Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
When I visited the Renaissance New York Times Square Hotel, I saw a group of guests, obviously out-of-towners on business, stroll into the lounge bar. "Pretty cool," one said. And that about sums up the hotel.
The public spaces of the 305-room Renaissance feature striking capital-D Design that's clearly meant to impress visitors with its originality and funkiness. You might call it cartoon modern if you had to put a name on it. Many will agree that it's all "pretty cool," while others will say the hotel tries a bit too hard to achieve that effect. Either way, the environment -- with its drippy white light fixtures on the ceiling, sweeping lounge furniture in bold purples, strange leg-like columns, and blue-tinted mirror hallways -- offers a satisfying sense of being transported out of your ordinary (not to say mundane) daily existence. Only a curmudgeon would deny that this is a fun place to visit, even if you wouldn't want to live here.
Just outside the front door is another extraordinary but altogether different environment: the chaos of Times Square, with its gigantic flashing billboards, tourist-packed sidewalks, and street vendors. But because of the hotel's proximity to Midtown as well as Times Square, the clientele is a fairly even mix of business and leisure travelers.
While the rooms definitely show some style, they're not quite as funky as the lobby. They are comfortable, clean, and well-equipped, however. In all, among the best mid-priced rooms in Times Square.
Efficient but impersonal.
The hotel overall feels relatively intimate. However, the service is typical of what you get at most of the high-volume, mid-priced properties in this area: competent, reasonably efficient, but impersonal. The staff gets the job done, responds quickly to requests, but is unlikely ever to go above and beyond.
Guests are greeted by luggage porters when they walk in the first floor mini-lobby; check-in one flight up is smoothly handled; the two-floor check-in does a good job of keeping the lobby restricted largely to guests -- a smart thing near Times Square.
Special requests received quick responses. I called the front desk to ask for toothpaste, for instance, and it was delivered in less than 10 minutes.
In the center of bustling Times Square.
The hotel's address pretty much says it all: 2 Times Square. The Renaissance is right in the middle of everything. Throngs of tourists, flashing lights, honking cabs -- this is the heart of the city that never sleeps (happily, the hotel has sound-proof windows).
In the immediate vicinity are fast-food restaurants, electronics stores, and, of course, Broadway theaters. Shopping on Fifth Avenue is a five-minute walk to the east. Virtually every subway line in the city runs through Times Square. Automobile traffic is now prohibited from Times Square itself, but walk a block in any direction and it's easy to hail a cab at virtually any time of day or night.
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.
The rooms at Renaissance are more style-conscious than those at your typical Theater District mega-property, but not nearly as over-the-top as the lobby might suggest. They're clean and comfortable, but the best feature may be the thrilling views of lights and billboards of Times Square. My double queen room was on the west side of the building with a view of the giant stock-market ticker on the Morgan Stanley building. (Check your portfolio from bed!) Happily, thick curtains make it easy to block out the flashing lights at night; and sound-proofed windows do a decent job minimizing the noise.
The very comfortable beds have big thick pillow-top mattresses, basic (but not scratchy) hotel sheets, and heavy comforters.
A few elements of the room were disappointing. The desk chair was broken. Some of the wood on the desk was chipped. And the picture on the television was poor. (What's the point of a huge flat-screen TV if it gets only 20 or so fuzzy channels and none in high-def?) On the other hand, the mini stereo with iPod hookup offered good sound.
The minibar came stocked with the standard high-priced snacks, booze, and drinks. Just two martini glasses in the room, a weird way to brush your teeth.
The lounge is a pleasant space filled with inviting nooks for drinks, conversation, or even web surfing (two free-to-use computers are available).
The clean fitness center features five elliptical machines and five treadmills -- all with built-in televisions -- plus strength training machines, free weights, exercise balls, and an ample stock of towels.
Internet in guest rooms, both wired and Wi-Fi, is available for the daily rate (the same price for either).
The hotel also has a modest business center with meeting rooms. For some reason, though, there's a fee to use this computer, even though web surfing is free in the lounge.
Free cribs and rollaway beds, plus a family-friendly Times Square location.
Pets are welcome, but they have to pay rent.
Pets up to 62 pounds are allowed, but you'll pay a $100 per-stay, nonrefundable fee.
My room showed some minor signs of wear and tear (a broken chair and chipped desk) but, like the rest of the hotel, was very clean.
On-site restaurant has mediocre food but superb views of the Times Square streetscape; plenty of dining options nearby.
The hotel's Two Times Square restaurant, located off the hotel's second-floor lobby, offers unremarkable and overpriced food, but fun decor and dynamite views of the Times Square streetscape. Windows on three sides of the space make it a great place to observe the chaos.
Room service is available 24 hours a day. Dinner entrees like filet mignon ($45), rigatoni ($28), and grilled salmon ($32) are available until 10:45 p.m. The overnight menu is limited to munchies like a cheese platter ($17) and chips and salsa ($15).
And, of course, the hotel is close to all that Times Square and the surrounding area has to offer, plus easy access to every neighborhood (and restaurant) in Manhattan. For reliable suggestions, check out New York magazine's online restaurant guide, where you can search by neighborhood, price range, and type of cuisine.
As with any Times Square hotel, guests pay a premium for location -- but at the Renaissance they also get to stay in an up-to-date hotel with a fun and extravagantly designed lobby and lounge area, attentive service, and comfortable beds. If you want proximity to the bustle of Times Square, this is a very solid choice.