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New York, Cheap & Fancy

Carol Sottili

It was my mother's 85th birthday Friday, so we decided to meet in Manhattan for dinner, a play and an overnight stay.

When I started pricing out the one-night event, it was looking as if the night would cost more than $1,000, so I started looking for ways to save a buck, while still making sure she would have a night to remember.

First up was transportation. Amtrak's price for round-trip tickets on regular service was $196. I instead opted for the Bolt Bus, which was $15 each way (walk-up price is $25). The bus worked out great: Stop is about a block from Metro Center and it drops you off a block from Penn Station. Bus was on time, and the passengers were a neat bunch; mostly young professionals with laptops (the bus is equipped with WiFi).

(Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Then dinner. Many restaurants with good ratings in New York's theater district are very pricey: It's not unusual to pay $100 a head for dinner. I painstakingly looked through menus and read reviews, finally coming up with a nice Italian place (white tablecloths are a must for mom) named Osteria al Doge that was reasonably priced: Cost per person, including a glass of wine each and a shared dessert: $50.

Then theater tickets. Mom likes musicals. But a semi-decent seat ticket at a Broadway show goes for at least $100. I started looking off Broadway, and came up with The Marvelous Wonderettes, a frothy four-woman play being shown in the wonderfully intimate Westside Theatre. Cost was $75 a ticket.

The one item I wasn't willing to compromise on was the hotel. It needed to be within easy walking distance of the Theater District, and it had to nice. I chose the Doubletree Guest Suites: at $420 a night, including all taxes, it was competitively priced. And my mom absolutely loved its location right on Times Square, and the staff, which were genuinely thrilled to find it was her 85th birthday.

Yes, it was still an expensive night, but I managed to shave more than $300 off the cost by doing my homework and making a few concessions.

Anyone else have favorite restaurants, hotels or plays in New York's Theater District that don't cost top dollar?

By Carol Sottili |  November 18, 2008; 11:33 AM ET  | Category:  Budget Travel , Carol Sottili , Mid-Atlantic Destinations
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Great for theatre discounts, without the uncertainty of TKTS.

Posted by: oceanchild | November 18, 2008 12:47 PM

Me, I'll eat at the Stage anytime I can get a chance.

Otherwise, I just go to for big cities. For NYC, you can say you want to look at reviews for restaurants within walking distance of the theater district in a set price range. Then you can sift through and see what people say about the food and service.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | November 18, 2008 4:12 PM

For cheaper & very basic digs try the YMCA hotels.

Posted by: fatherbill00 | November 19, 2008 11:16 AM

Hotels -- always try Priceline. I've gotten Times Sq. area hotels for under $200.

Restaurant: Becco, on Restaurant Row W. 46th, almost at 9th Ave, owned by Lidia Bastianich & her son, Joseph, does a prix-fixe, all-you-can-eat pasta for $22.95 (including salad) and has a huge wine list of bottles priced at $25. Very hard to get into pre-theater, must reserve in advance, but after curtain it's really easy even w/o a reservation.

Posted by: mcnuss | November 19, 2008 1:18 PM for restaurants, for best hotel prices (unless you have the patience for Priceline - name your own price)and for finding hotels on the map, near whatever attraction interests you one click away from

Posted by: elliot123 | November 23, 2008 9:42 AM

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