New York City

 
 

How To Build A Fire

by Jessie Singer For a year, I lived in a trailer in the woods outside Austin, Texas. Rather, I lived in the remnants of a trailer. Its wheel hubs sat stacked on cinderblocks. The tires, like the windows and all the valuable parts, had long since been stolen by passersby. Any wire that wasn’t copper was left dangling behind. Electronics hung from the ceiling and spilled out of holes in the façade like the guts of a Tauntaun. They once charged batteries, pumped water and internal toilet tanks, and poweredRead More


Giant heart beats in Times Square

Ahead of Valentine’s Day, a giant heart-shaped sculpture is unveiled in Times Square, that will beat in the heart of New York City. Roselle Chen reports.


Georgia O’Keeffe and the Pineapple Fiasco

by Leigh Stein Whenever I fall in love with someone, I collect the things we have in common, even coincidentally, as evidence we’re destined to be together. Setting aside the fact that she is dead, Georgia O’Keeffe and I share a lot: we were both born in the Midwest, we both moved to New York City, and we both fell in love with the southwest. I’ve memorized so many of her images that today, when I visit New Mexico, the landscape looks to me like she painted it. Georgia wasRead More


The Puppy Bowl celebrates 11 years of fluffy football fun

Puppies from animal shelters around the U.S. compete in the 11th annual Puppy Bowl in New York City. Sharon Reich reports.


Lagusta Yearwood, The Punk Chocolatier

by Alicia Kennedy “Women! Let us meet.” This is how Lagusta Yearwood, chef and owner of chocolate shop Lagusta’s Luscious in New Paltz, New York, calls together her employees for a staff meeting. “And Jacob,” she adds, a sweet afterthought, to include her partner of 16 years, who’s running around the small shop taking care of orders to be shipped out. Four women stand around Lagusta, all in vintage aprons, listening as she discusses the business of the day: a new whipped cream recipe, strategies for most efficiently using theRead More


Checking In: Archer New York

Launched in May 2014, Archer Hotel New York is among a new pack of boutique hotels to open in Manhattan’s Garment District (within walking distance of Bryant Park) in the past two years. Rising 22 stories, this new-build property is all steel, glass, and brick, with a subtle industrial-inspired look that nods to the neighborhood’s past as a garment manufacturing center. Inside the hotel are 180 guestrooms that are nicely furnished and stocked with upscale amenities, a restaurant helmed by celebrity chef David Burke, and two bars, one of which offers dazzling views of the Empire State Building. Glen Coben, of Manhattan-based architectural and interior design firm Glen and Company, oversaw the property’s architecture and decor. With a variety of design flourishes and layouts, no two rooms here are exactly the same.

Featuring a quirky look and unique service touches, Archer Hotel comes with a pseudo backstory: Guests are led to believe that the hotel and their experience there have been curated by a worldly gentleman named Archer. Turndown service includes a note from Archer, rooms feature his favorite books, and the hotel’s promotional playing cards cite his etiquette tips. Archer the man may not be real, but his perceived sensibility imbues the property from top to bottom, whether in the property’s art collection, souvenirs sold in the lobby, or the cute bath slippers stocked in rooms. Aside from its lower prices, this aspect helps the hotel stand out from its buzzworthy neighbor, the Refinery Hotel.

Rates: There are seven types of room (no suites), with pricing from $209/night.

Rooms: The Archer Hotel houses 180 guestrooms, many of which are quite compact. Standard rooms average around 180 square feet, meaning the beds dominate the space. (The largest room, Archer’s Den, measures a comfortable 368 square feet.) Underbed storage takes care of this problem to a certain extent, but in general, Archer’s rooms are places best spent sleeping rather than lounging for extended periods of time. Still, the beds are cushy, Wi-Fi is free, and there’s a work desk; plus, there’s a 42-inch flat-panel TV and docking station for playing music on personal devices. Some rooms feature views of the Empire State Building, though you’ll have to request (and pay more for) them.

Surprisingly, the bathrooms are a highlight of the property, seeing as they’re stocked with Malin+Goetz products and Frette robes and towels. Featuring black-and-white subway tiling and large walk-in showers, the bathrooms feel open and spacious, even if the bedrooms do not.

Drinks & Dining: Situated in the lobby, the Bugatti Bar is a stylish little place to grab a quick drink before heading out on the town. Also on the ground floor, David Burke fabrick features the chef’s fun, idiosyncratic dishes, like cauliflower “steak,” octopus tacos, and candied bacon served on hanging clothespins. (The restaurant is open for breakfast, brunch/lunch, and dinner daily.)

