Friday, January 17, 2014

Hotels outside Manhattan: How to avoid sky high hotel rates

  Travel to New York City is an expensive proposition. But travelers can often save money the same ways the locals do: skip expensive dinners and instead do great take-out or nice lunches, take subways and walk instead of taxis, check out local concerts and not Broadway shows, soak up free museums, and all other kinds of savings. But tourists and locals are all screwed by the high cost of housing. Savvy travelers are used to being able to rent apartments for their stays in big cities to help defray costs, but that practice is effectively illegal in New York City. And so visitors are stuck paying what one analyst found to be the 6th highest hotel rates in the world.
   So as a tourist, you can avoid high Manhattan prices the same way the rest of us do. Don't stay in Manhattan! The outer boroughs and even New Jersey have a booming hotel trade catering to travelers turned off by Manhattan's high prices. But not all outer borough hotels are created equal. Some are far away from the subway and require inconvenient shuttle rides just to reach the subway. Some are also seedy dirtbag hotels. So here's a list of where to stay and why.

View from the Holiday Inn-Long Island City

FULL DISCLAIMER: I couldn't possibly stay at all these hotels, so I will be using Google. Yelp, and TripAdvisor ratings (Their average will be the "review score") as well as my knowledge of the convenience of their location and appeal of the neighborhoods they're in.


Hotel BPM
LOCATION: 139 33rd St. Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
TRAVEL TIME TO 42ND STREET: 30-35 minutes
REVIEW SCORE: 4.2 of 5

   This is an extremely well reviewed hotel in the not well traveled area of Sunset Park. The reviewers like the trendy design, excellent service, and freebies and deals like free happy hours and the owner DJing on Friday and Saturday nights. The neighborhood is a working class one, home to mostly Latin American and Chinese immigrants. The hotel is only a few minutes from express subway service to Manhattan but the only amenities around the hotel are basic ones with no cool architecture, shopping, or dining. Brooklyn's hipper neighborhoods are a short subway ride away, but the location is a bit remote.

Hotel Le Jolie
LOCATION: 235 Meeker Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
TRAVEL TIME TO 42ND STREET: 20-25 minutes
 REVIEW SCORE: 4.2 of 5

   Another hotel with extremely good reviews in the extremely trendy area of Williamsburg. The hotel is fairly basic but seems to get all the basics right, with beds, rooms, cleanliness, and service getting good marks. The block it is located is on won't win a beauty contest, especially being across the street from the highway. But most reviewers say the hotel does a great job muffling the traffic noise. Not surprisingly, the views are much better facing the city. The location is excellent for exploring the awesome shops, restaurants, clubs, and blocks of NYC's trendiest areas and the hotel is only 5 minutes from the G and L subway lines. The only location problem is that any subway journey to Midtown's sites will require a transfer, and the L is notoriously crowded at rush hour, and most other options. The pleasant hotel and awesome neighborhood make this a great option.

Marriott New York at the Brooklyn Bridge
LOCATION: 333 Adams Street, Downtown Brooklyn
TRAVEL TIME TO 42nd STREET: 20-25 minutes
REVIEW SCORE: 4.0 of 5

   This is one of the most expensive options in the Outer Boroughs but it begs inclusion because it is one of the few large full-service hotels. It's location is also incredibly convenient as almost every subway line in Brooklyn is less than a 10 minute. So most Manhattan destinations can be reached directly with no transfers. The immediate area around the hotel is a business district with little in the way of neighborhood amenities, but the neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, or Ft. Greene are a 10 minute walk away. Bonus points are awarded for having Brooklyn's location of the TKTS booth across the street to buy cheap, same-day theater tickets with almost no waiting.

Super 8 Brooklyn
LOCATION: 267 3rd Ave, Gowanus, Brooklyn, NY
TRAVEL TIME TO 42nd STREET: 30-35 minutes
REVIEW SCORE: 4.1 of 5

   This Super 8 is the best budget hotel deal in Brooklyn. The location may seem strange being in an industrial setting bordering a toxic canal. But in fact the streets around the Gowanus Canal and Park Slope are a hub of great casual eateries and two excellent music venues, Bell House and Union Hall within a short walk. The R train is 1 block away, but be aware that for the rest of 2014 the R doesn't go to Manhattan on weekdays because of long-term construction so a transfer will be required. Obviously with a budget hotel, amenities like linens and decor will not be impressive. But almost all reviewers agree that the hotel is clean, well-maintained, friendly, and convenient. At a price cheaper than most hotels in Brooklyn, this comes in as a top value.

