Eric's Guide to Hotels in NYC
At long last, here's
Eric's Guide To Hotels in New York
Last updated: Dec 16, 2003
This lists the hotels that I've stayed at any my general observations about them. As with any rating, take this with a grain of salt…what's important to me may not mean diddly to you (and vice versa). Keep in mind that my prerequisites center around the fact that I'm working for the Long Island Rail Road when I'm in New York. The LIRR's offices are in Jamaica, but I prefer to stay in Manhattan. Because the LIRR only runs into Penn Station, my preference is for hotels that can be reached relatively easily from Penn. Generally speaking, that means that the hotels I choose will be close to the A, C or E lines or the 1, 2, 3 or 9 lines (although that's not always the case…I don't mind wandering over to the 32nd Street station at Herald Square and taking the F train if that makes more sense). I usually look for rooms under $150/night.
Milford Plaza (2.5 Stars)
The Milford Plaza advertises heavily as the “Lulla-BUY of Broadway”. It's located on 8th Ave at 45th Street, on the western edge of the theatre district. Very close to Phantom of the Opera and an easy walk down to 42nd Street (where there's ALWAYS something going on). This is a busy hotel, and appears to be a favorite of the airlines (I've stayed there three times, and never failed to run into a gaggle of flight attendants and/or pilots). Rooms are spectacularly small, but it's clean and relatively quiet given how close it is to Times Square. Lots of places to eat nearby. Television is so-so: The usual smattering of cable channels, but no premium channels (not even HBO or Showtime), and no pay-per-view. Generally pretty reasonably priced; I've stayed at the Milford for as little as $99/night, although recently (Fall 2002) the rates seem to hover around $129.
Helmsley Windsor (3.5 Stars)
“Say what you will, she runs a helluva hotel” is the slogan. Yep, it's the Queen of Mean. This is one of the older Helmsley properties, and you'd be hard pressed to call it a “luxury” hotel, but the rooms are absolutely enormous and the staff is very friendly. Apparently it used to be condominiums before it was renovated to be a hotel, which explains the extra-big rooms. The Windsor is located about 2 blocks south of Central Park on 58th Street at Avenue of the Americas (6th Ave). If you stay at the Windsor, wander over to Carnegie Deli on 7th Ave between 54th and 55th Streets and have an enormous sandwich. They tell me the Cheesecake is out of this world, but after I finished my 8-inch-tall Pastrami on Rye I was in no mood for dessert. The Carnegie's not cheap, and it's cash only, but you have to at least eat there once to say you've done it. As for the Windsor, prices were reasonable in the Summer of 2002 (around $125/night), but have jumped to $160+ in the Fall of 2002.
Howard Johnson Plaza (2 Stars)
Uggh. This one was a deal I got through Hotels.com. Seems like I paid something like $119/night. I wasn't impressed. Old, outdated, grumpy staff, and a ratty room. I was in the room right next to the elevator, and I can tell you for certain that the elevators are used heavily until around 2:00am. The HoJo staff has been exercising its billing creativity, deciding to add a mandatory charge even for the safe that's already in your room. It wasn't a fleabag, but I don't recommend it, either.
Ameritania (2.5 Stars)
Another Hotels.com deal…better this time. The Ameritania is right around the corner from the theatre where they film The Late Show with David Letterman. It makes for some fun crowd watching if you're around at 4:30 or so. Extremely small room (barely room to walk on either side of the bed), but it was clean and the bed was really comfortable. Basic cable, but it seems like they had pay-per-view if you wanted it. I don't think they had Showtime or HBO, but I may be wrong. I'm not a big fan of Art Deco style, but this seems a pretty good example of it. Did I mention that the bed was really comfortable (they had this great comforter).
