New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not shy about his goal of attracting 50 million visitors to the city by the year 2015. With an estimated 44 million visitors from all over the world in 2006, the city seems to be in no danger of falling short of that goal. Though these seemingly healthy numbers somewhat belie the reality of rising rents, an increase in graffiti and garbage, and the closing of many beloved stores, restaurants, and clubs (CBGB, R.I.P.), something new always pops up in its place. Constant change, albeit an oxymoron, is part of the beauty of New York.
Despite the rising cost of accommodations and Broadway ticket prices -- costs many visitors stereotypically assume -- and daily living costs such the price of a movie ticket, cup of coffee, or my favorite barometer -- the nearly always equivalent price of a slice of pizza and the price of a subway fare -- people keep coming, breaking all kinds of records. Many Broadway shows did just that over Christmas week. In 2006, average daily hotel rates stayed well above $200 and early estimates suggest that occupancy rates are expected to come in at 85 per cent for 2006, according to the city's official tourism marketing organization NYC & Company (tel. 800/NYC-GUIDE; www.nycvisit.com). With such convincing statistics, you'd think that a city like New York wouldn't need any promotion, but you'd be wrong.
Enter the Paint the Town promotion (www.nycvisit.com/paint), which began in 1998 and runs January 2 through February 28, with special offers at the city's hotels, restaurants, Broadway shows, museum and other attractions -- as long as you use your American Express Card. Contact NYC & Co. for a booklet that includes savings passes you can present at various participating locations for discounts, along with a calendar of events and a listing of hotels broken down by price -- perhaps it is possible to stay in New York for $200 or less. It's important to note that most of these events have special codes that must be present when booking, reserving or purchasing.
All kinds of special discounts are available at attractions, museums, concert halls and everything in between. For starters, the 92nd Street Y is offering 15 per cent off individual ticket prices for lectures, concerts and literary events. Always wanted to take a dance class? You can get 15 per cent off classes at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Extension. In terms of museums, there are admission discounts at the American Folk Art Museum, Brooklyn' Children's Museum, Museum of the City of New York, Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Guggenheim. Two-for-one admission prices are possible for select concerts at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and discounts at select events at the Joyce Theater. Even hot Broadway shows, like Monty Python's Spamalot, are offering tickets as $68 for a partial view in Orchestra or Front Mezzanine for Tuesday-Thursday at 8pm and Sunday at 7pm performances, with some blackout dates.
For those who are completely new to the city, Gray Line New York Sightseeing tours offer a 15 per cent off discount of individual tickets, New York Waterway Tours at Pier 78 offers two-for-one on one of its harbor tours. Or, for a more eclectic approach, Big Onion Walking Tours offers specially priced tickets at $12 for its various tours through ethnic neighborhoods and historic districts. No trip to New York City would be complete without an elevator ride up the Empire State Building to its observatory, with specially priced tickets at $15 per person.
In terms of hotels, you can get discounts ranging from 15 per cent off best rates at select locations of well-known national chains such as Hilton, Holiday Inn, Marriott, Hampton Inn and Doubletree. Even some of the city's boutique and/or independent operations such as Dream Hotel in the new(ish) development near Columbus Circle; Blue Moon Hotel on the Lower East Side; the legendary Algonquin Hotel; design-noteworthy places like the W, Flatotel and Le Parker Meridien, and the sexy, Gothic-inspired Night are all participants in the 15 per cent off the best available rate promotion. Many other hotels are also part of this promotion, and some are also including incentives to dine in their restaurants, stay additional days, receive complimentary upgrades, and the like. Some carry 21-day advance reservation; other specials are only available on weekends, so it's important to read the fine print.
Most notably, department titans Macy's and Loehmann's are both offering 15 per cent off regularly priced merchandise, with Macy's adding sale merchandise to that offer. On a smaller scale, place such as Gracious Home, Chelsea Wine Vault, FDNY Fire Zone, and Super Runners Zone are also offering discounts and gift certificates, among other perks.
All that activity is bound to make you hungry. Part of Paint the Town includes Winter Restaurant Week (www.nycvisit.com/restaurantweek), which actually runs for two consecutive weeks: January 22-26 and January 29-February 2. Dozens of restaurants will offer three-course, prix-fixe lunches for $24.07 and $35 for dinner. If you're in town for Winter Restaurant week, you have a lot of decisions to make. Choose from New York classics such as the Carnegie Deli, 21 Club, Tavern on the Green and Gallagher's Steakhouse. Seek out restaurants with internationally regarded or otherwise famous chefs for lunch or dinner -- read carefully, because not all restaurants are making the promotion available for every meal they serve. The fusion cuisine Asiate at Mandarin Oriental at Columbus Circle, Charlie Palmer's progressive American cuisine at Aureole, and the well-regarded Nobu, Café Boulud, Gramercy Tavern are available for lunch. Since this is New York, you can also get everything from New Indian food at Tabla, southern Italian seafood at Esca, more Asian fusion at Spice Market, or classic French bistro fare at Pigalle. And with every reservation you make online for restaurant week, NYC & Company will make a donation will be made to City Harvest, which distributes food throughout the city to feed more than 260,000 hungry New Yorkers weekly. Many of the restaurants have created special menus for this event, so call or check out their individual web sites -- all pertinent contact information, including hyperlinks to restaurant web sites, is provided.
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