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 The specific promotions described in this article have now passed, but it remains online so that the resources named will be of future use to travelers.

 


In New York City, there is really not much of an off-season, and all kinds of statistics seem to prove it. According to NYC & Company (tel. 800/692-4843; www.nycvisit.com), the city's official tourism marketing organization, in 2005 some 41 million people visited New York. More than a quarter of those visitors -- 12 million -- came between Memorial and Labor Day weekends alone, an increase of four percent from the same time last year. An estimated 8 million people headed to the Big Apple during November and December. Hotel occupancy rates are up to 86 percent, from 83 percent in 2004. In the next two years, nearly 5,000 new and renovated hotel rooms will open up. Though these healthy, booming numbers somewhat belie the reality of rising rents and the closing of many beloved restaurants, clubs and other establishments, something new always pops up in its place. The oxymoron of constant change is the beauty of New York.

As if there was an incentive needed to visit New York, on January 2 NYC & Company launched their seventh annual "NYC Paint the Town 2006" promotion (www.nycvisit.com/paintthetown), which runs through February 28. The promotion offers various savings for shopping, shows, museums, hotels, and restaurants in the five boroughs. The only catch? You must use your American Express Card. Search by different categories -- dining, hotels, theater and performing arts, attractions, and so forth. Or limit your category search criteria to certain neighborhoods, boroughs, or blocks. When you arrive, Visitor's Information Centers sprinkled throughout the city, located at 810 Seventh Avenue (at 51st Street), the southern tip of City Hall Park at Broadway and Park Row, at 125th Street at Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., and in Chinatown at the triangle of Canal, Walker and Baxter Streets.

Perhaps the best part of this promotion is the third night free offer. Guests who opt for a successive two-night stay at one of NYC & Company's "Signature Collection Hotels" will receive a third night free. Participating hotels include The Pierre, Mandarin Oriental, St. Regis, The Essex House, the Carlyle, The Pierre, the Regency, Trump International Hotel and Plaza, and the Plaza Athenee. Sample rates for these hotels are not cheap (some start at around $500), but a quick online search revealed the Essex House had a traditional queen room for a weeknight in late January for $279. Separate from the third night free deal, other hotels are offering discounts, and there's no shortage of good, clean, and interesting hotels for under $250 included in the promotion, such as the Affinia properties (Dumont, Manhattan), the Holiday Inn Downtown, Doubletree Metropolitan, and The Time.

Dining savings include 15-20 percent off (varies by location) your total lunch or dinner bill at Beppe, Chelsea Brewing Company, City Crab and Seafood Company, Cuba Café, MEET, Piccolo, B. B. King Blues Club and Grill, and Delmonico's, among many others.

In the midst of this promotion there's yet another one running called "NYC Winter Restaurant Week" (www.nycvisit.com/RestaurantWeekSearch), which runs Monday through Friday, January 23-27 and January 30-February 3. Certain restaurants are serving three-course prix-fixe lunches for $24.07 and/or three-course dinners for $35. (Beverages, taxes and gratuity not included). The seemingly random price, $24.07, reflects the idea that New York never sleeps. Participating establishments include well known New York haunts Café Boulud, 21 Club, Gotham Bar & Grill, Tavern on the Green, Nobu, Carnegie Deli, Mesa Grill, Mercer Kitchen, and steakhouses such as Angelo & Maxies and Smith and Wollensky. Some places make the promotion available for lunch only so be sure to ask before you go, and have created special menus; some even have posted them on their websites.

For theater and performing arts, discounts of 15-20 percent are available for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Symphony Orchestra, performances at the Roundabout Theater, New York Philharmonic, the Public Theater, Town Hall, and others. Some have restrictions -- you must buy the tickets in person, or the discount is only available for certain dates and performance times, for example. And of course New York is loaded with attractions -- The Empire State Building is offering reduced admission for $13 tickets for adults only. Similar offers are available from Madame Tussaud's ($23 adult ticket) and the Museum of Sex ($5 off admission). You can get discounts on tickets for tours that show the character of the city such as "Walkin' Broadway" or "A Hip Hop Look at New York." Or if you're a newcomer, opt for either Gray Line New York Sightseeing tours or Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises.

In terms of shopping, Macys' and Bloomingdale's are both cutting prices 15 percent off in the promotional period if you use your American Express card. The enormous and seemingly ever-expanding J&R Music and Computer World, a downtown mainstay located across from City Hall, is offering $10 off purchases of $100.