Stay Here, Not There: 4 Touristy NYC Hotels to Skip, and 4 to Book a Room in Instead

See recent posts by Katherine Fung

Millions of people will visit New York City this year, and lots of them will stay at big box hotels. In a city with so many choices, it's easy to gravitate towards the famous chains. There's nothing wrong with that...but we feel a bit sleepy just thinking about it -- not to mention that some of the bigger hotels tend to be super crowded, and could really use a refresh. We've taken a look at some popular choices for tourists, and found some lesser-known alternatives (that we kinda think are better) to consider for your next trip to New York City instead. 

Midtown West: Skip the New York Hilton Midtown

The Hilton name is world-famous, but this property seems to fall short of the brand. The mind-boggling number of rooms — 1985 to be exact —  means the property feels almost as crowded as the bustling streets outside. The heavy volume of guests shows in the tired-looking hallways and rooms (with the exception of a small chunk of rooms that have been renovated recently).

Midtown West: Stay at The Moderne

Just a few blocks away, the 80-room Moderne offers the same convenience for getting to sights like the MoMA, Central Park, and Rockefeller Circle, on a much more intimate scale. The hotel was completely renovated in 2011, and the decor (the property has a lively pop-art theme) is definitely not generic. Features like stainless steel bathrooms and iPod docks make the hotel feel like a solid upgrade.

Herald Square: Skip Hotel Pennsylvania

The Hotel Pennsylvania is a historic New York City hotel — built by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company in 1919 — but behind those iconic columns on 7th Avenue, the property hasn’t worn the years well. The carpets, beds, and bathrooms have neither been well-maintained, nor updated in years. The rooms even have old tube TVs. The hotel’s location across the street from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden is super convenient, but there are better options for similar budgets to be found in the neighborhood.

Herald Square: Stay at the Eventi Hotel

The 492-room Eventi Hotel is within walking distance of Madison Square Garden and the Empire State Building, but it’s more modern and comfortable in just about every way when compared to the Pennsylvania. Rooms are spacious and beautiful, with sleek decor, flat-screen TVs, and iPod docks. The relatively new Kimpton property (it opened in 2010) has all the hallmarks of a boutique hotel: eye-catching art and design in the lobby, perks like free nightly wine hours, and an on-site farm-to-table restaurant, Humphrey’s.

Times Square: Skip the Millennium Hotel Broadway

With 750 rooms, a conference center, and a theater, it’s easy to see why the Millennium Hotel Broadway is a popular convention hotel. The property is also right off Times Square, which is bustling with tourists, business people, and street vendors around the clock. While this hotel is sufficient for large meetings, there’s little that stands out about it. The rooms, with uncomfortable beds and worn carpeting, leave some things to be desired. The decor is bland, and amenities are limited to a lobby bar and fitness center.

Times Square: Stay at the Sanctuary Hotel

If being near Times Square is important, the Sanctuary Hotel is a good choice for fun-loving guests. Unlike large chain hotels in the area, this boutique property is swanky, without being generic or stuffy. The luxe hotel is decorated with Buddhist-inspired art, and a fireplace and chandeliers in the lobby. Marble countertops and chandeliers set the rooms apart. The lounge on the 9th floor fits right in with the vibe of the hotel, and guests also get free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, and free passes to Equinox.

SoHo: Skip the Four Points By Sheraton Hotel SoHo Village

The Four Points by Sheraton Hotel is a reliable chain property located in SoHo, just south of the West Village. It has all the amenities you’d expect from the brand, including a 24-hour business center, 24-hour gym, and free Wi-Fi. The hotel is perfectly fine for business travelers or guests who just want a convenient stay, but look elsewhere to be dazzled.

SoHo: Stay at the Hugo Hotel

A block to the west, the Hugo is a bit further from SoHo and Little Italy, but it feels much more upscale (although, guests will generally pay about $100/night more for this). The interiors are bright and clean, and marble bathroom countertops, salvaged wood lining the hallways, and an industrial-chic chandelier in the lobby pack some serious style. Even the minibars — -which include locally made Hudson Whiskey and North Fork potato chips — are a bit bespoke. There is also a rooftop bar with great views of the Hudson River.

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