Trying to decide where to stay in New York City? Find the best hotels and areas for your budget 💸 and preferences
Few cities in the world dazzle quite like New York. The kinetic energy, iconic sights, and sheer scale of the Big Apple can overwhelm first-time visitors. With so many dynamic neighborhoods spread across New York City’s 5 boroughs, choosing the ideal area to stay during your visit can feel daunting.
This comprehensive guide will walk you through the advantages, highlights, and personalities of New York City’s top neighborhoods. Read on to discover the perfect New York locale to match your travel style, group size, sightseeing priorities and budget.
Should You Stay in Midtown Manhattan?
For many first-time visitors to New York City, Midtown Manhattan represents the classic New York experience. This bustling commercial district in central Manhattan puts you steps away from some of New York’s most famous attractions. Staying in Midtown places you in the heart of the action.
What Midtown Manhattan Offers
Easy Access to Famous Sights
Midtown Manhattan comprises the area from 34th Street to 59th Street, between the Hudson and East Rivers. This prime location grants easy access by foot to quintessential New York landmarks like:
- Times Square – The bright lights and giant billboards of this epicenter of tourism distill the essence of excitement and energy New York is known for.
- The Empire State Building – Ascend to the observation deck of this Art Deco skyscraper for views stretching 80 miles.
- Rockefeller Center – The iconic plaza with its Art Deco buildings and ice rink provides a hub of entertainment and shopping.
- Broadway Theaters – Catch a show in the Theater District, the heart of American theater.
Midtown also encompasses Central Park, an 843-acre oasis of greenery in Manhattan, and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), one of the world’s great modern art museums.
In short, Midtown packs many of New York City’s crown jewels into a compact area. This makes it hugely convenient for sightseeing on foot.
In addition to condensed walking distances, Midtown offers easy transportation access. It’s convenient to get both into Midtown from New York’s airports, and around the city from Midtown.
The A, C, E, 1, 2, 3, N, Q, R, W and 7 train lines all service Midtown, granting direct access to any other area of New York City. Major bus routes converge on Midtown. Ferries depart nearby for Staten Island and New Jersey.
Entry points to Midtown via rail from the airports include Penn Station (Amtrak, New Jersey Transit from Newark Airport) and Grand Central Station (Metro-North from JFK and LaGuardia airports).
Once there, getting around Midtown on foot or by subway is seamless. This central transit access makes it easy to explore far-flung New York City neighborhoods if Midtown itself starts to feel too touristy.
Extensive Hotel Options
In addition to transportation and sightseeing convenience, Midtown Manhattan offers New York’s most extensive selection of hotel rooms. Options range from national chains like Holiday Inn Express to luxurious 5-star hotels like the Mandarin Oriental New York. Posh hotels overlook Central Park, while more affordable rates can be found near the Garment District.
For visitors who prioritize location and transportation when determining where to stay in New York City, Midtown is tough to beat. The concentration of world-famous sights, central transit hub, and range of hotels give Midtown outstanding utility. No wonder it’s also the most expensive Manhattan area to lodge.
Potential Downsides of Midtown
Crowds of Tourists
With great convenience comes drawbacks, too. Midtown teems with tourists like few other areas of New York. The crowds, especially in Times Square, can prove exhausting to maneuver through. Hotel prices reflect the high demand.
Noisy and Expensive
In general, Manhattan is not a peaceful place. But Midtown’s bustle exceeds other areas. Traffic, sirens, and noise pollution pose issues, especially for light sleepers. Visitors should also budget more compared to lodging downtown or in the outer boroughs.
Lacking in Charm
To some travelers, Midtown feels more like an anonymous business district than the romanticized New York depicted in movies. Aside from the Theater District, Midtown lacks the quaint neighborhood vibes of Greenwich Village or Brooklyn. Prioritizing convenience over character is Midtown’s trade-off.
