With gas prices hovering near $4 a gallon, this could be the summer of staycations for New Yorkers looking for an affordable getaway. But don’t fret, a train ride into the City That Never Sleeps is a small price to pay to rediscover its many gems.
Manhattan also empties out during the steaming summer months as locals flock to beach towns and country homes, leaving bargains to be found at many of the hotels dotted across its 24 square miles. Throw in the explosion in Airbnb rentals and the options are limited only by your choice in accommodations.
Those looking to upgrade after saving on travel expenses can find deals at even the most opulent hotels. At the Lotte New York Palace, the Pinstripe Package will get you a nice seat at Yankee Stadium and some Bronx Bombers swag when booking a two-night stay (a superior room costs $344 a night in late July), for instance.
The Madison Ave. hotel overlooking St. Patrick’s Cathedral— at one time Leona Helmsley’s Palace —has a grand architectural history. Serving as the entranceway to the 55-story, 909-room glass tower is the Gilded Age-era Villard Mansion, which boasts the two-story Gold Room. This most famous of the mansion’s rooms was designed by Stanford White, and these days houses the Villard Restaurant, which serves as an ideal setting for a Sunday brunch or special occasion. One other highlight not to miss at the Palace is the magic of Steve Cohen, whose illusions, sleight-of-hand tricks and mind-reading abilities will mesmerize fans of any age.
Once you’re done with Old New York grandeur in Midtown, jump back on the subway heading downtown for some retail and food therapy at Brookfield Place in the Financial District. The two-story shopping and dining mecca in the shadow of 1 World Trade Center has street-level boutiques that include brand names such as Burberry, Diane von Furstenberg and Lululemon and a second-floor food court with delectable offerings from Blue Ribbon, Mighty Quinn’s BBQ and Financier Patisserie.
While in the neighborhood, visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and marvel at the area’s rebirth. Or head over to Battery Park’s North Cove Marina to book passage on one of Classic Harbor Line’s unparalleled architecture tours of Manhattan, conducted by the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter. There is a 11/2-hour cruise of Lower Manhattan or a nearly three-hour sailing around the island that provides spectacular views and incredible insights into the buildings that comprise the most famous skyline in the world.
The cruise line also offers sailings that are a little less heady, including weekend brunch cruises, jazz cruises and on Mondays through August the Chef Morimoto Sunset Sushi Cruise, where the revered Iron Chef and former head chef at Nobu provides a unique dining experience.
Once back on land, walk over the iconic Brooklyn Bridge to the new Manhattan, otherwise known as Brooklyn. The meteoric rise of the borough once only visited for its churches and cemeteries begins at the Brooklyn Heights waterfront. The gleaming and eco-friendly 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge has sprung from a pair of abandoned warehouses to anchor the bustling area. Pamper yourself at the Bamford Haybarn Spa, one of the best in the city, before lounging at the hotel’s rooftop bar with a signature “heatstroke” cocktail and lobster roll.
For relaxation for the kiddies, head over to the sprawling Brooklyn Bridge Park, where at Pier 6 they can cool off in the water park or swoop down the two-story slide mountain. There is also a pop-up pool open for the summer but beware of long lines.
In ever-gentrifying Bushwick, the husband-and-wife team of Adam Schneider and Vanessa Palazio have opened the Nicaraguan-inspired Chicha Cafetín and Cocktails in a refurbished warehouse that will transplant you to the Central American country. The menu is based on the street-side fritangas and cafetins of Palazio’s native land. Try the braised pork or the black clams poached in coconut milk.
The drinks, created by Marshall Altier, a prized pupil of star bartender Eben Freeman, are just as inventive. They include such tasty libations as Agua-Caté–Dral (Blanco Tequila, Joven Mezcal, Singani 63 and Pisco blended with avocado, lime and sea salt); Blufields Swizzle (Flor de Caña, Oaxacan Rum, Haitian Clairin Sajous, Rum Fire Jamaican Overproof, Coconut oil, butterfly pea flower, banana liqueur and lime); and the restaurant’s namesake Chicha Gin Fizz (Gin, horchata, pitaya, aquafaba, cornflower distillate, rose water and soda).
One final underappreciated jewel of the city is in the far reaches of the Bronx. The spectacular Gardens at Wave Hill near Riverdale provide the sumptuous scents of summer, and a range of events that include nature walks, meditation and stargazing.
Admission to the 28-acre public garden and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades is just $8 for adults and is free Tuesdays, as well as Saturdays until noon. A free shuttle brings straphangers from the W. 242nd stop on the 1 train to the gates.
Now that’s not only the best way to beat the summer heat but also the gouging at the pump.