Excellent central location, near Times Square and other popular sites
Surrounded by restaurants, bars, Broadway theaters, and subway stops
Streamlined contemporary rooms with iPod docks and flat-screen TVs
On-site venue acts as a cafe by day/lounge bar and pizzeria by night
Adjoins a boutique gourmet food court where guests receive a discount
Fitness center with up-to-date cardio and weight machines
Internet lounge, plus free Wi-Fi, and free international calls
Free luggage storage
Busy property can feel crowded and overwhelming
Room cleanliness could be improved
Many rooms lack light and/or views
Check-in lines can take forever
No in-room coffeemakers
Wi-Fi can be unreliable
This massive, modern magnet for tourists, located a block from Times Square, was rebranded as Row NYC in 2014 after a full renovation. With 1,331 rooms, this upper-middle-range property can feel crowded -- check-in lines are the norm -- but on-site features add distinctly local flavor and cater to sightseers on-the-go. Rooms have fresh, contemporary style, though overall they’re rather straightforward and could use a more thorough scrubbing. Between the gourmet food court and the cafe-by-day/lounge bar-by-night, treats from some of NYC’s most-hyped food brands are on offer in smartly decorated spaces. Past guests rave about the location -- a central-as-it-gets base from which to explore the city. Those looking for a similar location at a less mammoth property could try the nearby Cambria Hotel & Suites Times Square.
A bustling tourist magnet, with a casual, cosmopolitan vibe and cool NYC accents
Set on a busy avenue in the heart of Midtown West, the Row rises 27 stories above street level, taking up the whole eastern stretch between 44th and 45th Streets. With 1,331 rooms, this was NYC’s largest hotel when it originally opened as the Hotel Lincoln in 1928. After a $140 million dollar revamp, the hotel was reopened as Row NYC in 2014, with renovated rooms and a sleek new tri-level, glass-enclosed lobby -- ideal for people-watching all the action just outside -- though there can be just as much bustle inside the property.
Row NYC requires eight elevators to move all of its guests between floors, and check-in can be an arduous affair as long lines are the norm. Guests encompass every type of traveler: families, large groups, business travelers, couples, and singles, and everyone seems to come and go in hordes, many heading to the southern end of the lobby where District M is located. This is the main social hub, where guests grab their morning pastries (sourced from some of the city’s finest bakeries) and coffee fix before venturing out into the city.
As the afternoon wears on and evening kicks in, the mood shifts gears to a much more laid-back lounge bar-like scene with moody lighting and a cool Downtown vibe that downplays the more touristy surroundings. Travelers indulge in hand-stretched pizzas that fill the space with an impossible to resist, fresh-from-the-oven aroma, while big black-and-white photos of the city's '70s heyday are projected onto the wall. With their laptops and coffees, patrons perch on the deep, wide stairs leading up to the adjoining food market, City Kitchen. This market offers a smorgasbord of local flavors in a quick eat-and-go scene, ideal for sightseers who want to fuel up on proper NYC eats before touring the top attractions.
In the heart of Midtown West, a short walk from many sites including Times Square
Row NYC is located on Eighth Avenue in the Times Square area of Midtown. The hotel shares its stretch of street with numerous shops, offices, food cart vendors, restaurants, bars, and tons of pedestrians (both tourists and business people, day and night). Times Square is arguably New York's main attraction, especially for first-time visitors, and it's busy around the clock. Food, souvenir shops, and sightseeing options are endless, but the sheer volume of bike and foot traffic can induce sensory overload. (Locals tend to avoid this area for that very reason.) That said, this area is a major hub for subway lines, making it a convenient base both for exploring the city's sights on foot or setting out farther afield via public transportation.
Walkable highlights include Times Square (a four-minute walk), Radio City Music Hall (13 minutes), Rockefeller Center (14 minutes), Madam Tussauds (four minutes), and Bryant Park (10 minutes). Theaters are in abundance which is a treat for Broadway fans, and there’s an endless supply of bars and restaurants to explore nearby. Restaurant Row (a strip of eateries running along 46th Street) can be reached in two minutes on foot.
Many other major attractions require a taxi or subway ride to reach. The corner of Central Park can be reached in a 10-minute ride; The Empire State Building is a 15-minute ride; and the 9/11 Memorial is 21 minutes. Taxis are generally in abundance right outside. Port Authority Bus Terminal is a three-minute walk away, where the A, C, and E trains travel up and downtown, and the railway hub Penn Station is a 15-minute walk from the hotel. JFK Airport is about a 50-minute drive or a little over an hour by public transportation.
Colorful and streamlined -- many with great city views
Sporting a colorful, modern style, guest rooms provide a vibrant contrast to moodier common areas. Streamlined white-and-gray backdrops are brightened by several bold splashes of red, green, blue, or yellow in artworks and accent walls stenciled with playful slogans like “Open 24 Hours.” Rooms are well equipped and feature Euro Top platform beds, work desks with ergonomic chairs, iPod docks, flat-screen LG TVs, irons, safes, and hairdryers. White-tiled bathrooms are small but functional, with shower/tub combos and a good selection of Pure toiletries.
Rooms cover six categories, from the basic Standard right up to Executive and Penthouse Suites, and layouts increase in size with category. Standards are on the small side, while Suites have separate living areas and city views. In general, the higher the level, the better the view, although many lower-category rooms face inward toward an air shaft.
While rooms are comfortable, cleanliness could definitely be improved. Our Standard room came with a disturbing number of stray hairs from previous guests. We also encountered some maintenance issues, such as the broken blinded that couldn't be opened to let in some natural light.
Trendy cafe/ lounge bar, gourmet food court, plus a 24-hour internet lounge and a gym
Row NYC has the sheer real estate to really deliver when it comes to features, and they certainly do that for on-site dining options. District M, in the lobby, is a casual cafe by day and moody lounge bar by night. During breakfast hours, it offers La Colombe coffee along with a good selection of pastries from the likes of Balthazar and Payard (iconic NYC bakeries), plus staples like granola, fresh fruit, and yogurt. By night, this space evolves to a dimly lit lounge bar scene, serving cocktails and hand-stretched pizzas which are a hit with guests and give the whole area an incredible smell. The space also offers live music some nights. Next door and accessible from the lobby, City Kitchen is a boutique food court with a handful of outlets serving up casual yet high-quality meals and snacks. Its gourmet residents include Dough (artisan doughnuts), Azuki (fresh-made sushi), Luke’s Lobster, Gabriela’s Taqueria (with a mean "al pastor"), Whitman’s New York (burger bar), Kuro-Obi (Japanese), and Box (Mediterranean), along with beer and wine. Guests receive a discount for dining here, and it can all be billed back to the hotel room.
The property also has a 24-hour fitness center on its third floor, and while it’s not memorable, it contains up-to-date cardio and weight-lifting machines, making it easy to squeeze in a decent workout. Guest can also receive a 20 percent discount to Spinning classes at CYC Fitness, also in the building. Along with CYC, the building holds an on-site convenience store, a Glam&Go Beauty Bar offering express hairstyling services; and the Sugar Factory, which serves any amount of sweet indulgences, like pastries, ice cream, and gelato.
Row NYC has a few additional features that allow guests to stay connected, including free unlimited international calls -- a big plus for foreign travelers -- and free Wi-Fi, though it isn't always the most reliable. The lobby features a smart-looking internet lounge area, comprising a big island of Apple desktop computers observing the street action outside.
Some guests baulk at the buttonless elevator system, but the fact is it works, and elevator waits are typically short for such a massive operation.