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A few weeks ago, my sister brought her family out to visit me, and as the children had never been to New York before, she decided that the Marriott Marquis would be a fun place to stay. Situated directly on Times Square the Marquis is a glittery, if anonymous, behemoth, always buzzing with activity (and always very crowded). It is a fine hotel, but in many ways the opposite of the hotels we choose to feature on this site. It is not cheap, for one, and it also lacks the character of our favorite smaller hotels. Plus there are (exorbitant) charges for things like Internet and other “extras.”
The hotel was exactly what my sister wanted, but my daily visits there left me suffering from a bit of road rage and some serious chain-hotel ennui. Still, I am well aware many travelers to New York want to be in the center of the action.
With that in mind, I’ve picked out my favorite non-chain hotels near Times Square—all affordable and all with distinctive personality. For comparison’s sake, I also did a rate search, for a few weeks from now. On the weekend of September 13-15, the least expensive double room at the Marquis will set you back $337 per night. My hotel picks? Well…
Double room rate 9/13-9/15: $230/night
Type: Essential New York
Most folks choose to stay in Times Square because it feels quintessential New York. Well, you don’t get much more “New York” than The Milford, which sings a love song to the city on every floor and and in every room. From its opening in 1925 to its ’80s ads featuring twirling bellhops serenading America with the “Lullaby of Broadway,” this mammoth building has long been a New York figure.
A recent renovation gave the hotel a new name (from “Milford Plaza Hotel” to “The Milford”) and a fresh look featuring lifelike photos of New York City neighborhoods in the hallways and “bedtime billboards” in the guest rooms. It has some of the trappings of a big hotel (read: expensive Wi-Fi), but also the benefits (fitness center, bar) and much more character than your average chain hotel. Read review
Double room rate 9/13-9/15: $325/night
Type: Stylish sleep
Situated just on the northern end of Times Square, this three-star beauty offers the fashionable Cheapo stylish digs and the benefit of being a five-minute walk from hubbub without being constantly in it. For even further quiet, Central Park is just a few blocks north.
Rooms sport a funky-fresh style, and the far-out lounge is a great place to unwind with a drink. Wi-Fi is again an extra charge, but guests can borrow a hotel iPad to log on for free in the lobby. Read review
Double room rate 9/13-9/15: $230/night
Type: Room with a view
Full disclosure: The Novotel is technically a chain (but the only U.S. outpost branch of the French hotel), and it’s not, for this weekend anyhow, much cheaper than the Marquis.
Why include it? I’m glad you asked. The Novotel may be business class, but it has boutique style and oh, those views. Most rooms offer stupendous views overlooking Times Square, but the hotel has the benefit of being just outside the heart of the chaos (meaning your blood pressure won’t boil every time you try to return).
Other pluses in the Novotel’s column include a free business center (Wi-Fi, unfortunately, costs extra) and a fitness center worth raving about. Seriously, I tend to find hotel fitness center’s depressing, but this one is not only airy and well stocked with state-of-the-art equipment, it also offers—you guessed it—views. Read review
Double room rate 9/13-9/15: $240/night
Type: Old New York
A glamorous mecca for performers, the Mayfair has been feeling rather worn since Madison Square Garden (formerly located across the street) moved away. Still, it’s one of the cheapest rooms in town, especially in this area. The cozy-classic feel, from the polished wood walls of the lobby to the toile de Jouy that bursts from the walls of the 78 tiny guest rooms, also comes with a side of classic hospitality (and free Wi-Fi). Read review
Double room rate 9/13-9/15: $287/night
Type: Fashionable Find
Here in New York, it’s the fashionable (not the freaks) who come out at Night. The night hotel oozes chic, from its tricked-out lobby and stylish lounge, to its posh, modern guest rooms. Read review
Double room rate 9/13-9/15: $270/night
Type: The (Cheapo) Hotel with the Mostest
Situated just off of the Times Square madness, the Hotel @ Times Square is a reliable hotel with reasonable rates and an array of perks that are generally absent (or expensive) at most New York hotels.
Example: It’s an affordable hotel with a fitness center, but also doesn’t charge for Internet like the pricier spots. Plus, breakfast is included, a rare perk in New York, and the 19th-century building has got some character (I’m looking at you vintage mail shoot). Read review
Want more suggestions? Check out all of our favorite budget-friendly hotels in our guide to New York.