How to Score a Free Hotel Room in Manhattan*

*sort of


A view of the disaster from Long island City
A view of the disaster from Long island City

If someone had told me 10 years ago to book a hotel room in Long Island City, which lies just across the East River from Manhattan,  I would have scoffed. Not because I’m any kind of  New York snob (I could take it or leave it) but because frankly there weren’t that many hotel options. In fact, there might not have been any at all.

Fast forward to holiday season 2015 and the situation has changed dramatically: hotels are sprouting up in the industrial-trendy district of Long Island City faster than mushrooms after a downpour, and though the styles widely differ, they all have one thing in common: dramatically lower room rates than at their counterparts across the river in Manhattan.

So what’s the best way to score a hotel room in Manhattan for free? Skip it altogether.

Read a book. Paper Factory Hotel
Read a book. Paper Factory Hotel

My first discovery was a rambling new hotel in an old, reconverted paper factory and called, appropriately enough, the Paper Factory Hotel. Its geared for those who like the industrial chic look and it’s only two stops on the subway to Bloomingdale’s. If one morning, however, you do not feel like making the trek in Manhattan, there is no shortage of diversion in the area. Just a short walk from the hotel takes you into the interesting Astoria area of Queens and the neighborhood that’s home to the Museum of the Moving Image, an homage to all things cinematic that’s housed in a former building of the adjacent Kaufman Astoria Studios.

Long Island City is next to Astoria in Queens, N.Y.
Long Island City is next to Astoria in Queens, N.Y.

But the newest hotel in L.I.C. is also one of the best, though it’s name doesn’t leave much to the imagination: it’s the Hilton Garden Inn New York LongIsland City. This tall hotel doesn’t have the stylistic shenanigans of some other properties in the outer boroughs but it does rise as a pillar of comfort and convenience in what is essentially a very urban environment. Ask for a room on a high floor for a great view and some of that precious New York commodity, actual light. The lobby is an upbeat space and includes a large breakfast area as well as a small business center.

M & N’s: plenty of NYC subways heading from L.I.C. into the 212

Not far beyond is the Boro Hotel, with its unspectacular lobby and Scandinavian design pretensions. I can’t recommend this one. The Hilton Garden Inn wins overall for comfort level as well as location, being just one short ride on the dirty and rat-infested but also efficient New York City subway into Manhattan.

For more New York City travel tips, follow me on Twitter at TGi24.

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