Where to stay in NYC
December 27, 2018 2:45 PM   Subscribe

My amazing wife got us tickets to a couple Broadway shows this spring for Christmas. Question now is where to stay.

I know nothing about NYC, and searching for hotels has been quite overwhelming so far. The trip will only be a couple days long and will mainly be focused on the shows, and maybe a couple other things (e.g., Central Park, National Museum of Mathematics, Colbert, a nice dinner). We'd prefer to stay somewhere a little quieter, maybe with some good neighborhood restaurants, but which is still conveniently located to get around to the aforementioned activities. Would be great if the neighborhood was also good for walking around with interesting shops and such. I assume we'll just walk or use the subway to get around.

I'm mainly just looking for neighborhoods (with street boundaries please) so I can narrow down my search, but if you have any specific boutique-ish hotels to recommend, those would be welcome as well.
posted by noneuclidean to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (26 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My general device is anywhere from the low thirties south, roughly along the avenues you need to be on uptown. Unless you don't mind cabs. But the subway is good going north south not great east west
. Downtown also helps if you want to explore BK.

Manahattan is pretty compact and nearly any nabe would hit your requirements.

But I wanted to post and point out that the Math Museum is one of my son's favorite rainy day places to go. He's five. So it's pretty good, but very smaller child centric.
posted by JPD at 3:17 PM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

The theatre district is between 6th/8th aves, and 42nd/54th streets. Central Park starts just north of that (59th), MoMath is is down in the 20s. The obvious choice for convenience that's not a total mad-house is mid-town, not near Times Square.

That said, I tend to stay a little further downtown but near a well-connected subway station (e.g. Union Square) because all of my favorite bars and restaurants are below 32nd street.
posted by whisk(e)y neat at 3:38 PM on December 27, 2018

I live in NYC, and for $Reasons, just stayed for one night in the Hyatt Union Square. It was very nice -- quiet with rooms that aren't teeny (which tends to be a problem in a lot of NYC hotels). Union Square proper is bounded by 17th Street/14th street on the north and south, and Fifth Avenue and Third Avenue to the west and east. I like that neighborhood a lot; it's within walking distance of shopping and a ton of good restaurants on and near Fifth and Third Avenues, and a bunch of subway lines stop at the 14th Street station -- the 4, 5, 6, N, R, Q,and W.
posted by holborne at 4:09 PM on December 27, 2018 [6 favorites]

The subway isn’t user friendly for your first trip. Cabs are everywhere. Go on the subway as an activity if you want but for actually getting around it’s not worth it.
posted by bleep at 4:18 PM on December 27, 2018

I like union square as a place to suggest to you because it’s near the east village where I spend a lot of time. I’d suggest the east village because the food is amazing, but there aren’t many hotels in the neighborhood. The union square subway station connects to a few train lines so getting to the shows will be pretty easy if you have some time to figure out the trains.

There is a Trader Joe’s on 14th street so if food budget is a concern they have everything you need to put together a hotel breakfast and packable lunches.

Feel free to send me a memail and I’ll show you how the trains work if that would be helpful to you. I also have some empty subway cards I can pass along for you to refill.
posted by bilabial at 4:41 PM on December 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Marlton Hotel on 8th St in Greenwich Village is fun and close to all subways.
posted by nicwolff at 4:42 PM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you want to go the Airbnb route, I'd recommend this place in Long Island City. Very charming, and only a few blocks away from the subway which will take you right into Midtown Manhattan. There are lots of cute restaurants, craft beer spots, and coffee spots right nearby. The host is lovely and there is even a backyard!
posted by brookeb at 4:47 PM on December 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

I should note that Union Square is a pleasant and perhaps 20-minute walk from the MoMath. Source: work across the street from the MoMath and walk to Union Square at least a couple of times a week.
posted by holborne at 4:48 PM on December 27, 2018

The rooms are the tiniest, but I enjoyed pod49 near Grand Central, somewhat cheaper than normal Manhattan prices.
posted by TheAdamist at 6:47 PM on December 27, 2018

As a first-time visitor to NYC on a brief trip with mid-Manhattan activities planned, I suggest you look for a hotel in Manhattan. For relatively short travel time to your listed activities, look in the area roughly north of Canal Street, east of 10th Avenue, south of 79th Street and west of 2nd Avenue. There are great areas outside these boundaries and I definitely endorse exploring them (Tribeca, Chinatown, the Lower East Side, Brooklyn, etc), you'd just be a little further from the places you mentioned.

