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Only in New York City: An Insider's Favorite Places

WHERE TO STAY
GETTING A ROOM FOR LESS
Try to book ahead no matter what time of year you plan to visit. Web sites such as www.express-res.com (which specializes in New York City), www.quikbook.com, www.hotres.com, and www.hoteldiscount.com offer reduced rates and can often locate a room when a hotel's own reservations office delivers a "Sorry, we're full."

MIDTOWN
Choosing a hotel in the thick of it makes sense, though you'll trade tranquillity for convenience.

A new anchor on the western edge of Times Square, the Hilton Times Square (234 W. 42nd St.; 800/445-8667 or 212/840-8222, fax 212/840-5516; www.timessquare.hilton.com; family of four from $189) has great views from every room, starting with its 21st-floor lobby.

From the tunnel-of-light entryway, to the lobby chandelier's holographic candles, to the giant watering can in the courtyard, the Hudson Hotel (356 W. 58th St.; 800/606-6090 or 212/554-6000, fax 212/554-6001; www.hudsonhotel.com; family of four from $350) provides a Through the Looking Glass experience. Caveat: Only 71 out of 1,000 rooms have two double beds.

Nearly every accommodation at the 10 properties owned by Manhattan East Suite Hotels (800/637-8483; www.mesuite.com; prices vary) is a suite with kitchenette.

UPTOWN
On the stroller-jammed Upper West Side, you'll find kids' menus, toy stores, and parks. And the pace here, appropriately enough, slows to a crawl.

The Excelsior Hotel (45 W. 81st St.; 800/368-4575 or 212/362-9200, fax 212/580-3972; www.excelsiorhotelny.com; family of four from $239) is across from the American Museum of Natural History and a block west of Central Park—and the rooms are stocked with Nintendo.

Though moderately priced, the Hotel Beacon (2130 Broadway, at 75th St.; 800/572-4969 or 212/787-1100, fax 212/787-8119; www.beaconhotel.com; family of four from $195) serves up the greatest luxury: space. One-bedroom suites comfortably sleep six. All rooms have kitchenettes, and there's excellent food shopping nearby at Zabar's, Fairway, and Citarella.

DOWNTOWN
W hotels are concentrated in midtown, but the newest, on Union Square (201 Park Ave. S., at 17th St.; 877/946-8357 or 212/253-9119, fax 212/253-9229; www.whotels.com; family of four from $1,295), puts you across the street from playgrounds and a renowned farmers' market, and near key teen downtown shopping.

A 19th-century building on an old seaport street may be an unlikely place for a chain hotel, but that's where you'll find the Best Western Seaport Inn (33 Peck Slip; 800/468-3569 or 212/766-6600, fax 212/766-6615; www.bestwestern.com/seaportinn; family of four from $194). Try to land a room with a terrace for a lookout over early—New York rooftops and the Brooklyn Bridge.

ESSENTIAL GUIDEBOOKS
Take the city by storm with The New Ultra Cool Parents Guide to All of New York and New York's 50 Best Museums for Cool Parents and Their Kids (City &Co.), both by Alfred Gingold and Helen Rogan. They're the most comprehensive—and attitudinal—listings for all five of New York City's boroughs.

Christopher Maynard's pocket-sized Kids' New York (DK Publishing) combines colorful pictures with concise information.

If you're determined to visit New York's gems from Coney Island to Queens, make selections based on the amusing descriptions in New York's 50 Best Places to Take Children (City &Co.), by Allan Ishac.

I WENT TO NEW YORK AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS FABULOUS . . .
T-shirt printed with FDNY (Fire Department of New York) across the chest, and keep back 200 ft. across the back ($18 at New York Firestore, 263 Lafayette St.; 212/226-3142).

Beach towel emblazoned with the graphics of 15 Broadway shows ($29.95 at Broadway New York, 1535 Broadway, at 45th St.; 212/944-3724).

Empire City charm bracelet sporting six New York City landmarks in silver ($150 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Ave., at 82nd St.; 212/535-7710).

Messenger bag with subway graphics ($39.95 at New York Transit Museum Gallery &Store, Grand Central Terminal; 212/878-0106).

Haircut from Michael's Children's Haircutting Salon [This business is no longer in operation]

Chocolate in the shape of the Empire State Building ($6.50 at Li-Lac Chocolates, 40 8th Ave.; 212/242-7374; www.li-lacchocolates.com).

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