Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Modern luxury in a grand old (but up-to-date) property on Central Park, the Essex House attracts celebrities and plenty of repeat guests.
The classic New York luxury of the Essex House evokes a more glamorous time, when men wore hats and women wore gloves. That timeless charm is enhanced by close proximity to the world-class shopping on Fifth Avenue, the world-class museums, and the world-class urban-pastoral playground that is Central Park.
The 515-room Essex House was purchased by the Dubai-based Jumeirah Group in 2006 and went through a top-to-bottom redo that modernized the hotel but also played up its Art Deco history. The lobby, with its magnificently elaborate floral arrangements and marble columns, is grand, but still has some cozy nooks to hang out in.
In those nooks, you're likely to see a mix of business travelers and vacationing families. And the demographic seems to skew older; younger couples tend to stay closer to the downtown nightlife scene. The Essex House is more expensive than the less iconic, less well-located Benjamin, but it offers a similar level of luxury and also features an in-house spa. The Trump is right down the street and costs about the same; guests there get slightly bigger rooms and even more exacting service but none of the Old New York ambience.
The property will undergo a $20 million touch-up thoughout 2013.
Angelina Jolie (reported); Reggie Jackson (confirmed).
This is one of New York's go-to luxury hotels for notable names. Sheryl Crow has been photographed walking out of the golden doors, and Angelina Jolie is rumored to own a penthouse in the Essex House.
Thanks to the nearby Lincoln Center, many celebs make appearance in or around the hotel. In the South Gate bar I saw former slugger Reggie Jackson and Mike Shanahan, coach of the NFL's Denver Broncos. Mitt Romney ran by on the street outside. And on the third floor, celebrity political pollster Mark Penn was waiting by the elevator.
The Essex House is located just across the street from, and on the southern edge of, New York's magnificent Central Park. The heavily touristed crosstown street it sits on, Central Park South, is a mix of high-rise hotels and tony apartment buildings. Retail is sparse on these park blocks, so there's very little indigenous street life; virtually everyone you'll see there will have a camera hanging around their neck. A row of idling horse-drawn carriages usually sits on the park side, their drivers trying to lure tourists into a pricey lap around the park.
Just a block west is Columbus Circle, dominated by the enormous Time Warner Center.
Visitors will feel safe walking around the Essex House at night, but common sense dictates they should generally avoid going deep into Central Park after dark.
30 to 90 minutes from three area airports.
Getting into town from JFK or LaGuardia is usually more convenient than 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 conventional 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. (More information on the shuttles can be found here and here.) 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.
Rooms are decorated in soft, understated tans and browns -- a smart way to make the relatively small space feel bigger. At about 300 square feet, they're by no means the smallest luxury hotel rooms in New York, and the efficient arrangement of furniture aids the cause.
The fitness center is one of the best you'll find in any New York hotel. There are plenty of cardio machines (some with TVs attached), weight-training equipment, and a separate yoga/stretching room. The blond wood floor and windows give the fitness center an airy feel and personal training, and yoga instructors are available upon request.
A full-service spa is attached to the fitness center, a rarity in New York. Locker rooms are plush, with relaxation areas, saunas, and steam rooms. The facility hours are limited, but the fitness center is open 24 hours a day. Guests looking for a hotel with a spa can also consider checking out the Benjamin.
Wi-Fi is available for a fee.
You won't get a rollaway into one of the standard rooms, but the Essex House is perfectly located to take advantage of New York's most kid-friendly attractions.
Forget about cramming a rollaway into one of the standard rooms, but cribs are available and will probably fit. The hotel also has numerous multi-room suites. Like most New York hotels, this one will arrange babysitters though a third-party agency. Guests do praise the family-friendly staff.
But the real attraction for families lies outside the hotel doors. Central Park, right across the street, offers countless playgrounds, a sizable zoo, climbing rocks, paddle boats, a carousel, a puppet theater ... in short, in decent weather, more fun stuff for kids than you're likely to have time for on a single vacation. The awesome Museum of Natural History -- think dinosaurs and dioramas -- is also walking distance on a nice day or a quick taxi ride up Central Park West. And how can you pass up a visit to FAO Schwartz?
Perfectly clean in every way.
Modern American restaurant with a cool atmosphere on-site -- but this is New York, so there are plenty of other options nearby.
The South Gate restaurant is off the lobby. Chef Kerry Heffernan, brought in after the hotel's 2007 redo, receives high critical praise.
The South Gate's bar, The Tavern, offers a decent range of classic and specialty cocktails, and its floor-to-ceiling windows and comfortable leather seats make it a supreme vantage point for watching the stream of shoppers, joggers, camera-toting tourists, and carriages on Central Park South.
The Essex House also has room service.
For inexpensive casual meals, guests can always walk two blocks west to the Whole Foods at Columbus Circle. Throughout the area, casual and fine dining options abound.
This large, luxurious Art Deco icon, located on the southern edge of Central Park, evokes the opulence of bygone times. A 2007 resdesign put modern technological amenities in the rooms, and the Essex House is moving comfortably into the future.