It is very easy to make expensive travel mistakes. So don’t do it. This column is dedicated to helping the LGBT community travel better, smarter and more fabulously. From quick getaways to big vacations, one thing to know is that careful planning can make the difference between a memory or a big mistake. Here are some insider tips that will make you the next New York City expert travel planner.
The biggest mistake in travel planning is picking a restaurant last-minute. As important as where you rest your head and in which class of airline cabin you fly is the restaurant you choose. The restaurant is your time to show your power as the ultimate “in-the-know” travel planner. Looking for ideas? To really impress, check out my two favorite NYC recommendations.
Brunch at The Garden at the elegant art-deco Four Seasons NYC is not just a meal, it is a decadent, accessible New York experience. The seasonal, locally sourced menu takes visitors on a culinary tour of the best of New York — from Harlem’s authentic fried chicken and waffles to Brooklyn’s warm pastrami tartine that you would swear your Bubbe would have made to the Four Seasons’ signature Pigs In a Blanket, a lemon ricotta pancake with chicken sausage. In honor of last weekend’s Miss America Pageant, it was a fitting time to try the Ms. Congeniality cocktail with Four Seasons’ infused hibiscus vodka, limoncello and fresh watermelon. Check it out at www.fourseasons.com/newyork.
Think the Four Seasons is a budget buster? Not really. Yes, it is not inexpensive — but when you consider exceptional service in an over-the-top beautiful room filled with the aroma of fresh flowers and the occasional celebrity sightings, brunch at the Four Seasons is worth every penny.
Need a new find for dinner? The Wayfarer, at 57th Street and Sixth Avenue, is just steps from romantic Central Park. The new two-story restaurant adjacent to the Quinn Hotel is perfect for a date for two in a casually elegant space reminiscent of a Parisian brasserie, and boasts 19th-century New York atmosphere and modern artwork to stimulate your dinner conversation. The menu is diverse, from fresh oysters to Maine diver sea scallops. Reserve at thewayfarernyc.com.
A NYC hotel find
The Muse Hotel by Kimpton is my new “find” in Times Square Manhattan. It is tucked away in the middle of everything but you could almost miss this shouldn’t-be-missed hotel. New York City, once known as unfriendly, seems to have made a decidedly friendlier turn. My travel companions each remarked on the friendliness of the airport and car-rental staff and, at check-in, the Muse was downright perfection. Guest check-in was like meeting two friends who were beaming that you made it over to their home for the weekend. (And two free drink coupons at the hotel bar and a Raid the Minibar $15 credit was cool too! We all need friends like them!).
The problem with most hotels in New York City, especially around Times Square, is the noise. Unless you are on a high floor (typically more expensive), you risk not sleeping in the city that never sleeps. The Muse is special because of the incredible location just steps from Times Square and Broadway, yet the surprisingly comfortable rooms face interior courtyards that give ample light and serenity at night. Most sixth-floor hotel rooms in New York City could be very noisy, but not in this retreat.
Choosing your hotel should not be based on price alone. Add up Kimpton’s 100-percent rating on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index and free Wi-Fi for Kimpton Karma Loyalty Rewards members, plus a hosted Wine Hour each night, and The Muse is a value.
If you’re planning on being in New York any time for the Gay High Holy Day of Halloween, book the “Spook and Shiver” package. It includes two tickets to Blackout, the ultra-creepy, walk-through haunted-house experience; a Spooky Lych-Eye cocktail and holiday appetizer at the hotel’s NIOS lounge; and trick-or-treat candy turndown service.
Jeff Guaracino is the author of “Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential Guide for Marketing.” Outward Bound columns can be found at www.epgn.com and are always worth a reread.