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When $150 Is a Bargain

Sunday, April 25, 1999


As part of our ongoing search for 'nice' hotels in Manhattan that won't max out your credit card, members of the Travel staff recently checked out the following five hostelries. You'll remember that in last year's New York section, we listed 10 budget lodgings that cost $125 or less per night. This time around, figuring that we had the budget crowd covered, we went slightly more upscale, veering toward the $150 mark and, in a couple of cases, slightly beyond. So if you crave in-room hair dryers, minibars and CD players, read on.

Barbizon Hotel & Towers
(Upper East Side)

The best thing about this landmark 300-room hotel is the neighborhood, with easy access to museums, shopping and Central Park. A former women's residence – it's where proper young ladies, including Grace Kelly, Candice Bergen and the doomed Sylvia Plath, stayed when they came to Manhattan – the Barbizon was completely renovated in '97. Standard rooms are small but nicely decorated, with plantation shutters, pastel marbleized walls, wrought-iron bedsteads, Matisse prints and positively blinding white bathrooms. Amenities include room service, minibars, stereo CD players (and access to a good CD library) and hair dryers. Hotel guests over 18 have free access to the four-level fitness spa and 18-meter lap pool. And the spa shop next door sells the coolest flip-flops ever.

140 E. 63rd St. between Lexington and Third avenues, 212/838-5700, 1-800-223-1020, Rates normally are $219 to $239 double, but Hotel Reservations Network (1-800-964-6835)has rooms as low as $165.95.

Best Western Seaport Inn
(Wall Street/Lower Manhattan)

We listed this hotel in our last sweep through NYC seeking budget accommodations, and after staying there we can report that, if you're seeking mid-priced shelter at the southern tip of the island, it's a solid choice. The hotel is a couple of blocks away from South Street Seaport but faces several ungentrified blocks colored only by ambitious murals that suggest the commercial activity the area's developers someday hope to attract. Meantime, the wide, cobbled street the hotel faces is used as a sort of free parking zone by garbage trucks, police scooters, limo drivers and assorted wise guys most of the day, the entire scene 'enhanced' by the unmistakable smells of the Fulton Fish Market. Having said all that, the rooms are small but clean, comfortable and richly amenitied – TVCR, hair dryer, etc. Within walking distance are the Seaport, the Brooklyn Bridge, Wall Street, Battery Park and the whole Statue of Liberty thing (a 20-minute stroll). Aside from the Seaport fare, though, this is not a very good eating area, especially on weekends, when Wall Street places shut down. Desk staff can easily summon a cab.

33 Peck Slip (one block south of the Brooklyn Bridge), 212/766-6600, Weekend rates are $114 to $149. Overnight parking: $20 at any one of three nearby lots.

Millenium Hilton
(Lower Manhattan)

This four-star glossy black high-rise in the shadow of the Twin Towers caters to the business crowd during the week and to suburban sightseers on weekends. Okay, so they can't spell 'millennium.' Smiling bellhops hang up coats, get ice and generally work hard for their tips. Front desk personnel are eager to make things right, cheerfully upgrading us to a junior suite when our requested bed configuration was not available. Rooms are small but nicely equipped with minibars, irons, hair dryers, toiletries, king-size beds and televisions. Windows also open a crack to let in fresh air. The glass-enclosed indoor pool is especially inviting. Insider tip: Ask for a room above the 30th floor overlooking New York Harbor for great views.

55 Church St. between Fulton and Dey streets, 212/693-2001, Weekend rates are typically $179, but special deals can bring the price as low as $129. Hotel Discounts (800/715-7666, offers a $159 weekend rate.

The New Yorker
(Garment District)

Location, location, location: That's the No. 1 attraction of this newly renovated 1930 Art Deco monster (1,000 rooms, 40 floors). If being close to the action is important to you, you won't be unhappy. If you want a good night's sleep . . . well, make sure you're not on a floor occupied by, say, a high school band (we were, and the walls and wide, reverberation-friendly hallways amplified every sound). Large groups flock to the place, and for good reason: It's across the street from Penn Station, a block from Macy's, a 10-minute walk to Times Square. Our spotless room was small but nicely decorated, with a great shower, a view of the Empire State Building and a window that (startlingly) opened all the way. The staff was friendly and efficient (it took housekeeping just seven minutes to deliver two extra pillows). Amenities are few, the most apparent being the free HBO we used to drown out the din. Two restaurants – one being a 24-hour diner – and an espresso bar grace the huge lobby.

481 Eighth Ave. at 34th Street, 800/764-4680, Weekend rates start at $149 single, $159 double.

W New York

There is nothing ordinary about W New York. The lobby feels like a hip fashion designer's living room. The guest rooms are decorated with tubs of wheat grass. Even a piece of wheat toast arrives from the kitchen in the trendiest bread basket we've ever seen. Techno-crazed travelers will relish such amenities as CD players, VCRs and cordless telephones with Caller ID. The tea room in 'Away,' the spa-gym, is a soothing respite from the bustle of the city, and the Whiskey Bar downstairs is one of the city's hottest hangouts. With special effects like that, it's hard to believe that W is part of a chain – the first of a dozen boutique-style Starwood properties opening across the country in the next couple of years. Not everything about the place is perfect. Our room, a junior suite, felt cramped, and even though it was on the 14th floor, we could hear traffic from Lexington Avenue most of the night. But who wants to snooze in the city that doesn't sleep? Travelers who like to brag about where they spent the weekend can hardly do better than this.

541 Lexington Ave. at 49th Street, 212/755-1200, Standard rates are about $319 a night double, but the discount service Quikbook (800/789-9887) can sometimes cut that back to as low as $159 a night.

Contributing to this story were Washington Post staff writers Carolyn Spencer Brown, John Deiner, Gary Lee, Carol Sottili, Craig Stoltz and K.C. Summers.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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