Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
The ritzier of the city's two Ritzes shoots for Old New York grandiosity. Its prime location adjacent to Central Park and Fifth Avenue's high-end shopping -- not to mention horse carriages -- further its cause.
Many hotels claim to be synonymous with one superlative or another. ("Our name is synonymous with service .... ") With the Ritz, it's precisely the opposite: the superlative "ritzy" comes straight from the hotel's name. Even the Four Seasons can't say that. ("This fruit is so four-seasonal .... " Um, nope.)
Formerly the St. Moritz Hotel, this Ritz -- which features 259 rooms (including 47 suites) in a 33-story limestone building on Central Park South (the southern border of the park) -- was bought by Ritz-Carlton in 2000 and reopened in 2002, the same year their other NYC hotel, in Battery Park, opened. The two are similar in many ways. Both boast rooms with panoramic views. Each features a popular bar, an excellent gym, and a name-brand spa. Given that prices are twice as high at the Central Park edition, you have to conclude that what you're paying for here is the location.
The most special aspect of the hotel is probably the Star Lounge, right off the lobby -- specifically, its famous bartender, Norman Bukofzer. Legend has it Norman can meet you once and remember your drink 10 years later. I can't confirm that, but he did make me a mean White Russian, and when my drinking companion asked for "a vodka-based cocktail, not too sweet," he simply nodded and mixed up a nameless pineapple-tinged concoction. "I made you this because you remind me of the islands," he said.
Smack in the center of Manhattan, in Midtown West, on the southern border of Central Park. Upmarket dining and famous sites abound in all directions.
The Ritz is on 59th Street, also known as Central Park South because it forms the southern border of Central Park. It's a busy street during the day, as the corporate skyscrapers, prominent hotels, Fifth Avenue shopping, and the park assure ample foot traffic (to say nothing of equine traffic -- 59th is a major horse-carriage-ride launching point). But since the main nearby tourist attraction, the park, empties after dark, the area quiets down at night.
If you're in town primarily to see Times Square and catch a few Broadway shows, you might prefer a hotel closer to the action. Although nothing in midtown is very far, the epicenter of Times Square (at 42nd and Broadway) and most Broadway theaters are a good half-mile away. On the other hand, the Ritz would be an excellent option for those seeking to avoid the chaos of Times Square while still remaining within walking distance of the most tourist haunts.
And besides, the immediate area boasts plenty of attractions. Carnegie Hall is two blocks south. Lincoln Center, on the Upper West Side, is 10 to 15 minutes away by foot, three to five by cab. And then, of course, the two biggest draws of all: the park to the north and Fifth Avenue -- home to Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, Tiffany, and dozens of others -- one block east.
Large and tastefully decorated, with amenities aplenty, including flat-screen TVs, DVD players, separate showers and tubs, bathrobes, slippers, and -- in rooms overlooking the park -- telescopes and bird-watching manuals.
With the exception of a few enormous -- and enormously priced -- suites, the Ritz's standard rooms range from 425 to 450 square feet, which is large for New York, but not quite as big as those at some other upscale hotels (the Four Seasons comes to mind). Layouts and sizes of three different types of basic rooms -- superior, deluxe, and parkview -- are basically identical. The difference is the view. Superior rooms are ninth floor and below; Deluxe are 10th and above. Parkviews are deluxe rooms and suites with -- shocker -- views of Central Park; they include telescopes and bird-watching manuals. (Try to catch a glimpse of Pale Male, the famous red-tailed hawk who lives on Fifth Avenue.)
Beds are what you'd expect from a Ritz: a plush but firm Sealy Posturepedic "Ritz-Carlton Sleep Experience" mattress, 400-thread-count Fili Casa Egyptian cotton sheets, and Pacific Coast-brand feather mattress cover and pillows, which have received the American Down & Feather Council's Seal of Approval, for those keeping track. Bathrooms are spacious and include the soaking tub, the Asprey bath products, and a shower with Niagara-like water pressure.
Surprisingly limited for a five-star hotel: a modern, well-equipped gym, a La Prairie spa, and property-wide Wi-Fi, but that's about it.
Not really a place for families, but if you do bring the little ones, not to worry: The world-class staff will find a way to please.
On the one hand, the Ritz has a very adult vibe, with a classy decor, relatively formal service. But on the other hand, cribs and rollaway beds are available (extra fees for rollaways) and fit easily in the large rooms (though the rollaways can't be used in rooms with two double beds). The DVD library includes a small selection of kids' movies, and the hotel is within easy walking distance of many of the Park's kiddie activities, including the children's zoo and the Central Park Carousel.
Myriad world-class (but expensive) options nearby.
About 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 quicker 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 (plus tolls) and typically takes around an hour. 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 money can use the privately run shuttle buses available at all three airports for about $14 per person. For more information, 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 lugging bags up and down stairways.
For mass-transit directions right to the hotel, check out HopStop.com.
If you're looking for a five-star experience in New York, and you insist on a Ritz, the sister property downtown offers a nearly identical experience for half the price. If you're looking for a five-star experience and insist on being in the thick of things, the Plaza, the St. Regis, and the Mandarin Oriental offer more pizzazz.
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