I don't know what your budget is, but be aware that the neighborhoods with qualities you're asking about -- quieter, interesting, good restaurants and shops -- tend to have fewer hotels and more expensive rates. Regardless, you will be within easy walking distance of interesting places wherever you stay.

You'll see a large concentration of hotels in the Midtown area, which is not particularly quiet because it's the commercial heart of the city. If you want to avoid staying amid the worst of the tourist hubbub and shopping hordes, steer clear of hotels near Times Square and the area around Macy's/34th Street/Manhattan Mall.

The subway is not difficult to grasp and is great for getting uptown and downtown (north-south) quickly.

Feel free to memail for more granular information about neighborhoods or if you have specific questions about anything!
posted by theory at 7:09 PM on December 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

I would not stay in the 20s or 30s. Yes, there are cool things there - but assuming your shows are in the evening, you don't want a 30-45 minute trip home afterward. You are doing a theatre-district-focused trip and should stay not that far from there. You want something straightforward, not quirky, not fussy, not a lot of folderol. With such a short trip you won't be spending time in lobbies, using amenities, or relaxing in your room. Go for convenient and functional. Your focus isn't really your hotel or its neighborhood, but your activities. With the agenda you mention, you will not actually have much time for idle strolling.

The Lucerne, especially in the winter, is solid. It's very nice, very clean - not many amenities or much of a lobby, but a nice restaurant that serves breakfast, and good location near places to eat and drink.

Budget options might include Hotel Newton or The Franklin, both a few subway stops from the theatre.
posted by Miko at 7:48 PM on December 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

...the 20s or 30s on the west side are also but a few subway stops from the theater? Even the West Village is just three stops from Times Square on the A. Being close is good under the circumstances, but...that is close. Certainly as close, subway-wise, as a 96th St. hotel like Hotel Newton.

Union Square is a little further away because it's to the south and east; however, the NQR will get you to Times Square okay (at most other points, you're looking at a crosstown trip/transfer, which adds time, but the NQR takes a diagonal cut across the city there). And the 6 will take you to MoMath. For life purposes, I would deem it more fun than the 20s and 30s. But it is definitely not quiet. For quiet you are, as theory says, looking at neighborhoods that are both pricier and less filled with hotels. Probably the West Village, but I don't know your budget.
posted by praemunire at 9:07 PM on December 27, 2018 [6 favorites]

As a compromise between convenience and pleasantness, I would recommend looking at hotels in Midtown East, with Park Avenue, FDR Drive, East 40th Street and East 54th Street as your boundaries. In particular, the area between Lexington Ave, 3rd Ave, East 47th Street and East 51st Street. It's relatively quiet for Manhattan, there are a TON of restaurants, and you can either walk or get a cab to the Theater District very easily. My parents have stayed in hotels in this area multiple times. A Trip Advisor-type website should help you sort out the options just fine from there.

The subway isn't that hard to use within Manhattan, although absolutely make sure to ask people for help if you're at all uncertain of which train to get on or what station to get off at. The vast majority of New Yorkers are very friendly and more than happy to point polite tourists in the right direction. However, if you can stay within walking distance -- or a very short cab ride -- of anything time sensitive, I would recommend it. Most hotels will have folks outside to help you get a cab if you want one. Allow at least 15 minutes of wiggle room to get anywhere that isn't within easy walking distance, no matter what google tells you about traffic or train schedules.

If you'd like some fun light reading about the basics of getting around Manhattan, I highly recommend Roz Chast's "Going into Town."

