Sat. Oct 1st, 2022

You certainly do not need a car to enjoy Manhattan. But in the wake of COVID, many travelers are choosing to use their cars to get there.

Would you drive into New York City for theater, shopping, fine dining, museums, and people watching? Many might say “Never!” But thousands of others say, “Driving into New York might make sense—if I can drop off my car.” More than 910,000 people drive into Manhattan each day. As for potential drive-in visitors, some 43 million people live within a 175-mile radius of the city, according to the Stats America Big Radius Tool.

Today’s high gas and parking prices might discourage this crowd from traveling into New York. But the Crowne Plaza HY36, a 250-room IHG hotel at 36th Street and 8th Avenue, is one hotel with a timely promotion to lure this huge ‘drive-in’ market. The Fuel Up On Us package for hotel guests (rooms at the Crowne Plaza HY36 range from $159-309 per night) includes a $50 gas card and a 70% parking discount at a nearby garage. The package is available at the through September 1, 2022.

For drivers coming from New Jersey and the west, the hotel is just five blocks from the Lincoln Tunnel. For those who prefer public transport, the Crowne Plaza HY 36 is not far from trains at Penn Station or Grand Central, as well as the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

The hotel proved to be within a two-mile walk of much of what Manhattan has to offer. This includes the Broadway theater district ten blocks away, the Hudson Yards, the High Line elevated park and greenway, Chelsea Market, the aircraft carrier Intrepid, the Circle Line and Madison Square Garden.

The Crowne Plaza HY36 is unofficially named for its 36th Street location, near Hudson Yards. Also nearby are hundreds of restaurants and shops. Central Park and museums like the Museum of Modern Art.

For years, New York has done its best to discourage driving due to ever-growing congestion. Costly bridge and tunnel tolls, “don’t block the box” fines, bollards and concrete blocks on street corners, bike lanes carved out of car lanes, squads of parking officers and hordes of pedestrians are among the obstacles drivers face.

But New York has a critical tourist economy still trying to recover from COVID-19. Many would-be travelers willing to venture out of their COVID caves feel much more comfortable in their cars than on mass transit. Taking a car not only means potentially less COVID exposure when traveling, it also means less ‘schlepping’ of suitcases and bags up and down stairs and streets.

It’s also no secret that many perceive New York subways as less than safe after a string of incidents. Centrally located hotels like Crowne Plaza HY36 limit the need for travelers to venture underground.

The hotel and Fuel Up On Us Package proved perfect for us, as our trip included a lot of schlepping. After a delayed flight from Los Angeles, we rented a car at Newark Airport and completed a long day of traveling by driving to Princeton, NJ. We spent three nights in Princeton. where our son graduated in a ceremony delayed two years by COVID-19.

We then drove back to New York (a two-hour trip), parked at a nearby garage as part of the Fuel Up On Us package, and spent two nights in Manhattan at the Crowne Plaza HY36. We then retrieved the car, drove to Princeton for the P-Rade alumni march on Saturday, and drove back to Newark Airport the same day.

Yes, we could have done most of this exhausting itinerary by mass transit in the 90-degree, 100% humidity weather. But connecting by car made travel faster and much more convenient.

Like most hotels in NY, the Crowne Plaza HY 36 does not have a drive-up area. This made off-loading luggage to check in a bit of a juggling act. But a hotel employee helped with our suitcases surprise. Th singly clean garage was just a short walk away.

The Crowne Plaza proved to be a nice urban hotel staffed with friendly people. They did their best to accommodate, whether we needed a couple of extra towels or a corkscrew for a bottle of wine. We had a new employee working a 12-hour shift at the front desk. She was clearly excited about her new job, remembered our names and had a big smile as she helped guests.

Our room wasn’t enormous, but it was big enough for a comfortable king-size bed, a desk, chair and small couch. It also had all the necessities—Wi-Fi, a TV, a clean shower and a coffee machine.

The hotel has a narrow footprint, so most downtime will be spent in your room or the lively restaurant and bar, Burgerology. It offers choices like USDA Prime burgers and mac and cheese. Its all-important bar has an outdoor beer garden for alfresco drinks.

The hotel had a modern gym, but we got our exercise walking around the Manhattan streets, averaging 19,000 steps a day. If you would like to try bicycling in Central Park or the path along the Hudson River, Crowne Plaza HY36 offers complimentary CitiBike passes to guests. You get an exclusive access code that up to two adults can use, offering unlimited 30-minute rides during a 24-hour period.

New Yorkers might grouse at the idea of “more cars.” But promotions like this acknowledge the reality that many Americans travel by car. Once travelers have parked their vehicles for the duration of their stay, they will be more than happy to see, New York on foot.

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