Disclosure: American Express covered some of the costs of transportation, accommodation, and entertainment during this trip and provided compensation for this review. As always, my thoughts and opinions remain my own.
Some of you already know that I moved to Austin, TX last year. I had some issues with the holiday season here as the weather is too warm to get in the holiday spirit and the downtown shopping scene is almost non-existent. I was pretty excited to visit New York last month as a #spgamex brand ambassador and get my share of holiday festivities.
We flew out on a Friday and spent the weekend shopping on Fifth Avenue, visiting the Museum of Modern Art, and catching a show on Broadway (booked through Marriott Moments). We even made a point to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge since neither of us had ventured beyond Manhattan before.
Booking Our Stay
I had already signed up for the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card a couple months ago to earn points for our next big vacation. Keep in mind there are now separate credit cards for the Marriott Rewards and SPG brands, but you can accumulate points in one account and redeem them at over 6,700 hotels across both programs. We ended up using 100,000 Marriott Rewards points to book a two-night stay at The Algonquin Hotel just a few blocks from Times Square.
Nothing in New York is cheap, so being able to book with points made it a lot less painful. Rates at The Algonquin are often $400 and up around the holidays, and remember that points redemptions cover the cost of taxes, too. I figure we got at least 0.8 cents per point in value. That’s reasonably good for the new Marriott Rewards program since it merged with SPG.
We arrived at the hotel via taxi from JFK. Taxis can be expensive in New York, around $60-70 from JFK including tip and tolls. If you want a cheaper option, the Long Island Railroad is about $15 per person but requires making some connections.
The bellman helped us with our bags to the front desk, where we were greeted by the receptionist and the house cat, Hamlet. Apparently, the house cat is a longstanding tradition at The Algonquin, which is also famous for the number of writers who used to stay there in the early 20th century. Some of these guests established The New Yorker, and you can see cover art and cartoons posted around the hallways.
The lobby was very festive with holiday decor. It was exactly what I hoped for in a last-minute holiday escape! We were able to check-in early and head upstairs to freshen up.
Historic hotels in New York and elsewhere often have small rooms, and this was no exception. But I appreciate the charm of these boutique properties. Some other chains make it painfully obvious that the generic furnishings could be from anywhere. In that case what would be the point of traveling?
Although it was a tight fit between the desk and the bed, we still had everything we needed. The bed was very comfortable, the shower had great pressure and temperature control, and we could even open the window for a little fresh air if we wanted. Bath amenities were provided by Beekman 1802.
My wife found a bathrobe in the closet—her new requirement wherever we stay—so that’s good news. And while I didn’t bother with a speed test, the WiFi seemed fast and didn’t require a special log-in.
Our room was on the 10th floor (out of 12) and faced the rear. The Gold status that comes with my SPG American Express Luxury Card probably earned us the high floor. Stairs are available in case you don’t want to wait for the elevator, and in the future, I might request a lower floor at this particular property.
This hotel does have a $25 per day destination fee. Fortunately, it includes a $30 dining credit that we were able to use for breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant, the Round Table. The waitstaff were surprisingly cheerful and spent much of the time chatting with us about our vacation plans.
If you’re a Platinum Elite member who already gets complimentary breakfast, you can also use the credit for dinner or for a drink at the adjacent Blue Bar. I had a great Old Fashioned there my first night. You can also take advantage of the $300 statement credit that comes with the SPG American Express Luxury Card to pay for dining and other room charges.
Clearly, the main appeal of staying near Times Square is either the shopping (one block to 5th Avenue to the east) or the entertainment (one block to Broadway to the west). Rockefeller Center, with its famous ice-skating rink and Christmas trees, is three blocks north. We also enjoyed going by Bryant Park and Grand Central Station a few blocks further for a little indoor tourism when it started raining.
My wife is an architect, so visiting the Museum of Modern Art is a must when we’re in New York. They almost always have an exhibition on some aspect of architecture, and right now they have a really fascinating display of brutalism (generally large concrete buildings) in the former Yugoslavia. Friday evenings they’re open late until 8 PM with free admission after 4 PM.
We were most excited about attending our first Broadway show. We booked two tickets to The Lion King through Marriott Moments. Marriott Moments let you earn points when you purchase an experience or, in select cases, bid on events and attractions around the world using existing points. It doesn’t need to be something expensive either; other options include local food tours and movie premiers.
As older millennials, my wife and I have seen The Lion King movie several times, but it was great to see the stage adaptation in person. A few things were changed, the plot moved along at a better pace, and the music was more exciting. The costumes were the best part of all. I can’t imagine how much creativity was needed to make human actors look like animals and to basically recreate the story in real life without the advantages of animation.
All in all, we’ll definitely consider staying at The Algonquin Hotel again during a future trip to New York. The location was great and close to everything we wanted to do, and I can’t say enough positive things about the friendly staff! It really made the difference in adding some festive cheer to our holiday weekend.
Be sure to learn more about the SPG Amex Luxury Card and how you can redeem points for free reward nights and Marriott Moments, as well as other perks like complimentary Gold Elite status, an annual $300 statement credit, and an annual night award on your card member anniversary (valid at hotels up to 50,000 points, including The Algonquin)!