But the standout is Spyglass, a 22-story-high rooftop bar that is arguably the hotel’s biggest draw. With doors that open onto an outdoor terrace that looks up at the Empire State Building, Spyglass is among New York City’s newest crop of popular rooftop drinking spots. Open year-round and featuring a small food menu in addition to a full bar, it’s the hotel’s most enjoyable space to unwind outside of the rooms.

Health & Fitness: There’s no on-site spa, gym, or pool, but the hotel offers guests free passes to the New York Sports Club fitness center. 

Etc.: At check-in, all guests receive a “Destination Joker” playing card that’s redeemable for a $10 credit throughout the hotel. Alternatively, the card can be saved for future use; guests who present multiple Destination Joker cards will be rewarded with upgrades and other perks. Anyone who collects an “Archer flush” (a Destination Joker from the New York property and from the soon-to-open Austin and Napa locations) will earn a free night’s stay. The hotel staff also awards “Class Act” cards (also worth $10 inside the hotel) to guests who exhibit specific acts of kindness, courtesy, or etiquette (as detailed on the playing cards). 

Pros: Offers high attention to service and design details; nice furnishings and amenities in guestrooms; exciting options for drinks and meals; and a good value and unique experience for its price point.

Cons: Rooms feel small; hotel lacks amenities like a gym or spa; the location is convenient, but not exactly glamorous.


Wax On, Wax Off: A Brief History of Women-Only Karate

by Mary Mann “In the seventies men didn’t want women in the dojo,” Denise Williams told me. “Susan, my teacher, she was thrown out because she wanted to do knuckle pushups. They said, “You’ll get calluses on your knuckles and nobody will want to marry you.’” She paused, then added: “People really did talk like that back then.” Denise is a small woman in her sixties. She wears big glasses and smiles a lot and practices massage therapy. She’s also a karate black belt, and has been head sensei ofRead More


Checking In: Park Hyatt New York

As New York City’s first five-star, truly luxury property to open in more than a decade—the last being the Mandarin Oriental New York in 2003—Park Hyatt New York is without a doubt one of the world’s most hotly anticipated n…


Top 5 Things to Do in Queens

Queens

Though Queens has traditionally been ignored by travelers who stick to Manhattan and, in recent years, Brooklyn, the largest borough in New York City is suddenly, as they say, having a moment. Lonely Planet recently named Queens as its top U.S. destination for 2015, and the New York Times has forecast that it will become “the next Brooklyn.” Of course, New Yorkers and savvy travelers are no strangers to Queens’ pleasures, from the authentic Chinese cuisine in Flushing to the sprawling (and increasingly hip) beaches in the Rockaways.

But if your experience with this diverse borough, home to more than two million people, has been limited to the airports, now’s the time to re-evaluate. Though we could write an entire book on all there is to see, eat, and do in Queens, we’ve rounded up five of our favorite spots that deserve to be on your next New York City itinerary.

MoMA PS1

MoMA PS1

Formerly an abandoned school and now a cutting-edge contemporary art center, MoMA PS1 is one of the borough’s biggest attractions. Owned and operated by the Museum of Modern Art, this enormous 100-room building houses work by the likes of Sol LeWitt and Pipilotti Rist. On summer Saturdays, MoMA PS1 presents “Warm Up”, an outdoor dance party series attracting a hip art-school crowd that’s held in the courtyard from noon–9.

Citi Field

Citi Field

Opened in 2009, the Mets’ newest stadium was designed to hark back to Ebbets Field (where the Dodgers played in Brooklyn until 1957) with a brick exterior and plenty of bells and whistles, from a batting cage and wiffle-ball field to the original giant apple taken from the team’s old residence, Shea Stadium. While here, don’t miss tasting your way through the more-than-fabulous food court behind center field, where you’ll find Shake Shack burgers, Blue Smoke ribs, a selection of close to 40 beers at the Big Apple Brews stand, and even lobster rolls and tacos.

Queens Museum

Queens Museum

In early 2014, the Queens Museum (formerly called the Queens Museum of Art) doubled in size after a major expansion project, which resulted in more exhibitions and education departments, a cafe, a bookstore, and places for children’s activities. Don’t miss the astonishing Panorama, a nearly 900,000-building model of New York City. made for the 1964 World’s Fair. There are also rotating exhibitions of contemporary art and a permanent collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass.

