Category Archives: Hotels

A Staycation at the Embassy Suites by Hilton New York – Midtown Manhattan

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Last month, I was invited as a media guest to have a staycation in Midtown Manhattan, at the recently opened Embassy Suites by Hilton New York – Midtown Manhattan. For about four days, I stayed at the property and joined their staff and other media pros for some sightseeing during the day and excursions at night.

Staying in Midtown Manhattan

Most visitors and locals to New York City probably think of Midtown Manhattan as mainly a district for getting to and from Grand Central Terminal or even Penn Station. Or that it is the area for reaching attractions such as the New York Public Library, Times Square, Bryant Park, Empire State Building, and Macy’s. However, take note: there are hotspots where commuters unwind after a hard day’s work or head for lunch or dinner that offer another taste of what’s around here.

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The view from my room at Embassy Suites by Hilton New York – Midtown Manhattan.

Now back to the hotel. Based at East 37th Street and Sixth Avenue (or the Avenue of the Americas),The Embassy Suites by Hilton New York – Midtown Manhattan is based in the Garment District, a section of Midtown. It’s within a hearty walking distance or a quick ride share to other venues.

This 39-story hotel has amenities for starting off your day and even for lingering around.

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Near reception, unwind with a cocktail at “The Heist.”

In total, it has 310 studio suites and king rooms; mine reminded of staying in a common NYC apartment. Beginning on the 22ndfloor, city view rooms face north and south; there are also Sky Studio suites with private terraces. My room had a nice window facing view of the Empire State building, with a nice king-sized bed and a divider between my bed and a couch. There was also a seated desk, a micro/fridge combo, coffee maker and a good size bathroom with shower. The room décor is a nod to the nearby Fashion District with a stylish wall print.

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Come warmer weather, The Skylawn Bar & Social Space will be buzzing.

Away from my room, the lobby has a centerpiece resembling a light cascading waterfall. To the side, there’s a private lounge space called “The Jewel Box” because of its velvety plush seating area. Near the reception desk, “The Heist” serves up cocktails inspired by famous jewelry heists within its lobby bar space; its restaurant serves Italian cuisine. The cocktail menu was handcrafted by Allen Katz, a leading distilled spirit expert.

While the lounge area is more of an intimate space, The Skylawn Bar & Social Space is the place to be during warm weather. It’s an outdoor deck oasis, neighboring brick buildings and being spacious with chairs and greenery. It’s connected to an interior walkthrough which makes you feel like you’ve set foot in a Brooklyn bar, with a selection of New York produced beers and spirits.

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Get your morning fuel from the Embassy Lounge, with a complimentary breakfast.

Embassy Suites by Hilton New York – Midtown Manhattan also holds a fitness center and fourth-floor lounge space with a daily reception for complimentary drinks and small bites. The Embassy Lounge serves complimentary breakfast with buffet setups and a made-to-order eggs station. It overall can get a bit crowded during busy times — it’s best to use the touch-screen to order and avoid long lines — but the spread is good.

As for what to do in Midtown Manhattan, here are some suggestions:

National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey

Within Times Square, this visually impressive exhibit immerses visitors into deep waters throughout the globe with amazing technology such as a friendly encounter with a virtual sea lion. See their website for tickets and schedules. (226 W 44th St.)

Keens Steakhouse

In business since 1885, this classic New York chophouse keeps this NYC culinary heritage alive and well. Note the wooden pipes atop the ceiling and see famous pipe holders in a display case at the front door. (72 W 36th St.)

THE RIDE NYC

Hop onboard a coach bus with a skylight ceiling to listen to two guides throw down some NYC trivia and witty banter while passing by the Chrysler Building, Times Square and other sights. (42nd Street and 8th Avenue)

Empellón

At this trendy Mexican restaurant, dine on fanciful yet filling dishes and creative margaritas; start off with the guacamole with seven salsas and begin spicy from the left or mild from the right. (510 Madison Ave.)

The Rag Trader and Bo Peep Cocktail & Highball Store

The street-level The Rag Trader is a restaurant/piano cocktail bar with various small and large plate servings, while the subterranean Bo Peep Cocktail & Highball Store is reminiscent of a 1920s cocktail lounge; its name comes from once being the location for a manufacturing company. (70 West 36th St.)

The Campbell

In Grand Central Terminal, this old-fashioned, ornate cocktail bar re-invigorates the longtime Campbell Apartment bar with a swank setting in honor this one-time apartment of financier John Campbell. (15 Vanderbilt Ave.)

Editor’s note: I was a guest of the Embassy Suites by Hilton New York – Midtown Manhattan, but this piece is solely based upon my opinion and experience.

