If the phrases “New York City” and “easy on the wallet” have always seemed mutually exclusive to you, well, that’s understandable.
Like its nickname, The Big Apple, implies, New York is best known for its colossal magnitude: its soaring skyscrapers, its thronging crowds, its night-obliterating neon…and its outrageous prices.
Need a quality hotel room for less than $350 a night? Until recently, the pickings have been discouragingly slim.
There’s a secret to finding good hotel-room deals in this biggest of big cities, though: think small.
Although even some prominent chain properties are offering steep discounts in this economic climate, even better bargains can be found at some of the city’s more intimate boutique hotels.
Quite a few of these hotels are recently opened (which means, in addition to good room rates, spanking-new facilities—a major plus in a town that gets so much guest turnover).
And we’re not talking bare-bones, spartan-style quarters here: some of New York’s freshly unveiled properties feature sceney digs that are thoroughly worthy of their style-obsessed home city.
Case in point: Stay, the latest midtown offering from hotelier Vikram Chatwal, where the décor includes Murano glass chandeliers, the rooms are outfitted with 42-inch plasma-screen TVs and slick modern baths, and a happening nightspot (the Aspen Social Club) is just an elevator ride away.
Other smaller-scale Big Apple hotels, however, have been known among savvy travelers for some time.
On the Ave, for example—an Upper West Side hotel that’s easy strolling distance from the Museum of Natural History and Central Park—has been building its fan base for almost two decades.
Sharp new renovations completed last year, though, have given new life to the property: now all rooms have beds with padded headboards and Egyptian cotton linens, ergonomic chairs, and fluffy robes; the common spaces include two spacious balconies (on the 14th and 16th floors) that are surrounded by flowering potted plants.
So don’t despair if a New York City vacation seems out of reach. It’s not—as long as you resize your thinking.
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Downtown: The Standard
André Balazs understands that stellar views in New York City have less to do with the height of a building than with its context.
The perennial hotelier to the hip—and in this case, hip and budget-conscious—has opened his fourth Standard hotel, on a Meatpacking District site surrounded by low-lying warehouses.
The result: practically every room has stunning skyline or Hudson River vistas.
Vast swaths of glass work to that end. At full operation later this year, the hotel will have two restaurants and five bars (don’t miss the sunset views from the one on the 18th floor), and the building straddles the High Line, the freight railway that’s being turned into a much-hyped city park.
TIP In some rooms, it’s possible to sit in the tub and see the Statue of Liberty. Draw the curtains if you don’t want to be an accidental exhibitionist.
Downtown: The Jane
While the Jane, designed by Sean MacPherson (the Bowery Hotel, the Maritime Hotel), is romantic in theory—an old riverfront building with tiny rooms modeled after European train sleeper cars—keep in mind that a New York hotel with starting rates in the double digits comes with drawbacks.
Our room during a recent stay had a 27-inch flat-screen TV, an iPod dock, and complimentary water bottled on-site, but the room was too hot, and opening the window wasn’t an option because the property is next to the roaring West Side Highway. Bathrooms are shared and coed, which won’t appeal to all travelers.
TIP The location is great for Greenwich Village access, and plans for double rooms and a lobby bar are in the works.
This month, Seattle-based indie hotelier Alex Calderwood is opening the first Ace on the East Coast, just north of Gotham’s Madison Square Park.
Rooms have an old-school rocker sensibility (some of them come with turntables and curated vinyl collections) while referencing the nearby Garment District: instead of closets you’ll find clothing racks made from plumbing pipes.
TIP Stump-town Coffee Roasters, a popular West Coast chain, is making its New York debut on the ground floor, near a new restaurant from the proprietors of the consistently mobbed Spotted Pig.
Vikram Chatwal’s 210-room Stay has joined the midtown scene with panache.
The hotel is decorated with Murano glass chandeliers and an 18,000-gallon aquarium, and the compact slate-and-burnt-orange rooms have 42-inch plasma screens and L’Occitane amenities. There’s not much space to store luggage, so pack light.
TIP Aspen Social Club, the hotel’s small-plates restaurant, becomes a raucous lounge nightly by 11 p.m. Ask for a room on the west side, which is much more peaceful.