Where to stay in NYC?
July 23, 2013 8:04 AM   Subscribe

I am planning an anniversary trip to NYC for the third weekend in October - we would like someplace fun and reasonable to stay (an actual hotel, so AirBnB is out). We plan on doing some touristy things (a Broadway show, some of the big museums), but we would like to spend the rest of the time in a part of the city that's entertaining and quirky and a bit off the beaten path. Any recommendations of where to stay, and things to do once we're there, would be welcome.

We're into art, oddball shops, interesting, low-key pubs/bars, and live performances of theater, poetry and music in relaxed, small venues. We will be taking the train in, and taking taxis and subways and hoofing it once in the city.
posted by Slap*Happy to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (16 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I like the A-Loft brand and they have one in Harlem. Starwood hotel, funky loft style rooms and an indoor pool. (Check the NY one for that, others have it.)

I got a great deal on the InterContinental Barklay, $200 per night and it was gorgeous.

I've also stayed at a suite at the Essex House. I got that on Travelocity for $400 per night. Magical! It was HUGE!

There's a Comfort Inn on 34th street that's cheap and funky right by the Empire State Building and Macy's. It's nearly an alley, and it's lined with cheap, yummy places to eat and drink.

Assault and Battery for Fish and Chips.

Rice to Riches in Nolita if you're into Rice Pudding.

Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain.

Chinatown for Soup Dumplings.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:13 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Go see Sleep No More at the McKittrick. Really cool immersive theater, loosely based on Macbeth.
posted by ewiar at 8:16 AM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

I loved my stay the the Essex House as well, but they were recently taken over by a different company and now their rooms are crazy priced.

I was in NYC in May and I stayed at Hotel Giraffe- LOVED it! Tons of amenities and a decent price, plus a really good location.

I like to hotel hop a lot, so next time I'm there, I am looking at The Carlton- which was on an ep of Elementary, and I'm a nerd like that.

Things to do? Take Scott's Pizza Bus Tour. So much fun!
posted by haplesschild at 8:18 AM on July 23, 2013

I stayed at the Gershwin my first couple times here. It's definitely quirky, has a fantastic coffee shop on the ground floor, and is also a block away from the Museum of Sex which can be quite fun to visit. It looks like a Friday check-in/Sunday departure for two would be around $300, don't know if that's within your budget or not.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:43 AM on July 23, 2013

I like Barbès in Park Slope, Brooklyn - a small, relaxed bar and music venue with all kinds of interesting and weird music. Check out The Tank and HERE for quirky theater.
posted by moonmilk at 8:48 AM on July 23, 2013

Oh, and the Gershwin Hotel, as recommended by showbiz_liz, often hosts interesting performances in their weird little parlor. I saw an all-saxophone version of Terry Riley's 'In C' there.
posted by moonmilk at 8:51 AM on July 23, 2013

I got a great deal on the InterContinental Barklay, $200 per night and it was gorgeous. 

That must have been ages ago and a rare special. The IC Barclay goes for $300+ a night easy for a basic room.

I'd recommend:

The Marcel (Gramercy/union square)
Pod 39 (midtown with great new rooftop bar)
Seton Hotel (midtown)

(btw, "A Salt & Battery" is the name of the fish n chips place)
posted by Kruger5 at 8:55 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

That must have been ages ago and a rare special. The IC Barclay goes for $300+ a night easy for a basic room.

Two years ago, we had tickets for Book of Mormon and we got the deal through the airline.

July 30 2011.

It kind of stands out in my mind. Great weekend!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:59 AM on July 23, 2013

Response by poster: (One more twist I neglected to include - I'm post-WLS, so places specializing in fried/greasy/fatty and sugary foods are out, as are gigantic portions... so places that serve savory and light fare in reasonable quantity would be right up our alley - tapas, Korean BBQ, etc. Booze is OK!)
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:10 AM on July 23, 2013

Not really "off the beaten path", but I'm a big fan of the quirky charm of the Washington Square Hotel.

