By Samantha Chapnick
Chances are you’ll visit Times Square on at least one New York vacation. Most of the New York hotels are there, Mamma Mia, Billy Elliott and other spectacular Broadway shows live there, and it has more lights than most small cities. Slowly, it’s finally starting to get a few establishments that focus on quality as well as quantity. Here are some of this local’s top picks:
- Sunscreen Anyone? I’ve spent more time in Times Square in the past month than I have in almost the whole time I’ve lived here. Thanks to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Broadway (the avenue) is closed to cars from 47th Street to 42nd Street. In the place of SUVs are chaise lounges and funky design furniture. Grab some bagels from Ess-A-Bagel or Pick-a-Bagel, pick up some coffee from one of the nearby shops or Starbucks and have an affordable delicious brunch in the heart of it all. Wave hi when you see me (usually on 47th wearing a Kiawah t-shirt).
- Naked Cowboy. You’ve heard of him — maybe even seen him on TV. Now is your chance to get a photo ($1 donation placed in his guitar) with the buff guy nude but for a pair of tighty-whiteys, cowboy boots and hat, big rhinestone cross, and of course, guitar. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him play it, but that doesn’t stop the hoards of women who can’t stop giggling as their friends pose first with his front then, with his tush. Quality? Questionable — but definitely a unique New York vacation experience.
- Doubletree Suites: This is my favorite New York hotel for families in Times Square itself. For about $320 a night six people can sleep very comfortably and be in the heart of it all.
- Singles: Traveling alone or just one person to a room on a budget? I think The Paramount is by far the best deal among New York hotels. With rooms at around $170/night, they’re small (even by NY standards) but clean, close and designed for aesthetics.
- Friends: For a girlfriend getaway where you all pile into one room, the Crowne Plaza is my first choice. A pool, newly renovated, fairly spacious rooms, and a perfect location mean the $280 split by two or three is a steal!
- Ruby Foos: Dining in Times Square is, in a word, dismal. If NASA found a black hole in NYC I’m sure it would turn out to be the food void left by chain restaurants and tourist traps in this six-block area. A few, very few, are trying to break that streak. Ruby Foos is one. Although pricier than local Chinese or Thai joints, it’s reasonable compared to others in this area, and I think the food is magnitudes better.
- Blue Fin: As a vegetarian, I’ve never been here. However, friends rave about the sushi. It’s apparently reasonably priced and very high quality.
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Samantha Chapnick is a New York writer who scours international destinations looking for what hasn’t been found.