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Affordable New York City for Labor Day Weekend

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For residents of the Northeast, Labor Day Weekend is the unofficial end of summer vacation. For travel to New York City, the opportunity to visit and extract value should be considered.

Flights: If possible the best airfares leave Denver on Thursday and return on Sunday. When possible I suggest flying into LaGuardia (LGA) Airport which is the closet airport to Midtown Manhattan. From LaGuardia, a taxi runs $25-$30, shuttle from $12 and public bus (M60) $2.25. If taking public transit, purchase a Metro Card at a newsstand in the airport or be prepared to have change as busses do not accept paper currency. All rates are based on one-way.

Denver hub airlines United and Frontier are offering fares beginning at $260 RT into LaGuardia. Southwest offers non-stop and direct (one-stop) service into LaGuardia. JetBlue offers a nonstop flight between Denver and Kennedy Airport. From Kennedy Airport, consider AirTrain service ($7.25 - $5 to Jamacia Station or Howard Beach and then $2.25 for subway service) into Manhattan, If taking a taxi from JFK, note the fare is fixed at $45.00

Hotels: New York has experienced a building boom concerning hotels. While bargain hotels are few, holidays and weekends may provide cost-savings not usually common in New York City. The following hotel rates were procured during the weekend of July 15th and 16th via Kayak.com, all are 4-star or higher and within midtown Manhattan:

  • Morgan’s: a charming boutique hotel just south of Midtown is offering a rate of $261/night double occupancy.
  • Millennium Broadway: For those who desire to be in the center of it all, The Millennium is coming in at $270/night double occupancy.
  • Algonquin: for history buffs, the Algonquin, even renovated still retains the charm of yesteryear and comes in at $250/night double occupancy.
  • Carlton: If you wish to channel your inner-hipster, the Carlton is for you. Easy walk to The High Line, Madison Square Park and Union Square. From $237/night double occupancy.
  • Millennium UN Plaza: The bargain of the group coming in at $199/night double occupancy, beautiful rooms, skyline views from the pool and a great location across from the United Nations.
  • Helmsley Park Lane: For those who wish to be across from Central Park and between the legendary Plaza Hotel and the VIP oriented Ritz-Carlton. A steal at $230/night double occupancy.

What to Do: While New York is a world capital with prices to match, many destinations are actually quite affordable from excellent eats to tourist hot-spots. As your time is limited, the following are all affordable options allowing a visitor to experience New York City without breaking into the piggy-bank.

Parks and Monuments: The following are a few highlights.

  • The High Line: Keeping in the tradition of a vertical city, leave it no design oriented New Yorkers to transform an elevated former freight railroad track into a beautiful park. I suggest starting at the south-end and work your way north i.e. uptown.
  • 9/11 Memorial: If one had never visited the Twin Towers, it is hard to comprehend the enormity of the disaster. While surrounded by construction including the Freedom Tower, a must visit. Please note, while free of charge, reservations are needed to access.
  • Central Park: 700+ acres of very valuable real estate in the center of Manhattan. Most walk-able however consider renting a bicycle at Swim, Bike and Run on West 58th Street and 7th Avenue. The Park Loop is closed to cars on weekends.
  • Gramacy Park: In the 1800’s a real-estate developer understood the value of a landscaped amenity in the heart of the city. The Gramacy Park neighborhood has the only park in New York which is private. Surrounded by wrought-iron fencing and multiple gates, the surrounding buildings and homes each have a key to access the park.

Dining: While dining in New York can be expensive the following options are all delicious and affordable and offer a truly New York Experience.

  • Eataly: A gigantic interior food-hall opened by celebrity chef Mario Batali. Options from pizza to formal Italian and everything in-between. Stop in for a meal and be enchanted by the many options within the gigantic space by New York standards.
  • Halal Stand: For an authentic middle-eastern meal, try the Halal Stand at the southwest corner of 54th Street and 6th Avenue across from the New York Hilton. Even though there are other stands in the area, this one will have a consistent line. Why? Because it’s the best. Be sure to order the combo i.e. chicken/lamb, salad, rice, a pita and white and hot sauce. Cost $6.00
  • Shake-Shack: With multiple locations throughout Manhattan, excellent burgers, shakes and fries, all gourmet at fast-food pricing.
  • Dunkin Donuts: Be one of the first in Colorado to try this staple of New York before multiple locations open in Colorado. The Boston Crème and Jelly filled donuts are staples. However, for an excellent iced coffee made-to-order as well as breakfast and lunch wraps and sandwiches, a most enjoyable economical alternative.

The following are a few indulgences and great options for gifts to bring home for friends and family:

Indulgent Cocktails: While bars and clubs can be found throughout New York, a few are truly memorable experiences. While not inexpensive, the cost of a cocktail is the price of admission. Be sure to bring your camera.

  • Salon De Ning: On the rooftop of the Peninsula Hotel. Take a table on the outdoor deck and enjoy the view surrounded by the towers of Midtown Manhattan. Or sit inside and be transported to Shanghai circa 1930.
  • Mandarin Hotel: 35 stories above Columbus Circle and the lighted paths Central Park, from the Lobby Lounge look across towards 5th Avenue, the most expensive collection of apartments in the world. Tip: snack prior at Whole Foods in the basement of the Shops at Columbus Circle adjacent to The Mandarin.

Museums: New York offers a wealth of museums. While admission prices can be steep, please note, the rates are “suggested” and most museums will allow admissions at a lower cost. Two Tips: Consider The NYC Explorer Pass, which offers access to multiple museums and attractions. The Museum of Modern Art, a favorite of tourists and New Yorkers offers free admission on Friday evenings between 4P and 8P sponsored by Target.

Sightseeing on a Budget: While there are many options from the Empire State Building (go early to avoid lines) to Gray Line Tours (based out of Denver), the following are options that are easy on the wallet and less crowded.

  • Roosevelt Island Tramway: A great way to view the Manhattan skyline sans tourists. Consider going at dusk as the lights of the city come on.
  • West-Side Recreation Path: Between the West-Side Highway and the Hudson River there is a recreation path which runs uninterrupted between the Battery and the Upper West Side. Best via bicycle.
  • Brooklyn Bridge: Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. My suggestion start in Brooklyn (easily accessible via subway) and walk back towards Manhattan.
  • Sutton Place Park: Located at a dead-end on 57th Street at the East River. With the lights of the Queensboro/Ed Koch Bridge dominating, one of the most romantic spots in Manhattan.
  • Staten Island Ferry: Offering great views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty all for the cost of a transit fare.
  • Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges: Traveling over the bridges via the subway offers spectacular views all in air-conditioned comfort. Tip, avoid rush-hours as trains can be very crowded inbound in the morning and outbound in the afternoon.

Sporting Events: With two major league baseball teams within the city limits i.e. The Yankees and The Mets as well as the US Open Tennis at Flushing Meadows, consider taking in a game or a set. All venues are easily reached by subway, The B,D and 4 Trains run to Yankee Stadium, the 7 Train runs to CitiField and The National Tennis Center.

Finally a word about attire; New York City is casual and between the heat and humidity, it is best to dress comfortably and with good walking shoes. Of note, if planning to dine in an upscale restaurant or take in a Broadway show, business casual is most acceptable.

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