So for a stereotypical sightseeing visit to NYC, Midtown is unequaled. But first-timers who also seek local flavor may want to balance time in Midtown with other areas. For return visitors, Midtown’s appeal fades as other districts beckon.
Where to Stay in New York for Nightlife and Local Vibes
Once you’ve knocked out the heavy-hitting Midtown tourist sights, consider staying in downtown Manhattan neighborhoods for a more local, energized New York City vibe. Areas like Greenwich Village and Soho embody the romanticized image of charming tree-lined streets and cafes. Late-night speakeasies and eclectic shops add a dash of NYC edge.
Greenwich Village exudes nostalgic, almost European charm with its tree-lined streets, wrought-iron gates, and outdoor cafes. Historic New York universities like New York University help maintain a vibrant youthful feel. The neighborhood offers a respite from Midtown’s concrete jungle while still feeling distinctly New York.
Jazz Clubs, Comedy Cellars, and Buskers
For almost a century, Greenwich Village nurtured a culture of artists, intellectuals, and musicians. Vestiges of this Bohemian past live on in jazz clubs like the Blue Note Jazz Club, the Comedy Cellar comedy club, and a thriving scene of street performers in Washington Square Park. Live music venues like the Bitter End continue to host up-and-coming talent.
Washington Square Park
Tree-lined paths, an iconic central fountain, and the iconic Washington Square Arch anchored by two grand staircases give this 9.75-acre park an almost European elegance. Visitors and street entertainers congregate to eat, play chess, and soak up the atmosphere. The surrounding streets offer bountiful dining and eclectic shops.
New York University
New York University, founded in 1831, lends an academic spirit and youthful energy to the Village. Fascinating historic and modern architecture sprawls across 40 city blocks and provides attractions in itself. A stroll down MacDougal Street past cluttered cafes and bookstores almost feels like walking through a university quad.
Greenwich Village contains less obvious tourist attractions than Midtown. But it’s bars, historic jazz joints, Italian eateries, and quirky shops offer a quintessential New York experience focused on music, food, and strolling tree-lined streets.
Soho (short for “South of Houston”) stands in contrast to Greenwich Village with its posh shops and trendy dining. Cast-iron historic architecture lends the ideal backdrop for high-end art galleries, boutiques, hotels and restaurants. Interior design aficionados swoon over its showrooms. Soho exudes chic and creativity.
In the mid-19th century, Soho became one of the first neighborhoods in New York to feature extravagant cast-iron architecture. Ornate cast-iron framing proved stronger and less expensive than traditional brick and wood. Explore winding streets like Crosby and Broome to take in these showpieces of industrial art.
High-End Shopping District
Blending history with modernity, Soho transitioned to a glamorous shopping district in the 20th century. Chanel, Prada, Bloomingdale’s and other luxury retailers moved in alongside posh art galleries. The area pulses energy, with stylish shoppers and ideal people watching. Shop for clothing, art, or upscale groceries at Dean & Deluca.
Trendy Dining Scene
Soho’s creative spirit manifests in an ever-evolving food scene. Elegant bistros and trendy wine bars keep the neighborhood on the culinary cutting edge. Celebrity chef outposts like Balthazar and Keith McNally Restaurants draw as much buzz as the latest art exhibits. Taste-makers drive a dynamic dining scene.
Soho’s polished exterior juxtaposes with gritty artistic innovation underneath. Shoppers and creatives converge amid historic beauty and modern flair. Soho embodies both the preppy and avant-garde sides of New York culture.
East Village / Lower East Side
Across lower Manhattan, the East Village and Lower East Side channel less polish and more eclectic edge. Dive bars, unique boutiques, cool coffee shops, and a gritty arts scene imbue these areas with a hipster vibe. Visitors can rub elbows with New York artists and feel the creative pulse.
The Lower East Side historically hosted successive waves of immigrants from Germany, Eastern Europe and Italy. Tenement life and organized crime flourished in pockets. Today you can visit the Tenement Museum to explore this history.
