New York is the largest US city and one of the largest cities in the world. It is conveniently located at the mouth of the Hudson River and is stretching from north to south for 36 miles. Initially, it was just a small island that local Native American tribes called Manna-hata. In 1625, the Dutch founded there a settlement that was called New Amsterdam, and a year later Dutch colonists acquired the entire territory of Manhattan from American Indian people for trade goods for just 60 guilders, that was worth US$24. This is the most profitable and successful deal known to the world economy. In the coming centuries, Manhattan has grown into this huge, unique and influential New York, as we know it.
This majestic city has a lot of names – The Big Apple, The City That Never Sleeps, The Capital of the World. There are films and TV shows starring New York; books and songs about it. Even if you have never visited New York, you will easily recognize it from a scene in a movie, or a friend’s photo in a social network.
Thanks to its many faces, New York attracts all kinds of people. Some enjoy shopping here, others are interested in incredible art collections in New York museums, some people are curious to experience the hip hop crowd in Bronx, or enjoy magnificent voices in the Metropolitan Opera, old Dutch-style buildings or shining facades of skyscrapers.
That’s when you start thinking where to stay in this city. And right away, there is a second question – how much time should you spend in New York? I believe, no matter how much time you plan to spend here, it will not be enough, and most probably you would want to come back again and again.
It is understandable, that the first-time tourist would want to take a look at the famous sights, such as the Liberty Statue, Manhattan skyscrapers, the Brooklyn bridge, Broadway, Times Square, Central Park, – basically, everything we know from movies and TV shows.
What Area is the Best to Stay in New York?
New York, just like any other city consists of districts. However, New York districts are more like separate cities. Probably it can be explained by the fact that at some point each district was a small town or a settlement. Later they were annexed to Manhattan. Currently, New York consists of 5 districts, or boroughs. These are Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island. Each New York borough is easily comparable with large European cities in terms of population and the territory it occupies.
Which district is the best and which hotel to choose, if you want to save some money and see the most of tourist attractions?
You should be extra careful when choosing a hotel in New York. There are many troubled areas here. Of course, the crime rate decreases year by year and the city is safer than it used to be, but still it is common sense to avoid certain places. Like in many other metropolitan cities, there are ghetto areas in New York which are unsafe for locals, and even more so for tourists. Avoid places like East Harlem, Alphabet City, and south Bronx. Some areas of Brooklyn can be unsafe, too. Even in Manhattan, you might end up in a poor neighborhood, if you take the wrong turn. In this case, just go back, because here you might meet some less pleasant but no doubt very quaint characters.
There are lots of hotels in New York. Some people would say, there are two categories of hotels in the Big Apple – expensive ones and third rate ones. However, there is a grain of truth here. Compared to the rest of the US, hotel rates in New York are inflated, and service and quality leave a lot to be desired. This is the reality you have to deal with. Choosing a hotel in New York, focus on a few criteria, the main of which is the hotel’s location. One of the main rules is not to choose a hotel beyond Manhattan. Yes, hotels here are more expensive, but getting to all main sights from, let’s say Brooklyn or another borough, every morning or evening, is not really much fun.
Pennsylvania Hotel is one of the most famous of large and less expensive (for New York standards) hotels. It is conveniently located, not far from the Empire State Building, just across Madison Square Garden and Penn Station. You will have Macy's close by too.
There are disadvantages: the restaurant is not really impressive, there are always lines during breakfast time. But there is at least a dozen cafes within a walking distance from the hotel, where you can have a nice breakfast and lunch too.
The approximate price would be $250 per night for a standard room. As a rule, it includes Internet connection in the room, and access to the gym. Besides, the hotel runs various promotions, for example, for early booking, or $1 breakfast, the 4th night for free, etc.
Wyndham New Yorker Hotel. The advantages are the same: a convenient location almost across the Penn Station. If you are lucky your room will have views at the Empire State Building or the Hudson River. You can reach the Times Square and Broadway within 10 minutes.
Prices start at $350 per night; it is quite expensive, but for some people a convenient location is more important than the accommodation costs.
The disadvantages are also the same: the expensive restaurant, definitely not for foodies. But then from here you can reach the Rockefeller center and its famous Top of the Rock observation deck just in 10 minutes by metro.
Not everyone knows that you can experience New York views not just from Empire State Building but also from the Top of the Rock. Empire State Building is indeed higher but there are huge lines there all the time, which grow even longer in the tourist season and on weekends. You can spend two hours in the line to get to the 86th floor of the famous building. The Top of the Rock observation deck is located on the 70th floor but you will hardly find any lines here. The views are awesome, no matter what observation deck you choose, but from the Top of the Rock you will see the Central Park panorama, and the majestic Empire State Building.
