Where to base our romantic NYC anniversary trip?
November 26, 2012 10:36 AM   Subscribe

Planning a surprise anniversary trip to NYC: Questions about neighborhoods (romantic walkabout?), hotels (romantic ambiance), and recreational cooking (don't burn me, bro!).

So I'm planning the framework of a 10th anniversary trip to NYC. I'll spring the surprise well beforehand so that my wife can have time to prep the outfits and we can enjoy dreaming of our adventure together, but I need to get some of the high-level stuff in place:

1) Neighborhood: We love the walk around / discover new places mode of travel. I want to be in a walkable neighborhood so we can duck into awesome kitchy shops and coffee bars, and at night find random cool dive bars (preferably with random music discovery). Is the East Village / Bowery good for this? I think I just need validation here, but maybe there is a better neighborhood? We do NOT want/need to be near any touristy places (Times Square, Broadway, etc), we can always subway to them if necessary.

2) Hotel: Price isn't too much of an obstacle, although it would be nice to get under $300 a night. The place needs to be "romantic", and that ambiance includes the immediate vicinity, i.e. when you walk outside the hotel, there's a bit of a sidewalk atmosphere (coffee shop nearby, etc). Basically I want it to feel like it's in a neighborhood. I'm leaning towards the Bowery Hotel, reviews seems good, and google streetview seems to validate the atmosphere.

3) Recreational Cooking - My wife is a great cook, and we love to cook together when we have time. She has asked for a cooking class before. There are alot of options in NYC for this type of thing, ICE Culinary is one that looks cool, but I worry that it would be too institutional. I want something that will inspire us, give us new ideas and skills.

4) Bonus - We are flying into Newark. We could take a train into the city, I know, but I'd rather use ground transport, since it's our anniversary trip I'd like to pamper her a bit. I'm afraid of a $80 cab ride though... Is there something in between, like a shuttle?

Thanks so much for your thoughts, experiences, and wisdom!
posted by joecacti to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You don't mention what time of year you are coming. It does make a big difference.

The E. Village is definitely a cool place to walk around. I live on the UWS, which is where we spend most of our time, and we think it's great.

There are definitely shuttle buses from Newark to Manhattan, probably in the $20/person range.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:38 AM on November 26, 2012

Is the East Village / Bowery good for this?

The East Village is now just an extended NYU campus (read: glorified collegetown of Anywhere, USA). You're better going straight down to the Lower East Side or even out to Brooklyn and see Williamsburg off the Bedford and Lorimer stops.
posted by griphus at 10:39 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm partial to the east village/bowery, so I would encourage you to stay in the area, especially as there are a few nice hotels now.

The Astor Center has some pretty snazzy cooking classes, and a friend of mine said they were fun.
posted by larthegreat at 10:40 AM on November 26, 2012

I've taken a bunch of courses at ICE and they're excellent and fun. Great, hands-on instruction and top quality ingredients. And then, of course, delicious food to eat at the end.

They are fast paced and definitely more focused on learning than on having a relaxing date night, so that's either a positive or a negative depending on what you want out of it.
posted by SampleSize at 10:43 AM on November 26, 2012

Response by poster: Excellent answers so far, thanks to all...
We will be coming in January. So not such a good time for the high-line trail along the old elevated train tracks on the west side, which otherwise would be a temptation!
posted by joecacti at 10:44 AM on November 26, 2012

Harlem might be nice. I love the Aloft hotels, and they have one in Harlem.

Although Husbunny and I are geezers, they cater to a young, hip crowd and we fancy ourselves, if not young, hip.

The rooms are so comfortable and really intelligently set up. They are pet friendly, which is always a plus in my book.

Try Red Rooster while you're there.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:46 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree that the E.Village is not really great for this. I've heard good things about King & Grove in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) which should be in your price range, and is near lots of coffee/divey bars/etc. It is very near The Brooklyn Kitchen which has tons of cool classes from butchering to pie, to knife skills, etc.
posted by cushie at 10:46 AM on November 26, 2012

Keep in mind that via the L at 3rd Ave (which is the East Village and on Bowery) Williamsburg is two stops away on the train.
posted by griphus at 10:47 AM on November 26, 2012

Brooklyn! Specifically Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens. The Nu Hotel is an awesome, affordable boutique hotel and you'll love walking around Smith and Court Sts. You'll also be close to Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Promenade which are super ambient/romantic.

Brooklyn Kitchen is an awesome option for hands on culinary fun -- not the same part of BK but an easy cab or subway ride.
posted by telegraph at 10:47 AM on November 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

If you're coming in January, the ice rinks in Central Park (especially Lasker) are great fun.

AskMe tends to be a little overly-Brooklyn for my liking. But like I said, we usually stick to the Upper West Side.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:50 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The East Village is a cool place to walk, but whether or not it is....aesthetically picturesque can be a hit-or-miss thing. Meaning: yes, there are a ton of coffeeshops and boutiques and things, but it's a toss-up whether you'll be finding them on pretty townhouse-lined streets or whether you'll be finding them on a street between a vacant lot and a bookie's, across the street from a gas station. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, just thought I would mention it in case aesthetics was a concern.

And I'm nthing all the "Brooklyn!" ideas.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:53 AM on November 26, 2012

I always book self contained apartments on airbnb when I travel there, I've found some excellent apartments in great areas far cheaper than hotels, not sure if it'd be right for you but it's worth a look.
posted by Under the Sea at 10:58 AM on November 26, 2012

Yeah, Brooklyn Kitchen / Meat Hook has a calendar of cooking classes, and is nearish to the L train Lorimer stop, which has a bunch of little bars you could wander through, although I think the Bedford Ave stop on the L is gonna be even better for your

awesome kitchy shops and coffee bars, and at night find random cool dive bars

There's boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants, and bars, and all other fruits of gentrification, which means that just like anyplace in Manhattan, it's likely to be pricey.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:13 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

The east village is boring and smells like pee. For more interesting (although still pee smelly) the LES is much better.

