New York City: The stylish Ace Hotel opens, with rates from $99
Naturally, when Budget Travel heard that a new hotel was opening up in a great location in the heart of midtown New York, we were curious about it. But as soon as we found out that it is offering hip rooms for as little as $99 a night (for a short-term promotional rate), we had to check it out in person.
Like three other Ace Hotels in Portland, Seattle, and Palm Springs, the Ace Hotel in Manhattan aims to embody the historical vibe of its building and neighborhood. The lobby shows off the original, key-pattern mosaic flooring of the restored 1904 building. Its east wall is covered in a collage of old stickers and graffiti tags from 90s street culture. A working photo booth sits directly under the collage, adjacent to the lounge, which has plaid colored chairs and cow-skin rugs. Overall, the lobby successfully blends punk music, local canvas and Japanese art, and a strange assortment of birds taxidermies.
Ace is offering twin-size Bunk Bed rooms, recommended for two, starting at a special introductory rate of $99 per person. These include private bathrooms and a black concert roadie case turned refrigerator. The price will eventually go up to $169.
For between $169 and $219, Standard and Cheap rooms offer queen or full-size beds. In these, you can play a custom Epiphone acoustic guitar or spin some vinyl records on a set of turntables. (Don't worry, you don't have to tote your own records around town. They provide some.)
There are 258* rooms styled in various ways by local and international artists. Rooms come with private bathrooms and generally feature views of the NoMad neighborhood or the Empire State Building. The rooms also are equipped with free wireless Internet and a Philips flat screen TV. You can also gain access to four computer lab rooms, one on about every other floor.
The hotel is home to Stumptown Coffee Roasters—the famous coffeeshop of Portland, Ore., which has chosen to open its first NYC branch on-site at the hotel. The hotel also houses the new Le Breslin restaurant. Finally, with the lobby bar serving the community from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Ace Hotel leaves you a feeling a bit more stylist than when you walked in. 20 W. 29th Street, New York, NY, 10001, 212/679-2222.
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*Editor's note, May 22: We incorrectly reported the number of rooms the first time. There are 258 rooms at the Ace Hotel in New York City, and 58 different styles of decoration. We regret the error.
New York City: Free bikes for downtown visitors
From May 13 to September 30, The Alliance for Downtown New York is providing free loans of bicycles for two-and-a-half hour periods. Hundreds of bikes are available for pickup at South Street Seaport, at Piers 16 and 17, by Fulton St. and South St. (In case you don't know, The Seaport a tourist-friendly shopping area with a discount Broadway TKTS booth and access to Hudson River ferry rides.) But you're free to ride throughout the city. Guests are required to become a member by first visiting The Alliance online and registering. It's easy. Create an account by typing in your name, address, and credit card number. (Your card will be charged if you don't return the bike.) Then reserve a time to ride, or call the shop at 212/260-0400. Registering at least a day before you plan to bike is recommended, but not necessary. Sessions run on a first-come, first-serve basis from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. During our mid-afternoon weekday visit to a pick-up site yesterday, we saw plenty of bikes available. The process looked as easy as advertised. A family of four, after a few instructions from the bike shop owners, quickly strapped on helmets and rode off. After your two-and-a-half hours are up, you can return the bikes wherever there's a Bike And Roll location, such as at Pier 84 at Hudson River Park and at Battery Park by Pier A. Need more time? Pay an hourly fee of $12. Baby on-board? No problem. The equipment rental shop can hook you up with a Tag-a-long, wagon or baby seat to go along with your Comfort Hybrid bike. Kid size bikes and helmets are also available for no charge as well as bike locks. The Greenway may be a logical first route to take instead of maneuvering through Times Square or some of the other crowded areas. And you may not be able to return the bike in time if you venture too far into the city. But all NYC bridges have bike paths, so there are technically no limits to your summer cycling aspiration—and perspiration. —David Cumming
This weekend: Get a little culture at the Spoleto Festival
The Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, S.C., does not involve cow chips or crawfish like other festivals we've written about. Quite the opposite. It's a 17-day feast of cultural events, ranging from rock opera to chamber music. The 33rd season kicks off Friday, and more than 120 performances will take place through June 7. The festival is known for focusing on emerging and edgy artists. Since 1977, there have been more than 100 world premieres and 93 American premieres at the festival, with visionaries like Twyla Tharp and Yo-Yo Ma performing early in their careers. Notable productions this year include the debut of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, a tribute to the Spoleto Festival's longtime chamber music artistic director Charles Wadsworth, and the cabaret-style, punk-rock operetta Addicted to Bad Ideas: Peter Lorre's 20th Century, which explores alienation in the 20th century. Also interesting is Gustave Charpentier's opera Louise, sometimes called "the French La Boheme," rarely performed because of its complicated plot—there are more than 30 characters. Plus the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs this weekend and celebrates its 50th anniversary. Tickets range between $10 and $180. Also going on is the Piccolo Spoleto festival. It's the same idea—cutting edge fine arts performances—but many of the activities are free. So why the funny name? The event originated in the Italian town of Spoleto before a version was launched in the states. The Festival of the Two Worlds is in its 52nd season. The Spoleto Festival USA runs until June 7. You can buy tickets online. Hotel packages available through Charleston's CVB.
Worth reading: AirTran's Wi-Fi promise, Ryanair's new fee, and more
Some interesting items from around the Web: AirTran is the latest airline to promise Wi-Fi in all planes come summer. [WorldHum] Another new Ryanair fee—this time for the boarding pass. [Jaunted] Spain's high-speed rail website charges double if you search in English—get ready to put your high-school Spanish to good use. [Upgrade: Travel Better] Preview: The impressive W Hotel in Washington, D.C., set to open in July. [Gadling] Ever consider buying an RV? It's the best time in 30 years to shop for one. [AP via Yahoo News] Kansas City's BBQ joints: Not immune to the economic downturn. [Chicago Tribune]
Happy birthday, Alaska!
The Last Frontier turns 50 this year, and the deals are everywhere. Opening this month, Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge—the only accommodations in the spectacularly rugged Kenai Fjords National Park—is honoring the milestone with 15 percent off two or more nights in its rustic log cabins in the month of June*. At most Princess Lodges, your third night is free, and Holland America Line is discounting cruises up to 50 percent. And if it's your 50th, too? Try $50 off Rust's Flying Service adventure flights, a free daylong rail trip with Alaska Railroad, or a free second night at any of Denali Park Resorts' four lodges (travelalaska.com). —Andrea Sachs, from the June 2009 issue of Budget Travel *Updated for clarity on 6/3.