Whether you’re a visitor or a long-time resident, the Big Apple is utterly fabulous and has something for everyone who dares to explore these vibrant streets – especially if you spend your time in one of the best areas to stay in NYC.
It’s true – the city never sleeps until YOU do. And after hanging out with the wolves of Wall Street when we first moved to NYC, we’ve been window shopping on Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side.
As we’ve spent many moons ravishing through the five boroughs, we’re ecstatic to give you a rundown of our home base in NYC along with tons of insider tips (and hotel recs) on the best areas to stay in NYC!
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About The City and The Best Areas to Stay in NYC
The LARGEST city in the U.S. (and arguably the greatest megacity in the world), New York City consists of five boroughs, each of which is a county in New York State.
Nicknamed “The City,” Manhattan is HANDS DOWN the most-visited and known borough. With the highest population density in the country, this tiny island surrounded by three rivers (Hudson, East, and Harlem) has a landmass of less than 23 mi² with an estimated population of over 1.6 million residents (not including commuters and tourists).
Tourists coming to NYC are likely to visit Manhattan first as it boasts many globally recognized landmarks and attractions.
From Times Square to the Financial District to Central Park, Manhattan has been unanimously crowned the heart and soul of NYC.
Yet it’s no surprise that it’s home to some of the most exclusive and pricey real estates in the world, particularly with the glitzy 57th Street a.k.a. Billionaires’ Row.
So basically, if you come to NYC then you’re probably dreaming about Manhattan and this glamorous borough being one of the best areas to stay in NYC.
Just a short walk across the suspension Brooklyn Bridge from Lower Manhattan will take you into Brooklyn, the city’s most populated borough.
Even without mentioning the artsy, hipster-central neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn is still hipper than hip.
After all, this borough is a mesh of eclectic neighborhoods and ethnic enclaves, with its very own Chinatown in addition to Pakistani, Jewish, and African American diasporas.
And if you’re looking for the best areas to stay in NYC, Park Slope is another sought-after place filled with indie shops, unpretentious bars, hip eateries, and, of course, Prospect Park.
At the local favorite Luigi’s Pizza on Fifth Avenue, the vibe is so homey that the owner even told us that we could bring the money for the pizza in the next day after seeing us scramble for change (we were unaware of their cash-only policy, but ultimately did find enough to pay).
However, when visiting Brooklyn, you can’t forget the tech-centered DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) which features remarkable waterfront views of Manhattan, cobblestone streets, and beautiful warehouses that have been converted into trendy lofts.
The Boogie Down Bronx
The only borough without a downtown, The Bronx is mostly residential and considered the poorest borough in the city.
However, The Bronx still offers many delightful NYC attractions, including Yankee Stadium, Pelham Bay Park (the LARGEST and one of the best parks in NYC), New York Botanical Garden, Edgar Allan Poe cottage, and it’s very own Little Italy on Arthur Avenue.
But, what really makes this borough unique is its contributions to music.
Widely known as the birthplace of hip hop, The Bronx has gifted us with countless hip hop (and R&B) legends over the years including Grandmaster Flash, Fat Joe, KRS-One, and of course, the one and only Jennifer Lopez.
The 102-unit residential complex on 1520 Sedgwick has been credited as where DJ Kool Herc threw his first parties, marking the beginning of the genre’s history and making this borough a potential contender for one of the best areas to stay in NYC.
NYC’s second-largest borough by population and the largest borough by land, Queens is no Manhattan but is certainly just as cool.
With newly developed residential and commercial high rises, this borough has gone through years of gentrification from its industrial past.
With stunning views of the East River and Manhattan skyline, Long Island City has been attracting young wealthy professionals wanting to escape the ridiculously high rent in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Nonetheless, the coolest part about Queens is its rich ethnic enclaves and international food.
