BEST 4: CHELSEA
Though its long-unchallenged "it" status has passed to newcomers like the Gramercy Park, The Maritime (363 W. 16th St., at Ninth Ave.; 212-242-4300, fax 212-242-1188; $295+) is still a great choice and without a doubt the best and coolest in Chelsea. Sean MacPherson and Eric Goode turned this striking building, once the National Maritime Union headquarters, into the present nautically themed hotel, which opened in 2003. Great views of the Hudson River; downstairs, Hiro hosts a trendy gay club on Sunday nights.
Both economy- and comfort-minded travelers will embrace the 26-room Chelsea Pines Inn (317 W. 14th St.; btwn Eighth & Ninth Aves.; 212-929-1023 or 888-546-2700, fax 212-620-5646; $150+), a friendly gay-owned guesthouse with a vintage cinema theme that received a major interior facelift in 2007. Free local calls, WiFi, and a sizable continental breakfast benefit all room types, while deluxe room models boast luxe linens, Ipod docks, and flat-screen TVs. Economy rooms have shared toilets, but all rooms have their own sink and shower. Bonus: it's within a block of the A, C, E, and L trains.
For an affordable stay near the heart of Chelsea, check out Chelsea Lodge (318 W. 20th St., btwn Eighth & Ninth Aves.; 212-243-4499 or 800-373-1116, fax 212-243-7852; single $119, double $129). All but two of the 22 rooms have shared bathrooms, but with clean accommodations, friendly management and rock bottom prices, they can't be beat in the neighborhood. Most guests are European, and most of them gay and lesbian. The same owners offer a bit more space at the Chelsea Lodge Suites ($195) a few doors down.
The Colonial House Inn (318 W. 22nd St., btwn Eighth & Ninth Aves.; 212-243-9669 or 800-689-3779, fax 212-633-1612; $95-145) is a small gay hotel, occupying a unique 1850s brownstone. The rooms aren't big (in fact, some are tiny), but they're cheap and clean. Some have fireplaces and/or mini-fridges; all have cable/TV, window A/C, and in-room sink. Twelve units have their own facilities, while eight share bathrooms (kept spotless by a daily quality check).