Travel Tips

Manhattan Shopping Guide & Amtrak’s Acela Express

Locations in this article:  Madison, WI New York City, NY Paris, France

Manhattan, New York Shopping Guide & Amtrak's Acela ExpressWhile zipping along on the Acela Express, shopping enthusiast Sarah Lahey takes on Manhattan to explore the city’s newest shops—including the latest in men’s fashion—and dishes on which hotels are offering great bang for their buck.

Dear Peter,

Please forgive the typos as I write to you from my hot spot on the Acela Express train, as I just left New York’s Penn Station and will send this via Amtrak’s new AmtrakConnect Wi-Fi service.

In March, Amtrak launched wireless Internet service on all 20 of its high-speed Acela Express trains for routes between Boston,  New York and Washington, D.C.

I found easy-to-follow instructions on a flier in the seatback pocket et voila, I was online in seconds! Connections are fast and the service is FREE for all passengers. For now, anyway. The only problem is typing as I bounce along at 150 mph!


If you think a train car is small, you should see the rooms at the Affinia Shelburne hotel– my room was large as the train station. Like most travelers and serious shoppers, among my biggest pet peeves are the itty bitty rooms I’m given in affordable hotels. Seriously, I love saving money, but where am I supposed to stash all those shopping bags? Well, space was not a problem at the newly revamped Shelburne, located on Lexington Avenue at 37th in Murray Hill.

Affinia ShelburneThis former apartment building just emerged from a two-year $25 million renovation with 323 brand-new spacious guest rooms and suites, all of which have flat-screens, sleek kitchenettes or minibars and spa-like bathrooms. Custom comfort  packages are complimentary and include a Dream Pillow menu (I ordered the softie with built-in speakers and iPod cord), an emergency beauty kit with mascara, lip gloss, nail polish, etc., and my fave, the “Shopper’s Survival,” a Bloomingdale’s tote bag loaded with a $50 gift card, 15 percent savings pass and Lancome makeover coupon.

Here’s the best part, the real deal, the bottom line: All of this luxe is easy on the wallet … Most rooms and suites are less than $300! Note: I found the best prices on Expedia, though I’m sure you’ll recommend calling the hotel directly, Peter. It’s a quick walk from The Shelburne to Grand Central Station, or the number 6 train at 33rd Street.

Get more with our Ask the Locals Travel Guide: Midtown Manhattan.

Shop of “Handbag King” Jerome DreyfussHIS ‘N HERS FRENCH IMPORTS

My favorite Parisian handbag king, Jerome Dreyfuss, just launched his first U.S. boutique at the corner of Broome and Greene in SoHo, right next door to his wife’s (Isabel Marant) shop, slated to open in May.

Dreyfuss’ buttery soft, slouchy leather bags are both chic and casual, and the New York prices are comparable to those at his Left Bank boutique in Paris.

The SoHo shop will carry only one collection at a time—right now, it’s filled with lambskin and python styles in bright spring colors. It was impossible to choose between the buttercup yellow and the bright cherry red. (OK, loved the soft coral, too.)

Priced between $600 and $1,000, the bags are bargains compared to most designer purses.

Find more great experiences in our Shopping & Travel section.

Second shot of Jerome Dreyfuss’ shopThe Isabel Marant label, an indie favorite among fashionistas and magazine editors, is known for minimalist, bohemian style: casual dresses, loose-fitting knits, slouchy trousers, tailored jackets, and lush scarves. Her clothes are a bit daring, yet still wearable.


Two more high-profile designers are scheduled to open new stores in SoHo: Diane Von Furstenberg at 135 Wooster Street in July, and Ralph Lauren at 109 Prince Street later this fall.


I checked out Hermès’ new store for men only on Madison Avenue at 62nd Street. The cozy townhouse-style space has wood-paneled walls and ceilings and spans four floors of testosterone friendly shopping. The entire Hermes men’s line of clothing, shoes, accessories and luggage is easily accessible for even the most shopophobic guys.

For more great shopping in the area, don’t miss Sarah’s partner-in-shopping with Suzy Gershman’s Postcard from Manhattan: New Stores, New Scams.

Further up Madison, at 72nd Street, Ralph Lauren is in the process of transforming the iconic Rhinelander Mansion into a men’s only flagship; his labels for women and home will be housed in a new Rhinelander clone across the street. Not to be outdone, Coach will open a men’s store on Bleecker Street (next door to the women’s shop) in May.

Lisa Perry storeMORE ON MADISON

Newcomer Lisa Perry on Madison, at 76th has brought youthful energy to the somewhat tony and staid Madison Avenue shopping scene. I love her bright quirky designs for women, children and home. There’s clothing, accessories, furniture and larger-than-life pop art, all bursting with primary colors and a dash of whimsy! Check out the lightweight vinyl carry-on duffel bags.


There’s only a handful of NYC hotels that truly fall into the luxury category. You know what I’m talking about: A doorman ushers you into an intimate designer perfect  lobby, you stand a little taller and feel like a million bucks. The staff greets you by name and makes you feel welcome and comfortable. And this all takes place before you even check in.

The Mark Hotel, Manhattan, New YorkThe Mark Hotel, at the corner of Madison and 77th, has always been that kinda place but now, after a complete $150 million makeover by French design guru Jacques Grange, it’s Madison Avenue’s brightest star!

My room was a standard king, but the subtle luxuries made me feel like I was living in a palace. A bedside remote controlled every aspect of comfort, from room temp to window shades to flat screen and DVD, and my top to bottom marble bath was bigger than most NYC studio apartments.

Within the hotel, Frederic Fekkai holds court in his full-service beauty salon and Jean Georges just launched an elegant restaurant off the lobby, serving both simple and eclectic plates at breakfast, lunch and dinner. His prices are surprisingly reasonable, with most entrees costing less than $30. My simple room service breakfast of bagel and coffee was $10 including service.

With Big Apple hugs,

By Sarah Lahey for Sarah Lahey is the editorial director of Frommers’ Born to Shop series. Keep up with Sarah’s travels with her partner in crime, Suzy Gershman, on the Web at

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