Finally, SpringHill Suites. The hotel is a member of the Marriott chain, it is almost new, very clean, not expensive and with a free of charge Wi-Fi. Not much is free of charge in New York, maybe just a Staten Island ferry and the National Museum of the American Indian, so you should enjoy the benefit of Wi-Fi here. In most of other hotels, you will have to pay extra for the privilege to connect to the rest of the world.
Each room has a fridge and a microwave. The service holds up to the usual Marriott standards. The location is extremely convenient: there is a metro station and the Central station nearby; to reach the Times Square and Bryant Park you will need 10-15 minutes. The hotel rates, of course, also hold up to the Marriott standards – $500–550 per night.
You might have a question, if there are cheaper accommodation options in Manhattan. Not everyone can afford $300–500 per night. Well, there are always hostels, but as you understand, this is an option for those who are fine with a certain level of discomfort, including the use of a common bathroom. You can find a room for $85–100 or a bed in a common room for $45–50. For example, check out Chelsea Highline Hostel, which is located not far from numerous art galleries.
If Manhattan is a little bit too expensive for you, and you are searching for a more budget-friendly option, I recommend looking for a hotel in Brooklyn or Queens. The main advantage of hotels here is their price compared to hotels in Manhattan. The disadvantage is predictable, too, – you will need more time to reach tourist sights.
Brooklyn once was an independent city; we are still reminded of that when we see dock yards, factories, old churches, and, of course, the Brooklyn Civic Centre. Poor Brooklyn neighborhoods are inhabited by immigrants from different countries. In Borough Park you will meet Jews, in Sunset Park – Puerto Ricans, Bedford–Stuyvesant and Brownsville are home to Afro-Americans, and Bensonhurst is majorly occupied by Italians. Brooklyn has its individual and unique look. There are many boulevards and old buildings here that create this borough’s charm. However, there are not many tourist attractions in Brooklyn. Among them, the old Greenwood cemetery, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Brooklyn Public library. You can also check out the Atlantic Avenue. It is home to immigrants from the Middle East, and has its unique character. You will find numerous small shops here, and Arabic restaurants. If you like bridges, you will like the Williamsburg Bridge that crosses the East River and connects Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Which Hotel to Choose in Brooklyn?
Brooklyn has many options, some are better than others. It is one thing, if you stay in a hotel just next to the Brooklyn Bridge, and another thing if your hotel is located 6 miles away from it. But then, if a hotel in Brooklyn is located pretty close to Manhattan, the price difference will hardly be noticed. Tourists usually see Brooklyn when crossing the famous bridge, or when taking a metro from Times Square to Brighton Beach or Coney Island – such journey would take you an hour.
If you plan to stay in Brooklyn, make sure it is close to the metro stations and not far from some local attractions.
For example, Hotel Indigo Brooklyn is located just 10 minutes away from the Atlantic Terminal metro station. This is a modern style hotel with windows that replace the wall completely and demonstrate nice views of Manhattan or Brooklyn. Within an easy reach there are numerous cafes and restaurants where you can have lunch or breakfast at reasonable prices. The Brooklyn Bridge is just 10-15 minutes away. The room rates are close to those of Manhattan – $250–400, but they include breakfast and Internet.
A more budget-friendly option is Best Western PLUS Arena Hotel (around $200 per night). The metro station is three minutes away, and from here you can reach Manhattan in just 20-25 minutes.
Queens is the largest borough in New York. Most of New Yorkers consider Queens to be boring and say that you can easily get lost there because the names of local streets and avenues are often the same. Still, even here you will be able to find something interesting for yourself. For example, The American Museum of the Moving Image, that was opened in 1988. There you will find the authentic dresses of movie stars, memorabilia telling stories of creating famous movies. Queens in the pre-Hollywood era was the center of the national movie industry – the entire history of the American movie and TV industry formation is presented here.
When choosing a hotel in Queens, just like in Brooklyn, only consider hotels that are located near metro stations. If the hotel description says, the metro station is just 10 blocks away, keep in mind that 10 blocks in Queens, on foot, is a really great distance.
Pay attention to hotels that have a convenient location, have a complimentary Wi-Fi and include breakfast cost into the room rate. For example, hotels like Best Western Plaza – Long Island City ($170–200 per night), Sleep Inn – Long Island City (starting from $125) and Holiday Inn Long Island City ($250–300).
Bronx is the only New York borough located on the mainland. Bronx reputation is not so good, to be honest. We have all heard tales about the crime rate here. But Bronx is not as terrible as it is described. Only its small territory, the south Bronx, is dangerous. The rest of this borough has a lot of interesting places waiting for you to explore them.
One fourth of Bronx is the park area. Here you will find New York Botanical Garden famous for its 15,000 plant species from all over the world.
