Manhattan

The Mercer Hotel: $650/night

The Mercer Hotel: $595/night

The Smyth Hotel: $349/night

The Smyth Hotel: $320/night

Finding hotels that deliver real bang for the buck isn’t easy, especially in an expensive city like New York. But it is possible. In our new series, Luxury for less, we’re going to show you some of Oyster’s fanciest hotels, and where you can get a similar luxury experience — for half the price. Sure, you might have to sacrifice a trendy brand name or 24-hour hallway butler, but you’ll still be getting the same flavor of luxury. To start off, we’re going to compare two stylish, downtown boutiques: the hip Mercer Hotel in SoHo and the Smyth Hotel in TriBeCa.

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Lobby, the Grand Hyatt New York

Lobby, the Grand Hyatt New York

In the penultimate episode of Lifetime’s Project Runway last night, we learned that the final three designers — Carol Hannah, Althea, and Irina — have made the Gunn-ordered pilgrimage to New York City to prepare for the big season finale showing at New York Fashion Week in Bryant Park. While they’re in the Big Apple, the designers are staying at the fashionable, trendy, much-hyped, totally-cool…Grand Hyatt New York. Oh. Huh.

It’s not that we’re hating on chains, and we’re sure Lifetime struck some sort of deal with the brand. Plus, the rooms at the Grand Hyatt are clean, fairly large are up-to-date, with bathrooms spacious enough for Carol Hannah to throw up (due to an illness) in relative comfort . But the 1,311-room property caters primarily to families, business travelers, and major conventions — not so much to the up-and-coming fashion designer.

For the Heidi-addicted fashionista aching to show her own line at Bryant Park (or at least live out a fantasy that involves a Project Runway-style New York experience), there are plenty of other Big Apple hotels that we’d suggest for hip young designers — and for the PR finale.

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Banh Mi at Ma Peche

Banh Mi at Ma Peche

This afternoon, we followed a trail of drool left by the NYC foodie blogger population all the way into the Chambers Hotel lobby mezzanine, where the very first lunch at Ma Peche was being served. Ma Peche, for those unfamiliar, is the newest restaurant from Momofuku Inc. opening sometime this winter in the Chambers. For now, a select few dishes are being offered on the Mezzanine menu in the Chambers lobby for those too eager to wait to sink their teeth into a fatty banh mi.

For the $10 Momo lunch special going on right now, you get a canned soda and your choice of a three terrine banh mi, a chicken banh mi, rice noodles with pork, or a squid salad. We noshed on the three terrine banh mi with daikon and cilantro, full of flavor, though a bit oily – and we treated ourselves to a giant peanut butter cookie from Momofuku Milk bar.

Pros:

  • Excellent location, close to Midtown attractions like MoMA, Fifth Avenue shopping, Central Park, and many other Midtown hotels
  • Fantastic food, as expected from foodie idol David Chang
  • Virtually glitch-free service, despite the opening day lunch rush

Cons:

  • The main dining room is not yet open, and eating on the mezzanine is uncomfortable (and a bit messy); we sat hunched over a coffee table.
  • Expensive: $10 for a small sandwich and a canned soda; $16 for a hamburger.
  • Packed with bloggers (like us) playing with their smartphones.

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We’ve already told you which hotels are best for viewing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC this year — but let us not forget about the very best part of the holiday: stuffing yourself until you’re so bloated that you may be mistaken for one of those parade balloons yourself.

But don’t bother making a massive Thanksgiving Day feast on your own. Any New Yorker knows that NYC kitchens barely have enough counter space to prepare a sandwich, let alone a giant bird and a half-dozen sides. And as for New York visitors, well…unless your hotel room is equipped with a kitchen (hey, some are), you’ve got no choice but to dine out.

Whether you’re looking for a traditional turkey ‘n trimmings meal or more of a non-traditional twist on the holiday goodness, we’ve rounded up the best hotel restaurants for dining out on Thanksgiving in NYC.

Adour Alain Ducasse, The St. Regis New York

Adour Alain Ducasse, The St. Regis New York

Adour Alain Ducasse, St. Regis New York
Michelin-star chef Alain Ducasse’s pricey new signature restaurant at the St. Regis, opened in 2008, is offering a four-course Thanksgiving menu for $95 per person that includes a foie gras ravioli and Golden Heritage roasted turkey. An a la carte menu is also available.

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When it comes to NYC hotels, chances are you’re familiar with the Ritz-Carltons, the Mandarin Orientals, the iconic old-schoolers like The Pierre and The Plaza — but what about the properties whose names don’t immediately come to mind when you think of accommodations in the Big Apple?

The hidden gems, the places your neighbors might recommend, the best-kept secrets; these under-the-radar spots — with their killer service, unexpected amenities, and tucked-away locations — might be the right choice for you.

Here are our picks for the five best New York City hotels you’ve never heard of.

The Lucerne, Superior Room

The Lucerne, Superior Room

The Lucerne
Perched on the mostly-residential Upper West Side, this quiet 250-room hotel is most suitable for tourists looking to get a taste of the local experience. Warm European decor and traditional, attentive service give this place an edge on the big-box chain hotels closer to Times Square — an area accessible from the Lucerne via the 1 subway line, only a block away. That is, if you’re still looking for things to do after hitting up attractions closer to the hotel, like the Museum of Natural History and Central Park.