See How Your Hotel Soap Can Help Someone Else

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From the e-mail bag: Recently, Delta Hotels by Marriott announced a new amenity partnership with Soapbox Soaps, a bath product company that promotes a buy-one-give-one business model around the world.

According to a media release, Delta Hotels and Soapbox will provide an estimated 1.4 million bars of soap to communities in need across the globe this year. As part of their business relationship, each amenity kit will include a unique “Hope Code.” Delta Hotels guests can enter the Hope Code found on their individual in-room amenities on Soapbox’s website, to see where that particular kit’s contribution will be allocated.

I’ve also been told that this amenity partnership will give customers another opportunity to see how it apparently will work. Marriott Rewards, the points program for Marriott, will be offering a cause-related experience in India next November with Delta Hotels and Soapbox charitable partner, Sundara. One Marriott Rewards member and a guest will be selected to see how Delta and Soapbox’s contributions will aid in Mumbai’s neighboring villages. They will be said to witness the launching of hygiene stations and facilitating soap recycling demonstrations. More information can be found here.

Granted, most travelers I know often bring unwrapped bars home and donate a collection of them to charities or directly to those who could use them most. If nothing else, we could always keep this practice going while staying at a Delta hotel.

 

 

TWA Flight Center to Become a Hotel

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TWA Hotel Rendering (photo courtesy of MCR Development)

Do you remember TWA? Maybe you or someone you know has flown on this legendary airline. Either way, you’ll have the chance to connect with its legacy through its former terminal at JFK. Known as the TWA Flight Center, this landmark building is becoming a boutique hotel while also being restored to its grand splendor, set to finish construction in 2018.

This past week, I attended a media reception to announce design plans for this project. It was held at the One World Trade Center, which also ties into this news.

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Inside the TWA Flight Center / photo by Max Touhey

The event was held at the newly unveiled TWA lounge at 1WTC, a retro-themed sales office located on the 86th floor of the One World Trade Center.

A symbol of the Jet Age, the TWA Flight Center opened at Idlewild Airport – the original name for JFK Airport – in 1962. It was designed by architect Eero Saarinen, who is also noted for creations including the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the CBS (Black Rock) Building in New York City, and Dulles International Airport.

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Reception desk at TWA lounge at 1WTC / photo by Emily Gilbert

At the media reception, Tyler Morse, CEO of MCR Development, unveiled how this grand terminal for the former Trans World Airlines will become a 505-room hotel while also being reinstated to its original splendor.

“We’re bringing her back to life,” said Morse, whose New York-base hotel investment firm is responsible for this redevelopment project.

The year 1962 will also serve as the inspiration for the upcoming TWA Hotel, when all interior features of the original property will be restored to their heyday appearance such as its revered Ambassadors Club.

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The TWA lounge at 1WTC / photo by Jesse David Harris

An onsite museum will hold memorabilia relating to Trans World Airlines along with various objects connected to historic milestones in 1962.

The former terminal’s new structures housing the just over 500 rooms will actually be set back on either side of the terminal. Other additions include a 10,000-square-foot observation deck with runway views, six bars and eight restaurants, and 50,000-square-feet event space center. The hotel will be accessible via JFK’s AirTrain and the Saarinen passenger tubes connecting directly to JetBlue’s Terminal 5.

Closed to the public in 2001, and threatened with the possibility of demolition, the TWA Flight Center was designated as a NYC Landmark in 1994 and added to the National Register of Historical Places in 2005.

As for the TWA lounge at 1WTC, this sales center will have distance views of the 12-mile away JFK Airport, and look like as a timepiece with Saarinen’s noted white concrete and red chili pepper carpeting plus a front desk modeled after a TWA ticket counter. The location will be open to the general public by appointment only.

Al Hirschfeld Exhibit at The Algonquin Hotel

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News from the e-mail bag: If you know who caricaturist Al Hirschfeld is, or not, make it a point to visit The Algonquin Hotel in New York City this summer. From now through August 8, this grand hotel is exhibiting Hirschfeld’s black-and-white caricatures of celebrities and Broadway stars within its Lobby Lounge.

 

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“Guys and Dolls, 1950” / © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation

 

Unveiled in late May, in timing with the 2017 Tony Awards, “The Algonquin Hotel Celebrates The Tonys As Seen By Hirschfeld” displays 23 of Hirschfeld’s drawings atop the lounge’s oak paneling.