Eclectic Dining and Nightlife
The neighborhoods retain a delightfully grungy spirit grounded in community. Head to unassuming Gem Spa for an egg cream, a classic New York soda fountain concoction. Enjoy pierogis and other Eastern European specialties along 1st Avenue’s restaurant row. Downtown classic Yonah Schimmel’s Knishery still serves handmade potato-filled knishes.
The lively nightlife favors quirky dive bars and live music joints over fancy cocktail lounges. Punk bands and edgy comics perform in backroom venues. Stroll along St. Mark’s Place to experience the funky shops and street performers that make this area quintessential New York.
Residents of the East Village and Lower East Side lean intellectual, artistic, and counter-culture. Gritty storefront galleries display provocative works. Street art like the iconic “I ❤ NY” abbey road mural on East 7th reflect neighborhood creativity. Soaring residential towers rub shoulders with tenements. These dynamic neighborhoods overflow with inspiration.
For visitors who want to channel New York City’s electric creative energy, lodging downtown allows you to tap into a world of music, art, food, and non-stop activity.
Where to Stay in New York City with Kids
New York City draws millions of visitors each year, and many of them are families looking for kid-friendly activities. Fortunately, NYC offers engaging museums, parks, zoos, tours and shows to entertain visitors of all ages.
When choosing where to stay with kids and save money in New York City, look beyond the most expensive areas of Midtown and consider these family-friendly neighborhoods.
Upper West Side
The Upper West Side makes an excellent home base for families. This residential neighborhood stretches along the west side of Central Park. Apartment-style hotels offer more spacious accommodations than cramped Midtown hotels. Proximity to Central Park, the American Museum of Natural History and kid-focused restaurants add to the area’s appeal.
The American Museum of Natural History with its famous giant dinosaur skeletons enthralls kids and adults alike. The Hayden Planetarium within the museum awes visitors with 3D space shows projected onto a massive dome.
Central Park provides playgrounds, nature trails, a carousel, a zoo, and open space for picnicking and run-arounds. Head to Sheep Meadow or the Great Lawn for tons of grassy area. Visit the Central Park Zoo or rent a boat at the Loeb Boathouse. Options abound for enjoying NYC’s backyard.
Space comes at a premium in New York City hotels. But the Upper West Side offers abundant apartment hotels and vacation rentals that provide extra room for families compared to Midtown’s smaller quarters. The neighborhood feel also promotes a laid-back, residential vibe.
The Upper West Side pleases parents and kids with family-style restaurants and inexpensive eats. Grab gigantic slices of pizza along Broadway. Sample bagels from long-time NYC staple Absolute Bagels. Restaurant Row along Columbus Avenue supplies diners with a wide range of cuisines.
With spacious accommodations, iconic parks and museums, and dining deals, the Upper West Side gives families an affordable home base with easy access to Manhattan.
Brooklyn offers comparable attractions for families as the Upper West Side, along with generally more affordable rates on hotels and dining. If you don’t mind staying outside Manhattan,Brooklyn provides a family-friendly home.
Brooklyn hotels often feature spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline across the river for free. Take in the sweeping city vistas from your room or hotel rooftop. Popular spots include 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge and William Vale hotel.
Make Brooklyn neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Bushwick and DUMBO your base to experience local art, dining, and nightlife scenes at affordable rates. You’ll still be close to Manhattan sights via a quick subway or ferry ride.
Savings over Manhattan
Brooklyn gives you 60-70% of Manhattan convenience at 30-50% of the hotel price. Explore New York’s most populous, dynamic borough and save considerable cash. Try spots like Box House Hotel, McCarren Hotel, and NU Hotel Brooklyn.
Brooklyn’s answer to Central Park, Prospect Park delights kids with the Prospect Park Zoo and LeFrak Center ice skating rink. Long Meadow and Nethermead Meadow provide open space to run free. In summer, hit the Prospect Park Audubon Center nature trails.