Nearby there is a children’s adventure park and the Pelham Bay Park with the beach stretching for almost a mile. Additionally, you can visit the local zoo, founded in 1899. Bronx zoo’s territory is huge and animals live in the environment that is as close to their natural habitat as possible.
In Bronx there is museum of Allan Edgar Poe, it is in his house where he had lived for three years and wrote his famous poem Annabel Lee. The historical museum in Bronx will tell you about events important to this district. For example, that the first US Yogurt production plant Danone was opened here. In Bronx, in 1940 was born Al Pachino, and in 1942 – designer Calvin Klein. The Wave Hill estate in Riverdale had welcomed a number of famous residents through the years, such as Mark Twen, Theodore Roosevelt, and Arturo Toscanini. If you visit the Woodlawn cemetery you can pay your respect to Miles Davis and Duke Ellington who are buried here in the famous Jazz Corner.
Should you stay in Bronx? Of course, it is up to you, but even if you have found a very attractive accommodation option, search for something else. Bronx might be a little bit intimidating; there is a reason it is the most unsafe New York borough. But of course, it does not mean, that you will definitely get into some trouble here.
For example, you can take a look at the Opera House Hotel (5 minutes away from the metro station, prices start at $150) and the Rodeway Inn Bronx Zoo ($120–150, the Botanical Garden is nearby, just like a metro station).
Staten Island became part of New York in 1898. Till 1970 this area’s name was Richmond County. Staten Island is the most remote borough of New York. Life here is slow, measured, and quiet, you won’t find the usual buzz of the megalopolis, and there are no skyscrapers here. The main reason why this area is populated is the opening of the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge in 1964. The bridge is considered to be one of the largest suspension bridges in the world, it has two levels, connects Brooklyn and Staten Island, and it has a central span of 4,260 feet (1,298 m). One of the distinctive features of this district is the amount of green areas; there are over 170 parks here. From Staten Island you can reach Manhattan by the ferry, it will take 25 minutes but you will enjoy the views of the city and the famous Liberty Statue. An added bonus is that the ferry is free of charge.
In addition to ferries, you can use buses and even railway in Staten Island. There are no famous tourist attractions in this area, but if you get here, you have to see at least some sights, right? There is a number of museums here, the most interesting one is probably the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art. St. George Theatre is also worth a try. Another great sight here is the Snug Harbor Cultural Center where you can see Greek-revival style structures. In summer, you can enjoy open air philharmonic orchestra concerts.
If you travel with kids, check out the Children’s museum and the local botanical garden with a lot of aromatic plants. The plants are especially popular with people with impaired vision. Initially the areas with aromatic plants in the botanical garden were created specifically for such people. The garden is very beautiful, with a number of water bodies, greenhouses, flower beds, bonsai trees, and many other interesting exhibits. There is also a zoo here, not very large, but with exciting reptiles. If you are a sucker for antiques, you will be pleasantly surprised by a number of antiques stores in the area.
To sum it up, this district is great if you don’t plan to leave it at all during your stay. If you plan to live here, you can look at such hotels as Hampton Inn & Suites Staten Island (hotel rates start at $170 and they provide shuttle buses to the ferries) and Hilton Garden Inn Staten Island Hotel (from $135, and also shuttle buses to the ferries).
John F. Kennedy International Airport
If you have an early flight or arrive in New York very late in the night, it makes sense to stay in one of the hotels in the area of the airport. Here you can find hotels with rates ranging from $110 to $250 per night. I recommend to check out Sleep Inn JFK Airport (10 minutes to the airport, free of charge Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast and transfer to/from the airport) and Fairfield Inn by Marriott JFK Airport (also free of charge Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast and transfer to/from the airport, as well as shuttle buses to the metro stations and the Green Acres mall).
Things to Consider When Choosing a Hotel in New York
You probably have already noticed, hotel rates in New York are not really budget friendly. If you want to have some reasonable level of comfort, you will have to spend a lot of money on the accommodation. The best districts to stay in are Manhattan and the neighboring areas.
It should be noted that the hotel rates do not include the room tax of 14.75% and New York city tax that amounts to $3.5 per person per night. The hotel can also have its own extra fees. It is better to figure this out in advance, so that you don’t get into a situation when you will be charged more than you have expected and you have no idea why.
Parking in New York is quite a challenge: it is expensive, there are few parking spots. It is recommended to use public transport and not a rented car. That’s why this article features only hotels that are located near the metro stations or the might attractions which can be reached on foot.
New York is one of the most visited cities in the world – the hotels occupancy rate is almost 100%. That is probably the reason why owners of many hotels are not much interested in creating maximum comfort for their guests. If you don’t choose their hotel, someone else will. You have to be ready for this and just accept it as a given.