Then there's the Pod Hotel with locations on 51st and 39th Street. While I definitely believe that Tudor City is a tragically underrated neighborhood to hang out in, both their locations might be more central than what you're looking for. However, the rooms are inexpensive and functional.
posted by deanc at 9:13 AM on July 23, 2013

I've never stayed at the Wythe Hotel myself, but friends have and I've been to parties there. No idea on the rates (though friends who are not millionaires recently stayed there over a weekend), but Williamsburg sounds like much more what you're looking for in terms of "entertaining, quirky, and off the beaten path". The neighborhood is full of quirky little shops, galleries/music venues/event spaces, and interesting restaurants and bars. You're also in the middle of some of the best people watching in the city.

I'd also recommend the Ace, on 29th and Broadway, if you can swing it.
posted by Sara C. at 9:14 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

savory and light fare in reasonable quantity would be right up our alley - tapas, Korean BBQ, etc.

If you happen to go to something at Lincoln Center or find yourself on the UWS, I love Cafe Ronda for tapas. It's on Columbus near 72nd and their spinach salad is my fave in the world.
posted by third rail at 9:24 AM on July 23, 2013

My parents often recommend Hotel 17, on 17th Street in Manhattan. Reasonably priced and close to everything, since it's in the Union Square area. Definitely check out the Strand bookstore thereabouts.
posted by mlle valentine at 9:30 AM on July 23, 2013

Try a Kimpton Hotel, they have excellent customer service. Maybe the Eventi on 28th and 6th, if you can afford it. Don't forget to request a complimentary live goldfish (in a bowl) for your stay if you end up there. They also do free wifi and a give you a $10 minibar credit if you sign up for their loyalty program.

It's also within walking distance of Eataly (which has multiple restaurants inside and a beer garden on the roof), The John Dory Oyster Bar, Hanjan, the NoMad, Koreatown (try BBQ at Gaonnuri for the view), Txikito. All of which should probably be OK given your dietary restrictions.

Even if you don't stay at the Eventi, there are a number of other hotels in the area. Staying in/near Chelsea (instead of Midtown) means you aren't too far from Chelsea Market, the High Line, and the newly opened Museum of Mathematics (near Madison Square Park).

Seconding Sleep No More (off-Broadway show in Chelsea, on the west side). It is a a MacBeth and Hitchcock/film noir inspired immersive, dance-based theatre show, with a choose your own adventure feel. There's no dialogue, all the expression is dance-based. You must wear a mask the entire time and you are not allowed to speak, take photos, or use cell phones. All bags must be checked ($3). The show takes place at the fictional "McKittrick Hotel" which was supposedly closed on the eve of WWII. They also have a pricey but gorgeous rooftop garden bar called Gallow Green, where there are a few lost souls wandering around, they might choose to tell you a story or two if you like.

Get there 30 minutes early as there's usually a line to get in (pro tip, you can show up early even if your ticket is for later). Wear sneakers, as the hotel is 6 stories (lots of staircases involved). Open drawers, closets, books, and read letters, as you are allowed to explore the set, but if you spend too much time doing so, you'll miss the action. Attendees are encouraged to split up and explore alone. Visitors may experience "psychologically intense" situations. Don't be afraid to follow the actor/dancers and don't be afraid if a character reaches for your hand. And run after a man covered in blood, by all means. I've gone multiple times, converted about a dozen friends, since you see only a fraction of the show each time. It's not cheap but once you go inside, you'll see why. There's about 100 rooms that you can explore to your heart's content. We usually go to Txikito (excellent Basque tapas) for dinner before or after the show.

Hans was Heiri will be at BAM that weekend. Radiolab will have their live show at the Beacon Theatre. And Then She Fell just got extended to late October (immersive dance/theatre, based upon Alice in Wonderland, set in a hospital ward, but not exploratory like SNM).

Space shuttle Enterprise at the Intrepid just reopened, as the pavilion had sustained damage during Hurricane Sandy.

The Statue of Liberty also just reopened, having also sustained damage during Hurricane Candy. Ellis Island remains closed to the public.

Keep an eye out for any Atlas Obscura events as your travel dates get closer.

Unfortunately, you're missing Open House New York by one week.