M. Wells Dinette

M. Wells Dinette

The original location of this decadent eatery, known simply as M. Wells, was in an unassuming diner. These days, foodies get their foie gras fix at M. Wells Dinette, located inside MoMA PS1. The menu changes depending on the season but diners might find dishes like veal cheek stroganoff, using thick bucatini as the noodles, or bone marrow and escargot. Finish off with a slice of maple pie and a shot of maple bourbon.

Museum of the Moving Image

Museum of the Moving Image

Like switching to a widescreen television, the Museum of the Moving Image is twice as nice as it was before the 2011 expansion and renovation. The Thomas Lesser design includes a three-story addition and a panoramic entrance to this museum full of Hollywood and television memorabilia. Classic family films are shown as matinees on Saturdays and Sundays, while the museum also has a section devoted to video artists for visitors looking for some culture.


Where to Find Affordable Lodging in New York City

Everything in New York City seems larger than life—including the sticker shock on skyscraper-high hotel prices, with average hotel rates running close to $300/night. For those who think outside the box-y hotel room, however, there are plenty of alternative, more-affordable lodging options (including some of the nontraditional variety) with much more palatable pricing. Here are eight great options that can save you money so you can empty your pockets on the city’s other pricey pleasures instead. Trust us, with those $15 martinis and $100-a-pop Broadway shows, you’ll need it.

Apartment Rentals

Airbnb

Nabbing a New York City apartment as home base ensures more space than a hotel room, kitchen access (to minimize eating-out expenses), and a living-in-the-big-city experience. However, New York State’s 2010-instated “illegal hotel laws” make it illegal for apartments to be rented out for less than 30 days, unless it’s a room in a tenant-occupied apartment, or via the owner of a single- or two-family home. Because of the regulations, legal, non-hosted, short-term apartment stays, offering total privacy, are somewhat rare, though hosted apartment rentals—where you’ll share the apartment and its amenities (like the bathroom or kitchen) with a resident New Yorker (often happy to share conversation and local tips)—are more common.

Major short-term apartment rental agencies with affordable listings (from well under $200/night) include Airbnb.com (with more than 32,000 listings in the city); HomeAway.com; Vacation Rentals By Owner (a.k.a. VRBO); VacationRentals.com; 9Flats.com; FlipKey (owned by TripAdvisor); and newcomer BeMate.com, which combines rentals with hotel services like an on-call concierge. For NYC-specialized agencies, try Manhattan Getaways or browse artists’ lofts at City Sonnet.

Outer-Borough Hotels

Outer-Borough Hotels

Considering that most New Yorkers themselves don’t live in Manhattan, take that as a cue to follow suit. The outer boroughs offer fast-developing, temptingly affordable hotel alternatives. In Queens, Long Island City hotels average about $150/night less than Manhattan, which is just one subway stop away. Try the Z NYC Hotel, where all 100 rooms face the Manhattan skyline (from $175/night), or the 128-room Wyndham Garden LIC/Manhattan View, with even more killer views from $149/night. Hit up Brooklyn at The Condor Hotel in hipster epicenter Williamsburg (from $139/night), or try the 70-unit, music-themed Hotel BPM in Sunset Park (from $109/night). North of Manhattan, the Bronx Opera House Hotel (from $129/night) is set within a hundred-year-old opera house.  

Home Exchanges

Home Exchanges

If you don’t mind loaning out your digs, and prefer the comforts of home even while on the road, a home exchange might be just the ticket. The premise is this: You’ll swap homes with another traveler, usually for a week-long period, for free. All you need to do is sign up with an established home-exchange organization to help make the match, which typically charge an annual or monthly membership fee. Some to consider with NYC listings are HomeExchange.com ($120/annual membership), HomeLink (from $39/year), and Love Home Swap (from $240/year).

Hostels

New York Hostel

Sure, you may not have bunked in a hostel since your college days of backpacking across Europe, but for budget crunchers, you can’t beat a no-frills hostel stay. The dorm-style accommodations offer shared or private rooms, often with shared baths and communal kitchen spaces. Browse sites like Hostels.com or HostelWorld.com for reviews and recommendations. 

