Neighborhood, though centrally located, is neither hip nor home to many tourist sites
Internet comes at a heft fee
With a world-class gym and spa, plus dozens of customized amenities, the all-suites Dumont is a phenomenal option if you're looking for an urban spa getaway. More than that, it's an excellent high-end choice in general as long as you don't mind being a bit of a hike away from NYC's main tourist haunts.
With a lavish day spa, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a full-time "fitness concierge," and sports-themed art in the lobby, the 241-room Dumont makes it clear where its focus lies. The motto here is "Stay well. Stay relaxed. Stay fit. Or, simply stay."
Yet the trademark of its parent company -- allowing guests to customize their stays based on preferences and moods -- has just as much influence on the Dumont experience. The day before checking in, I visited the Dumont's website to do some customizing of my own. Guests can order kits, cupcakes, rubber duckies, or make just about any other request before checking in.
The "luxury" aspect of the Dumont is also immediately apparent. The lobby is classy all the way, with marble floors and walls, red velvet drapes, and a well-dressed, upper-middle-age clientele.
Yet despite its luxury status and high-profile guests -- and the rates that go with them -- the Dumont maintains a friendly, low-key vibe. The bell captain's attire, an unholy combination of pimp and pope -- capelet, fedora, aqua trim -- derives from the Denihan Group's Depression-era founder, Benjamin J. "Bud" Denihan, who supposedly greeted everyone he met with a tip of his hat (and whose affinity for his fellow man inspired Affinia's name). Other fun touches -- the notepad on the nightstand says "Doodle-Dee," and rubber duckies are available for purchase -- add to the whimsy.
Murray Hill, a primarily residential neighborhood on Manhattan's east side, isn't close to many tourist sites, but it is conveniently central and offers a taste of "real" New York.
Murray Hill has a reputation for being a bit straight-and-narrow, populated by well-heeled 20-somethings working their first jobs by day and drinking heavily at night. My trip to a local bar on a Wednesday night -- where the trivia contest was settled by a chug-off -- did nothing to dispel that. But this is New York, and so the real picture is more complex than that. If you stroll around the neighborhood during the day, you will find that diversity abounds: elderly men walking their dogs, corporate raiders in suits, store owners of all races and nationalities.
And therein lies the advantage of the location: In Murray Hill, you're among locals. If you want to get a sense of a "real" New York neighborhood, as opposed to tourist-swamped areas like Times Square and the Theater District, the Dumont isn't a bad option.
The disadvantage is that you won't be as close to most of the popular tourist haunts. Grand Central Station is 10 short blocks north, and the Empire State Building is just five or 10 minutes by foot. But aside from those, you're looking at a 15- to 30-minute walk or a subway or taxi ride.
If you're willing to try the subway, the 33rd St. stop on the 6-train, which runs up and down the east side of Manhattan, is just two blocks away. A few stops south and you're in the East Village; a few stops north, you're at Museum Mile and 5th Avenue shopping.
The area is also quite safe -- upscale and quiet, yet well lit and trafficked enough that you'll never be alone.
A state-of-the-art gym and world-class spa, plus all sorts of fun, customizable "experience kits."
One of the Affinia's hallmarks is that your experience begins before you even arrive. Through the hotel's website, you can customize your stay by requesting certain amenities ahead of time, which, while not entirely necessary -- you can always just ask at the front desk when you arrive -- is entirely fun.
All sorts of "kits" are available for your customizing pleasure, some (Ibanez guitar) more gratuitous than others (nail polish remover, universal laptop charger). I ordered a few of the complimentary items: terry cloth bathrobes, a computer/Internet connectivity kit, a fitness kit, and two "Affinia Dream Pillows" -- the Swedish Memory Pillow ("ABBA-cadabra!" says the website) and the Magnetic Therapy Pillow, which wasn't particularly therapeutic and didn't seem very magnetic.
Spacious suites, but families aren't the target audience here
The Dumont doesn't explicitly discourage bringing kids along, of course, but the fact that children under 18 aren't allowed in the fitness center -- at a fitness hotel -- says something. And those rubber duckies available for purchase? The website advertises, "Get in touch with your inner child," not "Let your actual child go nuts."
Cribs are free and can fit in any size room.
Rollaways, available for a nightly fee, can fit only in junior suites and one-bedrooms.
Murray Hill boasts dozens of superb restaurants. The nearby Cinema Cafe is affiliated with the hotel and serves in-room dining for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The Dumont doesn't have its own restaurant, but it is affiliated with the nearby Cinema Cafe, which serves everything from small plates, to burgers, to pizza, to seafood, and provides room service for the hotel for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Murray Hill also has dozens of bodegas, restaurants, and diners in the area. Also close to the hotel is the Little India stretch known as "Curry Hill."