From Jamaica to Little Colombia (Jackson Heights) to Greektown (Astoria) to Flushing Chinatown (which, btw, is a Mandarin-speaking enclave unlike the Cantonese settlement in Manhattan Chinatown), Queens is truly a melting pot and easily one of the best areas to stay in NYC.
Located closer to New Jersey, Staten Island is the southernmost and least populated borough with under a half-million residents.
Except for the FREE Staten Island Ferry, this wealthy borough is frequently overlooked by tourists.
And yet, the Staten Island Ferry is NOT to be missed as it takes you to amazing views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Lower Manhattan skyline.
With a plethora of green parks (over 10,000 acres worth), beaches, and museums, Staten Island is a sweet change of pace from the hectic city life.
But, don’t let Staten Island’s quaintness fool you – the charming North Shore area has lively craft breweries and gastropubs along with international cuisine from Sri Lankan to Italian.
Fun Fact: This borough is also the birthplace of chewing gum!
Tips For Booking Hotels in the Best Areas to Stay in NYC
Not sure how to book the best hotels in NYC for the lowest rates possible? Not to worry because we have got you covered and have some local tips to help you find the perfect accommodations in all of the best areas to stay in NYC.
1. Don’t Stay in or near Times Square
OK, we know that you want to see the bright lights and flashy graphics all over the insane number of digital billboards in Times Square.
Because yes, this iconic NYC tourist trap really does live up to its nickname as, “The Center of the Universe”,
Especially since Times Square is arguably one of the most visited attractions in the world, luring in a whopping 50 million visitors annually pre-pandemic.
However, staying in or near Times Square means that you better be prepared to pay a lot for a very small room. You’ll also have to deal with hordes of lost tourists, massive crowds, second-hand smoke, and all the other madness that comes with staying in this part of the city.
As a result, you’ll probably be stressed out and won’t be able to enjoy an authentic, NYC experience.
So, for newcomers to NYC, while Times Square is a must-visit, it certainly isn’t a must-stay.
2. Skip Peak Season
The holiday season in NYC is crazzzy! Think Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony, the Saks Fifth Holiday Light Show, and of course, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest.
With all these exciting festivities, the holiday season is an expensive time to visit NYC. So, if you want deals on hotels, plan on visiting post-New Year’s weekend, from the first week of January through mid-March.
However, the absolute cheapest time to stay in NYC is between January 4th and MLK, Jr. Day since most people are just returning from their recent holiday travels.
And, the best part about visiting NYC at this time of year? You’ll still get to experience all the grandeur of the city’s stunning Christmas decorations and lights.
Although, do keep in mind that January and February are also the coldest months of the year. So, do come prepared to do battle with the polar vortex of doom (you can use this NYC winter packing list for guidance)) and keep an eye out for any potential snowstorms that may come along with all these irresistible hotel deals.
3. Plan a Longer Stay For Better Deals
If you have flexible travel dates or can afford to stay in NYC for a few extra days, then you could definitely secure some hefty discounts.
Because the cost difference between a 3-night extended weekend stay and a 5-night stay can be huge in terms of the daily rate you pay for a hotel room – with even greater savings if you’re able to stay a bit longer.
Just make sure you do a quick price comparison between your minimum stay and potential extended stay to understand exactly how much money you’re saving.
And with business travelers typically departing on Fridays, weekends are sometimes the perfect time to secure primo hotel deals. Because more time to explore NYC + cheaper hotel prices = WIN-WIN!
4. If You’re on a Tight Budget, Then Stay Outside of Manhattan
Manhattan is ultra-cosmopolitan and splendid, but there’s way more to NYC than this tiny island.
And since Manhattan is widely considered to be the heart of NYC, a stay in this densely populated borough will inevitably cost you more than a hotel room in the rest of the four boroughs.
That’s why, If you’re on a tight budget, then your best bet is to look for a place in Brooklyn or Queens that has quick access to Manhattan via public transportation.
