Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
About 30 permanent residents still live in the hotel, and it almost feels more like an upscale apartment building than a medium-size hotel -- especially since there's no on-site bar or restaurant. And, while the lobby has elegant touches like fresh flowers, it's small and not especially chic. Those behind the front desk are helpful and kind, but they're also casual, like the doormen inside any of the nearby apartment buildings.
Like On The Ave and The Lucerne, two similarly priced hotels also on the Upper West Side, the Beacon attracts visitors to New York who are more interested in staying in a cozy neighborhood setting rather than amidst the touristy chaos of Times Square. Hotel management estimates that their clientele is about 60 percent pleasure travelers and 40 percent business travelers. The second floor houses a number of meetings rooms, but the hotel is more geared toward recreational travelers. The small business center isn't called a business center, but rather the "Guest Internet Center."
For those visiting New York who are not interested in staying amidst the hubbub of Times Square, or the hipness of downtown, the Hotel Beacon just might be the ideal location. It's set on the beautiful, tony Upper West Side, an area of the city populated by well-heeled families, successful young professionals, and pedigreed dogs. Streets and sidewalks have some life to them, but they're also clean and never crowded. It's easy to find a great restaurant but harder to find many bars after dinner.
The Beacon's precise block couldn't be more convenient. It's on a lovely stretch of Broadway, more than 20 blocks north of the theatre district. Instead of the bright lights of the theatre marquees, this part of Broadway has medians planted with tulips and trees. There is, however, a theatre right next to the hotel in the form of its namesake: the Beacon Theatre. Known as the "older sister" to Radio City Music Hall, the historic theatre has been the recent venue for performer ranging from Leonard Cohen to Tyler Perry.
Fairway, one of the city's best grocery stores and something of a New York institution, is directly across the street. It's ideal for stocking the kitchenette or grabbing a quick lunch from the deli. There's also a Starbucks one block away, a diner underneath the hotel, and a nice wine shop, Beacon Liquors, on the same block.
About 30-90 minutes from three airports.
New York City has three nearby airports: JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark (in New Jersey). Flying into JFK or LaGuardia is typically easiest and the least time-consuming. From JFK, it's a (one-hour) $45 flat-rate taxi ride to anywhere in Manhattan. From LaGuardia, it's about a (30-minute) $40 metered cab ride to Midtown Manhattan. Rides from Newark cost at least $40 (plus tolls), and can take more than 90 minutes. Don't forget to tip your driver 15-25 percent.
To save some cash, try the group shuttles that are available at all three airports for about $14/person. For more information on the shuttles, go to Super Shuttle or New York Airport Service. You can also take public transit from any of the airports 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 stairs. For mass-transit directions right to the hotel, check out HopStop.com.
Originally an apartment building, the hotel's rooms have a homey feeling thanks to their large size. The standard king and double rooms average 320 square feet, over 50-percent larger than most New York City hotel rooms. They're significantly larger but just as nice as the rooms at nearby and slightly more expensive hotels like The Lucerne and On the Ave. The 650-square-foot one-bedroom suites can sleep up to four people, with a king or queen bed in the bedroom and a pull-out sofa in the living area. Though they're quite homey, rooms are also pretty modern, thanks to a renovation completed in early 2010.
Hotel Beacon is popular among families, and it's no wonder. About half of the hotel's rooms are dedicated to one- and two-bedroom suites that can comfortably sleep a family of six and cost the same as standard rooms at similar hotels in the area. Even the standard rooms can easily accommodate cribs and roll-aways (for an extra $20/night).
All rooms have well-equipped kitchenettes with electric ranges, microwaves, toasters, coffeemakers, sinks, plates, and cutlery. Refrigerators are half-size in standard rooms, but still big enough for plenty of snacks and juice boxes.
The hotel also has a 24-hour coin-operated laundry room for guests, especially handy for those traveling with spill-prone toddlers. Detergent is also available for purchase.
Pay-per-view movies are available for purchase from Time Warner On Demand, which includes over a dozen films in the family section.
Like most hotels throughout the city, the hotel refers guests needing a babysitter to The Babysitter's Guild, a childcare agency that specializes in caring for children from out of town.
Pets aren't officially allowed at the Hotel Beacon, but there is some flexibility. Some permanent residents have pets, and management says exceptions can be made.
The Hotel Beacon says it doesn't allow pets, but I saw multiple little dogs during my stay, including an adorable French Bulldog and a Shih Tzu. Some permanent residents have pets, and when I asked a hotel staffer if pets were allowed he said, "No, but we do make some arrangements." For guests who want to stay at the hotel and bring little Fido, it's worth asking to speak with someone in sales to see if they'll make an exception.
All guest rooms at the Beacon Hotel were renovated in late 2008/early 2009, leaving them quite clean and fresh. Bathrooms and kitchenettes sparkle, and there's a nary a bit of dust on the dark wood furnishings. Kitchenettes are stocked with dish soap, should guests need to do a dish or two before maid service.
There's no room service at the hotel, but food can be ordered for delivery from the Viand Café next door. Guest-rooms have an abbreviated lunch/dinner menu, but the café also serves and delivers breakfast. Their full menu is available online. While some hotels offering room service in this way take the food from the restaurant and then put it on a special room service tray, it's a much simpler affair at the Beacon. The concierge simply advises guests to call the café directly and place an order. Watch out, local charges from the room will cost you. Delivery men come right up to the guest-rooms and hand over a plastic bag filled with food. Orders can be paid for with cash or credit, but they cannot be charged to the room. It's not as elegant as room service, but the food is just as good, if not better, and far cheaper.
Every room in the Hotel Beacon features an adorable kitchenette with an electric range, a microwave, coffeemaker, toaster, and refrigerator. Fairway, one of the city's best grocery stores, is just across the street from the hotel -- perfect for stocking the kitchenette.
Upon request, the concierge will provide a list of dozens of restaurants in the surrounding area within easy walking distance. Once a culinary wasteland, the Upper West Side has recently become one of the city's better areas for eating out.
The 255-room Beacon Hotel is one of the city's best ways to ensure an affordable family vacation. The huge rooms all have kitchenettes, and are in a safe but fun part of the Upper West Side that's a 10-minute walk from New York's most kid-friendly museums and Central Park.