For this second leg of our trip to the east coast, I set about finding a hotel in New York City (NYC). This had never been difficult for me in the past; we had stayed at the Crowne Plaza at Times Square several times previously. It’s conveniently near the theater district, there are lots of restaurants, cab and Lyft drivers know where it is, the rooms are nice enough, the food was always good, there was a lounge we had access to on the top floor since I’m an IHG Rewards member, and, there was a pool accessible through the hotel which was part of a fitness club.
Well. Not this time. I looked at their website and the FAQ’s, one of which was “Do you have a pool?” and the answer was “No”!! Huh. So, I went to the Trip Advisor site, always a good source for listing hotels by the features one may want. I selected pool, room service and restaurant as filters, and the Times Square / Theater District neighborhoods. Love to use filters when planning a trip! The list came up with ten hotels near Times Square which had a pool!
Uh-uh. Just not true. Hotels had not changed their websites in many cases or Trip Advisor had not updated. Every one of the ten either showed that they did not have a pool, or they were not allowing use of it at this time (March, 2022), except one, which said they did have access to a pool at a health club. I called and asked them if it was accessible from the hotel, they said no; the address of the club was about 1 ½ blocks from the hotel. I wasn’t going to go on my scooter in my bathing suit, a robe or sweatpants to a place that far away, in the late winter/early spring cold weather, possibly rain, especially coming back from my workout soaking wet.
So, no pool this time. Big sigh on my part; a pool is an important feature for me in a hotel because I may get back trouble if I don’t do a water therapy workout fairly often, and I also gain weight (well, I always gain weight on vacations anyhow, but, a workout helps!).
Next I discovered that pretty much all hotels in the NYC area, especially near Times Square, did not have operative restaurants at this time, which presented a pretty big problem! I did find one that had two restaurants, for about $1,000 a night. We are not that high in the high roller category, not by a long shot. The Crowne Plaza at this point (a week into my hours of research) was full. I finally reserved the Hyatt Centric on 45th Street, because they had breakfast room service, and did have a bar that had limited decent looking bar food. I booked a two-room suite here, which was the right choice for a week with two people who didn’t want to be practically on top of each other 24/7.
Then I booked “Wicked” on Broadway, so we knew we’d have at least one big show. I had applied for (free) tickets to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and Late Night with Seth Meyers, but only the Meyers’ tix had come through before we left for Canada.
We also made arrangements to see friends north of NYC and Richard’s nieces and nephew in New Jersey. So our NY plans were not jam packed, leaving time for spontaneity, but we had booked enough that we knew we were definitely going to have some fun.
Leaving Toronto was complicated. We had to arrange to get Covid tests the day we flew out, and if we had it, they would not let us enter the US for two weeks; we joked with my cousin Karen that we might be staying at her cabin for a couple of weeks. Funny / not funny. The test was near the airport in a parking garage, and even with appointments for both of us, we had to wait in line for 20 minutes before getting tested. The nice gals running the booth were inefficient. Fortunately, we allowed ourselves three hours before our international flight departed, during which time we had to return our rental car as well. And the tests were not cheap. We passed, had lunch at the airport and boarded the puddle jumper plane for the one-hour flight. It was only a 36-seater, which always makes me a bit anxious; they tend to get blown around a bit in inclement weather, which we were having intermittently. The good fortune was that it was somewhat sunny that day. We were just glad we were allowed our copious amounts of luggage (due to bulky warm clothes) and that they would put my scooter down in the hull as all normal planes did.
Getting from Newark airport to Times Square was actually pretty quick in a hired Super Shuttle car, though expensive; a half hour and $150 (!). Not nearly as inconvenient as the clerk at the Hyatt Centric had implied when I asked her about what kind of transport to take from Newark to the hotel. I asked her about taking a Lyft, and she said, oh, no, that would be too expensive. She made it sound like I had made a dire mistake, a stupid mistake, not to fly into JFK, but for a direct flight, Newark was our only option. Two flights to get from Toronto to NYC? That would have been the real mistake. And now I know that a Lyft would have been cheaper, but we’d have been taking our chances on getting one that could accommodate our gear and my scooter, plus be available right away.
We arrived at the hotel around 6:30. The room was clean and had a not-bad view, but I was a bit disappointed that the floors were bare, no rug, since I do yoga every morning and old bones don’t like a bare floor. I asked for more bath towels and used three as a pad under my yoga mat (and hid the towels the first few days). The décor was modern and we thought it was a little weird, with black squiggles on a white canvas standing in for art, and some rather odd lighting. But I have become used to hotel lighting being sub-prime. At least the windows gave lots of light in the daytime and we also had plenty of closet and drawer space. Not much character, but acceptable.
We unpacked, rested a bit, and went up to the rooftop bar (Bar 54) for a simple sort of dinner; very good eclectic bar food, pot stickers, olives and some other noshy goodies. From there we could see quite a lot of the area, including the beautiful Paramount Building across the street. Then we went exploring a bit, me on my scooter and Richard on foot, and ended up at Juniors, having researched that it was the best place in the area to get a huge slice of New York cheesecake, which we shared with delight. We also got a package of rugelach for our hotel room, wonderful Jewish cookies of crescent rolled pie crust stuffed with cinnamon and raisins.
More good news was awaiting us when we checked email; we had gotten into The Late Show with Stephen Colbert the next afternoon! Now we had at least three fun shows set up.
Breakfast turned out to be a bit disappointing but adequate. Any of the few choices arrived in plastic dishes with plastic cutlery inside boxes inside bags. The omelet was… well, OK. They forgot to include a tea bag for the tea; only a paper cup of hot water was provided, but I’m never without a tea bag. The person taking the order clearly was not the person packing it. In our week, we had breakfast there five times, and nearly every time they forgot to put something in the bag, even if we went over the order twice. We tried oatmeal, bagel and cream cheese, and a yogurt “parfait” that you basically made yourself with the ingredients provided. We agreed that these offerings were better than nothing, which is what we may have had at other hotels.
Next: Part III – Showtime in NYC