New York, Baby! Pt.3: The New York Public Library

Front Entrance of the New York Public Library Schwarzman Building between 40 and 42nd St and 5th Avenue

When most people thing of the top tourist spots of New York, they are immediately consumed with images of the Empire State Building, Central Park, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Terminal and the like. Having a solid three weeks to reflect upon my personal touristic highlights of Manhattan, one particular experience rises above the rest. In the waning hours of my first expedition to the Big Apple, my wife and I paid a visit to an awesome place of learning known as the New York Public Library.

One of two lions guarding the front steps and entrance

What an unbelievable structure! When facing the entrance from the 5th Avenue sidewalk, one instantly notices two larger than life lions guarding both sides of the front steps. The massive building is done in a classical style, resembling a great structure from Ancient Greece or Rome. There were also absolutely ornate ceilings through out the library and rooms decked out with all types of canvas paintings, mostly old portraits by American standards by even a few artists I had heard of before. The library also showcased an original Gutenberg Bible, considered to be the oldest one known of in the New World. Despite being an older structure, the library was light an airy, providing a welcome reprieve from the humid August heat on the busy streets outside.

Main Hall of the library

If the library itself wasn’t enough to impress, a really cool free exhibit lay in wait on the main floor directly past the front entrance. The exhibit, called Lunch Hour, was a tribute to the history of lunch in New York City. It had relics and photos demonstrating street foods such as hot dogs and pretzels, the influence and spread of ethnic foods across the metro, and even the first type of “vending machine” dining that New Yorkers utilized for a quick meal on their lunch breaks. You may not think that a subject like lunch could captivate your interest, but my wife and I spent a good hour or so walking through the exhibit while learning a lot and being thoroughly entertained.

Ethnic Foods become more wide spread for lunch

The vending machine New Yorkers used in the 1st half of the 20th century

This last installment concludes my posts about my initial visit to New York. I must say going there I didn’t know what to expect but upon leaving I couldn’t help but wondering when I would return again. There is so much left to see and experience in the Big Apple. The next time I hope to get farther into Brooklyn as we only made it as far as Dumbo. So I would like to begin gathering ideas about what to do and see for my next visit there. What places or experiences are the most memorable for you regarding your travels to New York? Stay tuned for my next investigation into the Rocky Mountains once more for a little Labor Day Weekend R&R to a town that shall be revealed later.

New York, Baby! Pt.2: Accommodations at the Double Tree by Hilton Metropolitan Hotel

After rolling our luggage nine blocks up Lexington Avenue, my wife and I were happy to finally arrive at the entrance of the Double Tree by Hilton Metropolitan Hotel or Doubletree Met for short. We could actually see the hotel from a few blocks away as it displayed a vertical Double Tree sign spanning several stories fashioned in a mid-century style. The marquee above the entrance showed a more contemporary look. Crossing the entrance threshold, a modern looking registration area presented itself front and center with a simple, yet elegant lobby and lounge located directly to the right. Since we checked in around 6:30 p.m. there wasn’t much of a line. A front desk attendant assisted us almost instantly. She verified our reservation for three nights in the Presidential Suite. “What, the Presidential Suite?” I said in disbelief, thinking there must be some kind of mistake. We had booked our reservation as a hot travel deal through Travelzoo, assuring an excellent rate of $169 a night for Friday and Saturday and $119 for Sunday night. Obviously nothing in the fine print guaranteed the potential consumer a night in the second best room of the house! After having the attendant re-verify the rates, my wife and I bubbled up with excitement, still shocked that we secured such rocking accommodations. Although a bit perplexing at first as to how this good fortune had found us, an epiphany about what may have happened surfaced in my mind.
I followed Double Tree on twitter and about a week before our trip to New York there was a tweet saying that the president of Double Tree wanted to here from you (the public that is). Taking the bait, I tweeted back that I had been a long time fan of the Hilton brand and that I was about to embark on my first stay at a Double Tree at their Manhattan Midtown East location. Not expecting a response, you can imagine my surprise when he tweeted back to me a few days before the trip wishing me a great stay at the Double Tree Met and to enjoy New York. He had also sent the reply to Double Tree in general and the Double Tree Met specifically. Not thinking anything else would come of it, I happily replied, giving him my thanks and assuring that we would have a great time. Not knowing exactly what went down, there must have been some additional communication regarding my accommodations between the president and the Double Tree Met, or rather the Double Tree Met took matters into their own hands having received the communiqué from the president. My guess is that having not sold the Presidential Suite during our stay, they upgraded us due to our twitter interactions. They had even pre-registered our stay. Regardless of how it all went down, what an awesome treat that I can only ascribe to the power of social media and twitter specifically.

