When my husband found out that he would be going to NYC for a career-related function, since our family had never been before, we decided to make the trip to the Big Apple our family summer destination. The conference he'd be attending would be at the Grand Hyatt (see related review), and while we would need to stay at that hotel for one specific night during our stay, I personally wanted to find less expensive accommodations for the remainder of the week we would be there.
Choosing the hotel--
So my lengthy research began. First let me say that as far as our family's travel style goes, we are middle-of-the-roaders. In other words, we don't, even on a one-night stop-over, feel comfortable at budget chain motels/hotels. But even during a lengthy stay, we choose not to stay at four- and five-star properties due to our budget, opting rather along the lines of a Homewood or Hampton. We like, above all, clean accommodations and as many amenities and luxury as we can afford.
At first I considered a number of nice and very inexpensive properties in NJ that looked very promising. However, being unfamiliar with the city and its travel hubs we would need to use in order to get into the city (such as taking the NJ bus system into the Port Authority with two young children--I had read that this was not always a safe spot for tourists), my husband and I finally decided that we would limit our search to hotels in Manhattan itself.
I finally found an article at http://nymag.com/urban/guides/nyonthecheap/travel/hotels.htm that listed a number of less expensive alternatives and began researching these on Tripadvisor and other review sites. It was in this article that we found The SoHotel listed as a good and inexpensive option in New York.
Booking the hotel--
Once our decision to stay at the SoHotel was made, we checked prices through its online reservation system and found that we could get a very deep discount by booking 30 days in advance as long as it was prepaid and non-refundable. In general, we don't like to do this because we are afraid that most hotels will take advantage of its customers by giving them a less desirable room for the money they have already spent and can't get back. But we took a chance and did it anyway because it was such a deep discount, and we thought at the time that we wouldn't spend very much time in the room. After all it was NYC!!!
Arriving and directions--
Once we arrived at Laguardia, it was time to see what the SoHotel was all about. A fifteen minute crazy cab ride ($33 after tip) across the Williamsburg Bridge brought us down Delancy/Kenmare Street and into the heart of Lower Manhattan. Before the trip, I had researched all of the best directions to all of our in-city destinations on HopStop.com and MapQuest in order not to be in total ignorance about where we would be headed, but our cab driver from Senegal did not speak much English and my broken college French served well enough to get us to the right neighborhood quickly enough, but not well enough to help the driver navigate the confusing directions of Broome Street where the hotel is located. For your future reference, dear reader, Broome Street is one street south of Delancy/Kenmare Street and runs west to east on the east side of The Bowery and east to west on the west side. The hotel is located near the corner of The Bowery and Broome Street on the west side.
After a small and unexpected tour of the neighborhood due to the directions of the one-way streets, our driver finally deposited us outside the SoHotel. In terms of the hotel's outer appearance and immediate surroundings, I already knew what to expect from photos I had already seen on this website. Though the door to the hotel is on street level, I also knew that the hotel's lobby was located up one large flight of steps after you enter the street level doors. We had 6 bags with us, and we were fully prepared to lug them up those stairs based on comments I have read here.
Instead, a doorman who serves more like the hotel's concierge--a very friendly man named Junior-- met us at the door. He was just bringing a woman's bags down the stairs, but greeted us in a very friendly manner and wouldn't hear of us taking our own bags up. Let me say here that the days Junior was working were all very great and, if he had been working everyday, would have made me change this review to a 5-star rating. Junior spoke multiple languages fluently as evidenced by his naturally conversing with several different international guests during our stay. His service was far beyond any of the other porters in the hotel--who were all okay, but not spectacular--that I felt I needed to mention him in particular. He recommended several things during our stay that proved great for us.
Check-in and the room--
Check-in went very smoothly and the front desk clerk was efficient if not overly friendly (though Junior made up for that). The lobby on the second floor was decorated in a cute and trendy shabby-chic manner. We received 2 electronic key cards to a third floor room on the quiet side of the hotel, and never had any trouble with noise whatsoever. When Junior put our bags down in the room, he turned on the air conditioning unit also and it only took a small while to cool the room down and was never a problem. We tipped him for all of his trouble, and he told us that if he could help at anytime we could find him in the lobby.
Once we were settled into our "Regency" room for four (double queens) we took a moment to look around our new home away from home. We had read that the rooms were small here, the bathrooms smaller, and so we thought we knew what to expect. We were very pleasantly surprised at how spacious the room actually was. I would say that it was comparable in size to any standard hotel room throughout the US, and by what I've read of NYC standards, it must have been very large indeed. A look at the fire escape plan on the hotel room door showed me, however, why some guests complain of small rooms and baths. Since this is a very old hotel, I think every room in this hotel is unique. Unless you were to request a larger room (though we did not have to...it was just given to us), you might end up with one of the rooms that others have complained about on this site.