Fairfield Inn & Suites Brooklyn
LOCATION: 181 3rd Ave, Gowanus, Brooklyn
TRAVEL TIME TO 42nd STREET: 30-35 minutes
REVIEW SCORE: 3.9 of 5

   This hotel is located just a few blocks from the Super 8 in Gowanus and benefits from the same neighborhood vibe and amenities in Park Slope and Gowanus. Basically, you pay a little more than the Super 8 to get a little more luxury in the way of decor and amenities. Still a good value and location.

NU Hotel
LOCATION: 85 Smith Street, Boreum Hill, Brooklyn
TRAVEL TIME TO 42nd STREET: 25-30 minutes
REVIEW SCORE: 4.0 of 5

   There are other boutique hotels in Brooklyn (namely the buzz-catching Wythe and its neighbor King & Grove in Williamsburg) but their room rates are almost the same as similar hotels in Manhattan. So the NU provides a cool vibe with a more borough appropriate price tag. The location is excellent. It is adjacent to many subway stations, the great shopping on Atlantic Ave, the beautiful streets and dining of brownstone Brooklyn, and short walk from Barclay's Center. Plus, many reviews mention how spacious the hotels rooms and common spaces are. Even the gym is credited for its elbow room, a truly rare amenity. The hotel walls are covered with local art and cruising bikes are available for taking in all of the beautiful architecture around the hotel.


Holiday Inn-Long Island City
LOCATION: 3905 29th Street, Long Island City, Queens
TRAVEL TIME TO 42nd STREET: 15-20 minutes
REVIEW SCORE: 4.0 of 5

   Here is a hotel I can personally recommend as they hosted all of my guests the night of my wedding. The Queens location puts you closer to Midtown's tourist center than Brooklyn. The views are excellent from the Manhattan-facing rooms. While the subway is really close, the immediate area around the hotel is lacking in entertainment with not much in bars or restaurants nearby, though a 10 minute walk improves the situation. The much livelier areas of Long Island City and Astoria are a short subway ride away. The rooms are comfortable and clean. Just down the block is also the Verve Hotel which gets excellent reviews and is often a few dollars cheaper.

The Paper Factory Hotel
LOCATION: 3706 36th Street, Astoria, Queens
TRAVEL TIME TO 42nd STREET: 15-20 minutes

   It's hard to give a full-borne endorsement of the hotel because it is brand new and has almost no reviews yet. But the location down the block from the R train is great for getting into Midtown. The nearby Museum of Moving Image is a phenomenal small museum. Bars, beer gardens, and restaurants can be found nearby. The hotel itself is an updated industrial building with lots of unique features and cool decor. The quality of service and execution of daily hotel upkeep remains untested, but you won't find another trendy boutique hotel in NYC for a better price.


Hyatt Regency Jersey City
LOCATION: 2 Exchange Place, Jersey City, New Jersey
TRAVEL TIME TO 42nd STREET: 30-35 minutes
REVIEW SCORE: 4.2 of 5

   New Jersey somehow seems farther away than it is. Something about taking a different subway system (The NY to NJ PATH train) and and crossing a state border makes NJ seem like a foreign country to most New Yorkers. But the truth is, Hudson County New Jersey is actually closer to many parts of Manhattan than locations in Brooklyn or Queens. The Hyatt in Jersey City is a waterfront hotel and the views from the bedrooms facing the Hudson are some of the best hotel views in America. The PATH train to the World Trade Center is right outside the hotel and only takes 10 minutes to arrive in Lower Manhattan. The PATH train takes subway Metrocards but any travel outside the financial district will require a transfer. There's also plenty of places to hang out in Jersey City if you don't want to head into NYC for the evening.

