Great rates for a budget property offering private rooms
In Chelsea, near Madison Square Garden and the subway
Playful 80's music-theme throughout property
Funky rooms with en-suite or shared bathrooms, plus large suites
Lobby has long work table with outlets, plus games to borrow
Free coffee and tea in the morning and 24-hour front desk in lobby
Free Wi-Fi throughout
Pet-friendly (extra fee)
Wear-and-tear, cleanliness, and broken items can be issues
Few amenities (no breakfast service, bar, etc.) and no elevator
Some rooms have shared bathrooms
Most rooms lack phones, mini-fridges, and other extras
Luggage storage after checkout costs an extra fee
The 43-room Riff is a budget hotel in Chelsea, a two-minute walk from Madison Square Garden. This low-frills property's best feature is its funky 80s-music theme, but there are few extras here -- the lobby has a nice, long work table with outlets, and the courtyard is trendy with plenty of outdoor seating -- but that's about it. Funky rooms have en-suite or shared bathrooms, plus flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi, but wear-and-tear, cleanliness, and broken items can be issues. Still, for budget-minded guests who want to avoid hostels and spend most of their time exploring the city, this option can be a real money-saver. Bump up to a three-star hotel nearby, like the Holiday Inn Express Chelsea, and it could cost twice as much.
An 80's music-themed value hotel with limited amenities
The Riff Chelsea is a budget boutique hotel situated among three connected buildings with flat white facades topped with red awnings. A cheery, vintage-inspired sign out front shouts,"Hello Chelsea!" The hotel, which opened in 2014, tailors itself to the young and artsy -- in its price, limited amenities, and 80's rock-and-roll theme. Indeed, there's a hostel-vibe here, and it's not just because some rooms have shared bathrooms. The lobby, which is located on the second floor, is a mini hangout spot with a largely black-and-red color palette, a button-tufted union jack sofa, and long wood tables with outlets for guests to work on their laptops. Behind the tables hang large framed photographs of Madonna, and bookshelves are stocked with record albums and old turntables. The lobby opens out onto a cool courtyard with faux-ivy green walls, red umbrellas, and white wicker furniture with red cushions. Rooms are less well-kept, and wear-and-tear is a frequent complaint among guests. It's also a four-story walk-up -- there's no elevator. The hotel primarily attracts younger travelers, including those traveling solo, though the age range might be skewed slightly older than the hostel set.
In Chelsea, a two-minute walk from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station
The hotel is well-located in Midtown's Chelsea neighborhood, on the corner of 30th and 8th Avenue, nearly across the street from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station (two-minute walk). While West 30th mostly consists of small residential buildings, 8th Avenue is busier with restaurants, shops, delis, and bars. The hotel is in walking distance to sights like the High Line (seven minutes), the Empire State Building (12 minutes), and Times Square (20 minutes). For sights farther out, guests can make use of a plethora of subway stops that are in walking distance including the A, C, and E lines from 34th Street Penn Station stop (five-minute walk) and the 1 and 2 lines on 28th Street (six-minute walk). Via the subway, guests can get anywhere from Battery Park to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in about 30 minutes. By public transit, Grand Central Station is about 20 minutes away, JFK 45 minutes, and La Guardia an hour. Note that parking is not offered through the hotel.
Funky rooms with en-suite or shared bathrooms -- but wear and tear can be an issue
Rooms at the Riff get widely mixed reviews, but clearly, this is no high-end establishment: Furniture can be worn, wallpaper torn, carpets stained, and items broken. Cleanliness is uneven, and there's essentially no housekeeping during guests' stay. But there is a certain decorative flair to the spaces despite these drawbacks -- rooms feature punchy geometric patterns such as zigzag gray-and-white bedding and funky Marimekko-style wallpapered walls. Bathrooms are unexceptional -- white tiled walls, terra-cotta floors, standard shower/tub combos. Rooms have AC (though these are window units, and "on" and "off" seem to be the only options), open wardrobes, safes, flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi, but phones aren't standard.
Three room designations are offered. The "Shared Rooms" are actually small private single and double rooms with shared bathrooms, while the Premium Single and Double Rooms offer a little more wiggle room and add en-suite bathrooms. The hotel's one-bedroom suites sleep up to four (with a pull-out couch) and have kitchenettes, while the Group Suite can sleep from eight to 12 guests. Guest rooms get street noise, so light sleepers might consider bringing earplugs.
Lobby and courtyard hangout spots, but few extra amenities
Extra property features are at a minimum here. The lobby offers a little hangout space with some couches and long wood work tables with outlets (Wi-Fi is free throughout), plus board games to borrow and guitars to play. This space opens up onto a cozy 600-square-foot courtyard with soft seating, small tables, and umbrellas. Free coffee and tea are served in the morning, but there's no breakfast or dining facilities on-site. Pets are allowed, but cost an extra fee. The property has a 24-hour front desk, but note that luggage storage after checkout costs an extra fee.