The room was also nicely decorated. The dresser and nightstand were made of dark wood, old and worn looking, but they were also looked like real antiques instead of worn, old and cheap chain hotel furnishings. The room also had a very comfortable and nice armchair and a wall mounted large screen LCD television. No telephone was in evidence, but we had our own cell phones so that was no problem. The bath was done in white marble throughout. There was no tub, but a very large and nice shower with beautiful chrome fixtures. There was only one pedestal sink, but I never really felt the lack of counter space. The designer toiletries were also very good--refreshingly infused with lavender and mint--and we opted to use them in place of the ones we had brought from home in our TSA approved 3-1-1 baggies.
There was no elevator in the hotel which did make for some exhausting climbs to the 3rd floor everyday after many miles of foot travel and sightseeing in the city, but the kids didn't seem to mind it at all, and I'll have to admit that a week now after the trip, I look back on it as more quaint that troublesome.
Coffee and Teas were always provided in the lobby, which was very convenient. No breakfast was served but this was not a problem for us, as we wanted to experience the food NYC had to offer (see my related reviews of NYC food).
For those among you, dear reader, who smoke, there is no smoking in all of the rooms unless you pay a fee of $250 for cleaning. However, we noticed a very small, nice smoking porch on the lobby level just big enough for 2 outdoor benches, some plants and a trashcan for the butts after you finish your smoke. I believe the sign posted there says that it closes at 10pm, however, and after that one must go down to the street and smoke outside the hotel. Junior and the other porters periodically check on the guests who choose to use the smoking porch, I presume for safety reasons.
The surrounding area--
I can't say enough about the part of town in which this hotel is located. I truly believe that staying here made the whole trip and the perfect NYC experience (for us anyway). I have seen other reviewers claim that this is a seedy neighborhood, but I would have to disagree. The neighborhood might not be for all types of people, but for those who enjoy an extremely vibrant, busy and ALIVE scene, it was perfect. We are a couple from a quiet, very small American town traveling with children and never felt threatened in any way. We did see a couple of people who apparently lived on the street and might have had some sort of mental issues in our week-long stay there, but they did not bother us at all. I actually felt safer here in this neighborhood than while we were staying at the Grand Hyatt for one night--the grifters that hang outside of that hotel made me feel like I needed my husband with me ever time I stepped outside the door there.
The SoHotel is situated as close as you can get to the Lower East Side (LES) without actually being in it. On the eastern side of the Bowery and a couple of streets over, there are loads of great and inexpensive restaurants and things to do. The dumpling houses, the Sarah Roosevelt Park, a nice little family-owned diner on Canal and Eldridge, and the Essex Street market are all within walking distance. A little farther north and east on Houston Street, Katz's Deli (where Sally had her famous scene in Where Harry met Sally) is always busy and delicious. Just steps away from the hotel is Little Italy and its restaurants, Chinatown and its bargain shops for tourists (where you can bargain for some pretty nice souvenirs), its fresh fish markets (and yes some of those streets smell really bad, but it doesn't smell by the hotel) and massage parlors ( I don't think these were seedy...I think they are meant for the tourists to use after long days touring the city), are all highlights of this uniquely wonderful place. A little further west and you are in the heart of either So Ho or Tribeca and every good thing those places have to offer in terms of galleries, restaurants, and shops.
A quick stroll down the Bowery to take a left onto Grand Street will take you to the metro's B and D trains, which is the subway system we used the most to visit most of the big museums and sights. You will find a newsstand on the south side of Grand Street (across the street from the actual subway entrance) that sells 7-day unlimited metro cards for $29). The newsstand on the north corner of Grand did not have them though.
I really can't say enough about how much we enjoyed our time at the SoHotel. I usually throw around 4-star reviews in nondescript places rather lightly, but this one I really felt I needed to be more detailed with. In my experience the trip was really a 5-star experience without hesitation, but I felt I really needed to consider the lack of an elevator and the unknown factor in the differing sizes of the rooms themselves. Oh, and whether or not you would really be at home in such a vibrant part of the city.
But for my family and myself, whenever we go back to NYC, nowhere else in this great and wonderful city will do. I recommend this place from the bottom of my heart!!!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Sohotel in New York has a great location and great prices. Located in the center of downtown our hotel is comfortable, clean, and charming. We offer a great way to visit NYC and our commitment to customer satisfaction is our #1 goal. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Sohotel New York City
- Sohotel Hotel New York City