Pool and rooftop occasionally closed for private events
Small basement fitness center (though it's free)
Lots of street traffic outside
This 422-room hotel's proximity to Central Park, sultry atmosphere, and rooftop bar and pool make it an attractive option on the Upper West Side. Rooms, while warmly decorated in deep earth tones, are quite small, and come with a slew of extra fees, like charges for Wi-Fi and use of Keurig coffeemakers. Scenesters who want to be closer to the action of Downtown could look into Gramercy Park Hotel, another historic hot spot with a rooftop bar.
Business travelers and families haunt the earthy, mood-lit lobby by day; by nightfall, the party scene can pick up
Dating back to the mid-1890s, the Empire is one of New York's oldest hotels, and its iconic rooftop neon sign and traditional entrance preserve that nostalgia. But the hotel's interiors tell a different story. Outfitted with bohemian velvet seating with leopard- and zebra-print pillows, heavy bronze curtains, and modern chandeliers that resemble crash cymbals, the wide-open, two-story lobby looks like a classed-up but low-key pad suitable for liberated, 1960s jazzbos.
Families, couples, and business travelers all frequent the lobby during the day. But the Empire is most notable for its evening party crowd. The lobby bar, 12th-story rooftop bar, and private areas near the pool all attract young locals, and the hotel has also been known to host swanky private events. But because (in part) the public gains access to the rooftop bar via a separate elevator, the cocktail crowd doesn't interfere with a good night's sleep.
Guest rooms have the same sexy, sophisticated allure of the public spaces, with dark yellow walls, Deco-like sunburst mirrors, and coffee-colored accents. They're quite small though (200 square feet) and loaded with sneaky fees (hello, Keurig coffee charge).
South end of the Upper West Side, one block from Central Park, next to Lincoln Center -- plenty to do, without the Times Square crowds
Effectively sandwiched between Lincoln Center and Central Park, the Empire sits on Broadway in the Upper West Side. Although it lacks the maddening crowds of Times Square (21 blocks to the south), it's still a busy part of town.
One block from Central Park
20-minute walk (five-minute cab) to Times Square and the Theater District
Nearest subway station is at Columbus Circle, four blocks away, which offers access to five subway lines (A, B, C, D, 1)
Striking caramel-colored decor distracts from the small size, at first
Like the lobby, rooms are an exercise in rich earth tones: think warm marigold walls with coffee-colored trim and dark furniture. There is a flat-screen TV on the wall and C.O. Bigelow products in the bathroom. But, at 200 square feet, the rooms run a little small for the price range; they're better suited for solo travelers, rather than twosomes. Guests commonly gripe about the cramped quarters, as well as the lack of top sheets on the beds, the lack of robes in the bathrooms, and pricier-than-usual minibar. There's a charge to use the Keurig coffeemaker.
All room types either face Broadway (bright, but noisy) or a lackluster space that's walled in by other wings of the hotel (quiet, but the views are less attractive). Suites include a 478-square-foot suite overlooking Lincoln Center with a dining table and separate bedroom, and a 710-square-foot Deluxe Suite with two bathrooms and a tub.
A lobby bar, small rooftop pool, and a fitness center
An uptown New York hotel with a pool is a rarity, so even the Empire's small rooftop facilities -- overlooking the Upper West Side and offering a glimpse of Central Park -- immediately set it apart. The low-key rooftop pool features a poolside bar and cabanas equipped with TVs, iPod docks, ceiling fans, and mini-fridges. The pool area is occasionally off-limits to guests, though, due to private events. At night, the sepia-toned lobby bar attracts a cosmopolitan crowd.
The basement-level fitness center is small, but free, and features cardio machines, a weight bench, and a set of free weights. Machines don't have their own TV monitors, but there are a couple of flat-screens TVs on the walls.