Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Unassuming in every way, the Hotel Giraffe is extremely comfortable (if not quite luxurious), quiet, and relaxed. Service is warm, meticulous, and thougthful. Free breakfasts and wine-and-cheese hours add to the homey atmosphere.
The mysterious-sounding name might conjure images of a trendy, high-concept hotel with snooty service. In reality, this is an unassuming property in an unassuming neighborhood -- a place without pretension or attitude of any kind.
The neutral, newish furnishings (the hotel opened in 1999) and elevator music fade into the background while the approachable staff puts guests at ease. Each of the 12 floors has just seven units and the hallways are small, which makes the hotel feel cozy and intimate. In short, the hotel has struck a balance between exacting New York hospitality standards and a friendly, laid-back place where guests can feel at home.
The lobby is mostly empty except during the free wine-and-cheese hour each night. Though the doormen monitor traffic -- giving the hotel a sense of security and a small dose of exclusivity -- the atmosphere is strikingly sunny and relaxed compared to so many New York hotel lobbies. Families stop in the lobby for a glass of wine before heading out for dinner. When I was there, no one seemed bothered in the least as a pair of young children tinkered around on the Yamaha baby grand along with the paid professional twinkling out standards.
The hotel's proximity to midtown attracts mostly business travelers, but I saw a fair number of vacationing well-to-do families here as well.
Service here is friendly, even chatty, but also professional and efficient. According to the front-desk manager, each member of the hotel's executive team has worked his or her way up in the company, and you do get the impression of a strong management culture that values hard work and heart-felt dedication to service. The staff actually seems happy to be at work.
Certainly, my requests for room repairs, extra towels, and room service all received fast, proficient responses. When I arrived, one of my windows wouldn't close; within five minutes of calling the front desk, a maintenance worker was at my room to fix it. Turndown service was, as always, very welcome. And house cleaning left my room in pristine condition.
My one complaint is the lack of a dedicated concierge desk. The front desk clerks do their best to answer questions and requests, but they clearly didn't have an expert grasp of all the city has to offer. A question about good running spots nearby sparked a debate among them that lasted a few minutes. Eventually, a manager came to the front desk for something else and happened to know where to run in the area.
Located at 26th Street and Park Avenue South, the Hotel Giraffe is conveniently poised between midtown and all that downtown Manhattan has to offer. Scores of excellent restaurants are within walking distance, especially as you head south towards Greenwich Village.and
Cabs are easy to flag down on Park Avenue South at virtually any time of day or night. The #6 subway line, which runs up and down the east side of Manhattan, is easily accessed on Park Avenue South at both the 23rd and 28th Street stations; and the R and W line station at 23rd Street and 5th Avenue is less than five minutes away on foot.
About 30 to 90 minutes from three airports
New York City has three nearby airports: JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark (in New Jersey). Getting to town from JFK or LaGuardia is usually more convenient than getting there from Newark, but travel times are heavily dependent on the time of day and traffic conditions. From JFK, a taxi to anywhere in Manhattan costs a flat rate of $45 and takes around an hour in average conditions. From LaGuardia, a metered cab ride to Midtown Manhattan costs about $40 and can take 30 minutes if traffic is light, three times that if it's bad. Rides from Newark cost at least $40 plus tolls and can take more than 90 minutes. It's customary to tip your driver 15 to 25 percent.
Those looking to save some cash can use the privately run shuttle buses that are available at all three airports for about $14 per person. For more information on the shuttles, go to Super Shuttle or New York Airport Service. Public transit is also available for as little as $7 per person, but travel can take up to two hours and involve a lot of lugging bags up and down stairways.
For mass-transit directions right to the hotel, check out HopStop.com.
Like the hotel in general, Hotel Giraffe's 72 rooms are considerably better than functional, and comfortable in every way, yet you wouldn't really call them luxurious either. At 280 square feet, even the smallest rooms are a good size by New York standards. Simplicity and understatement reign in the design decisions. The furniture is clean and contemporary but slightly generic and even modular-looking. French doors opening onto a tiny veranda keep the rooms feeling light and airy. Plush beds with soft Egyptian cotton sheets, LG 27-inch flat-screen TVs with an extensive cable package, and iHome iPod docks provide state-of-the-art comfort and distraction. Double-paned windows keep bedrooms quiet and peaceful.
The minibar has the usual high-end (and pricey) collection of expensive snacks and drinks.
In-house amenities are minimal: Gym access and spa services are outsourced to local businesses. On the other hand, perks like a free wine-and-cheese hour in the evenings (Monday through Saturday), free continental breakfast, and access to a rooftop terrace are unusual for a New York hotel.
Free Wi-Fi and cable Internet are available throughout the hotel. (I was unable to connect to the Wi-Fi from my room, but the cable provided fast and reliable service.)
Guests get free continental breakfast in the lobby from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. The staff served coffee and toasted our (very good!) bagel. And free wine and cheese (plus veggies, cookies, and fruit) is served in the lobby from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. every day but Sunday.
Guests also have access to the hotel's 12th-floor rooftop terrace, a pleasant enough but unremarkable outdoor space filled with potted shrubs and wooden furniture. There is no bar or drinks service here.
The hotel's friendly, laid-back vibe is welcoming for families. Rooms are quiet, comfortable, and safe for kids.
There's nothing particularly kid-friendly here, but the friendly, laid-back vibe and quiet, spacious rooms make the Hotel Giraffe a fine choice for families. This isn't the kind of place where people shush or glare if your kids act like kids: during the wine-and-cheese hour, nobody made a fuss when a pair of young children ran up to the baby grand and gave the professional player some atonal accompaniment.
Though the hotel doesn't provide rollaway beds, cribs are provided free of charge, and suites have fold-out couches that are comfortable for kids.
Free breakfast and free wine-and-cheese hours in the lobby. Room service from on-site restaurant.
Free breakfast is available in the lobby each morning. Guests may also have breakfast brought to their room for a service charge (the meal itself is still free). The selection consisted of an assortment of cold cereals, Quaker instant oatmeal, fresh fruit salad, apples, and bananas.
Bread & Tulips is a small Italian restaurant on the hotel's main floor, serving mostly seasonal entrees. The resteaurant also provides the hotel's room service, which is available during the their lunch and dinner hours.
Conveniently located on Park Avenue South, Hotel Giraffe focuses on the basics and does them well. This very clean and comfortable hotel has great service, understated contemporary decor, and modern in-room amenities. Gym and spa facilities and food are off-site but easily accessible.