Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
A relaxing and accessible luxury hotel frequented mostly by the business set.
The Benjamin is a classy place. It's decorated in sophisticated New York style: tasteful, some may even say understated, yet distinctly luxurious -- neither stuffy nor sedate. Enormous arrangements of exotic cut flowers greet you as you enter the lobby off the street. But the mezzanine lounge really sets the tone: Divided into intimate sitting areas by giant palms, the softly lit room -- like the hotel in general -- invites guests to sit and relax.
In fact, relaxation is taken very seriously at the Benjamin. That makes sense in Manhattan, where the endless rhythm of police sirens, garbage trunks, and subway cars can be a cacophonous nightmare for the unaccustomed visitor. The beds are ridiculously comfortable, and amenities include an in-house spa, white noise machines (available for rent), a pillow menu, and even something called a sleep concierge.
Friendly yet professional, and very efficient. Plus, there's a "sleep concierge."
In the Midtown East business district, but also close to and a major subway hub.
The 209-room Benjamin is at 50th Street and Lexington Avenue, in a mini-Midtown East hotel district that serves corporate travelers doing business in the surrounding skyscrapers. Across the street is the 51st Street stop on the 6 subway line, which runs up and down the eastern side of Manhattan and through Grand Central Station. Central Park is also in walking distance (about 10 blocks). One of the main subway hubs in the city is only eight blocks away.
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 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.
Smallish and classically elegant, with up-to-date electronics and amazingly comfortable beds.
My standard-size superior guest room, at 250 square feet, was small -- if hardly the smallest luxury hotel room in New York -- and decorated in a kind of classically elegant New York style: gold frame mirrors, that big leather desk chair, and lots of marble in the bathroom.
The window looked out on the back of the Doubletree Hotel next door. As a result, the room was dreary during the day but remarkably quiet at night, which may not have been the case had I looked out on the street.
The queen bed was one of the most comfortable I've ever slept in. And my night's sleep was enhanced by my custom order from the pillow menu.
High-end electronics included a Bose bedside radio and a flat-screen TV that gets HD (but only a basic cable package). On the desk is a fax machine and an Ethernet hookup. Internet is an additional daily charge.
The kitchen is really a kitchenette, with a sink, a microwave, dishes, snacks, and a fully stocked fridge along with the minibar. Every room in the hotel has a kitchenette.
The bathroom is clean and minimal, with white marble walls, and comes stocked with plenty of towels and Elemis bath products.
Focus on sleep after a stint at the full-service spa. And feel free to bring your dogs.
The Benjamin is one of the few hotels in New York with a full-service in-house spa. The facility, the Wellness Spa, offers the usual assortment of treatments.
The spa shares space with the fitness center, which sports free weights, cardio machines, and fitness balls. The fitness center has its own steam room and is free for guests.
The mezzanine lounge is the perfect place to meet someone for a drink or just read the newspaper.
Dog owners note: Your canine friends will be made to feel extraordinarily welcome at the Benjamin. For no extra cost, they get beds under the Dream Dog program, a complimentary toy, all-natural food, and a "Dog-on Television" DVD to keep them entertained. Guests must sign a waiver for any damage caused by their pets.
Sleep is taken very seriously at the Benjamin.
In addition to the "sleep concierge" and pillow menu, white noise machines, satin sleep masks, slippers, "sleep snacks," and a dream dictionary are available to make sure guests sleep through the endless sounds of the city.
My pillow order included the Upper Body, a horseshoe-shaped pillow for head and back support; the buckwheat pillow, meant for people who sleep on their sides; a basic feather and down pillow; and the "Lullaby." Easily my favorite of the group, the Lullaby has thin little speakers in it and an iPod connection.
The hotel also offers sleep programs for kids, with the Winks' Kidzzz Club, and for dogs, with the Dream Dog program.
Increasingly more kid-friendly with Winks' Kidzzz Club
The hotel will arrange baby-sitting and deliver cribs to rooms. Room service offers a children's menu. And I also heard the concierge giving good recommendations for child-friendly restaurants.
And because kids should also get the best night sleep possibly at The Benjamin, the hotel offers Winks' Kidzzz Club for guests ages two to 12. The program teaches the importance of sleep through Winks the Owl and a series of favorite bedtime stories available for loan, all available through the sleep concierge. Kids receive todler pillow and robe during their stay, and complimentary Winks the Owl doll and sleep certificate.
Excellent bistro from renowned chef Geoffrey Zakarian
Though the Benjamin is marketed primarily to business travelers, its spa and fitness center, central location, tasteful luxury, outstanding restaurant, and richly comfortable rooms combine to make it a solid choice for well-heeled visitors of all kinds.