Surrounded by women draped in Tiffany’s diamonds and men in Canali suits, there is only one word to describe Manhattan’s Upper East Side: lavish. While the desire to immerse yourself into the grand city of New York, often leads tourist to booking a stay at pricey hotels that they have seen on screen, when it comes to your trip to the Big Apple, be sure to know what your looking for in an ideal visit. If lounging in your hotel room is on your top 5 Things-To-Do list, then by all means, book a 5-star suite and enjoy room service. On the other hand, if your plan is to be out exploring as much as possible, including shopping till your credit card smokes, it might be better to opt for a simple bed and breakfast with the added value of location, and save your pocket cash for a splurge at Bergdorf’s.
On a quiet residential street, removed from the hustle and bustle of city traffic, sits a cozy oasis for low-key travelers. Located in a local’s-only strip of the Upper East Side, The Gracie Inn is the perfect home base for a tourist seeking a quaint home away from home, that just happens to be within walking distance of Central Park and the East River Promenade, as well as museums, art galleries, boutiques and restaurants galore. For those who plan to be in the city for a slightly longer stay, the penthouse suites with their kitchenette and furnished outdoor balcony gives you the sense of owning your own cozy apartment in this sought after zip code.
Nearby grocers and delicatessens make stocking up your mini fridge a scrumptious task. Our favourite is the nearby Fairway Market, only a 15-minute walk away. Be sure to pick up goodies from the deli and bakery while there; a picnic overlooking the East River or in Central Park is one of the best “free” activities available in the city.
Or if cooking an omelet while away isn’t something you want to be doing, enjoy the inn’s complimentary breakfast-in-bed, surely part of the charm that put The Gracie Inn on The Village Voice’s radar back in 2010, when the paper was on hunt for New York’s “Best Bed & Breakfast.”
A former boarding house during the Great Depression and World War II, the inn is rich in history. This, in addition to its helpful and unobtrusive staff make for a unique bed and breakfast characterized by a sense of low-key hominess that is difficult to find in chain hotels at the same star level. While the décor in the room is kept to bare essentials, aside from the occasional hanging painting (the aesthetic of which may remind one of visiting Grandma Sue,) even the basic rooms in the inn will suit visitors who are more interested in a prime location, than the thread count of their sheets. Like we said previously, this is not a spot for visitors who want designer bed linens and imported soaps.
Take advantage of The Gracie Inn’s prime location, and take a 20-minute stroll to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Whitney Museum of American Art. If it town before August 19th, be sure to check out the Met’s ongoing exhibit, “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations.” The simulated conversation between the designers is accompanied by pieces from each of their collections, allowing the visitor to compare the hemlines in dress throughout the ages. Once polished up on the history of fashion, move on to studying “Signs and Symbols” at the Whitney. The exhibit showcases abstract drawings and paintings from the 40’s and 50’s. The calligraphy inspired art is on display until October 28.
After a day of walking to and fro from museums and galleries, it is time to blend in with the locals at the neighbourhood’s preferred local watering holes. Just make sure you have your Canadian funds converted to American cha-ching, because the area’s best hangout, J.G Melon, is cash only. Join the Upper East Side’s polo and khakis wearing clientele for a burger in this 1932 inspired joint. Tin ceilings and yellow lighting add to the ambience. While it is only a 15-minute walk from The Gracie Inn, you may end up waiting double the time in line during prime hours. If queues aren’t your thing, head to the bar/restaurant after dinner service and get a late night bite to go with your beer.
If you’re craving a different crowd, something a little less like a Tommy Hilfiger in general appeal, then head to Finnegans Wake for a good ol’ fashion pint and a helping of comfort food. Known for excellent customer service and value, this spot is a regulars kind of place. While older professionals in for an after work drink and early dinner gravitate towards beer and shepherd’s pie, this Irish pub is open late for those who want a helping of comfort food after a night out.
Traveling can be expensive. Weight the pros and cons of spending the bulk of your play money on where you stay, and if you decide you want to save your cash for a Broadway show, shopping, or an extra meal out, then go with Gracie Inn, and make your temporary home in NYC a cozy, affordable one.