Forget all your preconceived notions about New York City: horrible hotel rooms at exorbitant prices; long lines to get into expensive, crowded attractions; and heavily overpriced restaurants. That's not the New York of today. In fact, the city has been cleaning up its act over the last decade or so, creating a more tourist-friendly town. With a little planning, it's possible to spend a relatively low-budget weekend in New York without having to forgo any of its best creature comforts.
Prepare yourself before you go and be resolute about your plans. Vow to shun taxis in favor of walking or taking the subway. Log on to www.nycvisit.com to request a tourist package that includes a handy subway guide and helpful maps. Prepare to window-shop for dinner, venturing to neighborhoods like SoHo or Chelsea where up-and-coming chefs prepare meals in storefront restaurants.
Money not spent on taxis and expensive tourist traps can be put toward a good night's sleep. Two hotels in the Carnegie Hill district in Manhattan's Upper East Side the Franklin and the Hotel Wales offer a boutique experience at surprisingly low rates. Both hotels possess a distinctive romantic charm and feature down comforters covered in Belgian linen, snug robes and Aveda products as standard fare. Their rates include breakfast and 24-hour access to complimentary cappuccino, coffee and tea. And both are near the express subway for fast access to Midtown attractions.
The Hotel Wales, located on Madison Avenue, is within walking distance of the Museum Mile. Featuring unusually high ceilings, brightly sunlit rooms and wonderful original oak moldings, the Wales is a true find for upscale travelers who relish a bargain. Guests can spend between $250 to $275 for an unusually spacious room, but this price includes tickets for two to the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Jewish Museum. Parents take note: The Wales provides strollers, so leave that cumbersome thing at home and avoid the potential $80 extra baggage charge now strictly enforced by the airlines.
The Franklin Hotel offers a similar dose of charm at an even better rate. Located on East 87th Street just off Madison Avenue, the Franklin is designed for couples (each room in the hotel is equipped with just one bed). The hotel is an old property, recently updated to accommodate the demands of upscale travelers. On arrival, guests are provided with a complimentary drink and truly personalized service.
The excessively budget-minded should consider a little find called Habitat. For as little as $85 a night, this hotel offers a clean environment think sparse IKEA furnishings and a great location in Midtown. Stripped down, to be sure, this gem delivers a stylish place to stash yourself at the lowest rate possible in Manhattan.
Lucky for us, New York seems to "get it" now. Tourists can save money on hotels and attractions and spend more money in museum gift shops and retail stores without all the hassles.