Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
The Waldorf Astoria is one of the most iconic hotels in New York, with a chandeliered, art deco lobby that has historic charm… And a dress code!
A paragon of sophistication, The Waldorf Astoria is the only hotel in New York to enforce a dress code (no jeans, T-shirts, tank tops, or baseball hats recommended in the public areas after 6 p.m.). Built in 1931 (then the tallest and largest hotel in the world), The Waldorf Astoria retains its stunning Art Deco grandeur. Every President since FDR has stayed in one of the 26 Presidential Suites at the hotel. There even used to be a secret train platform underneath the hotel at 49th Street, for high-profile guests. And there is still a smaller motor entrance hidden away from the bustling streets of New York. The infamous 1985 NBA draft lottery was held at the Waldorf. Conrad Hilton purchased the hotel in 1949, though its strong association with the Hilton brand is a more recent phenomenon, coinciding with Hilton's 2006 launch of the Waldorf Astoria Collection.
Few hotels anywhere in the world rival the Waldorf's history and charm. Critics scoff that it lives in the past and treads only on its reputation. But it's a hotel that is still thriving, with attentive yet discreet service, well-maintained rooms, and robust dining options.
Beneath art deco chandeliers, the Park Avenue lobby is bustling but hushed, with only a few sofas and tables. This is where the ladies used to wait while their husbands checked in at the grand, wood-paneled second lobby. (Back in the day, it was not appropriate for women to be present when men were dealing with money). There is a large sitting area all around the second lobby, and it’s common to see guests working on their laptops, as it is the only place in the hotel with free Wi-Fi.
The Waldorf Towers -- a boutique section located on the top floors of the Waldorf Astoria and with a separate entrance and services – offers extra luxurious touches and larger rooms.
Blocks to several subway lines, and within walking distance of Rockefeller Center and Grand Central
The Waldorf is on Park Avenue between East 49th and 50th Streets, in the neighborhood known as Midtown East. The area consists mainly of tall office buildings and other hotels (the New York Palace is a block away on Madison), but there are plenty of restaurants -- ranging from takeaway to Michelin-starred -- within blocks of the hotel. Museums and other major attractions, including Times Square and Rockefeller Center, are also within easy walking distance.
Rooms are comfortable and charming, if not a little antiquated (but that's the point).
At 200 to 225 square feet, Deluxe Queen Rooms (the lowest level rooms) are small for the price, but the size is on par with most New York hotel rooms. All rooms have up-to-date, high-end amenities, and feature the hotel’s signature classic touches and red and gold color scheme.
For extra luxury, the hotel also offers Concierge Level rooms, which include free continental breakfast in the Astoria Lounge, twice-daily housekeeping with turndown service, and bathrobes.
There are few kid-friendly amenities, but the variety of rooms, the convenient location and doting service make the hotel a good choice for a family trip.
One of the benefits of a hotel with 1,300 rooms is that there are a lot of convenient configurations available for groups and families. The Waldorf offers rooms with two double beds and also has many rooms and suites with pullout sofas. Furthermore, the hotel provides rollaway twin beds (for a fee) in rooms without pullout couches, and it has deluxe rooms and suites that can be connected to each other.
Oscar's is the only remotely kid-friendly restaurant in the hotel, with a kids' menu and special Waldorf coloring book. However, there are plenty of fast-food and family-friendly restaurants throughout Midtown East.
Every Friday, a man who bills himself as the Millionaires' Magician puts on a special magic show at the Waldorf Towers (for a fee)
Three upscale restaurants, including a historic steakhouse
In keeping with the hotel's high-society ambiance, guests have their pick of places to get a drink. Each of the aforementioned restaurants have accompanying bars, but guests can also go to Sir Harry's, a dark and clubby spot near the Park Avenue entrance.
Between Brangelina and the hotel's occasional use as a movie set, celebrity sightings don't get any better than this.
The Waldorf-Astoria has some impressive long-standing links to high society. Real-life luminaries ranging from Douglas MacArthur to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have all resided within the Towers.
The hotel is also featured in countless movies -- from the 1945 Ginger Rogers vehicle "Week-End at the Waldorf" to Philip Seymour Hoffman's Jack Goes Boating. My personal favorite is the 1988 comedy classic Coming to America. If it's good enough for the king of Zamunda, it must be the best, right?
About 30 to 90 minutes from three airports
New York City has three nearby airports: JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark (in New Jersey). Flying into JFK or LaGuardia is typically easiest and the least time-consuming. From JFK, it's a one-hour, $45 flat-rate taxi ride to anywhere in Manhattan. From LaGuardia, it's about a 30-minute, $40 metered cab ride to Midtown Manhattan. Rides from Newark cost at least $40 (plus tolls), and can take more than 90 minutes. Don't forget to tip your driver 15 percent to 25 percent.
To save some cash, try the group shuttles that are available at all three airports. For more information on the shuttles, go to Super Shuttle or New York Airport Service. You can also take public transit from any of the airports for as little as $7.25 per person, but travel can take up to two hours and involve a lot of lugging bags up and down stairs.
Guests have access to a great fitness center -- but for a fee.
A world-class spa with 15 treatment rooms
The Waldorf is home to the world-class (and very expensive) Guerlain Spa, with 15 treatment rooms and an extensive therapies menu. Both guests of the Waldorf Astoria and of the Waldorf Towers have access to the spa.
Concierges, in-room checkout and hotel historic tours -- but there's a fee for Wi-Fi
Over 60,000 square feet of meeting space with high-tech amenities
The Waldorf Astoria has two gorgeous, historic ballrooms, as well as over 20 elegant and well-equipped board rooms.
From a spa to a beauty salon and a florist, the hotel has the happy couple covered.
The Waldorf is a wonderful (if very expensive) pick for a wedding celebration. The hotel has a dedicated Wedding Planner department, as well as several gorgeous salons, outstanding catering services, and several wedding packages that make the planning much easier than booking everything separately.
A Midtown East icon, the 1,300-room Waldorf Astoria comes with some of New York's best (or at least most expensive) spa services, fitness facilities, restaurants, and bars. Rooms are elegant and feature the high-end amenities expected of a hotel of this category, and suites have palatial black-and-white marble bathrooms with separate showers and soaking tubs. However, Standard Rooms are small for the price, and there’s a fee for Wi-Fi. The dress code and antique decor aren't for everyone, though the cinematic history and unrivaled elegance might make the price tag well worth it.