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Not long ago, the idea of staying in Brooklyn, Queens, or the Bronx instead of Manhattan during a New York City visit would’ve been met with disbelief. One, who stayed overnight in the outer boroughs unless a flight was involved? Two, no one could name a decent hotel because…well, there weren’t many.

But times have definitely changed. Visitors and businesses alike have been flocking to nifty-sounding neighborhoods — and to more palatable prices. The outer boroughs’ new hotels have been varied, ranging from well-known chain properties to offbeat boutiques. Here are a few on the scene that we love, plus a couple more to look forward to in the future.

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Rink at Rockefeller

Whether you’re coming to see the Rockettes, or gaze at the decked-out store windows along Fifth Avenue, New York makes for an incredible holiday vacation destination. Weeks before Thanksgiving, though, the city is already starting to prep for winter, beginning with the opening of its iconic ice rinks. Here’s a guide to what’s open, how much it costs, and what you can expect before and after you strap on your skates. The best news? There’s a lot more ice in New York City than just Rockefeller Center.

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Affinia Hotel Macy's Parade PackageFall in New York City is one of the best times of year. The weather is incredible, fall foliage is at its best in Central Park, and there’s plenty to celebrate. If you’re planning a trip to the city in November, consider coming for the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Watch as floats, bands, and dancers pass by; after, stroll through the park for some leaf peeping.

While normally you’d have to fight your way through the crowds to get a good spot to watch, you can stop stressing this year. Four-star Affinia Manhattan is offering a special “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” package with lots of great add-ons including four sought-after Grandstand tickets. The coveted VIP-only seats (usually only offered to Macy’s employees, charities, and other organizations, though we found them being auctioned online for $700 each) provide guests with the best view in town. Here’s what you’ll get with the Affinia deal:

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Hilton New York Herb N KitchenHilton New York made headlines earlier this summer when it decided to do away with room service and focus instead on a new grab-and-go dining concept that offers “quick, gourmet food options” in a self-service format. For many, the move was seen as a way for the company to skimp on food costs, but a recent visit to the space suggests otherwise.

I stopped by Herb N’ Kitchen, as it’s officially known, after its grand debut this week , and was impressed by what I found. Piping hot, mouth-watering BBQ pork belly flatbread fresh out of a brick oven? Check. Cozy, intimate dining areas with marble-topped tables? Check. Tiny boxes of chocolate-covered animal crackers? Grass-fed beef jerky locally produced in Brooklyn? Double check.

On my way back to the office, I passed the Sheraton New York, which sits one block away. Though rates for both hotels fall into a similar range (for select dates in November, Sheraton was $355 a night, while Hilton was a little higher at $399 a night), it’s clear that each is doing very different things with their dining. So, how does room service at the very comparable Sheraton compare to Hilton’s shiny new cafe? Read more

NYC Tourist Spots that Locals LoveReal New Yorkers know not to set foot in Times Square unless they have to. The Statue of  Liberty? Who has the time? These 10 iconic NYC landmarks are unique in their ability to delight not just tourists – but locals too. From iconic diners to urban parks and everything in between, here’s an itinerary will have you navigating the city like a pro in no time. Just try not to get stuck in the turnstile on your way over.

Grand Central Terminal
New Yorkers who meet at Grand Central’s famous spherical clock know there’s only one thing to do once they arrive at the center of the Concourse: look up. The iconic sea-green ceiling is decorated with Greek-inspired line drawings and twinkling white lights that resemble the major constellations – not a bad backdrop to the daily rush hour commute! The popular Holiday Fair, which returns every November, fills Vanderbilt Hall for six weeks with more than 70 stalls of artists, craftspeople, toy-makers, and jewelers. More info here. Read more

10 Places to Picnic in the US

One of the best ways to get to know a place is through its public green spaces. Next time you’re traveling, pack a picnic and enjoy. Here are our picks for the best places to picnic in the U.S. this summer. Read more

Times Square New YorkThe Dilemma: You’ve spent the day admiring the bright lights, soaring billboards, and glittery marquees of Times Square. After spending most of your budget on a Broadway show, you emerge from the dark theater only to be surrounded by a throng of hungry tourists. There is nothing but lackluster restaurants and overpriced bars in sight. Where do you go to get away from the herd and enjoy a soothing drink or delicious meal without breaking the bank?

