I’ll admit it – I’m a Gossip Girl fan. When Sex and the City ended, I was aching for something to replace it. Gossip Girl had many of the same elements: fashion and New York City as characters themselves. And “The Empire Hotel”, Chuck Bass’ hotel and Upper West Side home, played its own role. The chic neon sign was a regular and the gold and black lobby the scene of many parties in the series. Though Chuck’s suite only exists on a TV set somewhere, The Empire Hotel is a very real NYC icon.
Both Gossip Girl and Sex and the City have served as my guides to the city with where to see and be seen. Like Carrie Bradshaw, I even tried the flying trapeze for a story. So I was excited to stay at the Empire Hotel, one of New York City’s oldest hotels on my latest visit to the Big Apple.
The Empire Hotel is truly a New York City icon. Originally just seven stories, the building was first erected in 1889. Herbert DuPuy purchased the building and tore it down to replace it with a fifteen story building and in December 1923 The Empire Hotel opened. It was topped with its red neon sign reading “Hotel Empire”, which still stands on its rooftop today. The hotel was completely untouched and left in its original state until a refurbishment in 2007.
Though first impressions make it feel like The Empire Hotel should be located in the trendy Meatpacking District instead of Lincoln Center, New York’s Fashion Week designers like Rachel Zoe (who’s hosted her Fashion Week runway show at the hotel) and Gossip Girl have changed that perception. On 63rd at West Broadway, the hotel is an excellent location that is still close to tourist attractions yet away from the Mid-town crowds. I easily walked from the Theater District back to The Empire Hotel is just 20 minutes and it is only one block from Central Park. I’ve stayed all around Manhattan and this was my favorite hotel location yet.
The hotel’s draw is definitely its design. Stepping in to the lobby is like stepping in to a swank 1920’s style jazz club all done up in gold, black, and plush fabrics. Soft lighting and music from the lobby bar set a sexy mood.
The 12th floor is home to another swanky rooftop bar and lounge with a fireplace and a retractable roof so that the party can keep pumping even in the rain. The views over Lincoln Center and Central Park are spectacular and the sleek bar offers up signature cocktails.
Guests won’t have to impersonate someone as Samantha impersonated Annabelle Bronstein when she found her lost pool pass to the Soho House in Sex and the City. There’s a plunge pool perfect for lounging around on a hot NYC summer day on the hotel’s 13th floor. There’s a pool deck menu with both food and drinks so that you don’t even have to steal away from the rooftop pool for a bite to eat. The pool is open seasonally from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Other amenities include a gym, though the location is excellent for a run in Central Park on a nice day. You can even bring your posh pets because The Empire Hotel is dog friendly.
Ed’s Chowder House
The Empire Hotel is home to Ed’s Chowder House, which is like having a little bit of the Hamptons right in Manhattan. There’s a chowder bar that serves up lobster rolls, chowders (of course), steamers, and the like. Or make a reservation of the sea shack chic dining room for a selection of the day’s fish, lobster, and other shellfish. There is also a raw bar serving up a selection of oysters, because what sea shack wouldn’t? Try the pre fixe dinner menu with a starter, main, and dessert for $42.
The rooms were perhaps my only dislike about the hotel. They standard rooms are small, even by NYC standards. But I kept in mind the age of the hotel and with a desk, a king size bed, and a wardrobe to stow away my luggage there was plenty of room to move about comfortably. The bathroom is tiny, though the large rain shower made up for the lack of space a bit. And there was an outlet in the bathroom, which is something that drives me nuts when there is not. How’s a girl supposed to blow dry her hair without an outlet in the bathroom?
Overall, the my room was looking a bit worn but The Empire Hotel has a floor-by-floor renovation planned to start later this year. For the location and price, which I think is definitely reasonable for NYC, I’d certainly stay at The Empire Hotel again.
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