Plus, you’re likely to visit Manhattan anyway so why not experience a different borough in NYC and ride the subway like a local? 🙂
The 6 Best Areas to Stay in NYC
1. Greenwich Village/The West Village, Manahattan
On the west side of Lower Manhattan right below Midtown lies Greenwich Village, home of NYU, Washington Square Park (often falsely identified as the park from Friends), and an ultra-cool Bohemian, LGBT-friendly atmosphere.
With a long history of attracting artists, young liberal professionals, and of course, college students, this neighborhood is wholesomely edgy, dynamic, and colorful.
BUT, the best part about Greenwich Village is actually West Village, a calmer, more quiet corner on the westside (hence the name) with boutiques, art galleries, piano bars, jazz clubs, minimalist cafes, authentic Thai cuisine, and historical landmarks.
For avid TV fans, the West Village has been featured in countless shows and movies. Because despite having a fictitious Upper East Side address, Carrie Bradshaw’s real apartment (exterior) from the Sex and The City tv series is actually here, at 64 and 66 Perry Street.
And if you’re a huge fan of Friends, then you’ll be just steps away from the exterior of Rachel, Phoebe, and Monica’s apartment complex on 90 Bedford Street.
Nonetheless, despite its popularity in entertainment, the West Village is still far from touristy. It has an almost quaint, small-town vibe to it since you’ll see young mothers pushing double strollers around beautiful brownstone townhouses.
Also, in addition to having convenient access to attractions in both Midtown and Downtown, a stay in Greenwich Village will give you a distinct, alternative, NYC vibe that is unlike any other place in the city.
The only drawback though is that the West Village lacks subway access. Although, because you’re so close to midtown, you can probably skip the subway and just walk to most of Manhattan’s major attractions.
2. Chelsea, Manhattan
Without a doubt, Chelsea is one of the most alluring neighborhoods in the city and is easily one of the best areas to stay in NYC – making it a great place to spend the summer in NYC. That’s because Chelsea is sweet like candy, and you’ll want to keep coming back for more sugar.
Situated on the westside near the Meatpacking District, with Greenwich Village to the south and Hudson Yards and the Garment District to the north and the Flatiron District to the east, Chelsea boasts diverse architecture that includes cute townhouses, renovated rowhouses, trendy high rise residences, and city government housing.
As a visitor, you’ll be charmed by the over 200 art galleries, upscale bistros, and wealth of cultural diversity that can be found here.
One of the area’s most stunning attractions though is the High Line – a 1.45-mile freight line turned elevated linear park that showcases stellar urban designs, horticulture, and beautiful city views.
Just North of the High Line is the Hudson Yards development, a gigantic 28-acre commercial area with retail shops, contemporary restaurants, and a bustling public plaza featuring the honeycomb-like Vessel art display.
And, of course, there’s the popular Chelsea Market where you can meander through various seafood markets, wine shops, and bakeries.
Yup, this hood is so groovy that even Google made it their NYC home.
However, what really makes this one of the best areas to stay in NYC is its close proximity to Manhattan! Because almost all of the borough’s major attractions are within a 2-mile walk of Chelsea: Bryant Park, the Empire State Building, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, and even Manhattan’s Chinatown.
Plus, with Penn Station and several subway lines nearby, Chelsea is easily accessible to any other part of the ciyt by both train and subway.
Although the one downside is inevitably the cost – due to its central location. So, Chelsea’s overnight visitors can expect to pay more here than if they were staying in other, non-Midtown neighborhoods.
3. Tribeca/SOHO, Manhattan
TriBeCa and SoHo are two different neighborhoods that border one another on the west side of Lower Manhattan. As both are uber posh, yet unique in their own ways, it’s difficult to choose one over the other as one of the best areas to stay in NYC.
Short for “Triangle Below Canal Block Association,” TriBeCa is a wealthy neighborhood flooded with old warehouses that have been renovated into modern residential buildings and urban lofts.
