One of the questions that I hear a lot from friends who want to visit NYC for the first time is “where should we stay?”. Most of them have an almost blurry image of New York: the huge, extremely expensive, with many dangerous neighborhoods city.
At the same time, they want to do all the “touristy” things and they need to be “close” to them! But what does “close” really mean in New York of the 5 big boroughs? How can they decide which part of the city they should consider staying in? Is the budget going to be astronomical? Is the place good and safe?
That is why I decided to write this post and intend to offer some guidance on how to choose, what you can expect and present the pros and cons of each area in Manhattan. What, I believe, is the most important, is to be close to a convenient subway stop. But, I guess the budget is what at the end of the day will determine the decision, so I will take that under consideration.
These are Manhattan’s most important areas and what you can see at each one of them:
Midtown – Central Park, yellow cabs, pretzel and hot dog street vendors, tall buildings and skyscrapers.
- West midtown: Times Square, Broadway Theaters, Radio City Music Hall.
- East midtown: St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 5th Avenue (Stores: Saks, Armani, Apple Store, Cartier…..), Rockefeller Center (NBC, Top of the Rock), Grand Central, Empire State building.
(It already looks east side is the winner, right?!)
Upper East – Not much nightlife (restaurants, bars), luxury buildings, pre-war buildings, brownstone townhouses, MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art), Guggenheim.
Chelsea / Greenwich Village – Below 34th St., you will find art galleries, hundreds of good restaurants. There is sort of European atmosphere. Very nice area but I would not recommend it to a tourist (to stay). It’s one of the best areas in NYC but does not have the tourist attractions close by; neither the commuting is very convenient. It is beautiful though and you can always walk a lot there, especially from April to October.
SoHo / Chinatown / Lower East Side – SoHo except South of Houston means shopping, shopping and shopping! Cobbled side streets, boutiques, all the famous designers and brands are there. You can have a taste of Little Italy at Mulberry and Mott St. and a taste of China in Canal St which is Chinatown’s most famous street and also, practically, divides SoHo from Chinatown. LES is Manhattan’s more hipster side (for a stronger “hipster feeling” you can take the subway to Williamsburg (L train, from Union Square).
Wall St / Financial District – World Trade Center, South Street Seaport, Battery Park, Brooklyn Bridge, Ellis Island.
Are you lost already or not yet? 🙂
All the above is very general tourist information. After many hours of personal research for my family and my friends, I’ve reached the conclusion that the best value for money decision is to stay in Long Island City and that’s what I advice most of my people.
LIC is only one or two stops from Midtown, and it’s on the east side as well, so it is close to many attractions. It has easy connection to/from Times Square so from there you can go pretty much everywhere. You can also find the best hotel deals there and a cab ride from Manhattan costs approximately $15 which is a very reasonable price.
Just check the map before you make a reservation and make sure that: a. it’s not very far inside Queens (yes, sometimes, hotel owners and websites call that “long island city) and b. it is walking distance to the subway.
Unfortunately, I cannot recommend (yet) hotels in Long Island City. I’ve been to a couple of them during friends’ stay, but the prices and offers change so it’s better to use the online tools given below and find something that suits to your needs. Look at the pictures and make sure that you like the place. You can also read the reviews but don’t pay too much attention. People sometimes are so judgmental and put one star because the girl at the reception didn’t smile at 12 am when they arrived or if there was a line and the check in took 10 minutes. If you are going for a less than 3 star hotel, read some of the reviews and make sure there are no bed bugs. (Europeans are in shock now, I know…)
Where you can search online for a hotel:
Hotels.com (every 10 nights’ stay, you get 1 night free)
I hope this will be somewhat useful. Safe travels and I hope you enjoy your stay in the big apple!!