First the bad news, in case you haven't heard: New York lodging ain't cheap. With average Manhattan room prices recently crossing the $300-a-night threshold, your friend's couch may not seem so bad. The good news is that the city is currently in the midst of a new hotel explosion, with exciting properties opening almost monthly, many in areas downtown (closer to gay activity hubs) previously devoid of decent hotels. Accordingly, the new kids on the block offer specials to lure in new customers, and the others follow suit to compete, which translates into serious potential savings for you. The prices given below were the cheapest found at press time on each property's own Web site.
BEST 4: LUXURY
For a hundred years plus, the St. Regis (2 E. 55th St., at Fifth Ave.; 212-753-4500 or 800-759-7550, fax 212-787-3447; $595+) has catered to a well-heeled, aristocratic clientele, and is every bit as impressive as your great-great-grandmother remembers it. Palatial (with corresponding rates), the service is formal (tuxedoed butlers on every floor) but not imposing. The classic, ornate d?cor oozes Old World elegance and refinement.
Pegged by the New York Post as the city's top hotel of 2007, The Lowell (28 E. 63rd St., btwn Madison and Park Aves.; 212-838-1400, fax 212-319-4230; $500+) has just 68 rooms, allowing staff to dote more directly on guests. Just a block from Central Park, the hotel exudes old world charm in a very friendly fashion. For a full NYC immersion, check into the Manhattan Suite, which features a multimedia homage to the city -- and also just happens to have once been Madonna's pad.
We love almost everything about the Trump International Hotel and Towers (One Central Park West, at Columbus Circle; 212-299-1000, fax 212-299-1150; $550+). The 167-room hotel offers a luxurious level of service and accommodations, with a more residential, less touristy feel than other ultraluxe properties. Despite The Donald's penchant for glitz, the lobby is small and unassuming, and the room d?cor is elegant nearly to the point of understated. Exquisite in-room cuisine by downstairs Jean Georges (see EAT / BEST 4: SPLURGE below).
Near Central Park and in the heart of Madison Avenue's designer row, The Carlyle (35 E. 76th St., at Madison Ave.; 212-744-1600 or 800-227-5737, fax 212-717-4682; $700+) has been a rock-solid luxury choice for over 75 years. International politicos and celebs (frequent stayers include TomKat and Britney Spears) are drawn by the Carlyle's swanky private-home vibe, making it a preferred posh pied-a-terre.
BEST 4: STYLE
Opened to much fanfare in 2006, the Ian Schrager-renovated Gramercy Park (2 Lexington Ave., btwn 21st & 22nd Sts.; 212-920-3300 or 866-784-1300, fax 212-673-5890; $395+) is now the reigning king of hotel uberhip. Though laissez-faire locals (loyal fans of its former rundown charm) like to bemoan the loss of the old property, there's little denying that the new Gramercy Park is tremendously fabulous in a very late-aughts kind of way. Gone is the hallmark Philippe Starck minimalism of previous Schrager efforts; in its place, Julian Schnabel's wacky but somehow supremely elegant mashing of far-flung design elements. The city's top scenesters imbibe at the Rose Bar downstairs. Oh, and Jude Law bunks here.
One of the most watched properties of 2007 is The Bowery (335 Bowery, at 3rd St.; 212-505-9100; $325+), the recently opened latest venture of Maritime owners Sean MacPherson and Eric Goode. With its fast up-and-coming NoHo location, its unobstructed floor to ceiling views from all sides, and a lot of hot buzz (including a Vanity Fair spread), it's got a lot going for it, and looks set to give the Gramercy Park a run for its money as hipster hangout of the year. Just mind your wallet on the way in, as it's currently flanked by a halfway house and a methadone clinic.
Formerly the Rihga Royal, the totally revamped London NYC (151 W. 54th St., btwn Sixth & Seventh Aves.; 866-690-2029; $399+) opened in late 2006 as a modern Anglophile's wet dream. Featuring high-cool lobby art by London-based photographer Wolfgang Tillmans and boasting Brit celeb chef Gordon Ramsay's latest eatery (called, rather appropriately, Gordon Ramsay at The London), the 54-story London also offers (relatively) spacious rooms in a great Midtown location.
Hotel QT (125 W. 45th St., btwn Sixth Ave. & Broadway; 212-354-2323, fax 212-302-8585; $195+) offers a bit of boutique chic at (comparatively) bargain basement prices. Inspired by youth hostels, hotelier Andr? Balazs opened the QT in 2005, playfully nicknaming it "the subStandard." The swimming pool bar is a big draw, and is reportedly (if not officially) often clothing-optional.