AKA Times Square 123 West 44th St., New York; 888-AKA-0130; hotelaka.com/locations/times_square . Rooms and rates
110 rooms: suites from $408, duplex penthouses from $1,409.
AKA Times Square is footsteps from the pounding thrum and glaring lights of Times Square. A child in New York won't pay attention to location on the short walk to the Toys "R" Us on the corner with its four-storey Ferris wheel, but the adult introducing New York to that child will instantly see the value in this location. Out the front door, it's a short walk to your right for the razzle-dazzle of Times Square, to your left for the Avenue of the Americas (and an American Girl store and restaurant). Yet the hotel is an oasis of calm.
Location A walkable distance from Penn Station, and a hike uptown – but a good one if you want to get to know your way around – to FAO Schwarz, Central Park and the Museum of Natural History.
Design Sub-Zero and Bosch appliances, Kohler fixtures, hardwood floors, iPod stations and Sony flat-screen TVs are the basics here. Rooms get individual personality from stylish rugs, prints or furniture.
Rooms AKA rooms are created with long-term visitors in mind – each has a washer and dryer, kitchen, dining room table and knock-you-out-comfortable beds. But the one- bedroom suites with den are worth it for a weekend. You can't underestimate the value of the comforts of home in such a busy city, especially when travelling with children.
Ambience A quiet retreat with a friendly, community feel.
Amenities Be willing to go with the improvisational spirit: The fitness room is actually a converted suite, so you're manoeuvring your way through the kitchen and living area to get to a bike. The space is bright and clean, though, and the guests – many on extended stay – don't seem to mind. For getting around, AKA offers a complimentary Zipcar membership and access to a nearby vehicle. Guests staying at least three nights can save $30 (U.S.) each day by forgoing the daily linen change and standard daily cleaning – a green non-service that saves both the guests and the hotel money (not to mention preventing an ill-timed knock at the door).
Service Friendly and attentive staff worked to get the free Wi-Fi up and running during our stay – we were the first guests in our room. And, after mentioning a mishap with our food order (the hotel has partnered with a restaurant across the street), the "room service" was wiped from our bill, no questions asked. Concierge service is offered through New York Guest, which provided diligent, friendly service and useful recommendations.
Clientele Many business people and actors in town on contract work (Jamie Foxx has stayed at AKA's Philadelphia location). Others were like us: families who appreciate being in the heart of the action, yet in a quiet, home-like setting. It's no surprise we saw a relaxed couple with a baby; heating a bottle (not to mention washing bibs and blankets) is no easy task in a regular hotel room. Still, the hotel is stylish enough to host fashion week parties and club-seeking visitors who, if you pass their room late in the night, keep the music thumping.
Food and drink A sparing complimentary breakfast only whets your appetite for goodies on offer outside. With the terrific delis in the neighbourhood, you'll eat well and save a bundle.
Things to do What not to do? If you're up for touristy New York, from M&M's World to the Museum of Modern Art, you can't beat the location.
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Hotel vitals Top draw Location, and a cool, quiet calm. Needs work Why the dim lights in the hall? Also, short-term guests would appreciate a better breakfast. Bottom line
Made for business people, perfect for families looking for convenience and style.