Have a great trip!!!!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:13 PM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Someone on mefi recommended the Larchmont hotel. It’s pretty far south in Manhattan with small cute rooms. It does have shared bathrooms. It was cheap for New York but it suited my needs. It’s walking distance from the Strand and museum of math.

I find the subway on manhattan easy once I knew uptown = northbound and downtown = southbound. Ymmv
posted by azalea_chant at 9:23 PM on December 27, 2018

Yeah, I may have a little prejudice toward staying uptown for quiet when you aren't going to be hanging around the hotel neighborhood.

Taking the subway these days, with the help of navigation, is a breeze. No longer do you have to know the wrinkles of every individual schedule. I wouldn't let the need to use the subway deter you from staying somewhere you like. Just use your phone's maps app on the "transit" mode to figure out your options, and don't hesitate to ask for help if confused. The vast majority of NYers love helping people.

I think the Larchmont Hotel has closed.
posted by Miko at 5:02 AM on December 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's worth noting that when you click on a station in Google Maps it shows you every train that stops there, at any time of day. This is less than helpful if you're not familiar with the subway, and I'm guessing it is the source of many of the people alarmed to find themselves on an A train blowing past the Museum of Natural History or whatever. The transit directions on Google Maps are generally fine (though it tends to be overly optimistic about your ability to make tight transfers), but don't use it as a substitute for the actual subway map.
posted by hoyland at 5:12 AM on December 28, 2018

I had some business in midtown earlier this year and paid an extortionate sum to stay midweek at a Doubletree not far from the theatre district. A colleague suggested I look at an app (which also appears to be a website) called Hotel Tonight. It offers late/last-minute deals at very discounted prices. I noticed that the hotel I was paying over $400 per night for via our corporate travel agent was available under $200 on the day, and there were a lot of reasonable hotels on offer in the vicinity for under $200. No guarantee of a specific room at a specific place, but it certainly makes Manhattan more affordable than Booking.com or the like. I think you can book for the next 30 days via the site. Have never used, but as a data point I think it's worth mentioning. IMO, staying in midtown, if that's where you want to be, is worth seeking out a place. Saves time and hassle of going underground, and NYC is so walkable.
posted by sagwalla at 6:36 AM on December 28, 2018

One thing I didn’t really realize until I moved to New York is that there is a lot packed into a relatively small area, so with the subway and taxis and buses and walking and it being an island, you can get around pretty easily. It’s not like say Paris or Madrid where choosing a neighborhood roughly defines your whole trip. I regularly walk from midtown to the east village, and on days I’m feeling tired or cold, it’s a 15-20 minute subway or bus ride. If you’ve used a train system in any other big city, the subway is pretty similar. (The only thing I had trouble with is remembering to check on the subway entrance if that entrance says it serves only one direction of train. But if you get on the wrong train, no worries, you can transfer easily a stop or two down the line.)

I second the suggestions of near union square or the east village area, or midtown east could work as well. I also often pass by the Marlton nicwolff suggested and I’m always charmed by it. I would only caution against staying right in the theater district or near Times Square unless you really prize convenience - it’s convenient but it isn’t quiet and it’s a bit soulless.
posted by umwhat at 7:15 AM on December 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

If I were in your shoes I'd look into staying somewhere in the West Village (roughly: south of 14th, west of 5th).

The area is full of eateries and shops, and some nice little parks, plus the funky street grid is nice for walking. You have tons of subway options to take you anywhere you need to go (especially to the places you mention), and the subway tends to be pretty quick and pretty easy (read the signs, look at your phone, etc) barring any sort of system problem.
posted by entropone at 8:37 AM on December 28, 2018

As a general note, hotels are exorbitant in Manhattan. While there are some listings on AirBNB that are much more affordable, AirBNB is illegal in NYC. I learned this the hard way last year when I booked an apartment and didn't discover until my kids and I arrived that it was clearly a big problem (host was emphatic about not talking to anyone in the building, the mandatory house/neighborhood guide needed to be kept in a drawer and not out on the desk, etc). In fact the building supervisor harassed us until we left--barged in in the morning on a pretext of doing a repair, pressed me for information about whether I'd rented the apartment from someone because it's illegal, etc.

