June is finally here and that means the start of summer, weekend getaways and doing more outdoors. Although New York City may not immediately spring to mind as the perfect summer destination, it may surprise you to know that in a city known for sky high hotel rates, summer brings some of the best deals. New York City empties out significantly on summer weekends, with locals trying to escape the heat of the concrete jungle -- leaving many a luxurious hotel room open for visitors at discounted rates.
What's more, New York's hotels offer some exceptional places to get outdoors and either take in the view or wine, dine and unwind under the warm summer skies (I would say "under the stars" but unfortunately with so many bright lights of Manhattan to compete with, stars aren't exactly visible). Staying at one of these hotels is good option -- in terms of preferential treatment, no lining up and guaranteed tables, but if you can't stay, at least visit and soak up the atmosphere.
The Fitzpatrick Grand Central Hotel (tel. 866/586-3773; www.fitzpatrickhotels.com) is a quiet property in a very busy part of town. With an old world charm and distinctly Irish feel, The Fitzpatrick is a surprising oasis of calm in the Grand Central Terminal area. It recently opened a fantastic courtyard space on the ground level, far away from the maddening crowds of Lexington Avenue's peak hour rush. The outdoor area is large enough to accommodate a hundred or so people, but thankfully it rarely seems crowded -- especially on weekends. For you ladies out there wondering where New York businessmen might congregate for an after work drink on a summer evening -- look no further. A nice touch is their traditional "High Tea" served in the courtyard for $15 per person. The tea consists of a pot of your favorite tea, a variety of finger sandwiches (yep -- there's cucumber ones) and delicious fresh scones with jam. You can also enjoy traditional Irish food at reasonable prices and cocktails like the Angel Kiss Martini ($10). For a late afternoon snack or evening treat, it's a great way to unwind after a day of Manhattan excesses. I suggest arriving around 5pm to secure your table and enjoy the ambience. Stay in a Deluxe King room at the Fitzpatrick for rates starting at $229; but come for the week of July 4th this year and pay only $199 per night. For a splurge and access to another amazing outdoor space, consider staying in the Liam Neeson Penthouse (he's a friend of the owner's). This exquisite suite has its own large private deck -- perfect for entertaining on summer evenings with rates starting from $789.
The Shelburne Hotel (tel. 212/689-5200; www.affinia.com) is also located on New York's east side in Midtown (technically Murray Hill). Besides being a classic property with large comfortable suites, the Shelburne is home to two New York legends -- the Rare Bar and Grill restaurant on the ground floor (arguably serving some of New York's most delicious hamburgers) and Rare View -- a rooftop deck with views that are second to none. The deck is accessible to hotel guests and the public alike, but staying at the hotel gives you priority and no need to line up. The outdoor space is expansive with comfy day beds to recline on and admire the skyline and its two dominant icons -- the Chrysler Building to the north and the Empire State Building to the southwest. Both are merely a few blocks away so bring your cameras for that quintessential NYC shot. Light food is served and $15 cocktails (served in plastic cups) flow freely with a mixed crowd of locals, tourists and after workers. Weekend summer room rates start from $180 for a studio suite with full kitchen or $199 for a one-bedroom suite with kitchen.
The Library Hotel (tel. 212/983-4500; www.libraryhotel.com) on Madison Avenue is home to Bookmarks, a relative newcomer to the New York rooftop bar scene (the area is covered over in cooler months to create a winter garden space). Bookmarks balks the plastic glass trend by serving its cool cocktails in real glass (obviously they trust their patrons not to drop them over the rooftop railing on to unsuspecting pedestrians below). Drink prices are standard New York high, but the ambience makes it more than worthwhile with wicker chairs, colorful flowers and superb views. Friday nights are especially crowded, making weekday and Saturday evenings a better bet for securing a table. Book lovers will rejoice staying at this boutique hotel, which offers 60 rooms on floors themed on the ten major Dewey Decimal System categories. There are books everywhere and a reading room that provides coffee, fruit and muffins all day. Stay between June 29 and July 9, 2007 and rates start from $229 per night, Labor Day weekend rates start from $249 and stays throughout the summer are discounted -- all including continental breakfast.
It's not just boutique hotels and up-market properties that realize the need to wine and dine outdoors in New York. Discount chain hotel La Quinta Inn (tel. 212/290-2460; www.applecorehotels.com/la-quinta-manhattan) offers Me Bar with picturesque Empire State Building views in a casual bar environment at a decidedly unpretentious hotel. Bar prices are considerably lower than elsewhere with affordable $5 beers and cocktails under $10. Weekend and weekday summer room rates here are among the cheapest in the city (at this standard and in this central Midtown West position), starting from $175 per night.
Cabanas at the Maritime Hotel (tel. 212/835-5537; www.themaritimehotel.com) in Chelsea is a funky, nightclub atmosphere alternative. With $12 cocktails, plenty of eye candy and the occasional celebrity sighting, it's sure to appeal to those in search of more than fresh air. It's also open until 3am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights -- later than any other rooftop space in town. Accommodation here is pricier with Superior Queen sized rooms starting from $340 per night during the summer months.
There are certainly several other rooftops and outdoor spaces to choose from in New York -- many a top of the city's more expensive hotels and some restricted to hotel guests and members only -- like A60 at 60 Thompson Hotel (tel. 212/431-0400; www.thompsonhotels.com) in Soho, the Private Roof Club and Garden at the Gramercy Park Hotel (tel. 877/898-3200; www.gramercyparkhotel.com) and Sky Terrace at the Hudson Hotel (tel. 212/554-6000; www.hudsonhotel.com). Splurge on $20 cocktails at the Peninsula Hotel's (tel. 212/956-2888; www.newyork.peninsula.com) Pen Top Bar or join the throngs of people searching for celebrities at the Gansevoort Hotel's (tel. 212/206-6700; www.hotelgansevoort.com) rooftop bar Plunge in the Meatpacking District.
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