The Solution: Wander west to nearby Hell’s Kitchen, where you’ll find a lively young neighborhood with unpretentious nightlife and hundreds of affordable, quality restaurants. Here’s our shortlist of the Hell’s Kitchen hotspots where you’ll get the best bang for your buck. Read more

With the spring and summer vacation season kicking into full gear, millions of tourists choose to spend some time in The Big Apple each year. Finding  a comfortable, affordable hotel in New York City can be tricky, overwhelming, and time consuming. Let the headache of hotel hunting end here. Stay at the newly renovated Affinia Manhattan starting at $159 per night. This saves you 20% off seasonal rates. Weekend stays are available for slightly more, from $179 per night.

Stay in a guest room with two full-sized beds and modern amenities including flat screen TVs, iPod docking stations, and Wi-Fi. Travel is available through August 31.

The Affinia Manhattan is conveniently located on Seventh Avenue and 31st Street in Midtown — just steps away from Penn Station, Madison Square Garden, and a handful of subway lines. The hotel is two blocks south of major shopping outlets such as the iconic Macy’s department store. Popular attractions like Times Square, and the innovative High Line Park are also a short walk or cab ride away.

To take advantage of this offer, click here to visit The Affinia Manhattan’s website. Make sure to include the promo code APSALE when selecting travel dates. This offer ends on Sunday, May 6.

This spring, stay at a hip hotel in New York City while reaping major savings. Rooms at the Aloft Harlem begin from $156 per night this spring. With rates as high as $279 at the Aloft in late May, you’ll save 45% – or $127 – by booking this deal.

Just one year old, the Aloft Harlem is one of the best hotel deals in the city, offering a chic atmosphere and cozy rooms for a fraction of the usual New York City prices. Rooms offer extra-large windows, over-sized showers, free Wi-Fi, LCD TVs, and desks with one-stop connectivity stations for all your gadgets. Take advantage of re:fuel, the 24-hour self-serve gourmet pantry, and enjoy cocktails and conversation at the lively w xyz bar.

The diverse neighborhood of Harlem boasts a fascinating history and numerous nearby attractions, including Central Park and the legendary Apollo Theater. Visit the sky-high Saint John the Divine and dine at the area’s famous soul food restaurants. Then zip downtown on the express A and D trains, which will deliver you in minutes to Times Square, Radio City Musical Hall, Rockefeller Center, the Museum of Modern Art, and much more.

These rates are available for travel from May 6-11 and June 11-15. For $161 per night, stay April 29-May 5. Book online at the Aloft Harlem, or call 212-749-4000.

See our New York City destination guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights.

Looking to enjoy the Big Apple this spring without busting your wallet? Stay at The Jane Hotel, one of Manhattan’s best-kept secrets. This 100-year-old hotel, which once housed survivors from the Titanic, has undergone major renovations and now boasts cozy rooms for savvy visitors. Rates at the storied West Village hotel start from $99 per night — astonishingly low for this pricey neighborhood.

Rooms are small but comfortable, and include LCD TVs, an iPod dock, and complimentary Wi-Fi (communal bathrooms cut down on housekeeping costs and keep the room rates low). The hotel features a delicious French-Moroccan cafe and a lobby with a fireplace and eclectic decor.  Bicycle rentals are complimentary — for exploring the charming restaurants, shops, and bookstores of Greenwich Village, or for cruising along the Hudson River, just across the street from The Jane.

Downstairs, The Jane Ballroom is an opulent bar and lounge with velvet-upholstered couches, chandeliers, and communal board games, providing for an upscale but homey feel. With DJs and dancing on the weekends, it’s become one of the trendiest Manhattan nightlife spots in recent years.

Rooms are available consistently for $99 from now through the end of 2012, though the prices will likely increase as the summer months approach. Visit to book, or call 212-924-6700. Then, use our TravelSearch price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights to New York City.

Stay at the 4-star New Yorker Hotel this winter, a historic Art Deco hotel in the heart of Manhattan. With the hotel’s “Stay Warm in NY” package, pay only $169 per nighta savings of 30% on current hotel rates.

You’ll receive a free upgrade to a View Room, which overlooks either the Hudson River or the Empire State Building. You’ll also receive a $15 Starbucks gift card, daily Continental Breakfast for two, and shopping coupons at Macy’s. Each spacious View Room includes a flat-panel TV and complimentary HBO and WiFi.

The ideally-located New Yorker Hotel sits directly across from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station. It’s also just one block from Macy’s, three blocks from the Javits Convention Center, and four blocks from the Empire State Building.

