I stayed as a solo traveller two nights at the empire hotel in late Sep and it was a very satisfying stay.
Cost - Conventional wisdom is that hotels are much cheaper outside Manhattan and to a certain extent this is true. If you are driving in, it might be cheaper staying outside and Newark airport area (EWR) probably serves well. However, if you are flying in and want to avoid the harrowing driving experience in city, staying in Manhattan is the best option. I did some investigation and hotels in Jersey City are not that much cheaper (at least the ones which provide easy access to the city). The subway is $2.25 per trip and is very in-expensive and you can travel anywhere in the city for this cost. I got this hotel for around $160 per night and that is a decent price for sep time frame. The prices are obviously cheapest in jan-mar due to the weather and are more expensive in summer. I now realise that if you look hard enough you might land a decent hotel that is above 3 stars in the $125 price range in Sep too in Manhattan. If a price below $100 is required, i guess choices drop down to hostels and shared bath accommodations. The list price for the empire was $300 per night and that is way too much to pay and paying $500 per night mentioned in some comments for this hotel would be outrageous.
TIP: With the high number of hotel rooms on sale in NYC, the best rates are usually available couple of days ahead of the stay. The booking made closer to the visit has a better chance of getting an attractive rate.
Location - This is one of the most important points while visiting NYC and it is a quite different experience staying in Manhattan, comparing and contrasting it to commuting from a suburb like NJ. You can go on a late night visit to say Top of the rock at Rock-feller centre that is open till midnight. Commuting to a safe place on subway provides so many more options for visiting attractions. The crime in the big apple is quite low now, but i would not like to stay in a rough neighbourhood and a walk from subway at 2am in the morning would not be prudent and staying in good neighbourhood is worth its price. The empire hotel is right outside Lincoln centre (beginning of the upper west side) which is a wonderful set of buildings housing opera, ballet etc and is an excellent area. The hotel is 50 feet away from the lincoln centre and you cross the Columbus ave to get into the hotel. This is also one stop away from Columbus circle, a stone's throw away from central park etc. There is a Starbucks in the building and a 24 convenience store. I made good use of both. Times square is 15 mins away by walk or couple of mins on subway.
Travel in. I took the subway from JFK and it was super fast and convenient. You may want to leave the heavy baggage at JFK luggage storage facility and that makes it very convenient for commuting. The metro card works at all transit points (air tran at airport and also connecting to subway) and is the way to travel. The subway trains 1,2,3 connect to Lincoln centre while a number of others like A,C connect to Columbus circle. Having subway map on the mobile is the easiest to navigate the city.
Check in. I landed in at around 1 pm and the room was available early. That was helpful and the check in staff were courteous and responsive. I was on the 11th floor.
Room. The rooms in NYC are usually small and the room was on the smaller side. The bed was super comfortable and there was a nice LCD tv. I had to pay for Internet for one day and it was an additional $13. There were couple of closets for storing clothes etc. The hotel went through renovation and remodelling recently and it does show and every thing looks new. The decor of the hotel is a bit on the trendier side, where the colours of the interior furnishings have the zebra stripes. I was not exactly enamoured of this design but was neither put off by it. It did have a fridge with drinks and packaged food and as discussed in the other comments it is better to keep away from these, as they can easily add up to $100. Another surprise is a bouquet of articles from international power adapter, candles, lubricant, vibrators and condoms in the room welcome kit (not complimentary) which seemed to be a bit strange mix. There was a nice combination safe box which was complimentary and I found it very useful. As I was travelling in from abroad, I stored my papers along with money and iPad in here.
Bathroom. If the room was smaller, the bathroom was tinier. However, that being said, the furnishings from the sink to the soap were all top notch. The towels were excellent and so were the bathing accessories. There is no bath tub, but the shower was wonderful. As mentioned by other folks, the design of the bath is perplexing. There is a glass door that only covers half of the bath area and the rest is open. Unless you are careful, water overflows onto the wooden flooring. It was not a big deal for me, but with so much investment made on the hotel, I do not understand the purpose of this design and what is being achieved with this partial glass door.
Decor and roof top lounge. The hotel does have a distinctive look and there is a bar in the reception area. Also the top floor has a roof top pool and a night club area. There were large lines of youngsters waiting to enter on week-end nights, and the hotel guests have priority pass and can walk in. The line to enter some times wraps around almost one block. You can see the beefy bouncers at the separate elevator that goes to the night club. I did not go around into this area as I was bushed, running around the city, but some thing to consider for the younger folks. The elevators have a strange decor too and made strange rattling noise but worked fine.
Service. The turn down service was prompt and I was happy with the service. My needs are simple and hence this might be a factor too in not encountering any surprises. I did not consume any in-house refreshments nor visit the in house restaurant. The Internet speed was excellent and the WI-FI signal strength was super.
Checkout. The checkout staff offered to hold my bags when I was checking out. The laptop is stored by security and goes to a different storage area, but the normal bags can dropped off for storage to be picked up later. That was very convenient too as I had a late evening flight and had additional places to visit and did not have to lug around my laptop and bag.
Clientele - In general, I did not see too many young children and I guess that goes with the young trendy outlook sported by this hotel. I booked on Hotwire and hence only learned of the hotel name after I paid for the stay. I do not see an issue for a family staying here with young children, but this demographic might be uncommon here.
NYC hotels - I also looked at a number of other hotels and the Trump tower and Mandarin Oriental are right across this area. These are 5 star hotels offering rooms above $500 per night. In general, with the cost of the real estate in NYC being as high as the Manhattan Skyline, most of the hotels do not sport very large common areas etc and pools are rare. Keeping this in mind might probably help and could avoid disappointment. There are so many things to do in NYC and hence planning to lounge near a large pool is not exactly practical while staying here. The empire is rated 4 star by travel sites and I probably agree with that rating. However, as mentioned above, the hotels in NYC will not have the same real estate space as other similarly rated hotels in other cities.
Summary - I was quite satisfied with the empire hotel and it was super convenient for visiting the NYC attractions.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Nestled on our own private corner of West 63rd Street between two legendary New York City landmarks - Lincoln Center and Central Park - this boutique NYC hotel provides luxury accommodations overlooking the Broadway / Columbus Avenue - the gateway to the Upper West Side. Location is essential to the spirit of the Empire Hotel and the interior motif and design is inspired by the earth tones of Central Park and the stately modernism of Lincoln Center. 426 Deluxe guest rooms and suites, WiFi, Pool Deck open seasonally, Ed's Chowder House Restaurant, Rooftop Lounge, Lobby bar. ... more less
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