I am often asked for hotel or neighborhood recommendations. To help with booking travel and accommodation I would need different insurance from the one I currently have for my business of planning weddings in Central Park, because it falls under a travel agent’s duties, so I try to avoid commenting too much on this sort of thing. But here are a few thoughts that visitors to New York might find useful on the different areas of New York, and my own opinions and views on them.
I always recommend the Upper West Side as a great place to stay to couples who are getting married in Central Park. It’s a beautiful area, with grand old brownstone buildings and wide streets. It has lots of nice hotels and it is where normal, well-off New Yorkers live, so there are many really good bars and restaurants to choose from – ranging from cool and modern to very old-school classic New York eateries. If you stay on the Upper West Side you can probably walk to a wedding in Central Park, but you can also walk to the Hudson River, and even to Times Square, depending on what area of the UWS you are staying in. There are good transport links in the roads and Subway, too.
I lived on the Upper East Side for a while, and while most of the area is not as pretty as the Upper West Side, since most of the buildings are more modern, it is still a good place to stay. This is except for Fifth Avenue of course, alongside Central Park, which is beautiful. It is wider than the Upper West Side, so it may take longer to walk to Central Park, depending on where in the area you choose to stay. As a general guide, the North end is the cheaper end, the South end has some of the most expensive real estate in the world. It has great transport links, and it is the most densely populated neighbourhood of New York, so there are lots of places to eat and drink to choose from. If you stay close to the East River, you can go over to that side and have a view of Brooklyn and the bridges.
I find that Midtown is the most popular area for my clients to stay in. I’m going to say something that some might find controversial; I find this area of Manhattan decidedly meh. And Times Square? I can’t stand it. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the live shows there, but I get in to see the show and then get right back out again. The hotels are expensive chains and the restaurants are too. It’s crazy busy and unpleasant to walk around and it just is not a good reflection of the awesome city that New York is. The northern end of Midtown borders on Central Park, so I’d say that it has that in it’s favour, but prices of hotels there are very high.
Hell’s Kitchen is on the West side of the middle of Manhattan Island – kind of to the West of Times Square. There are some incredible bars and restaurants here, and if you were looking for a bargain Airbnb place to stay in, this would be a great spot – close to all the action and to Central Park, and you could just walk downstairs from where you are staying and be on a street of great places to eat. It’s not the most beautiful of areas, though. This is where many of the river cruises go from, which are very popular for receptions with couples marrying in Central Park.
Moving South from here are Chelsea, which is very nice, artsy and super gay-friendly, with great bars and clubs, but expensive. This area is home to the Highline park, which always seems like a great idea, but it is always crowded and in my opinion the industrial buildings around it make it tough to get any particularly nice pictures, for anyone considering taking any wedding photos down there. Also, the small area of the Meatpacking District, which is cool and artsy, with great bars in old warehouses on cobblestone streets. And the West Village and Greenwich Villages are quite similar, with their brownstones on tree-lined streets and celebrities drawn there by the atmosphere and culture.
There’s a section to the East of Midtown that I quite like, that contains Murray Hill, Turtle Bay, Tudor City and other smaller neighborhoods on the East River. It’s not as handsome as the West side, with its modern buildings and huge retail stores, but there would be some great Airbnb properties here. It does have some beautiful architecture, such as Radio City Music Hall, Grand Central, the Rockerfeller Center and the New York Library, though. It’s not as good for transport links as the West side in my opinion. Then, going South from here there’s the East Village and the Lower East Side. This area has a rich history that dates back to the early days of Manhattan, and the richness of the immigrant cultures can still be seen here. Now it has lots of unique, tiny stores, eateries and bars to choose from. There is lots of nightlife in these areas, ranging from “dive bars” to hip and trendy clubs and boutique hotels.
The Southern tip of Manhattan is home to the Downtown area, or the Financial District, which is pretty boring and quiet after the workers have left for the evening, and completely dead on weekends. It also has Little Italy and Chinatown, home of authentic and wonderful restaurants and eateries. Tribeca and Soho are on the West side of this far end. They have some very posh restaurants (the former posher than the artier latter) and great access to walk along the Hudson River. This end of the island is quite a few miles from Central Park, so not ideal unless you are planning to do other things while staying in this area.
At the other end of the island of Manhattan is Harlem, Morningside Heights and Washington Heights. On the West side, this is a beautiful area North of 110th Street, where Central Park ends, the East side is more modern so not as handsome. Parts of Harlem have fabulous old brownstones, lovely churches, and some iconic New York theaters and restaurants. This is also where Fort Tryon Park is on the Hudson River, which is where the Cloisters are.
Some of my clients who are on a budget, or those who know New York well and fancy a change have chosen to stay in Brooklyn. It’s a great option for anyone looking to get a bit extra for their money. There are lots of nice areas to stay in and it you also consider having your reception or meal after the wedding over in Brooklyn, then it’s a pretty convenient place to me.
Williamsburg is the hip place to be in New York right now. It has lots of cool places to eat and drink and shop. There are some fabulous rooftop bars here with views of Manhattan. Bushwick and Greenpoint are nearby, and also have some great places, that are either edgier and cooler, or not as posh, depending on your tastes.
Park Slope, Prospect Heights and surrounding areas are close to the lovely Prospect Park. Anyone considering getting married in Prospect Park or the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, might consider staying here.
Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo are where you can get fabulous views of Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan. Many of our couples have gone over there for photos after their wedding, then some go on to restaurants in Brooklyn afterwards to celebrate. Brooklyn Bridge Park lines the East River on the edge of Brooklyn Heights, and this is a lovely place to get married in the Summer, with the skyline, bridge and river in the background.
Brooklyn is a highly populated borough and has many affluent areas, with true New York eateries, so it is certainly worth checking out, but keep in mind that it will take a little longer to get in to Manhattan from here for any sightseeing.
Queens covers a huge area of New York. Most tourists and people visiting for a wedding in Central Park who are considering staying Queens would probably look at Astoria and Long Island City. If you stay close to a Subway stop then these areas would be very quick to get in to Manhattan from. They are just across the East River from Midtown and from the Upper East Side, which is right next to Central Park.
I don’t think any of my clients have stayed in the Bronx or Staten Island quite yet, but there is always a first time! Check any journey times from these areas to Central Park and to wherever else you want to be, if you are considering staying there. I think I may have had clients who stayed in New Jersey, and I’ve certainly had clients who have eaten there on their wedding day. Just like Brooklyn, there are restaurants and bars along the riverside with fabulous views of Manhattan there.
As a general tip, I would suggest checking any location on a map to see what is nearby – check for Subway stops and restaurants. Think about what else you will be doing while you are in New York. What sights do you want to see? Do you want to walk to Central Park, or is a car OK? Also, consider where else you want to go on your wedding day. Most of my clients stay in Manhattan, and it’s not a huge island, but if there is a restaurant you like near to Central Park and a hotel you like near to Central Park, then it all makes things much easier on the day.
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