A Beacon in the Night

On the boat to Ellis Island
Well, we're back from New York and we're still speaking to each other - I guess that means we had a good trip.  We survived New York with kids and everyone had a great time.  I didn't really need more convincing, but this trip proved once again that staying as far away as possible from Times Square is the best way to get a feel for the "real" New York and not see it as just the largest, most expensive tourist trap in the world. I think we found the ideal place.

The Beacon Hotel is perfectly located in a fantastic neighborhood on the Upper West side near Central Park and the Museum of Natural History.  The neighborhood is teeming with gourmet restaurants, chic boutiques, pizza joints, pubs and real New Yorkers.  It's easy to blend right in and live like one for the duration of your trip.  A nice, homey place to go to at the end of a busy day. 

Plus, I just read an article on NBCNewYork. com stating that the Beacon Hotel is located in the safest precinct in New York.

Location Specifics:
Beacon Theatre
Ok. To the right of the hotel (next door) is the historic Beacon Theatre.  Upcoming shows include: Chelsea Handler, Elvis Costello and Chris Botti (I'm sad I'm missing that last one - should have timed this visit a little better).  Also, see my post below regarding the historic building across the street.  The Ansonia has a notorious and fascinating past.

On the other side of the theater is a liquor store - Beacon Wines - with an incredibly impressive wine collection - spend $6 or $600 - it's all here. Great, helpful staff.  They also carry a wide range of liquors in bottles of varying sizes - 
brilliant if you want just one cocktail... or maybe two.

Across the street?  Fairway Market one of the largest grocery stores in New York. If that isn't enough, next door to the market is Citarella a gourmet meat, cheese and seafood market. You'll have a kitchen in your room, so go for it. On the left side of the Beacon there's a Starbuck's, of course, and a casual but delicious cafe - Viand.   

There.  All your needs covered in one block.

Now on to the hotel. First, the YAY'S!
+ Did I mention location?
+ Very, very clean 
+ exceptional maid service; they brought extra towels without being asked and replaced the shower curtain before we even noticed there was a problem with it.
+ Friendly front desk and doorman staff
+ HUGE rooms by New York standards - we had a one bedroom suite; big living area with pull out couch, full kitchen, bedroom with 2 double beds and two large, flat screen TV's. 
+ Warm, homey vibe; casual and comfortable
+ Great rates available at the hotel's own website - keep checking - it changes often.  We paid $255 plus tax for our giant room and booked directly through the hotel.
+ It's very, very quiet - no sirens, no honks, no crowds.
+ The Beacon has been recently renovated and it was evident in the condition of the furniture and decor in the room and public spaces - everything was in perfect working order and neat as a pin. 
+Ask for a room on a high floor with a view - gorgeous. 

Here's a video tour of room 1407:

The Boo's
- As big as the room was, something had to suffer a bit and it was the bathroom. I really wish it would have had more counter space.
- Speaking of bathroom - the shower head needed a serious update.
- No work-out facilities (Central Park is only 2 blocks away, however.)
- $10 per day charge for Wi-Fi.  C'mon, really?  (There is a tiny business center in the lobby with 2 computers and printers and free internet service.)
- No lounge/bar inside the hotel
- The most incredibly sensitive smoke alarm EVER.  My blow dryer continually set it off.  Yes, I said blow dryer and it's not a fancy one, either.
- The creature in the bathtub.  We were told it was a "water bug". The front desk was very apologetic and offered to spray while we were out of the room. We just kept the drain closed and never saw a hint of another for the remainder of the trip.
- Construction on the sidewalk right in front of the front door - should be finished by the end of this week (4/1/11).

That was a delicious glass of wine
- The view was hampered a bit by dirty windows.  Perhaps it's on the spring cleaning schedule?

As a family, this hotel was a perfect fit for us; it was essential for the kids to have a room to hang in by themselves, great to be able to throw together our own breakfast every morning and we loved being able to grab a nice bottle of wine on the way "home".  We'll definitely be back.

Things I learned on this trip:
The line for Ellis Island & Liberty - it went forever.
*Buying our tickets to major tourist attractions like the Empire State Building, Statue of Libery & Ellis Island  on-line BEFORE we went was a stroke of genius (if I do say so myself). The lines are unbelievable - but, you'll go right to the front with tickets in hand.  Plus, in some cases you'll get a discount!  The Empire State Building tickets are good for a year so you can decide when it's convenient for you to visit (it's open until 2am - who knew?) You have to be a bit more committed, however, for your visit to the Statue of Liberty.  Wait and buy them on-line the morning before you go if you need to leave your options open.

*I read some reviews that said the visit to the Statue of Liberty's crown took too much time and wasn't really worth it.  So, we took that advice and skipped it and still got a beautiful, close-up view (and tons of photos) as we sailed by on the ferry on the way to Ellis Island.  As it was, the trip still took up a majority of the afternoon.

*Get the audio tour whenever possible.  Hearing the actual voices of the people who experienced arriving at Ellis is very moving.

*The bottom level of the ferry may be warm but it felt a little too much like steerage on the Titanic for me. We sat on the top two levels - you may have to wait a little longer to get off the boat, but it was worth it.
Steerage on the Titanic - yikes.
*2 absolute musts:  Big Nick's for pizza. Get a table in back - it's cramped and the waitress is surly but it's soooo worth it. Amazing.  Pizza by La Grolla - if you just want a slice. Mmmmmmm....both are within a couple of blocks of the Beacon Hotel.


Broedy said...

Thanks for the great information in this post - we're booked into the Beacon in mid-June for a week, so it's fantastic to read your first hand experience. Thanks also for the restaurant tips!


Dear Broedy, Glad you liked it! Enjoy New York - the weather should be perfect when you're there!

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I didn’t dip my toe in an ocean until I turned 25 and my friend Sandy and I traveled to Puerta Vallarta, Mexico. After that week, I was hooked. I loved being somewhere new; smelling the smells, tasting new food, seeing how other people lived. It energized me. As luck would have it, I landed a job that allowed me to travel all over the US and often to Canada. Being a sports event television producer, I was on the road all the time. That's when my love affair with travel began. Now, its 20 years later and still no one gets more “geeked up” about planning a vacation than I do. All I need is a destination and some travel companions and my fire is lit! I start delving into my favorite hotel sites, sifting through photos and reviews, comparing, contrasting -it’s like an addiction. The travel shows with tips and trends? I study them like a playbook. I LOVE doing the things most people hate doing before they go on vacation. Whether it be searching for a food tasting tour with a local or discovering a romantic B&B in the middle of New York - I’ve found it and I’ll share it with you. So....where should we go?