Also W Vill I guess although it is pretty low on the dive bar scale (aside from the cubbyhole on w12 & w4th). (which is also a gay bar for the ladies so it might not be what you're looking for)
posted by elizardbits at 11:14 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Brooklyn Heights.

A beautiful, safe neighborhood. Romantic to just walk around. The Brooklyn Promenade is one of the most romantic places in all of NYC. Montague St is full of interesting shops and restaurants.

It is one subway stop from Manhattan. And it is Brooklyn.
posted by Flood at 11:49 AM on November 26, 2012

My Brooklyn recommendation is Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights, which includes the Promenade that telegraph identified as a romantic stroll.
posted by layceepee at 11:52 AM on November 26, 2012

East Village and the LES are both exactly what you are looking for. Start with/around St. Marks Place. There is no pee smell, tourist nonsense, etc. as some have mentioned here - particularly, it's winter.

If you want an alternate version, go to the UWS, 72nd street and north. More touristy, but neighborhood feel, and coffee shops, french Restaurants, etc.
posted by Kruger5 at 12:11 PM on November 26, 2012

So not such a good time for the high-line trail along the old elevated train tracks on the west side, which otherwise would be a temptation!

No, a TOTALLY great time to do it. Bundle up, go nuts.

Yeah, I'd definitely second Bedford Ave. and environs in Williamsburg. King & Grove has been running discounts recently, I know. I'd like to stay in the Hotel Roger Smith if I were on a romantic getaway.

My other fave walks are: Fifth Ave and 57th up Madison to the 70s (fancy stores, fun to look at, maybe not your speed, but if she loves fashion, it's incredible), Bedford Avenue and, hmm, yeah, a good Soho to Nolita to LES wander is nice.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:21 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd rather stay home than go to Brooklyn. Try the East Village - they still have kitschy shops and lots of bars, I promise you.
posted by lyssabee at 12:30 PM on November 26, 2012

Best answer: Lower East Side, East Village, West Village, SoHo, Chinatown, Little Italy, and pretty much everything in and around that general area -- all wonderful neighborhoods for simply walking around and discovering the city. It is hard to go wrong, and you can cover quite a bit of ground in a day or two.

You'll probably enjoy poking around Williamsburg for a bit as well. Good food, bars, bands, shops and all that. If you want to consider staying over there, take a look at The Wythe Hotel. Recently opened, cool, and reasonably priced. Easy access to Manhattan via the L train.
posted by spilon at 12:35 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know Williamsburg well, but I do know Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, and Brooklyn Heights, and they are among the most picturesque, old-timey, and independent restaurant/bar-heavy neighborhoods in the city. I would take a romantic date there in a second.

The Nu Hotel is in a bit of a rough block, though, right next to a jail. If you walk one way, it's beautiful. If you walk another...not so much.

If I had to do a romantic trip to NYC, hands down I'd pick Cobble Hill and look for a Bed and Breakfast like this one.

Williamsburg (again, don't know it well) doesn't tend to have beautiful architecture, so if what you're looking for is brownstones and lovely row houses you'll want to be elsewhere.

The Upper West Side tends to have a larger scale and not be very neighborhood-ish. If you were going for a more Manhattan but romantic feel I'd probably head for the West Village or Chelsea. Parts of Chelsea, especially as you go west on 9th and 10th Avenues are very beautiful in the historic Brownstone sense, as are parts of the West Village, but sorely lacking in dive bars.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:35 PM on November 26, 2012

Also, people get very into their respective boroughs and neighborhoods, and that's understandable. I personally love neighborhoods that are what you're describing and the East Village has never really done it for me in that sense. It's too heavy on the bars and has too many early-20s people going out to be what I'd call romantic, especially on the weekends. Also I find it often ugly, architecturally speaking.

That said, the Bowery Hotel does seem okay to me, there are definitely places within easy walking distance and cool places to eat/drink/be merry. It's just not really anything I'd call quirky/kitchy or romantic. Very polished, very expensive real estate. That's not bad at all, it's just very different from the more indie, neighborhood vibe that you get in Brooklyn.

Luckily you have lots of great places to choose from, so welcome!
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:42 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also keep in mind that if you do stay in Brooklyn but want to go out evenings in Manhattan, there will be a nonzero number of cab drivers who will give you a really hard time about driving you back to BK. If they try to charge you more than the meter + reasonable tip then they are lying liars and you should call 311 immediately.
posted by elizardbits at 12:52 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, the other thing to know is to get in the cab, then tell them where you're going, and if they pretend to be lost say "that's okay, we know how to get there" and then look up the route really quick on your phone. They ALWAYS know where they're going, they just try to fake you out. I make this sound really adversarial but usually it's more a friendly negotiation than anything.

The other nice thing about neighborhoods like Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill (and Williamsburg I'm assuming), is that they have so much evening and night activity there now that cabs can often pick up fares there at night and they don't give you much shit about going there. You can also hail yellow cabs there quite easily, especially on Smith Street and Atlantic Ave.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:58 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

East VIllage and Lower East Side are a little more hipster/rocker than romantic. For romance, I'd say DUMBO, Cobble Hill, or the West Village. Upper West Side is also nice.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 1:38 PM on November 26, 2012

The Ace Hotel
posted by thatgirld at 1:58 PM on November 26, 2012

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