Affordable hotels in New York City

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This week, Charlie Suisman, who runs the excellent, answered reader questions about New York City travel in a live chat at our website.

Here are some of his tips.

Q:Where are the cheapest hotels to stay in New York City?

Charlie Suisman: Many of New York's hotels have just gone nuts with their pricing. It's ridiculous. But you don't have to spend a fortune—however, it's still going to be more expensive than most other American cities to sleep. Here are a few picks that, depending on the time of year, should have rooms between $100 to $250: The Pod Hotel, Rooms to Let, Second Home on Second Ave, Country Inn the City, Mayfair New York, Broadway Inn, Abingdon Guest House, and The Larchmont.

Q. What's a good neighborhood to stay in? Somewhere besides the usual Times Square?

Charlie Suisman: Definitely! Whenever my friends and family come to visit, I suggest they stay anywhere but Times Square and midtown. Nothing wrong with it, but you'll get a visitor's view of the city, rather than an insider's. And so many great chefs, and shops, and nightlife is now below 34th Street. So, I'd suggest staying in the West or East Village. If you want to get a *really* different angle on the city, try the Lower East Side. It's far from bucolic, but there's so much history there, not to mention a definite hipster scene. The Hotel on Rivington caters to the neighborhood's new-found vibe.

Q.What's your advice for visiting Manhattan during Christmastime?

Charlie Suisman:There are so many things to do at holiday time, it's hard to select just a few -- there are annual holiday markets at Grand Central and Bryant Park, Paul Winter's annual (number 28, I think) Winter Solstice Celebration at Cathedral of St. John the Divine, is great. There are many Messiah performances -- of all kinds. There's a tradition at the 21 Club of the Salvation Army doing these boisterous singalongs at lunchtime -- there's nothing like those anywhere. There's Tuba Christmas at Rockefeller Center (Rock Center is the city's unofficial Christmas center, with its mega-tree and ice-skating rink).

Q: We only have two nights in NYC. What should we see?

Charlie Suisman: The first thing I'd do is go up to one of the observation decks, either the Empire State Building or the one at Rockefeller Center. I'd go with the latter because it's likely to be less crowded. Get an overview of the city, to see how it's laid out. The best thing to do in New York is walk -- it's the best way to get a feel for the city. I'd get out of midtown, too -- go to the Flatiron district, Greenwich Village -- that's where a lot of the action is these days. But since you're here for a very short time, you'll probably want to check out a few of the must-sees. For museums, choose from the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art (I feel terrible leaving out so many other amazing museums!). If the weather's nice, I'd go down to Battery Park and see the Statue of Liberty from afar (rather than spending the time getting there and back). See a Broadway show. Central Park has never looked better and an afternoon stroll there would be memorable -- you could also hire a horse and carriage from the area of 5th Avenue and 59th to give you a tour of the park. Great shopping is always there for you -- Saks, Bloomingdales, and every small shop you can imagine. Or just wander. That sense of discovery can be the most fun of all.

Q: My daughters and I would like to visit NYC and would like to know what time of year to come to get the best hotel prices. Thank you.

Charlie Suisman: You can generally find the lowest rates in January, February, and March. Some hotels will offer weekend packages, which can bring the rate down further. And don't just assume that a rate you see on the website is the lowest price you can get. Call the hotel and chat with someone from reservations. A little luck may be involved, but you may be surprised to get a lower rate -- with some polite persistence -- if the hotel isn't that busy.

(See full the transcript here.)

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