Traveling to any large cosmopolitan city is always exciting, but traveling to New York City is something extra special. Manhattan boasts some of the greatest shopping, best dining and most world class museums anywhere in the world. And staying in Manhattan is a pure pleasure, with dozens of superb hotels offering every amenity imaginable 24 hours a day. But on my last trip to New York I stayed at a hotel that offered something that we couldn't find anywhere else... an extravagant room, 44 floors above the street, with the most spectacular view of Central Park that I could ever imagine.
We arrived in the late afternoon, pulling up to the front door of the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel, which sits squarely between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, directly across the street from New York's world-famous Central Park. Central Park South was lined with an array of colorful horse-drawn carriages waiting to take visitors on a guided tour clip-clopping through the Park. Each time we walked through the doors of the hotel, we marveled at how peacefully the hustling taxicabs and the gentle carriage horses co-existed. It was amazing.
Inside, the lobby of the Park Lane is spacious and elegant, yet very comfortable and unpretentious. There were groups of people coming and going, some returning from shopping others departing early for the theater and no less than a half dozen different languages being spoken in this crossroads -of-the-world hotel.
In places like New York hotels don't spread out, they spread up and our destination was a large single room suite on the 44th floor. That our room was larger than most New York City apartments was clear the moment our bellman ushered us into the room’s foyer. Stretching before us was a comfortable living room setting where an overstuffed sofa and love seat piled high with pillows sat in front of a state-of-the-art entertainment center. Further into the room was a king size bed with a quilted mattress, pillows like clouds and sheets whose thread-count couldn't even be guessed at. A deep, plush armchair flanked one side of the bed, an antique leather-topped writing table the other. But what was most awe-inspiring was the view looking north through multiple picture windows that spanned the breadth of the room and provided an unobstructed bird’s eye view of Central Park. The zoo, the skating rink, the lakes, the meadows, it all made us feel like we couldn’t possibly be in the heart of the world's most important city. The desk clerk had warned us when we checked in that the view was so captivating we might never want to leave our room, and if not for the unlimited suggestions from a very attentive concierge staff, we might not have.
The concierge staff were all effortlessly in tune with the city and the needs of their visitors. It seemed that there was no request that they couldn't meet, and I wondered if they didn’t have orchestra seats to every Broadway show in their pockets. When they made our dinner reservations, they always spoke to the person on the phone by name and we always had the best seat in the house. And there was so much to see and do just steps from the Park Lane’s front door. The shops and galleries go on forever, and the museums, theaters and fabulous restaurants are all within an easy walk.
And I suggest walking. Everyone here does, and it’s common to see people dressed in suits or skirts with Nike sneakers, walking to or from their offices. If you're too tired or your heels are too high, a wave of your hand will flag down a passing taxi anywhere in town. If you're traveling formal, as we were on the night we attended a benefit at a stylish SoHo gallery, a private car service or limousine arranged through the hotel is a comfortable indulgence.
But no trip is complete without experiencing the New York City subway system. Over 100 years old, it’s one of the largest in the world, with more than 800 miles of track serving over 450 stations and it carries than 5,000,000 riders each day. The art and architecture of the city’s landmark buildings doesn't end at the sidewalk either. Many of the stations we saw were tiled with intricate mosaics depicting the unique area of the city they served. At our Central Park station the walls were adorned with mosaics of horses, penguins, and polar bears, all easily found inside the Park. And in many of the stations, city-sponsored musicians provided free live entertainment to passengers coming, going and waiting. We heard everything from classical violin to Caribbean steel drums to Peruvian wind pipes (yes, most performers have CDs of their work for sale). And then of course, there were those who were not sponsored by the city, like Benny (“That’s it, just Benny”) playing a heart pounding riff on three upturned buckets.
Make sure you ask the concierge to send you to some of the hidden gems that even most of the locals don’t know about. There are lots of them. We even dined in a fantastic restaurant that was hidden behind a door in the back of a pawn shop! But that’s another article.
Back at the Park Lane, we took advantage of the 24/7 fitness center that featured free weights, cardio machines and every manner of training aid, then put it all back in Harry’s New York bar, a quintessential New York “watering hole” -- dark, clubby and comfortable, with tall drinks and tasty snacks.
If your travels take you to New York, there are lots of nice places to stay, but there’s only one Helmsley Park Lane, and it’s worth the trip.
For more information, please visit www.helmsleyparklane.com or call your travel agent or the Helmsley Park Lane at 1-800-221-4982.