Fun neighborhoods for first time visitors to NYC?
December 26, 2013 4:04 PM   Subscribe

I have been charged with being "the guy" to sort out accommodation for four of us in NYC in May. I know exactly what I want, but how do I ensure that I'm doing right by them?

Myself, the lovely mrs. pdb, and two friends are going to be in NYC in May. I am the only one of the four to have ever been there - I lived in CT for a couple years in the early aughts, and spent most weekends that I lived there in NYC. So I know the city fairly well, or at least much better than the other three on the trip.

Since I've got experience with the city, I have been asked to find us all a place to stay for the week we're there. My first inclination is the Lower East Side/Alphabet City, because the cost is right (we're looking at about $200-225/night max on Airbnb), and because many of my favorite bars/restaurants are either in that area or really close to it.

But I do want to make sure I'm not just being selfish and picking the one 'hood I know best, and I want to make sure that the people I'm going to be showing around can have a good experience that's not necessarily on my terms. By "Good experience" I guess I mean "it's fairly easy to get to tourist landmarks and stuff", either by walking or by subway (so fairly close proximity to subway stops would be good).

So, I guess my question is, other than LES/Alphabet City, what Manhattan neighborhoods would you recommend first-timers to NYC look in to rent a place for a week?
posted by pdb to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
To be honest, I would be VERY careful about airbnb. They have been seriously cracking down on people trying to do this in NYC recently, especially Manhattan, and I have friends who have had to have their guests leave in the middle of their stay.

That being said, I would look in Chelsea. Much more accessible and there are plenty of cool bars.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:15 PM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Are you looking at $200 per couple per night, or $200 for all four of you?

We got the Intercontinental Barclay for $200 per night in July.

The Comfort Inn on 34th St is a bargain as well. It's ancient, but in a great location and I really liked it. It's under $200 a night.

If you're flying, check for hotel deals through your airline. American has AMAZING deals.

We got a suite at the Essex House for $400 per night. With butler service!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:23 PM on December 26, 2013

Not a neighborhood rec, but if you're all OK riding bikes in the city, Citibike connects any subway line to any neighborhood south of 59th St.
posted by domnit at 4:23 PM on December 26, 2013

Midtown South is the place to stay. Dozens of hotels -- we're big fans of Affinia on W. 31st and E. 34th., but lots of other choices. 20 minute subway plus walk, or 10 minute cab ride, to pretty much anywhere you want to be.

Airbnb in Alphabet City/LES sounds absolutely terrible for a grown up. Most of your favorite bars and restaurants there from ten years are either closed or completely transformed in clientele (or else the same and you are transformed away from its clientele!). There is nowhere in Manhattan worse served by the subway than Alphabet City; depending upon where precisely you mean in LES,
posted by MattD at 4:50 PM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree with MattD -- please check first to see if those favorite bars/restaurants still exist (many probably will not, sadly).

I'll strongly recommend against airbnb myself -- both specifically in NYC and more broadly as a business. (I would never use airbnb in a situation where other people's enjoyment is depending on my decisions.) Craigslist is not really practical in NYC either at this point (there are still great vacation/sublet deals to be found, but the finding requires wading through endless scams).

You may find some surprisingly good NYC deals at the usual sites (Priceline, hotwire,
posted by kalapierson at 5:00 PM on December 26, 2013

Response by poster: roomthreeseventeen - crack down on what, exactly?

MattD - actually, my three favorite bars are still there, and they're more or less the same, as am I, at least as far as my going-out preferences (I like dive bars and neighborhood places over the latest gastro experience). I will definitely look into Midtown South.

Going out barring/clubbing is not the priority, but access to a decent neighborhood bar is important, if that makes sense. After a long day of touristing, we all just sorta like to settle into a bar and have a few pints and talk over the day.

Thanks all for the heads-up about airbnb, as well. I might have to rethink that from the sounds of it.
posted by pdb at 5:04 PM on December 26, 2013

(West 20s and low-30s would be my pick for variety of subway access + interesting bar/restaurant variety.)
posted by kalapierson at 5:04 PM on December 26, 2013

Yikes, I'm an NYC native and I think lower midtown/Chelsea sounds totally blah. It sounds like you'd enjoy staying in the LES/East Village so go for it. Can't speak to airbnb. My parents always send people to Hotel 17 which is centrally located (just north of E Vil) and which people seem to like.
posted by mlle valentine at 5:12 PM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Carlton Arms at 25th and 3rd? Highly bare-bones: no elevator, TV, phone. But the rooms are all decorated by artists. Close to Madison Square Park.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:54 PM on December 26, 2013

The down side of Alphabet City is that it's a long shlep to the subway, and LES is not much better unless you are in the Essex/Delancey area. What that means is if you make a late night of it anywhere else in the city, you're springing for a cab to get back at the end of the night, or else crossing your fingers that the F train is running and then facing a 20 minute walk after that.

Sorry to be so negative, but NYC is just not an Airbnb town: I would be really cautious about booking through them.
posted by La Cieca at 7:04 PM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

(I'll add that it's really a question of where you/your guests want to go. If you'll want to hit up Times Sq, museums, Lincoln Center, Manhattan tourist attractions generally, then being in midtown is good because it is central to those things. If you're wanting to do more bar hopping and restaurants and walking around I would suggest sticking with downtown in some capacity since the immediate neighborhood will be, IMO, nicer/more interesting.)
posted by mlle valentine at 8:14 PM on December 26, 2013

Carlton Arms would be my recommendation over airbnb. While airbnb works great in other cities, in NYC it is illegal to rent a place for less than 30 days at a time in most cases (which we experienced in our building when some illegal hotel apartments got shut down). I wouldn't go with Hotel 17 since I've seen some recent bedbug reports there. Check Bedbug Registry when looking for places. Full disclosure: I travel frequently and am paranoid about bedbugs.
posted by bedhead at 9:20 PM on December 26, 2013

pdb: "By "Good experience" I guess I mean "it's fairly easy to get to tourist landmarks and stuff", either by walking or by subway (so fairly close proximity to subway stops would be good)."

As others have noted, the LES is not the greatest for subway access, and it doesn't have a whole lot of traditional tourist stops, though I do recommend the Tenement Museum, and of course there's plenty of great stuff (stores, restaurants, bars, etc.) you'll encounter just walking through the neighborhood.

The other thing to consider is peace and quiet. As you'll probably recall, the LES, being a nightlife hotspot, is not especially quiet. If that is something you value, I'd look for another neighborhood.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:57 PM on December 26, 2013

I've used Airbnb in NYC several times and it's been great: focus on places with lots of good reviews, and make sure the plans to get the keys won't be annoying with your own travel arrangements.

Midtown is my least favorite place to stay: bland hotels and bland bars. It's easy, sure, but it tends to lack personality and any kind of interesting place to pop in for coffee in the morning or a drink at the end of the day. But you might get a sweet deal on Priceline or Hotwire if you do some looking around.

There are several hotel suggestions in this thread.

The Standard hotel is right on the High Line.
posted by barnone at 9:49 AM on December 27, 2013

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