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Potentially-haunted elevator at the Algonquin, NYC

Potentially-haunted elevator at the Algonquin, NYC

Just in time for Halloween, we’ve got another haunted hotel story for you. This one comes from reader Kat, who wrote in to tell us about her own haunted hotel experience after we passed along the story of the “duppy encounter” in Jamaica:

We just got back from another stay at The Algonquin in NYC, our favorite hotel.  I never thought of it as haunted but treasure its’ storied history.  However, on this stay a woman (a bit freaky but not a ghost) said are you feeling anything on your side of the hotel?  My first thought was earthquake? I laughingly said no the round table wouldn’t haunt the place they weren’t exactly a happy bunch – why would they hang around? Then I remembered in a previous stay I was on the elevator and I heard the song “I’m In The Mood For Love” and I jokingly asked who was singing it – or to my husband and a fellow passenger thinking about it?  They responded as if I were nuts and I secretly enjoyed the communication from somewhere??

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Last week, we showed you some of the first shots of the brand new Surrey Hotel on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Today, we’re journeying below 14th Street to bring you snaps from our stay at the just-opened Crosby Street Hotel, the first American property from London-based Firmdale Hotels.

The 86-room boutique hotel sits in the heart of SoHo, with no two rooms designed exactly alike — the vibe is whimsical, upscale but accessible (our reporter mentioned feeling completely at ease sitting on the velvet tuxedo-style sofa in the “drawing room”); the newly-constructed hotel is on its way to earning LEED Silver Level certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and aspires to earn Gold Level certification in the future. Also to come in the future: our full review.

For now, some eye candy:

Superior Double Room

Superior Double Room

Superior Double Room

Superior Double Room

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The Central Park View Suite, Mandarin Oriental, NY

The Central Park View Suite, Mandarin Oriental, NY

Heads up to you and our gobble-y feathered friends: only a few weeks ’til Thanksgiving! On Turkey Day (while many of us will be wrapped up all snug in our jammies watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on TV), plenty of brave NYC-goers will be bundled up in layers of fall fleece to check out the world-famous parade in person.

Not down to shiver in the cold? No problem. For the first time in history, this year’s parade will move along 7th Avenue (instead of the Broadway route of years past). Snag a room at a hotel along the parade route for your best shot at checking out the intricate balloons and fancy floats from the comfort of your hotel room — no televisions or fleece required. It’ll cost you some dough, though: many of the rooms in these hotels will cost more than three times the normal rates on the night of the 25th.

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Question: Mr. E., New York City
It’s my lady friend’s bday this weekend, and I’m taking her to the Ballet, and afterward I want to take her to a hotel where I can finally get to second base. I am willing to spend a good chunk of change on her birthday (and live in personal poverty for the rest of the month) because it will allow me to get away with tons of neurotic nonsense for months and months to come. Any suggestions? Think: chic, luxury, romantic. I’m also debating dropping down the price of the night’s stay to allocate money to a spa treatment/food and booze. Help.

Answer: Will Begeny, Oyster’s Senior Editor
Thank you, Mr. E., for your candor. Here’s your answer, defined by just how much “personal poverty” you can endure.

If you’re willing to sell your blood plasma to pay the phone bill…

Royal Suite at the New York Palace Hotel

Royal Suite at the New York Palace Hotel

In the spirit of ballet, of regal French seduction, of so much silk on skin, the Royal Suite in the New York Palace is like no other hotel room anywhere on this side of the Atlantic. Sure, you might blow a grand on this level of luxury, but in a room this big, you can bring that couples massage up to the room—and afterward, straight into bed. To dine, there’s Gilt downstairs—one of the most revered and elaborate mood-setting eateries in the city. As for putting up with your neuroses, your lady might just tolerate your wearing a tin-foil helmet well into 2010.

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With the Food Network’s New York City Wine and Food Festival kicking off on Thursday, we were inspired to whip up a little Big Apple “wine and food festival” of our own –  without the need for pricey, hard-to-come-by event tickets, crowded venues, swarms of press, and the packs of Food Network star stalkers. Oh, and we thought we’d go ahead and answer that pesky question of where to stay, too.

Here are Oyster’s five ways to make the most out of a New York City vacation by turning your trip into your own personal wine and food fest — all autumn long.

Wine selection at Asiate, Mandarin Oriental NY

Wine selection at Asiate, Mandarin Oriental NY

The Just-to-Say-You-Ate-There Trip: Deluxe Columbus Circle Feast
The Mandarin Oriental New York in Columbus Circle is within spitting distance of two of NYC’s finest restaurants, Per Se and Masa. If you can shell out the dough for Per Se’s $275-per-person (not including tip or drinks, folks) tasting menu or face the $1000+ bill on the table at Masa without wanting to throw yourself into Manhattan traffic, then you can totally take a matchbook home and brag about the experience to your friends. Hit up The Mandarin’s own MOBar or Asiate for a less formal (and easier on the wallet) experience, too — the views are fab, and it would appear that there are no shortage of choices if you’re interested in adding the “wine” to your “wine and food festival.”

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