The Plaza Rating: 5.0 Pearls
The century-old, 282-room Plaza is a New York landmark. A $400 million overhaul in 2008 gave the huge rooms gold-plated bathroom fixtures, but it also converted most rooms overlooking Central Park into privately owned residences. Still, the beautifully restored Oak Room, exceptional spa, and 24-hour butler service make it worth the splurge.
Ace Hotel NY Rating: 3.5 Pearls
A hip hotel in an unhip neighborhood. The meticulously curated, vintage-inspired design will be a turn-off for some -- the Ace doesn't aspire to most conventional notions of luxury -- but the property is as cool, comfortable, and inviting in its own way as any fancy downtown hipster boutique. Rooms are a bit small, and in some cases dark. But service is solid and the rates very fair.
The Standard High Line Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Hovering above the High Line on concrete pillars, this one-of-a-kind Meatpacking District hotel offers 337 light-flooded, ultra-mod rooms with panoramic views of the city; one restaurant, several popular bars; and excellent service. It might just be the hippest hotel in New York City.
Gramercy Park Hotel Rating: 5.0 Pearls
The Gramercy Park Hotel currently sets the bar for New York cool -- hence the celebrities in the lounge and the paparazzi on the sidewalk. It offers ultra-luxe but small rooms done up in high Boho-chic style, a gorgeous gym, and a young, attentive staff. True, even guests sometimes feel excluded from the glamour-fest in the bar. But the place is utterly unique.
The Greenwich Hotel Rating: 5.0 Pearls
This virtually flawless 88-room TriBeCa newcomer (opened in 2008 by Robert de Niro, among others) offers large, homey rooms, breathtaking design, and very attentive service. Even better: free Wi-Fi; free minibar snacks; and free Wii video games by request. Better still: an underground pool; Shibui Spa; premier gym; and the new Locanda Verde restaurant.
The Lucerne Rating: 3.5 Pearls
Far from the Times Square crowds, on the relaxed, upscale Upper West Side, the 250-room Lucerne offers small but classically styled, comfortable rooms (all renovated in April 2009), prompt, dedicated service, and proximity to great kid-friendly attractions like the Museum of Natural History and Central Park.
The St. Regis New York Rating: 5.0 Pearls
The extraordinary service at the grand, century-old 229-room St. Regis is rivaled only by the Plaza. It lacks the pool, amazing spa, and Central Park views of the Mandarin Oriental, but a famed Bloody Mary at the King Cole Bar and a dinner at Alain Ducasse's Adour more than compensates.