Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
2,000 rooms, 45 floors, and hundreds of major conferences and conventions every year -- all in the rapidly beating heart of corporate Midtown.
With 1,980 rooms, the Hilton is the largest hotel in New York City (just edging out the Marriott Marquis and its 1,950 rooms). What that means, as you can probably imagine, is a basketful of double-edged swords: impersonal but efficient service (I felt more "processed" than cared for); quiet rooms on high floors, serviced by slow elevators; an annoyingly bustling lobby but pleasantly bustling bar scene. In many ways, the Hilton is a microcosm of the city itself: vertical, crowded, diverse, and cash-driven.
As the host of hundreds of conferences and conventions every year (you can count on at least a few on any given day), the Hilton heavily relies on -- and caters to -- business travelers. A quarter of its guests are corporate groups; individual business travelers also represent a healthy proportion of the remaining 75 percent. Suits and pantsuits abound in the lobby and its bar, from early in the morning till late at night. All told, it's not the homiest atmosphere for a tourist.
Finally, a fun movie tidbit: On the second floor, outside the convention hall ballrooms, is the spot where George Clooney memorably confronted Tilda Swinton (who won the Oscar for her role) in the climactic scene of Michael Clayton.
Surrounded by high-rise office buildings, the Hilton sits just a dozen short blocks from one of the most tourist-packed intersections in the world: 42nd Street and Broadway, the heart of Times Square. Though it's technically within the Theater District, there is a corporate feel to the area. The extra-wide sidewalks in the area are tiled rather than paved, and the neighboring buildings feature open-air loggias conducive to smoking breaks and al fresco lunches. Street-food stands dot the sidewalks.
Not surprisingly, the neighborhood gets quieter at night than the touristy area just five minutes to the west. Still, safety shouldn't be much of an issue. The street is well lit, and plenty of corporate grinders catch cabs outside well into the night.
If you're visiting New York for fun, the Hilton is centrally located -- within 10 minutes of Midtown's most popular sites. The MOMA is right down the street; so is the Ed Sullivan Theater, home to Late Show with David Letterman. Carnegie Hall, Rockefeller Center, and most Broadway theaters are within five to 10 blocks. Central Park, five short blocks north, is equally accessible.
30 to 90 minutes from three airports.
New York City has three nearby airports: JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark (in New Jersey). 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 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.
Standard as could be until renovations are complete. They're a good size for NYC, and quiet, but that's about it. The decor is dull, the tech is low, the showers are mediocre, and the older rooms are showing their age. But they're all being renovated.
The hotel began renovating its rooms in 2010, but rooms that have not been renovated have seen better days. The hotel plans on finishing up with the remaining accommodations by mid-2013, but until then, guests will have to ask for renovated rooms or suites when booking.
Renovated rooms have modern decor updates -- a much-needed improvement from the drab earth tones of the previous design -- and flat-screen TVs.
The Hilton means business. As the host of hundreds of conferences and conventions a year, the hotel knows who butters its bread and has acted accordingly -- it boasts over 150,000 square feet of meeting space on the property. For more info on the hotel's group space, and on how to book it for meetings, conferences, or weddings, click here.
The highlight for non-business travelers (and let's face it, for many business travelers, too) will be the newly renovated 8,000-square-foot fitness center. The upside: dozens of beautiful new Precor machines of all kinds, plus several sets of free weights, personal trainers (available at additional cost), and personal TV screens for the cardio machines. The downside: they charge extra for all of it, which is rare in New York, and ridiculous if you ask me. It costs $15 per day, but you can get a discount if you're a Hilton Honors member. (As a "Blue" level member, I received five percent off, or 75 cents -- which was somehow more offensive than being charged in the first place.) The nickel-and-diming continues with the headsets for the cardio machines' TVs, which cost $3 (though the woman at the desk waived the charge for mine).
Wi-Fi is fast and reliable throughout the property, but it costs an additional daily fee.
There are no kid-specific features here, and the corporate atmosphere isn't ideal for visiting families, but there's certainly no reason not to bring the little ones. The area is safe and wholesome enough, and the kids won't lack for external stimuli.
Rollaway beds cost a nightly fee. For smaller children, cribs are available at no extra charge.
Home to the most rooms (almost 2,000) and conference space (150,000 square feet) of any hotel in the city, the Hilton is well equipped to handle the hundreds of conventions it hosts each year. But "well equipped" is not the same as "welcoming" -- its nickel-and-diming, dated standard rooms, and corporate vibe make for an impersonal, generic experience.