Westin Jersey City
LOCATION: 479 Washington Blvd, Jersey City, NJ
TRAVEL TIME TO 42nd STREET: 30-35 minutes
REVIEW SCORE: 4.0 of 5

   The Westin is just as plush and full service as the Hyatt and comes with a few advantages over its neighbor. For one, the PATH station close to the hotel provides service to not only the World Trade Center but also The Village and Midtown with no transfers. The spacious rooms, bathrooms, and comfortable beds all get high marks, and it is slightly cheaper than the Hyatt. However, it is set back from the river slightly and so it doesn't have the full panorama views the Hyatt does.

W Hoboken
LOCATION: 225 River Street, Hoboken, NJ
TRAVEL TIME TO 42nd STREET: 30-35 minutes
REVIEW SCORE: 4.2 of 5

   This is one of the more expensive options outside of Manhattan but also one of the best reviewed. Service and standards are high at this trendy upscale chain. The location in Hoboken is a great one. Hoboken is a charming small city across the Hudson with pretty historic rowhouses, neighborhood bars and restaurants, and a waterfront with incredible views of Manhattan. And it's hard to dislike a city where both Frank Sinatra and baseball were born. The hotel has awesome views of the city and is a less than 10 minute walk to the beautiful Hoboken Terminal where the PATH train departs to World Trade Center, Greenwich Village, and Midtown. And while the price is steep, it's also more than $100 less than the W hotel in Times Square.

Meadowlands River Inn
LOCATION: 250 Harmon Meadow Blvd, Secaucus, NJ
TRAVEL TIME TO 42nd STREET: 25-35 minutes (plus traffic)
REVIEW SCORE: 4.0 of 5

   This hotel is a real plus for anyone driving to NYC for a vacation. No one wants to drive in Manhattan, and parking per day can be $40 in Manhattan and even $20 at Hoboken/Jersey City hotels. Enter the Meadowlands River Inn with a friendly staff, low rates, and free parking! Getting into Manhattan is easy as the NJ Transit bus stops next to to hotel and goes to the bus terminal at 42nd Street. But you do have to worry about traffic and a big jam at the Lincoln Tunnel could make a 30 minute trip an hour or more. The hotel has not been recently renovated so the look is a bit dated, but the reviewers compliment the hotel for cleanliness and meeting basic guest needs well. And while there are places to eat and shop right outside the hotel, it is a suburban shopping mall so the options will be fairly blase chain options.

Homewood Suites by Hilton Edgewater
LOCATION: 10 The Promenade, Edgewater, NJ
TRAVEL TIME TO 42nd STREET: 45-55 minutes (plus traffic)
REVIEW SCORE: 4.2 of 5

   This is an all suite hotel with free abundant parking, making it ideal for families driving to NYC for longer stays. The location is on the waterfront but it's a little far upriver for and commanding views. This rooms are large and clean and the service is excellent. There are some nice local restaurants within a quick walk of the hotel. The NJ bus to the city is also located right in front of the hotel and it runs all the time at rush hour. On weekends the wait could be 20 minutes though, and the traffic can be difficult getting into Manhattan. The location is nice but a long ways from the action.

AND THE WINNER IS!!!..............


Opera House Hotel
LOCATION: 436 E. 149th Street, The Bronx
TRAVEL TIME TO 42nd STREET: 20-25 minutes
REVIEW SCORE: 4.7 of 5

   The best reviewed hotel on the list comes in a surprising location. The hotel is in a historic opera house just off the 6-way intersection called "The Hub" that marks the center of the South Bronx. Decades ago, the South Bronx was one of the most infamous locales in America, a slideshow of urban decay. But things have changed in the area and The Bronx today is a far cry from its sad past. While the area remains poor, it hums with new residences and new construction. The Hub is the Times Square of The Bronx and the hotel's location nearby means there is always hustle and bustle on the nearby streets to keep things safe. Almost none of the reviewers felt unsafe in the area. And almost all the reviewers praised the hotels size, charm, historic uniqueness, cleanliness, and a staff that goes beyond standard service. The price is one of the lowest in the city. And the location next to the 2 and 5 trains means express access to the East and West side of Manhattan in minutes. It's nearly impossible to find a better value anywhere in NYC and guests get to be a part of the revival of one of the former worst urban areas of the country.


  1. There are some awesome hotels in NYC! I usually refer the boutique hotels, especially by Grand Life!

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