The Presidential Suite comprised the best of a New York stay. I had heard that New York hotel rooms were are on the small side, but this suite defied such odds. Upon entering the room a small vestibule separated the living area and breakfast nook to the right and the bedroom to the left. Also immediately on each side of the vestibule bathrooms conveniently were placed with the one on the bedroom side containing a contemporary shower minus the bathtub. The living area maintained simple yet functional furniture, the same going for the  breakfast nook. On top of the breakfast table we noticed a tray with all types of goodies such as cheeses, crackers, cupcakes, Voss water, and a welcome note in envelope addressed to me. The note and welcoming tray  was such a nice touch to make us feel at home! The best aspect of the room involved windows that stretched across the whole expanse, which when the curtains were drawn revealed  a beautiful view of Lexington Ave. facing uptown.

The bedroom featured a king-sized bed that my wife and I absolutely loved. We are a bit picky regarding our hotel beds, but the comfort we felt from this one coupled by the awesome nights of sleep could not be beat. A simple headboard with photo artwork depicting the city  hung above the bed. That motif of photo artwork portraying the city popped up through out the suite, in the living areas and bathrooms to boot. Overall impressions of the room left me feeling a great sense of comfort from the size, layout, and a style both contemporary and functional. No doubt the bar has been set high for subsequent visits to New York.

The best amenities of the hotel included the fitness center and lounge. The fitness center, located on the second floor, maintained a nice array of strength conditioning and cardiovascular equipment. I looked forward to my morning run on the treadmill everyday overlooking the action on the corner of 51st and Lexington. The lounge as previously mentioned positioned itself next to Registration and the lobby. Small and open, yet chic and dim enough to conjure a romantic ambiance, it provided a great opportunity for a night cap or late night snack. It also so happened to be a great place to people watch due to its open floor plan and proximity to the lobby and registration.

It may be hard to top the experience I had staying at the Doubletree Met for my first visit to New York. The hotel has a fantastic location, with a subway station right there and short walks to Grand Central Terminal, Rockefeller Center, 5th Avenue shopping, and Central Park. The unexpected upgrade to the Presidential Suite set the tone for our visit and guaranteed comfort and rest for the duration of our stay. Finally, the value thanks to the Travelzoo deal meant more money to spend in the city. I want to pose a question to those who read this blog post. What has been your favorite hotel experience while visiting New York? Stay tuned for the final installment of New York, Baby where I talk about my favorite touristic highlights of the Big Apple!

New York, Baby! Pt.1

New York City

                On August 3rd I made my first trip to New York City at the age of 34. I can’t believe it took me that long to get there considering how much I like to travel. As a matter of fact that was my first expedition ever into the Northeast Region of the United States. For this my wife affectionately labels me a “redneck.” It’s not that I have been impartial to New York. Quite the contrary as I have been an avid aficionado of cinema that takes place there ever since my childhood. Some of my favorite flicks with New York being center stage include Godfather, Goodfellas, and Home Alone 3 Lost in New York (just kidding on the last one). A few of my favorite novels also take place there being J.D. Sullinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and F. Scott Fitsgerald’s The Great Gatsby. So you can see that I have enjoyed cultural components of New York without being exposed to it full force.   

