Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
The newest, prettiest, and skinniest hotel on a gritty block near Times Square
When it opened in February 2010, the narrow, 32-story Distrikt Hotel brought a little style and personality to an unattractive block across the street from the Port Authority bus depot. Its contemporary lobby, with a wall of ivy and sculptural glass light fixture, evokes the chic vibe of a comparatively pricey W hotel. Every three floors represents a different district in Manhattan, from the Financial District at the bottom to Harlem at the top -- hence the hotel's name. The hotel pays homage to the city's neighborhoods in every particular: the pictures on the turndown chocolate wrappers; the engraved map of the city behind the front desk; the unique, back-lit neighborhood collage in each hallway. Even the coffee and tea selection at breakfast nods to the motif -- the coffee beans come from Empire Coffee, a 105-year-old New York-based company, and the teas are all named after neighborhoods, such as the Chelsea (an Earl Grey blend that "always remains in style").
The Distrikt also packs in a lot of value -- free, strong Wi-Fi; free gym passes; some of the best guestrooms for the price near Times Square -- but there are tradeoffs. The hotel lacks the on-site, 24-hour fitness center that its neighbors, the Fairfield Inn and Four Points by Sheraton, both offer, and there is a charge for continental breakfast while it's free at the Fairfield. The biggest downside, though, is its location. Although the hotel has 24-hour security and requires key card access in the elevators, you'll still have to walk past adult DVD shops and a New York State parole office en route to Times Square. It's not unsafe, exactly, but it's not pretty. The stylish, similarly-priced Mela Hotel, located just outside the heart of Times Square, is an excellent alternative.
Extras like free morning newspaper delivery and nightly turndowns put the service a notch above what you'll find at most mid-range hotels.
It's a little ironic that a hotel named after Manhattan's neighborhoods inhabits a bit of a no-man's-land: a dull, unattractive block on West 40th Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues. On the block: a parking complex, two other hotels, adult DVD shops, a New York State parole office, and the Port Authority bus terminal. You might encounter a few unsavory characters when heading to and from the hotel, but at least you won't have to walk far to see the sights: Times Square, the Theater District, and a number of major subway lines are only a few blocks away. The hotel takes extra measures to ensure guest security; you can't use the elevator without a key card, and a security guard is on duty 24 hours a day.
Though once seedy, Times Square was reborn in the mid-'90s as a commercialized tourist haven, lit by 24-hour flashing billboards and themed restaurants like ESPN Zone and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Today, visitors walking the streets are more likely to be accosted by a comedy-club promoter, a rickshaw bicycle operator, or a caricature artist than a mugger. It's crowded, but there's something unquestionably exhilarating -- and convenient -- about staying near the neon-lit heart of the city. Plus, the mayor decided to close off much of Broadway to traffic, making it more pedestrian-friendly.
Rooms are stylish and modern, with luxury touches like Frette linens, towels, and robes, nightly turndown service, and a free morning paper. For the price, you won't find better rooms near Times Square -- they have more pizzazz than the rooms at the neighboring Fairfield Inn and Four Points by Sheraton, and a little more space than those at the better-located Mela and Dream hotels.
Every three floors in the 32-story hotel is designed to represent a different neighborhood (or "Distrikt"). The same motif appears in subtle details in the room, such as the postcard at the foot of the bed or even the wrappers on the nightly turndown chocolates. The Chelsea motif on the 18th floor, for example, incorporates images of the Flatiron building and the Maritime Hotel.
All rooms include:
Just gym passes and three iMac computers in the lobby
A reasonable choice, but the hotel's location on a seedy-feeling block is less than ideal
Distrikt is located on a block with a couple of adult DVD stores and a liquor store. It might feel slightly seedy, but it's perfectly safe.
Decent bar food at Collage Bar & Bistro
Collage Bar & Bistro serves bar snacks and light dinner fare such as cheese plates, salads, and paninis with New York-themed names in a dimly-lit, contemporary space. Sandwiches, like the Second Avenue Reuben panini and the Spanish Harlem grilled chicken panini with extra-spicy chipoltle mayo are tasty, but nothing special. After a long day exploring, it's a convenient place to grab a bite, but you'll likely find more inventive fare at the restaurants on nearby Ninth Avenue.
About 30 to 90 minutes from three airports
New York City has three nearby international airports: John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LGA), and Newark Airport (EWR). By car, getting into town from JFK or LaGuardia is usually more convenient than from Newark, New Jersey, but travel times are heavily dependent on the time of day and traffic conditions. From JFK, a taxi to anywhere in Manhattan costs a flat rate of $45 and takes around an hour in average conditions. From LaGuardia, a metered cab ride to midtown Manhattan costs about $40 and can take 30 minutes if traffic is light, three times that if it's bad. Rides from Newark cost at least $40 plus tolls and can take more than 90 minutes. It's customary to tip your driver 15 to 25 percent.
Those looking to save some cash can use the privately run shuttle buses that are available at all three airports for about $14 per person, just note that since you’ll be sharing the ride it can take a bit longer to get to your hotel. For more information on the shuttles, go to Super Shuttle or New York Airport Service. Public transit is also available for as little as $7 per person, but travel can take up to two hours and involve a lot of lugging bags up and down stairways. For mass-transit directions right to the hotel, check out HopStop.com.
Opened in February 2010, this stylish 155-room boutique offers some of the best rooms for the price near Times Square, with 37-inch flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, Frette linens, and nightly turndown service. Freebies like in-room Wi-Fi, gym passes, morning newspaper delivery, and iMac use in the lobby add value, but the location on a gritty block isn't ideal.
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