THE VALUE: You’ll save over 30% on room rates alone, not to mention a free room upgrade, daily breakfast, a Starbucks gift card, and shopping coupons.

THE CATCH: New York temperatures tend to dip quite low in the winter – so bundle up!

THE DETAILS: Visit The New Yorker Hotel and choose the “Stay Warm in NY” package.

WE’VE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, vacation packages, and more travel deals. For general trip-planning information, see our New York City Travel Guide.

The growing rooftop trend is branching out. Not only are these coveted sky-high squares providing hotels with happening outdoor space, some are also serving as a valuable plot for horticulture. Hotels in cities across the U.S. are growing green thumbs in an effort to provide farm-to-table produce without the farm. Whether using rooftop-grown vegetables in their restaurants or creating their own honey by housing rooftop apiaries, these hotels are on a major locavore (a person who attempts to eat only food that is locally grown or produced) kick – a trend we hope is here to stay. With the economic and environmental costs of carbon fuel skyrocketing, importing out-of-season produce is a bad idea on multiple levels. But, crafty hotel chefs moonlighting as micro-farmers? Genius.

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intercontinental-nyc-resize.jpgThough the InterContinental New York Times Square actually opened July 12, the ribbon cutting ceremony last week – keynoted by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg – officially heralded this new property as one of the greenest in the city. As part of its bid for LEED certification, the hotel employed sustainable building materials and recycled three quarters of its construction waste. More visibly, there are green roofs on the 4th and 7th floors as well as a lobby-level garden, but guests are not permitted out onto these areas.

The 36-story, 607-room hotel is the largest built in New York in the past 10 years; all but the top two floors are currently open (they’re still perfecting that two-story Presidential Suite). The eponymous Times Square is actually a couple of blocks from the InterContinental, and the hotel straddles the Hells Kitchen neighborhood. This works to InterContinental’s advantage, however: A quirk in zoning laws caps most buildings in that neighborhood at seven stories, so the upper floors of the hotel boast killer views of western Manhattan. Some corner suites can even see all the way north to Central Park.

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spa-merge-resize.jpgIn summer, spas trot out in-season fruit and botanicals for use in spa treatments. And an Orange Blossom Scrub and Wrap sounds lovely. But if the product comes from jar (which it does 99 percent of the time) can’t I have it anytime? Combo-platter spa treatments can sound captivating in summer – a body scrub and bath followed by a massage – but what’s so summery about it exactly?

So it was exciting to find a day-spa package that makes total sense for summer – the Break Out The Bikini ($150, 75 minutes) at Spa Merge, a new spa in Midtown Manhattan. It includes a customized bikini wax (the spa has six types!), a body scrub, and an organic-leaning spray tan (it’s alcohol-free). A beauty maintenance trifecta!

I love how it handles all the issues a trip to the beach might present (save for the last five pounds I’m always trying to shed). The only thing missing is a mani-pedi, but it’s not essential, since push comes to shove, I can do it myself. The bikini wax I could NEVER do myself, and a body scrub is really necessary before a spray tan, so why not leave that to the experts so you don’t end up streaky? What seals the deal? The à la carte cost for the three services comes to $205. So I suppose I can use the $55 I saved for that mani-pedi.

strand-rooftop-resize2.jpgThere’s nothing quite like surveying the majestic New York City skyline while sipping a cocktail as the sun slowly dips below the Hudson River. Thanks to a whole slew of new rooftop bars opening in the Big Apple, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy sky-high drinks this summer.

Top of the Strand at The Strand Hotel Debuting December 2009, this rooftop watering hole is bound to become even more popular now that the weather is balmy and the sliding roof can finally be opened. The chic 21st-floor lounge was designed by Lydia Marks, whose credits include the sets for the first Sex and the City movie and The Devil Wears Prada

Glass Bar at Hotel Indigo Set in nightclub-heavy Chelsea, 20th-floor Glass Bar provides a rooftop respite from the hustle and bustle of the streets below. The bar opened May 14; Monday is swing night with live music by The Michael Fredo Orchestra.

Private roof garden at The Surrey This Upper East Side rooftop officially opens this weekend, but don’t try to casually stop by for a drink – the exclusive seasonal space is only open to hotel guests. The garden, located on the 17th floor, looks out over Central Park. Guests can enjoy casual dining and specialty cocktails (delivered by butler) from morning to night.

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