New York: A tale of two Chelsea hotels

Chelsea Pines Inn guests sleep among the stars. Photos: EuroCheapo
Chelsea Pines Inn guests sleep among the stars. Photos: EuroCheapo

It is a pretty neighborhood. It is a fun neighborhood. And when it comes to New York hotelsChelsea has a lot to offer. On these leafy lanes, among historic brownstones and trendy eateries, myriad hotels await travelers of all personalities and budgets. Chelsea offers everything from basic hostels to efficient hotels to sweet B&Bs, and on a recent update of the neighborhood, I paid a visit to them all. There are many wonderful properties in Chelsea, but two stood out for very different reasons.

Situated only six blocks from one another, the Chelsea Pines Inn and the Chelsea Lodge are similar only in that they provide affordable accommodations (and bear the name “Chelsea”). Each hotel is charming in its own right, but in vibe, amenities and even price, they are quite different. These being two of my favorite picks in our New York guide—for quality, value and that certain je ne sais quoi—I thought it would fun and helpful to examine them side by side.

Here, a tale of the Chelsea Pines and the Chelsea Lodge, two fabulous, affordable hotels that each fit a specific sort of traveler.

Chelsea Pines Inn

317 14th Street, Three-star hotel
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The location: Located on bustling 14th Street near Eighth Avenue, the Chelsea Pines hovers on the border of Chelsea to the north, the trendy Meatpacking District to the west and the picturesque West Village to the south. Public transit could not be simpler, given that there are nine different subway lines (L, A/C/E, 1/2/3, F/M) within three blocks of the hotel, and Washington Square Park, the High Line and Union Square are all a short walk away, as are any number of restaurants and nightlife options. In short, the Chelsea Pines sits on one of the major arteries of New York.

The price tag: Rates start around $169 in winter, and can run up to $330 in the summer. These are  not the cheapest among our recommended hotels, but they represent a great value for what you get, namely the friendliest service and a deluxe included breakfast replete with homemade bread.

chelsea pines patio

A sun-drenched patio is just one of many perks on offer at the Chelsea Pines Inn.

The vibe: Jay, the gregarious proprietor of the Chelsea Pines Inn, has a thing for glamor of the Old Hollywood variety. Consequently, rooms are happy homages to favorite (and unknown) stars from the Golden Age, but whether the star on your door reads “Debbie Reynolds” of “Albert Finney,” you’re bound to feel like the real star is you. That’s no Hollywood hyperbole either—the rooms are plush and comfortable, and Jay and his staff go out of their way to get to know guests and take care of any needs.

The perks:  The fun style and welcoming vibe are only the beginning. The Chelsea Pines Inn also offers a lush back patio perfect for relaxing on a summer day, plus a hearty breakfast and modern amenities (like iPad/iPod docks). What I most loved, though, was the personalized service and friendly touches like a morning newsletter that tells guests about the weather, daily events and what sort of fresh bread will be served that day. And I’d be remiss in not listing the resident cat, Charlie (Chaplin), among the hotel’s assets.

The quirks: The hotel does not have an elevator, and the cheapest rooms are rather small.

The Cheapo: Depending on the time of year (and how far in advance you book), the Chelsea Pines falls into the “Classic” or “Classy” Cheapo categories. This is a proper home away from home for travelers looking for convenience, style and that extra something special.

The unmarked Chelsea Lodge door feels oh-so-local.

The unmarked Chelsea Lodge door feels oh-so-local.

Chelsea Lodge

318 W. 20th Street, Pension
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The location: The Chelsea Lodge is situated just six blocks north of the Chelsea Pines (at, oddly enough, almost the same position in the block), but the vibe here is remarkably different. Swap the bustle of 14th Street for the tranquility of 20th Street, and you start to feel like a local (that the Lodge has no sign out front makes it feel even more like your regular apartment building). Quiet aside, the hotel is in the heart of the Chelsea action, and guests can be amid restaurants, nightlife and boutiques galore within a minute of leaving the hotel, and you still have easy access to the 1 (three blocks away) and A/C/E  (four blocks away).

The price tag: The Chelsea Lodge is Cheapo all the way. Rooms start at $99—among the cheapest of our recommended hotels—and remain affordable in summer, when other hotel rates tend to soar (a recent search for weekend rooms in the middle of July turned up a basic double room for $139). Although the hotel is on the basic side, you can’t argue with those bargain rates.

The vibe: The Chelsea Lodge is aptly named. It resembles an old-fashioned lodging house, with a mixture of sweet country touches and more masculine “lodge” elements (think framed hunting prints) to make things all-around homey. Everything here, from the small room sizes to the shared bathrooms, is quite simple, but all is pristine and the Lodge offers the added bonus of feeling like a well-kept secret.

The perks: Rooms offer basic amenities (a small TV and air conditioning), and include free Wi-Fi, a comfort for which many of the larger and pricier hotels charge. To be honest, though, the real perks here are the price and cozy-yet-exclusive feel. (I also vouch for the parlor, with its interesting collection of globes.)

chelsea lodge

It’s all simple, bright, and homey here.

The quirks: The Chelsea Lodge is a simple affair. There is no elevator, and rooms share toilets (they do, however, have a private sink and shower). The hotel does not offer online booking.

The Cheapo: A “Super Cheapo,” the Chelsea Lodge is an ideal pick for the independent travel looking for a taste of “local.” Here you can walk down your residential street and enter your historic brownstone that looks like any of the other apartment buildings on the block. You won’t necessarily want to spend hours in your small guest room, but when you’re there you’ll feel at home, especially with sweet touches like Hershey kisses on the pillows. Suites, which can sleep up to four and offer a fully equipped kitchenette (and possibly garden access), are an especially good deal for groups looking to save on food.

The verdict

Two hotels, one neighborhood, two very different vibes. It just underlines what we’ve always known: New York has something for anything, regardless of your budget, needs or travel style. Those willing to spend a bit more for something truly memorable cannot go wrong at the Chelsea Pines, and those looking for a reliable, affordable and somewhat off-the-beaten-path home should look no further than the Chelsea Lodge.

Tell us Cheapos: Which would be your hotel of choice? Or what other hotels in New York to you love?

About the author

Suzanne Russo
About the author: Suzanne Russo thinks of herself as equal parts California Girl and New Yorker. She moved from San Francisco to New York four years ago to pursue her MA in English, and her obsession with all things New York life and history hasn’t dwindled yet. She is a freelance writer, director of the San Francisco-sponsored, New York literary pub crawl, Lit Crawl, and constant wanderer.
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