The Merrion Row: An oasis of calm in Manhattan's Midtown

It’s the eternal question, or one of them anyway: where to stay now in New York City. For Houstonians keen on spending long weekends (or more) in Gotham, there’s never been a shortage of properties from which to choose, areas of town to stay in, or price points large and small. Here are three new—or refreshed—places to consider, all just steps from some of NYC’s greatest attractions.

For the Theatergoer

Times Square is a deliberate and relentless assault on the senses—loud, garish, chaotic, cornball, and yes, irresistible. Often, however, the same is true of Times Square hotels, which makes them less than ideal places for rest and repose after a busy day of sightseeing. An intriguing exception is the Merrion Row Hotel and Public House, which just opened in December. The site, a former hostel, has been wonderfully transformed into an Irish-themed, 28-room boutique hotel named for a popular pub-crawling spot in Dublin. The property has been beautifully appointed with lots of tasteful Gallic touches—plaid drapes and the like—but its greatest achievement may be the preternatural calm with which it greets every traveler.

Although occupying the busiest of blocks (45th St. between Sixth and Seventh Aves.), the Merrion Row somehow manages to be an oasis of serenity, an effect it achieves in part by offering a welcome pint to every guest. Upstairs, the rooms are quiet, stately but not stuffy, and the same is true of the first floor bar and restaurant, which features a cozy patio with a retractable roof. Not surprisingly, the eatery specializes in comfort foods, and there are few foods more comfortable than the Public House’s seafood chowder, a creamy mélange of lardons and meaty chunks of local shellfish served with generous tranches of Irish brown bread. Public House also does a mean fish and chips, and offers a few inspired cocktails, including a Merrion mule and a cucumber spritz enlivened by mint vodka. At the end of a long day, either is a perfect way to celebrate surviving Manhattan’s madness before trading it altogether for the plaid-draped serenity upstairs.

Merrion Row Hotel and Public House, 119 W. 45th St. Rooms start at $299 per night.  

For the classic New York experience

It wasn’t until we discovered Maria Shriver sitting just one table over from us—recognized yet unacknowledged by the crowd in the Club Lounge—that the appeal of the Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park became obvious. The hotel, which is indeed elegantly ensconced on the south flank of one of the world’s great urban greenspaces, has long provided a home away from home for guests who value pampered privacy. It still does, and thanks to a still-in-progress renovation (or “reawakening” in hotel parlance), the RC now sports a spiffed-up handsomeness to boot. There are few hotel experiences as breathtaking as the views from its rooms and suites, many of which offer million-dollar glimpses of the park from just above the treetops.  

The Club Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton Central Park: Elegance and unstuffy atmosphere

And while the Club Lounge sits on the hotel’s second floor, it too offers views of the park, as well as glimpses of a world far removed from the one in which most of us inhabit. The RC’s Club Lounges have always been de facto hotels-within-hotels, but Manhattan’s Club somehow feels even more exclusive. Think elegant wood paneling and hushed conversations, leather armchairs and Carrera marble touches. A dedicated concierge is there to greet visitors on their way to the hotel’s imaginative (and extensive) breakfast buffet, but also during lunchtime, the cocktail hour and beyond. The rest of the staff, meanwhile, is stocked with lots of only-in-New York types that guests will find as entertaining as the Club’s fare, if not more so.

If right now it’s the Club that’s garnering much of the attention at the new RC, that’s in part because the lobby and adjacent lounge areas are still undergoing their own reawakening. A new restaurant and bar area is promised for later this spring, as is a mezzanine-level fitness center, further proof that the Ritz-Carlton is committed to maintaining its relevance in a crowded luxury hotel market.

The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park, 50 Central Park South. Rooms start at around $845 a night.

The view from the Magic Hour Rooftop Bar at the Moxy Hotel in Times Square

Image: Moxy Hotel

For the Millennial 

Like the Merrion Row, the Moxy Times Square, which occupies a purgatory space between Penn Station and Times Square, is worlds away from its surroundings, not to mention worlds away from most hotels period. There is no formal lobby, for one, and most of the property’s 612 rooms, while not large, are ingeniously appointed (think tables and chairs that folds up and hang on the wall when not in use) and well-wired for state-of-the-art experiences. There is a second floor bar with a vibe cool enough to attract nearby Garment District types after work, as well as an eatery called Legasea that serves up respectable seafood during lunch and dinner.

But it’s a little place called Magic Hour—which sits on the roof of the Moxy—that has garnered the most attention, and for good reason. In addition to providing jaw-dropping, 360-degree views of the Empire State Building and environs, Magic Hour goes all in on its carnivalesque theme, boasting a circle of banquettes that sit atop a working carousel, provocative topiary, a few holes of miniature golf, and more. It’s an experience unlike any you’ll find at most hotels, and one New Yorkers are themselves enamored by (although hotel guests receive priority access).

On Feb. 14, the Moxy NYC Chelsea, another property in the nascent chain, opened its doors, and while we haven’t yet stayed there, the management did indeed stoke our interest with a hardhat tour last fall. The hotel’s 349 rooms sit squarely in Manhattan’s Flower District, and the property’s entrance—in keeping with the Moxy’s whimsical aesthetic—is via an actual flower shop. Elsewhere, 35 stories of new construction are complemented by a glass-enclosed rooftop bar, four restaurants and lots of witty, fun touches throughout.

Moxy Times Square, 485 Seventh Ave. Rooms start at around $149 a night. Moxy NYC Chelsea, 105 W. 28th St. Rooms start at $159 a night.

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