- Hotel guests don't get to use any spa facilities for free
- Daily fee for Wi-Fi
Occupying the top floors of a shimmering Time Warner Center tower, the Mandarin Oriental's take on luxury is distinctly modern and international, as opposed to the historic charms of New York icons like the Pierre and the Plaza.
Sure, when one thinks of classic New York hotels, old icons like the Plaza and the Pierre come to mind. But the Mandarin Oriental is a New York icon of a different ilk. Built in December 2003, the 244-room hotel towers 54 stories above Central Park on the Upper West Side. With a prime location, great views, and one of the best spas in the city, it's a strong contender in the category of modern classic.
After entering on the ground floor, just around the corner from Columbus Circle -- both a city landmark and a transit hub -- guests take an elevator up to the 35th-floor lobby. There it's business, and pleasure, as usual. Suits congregate in MObar for after-work cocktails and excellent views of the city and Central Park. Upstairs, on the 36th floor, Russian models have a go on the elliptical machines in the hotel's small but luxurious fitness center, which has a 75-foot lap pool and killer views of its own. Asian influences soften the high-gloss luxury sheen of the place: Soft Asian tones play quietly in the lobby; guests are offered green tea at check-in; and all rooms have yoga mats in the closet.
Maybe because the Mandarin shares the sprawling Time Warner Center with CNN and a shopping mall -- the upscale Shops at Columbus Circle -- it feels more bustling and inclusive than Upper East Side competitors like the Pierre. Guests seem well-off and the rooms are pricey, but the clientele tends to be international and eclectic. That even extends to four-legged guests -- the pet policy allows dogs under 25 pounds.
The rooms further make the case for new over old with large, luxurious bathrooms that include deep soaking tubs -- even in the least expensive standard rooms -- and hi-tech HD entertainment systems with surround sound. Among the city's most luxurious hotels, older isn't always wiser.
Across Columbus Circle from Central Park, half a block from a major transportation hub, and very close to some of the city's top fine-dining options.
The hotel's location on Columbus Circle, across from Central Park but also at the gateway to the upscale-but-relaxed Upper West Side, makes it feel distinctly less formal and stuffy that it's more tradition-bound, ultra-luxe counterparts on the Upper East Side -- even before you've walked in the door.
The hotel actually occupies the top floors of the Time Warner Center, a huge, two-tower complex that's also home to CNN, residential condos, and an upscale shopping mall on the lower levels, called The Shops at Columbus Circle. While the hotel's official address is 80 Columbus Circle, its main entrance is actually on 60th Street. Guests can access The Shops directly from the hotel's third floor, without stepping outdoors. The building has a Whole Foods Market in the basement, convenient for inexpensive on-the-go meals or putting together a picnic in the park. There are also numerous high-end clothing and accessory boutiques; plus two of the city's best (and most expensive) restaurants: Thomas Keller's Per Se and Masayoshi Takayama's Masa.
Columbus Circle station is a major transit hub, with some half-dozen subway lines running through it. The Broadway theater district begins just six blocks south, and Lincoln Center, the city's massive performing-arts complex, is within easy walking distance.
Though it sits just across from the southwestern corner of the park, some of the views (even on the park side of the building) are obscured by the Trump International Hotel.
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 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 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.
Nicely sized rooms feature some of the best bathrooms in the city, a thoroughly modern media center, and even a yoga mat.
Rooms feel thoroughly modern thanks to elegant Asian decor, hi-tech electronics, and some of the nicest bathrooms around. Standard rooms average 420 square feet, slightly smaller than those at the Four Seasons but bigger than the 300-square-foot standard rooms at the Pierre. Guests can upgrade to a Deluxe room, which are on the higher floors and have views of the city and maybe a bit of river. In any case, you can always take in the spectacular views from the lobby and restaurants on the 35th floor or the pool and fitness center on the 36th floor.
The bathrooms are some of the best in the city. Even the least expensive standard rooms have deep soaking tubs. Showers have oversized rain showerheads, and the water pressure is so powerful you almost need a cigarette when you're done.
There were some nice surprises in the room: a yoga mat awaited me in the walk-in closet and two books labeled "Bedside Reading" were left on the desk. A little note said I was welcome to take the books with me -- an ironic pairing of The Great Gatsby and Warren Buffet and the Interpretation of Financial Statements. I did. If only I could have also taken home the showerhead and the amazing water pressure.
From the third floor of the hotel, guests can walk directly into The Shops at Columbus Circle, which houses some of the city's best, and most expensive, restaurants, like Thomas Keller's Per Se and Masayoshi Takayama's Masa. For a complete list of bars and restaurants at the Time Warner Center, visit the building's website.
While the hotel lacks the iconic charm that makes grand old hotels like the Plaza and the Pierre memorable high-end picks for families, it's still got plenty to offer kids. The Plaza and the Pierre may be within walking distance of FAO Schwarz and Serendipity 3, but it's easier to reach the Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium from the Mandarin's location on the Upper West Side. (Both are just 17 blocks from the hotel -- a quick cab ride or two stops on the subway.) And, of course, the hotel is also just one block from the endless amusements of Central Park.
For sleeping arrangements, the hotel features standard rooms with two oversized twin beds. These rooms can be adjoined to Deluxe Hudson River View rooms with a single king bed for Mom and Dad. Rollaway beds and cribs are complimentary and fit in any room.
The room-service menu offers a "Little Fans" section for kids.
Pets of any size are allowed, but they cannot be left alone in guest rooms unless crated.
Unlike many hotels that welcome only pets under 25 pounds, the Mandarin allows pets of all sizes. Pets receive welcome amenities. In common areas, pets must always be on a leash.
In the same building as some of the city's best high-end dining options; a notable restaurant within the hotel make this a great hotel for gourmands.
The hotel restaurant, Asiate, serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch alongside floor-to-ceiling windows and views of the park. It serves contemporary American with Asian flair.
For less formal eating and drink, MObar serves classic and signature cocktails and tasty small plates. It also has stunning views, and offers in-room dining.
From the third floor of the hotel, guests can walk directly into The Shops at Columbus Circle, which houses some of the city's best, and most expensive, as well as quick bites. For a complete list of bars and restaurants at the Time Warner Center, go to the building's website.
Great views of Central Park from the reception space and exceptional cuisine; a fine choice for costly celebrations
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