 

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 “Algonquin Round Table,” 1962 / © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation

 

The late Hirschfeld, who passed away in 2003, has his ties to The Algonquin. He frequently came to the hotel’s legendary Algonquin Round Table, where NYC artists, writers, and critics hung out at lunch as a group known as “The Vicious Circle.” Hirschfeld knew and worked with many of its members. Hirschfeld also sketched the circle’s famous group portrait, including member/writer Dorothy Parker, in 1962.

 

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The Phantom of the Opera, 1988 /  © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation

 

Also, while seeing The Algonquin Hotel, ask about “Mathilda,” its resident cat. The Algonquin Hotel is located on West 44 Street along the Avenue of the Americas (or Sixth Avenue). It’s also near Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Call, so you can see a lot of places in one day. Better yet, get a drink from the hotel’s Lobby Bar or eat in at the Round Table Restaurant.

Warwick Hotels and Resorts Unveils ‘Warwick Journeys’

 

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Warwick Hotels and Resorts unveiled “Warwick Journeys” at their NYC location.

 

Recently, Warwick Hotels and Resorts unveiled “Warwick Journeys,” a guest recognition program with a twist. Instead of giving points, the loyalty program will reward frequent guests with personalized benefits, starting with its hotel properties within North America and Europe.

Available for immediate enrollment, “Warwick Journeys” not only gives credit for every completed stay within the program but also features what’s called a cross-stay accelerator benefit. This benefit works by allowing Warwick Journeys members to progress through benefit tiers quicker by staying at multiple Warwick locations rather than just a single one.

 

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Outdoor patio area of a Warwick New York suite, once used by Cary Grant

 

Here’s how it happens. With enrollment, introductory members will receive complimentary Wi-Fi during their first stay and can book Warwick Journeys exclusive member offers. Purple level members will have completed two to three visits at a participating property and receive perks such as continued free Wi-Fi access.

Warwick New York was once a residential building owned by William Randolph Hearst, which he built for his associates and, in particular, his mistress Marion Davies.

Upon completing a stay at two separate Warwick hotels or between four to 15 stays at one property, gold status members get additional bonuses such as guaranteed availability with 72-hour advance notice of arrival, when booking the member-exclusive rate, and a late checkout at 4 p.m. Then, upon completing a stay at four different participating hotels or 16 plus nights at one property, black-level members will get both gold-level amenities and additional bonuses, including guaranteed availability within 24-hour advance notice.

The unveiling of the program took place at Warwick New York, a property with a special history. Publishing giant William Randolph Hearst had the building built in 1926 as a residential tower to accommodate his friends in Hollywood as well as for his long-time companion, Marion Davies. She had her own specially-designed floor in the building. Other noted occupants include actress Jane Russell and actor Cary Grant.

Sleeping Overnight in Hôtel de Glace

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My winter hotel for one night

As I wiggled myself into my thermal sleeping bag, I hunkered down for the challenge of sleeping the entire night in a pretty cool accommodation – an ice hotel.

Located in Canada’s province of Quebec, Hôtel de Glace is what its name implies. During a recent work trip to Quebec City, part of my itinerary included a booked stay at this unique accommodation and tourist attraction.

Built anew every December, this winter lodging is primarily made from snow – 30,000 tons worth – that is continuously churned by snow blowers to harden and build the hotel’s foundation. Ice is also involved in the building process. Blocks are partly used in the construction, but also get turned into furniture and become stands for the hotel’s bar area.

 

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The hotel is usually open from January through March.

 

Hôtel de Glace opens for business after the New Year in January and stays in operation until March (in 2017, it is scheduled to shut down on March 26). While it debuted in 2001, Hôtel de Glace has been on the grounds of Village Vacances Valcartier, a resort/spa about 20 minutes from Quebec City, since 2016.

My reservation for Hôtel de Glace included the booking of a same night hotel room at Village Vacances Valcartier, where guests can keep their luggage and retreat to before and after their stay.

 

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Trek up and go down this icy slide.

 

Taking a Tour

Visitors who might shiver over the thought of sleeping in an ice hotel can opt to take a scheduled tour of the property instead. Tours offer peeks into different types of rooms and suites. They include a stop at the hotel’s lounge/bar area, with the opportunity to order a specialty cocktail served in a glass made from ice. The grounds also include the chapel, with furry seat coverings on benches and where weddings take place, and a side building displaying various ice sculptures.

 

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2017’s version of this ice hotel carries a Nordic theme.

 

With the 2017 version of Hôtel de Glace, the main building holds 44 various rooms and suites, bar/lounge, and a play area with a slide. Each sleeping accommodation is graced with wall carvings depicting various winter themes or creatures. Furnishings are mostly a bed with a mattress with an icebox base and a nightstand. Plus, the bedframe has a light switch, where can be turned on and off when needed.

