Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
It's an old standby, but the 686-room Intercontinental could use a little more oomph to compete with icons like the Waldorf Astoria, just across the street.
Designed by New York Central Railroad in the early 1920s, the InterContinental Barclay is in many ways a classic American-style hotel (though its parent company, IHC, hails from across the pond). At 686 rooms, this 14-story Indiana gray limestone and granite building has played host to President Reagan, Nelson Mandela, Bette Davis, Marlon Brando, and Ernest Hemingway.
The lobby decor may be inspired by the American Colonial and early Federal pieces that once furnished George Washington's Mount Vernon home, but what's most glaring is how fundamentally uninteresting this hotel is. Nestled among close to a dozen high-to-midrange properties along Lexington and Park Avenues, the InterContinental Barclay seems almost painfully aware of its futile attempt to compete with higher reputation properties like the iconic Waldorf Astoria nearby or the swanky W New York just across the street. Certainly, the hotel is not as generic and mass markety as, say, the midtown Marriot or the Hilton, but guests staying at the Barclay shouldn't go looking for something like Cole Porter's piano here -- you'll have to sneak across the street to the Waldorf Astoria to see that. More discerning guests are also likely to be a little underwhelmed by the overpriced and boring restaurant and guest rooms.
New York City's Old Money may have once frittered away the late night hours in the hotel's dark bar, but today, it's difficult to label the guest the hotel attracts. During my visit on a Wednesday in June, the Barclay was overflowing with all types of people. Business travelers idled on one of the colorful brocade couches. Children hung onto their parents' legs, eager to start exploring the Big Apple. Baseball fans printed out their tickets for the Mets game at the hotel's business center.
Tucked among more iconic properties in Midtown East, just six blocks from Grand Central, convenient to several major subway lines, and at the center of many points of tourism including Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, and the MOMA.
The InterContinental Barclay is located in Midtown East, a neighborhood that has long been a favorite for visitors who come to the city for both work and play. Though the immediate blocks surrounding the hotel feel like a "hotel district," business travelers love the area because it is convenient to the offices of nearly every Fortune 500 company, and is just six blocks from Grand Central, which services all East Side subway lines.
Leisure guests enjoy the central location of the hotel, which is convenient to popular tourist destinations, including Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, and the MOMA -- all are within a two-to-six block radius. Other areas of interest nearby include Central Park, an 843-acre haven for the urban outdoorsman just 20 blocks north of the hotel. The hotel has hosted several high-profile guests in town to visit to the U.N., which is just five blocks away.
The Theater District and the lights and crowds of Times Square are just a 10-to-15 minute walk to the west.
The hotel is also convenient to Lexington Avenue shopping, which includes favorites like Bloomingdales, as well as the more upscale shops of Madison and Fifth avenues like Chanel, Prada, and Dolce & Gabbana, and high-end department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Barney's.
The hotels is just two to six blocks away from nearly every east side subway line, and it's easy to head west, via the 42nd Street subway shuttle. Taxis are never a problem, since the immediate area is chock-full of hotels with guests eager for a lift, and a friendly and efficient doorman outside the Barclay happily does the hailing.
Most of the midtown neighborhood is considerably less empty in the evenings and late at night. Still, because there are so many higher end hotels in the immediate area -- with doormen loitering out front -- safety shouldn't be a huge concern for guests.
Rooms start at about 250 square feet -- a touch larger than average for a New York City hotel, especially for a mid-range one -- but there is not a huge difference between the standard room and the next step up, the Deluxe Room, which is only about another 25 square feet. In-room amenities, however, remain the same across the board. Suites come in two different styles: The Executive -- which features a separate bedroom -- and the Junior Suites, which has one large room with a spacious seating area and a king bed.
This hotel may be a little too grown-up for visitors with kids, but the restaurant does have a kids' menu and families are certainly welcome here.
Hotel staff are consistently friendly to families that bring along the little ones, and the Midtown East location is good, though not great, for a family trip -- close to Rockefeller Center, which offers ice skating in the winter, and Central Park is about 20 blocks away. The world-famous toy store FAO Schwartz, is about 12 blocks away.
This central, 686-room Midtown East hotel has a decent 24-hour fitness center that includes saunas and steam rooms, and a full 24-hour business center. But guest rooms have old tube TVs and the hotel's features don't compare to the similarly priced Waldorf Astoria hotel just across the street.