The question: I'm heading to New York for the first time. Where should I stay?
Sure, you can rest your weary legs in an anonymous sleep structure, but in a city with so much personality, why not check into a room to remember? Here are three hotels in distinct neighbourhoods that offer something for both first-timers – and New York addicts, too:
Bowery House ( theboweryhouse.com): Now a hotbed of contemporary art with countless small galleries and the New Museum ( newmuseum.org), the Bowery was once the district of the down-and-outs, says Lisa Ritchie, editor of the Time Out New York Guide ( timeoutnewyork.com). Soak up this past in a hotel that once housed soldiers returning from the Second World War. "The former flophouse still has its original wainscotted cubicles within a big open room, but they've been dressed up with designer linens and vintage prints," Ritchie says. "Be warned though, because of the latticework ceiling over all the cubicles, this is not for light sleepers."
First-timers: At the Tenement Museum, a 10-minute walk from the Bowery, tour the recreated apartment of the Baldizzi family, just one of the many immigrant families who helped shape New York ( tenement.org).
Neighbourhood surprise: Refuel on colonial-tavern fare at Freemans ( freemansrestaurant.com), hidden at the end of tiny Freeman Alley, less than a block away from the hotel.
Yotel New York ( yotel.com): "Although launched by a British team, Yotel is big, flashy and fun – much like Times Square a few blocks east," Ritchie says. The hotel combines high-tech and futuristic style with features such as retractable beds and a robotic arm in the lobby that stores luggage. "Situated in Hell's Kitchen, a rapidly developing area that once had a rough reputation, the hotel is great for theatre buffs: It's right next to the excellent new Gehry-designed off-Broadway venue, Signature Center, and four blocks from Broadway," Ritchie says. "Inexpensive restaurants representing practically every ethnic cuisine, from Turkish to Thai, pack Ninth Avenue."
First-timers: Climb the red glass steps above the TKTS discount ticket booth ( tdf.org) in Times Square for the views.
Neighbourhood surprise: Don't bypass the Times Square Visitor Center. Its mini-museum contains original booths from Peep-O-Rama, the last adult emporium on 42nd Street.
Ace Hotel ( acehotel.com): "If you want the hotel itself to be the main attraction, stay at the Ace, the NYC outpost of the hip mini-chain," Ritchie says. "Not only does it house two of the city's hottest restaurants, the Breslin and the John Dory Oyster Bar, … there's an outpost of fashion-insider favourite boutique Opening Ceremony. And the lobby bar, defined by a salvaged panelled library from a posh Madison Avenue apartment, is always buzzing." Rooms come in small, medium, large and cheap. (Although whether the latter qualifies as "cheap" is up to you. A recent online search showed a room with bunk beds cost $408 a night for a weekend in May.) The neighbourhood is evolving, Ritchie says. "On the edge of the garment district, it is currently dominated by cheap luggage and perfume purveyors, but it's only a few blocks' walk to such notable sites as the Empire State Building, the Flatiron Building and Chelsea."
First-timers: Take the elevator 381 metres above the city for the skyscraper views from the Empire State Building ( esbnyc.com).
Neighbourhood surprise: "The changing installations of conceptual art that dot the length of the High Line," Ritchie says. Previous works on this freight-rail-line-turned-park ( thehighline.org) include silent movies, a billboard featuring a $100,000 bill and rooftop dancing.
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Follow Karan Smith on Twitter: @karan_smith. Special to The Globe and Mail