Before garnering this reputation as a prestigious neighborhood, TriBeCa’s lofts appealed to young artists back in the 1960s/70s due to their additional living space.
Today though, many well-to-do young families reside here in luxurious high rises with million-dollar Hudson River views. That’s because TriBeCa’s residents and visitors are drawn to the neighborhood’s scenic riverfront parks, cobblestone streets, Belgian-block past, cool taverns, classy brasseries, and legit, ramen noodle shops.
Similarly, like TriBeCa, SoHo has an artistic past, and present, since many artists flock here for the spacious lofts.
On the other hand, SoHo is indisputably livelier and more touristy than its TriBeCa neighbor. SoHo a.k.a. “South of Houston Street” is home to art galleries, upscale boutiques, hipster cafes, and trendy restaurants.
And although it had a rough past, this elegant neighborhood with marvelous cast-iron architecture is currently in high demand. Especially since this part of the city has a large collection of high-end boutiques and chain outlets that attract locals and tourists alike.
Therefore, weekend mornings in SoHo are always a vibrant scene as New Yorkers talk each other’s ears off and people watch (or Goldendoodle-watch) over bottomless mimosas, mushroom scrambles, and greasy home fries at some of the best brunch spots in NYC.
As a result, TriBeCa and SoHo are both prime Manhattan neighborhoods where you can walk almost anywhere you may want to go, including the Brooklyn Bridge, Chinatown, the 9/11 Memorial, the Empire State Building, the Staten Island Ferry, and so forth.
Of course, it’ll take you a long time to walk to Times Square and Central Park, but you’re essentially in one of the swankiest neighborhoods in NYC.
Plus it’s super safe here. That’s why, besides expensive accommodations, the only other downside is that you may never want to leave!
4. The Upper East Side, Manhattan
Right above Midtown is the Upper East Side (UES). It starts at 59th Street and goes all the way north to 96th Street. It’s also bounded by the East River to the east and Central Park to the west.
It’s easily one of the best areas to stay in NYC and comprises of three small neighborhoods – Lenox Hill, Carnegie Hill, and Yorkville.
Glamorized by TV shows and movies, the UES has more to offer than just the opulent shops on Madison Avenue, museums on Fifth Avenue a.k.a. Museum Mile (The Met, anyone?), and doorman bedazzled buildings on Park Avenue.
Sure, this ritzy area was once the home of famous families like the Kennedys, Rockefellers, and Roosevelts, but don’t be let the neighborhood’s wealth and prestige intimidate you!
Because if you walk away from Central Park and towards the East River (on 3rd, 2nd, and 1st Avenues), you’ll stumble upon a more humbling atmosphere with local watering holes, corner delis, and lovely little casual eateries.
Also, besides Central Park and Fifth Avenue, you’re unlikely to run into throngs of tourists here, making the UES one of the safest and most authentic areas to stay in Manhattan.
So, instead of bumping into tourists, you’ll find yourself blending in with 30-something-year-old professionals, nannies with strollers, and Manhattan retirees. If you stay in the parts closer to Midtown (say 59th to 65th), you can easily walk to Billionaires’ Row on 57th, Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, and even Times Square, which is all about 2 miles away.
Also, besides not having a “hip” or “cool” image like the edgier neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan, the other drawback to the UES is the lack of public transportation and overcrowded subway lines.
However, if you’re content with walking the town and/or taking Uber/Lyft everywhere, then the Upper East Side may just be one of the best areas to stay in NYC for you.
5. Long Island City, Queens
Just a quick drive over the Queensboro Bridge or through the Queens Midtown Tunnel from Manhattan is the ever-lovely neighborhood of Long Island City (LIC).
Gifting visitors and residents with spectacular views of the East River and the Manhattan skyline, this up-and-coming neighborhood on the western end of Queens has undergone gentrification over the last 20 years.
From lavish residential towers to massive commercial developments, Long Island City has transformed into a playground for young working professionals.