Nerd York City has a lot of interesting stores in their directory. I'm fond of Evolution, MakerBot, the Lego Store, Video Games New York (VGNY), AC Gears, Kid Robot. If you're in Soho anyway for the Evolution Store, it's a short walk to Kid Robot, the Muji Store, and the Earth Room as well as Broken Kilometer. I also like to do lunch or brunch at ABC Kitchen, and then some gawking at the expensive, modern housewares at ABC Carpet & Home.

You might also like Museum, which is a tiny, tiny museum off a random alleyway downtown, or the Lower East Side Tenement Museum if you haven't been.

Here's a list of New York-y things to do that I posted for a resident of the city who was moving away, I think a lot of stuff on the list could be fun for a visitor who wants to do slightly off the beaten path stuff as well.
- Ride the wooden escalators at Macy's in Herald Square
- Take the 6 train to City Hall and stay on as it turns around inside the old City Hall station (it might also be worth becoming an MTA museum member just to take the old City Hall station tour)
- Visit the MTA Transit Museum in Brooklyn
- Visit the Union Square Greenmarket (Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays, and Saturdays)
- Spend some time just people watching at Union Square
- Take a NYPL tour and make sure you see the original Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals
- Take a Central Park tour by the Big Onion
- Visit the LES Tenement Museum (buy tickets online in advance)
- Visit the Brooklyn Flea and/or Smorgasburg
- There is also a mini version of Smorgasburg called Smorgasbar at the South Seaport right now, which is still recovering from Sandy
- Walk the Brooklyn Promenade and visit the new Brooklyn Bridge Park
- Tour the cheese caves at Murray's Cheeses in the West Village
- Take an AIA NY skyline and bridge cruise
- Go on a "strange places and oddities" tour
- Eat your weight in "only in NY" type foods: bagels and smoked salmon, pastrami on rye, hot dogs & papaya juice, black and white cookies, cheesecake, egg creams, pickles, halal carts
- Take a noshing walk around the West Village and the High Line or the East Village/Lower East Side (NB: Guss's Pickles closed. Substitute The Pickle Guys, on Essex St. For Economy Candy: The correct address is 108 Rivington)
- If you don't go on a LES food crawl, at least split a pastrami sandwich at Katz's, and maybe sit at the famous table from When Harry Met Sally?
- Eat at the famous Halal Guys cart at 2am, 53rd and 6th (SW corner at night, SE during the day)
- Grab a lobster roll at Luke's Lobster or Pearl Oyster Bar
- Grab a pretzel at Sigmund Pretzelshop
- Stand in line at Shake Shack on a nice-ish day
- Have a gut-busting delicious brunch at Breslin, Locanda Verde, Shopsin's, Clinton St Baking Co., or Minetta Tavern. Especially Shopsin's.
- Bagel sandwiches with smoked salmon, capers, red onion, cream cheese at Russ & Daughters. Excellent smoked salmon, whitefish salad, sable, all the Jewish appetizing classics. Try a few smoked salmons before you settle on one. You can get a mini-sized bagel sandwich here, too, if you wish. Takeout only.
- A steak and/or a scotch at Keens (lots of history here, too). Say hi to Ms Keens in the bar. Look at the thousands of pipes hanging from the ceiling.
- Get a drink at the retro, classic NY restaurant Minetta Tavern. It's loud, crowded, bustling, and you might expect Frank Sinatra to pop in at any moment. It's awesome.
posted by kathryn at 9:53 AM on July 23, 2013 [20 favorites]

So even though it's a Marriott (technically) Mr. Kitty and I liked the Algonquin Hotel. You're walking distance to the Theaters, plus (for me) there was a lot of fun creating my own little Vicious Circle.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 10:46 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

We stayed at a Kimpton, and we loved it. And yes, signing up for their loyalty program gets you free wifi and free wine between 5-6pm. Awesome.

In addition to Kathryn's list, we enjoyed:
- The Cloisters in Washington Heights
- Riding the gondola to Roosevelt Island
- Eating dim sum in Chinatown
posted by frizz at 5:38 PM on July 23, 2013

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