 

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My sleeping sack

 

A Sleeping Lesson

Overnight guests of the Hôtel de Glace attend a mandatory sleep session, in which a hotel employee advises you on how to prepare for bedtime. For PJs, you’re told not to wear any cotton-based clothing (as it soaks up moisture) but put light ones made by synthetic materials. You don’t want to be over-layered either, as you will break into a night sweat; we’re told that we’ll be your own body heater. If you’re getting hot inside your sack, take off what’s excess. (Our guide suggested that you could sleep naked, as this helps body heat circulate more, but I decided not to go that far). And, yes, she reassured us that our sleeping bags are washed daily.

As for what else you’ll be sleeping in, your main gear will be a cocoon-like sleeping sack with a hoodie that you worm your way into and close up with a side zipper and strap. We’re also given a visual demo on getting into it, which seemed to prove that some wiggling would be involved.

We were also given a number of do’s and don’ts. Don’t: putting objects like jewelry (as I asked) or eyeglasses on your ice-made nightstand. You’ll find them frozen to the stand in the morning. Another don’t: taking our sleeping sack out of its waterproof holding bag before settling down for the night. If so, it will get crispy and cold.

 

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These drinks are served in ice glasses. I had the first one on the left.

 

Of course, another important issue was addressed: what we needed to do if we had to use the bathroom. Basically, you have to get out of our sack, quickly put on your boots and any needed outdoor gear to leave your room, and head to an outdoor area with heated and lighted porta potties (so go easy on drinking beforehand.) You keep your sack zipped up, too, to retain its heat. Your room door consists of a curtain and your morning wake-up call involves staffers giving you a shout (your last one comes at 8:30 a.m., so be out at least before 9 a.m. or you might wake up to find a tour group staring at you.)

Our stay also included access to an outdoor hot tub and sauna area, where guests can properly warm up and dry off before going to bed. But then I envisioned a mad dash in my provided robe to escape the reminding cold air and decided to pass on it.

 

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My sleeping quarters

 

Going to Bed
Overnight guests at Hôtel de Glace are let into their rooms at 9 p.m. My game plan for the night was to first go for a cocktail at one of the three bar sections and then run back to my room at Village Vacances Valcartier to get dressed and use the toilet one last time. I also wanted to secure my white-colored room key inside my pocket.

Apparently, there is no curfew inside Hotel de Glace, so if need to, guests can opt to go back inside the Village Vacances Valcartier’s hotel area. Particularly if they decide that they want to sleep back there instead. I wasn’t sure if I think I would stay the entire night in my iced room, but I figured I’d see how I felt – and how cold I would feel.

 

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The door to my room

 

Room 41 was mine. It was cozy in size, reminding me of a studio apartment. I found my bed to be reasonably firm and the light switch readily accessible. I pulled out my sleep sack and put my boots inside its holding bag to keep them from freezing. While trying to fully remember my given instructions, I wormed my way into the sack.

I tugged up the zipper and crunched myself down inside, while wearing my probably well-approved long johns and knit socks, along with gloves, snow pants, hat, and ski jacket (I tend to err on the side of caution). For peace of mind, I kept one hand warmer inside one glove and another in a lined pocket. I pulled over my sleep sack hoodie and after a bit of maneuvering to get comfortable and removing a slightly sweaty hat, I slept. I woke up a bit during the night but rolled back into a steady slumber.

Startled awake by my wakeup call, I unzipped myself out, got dressed, left my sack on the bed, and headed out. Going back to my hotel room at Village Vacances Valcartier, I rewarded myself with a warm shower, put on a change of clothes, and headed down for breakfast inside the restaurant area. I don’t know if I would do a return stay, but it’s interesting to check off a stay at a place like Hôtel de Glace off my bucket list.

Delta and Palace Resorts Offer Bostonians a ‘Survive the Winter’ Giveaway

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Hey Bostonians, here’s another reason to celebrate. Delta and Palace Resorts have partnered to offer Bostonians the chance to “Survive the Winter” by entering to win a five-night stay at the all-inclusive Moon Palace Jamaica Grande and two VIP tickets to see the rock band Survivor perform at the resort on February 25, 2017.

Bostonians can enter to win on the resort’s Facebook page, which includes roundtrip airfare, free transfers and a $500 credit for two additional winners, courtesy of Delta. Enter by Friday, February 17.

This new route is part of Delta’s larger efforts to enhance Boston service including expanding its domestic and international destinations, as well as offering first class on every flight. In summer 2017, the airline will operate over 90 peak day departures from Boston, with daily service to 21 different cities and Saturday-only service to five cities.