I'm sure in some cases it works out, and in our case we got a good story of it because it wasn't a disaster to find another hotel room on the fly. But trips to NYC are rare and precious to me and that was not how I wanted to be spending my time. You probably don't want to either.
posted by Sublimity at 9:50 AM on December 28, 2018

well, not a recommendation for a particular place to stay, but a tip - even if you stay somewhere fancy do a little inspection around the room for evidence of bed bugs, and when you get back, just for good measure, if it's cold where you live when you're not in NYC leave your bags that you brought with you in the car on some cold nights for a little while. I have a sense that the bedbug problem in NYC has improved a lot in the last few years, but.. you can never be too careful and they don't discriminate, so even high end hotels are at risk. A hotel in Brooklyn might (?) be cheaper, especially if you factor in parking costs. I've had some friends whose parents stayed at the downtown marriot when they visited and it was very nice. You're quite close to several trains and the brooklyn and manhattan bridges so manhattan is not far away or expensive to get to even by cab/via/lyft/uber. Not sure it would fit your "quieter" requirements, as it's on a main drag.. but you don't have to go far to get off the main drag and find those quiet neighborhood restaurants. As a bonus, there's a TKTS booth nearby if you wanted to get same day tickets to a show..
posted by elgee at 10:25 AM on December 28, 2018

Re bedbug sightings - see here. Though I gather the problem is less than it has been in the past.
posted by BWA at 10:58 AM on December 28, 2018

We have a tendency to stay on the Upper West Side and just take the subway downtown. We usually stay at the Beacon because they have kitchenettes and we like to do our own breakfasts and snacks, and there are tons of food stores nearby, like Fairway, Zabars, and even Trader Joe (if you do stay at the Beacon, ask either not to have a room on the Broadway side, or ask for an upper floor, for a bit more quiet.)

With that said, for a short trip like yours you might consider biting the bullet and just staying at some place like the DoubleTree Suites at Times Square (again, higher rooms will be quieter). Friends just stayed there last week when they were there to see a Broadway show, after having to move from the place they originally booked due to loud construction noise. Friend is a light sleeper, and very noise sensitive, and she was very happy there.
posted by gudrun at 11:28 AM on December 28, 2018

For theater-district-focused trips to NYC, I have stayed in the Hotel Pennsylvania (yes, that one) which is across the street from Penn Station. It's a two- or three-star place depending on who you ask. Very basic, but the location is convenient to trains. Also the staff can be a bit surly; be prepared to tip everyone you meet and they'll be significantly less so. They also have a luggage room where they'll hold your stuff on your day of departure so you don't have to haul it around (again, be prepared to tip for this "free" service).

They have some very small rooms that are actually under $100/night before taxes, but I'd skip them and go for one of the bigger ones if you aren't very price-sensitive; they're more recently renovated. Some of the cheaper ones are real time capsules.

When I've gone for not-theater stuff, I like to stay down on the LES mostly. There are some cool smaller hotels down there (Hotel Indigo, Blue Moon, Kimpton Muse if you want to spend a bit more), although largely I tend to go there because I have friends in that area / on convenient subway lines so it's not an unbiased opinion. Also, Katz's, which completely removes any incentive to stay in a place that serves breakfast.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:54 AM on December 28, 2018

AirBNB is illegal in NYC.

Not altogether so. AirBnB is perfectly legal if the host (that is, the legal tenant or rightful owner), is in residence while the guest is there. So if you own or rent an apartment with more than one bedroom and rent one of the bedrooms on AirBnB, you’re fine; I have a friend who does this and it’s perfectly legal. What’s illegal is if you have an apartment, live in a second apartment, and rent the first one as an AirBnB so that the guest has that apartment to themselves. (You’re welcome to contact me for my friend's AirBnB info, OP, but he’s in Brooklyn.)
posted by holborne at 2:38 PM on December 29, 2018

Great NYC place to stay is The Michelangelo Hotel. Great convenient location in Manhattan, run by people who pay attention to your needs.
posted by mmf at 11:04 AM on January 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

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