Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Guests hustle through the smallish, spare lobby for sightseeing and client meetings during the day. In the evenings, families play card games while businessmen sip highballs in the expansive third-floor lounge.
This 30-floor, 357-room hotel, located (despite its name) several blocks southeast of Times Square proper, draws in budget-minded business travelers and families. Families in particular seem to use it as an inexpensive, convenient home base for exploring New York's popular tourist attractions.
The lobby is functional and so unglamorous that a snack stand gets pride of place. Not even a small indoor waterfall/fountain manages to draw the attention of guests as they hustle through on their way in or out. Instead, guests tend to hang out in the spacious, inviting lounge on the third floor. A kind of multiuse common area with high ceilings, lots of open floor space, comfortable seating, and plenty of natural light coming in through the large windows, it's a great place to read or converse at all times of day -- if you don't mind the occasional 8-year-old darting among the chairs and bookshelves around you.
Many guests congregate in the lounge for the complimentary hot breakfast buffet, which is available every day of the week.
Friendly and competent with the basics -- and that's about it.
From the beginning of my stay, the staff extended a friendly hand. At check-in, a friendly receptionist offered me a choice of rooms, told me about the free breakfast and happy-hour buffets, and instructed me on use of the free wireless Internet. Another staff member was posted in the elevator to show guests how to use their security cards to get to their floors.
Room service is not available, but extra towels arrived at my door 15 minutes after I called to request them.
The attentive service at the high-volume breakfast buffet is no doubt driven by the need to turn tables quickly, but I appreciated it anyway. (Though sometimes it's too attentive: As I was going to refresh my coffee, a waiter made off with half a banana that I'd intended to finish.)
The concierge was friendly, earnest, and reasonably well informed if rather unimaginative. For an outing with children, he recommended Central Park, the American Museum of Natural History, the Statue of Liberty, and the Hershey and M&M stores in Times Square -- mostly solid choices. However, he seemed entirely unaware of anyplace even slightly off the beaten track. And when asked to recommend the best sandwich in the area for under $15, he recommended Pax, a utilitarian local deli chain that shouldn't have even made his Top 10.
Central, but not actually in Times Square! Instead, it's in the busy but somewhat quieter Bryant Park area, which may be an advantage.
The hotel's name is more than a little deceiving: The Residence Inn by Marriott Times Square is not in Times Square but rather a short walk south and east, at Sixth Avenue and 39th Street.
That's an advantage if you don't mind a buffer between you and the inundation of pedestrians and sundry craziness that's endemic to Times Square itself. Instead of all the tourists and bright lights, the hotel counts gorgeous, civilized Bryant Park and the New York Public Library, both a block away, among its nearest landmarks. It's a 10-minute walk north to the Theater District and Rockefeller Center, and the same distance in the opposite direction to Macy's or the Empire State Building. The southern end of Central Park is a bit more of a hoof, 20 minutes on foot or a 10-minute cab ride.
Three blocks from the Bryant Park subway station and about the same distance from the Times Square transit hub, the hotel offers ready access to subways that head all over the city.
Despite the distance from Times Square, the building gets more than a fair share of daytime foot traffic. At night, though, the scene quiets down substantially, and there aren't a great deal of restaurants or bars in the vicinity. As this TripAdvisor review notes, safety isn't an issue assuming you use common sense.
30 to 90 minutes from three airports.
New York City has three nearby airports: JFK, La Guardia, 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.
To judge by room design ... well, it's best not to judge these rooms on their design. The Residence Inn's rooms are utilitarian, plain and simple. Equipped with a kitchenette, a pullout couch, and plenty of space, my queen studio suite was more of an apartment than a hotel room. You'd never call it attractive, let alone luxurious. The furnishings all have a lived-n feel, faded and kind of cheap. One of the bedside lamps wasn't working, and I accidentally yanked out a poorly attached knob on one of the desks.
As the hotel's name suggests, the property is intended, and outfitted, to accommodate extended stays. So the rooms all have a kitchenette equipped with a broad assortment of utensils and appliances, including a coffeemaker, another coffeemaker, silverware, measuring spoons, bottle openers, a slow cooker, and much more. Surprisingly, though, there's no stove or oven, severely limiting what you can do in the kitchen.
On the positive side of the ledger, the mattress, a Simmons Beauty Rest World Class, was extremely comfortable. The sheets, soft and clean, were blemished by a hole the size of a dime, but I slept very soundly. That wouldn't have been the case on the pullout couch, which, as many TripAdvisor reviewers have noted, was seriously lacking.
The fitness center on the lower level, featuring two elliptical trainers, three treadmills, two recumbent bikes, free weights, and yoga mats, was adequately maintained, although in the evening discarded newspapers were scattered on the floor.
In the basement, guest-only laundry facilities cost $2.50 each for washer and dryer.
Three computers were available to guests in the third-floor lounge, but the free wireless (which was fast and easy to set up) in the rooms and public spaces are probably more useful to most business travelers. The front desk offers copy and fax service.
It's also worth noting that the Residence Inn by Marriott Manhattan Times Square is pet-friendly, though it requires that pet owners front a $100 deposit against potential mishaps. This TripAdvisor reveiwer, who was kept awake by a yapping dog, didn't appreciate the policy.
Marriott's "home away from home" Residence Inn sub-brand is generally marketed to business folks on extended out-of-town assignments. But the Times Square branch, with its large rooms, complimentary breakfast and happy-hour buffets, and sleeper sofas, has clearly shifted its focus to budget-minded families on vacation. The suites sleep four: two in the bed and two in the pullout sofa (although the utility of the latter has been disputed on TripAdvisor).
Reasonably hygienic but not pristine.
Rooms are somewhat less well maintained. The carpet was freshly vacuumed and bore no stains. The bathroom was likewise very clean, with no signs of rust. I found smudges on the desk and small particles of debris in the sink. Although those flaws were hardly egregious, the room had a worn, lived-in feel that made me want to keep my socks on.
Plentiful but ordinary, like a college cafeteria. There's a free daily breakfast buffet and a free light dinner Monday through Wednesday.
There's no on-site restaurant or room service. But with a free daily breakfast buffet and a free social-hour buffet Monday through Wednesday, the Residence Inn Times Square lets guests pack in the calories without ever leaving the hotel or pulling out their wallets -- not a bad way to justify some splurges while you're in town, even if the food is mediocre at best.
The breakfast buffet reminded me of the offerings at my college dining hall: bland but filling. The scrambled eggs and potatoes were supplemented with cold cereal, bagels, fresh fruit, and English muffins. The social-hour buffet, served from 6 to 7:30 p.m., offers "light fare." I had lasagna, but other offerings include soup and salad, calamari, chicken fingers, hot dogs, and hamburgers.
With kitchenettes in every room, uncommonly friendly staff, and lots of free food, the Residence Inn by Marriott Times Square offers families on vacation and long-term guests a moderately priced base a short walk from New York City's Theater District. (No, it's not really in Times Square!) There's not a trace of luxury here, but the staff does an impressive job of keeping the place fairly clean and running smoothly.