The NYC Traveler in NYC: An Introduction to the City of New York (practically speaking!)
Part 2: Staying in NYC, How to Pick a Hotel
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BONUS Tip #1: Manhattan addresses will be New York, New York. Brooklyn, Bronx and Staten Island addresses are the same as their borough name. But Queens addresses run by their neighborhood: Long Island City, Jamaica, Flushing, Astoria, Kew Gardens, Forest Hills, etc. (there are many more).
BONUS Tip #2: Midtown Manhattan is traditionally considered from 59th Street to 23rd Street from river to river. This is a loose definition. Uptown is anything above 96th street on both the East Side and West Side. Central Park and 5th Avenue are the dividing lines: The East Side is streets from 5th Avenue to the East River; the West Side is from 6th Avenue to the Hudson River. Below 14 Street (Union Square), it becomes a little less clear. On top of that, there named neighborhoods.
BONUS Tip #3: Beware of Broadway. Clearly the longest street in Manhattan, it really goes from The Battery all the way to West 220 Street, winding through, never in a straight line. If you could drive it without traffic, it would be quite a tour. You would hit everything that Manhattan had to offer.
BONUS Tip #4: To make sure you are where you want to be, use a good map, either on paper, online or digital. Map apps with GPS help a lot.
With that said, here are our top 10 tips for booking a hotel in New York:
1. You do not need to stay in midtown Manhattan, so don't be afraid of public transportation. You might find something more suitable in another area or borough. You can use cabs, limo services and car services to get around but they will be in the same traffic that a rental car would be in. The subway usually moves the fastest. And, there are more bus lanes so that surface transit gets through road traffic faster than cars. Cabs and car services do not have access to bus lanes. There are hotels that might be located near stops off the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), such as downtown Brooklyn. Therefore, booking a hotel in New York doesn't necessarily mean New York City.
2. Having said that, many people booking a hotel in New York stay in Manhattan for many reasons, mainly because it's the borough people think of most when they they of New York City,: more attractions, more options of public transportation (almost all of the subway lines run through Manhattan), restaurants that have long hours. If you stay in midtown, consider hotels on side streets, rather than just on the major avenues.
3. When booking a hotel in New York, don't be fooled by "minutes to midtown Manhattan" promises when booking lodging, especially if you stay in Brooklyn or Queens. It's best to stay in these boroughs if you plan to tour only these areas. For example, if you want to see mostly Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Prospect Park and downtown Brooklyn and only make one trip to Manhattan, then stay in downtown Brooklyn. But if these sites will be combined in one day trip and you are seeing most of your sites in Manhattan, it's best to stay in Manhattan and take the train to Brooklyn.
4. Like any other city, using alternatives to booking traditional hotels in New York takes savvy. For example, most motels are independently owned franchises. They may have certain rooms set aside for long term residents such as those placed by the city. Sometimes, this experience is not always positive. Stick with the upper levels of the major brands.
5. Hotels close to the airport make it easier to catch a flight but are not necessarily easy for sightseeing and getting around (see our article about arriving to NYC). However, there are more hotels being built near Jamaica station that are convenient to JFK Airport and Manhattan. You can be at Penn Station within a half hour using the Long Island Railroad (LIRR). The neighborhood is very residential but is being developed for tourism. Also, there are fewer restaurants and much less night life. Just be aware of Tip #4.
6. Use a travel consultant to get information on Manhattan hotels that you may not see on booking sites, particularly if the agent is either based in NYC or very familiar with the city.
7. There is other lodging in New York City through sites such as VRBO (incorporating Homeaway) and AirBnB. Once again, consult with a travel consultant, read the reviews carefully.
8. Once you begin to come to NYC a little more often, you will get to know the neighborhoods better and you can make an informed decision regarding vacation rental locations. Make a note of amenities such as distance from transit, food stores and restaurants and even a laundry place in case the apartment does not have appliances.
9. Make a rough itinerary so that you can get an idea of which area will be most convenient. Midtown Manhattan works well if you are planning to go uptown (Harlem, Washington Heights) and downtown (The Battery, South Street Seaport). Most of the subways to the outer boroughs run through midtown. If you want to see many museums, consider the East Side.
10. Finally, look at other sources such as this blog, social media groups and travel guides. You may see information in common that will help you to make the best decision for you.
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