Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
A renovated landmark now houses wealthy residents -- and still those who spring for a butler-serviced hotel room.
It could be said that no other New York hotel is as synonymous with luxury as the century-old Plaza, or has carved out such a place in 20th-century culture. Truman Capote threw his famous Black and White Ball here; in North by Northwest, Cary Grant was captured by spies in the hotel's famous Oak Bar; F. Scott Fitzgerald staged part of The Great Gatsby here; on their first visit to the States, The Beatles took up an entire wing on the 15th floor. And last but not least, Crocodile Dundee pitched a tent on those 400-thread-count bed sheets.
Following a $400 million renovation, the 282-room Plaza reopened its doors in May 2008. The Champagne Bar graces the lobby, and the Rose Club attracts a new set of twenty-something revelers. The hotel also received a full fitness center in 2009.
But whether the renovation was an improvement is open for debate. Post-renovation, none of the guest rooms and only some of the suites look out onto Central Park or Fifth Avenue -- most views have been claimed by the 181 private Plaza condos. Separated by a private entrance and lobby, the $2.5 million-and-up apartments are a return to the Plaza's original function as a residence for the extremely wealthy.
But because of its fame, the century-old Plaza is not just a hideaway for the in-hiding celebrity or loaded maharaja. Families spill out of the seven-person gilded elevators, weighted down with Coach shopping bags. The Plaza's Grand Ballroom, host to Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas' wedding, continues to welcome some of the city's most extravagant nuptials. And Fifth Avenue tourists run in to snap a few photos of Palm Court's stained-glass ceiling and the lobby's opulent marble stairs -- before getting shooed away by the omnipresent security, of course.
Right on Central Park and Fifth Avenue -- steps from luxury boutiques and Bergdorf Goodman.
Located across from Central Park on Fifth Avenue, the Plaza is on the border of Midtown West and Midtown East. It's an excellent base for exploring the shopping along Fifth Avenue -- from the famous Tiffany & Co. to high-end flagships like Gucci and Versace. To the right on Fifth Avenue lies luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman, and across the avenue, past the famous Pulitzer Fountain, sits the splashy Midtown Apple flagship. (Tip: this is a great place to check your email for free.) Plenty of delis and Starbucks cafes feed the cubicle occupants -- Midtown East is where many New Yorkers come to work. Nightlife is scarce, but excellent, typically pricy, cuisine is always within walking distance.
The area lacks the residential quaintness of the Upper West Side, and most insider haunts are found further downtown. But subway access is ample, making it easy to venture anywhere in the city. It's also a fairly safe neighborhood, although it empties out at night.
About 30 to 90 minutes from three airports
New York 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.
Big, Louis XIV-style rooms all renovated in 2008 with luxurious Italian bedding, 37-inch HD plasma TVs and some weak views -- very few rooms overlook Central Park. The gigantic bathroom comes with fixtures plated in 24-karat gold -- but not all name-brand toiletries.
Unlike the St. Regis with its powder-blue-accented rooms, the Four Seasons with its office-away-from-home appeal, or the Mandarin Oriental with its streamlined Asian-influenced design, the Plaza's rooms embrace the gilded, extravagant style of Louis XIV. At 475 square feet, the standard Plaza Room has some of the largest of all the luxury options in the city. The Plaza's Deluxe rooms move up to 550 square feet; the equal-sized Signature Room features a private terrace; and the nine different suites offer both additional space (625 to 4,400 square feet) and extra features like powder rooms.
Sadly, since the hotel's 2008 renovation, none of the guest rooms and only some of the suites look out onto Central Park or Fifth Avenue -- most of the views have been claimed by the 181 new private Plaza residences. Guest rooms all overlook either the landscaped inner courtyard or 58th Street's office buildings.
Similar to its other locations in Bordeaux and Spain, the 8,000-square-foot Caudalie Vinotherapie Spa focuses on all-natural grape-based treatments. (The vine theme comes naturally for the French founders, who also own the Bordeaux vineyards of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte.) Hairstyling needs are handled by the Warren-Tricomi Salon, the 6,100-square-foot flagship of celebrity hairstylist Edward Tricomi and colorist Joel Warren, who's worked with Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Alba.
Radu, the one-name-is-all-I-need fitness trainer who created a series of exercise tapes with Cindy Crawford, launched his own massive 8,300-square-foot exercise facility. It includes a gym for exercise classes (martial arts, boxing, Pilates, and more), an Olympic-sized lap pool, a basketball court, and cardio and strength-training equipment.
Shops at th Plaza include high-end jewlery, clothing, speciality foods, and health and beauty.
Small (less than 25 pounds) pets allowed for free.
The Plaza accepts only small pets. There's no charge, but owners must sign a waiver accepting financial responsibility for any damage their pet incurs. No extra treats or amenities are offered -- but the hotel's proximity to Central Park is a definite plus.
An Eloise-themed kids menu, huge, 475-square-foot standard rooms, and steps from Central Park.
Fairly sizable standard rooms (475 feet with a king-size bed) and proximity to Central Park make the Plaza a good choice for families, but don't count on any free Wiis or PlayStations like at the Gansevoort or Four Seasons. Deluxe rooms come with two double beds, and the Edwardian Suite has a separate living room. Cribs and playpens are free, and rollaways can be requested for a nightly fee.
Eloise -- the character from Kay Thompson's books who lived at the hotel -- is (surprise, surprise) the mascot for kids at the Plaza. Cute Eloise room-service menus are available.
Babysitters can be arranged through the concierge for an additional charge.
Midtown East is by and large a pretty safe area. The Plaza is very well lit at night, with doormen right outside the door.
For a black-tie function, or an equally expensive event, few hotels rival this Beaux-Arts masterpiece.
The inspiration for the movie Bride Wars, the Plaza has long been one of the most desirable wedding venues in NYC. But it's not necessarily the best wedding destination in Manhattan. For example, some people consider the Pierre to be even more beautiful, and the more affordable New York Palace offers a similarly historic, ornate space. And, of course, the Plaza's grand, gilded opulence isn't for everyone. You can get a bit more stylistic flexibility without giving up the Central Park views at the Mandarin Oriental.
CPS Events at the Plaza attends to every detail of the wedding. This makes planning a little easier, but it also means that you're stuck paying a premium for just about everything. Of course, the Plaza is not ideal for couples who need to keep a careful eye on their budget.
The century-old, 282-room Plaza is a New York landmark. A $400 million overhaul in 2008 gave the huge rooms gold-plated bathroom fixtures, but it also converted most rooms overlooking Central Park into privately owned residences. Still, the exceptional spa and 24-hour butler service make it worth the splurge.