Brooklyn Children’s Museum
Let kids learn through interactive play at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum in Crown Heights. Exhibits like the Opportunity Playscape encourage kids to get creative. A dedicated toddler zone engages little ones.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s nearly one million plants across 52 acres will open kids’ eyes to diverse flora. The children’s garden and discovery garden offer hands-on learning about flowers, water ecosystems and more.
From hip brunch spots to old-school Brooklyn delis and pizzerias, Brooklyn dining often costs less than Manhattan. Enjoy Brooklyn comfort food like bagels, pizza, and burgers without breaking the bank. Chinatown in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park also offers cheap, authentic fare.
Between Prospect Park, kid-centric museums, and affordability, Brooklyn gives families lots of reasons to stay.
Where to Stay on a Budget in New York City
New York City dazzles visitors with world-class attractions and dining. But this comes at a cost – namely expensive hotel rates, especially in popular areas like Midtown.
However, NYC offers worthwhile options for thrifty travelers who still want good access to the sights. Consider these locations outside Manhattan for quality lodging at affordable rates.
Long Island City, Queens
Long Island City sits in the northwest corner of Queens along the East River waterfront. It’s just across the river from Midtown Manhattan, to which it offers quick access by subway. Lodging prices in Long Island City can be 50% less than equivalent Midtown hotels.
Easy Access to Manhattan
The subway ride from Long Island City to Midtown takes a mere 10-15 minutes. Hop on the 7, E, G, M, or R trains to arrive in the center of Manhattan quickly. Some Queens hotels even offer complimentary shuttles to Midtown.
Half the Price of Manhattan
Aside from transportation access to Manhattan, Long Island City holds relatively little interest for tourists. This keeps hotel prices reasonable, meaning your dollar goes much further. Expect to pay at least 50% less per night than an equivalent hotel in Midtown.
Trendy New Hotels
Long Island City is experiencing a hotel boom, meaning you can find stylish, contemporary options fitting a New York City escape. Popular spots include the Z NYC Hotel, The Boro Hotel, and Hotel MOXY LIC. Many offer amenities like rooftop lounges with skyline views.
As an alternative to staying across the Hudson River in Brooklyn or Queens, New Jersey offers accommodations with Manhattan skyline views at a discount. Hotels clustered around Secaucus, Jersey City and Weehawken are convenient to Midtown via short train or bus rides.
New Jersey hotels located along the Hudson River overlook the dramatic Manhattan skyline from a peaceful distance. Unwind gazing at glittering city views for half the price of Manhattan lodging.
Quick Public Transit
While not as fast as Brooklyn or Queens, New Jersey transit still whisks you to the New York excitement when needed. Trains, ferries, and buses all provide direct morning access to Manhattan.
Lodging prices drop significantly once you cross the Hudson River. But you can still return within 30-45 minutes to enjoy Broadway shows, museums, and more after relaxing in your budget-friendly New Jersey hotel.
To maximize sightseeing on a limited budget, New Jersey provides affordable lodging with easy Big Apple access.
Tips for Choosing Where to Stay in New York City
Beyond considering locations, keep the following tips in mind when planning lodging:
- Book early – New York City hotels fill up quickly, especially in peak season. Booking 4-6 months out ensures you get your top choice.
- Weigh commute time – Some areas require more transit time to key attractions. Decide your sightseeing priorities before choosing an area.
- Read hotel reviews – Outer areas have fewer luxury hotels. Check reviews carefully for quality assurance.
- Consider amenities – If you need a fitness center, pool, or in-room kitchen, check that your hotel choice offers these. Not all do.
- Make sure capacity fits – New York hotel rooms and apartments trend small. Make sure your group size aligns with room capacity.
- Mind the subway – Midtown and downtown Manhattan have direct subway line access everywhere. Outer areas require transfers.