New York City Hotels in the Neighborhood
Live like a New Yorker when you stay at family friendly neighborhood hotels that immerse you in the local scene.
Rather than isolating my kids in huge, impersonal chain hotels while on vacation, I prefer taking them to places that actually put us into the environment we’re visiting, While the Marriotts, Hiltons and Doubletrees certainly serve their purpose, my list of New York hotels gives your family something more: My picks are in actual neighborhoods where families live, not touristy spots like Times Square where families visit. That means there’s likely to be a nice playground, a soda shop, a local bookstore and maybe even an old time toy store nearby—not to mention some great neighborhood restaurants.
Stay at these hotels and you’ll view Manhattan kids heading off to school and neighbors walking their dogs. You’ll end up seeing New York the way New Yorkers see it—on a smaller, friendlier, more interesting scale. And if you have to go to Times Square, the subway, bus or taxi can get you there fast. After a few hours of crushing crowds and the exact same restaurants you have back home, you’ll be happy to return to your own little New York neighborhood, whichever one you choose.
Upper East Side: Hotel Wales
The neighborhood: Carnegie Hill is an elegant Upper East Side enclave encompassing posh Fifth, Madison and Park avenues from 86th St. to 96th St. This is a stylish and chic family neighborhood. Think Gossip Girls, beautiful pre-war buildings, uniformed doormen, and picture-perfect boutiques and restaurants. Central Park is a block away, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a short stroll from the hotel. Kids always love the Arms and Armor exhibit at the Met.
The hotel: The Hotel Wales is a historic boutique hotel on Madison Ave. and 92nd St. with 88 elegant guestrooms and suites. Quite a few of them are sunny suites with two double beds and a fold-out couch, making them perfect for family visitors. Several connecting rooms are also available. Need a crib? Simply ask—it’s on the house. Just like its Carnegie Hill neighborhood, the Wales has a comfortable Old World feel. Families will love the complimentary continental breakfast (at New York prices, that’s a big savings right there). The linens are luxe and the suites have nice city views. Speaking of views, the Wales has a beautiful rooftop terrace with sweeping vistas of Central Park.
Neighborhood eatery, Sarabeth’s Kitchen, located next door, is known for its delicious bakery goods and salads, and it’s always packed with strollers and toddlers. Better yet, there are eight restaurants within a block of the hotel. And if you decide to step out without the kids, the hotel can refer a reliable babysitting service.
Fall rates vary but start in the mid-$600 range for a suite with two double beds; mid-$400 range for a room with two twin beds. 1295 Madison Ave. Tel. 866-WALES-HOTEL (866-925-3746). waleshotel.com.
Lincoln Center: The Empire Hotel
The neighborhood: The Empire is smack in the middle of two of Manhattan’s finest environs for active kids: the wide open spaces of Central Park, and the outdoor plaza and fountain at Lincoln Center, located at the southern end of the Upper West Side. If you have a child who likes ballet, New York City Ballet (plan ahead for The Nutcracker at www.nycballet.com) is right there. Get a babysitter and you can hit the Metropolitan Opera or catch some theater at Lincoln Center, too. With Julliard and the School of American Ballet in the area, you’ll pass budding ballerinas and talented music students hauling their cellos and violins along the street. The casual restaurants on Broadway have big outdoor cafés where kids are always welcome. Check out Café Fiorello’s for Italian or Josephina for fresh American fare.
The hotel: This former dowager just got a truly gorgeous makeover. The Empire occupies an entire corner on West 63rd Street—and now it’s super cool for adults and kids alike. The lobby is gilded and exotic, but inviting and comfortable, too. The rooms are on the small side, but so well designed they’re just fun to be in. Hallway wallpaper depicts tall trees and the Central Park-inspired theme continues into the rooms. Cribs are available for free, and many rooms have two queen beds. Frette linens, a fitness center, spa services and luxury bath amenities keep parents happy.
The hotel’s huge rooftop neon sign is a neighborhood landmark. It’s also the backdrop to the sky-high Pool Deck, which features a plunge pool and private cabanas with daybeds and flat-screen TVs; kids are welcome as long as they’re with a parent.
A room with two queen beds in mid-October ranges from $429 to $569 per night; a suite with two queen beds and a living room with pull out couch ranges from $589 to $729 per night. 44 W. 63 St. Tel. 212-265-7400, www.empirehotelnyc.com.
Chelsea: The Desmond Tutu Center
The neighborhood: The Desmond Tutu Center is located on 10th Ave. between 21st and 22nd streets in the bustling Chelsea neighborhood. Settle in here and you’ll be within walking distance of Chelsea Piers, a large recreation center featuring tennis, batting cages, ice skating, swimming and more. If you’re into art, this is the focus of New York’s contemporary and avant-garde gallery scene. While the atmosphere can be icy, some of the street level galleries are fun for kids—with their unusual art installations and grand square footage.
The hotel: With its charming 19th century Gothic architecture, the Desmond Tutu Center will make you feel more like you’re in London—and your kids will think they’re in a storybook castle. Stay here and you won’t need to look for a park because the hotel is in its own park-like setting. The sleek and modern rooms have recently been redone and come with flat-screen TVs and complimentary Wi-Fi service. While the hotel has some rooms with two double beds, these are often (but not always) reserved for conference groups. Standard and superior (larger) rooms have one full or queen bed, but rollaways ($30) can be moved in for your youngster—cribs and portable playpens are free. And don’t miss the complimentary breakfast served in a setting straight out of Harry Potter.
Rates vary depending on the season, but start at around $399 per night for a standard room.180 10th Ave. Tel. 212-929-3888, www.ahl-tutucenter.com.
Murray Hill/Gramercy Park: The Park South Hotel
The neighborhood: This lovely hotel sits on an unassuming side street between Park Avenue South and Lexington Ave. It puts you on the cusp of three vibrant neighborhoods: residential Murray Hill, elegant Gramercy Park and the evolving Flatiron District. The highlight in these parts is Madison Park. Just a few blocks from the hotel, this little oasis is a neighborhood favorite for its pretty playground, well-attended dog park, copious lawns and benches, and the Shake Shack—a wildy popular hamburger stand run by Danny Meyer, one of Manhattan’s top restaurateurs. The line is often long, but aficionados say it’s more than worth it. Check the menu (and the length of the line!) at shakeshacknyc.com.
The hotel: Park South is in a beautifully restored 1906 building. With a boutique-like feel, it has 141 well-priced rooms with clean, contemporary décor. Amenities include high-speed Internet access, in-room refrigerators, complimentary continental breakfast, a free fitness room and portable cribs, at no extra charge. The concierge can help you arrange your visit, and when you want to go in style, spring for the on-call car and limousine service for $75 an hour. The Black Duck Bar and Restaurant is adjacent to the hotel and offers kid favorites like roast chicken and burgers. Little ones love the mini-burgers on the appetizer menu—and if you feel like a night in, there’s always room service.
Family-sized rooms start at $279 per night. 122 E. 28 St. Tel. 212-448-0888, www.parksouthhotel.com.
Destinations: New York City
Interesting FYI I live in the Bronx, and I am often asked where visitors should stay while in the city. What great and inviting options. Thank you!
VERY INFORMATIVE Great article - really hit the nail on the head regarding "samo-samo" chain hotels located in business districts. Me being a native CA, I haven't a clue as to vacation opportunities that New York neighborhood hotels offer. I'm definitely going to consider this option the next time we come that way. I wish to compliment Ms Long for providing a refreshing mindset in vacationing traveling.
Great Information This was very useful. I live in California and I'm planning a trip to NY. I love having this "insider" information and will definitely stay at one of these hotels..