Hilton (4 Stars)
Initially a surprise bonus from hotwire.com, I have stayed at the Hilton several times now. I managed to snag a room at the Hilton on Avenue of the Americas for only $135/night. Lately it's been going for around $99/night on Priceline. Big comfortable room. Nice sized desk. Good data lines for dialup. Television with all the extras (HBO, Showtime, pay-per-view, games, even high-speed Internet for $9.95/day). Comfortable bed, enormous bathroom (with marble floors no less). Highly recommended if you can get in for a reasonable price. (Hotwire — where I got the deal — is a funny system; they don't tell you the name of the hotel until AFTER you've booked, so it's kind of a leap of faith). Hilton is a big user of the Priceline system, so it's quite likely that you'll wind up here if you make a decent bid on Priceline.
414 Inn (3 Stars)
Quite good! I found this one on Travelocity.com and gave it a shot because the customer reviews were so positive. This is a recently renovated “boutique” hotel about a block west of the Theatre district (it's located on 46th Street between 9th and 10th Ave). If you didn't know it was there, you'd almost certainly walk right past it; only a blue plaque with the street number (414) identifies it. There are only 22 rooms in this little hotel, but the people are very nice, and the rooms are spacious and comfortable. It's a little off the beaten path, but not too bad a walk from the 50th Ave subway station on the C or E train from Penn Station (four blocks south and one-and-a-half long blocks west). Close to MANY interesting restaurants…if you stay here, stop by Becco for dinner (on 46th between 8th and 9th).
Roger Smith Hotel (3 Stars)
A pleasant surprise through Priceline, the Roger Smith introduced me to an area of the city where I had not stayed before. A quaint, slightly quirky hotel (the owner is an artist, and uses the hotel as a showplace and canvas for up-and-coming artists, along with a gallery at the corner), the Roger Smith has decent sized rooms and is clean. Service is good; while they don't offer room service, they have a list of local restaurants where they keep house accounts. You can order from any of those restaurants and tell them you're a guest at the Roger Smith, and the bellhop will bring your meal up to you. They mark it up $3 for the service and add 15% gratuity, but it's a nice way to do room service at somewhat less than room service prices. I paid $135/night (posted rates are in excess of $250), but I spoke to someone in the elevator who said she got her room through priceline for $99. Wander over to Grand Central Terminal if you stay here…
Grand Hyatt at Grand Central Terminal (4 stars)
Nice. Very nice. A great location, enormous room, excellent bed, and just generally top-notch digs. I scored a deal at the Grand Hyatt on Priceline, and thoroughly enjoyed my stay. Highly recommended; on a par with the Hilton Towers (on 6th Ave). Since the war started, the Grand Hyatt has been easier to get at good rates (especially through Priceline), presumably because people are nervous about staying at Grand Central. The police presence at Grand Central is signficant, and I'd say it's got to be one of the safest places in New York. In an earlier revision of this list, I recommended that you wander over to Grand Central and have dinner at the Oyster Bar…I think I'll take that back now. I had dinner there the other night and it was OK, but a bit pricey. Instead, check out Juniors (downstairs in the food court at Grand Central) and have a huge burger and a slice of cheesecake for about half the price.
Millennium Broadway Hotel New York (3 stars)
I paid $114/night for the Millennium Broadway on Hotwire. If you're looking for a place that's right in the thick of it, the Millennium is for you. Literally just a few hundred feet off Times Square, this is a pretty nice place to stay that's walking distance from EVERYTHING. A bit older and a little more ragged than, say, the Grand Hyatt or the Hilton Towers, this one is still a fine place to stay with no major drawbacks. If you stay here, you must walk across the street and have dinner at Virgil's. Yes, I know it sounds bizarre to recommend a Barbeque joint in New York City, but this is outstanding stuff! Try the New Zealand Lamb sandwich, and get a plate of the hush puppies (with this outrageous-good honey butter for dipping).
Marriott New York Marquis (Times Square) (4.5 stars)
A surprise bargain from Priceline at $120/night (Dec 2003). The Marriott Marquis is located smack dab on Times Square (Broadway at 45th St) in easy walking distance to everything in midtown. You know it's a big hotel when the lobby is on the 8th floor! I wound up in a good-sized room on the 42nd floor, with a fanstastically comfortable bed and an outstanding view toward the Hudson River. (Best rate on the Marriott website for this room is $299…rack rate is $499!). Dinner recommendation here is the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. on Times Square.