Try all-ages options like members-only HI New York Hostel, run by Hostelling International USA in a landmark Victorian Gothic building on the Upper West Side (from $49 per person, per night; daily membership from $3/day). Other strong contenders include the family-run American Dream Hostel, near Gramercy Park (from $94/night for a single private room), or NYC’s self-proclaimed “first boutique hostel,” the Broadway Hotel & Hostel on the Upper West (from $32 per person, per night). 

B&Bs

B&B

Typically smaller, family-run affairs, cozy bed-and-breakfasts can offer quaintness and affordability, so long as you’re willing to use the bathroom down the hall and perhaps live without a flat-screen TV. Browse through B&B-specialist sites with NYC listings like BedandBreakfast.com; Bed-and-Breakfast Network; City Lights Bed-and-Breakfast; and New York Habitat. TripAdvisor also keeps a good list, while Airbnb maintains some dedicated B&B listings, too.

Some solid bets within Manhattan include the 10-room East Village Bed and Coffee (single rooms from $125/night), or Harlem’s 7-room Sugar Hill Harlem Inn (from $80/night). Brooklyn is another hotbed for tempting B&Bs, especially within the early-20th-century Victorian homes-cum-B&Bs in the Ditmas Park/Flatbush neighborhoods; check out the two-suite The Loralei B&B (from $145/night) and Rugby Gardens (from $150/night).

“Micro-Hotels”

Micro-hotels

Good things come in small packages, especially for hotel-deal hunters. Recent years have seen the import of the “capsule” or “pod” hotels that were first invented in Japan. Touting smart design in snug quarters, some of the best of this newish breed of “micro-hotels” include The Pod 51 in Midtown, where each pod/bed (averaging 100 square feet) gets its own flat-screen TV and guests have access to a rooftop deck and free scheduled walking tours (bathrooms are shared; bunk pods from $89/night for singles).

The Jane Hotel in the West Village, a former boarding house for sailors, offers cabin-inspired rooms from 50 square feet with flat-screens and iPod docks (from $99/night with shared baths). (They also tout the hip Jane Ballroom lounge downstairs, free guest bike rentals, and a new rooftop bar). Rooms at the tech-friendly YOTEL New York, near Times Square, are a bit roomier, averaging 170 square feet, and come with convertible beds, work desks, iPod hookups, flat-screens, private baths with rain showers, complimentary breakfast, and, yes, the worlds’ first robotic luggage concierge (from $149/night).

Homestays and Couchsurfing

Homestay New York

While tenant-hosted apartment stays (like those on Airbnb) sometimes fall into this category, homestays typically involve a more immersive experience, where guests, given a spare bedroom in a family home, can expect cultural engagement with the host. Browse homestay options in the city on sites like Homestay.com (their NYC rates average $49/night) or Homestay Booking (with rates as low as $30/night). Far from catering just to young people, Homestay.com notes that more than half of their clients are aged 30 or over.

Another option, if you’re willing to opt in for either a spare room or a simple couch in somebody’s home, is the free (though a gift or paid meal for the host is customary) CouchSurfing.com, with a staggering 9 million members (there is a one-time membership fee of $25). You’ll be able to search hosts by criteria like gender and age, and can also check their reviews on the community-driven site, without any requirement to reciprocate hosting yourself.

Hotel Bidding and “Mystery Stays”

Hotel Bidding

For those intent on bedding down in a traditional hotel, and who aren’t too specific with their demands, bidding on hotel rooms or locking in bargain rates for a “mystery stay” is a great-value option. Look to Priceline.com‘s “Name Your Own Price” tool, touting room rates discounted at up to 60 percent off: You simply specify your preference of neighborhood and hotel star rankings, along with the rate that you want to pay, and Priceline.com will make the match on your bid if there are any hotel takers. The catch? You won’t know the name of the actual hotel until the match is made, and by then, you’ll be locked into the deal.

Priceline.com offers another similar product, too, called “Express Deals,” wherein the hotel specifics (short of some selected parameters) remain anonymous, but the price is listed upfront and guaranteed on the spot. Hotwire offers this deal type, too, via their “Secret Hot Rate Hotels” (we saw a NYC hotel room in January priced at a whopping 69 percent off). Tip: The very best savings on both sites are usually nabbed for last-minute bookings.

Elissa Garay is a contributor to Fodor’s, Yahoo, Condé Nast Traveler, Cruise Critic, About.com, and more. Based in Brooklyn, NY, she has traveled to and reported on some 55 countries and 20 cruise lines around the globe, and has resided in Argentina, France, England, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Follow her @TravelSpiritNYC.


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