2009

General advice:

The "best" way to Manhattan from JFK, LGA, or Newark.

Use or Google Maps or to plan point to point subway directions from place A to place B.

Your basic guide to NYC:
Rule No.1 -- walk to the right. If you need to meander or stop, step to the side. Don't walk three or four abreast unless the sidewalk's huge and no one's around. You must share.

Rule No. 2 -- speed it up. This goes for everything, including having your MetroCard out before you reach the turnstile, knowing what show you want to see when you get to the TKTS window, and just moving out of the way when you get off the elevator or to the top of the stairs. Got a question? Be concise. People are a) busy, b) don't want to get sucked into a scam, and c) irritated with slow tourists.

If you go to the Statue of Liberty, reserve a monument pass in advance. If you go up the Empire State Building, spend the extra $15 to get to the 102nd floor (in addition to the 86th like everyone else.)

A cab is for hire only if his numbered/lettered lights are lit on his roof. Let people exit the subway car before you push your way on. Be careful with your umbrellas, don't stand in the doorway letting cold air in while you decide whether you're coming or going, and fight the urge to eat and shop at the same dull chain restaurants and stores you've got at home. Spend your money at the interesting places so Manhattan doesn't turn into a generic Disneyfied strip mall. Thank you.
See also: How to visit New York by Anil Dash.

NYC's greatest hits:

* Top of the Rock for a view of the city. Budget 1-2 hours for this. Way better view and experience than Empire State Building (shorter lines, view that actually includes the Empire State Building, facilities are newer, you're exposed to the elements as opposed to being in a big glass box, it's not crowded at all). Don't forget your camera. No tripods are allowed but you can stay up there as long as you want. I like to time my visits for just before dusk. Last elevator goes up at 11pm if you only want the night view. You can see the city in the daylight, in the sunset, and at night. If you do go to the Empire State Building, buy tickets online at, buy the fast passes, and look for info about the passes to get to the 102nd floor. It will be about 100 USD, but worth it if you want to feel like a VIP. Oh, and call to find out how long the wait is, visibility, etc. 1.877.NYCVIEW.

* Rockefeller Center - it's pretty, but you don't need to stay here long unless you want to. Top of the Rock is technically part of Rock Center.

* Museum of Modern Art - they stay open late on Friday nights and it's free (sponsored by Target) after 4pm. I would budget 1/2 to a full day here dependent on how much you want to see. It's small enough to do in an afternoon.

* Times Square - IMO looks better at night. You don't need to stay here long unless you want to.

* Grand Central, and a peek at the exteriors of the Chrysler Building (you can't go inside really) and New York Public Library (the one with the two lions in front).

You can combine MoMA, Top of the Rock, Rock Center, Times Square, Grand Central, and a stroll past the Chrysler Building and NYPL into the same day if you like.

* Broadway show. These aren't cheap most of the time ($100 plus fees). The popular ones sell out way ahead of time. TKTS has cheaper tickets but don't have your heart set on a particular show. Also, plan to eat dinner before or after the show nearby, and make a reservation, because every decent restaurant nearby gets slammed at 6pm.

* Central Park, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and/or the American Museum of Natural History. These can be combined. You'll never see 100% of Central Park or the Met in one day, so get a taste to satisfy yourself. You can easily combine the Met or AMNH with Central Park, especially if the weather is nice. I wouldn't do all three together, to avoid museum fatigue. (Might be nice to pair this with some NY style bagels and smoked salmon at Barney Greengrass.)

* Don't go to South Seaport. It's a giant outdoor mall with bad food. Tavern on the Green is a tourist trap. Little Italy is also a tourist trap nowadays (sadly). Magnolia Bakery cupcakes aren't that great (often dry, recipe lacks salt, too much frosting). Avoid!

* Ground Zero is a big construction site with lots of vendors selling bad laser cut tsotchkes nearby. Be forewarned.

* Be forewarned that a visit to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty will be time consuming, involve many lines (line to get through security, line to get on the ferry, line to get in, line to get back on the ferry, etc.), and both attractions can be very crowded. It's nice, it's interesting, it's not jaw dropping. If you do go to the Statue of Liberty, reserve a monument pass in advance! They do sell out. This pass lets you go inside the Statue. You can also get a crown pass to go inside the crown but it's very popular and involves lots of stairs. I would reserve the entire day if you want to do these.

* Shopping in Soho. Gets terribly crowded on the weekends especially in the afternoon. I gather you probably don't have Muji or Uniqlo where you live as those are typically popular with out of town visitors. There are probably more I'm forgetting. (I like pairing shopping with out of towners with weekend brunch at Balthazar (make a reservation in advance) or some frozen yogurt at Bloomingdale's or some chocolates at Kee's.)

* Schedule some down time. The best places to hang out in Manhattan are those that feel more like real neighborhoods where people eat, drink, live, and play. Seconding alight's suggestions and would add on a stroll down Bleecker Street or West 10th or something, a walk down St Marks Place, etc.

* If you're into live music, fine dining, comedy, literature, theatre, dance, weird events, there's tons more to do here, if you're not exhausted from all the sightseeing. Hard to recommend without knowing a bit about your interests though.

NYC Virgin.
Young, dumb, and in NYC.
Ferris Bueller-esque day in NYC.
posted by kathryn at 9:44 AM on September 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Definitely agree about speeding it up in NYC. Slow tourists are the bane of my existence.
posted by dfriedman at 10:25 AM on September 22, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, you are all extremely helpful. Boulder20something, VRBO is a great source for us! Also the "method of touristing" you suggest is exactly what I prefer to do---have used it in other major cities like London, Rome, Vienna, and Copenhagen.
We will take to heart all the advice about not dawdling, accustomed as we are to the ambiance of the Left Coast, and prepare ourselves for the energy of the Right one.:-))
posted by ragtimepiano at 5:28 PM on September 22, 2009

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