I find myself in New York fairly frequently, often at times when hotel rates in Manhattan are cringingly expensive. Those are the times when I expand my hotel search and often find myself choosing a hotel in Newark, New Jersey, instead. It may not be as convenient as walking to everything from your hotel door, but the combination of easy public transportation and a lower room cost make it a reasonable trade-off.
For convenience in Newark, both to Newark Airport and for access into Manhattan my go-to hotel is the Hilton at Newark Penn Station.
The hotel has been going through renovations and updates, and most of the rooms are now complete with the new contemporary decor along with beds and furniture from the Hilton Serenity Collection. Workspace is big enough to spread out, there are lots of plug-ins, and the chair is ergonomic. I spend a lot of time at those desks and all of that matters. Wi-fi is complimentary, and that matters even more. There’s plenty of light, it’s a comfortable room, and even though it’s directly across from the train station – and I usually have a room facing the station – the noise isn’t all-encompassing. I rarely notice the routine traffic noise.
Bathrooms are a disappointment here, though, and despite the upgrade, the granite counters seem dated. The vanity is well light, the products are mid-range quality, but it just doesn’t have the same new feel as the rest of the rooms.
There is an Honors level floor, for loyalty guests, but the Executive Lounge went away earlier this year.
Customer service can sometimes be hit or miss, and I think it’s more of a east coast vs. west coast communication style than actual indifference.
The convenient location of the hotel is what makes it a draw for me. There is skybridge access from the hotel to Penn Station Newark, giving you access to trains taking you anywhere you want to go. New Jersey Transit (NJT) is about a 20-minute trip (currently priced at $5.25) into Penn Station New York, giving you access to the rest of the city. The PATH train lets you avoid the hectic activity of Penn Station NY and takes you directly to many locations around Manhattan, including the World Trade Center stop.
The hotel is also connected by skybridge to the Gateway Center business complex, making it a favorite with corporate travelers having business there. It’s also close to the Prudential Sports Center, home to the New Jersey Devils and also a popular concert/entertainment venue, and Red Bull Arena. If you’re more inclined to cultural events, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) is less than half a mile away.
There is a complimentary shuttle to and from the airport, running 6 am to midnight, based on availability. Upon arrival, take the Air Tran to station P4 and then call for the shuttle. Upon return to the airport, the shuttle drops you off at departures. Caution, however, during peak traffic times the usual 15-minute ride can easily become an hour of stop-and-go. If you arrive outside of the shuttle operating hours or are looking for an alternative, New Jersey Transit trains take less than 10 minutes from the airport to Penn Station Newark, then take the skybridge between the station and the hotel. The current charge is $8.50 one way.
If you don’t want to deal with shared transportation from the hotel or via train, a cab will run you around $20, an Uber slightly less, and a limo/car service around $30. The same caution regarding commute time and traffic applies. And if you have a car, self-parking at the hotel will run you $30/day. (During sporting events and concerts, parking availability is difficult.)
Market Street Bar and Grill is located on the lobby level and offers a respectable menu selection, albeit leaning toward the expensive side. The bar closes at midnight, so don’t plan on this for a post-game or theater nightcap as you’ll likely be arriving at last call.
You’ll find more casual food options in the skybridge area connects the hotel to the train station, and there are surprisingly good take-out options at the station itself (including Zaro’s, a family bakery now operated by the fourth generation). Just beyond the train station is the Ironbound District, an ethnic neighborhood with lots of other restaurant and bar choices. I suggest trying one of the Portuguese restaurants, the hotel can provide recommendations and help with reservations. I generally walk to the Ironbound during the daytime or in a group, a shared ride service will be around $7 most anywhere in the area.
The Hilton at Newark Penn Station is more business quality than luxury, but if you’re attending an event in the area, or want a more affordable choice than staying in Manhattan, it’s everything you need it to be.
The Hilton at Newark Penn Station is located at 1048 Raymond Boulevard, Newark, New Jersey, directly across the street from the train station. Rates start around $137/night, although expect to pay more on event dates. You can compare rates at Hotels.com.