coach USA

coach USA (Photo credit: Buddahbless)

                   It was quite a sensation to emerge from the Lincoln Tunnel in our Coach USA Shuttle bus from Newark Liberty Airport to Midtown Manhattan. I mean you are right in the thick of things! Driving first by Broadway and Times Square and then ending up next to the Grand Central Terminal, it becomes a whole new expansive yet condensed world. The diversity of people, businesses, and the never-ending columns of high-rise buildings provided me a feeling of awe only experienced once before in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I felt truly energized but a little bit intimidated by the buzz of activity on the streets.

English: Grand Central terminal in New York, N...

English: Grand Central terminal in New York, NY Français : Vue extérieure nocturne de la gare Grand Central Terminal sur l’ile de Manhattan, à New-York (États Unis d’Amérique). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

                        After our coach bus made two prior stops in Midtown Manhattan at the Port Authority Bus Terminal and then Bryant Park (next to the world famous New York Public Library), we arrived at our final destination next to the Grand Central Terminal.  After disembarking the bus, retrieving our luggage, and tipping the driver, we walked up Lexington Avenue nine blocks to 51st and the site of our hotel, The Double Tree Metropolitan. Surprisingly it was not so difficult to walk that distance with suitcases in hand. Well, it was Friday after 6 p.m. so I figure most of the work commuters had left the island by then. I admit I felt relieved to finally get to our hotel after such a long day of traveling from Denver. However I knew that the day had just begun because as we would shortly set out on our conquest of the big apple! Next post I am going to describe our stay at the Double Tree Metropolitan, which amazingly included a free upgrade to the Presidential Suite! I would like to leave you with a question to respond to if you have the time. What do you remember about your initial impressions of New York City the first time you visited?

Hotel Rewards Program: Take 1

Hilton Dublin - Coming very soon! Enjoy the ma...

 

 

English: Streeterville portion of Lake Shore D...

English: Streeterville portion of Lake Shore Drive during Bike The Drive (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I signed up for my first hotel rewards program this summer. I used to think it was kind of a scam for the leisure traveler and it may still very well be. I remember times before asking for late check-outs at various establishments only for it to be conditionally granted with the acceptance of their rewards program. I refused to give into the hotels’ demand for a few more moments of restful shut-eye. Until one day something finally snapped and I gave into the temptation. It was the realization that a rewards program membership can come in handy more so than extra sleep. I learned this during my last stay at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago. It would have granted me complimentary access to the fitness center as opposed to the $11.00 fee to non-members, which I declined. In the end it worked out better that I did not use the fitness center, as it just so happened that the hotel found itself a mere few blocks from the wonderful trails of Lake Shore Drive, hugging the beautiful blue waters of Lake Michigan to the East and a mesmerizing view of Chicago’s vast and modern skyline to the West. However I got to thinking what would happen if the next time I wasn’t so blessed with a primo location.

Shortly upon my return to Denver I looked up Hilton’s website and enrolled. The program is called Hilton Honors or HH Rewards for short. I have noticed recently that I really like the Hilton Brand. I can’t recall having a bad experience at one of their places. I’ve stayed at regular Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, and Hampton Inns. This weekend my wife and I will venture to Manhattan for a long weekend. The hotel we will be staying is called the Double Tree Metropolitan, another member of the Hilton family. Hilton may not necessarily conjure up images of extravagance or unbridled excitement, but it does tend to guarantee a level of comfort that I appreciate more and more. In addition with the rewards program, I noticed that I signed up at a time when Hilton is offering triple points for recent upcoming stays. It remains to be seen if free stays can be accumulated relatively easy or not, particularly now that triple points are in play. Also will I be granted complimentary access to fitness centers and late check outs? Time will tell if the Hilton Rewards Program pays off, leading to additional rewards programs or not.