Small, cramped lobby quickly gets crowded with guests
Centrally located in Midtown Manhattan, and packing an array of amenities -- in-room kitchenettes, full-size refrigerators, free laundry machines -- that will appeal to both tourists and business travelers, the three-and-a-half pearl Staybridge Suites is that rare venue where guests who don’t want to splurge on luxury don’t have to choose between convenience and comfort. Those with a yen for more elbow room (and with bottomless budgets), however, may feel penned in.
Comfortable but crowded, with enough to keep guests busy
Though the illuminated column that rules the lobby eliminates the usual hangout space for travelers, the "great room" in the back of the hotel offers a comfortable common area often filled with tourists planning their days. Behind that, a greenhouse-style breakfast area serves as a light-filled place to eat in the morning. A small sidewalk cafe area in front would be more charming if it weren’t so dominated by the bus station. Hallways are dark and short but decorated with photographs of New York City landmarks, which might help guests ignore the fact that the actual view from the hotel is of the Port Authority parking lot. Space is at a premium, so on busy days, herds of tourists crowd together downstairs at the front desk, breakfast buffet, and on what seem like some of the slowest elevators in Midtown.
Behind the Port Authority Bus Terminal on a gritty block in Midtown West
Situated in the transition area between Times Square and Hell's Kitchen, the hotel is three blocks from one of the city's most important subway hubs, the Times Square 42nd Street station, and it's impossible to ignore the Port Authority Bus Terminal looming across the street. It takes only yards in either direction to be swept up in the frenzy of New York City's tourism central, with its bright lights, swarms of dazzled tourists, smooth-talking touts, and regular New Yorkers intent on ignoring it all and just trying to get to work on time. Tourist hot spots like the Theater District, Times Square, and countless places to eat, drink, and shop are within a few minutes’ walk in nearly any direction. The block itself, however, is unattractive, with a porn shop, parking garage, construction site, and the inescapable, monolithic presence of the Port Authority.
Small rooms packed with amenities, suitable for longer stays
Rooms manage to pack in a surprising range of amenities into a tight space, making the rooms suitable for longer-term stays. They include a stocked kitchenette with full-sized refrigerators, microwaves, coffeemakers, electric stovetops, and enough pots, pans, plates, and dining utensils to meet the cooking needs of all but the most culinary-minded traveler. There’s even a recipe book -- though it’s geared to the level of chef who needs instructions on how to assemble a sandwich. Other features include a 37-inch flat-screen TV with more than 150 channels, in-room safes, iPod-dock stereos, and free Wi-Fi. The location is conveniently central, but the view is chiefly of the parking lot on top of the Port Authority Bus Terminal across the street, and modest guests staying at eye level with the lot may regret the lack of fully opaque curtains as transit workers drop off and retrieve their cars throughout the day. On our visit, noise from the street was audible 12 floors up in a front-facing room at 3 a.m.
Several free features, and a bar and a regular cocktail reception to keep guests occupied on-site
The Staybridge has a number of free services that are welcome but not unusual -- free Wi-Fi, free 24-hour-a-day fitness center, round-the-clock pantry/mini-convenience store behind the front desk, and a row of laptops off the lobby that serves as the free business center -- but the most notable, and most endearing to those who’ve been on the road more than a week, is the 24-hour-a-day laundry room with free laundry machines and dryers (though detergent must be purchased). The glass-ceilinged breakfast room is a light and airy place to partake of the free breakfast buffet (though the lines are long and the food goes quickly), or to sip cocktails for the happy-hour receptions every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The hotel bar, all glass and odd angles, was mostly empty on our visit, but the staff said that its frequented more by local residents, many of whom work across the street at the bus terminal. The hotel lists two meeting rooms in the basement, but on our visit one was being used for storage.
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