Not to mention, it’s also one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in NYC, which is a far cry from its industrial and manufacturing past.
In addition to its proximity and easy access to Manhattan, Long Island City is home to an impressive creative culture that includes 5 Pointz (the heart of the NYC graffiti scene), Socrates Sculpture Park, multiple film studios, and many other artistic hubs.
Foodies can also get their grub on at Vernon Boulevard. It runs parallel to the East River and is where you can stuff yourself full of veggie burgers, Asian noodles, and filet mignon.
Once you’ve had your fill, you can burn off some of those excess calories by strolling along the 12-acre Gantry Plaza State Park or by taking a scenic walk through the 20-acre Queensbridge Park on the East River (enjoy the sweeping views of Midtown Manhattan).
And, if you ever get bored of LIC, Astoria is just right around the corner and a great place where you can devour to-die-for Greek and Egyptian lunch plates.
However, the absolute best part about staying in Long Island City is its incredible affordability. You can land some terrific deals in this area, sometimes for even half the price of what you might pay in Manhattan.
Plus, both Manhattan and Brooklyn are easily accessible by either subway, car, or on foot.
So, what’s the downside of staying here? Well, you’re not in The City proper, which could be an issue if you’re planning to do all that super touristy stuff in NYC.
And, although Long Island City has become safer over the years, crime may still be an issue so you should definitely remain aware of your surroundings wherever you go. You can also use these expert NYC safety tips to help you out.
6. Park Slope, Brooklyn
Renowned for its19th and 20th-century brownstone and limestone architecture, the northwestern Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope has a good mix of townhouses, brick row houses, and new condos.
That’s why walking around and observing the architecture in this 6X30 block neighborhood is an intriguing experience in and of itself.
Park Slope also has an upbeat yet relaxed energy that attracts artists and young families from Manhattan, techies from California, and affluent buyers from around the globe.
So, after window shopping at some of the boutiques and consignment shops on Fifth and Seventh Avenues, eat your heart out at one of the family-run pizzerias or burrito joints here before grabbing an ice-cold pint at a local dive bar.
Another one of the perks of staying in Park Slope is the resident-beloved, Prospect Park. It crosses over five different neighborhoods (with Park Slope on the west side) and is the second-largest public park in the borough, with its very own botanical garden too.
And even with its small-town, community feel, Park Slope’still offers incredible cultural diversity with prominent Latino, Italian, Black, and Asian communities in the area.
Although, one of the most appealing aspects of Park Slope is that it is connected to virtually every part of NYC by subway. Therefore, there’s hardly any need for a car or Uber/Lyft service.
It’s also far enough away from Downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan to give you a break from the insanity of the city, but close enough (just a few stops on the subway) so that you can access those areas daily if you need to.
The downside? Hotel options here are a bit limited so your best bet is to find an Airbnb or spend the right on the outskirts of Park Slope check out some of the fun things to do in NYC at night.
And much like staying in Long Island City, you need to be OK with commuting into The City if you plan on spending most of your time in one of the best areas to stay in NYC.
Since no two neighborhoods will ever have identical vibes, the zestiness of the Big Apple can never fully be tied to just one specific area.
Because even though Manhattan is what most tourists envision when they think of NYC, there’s a lot to discover in the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island.
However, regardless of where you stay in NYC, you should optimize your experience by exploring some of the best areas to stay in NYC.
This way, you can fully appreciate NYC for what it really is by venturing out into the lesser-known parts of the city, rather than spending all of your time in Manhattan.
About the Authors of this Post
Today’s guest bloggers are Gigi & her senior rescue Yorkshire Terrier Roger Wellington of Wet Nose Escapades, the dynamic nomadic duo who have made Manhattan their home base.
Whenever they’re not traveling the world, they are found gallivanting throughout the Big Apple, uncovering yummy eats and city parks, and immersing themselves with the exuberant New York culture. Be sure to follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube!