Club Acela Penn Station and Acela First Class Review

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series New York City 2013 Trip Report

After we rebooked our train to an earlier time, we still arrived at Penn Station with enough time to grab a snack before our train departed.

As I mentioned in the introductory post, I transferred 24,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards to my Amtrak account to redeem two first class tickets on the Acela train from New York to DC. While this probably isn’t the greatest value of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, I should point out that when I was researching tickets for that day, Amtrak tickets were exceptionally expensive at around $200 each. Much higher than the $49 tickets we got going up to New York! I’ve always wanted to try the Acela, but I’ve never been willing to pay the price premium, so I figured what the heck, and booked Acela First Class.

Club Acela Penn Station

We were able to use the Acela first class lounge, called Club Acela, at Penn Station. It was small and dark, but it was a good place for some quiet, considering the near constant announcements going on in Penn Station.

Seating areas in Club Acela

There was a small bar area with sodas and coffee, near the check-in desk.

And a small business and work area.

Amtrak Acela First Class

Not long before our scheduled departure, staff in the lounge announced boarding for our 4:00PM Acela train to Washington, DC’s Union Station, departing from Track 13.

Seats were arranged in a 2 x 1 layout, so if you’re traveling alone, you won’t end up sitting right next to a stranger.

There were also a few groupings of seats that faced each other, separated by a table, which would be great for groups or families traveling together.

Obligatory legroom shots of the seats.

I was really hoping that the first class seats would have a little recliner foot rest, but instead all it had was a foot rest attached to the seat in front of me.

The legroom and width was slightly more than the legroom and width on the Amtrak Regional Coach Class train we took up to New York, but I would not pay the premium and book an Acela First Class ticket for increased space alone.

One of the benefits of First Class Acela versus the rest of the classes is that you get free food and beverages, including a nice selection of alcoholic beverages.

Here was the menu on our train.

I started out with a soda and some crunchy snacks.

I ordered the Amtrak Signature Steak, and so did Ken.

When my food came out, it looked like the sauce had spilled all down the side of the plate and then been microwaved.

Ken’s dish was a little neater.

But we both agreed that the steak was really, really terrible. In fact, I’m not sure how they could call it a steak. It had the consistency of a pot roast, and it was exceptionally bland.

Although I did enjoy a few Dogfish Head IPAs

As for the speed of the Acela, we were monitoring that the whole time with Ken’s handheld GPS. On our trip up to NYC (on the normal Amtrak regional train), the max speed the train hit is about 100MPH, and it didn’t stay at that speed very long. The Acela had longer sustained speeds, and went up to about 120 MPH. It was difficult to tell a true time savings because our train up to New York was delayed along the way due to mechanical problems, but the Acela train itself was scheduled for about 30 minutes shorter than our Amtrak regional. I did like that it made fewer stops than the Regional, as it made for a smoother ride.

I don’t think I’d take the Acela, and especially Acela First Class, again in the future unless there’s some amazing sale. I just don’t think that the price premium was worth it considering that it A) wasn’t that much more spacious; B) Didn’t have good food, and C) the time savings was not all that significant.

Has anyone else taken the Acela, or specifically the Acela First Class? What were your thoughts?

New York City – Day 4

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series New York City 2013 Trip Report

Our last day in New York City was only a half day, so we had to make the most of it. We actually packed up our hotel room and put our luggage in storage, since we wouldn’t be back until well after check out time.

The High Line

Our first stop of the morning was the High Line. The High Line is an old freight rail line that ran along the western side of Manhattan. The line had been abandoned for many years and had started to get grown over with greenery and flowers. In 1999, it was marked for demolition, when a group of private citizens advocated and raised funds to make it a new attraction. Of all the random things, Ken and I first heard about the High Line while watching an episode of This Old House.

The reception staff at the Andaz was very helpful in helping us figure out which High Line entrance to use so we could see the most of it. He recommended walking from the south to the north on the High Line. We decided to take a taxi, and he said we should tell the taxi driver to take us to 10th Avenue and Gansevoort.

I had heard that the High Line was cool, but I didn’t realize just HOW cool it was!

The old train tracks still remained on the High Line

There were many of these very cool benches to use to sit or rest!

And of course there were many cool views the city from the High Line.

I really enjoyed these seating areas that had had stadium-style benches and windows to watch the city activity below!

There were some installation art pieces along the walk.

There were a few vendor-style eateries, but since it was still early, most of them weren’t opening until lunch time, except for one or two places that sold coffee.

And then we reached the end of the High Line, which is scheduled to expand in the next few years. I highly recommend the High Line the next time you’re in New York City. We were there on a Sunday, but got there around 9:30AM, and it wasn’t terribly crowded.

After our walk along the High Line, we had one thing on our mind. LUNCH. It was 11AM, and sadly, many of the restaurants in the area weren’t opening until 11:30! I was having flashbacks to our first evening in NYC and the late night dinner debacle. I was thinking to myself, “Umm, it’s Sunday. Shouldn’t every place in NYC be serving brunch at this time?” Or maybe that’s just a stereotype of New York?

Anyway, we finally found a place called Pizza Suprema, and it was open, and it was SO fantastic. It was very small and charming, but since it was still early, it wasn’t crowded. (I’ve since read online reviews for that place that said it can get very crowded there). It was also very reasonably priced.

B&H Photo

One of our planned stops for the day was B&H photo, and we were very happy to find that it was a very (VERY!) short walking distance from the pizza place. In fact, we just kind of saw its signature green awnings out of the corner of our eye as we were walking around the area after eating our lunch.

For those of you who don’t know, B&H photo is like a huge electronics superstore. HUGE.

Greenflea

After a long stroll throughout B&H, we hopped in a cab to go to Greenflea, an outdoor Sunday flea market. I was very disappointed. From online reviews you would’ve thought this place was like some amazing antiques market, but really, it was pretty much just junk. And my standards are pretty low.

Although it was tempting to buy some of these vintage cameras.

Changing our train

Our train was scheduled to depart New York’s Penn Station at 6:00PM. But by this point, it was around 2:30PM and we had hit all our planned stops for the day. So we headed back to the hotel so I could call or go online to change our tickets to an earlier train.

Once we got to the hotel, I logged into my Amtrak account and tried to change my ticket online, which looked like it should have been pretty straightforward. But apparently award tickets (I had booked using points) can’t be changed online. I was able to call and change our reservation to the 4:00PM train with no fees or additional costs.

So we got our luggage out of hotel storage, and got a taxi to take us to Penn Station! We had had such a great time in New York, but we were ready to head home!

Day 3 in New York City

This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series New York City 2013 Trip Report

Our third day in New York City started with a huge breakfast. On the advice of the front desk staff at the Andaz Fifth Avenue, we walked a few blocks to Pershing Square Cafe, located right across the street from Grand Central Station. The breakfast was delicious, filling, and very reasonably priced by Manhattan standards. It was a Saturday morning so we did have to wait about 20 minutes for a seat, but the line moved quickly. We definitely recommend Pershing Square Cafe if you’re in the area.

Grand Central Station

Since we were right in the area, we stopped by Grand Central Station to walk around and take some photos after we finished our breakfast. It really is such a stunning space.

Windows displayed “100,” celebrating Grand Central Station’s 100th anniversary

 

Central Park

After we walked around Grand Central Station for a bit, we hopped a taxi to one of the Central Park entrances.

As we were walking into Central Park, we noticed a huge crowd at this one site, but we didn’t know what it was. Then we saw that this area of Central Park is called the “Strawberry Fields” area, and we realized that the site must have been a John Lennon memorial near where he was shot.

It was so unbearably crowded in Central Park, to the point that I almost wanted to leave. There was nothing leisurely about strolling around Central Park that day it seemed. There were these enormously long lines of people with children. The lines were moving quickly, but we had no idea what the lines were for, so we asked someone. Apparently there were Halloween-related childrens’ events in Central Park that day, like pumpkin patches. The families were waiting in line for those events.

But, we continued our walk. Luckily as we got deeper into the park, the huge crowds dissipated.

Here is the Bethesda Fountain area

We walked to the Bow Bridge in Central Park, which was undergoing some restoration, but was still beautiful.

We continued our stroll through Central Park to the Belvedere Castle area. Belvedere Castle has been Central Park’s official weather station since 1919!

There were some great views of Central Park after climbing a few steps inside Belvedere Castle.

The Cloisters

After walking around Central Park for quite a while, we wanted to visit The Cloisters.

Anytime we mentioned the Cloisters to New Yorkers, you might have thought we were talking about going to the moon. We had asked front desk staff at the Andaz about the best transportation to get to the Cloisters and their jaws about dropped. In their assessment, it was very far away. But to be fair, they gave us some transportation options after their initial shock. Our feet were getting pretty tired and we didn’t feel like hunting for the nearest subway stop, so we just hopped in another taxi. Of course, the taxi driver had no idea what we were talking about. When we gave him the address, his eyes widened like we were asking him to drive us to California or something. But he got us there in about 20 minutes, and Ken and I enjoyed the time to rest our feet.

The Cloisters was amazing, but it was actually quite a bit smaller than I was expecting, especially for the admission price. (I later found out that the admission price is simply a “suggested” admission price.)

But it packed a lot of punch into a small area.

Beautiful stained glass windows.

Amazing columns indoors and out

Walking around the grounds

Enjoying the art and historical exhibits inside.

After the Cloisters, we were hoping to rest our feet for a bit back at the hotel before our 5:00PM entrance tickets to the 9/11 Memorial. We caught a bus that we thought would take us all the way from the Cloisters, near 196th Street, to a stop near our hotel at 42nd street. That day, we learned a very important lesson about how long it takes a NYC bus to go 100 blocks. We ended up getting off the bus at 100th Street and took a taxi to the 9/11 Memorial, and had no time to stop at the hotel for some rest. But luckily sitting on that bus for SO LONG rejuvenated our feet a bit!

9/11 Memorial

Near the 9/11 Memorial Entrance

Freedom Tower under construction.

Walking to the 9/11 Memorial Entrance. The area is still very much under construction, so the access points are still a little disorganized

It was a very emotional experience to see the memorials. The fountains were stunning and I thought the entire memorial space was an amazing tribute to those who lost their lives on that tragic day. For those who don’t know, the memorials are located in the footprints of where the North and South towers once stood.

Each memorial contains the names of those who lost their lives. The names are grouped together by “association.” For instance, all the individuals who died that worked at the same company are nearby, fire battalions are grouped, the flights, etc.

Staff at the memorial place a flower on the names of victims that would have been celebrating a birthday that day. I found this to be especially touching

One of my favorite photographs from our entire trip.

There are electronic kiosks to more easily locate names at the memorials.

As sunset approaches, lights are turned on in the fountains.

 

Brooklyn Bridge

After the 9/11 Memorial, we had some dinner and then went to the Brooklyn Bridge, with the intention of walking a portion of it, then setting up our tripods to get some good night time skyline shots, as well as some shots of the bridge. Well, by this point we were exhausted. The bridge was also having some renovation work done, interfering with our photos.

Plus, I started to get unreasonably freaked out as I noticed the tiny gaps in the pedestrian walkway slats that allowed me to see the traffic zooming by under my feet. I was better once we started walking again, but we turned around and decided to save our Brooklyn Bridge walk for the next trip to NYC, and actually start out on the Brooklyn side for the best views of the skyline.

So, we walked back the way we came and caught the subway at the Brooklyn Bridge station and took it to Grand Central Station, and walked a few blocks to our hotel from there. We were totally spent and glad to be back in bed for the night!

Days 1 & 2 in New York City 2

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series New York City 2013 Trip Report

I mentioned in one of the last posts that our taxi drive from Penn Station to the Andaz was kind of ridiculous.  He didn’t know the address, so we were left scrambling to look up the cross streets on our phone, and then he wanted to drop us off three blocks from the hotel to avoid some sort of traffic.  So, we politely said no, and he begrudgingly drove us all the way to the hotel.  I don’t understand this logic.  He’s getting paid for his time, no?  Whether he’s sitting in traffic or driving us up and down the streets of NYC?


Times Square and the Late Dinner Debacle

Anyway, we got checked in to the hotel, relaxed for a few minutes, and I was getting hungry.  My cheese plate on the Amtrak train didn’t exactly fill me up.  Our hotel was a relatively short walk to Times Square, so we walked that direction, figuring we would find a restaurant on the way.

It was 10PM by this point, and surprisingly for the city that never sleeps, many restaurants were already closed.  We walked around Times Square for 45 minutes or so, but most restaurants in that area are chains.  Ken suggested McDonald’s just to hold me over, but fast food literally makes me sick, so I declined.  On one of my previous trips to NYC, I remembered eating at some famous deli-type restaurant that served these huge sandwiches.  But it wasn’t there.  I can’t remember the name, and it is possible I might have had the general Times Square location mixed up, but I swear it must have closed.

After our walk around Times Square, we decided to head back to the hotel.  There was an Irish pub right across the street that was open when we left the hotel.  You can’t go too wrong with Irish pub food.  Except when we got there, it was now after 11PM, and the kitchen was closed.  How was this possible?  How was it possible to starve in NYC at night?  Okay, I’m being dramatic, but I was getting really hangry.

I opted for room service at the Andaz.  Here we are, three months past our trip to NYC, and Ken continues to make fun of me for the room service option.  $34 for a plate of glorified spaghetti.  It was okay.  Not bad, not great though either.  But, I was hungry and it did the trick.  We went to bed shortly thereafter.

Empire State Building

The next morning, the first stop on our agenda was the Empire State Building.  It was only a few block walk from our hotel, and, like the previous night, we decided to find some place for breakfast along the way.  Again, we ran into the issue of chain after chain.  Corner Bakery, Dunkin Donuts.  Panera.  Wasn’t there some nice local option to just grab a breakfast sandwich and hot chocolate to eat on our walk?  We finally found a place.  They had a grill and we were going to get breakfast sandwiches, but they had stopped serving breakfast at 9:30.  We were batting zero for eating in NYC.  The place also served muffins and pastries, so we bought some and continued our walk to the Empire State Building.

I had purchased tickets in advance for the Empire State Building.  The options were somewhat confusing and went something like 1) Buy everything at the Empire State Building and stand in all lines, 2) Prepay for your tickets and avoid the ticket line, but not the elevator line, or 3) Prepay for your ticket and get the extra special elevator line avoidance ticket and stand in no lines (except for security screening).  We went for option 2, figuring the elevator lines wouldn’t be that crowded for a random weekend in October.  They weren’t bad, but they were longer than I thought.  I think we waited about 20 minutes total, including the security screening line.

While waiting in line, they had a green screen to take your picture.  Then they would superimpose your picture onto an Empire State Building background.

So, can I just tell you something here?  An interesting quirk?  Ken DESPISES these things.  We see them everywhere.  Green Screen before boarding the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls.  Green Screen before entering the Atlanta Aquarium.  Green Screen at Graceland.  You get the idea.  Each time we see a green screen, Ken reacts in the same way:

“WHY WOULD I WANT MY PICTURE TAKEN IN FRONT A GREEN SCREEN!?!  I’m HERE!  I’m AT the famous location!  I have an idea!  Why don’t I JUST TAKE A PICTURE AT THE ACTUAL LOCATION INSTEAD OF HAVING IT TAKEN IN FRONT OF A GREEN SCREEN?!?  IF I wanted my picture taken IN FRONT OF A GREEN SCREEN and then SUPERIMPOSED at the famous place, I WOULD DO IT FROM MY COMPUTER!  AT HOME! And never travel anywhere!”

You get the idea.  Ken is typically a very calm person, but what can I say?  Green screen options enrage him.  So, we spent about 5 minutes in line making fun of the green screen.  Ken told me, “I’d rather have my picture taken next to this SCALE MODEL of the Empire State Building instead of that green screen.”  So, I took his picture next to the scale model.

We bypassed the option to have our picture taken, much to the displeasure of the photographer.

Walking up the stairs to the 86th Floor.

Well, that heading is misleading, but only slightly.  The first set of elevators takes you to the 80th Floor.  But the Observatory is on the 86th Floor.  The 80th floor contains some amazing photographs and historical descriptions of the Empire State Building.  Fascinating stuff.  After meandering around the 80th floor, we walk to the lines for the elevators that will take us to the 86th floor.  The line was not exceptionally long, maybe just 50 people, but an employee was announcing that only one of the elevators was working.  Therefore, the line would take about 30 minutes.  As an alternative, they had opened the emergency stairwells if folks wanted to climb the six flights of steps instead of waiting.

We opted for the steps, and although we’re not in the greatest of shape, we appreciated the chance to see parts of the Empire State Building that are typically off limits.  Like this scary airshaft that looks down 80 floors.

 

We got to the 86th floor, and took our time walking around the Observatory.

This was my third time at the Empire State Building, and it’s fascinating (and sad) to see the NYC skyline changes that I have captured with my camera.

From Top to Bottom: Downtown Manhattan from the Empire State Building in 2000, when the World Trade Center towers still stood; in 2002, after they had fallen; and in 2013, with the new Freedom Tower nearing completion.

We had also purchased tickets for the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building, called the Top Deck.  On my previous trips, I had never opted for the 102nd floor, because I was a broke college student and it was too expensive.  Well, I must say that I was pretty disappointed with the 102nd floor.  It was very crowded and it was a very small, enclosed space.  The views were no better than the 86th floor.  The most fascinating part was the old fashioned elevator that was manned by an Empire State Building employee.  It was actually hand cranked to a precise location once we got to the floor!  So, recommendation, save your money and skip the Top Deck option.

We wrapped up our tour, and decided to grab an early lunch at a restaurant in the lobby of the Empire State Building, called Heartland Brewery.  It wasn’t bad, and I even enjoyed a lovely lunchtime Microbrew.

Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum

After lunch, we grabbed a taxi to go to the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum.

I had prepurchased tickets for that museum as well, and opted (obviously) for the entrance to the Enterprise Space Shuttle exhibit.  I thought it would be pretty difficult to be blown away by another aviation museum.  After all, we’ve been to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and the Udvar Hazy Center many times now.  The Udvar Hazy center especially is a stunning museum.  But the Intrepid was terrific and definitely worth the admission price!  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

The Intrepid is also home to a Concorde!

In addition to the planes there was, of course, the actual Intrepid Aircraft Carrier itself, which remained largely in original form since its 1970s retirement (surely there is a different term for this. Decommissioning perhaps?)

We were walking around the Intrepid for quite a while.  We had tickets for the World Trade Center Memorial for a 5PM admission, their last admission time.  (Tickets are normally free, but they are limited.  So you can pre-book your tickets for a nominal fee of $2 to ensure that you get a ticket.)  We didn’t want to rush finishing up at the Intrepid, so I went on my phone and managed to book more tickets to the World Trade Center Memorial for the next evening.  We leisurely enjoyed the rest of our time at the Intrepid, without having to rush to leave for the next stop on our itinerary!  One deck of the Intrepid has been repurposed as an indoor museum.

It was really fascinating to see the Enterprise.  Obviously it never flew in space, and it was an amazing contrast to the Discovery, which we’ve seen up close at the Udvar Hazy center.  The Discovery looked very, very beat up and well worn.  (To be expected considering its age, miles logged, and harsh conditions endured!)  The Enterprise looked as clean as could be!

 

We also walked around the former nuclear submarine, the Growler.  I’m not claustrophobic, but something about people telling me that something is going to be “very claustrophobic” always makes me a bit uneasy.  The start of the submarine tour was also exceptionally hot, and I almost opted not going any further.  But, I went and the temperature cooled off and yes, it was small, but as always, I’m fine in confined spaces.  It’s cozy!

Some Rest

After the Intrepid, we tried to find a taxi, but weren’t having much luck.  Luckily a taxi had just dropped somebody off so we ran for it!  The taxi driver told us how lucky we were.  Apparently it’s really hard to get a taxi in NYC during evening rush hour.  That is the time taxi cab drivers change shifts and they all have to make their way out of Manhattan towards JFK airport, where their taxi HQs are located.  That taxi driver was insane, but in a good way.  He darted out into a blocked intersection right before our traffic light changed, weaving in front of and behind the cars that had been illegally blocking the intersection.  It was quite the maneuver!

We went back to the Andaz for a little while to rest our legs.  I took full advantage of the foot bath basin in the bathroom of our hotel room, soaking my feet for a good 20 minutes.  Since our planned itinerary had changed thanks to our extended visit at the Intrepid and rescheduled World Trade Center memorial tour, we took some time to plan out the rest of our evening.

We decided on dinner, the Art of the Brick, and Top of the Rock.

We ate dinner at John’s Pizzeria on the suggestion of one of Ken’s coworkers.  It was actually located in Times Square, which we did not know the night before when we were searching for a place to eat that was open.  I thought it was really good!  Very noisy, but good!

Art of the Brick

After dinner, the Art of the Brick was less than a block away.  Ken is a huge fan of legos.  I had seen this being sold as a Groupon a month earlier, so I purchased tickets via Groupon for half price.  The exhibit was actually larger than I expected, and it was really good!

 

Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center Building)

After the Art of the Brick, we walked through Times Square again, on our way to Top of the Rock.  The entrance was a little confusing to find, but we made our way through.

It was fairly late, probably 10PM or so, and the place was really empty.  We waited a few minutes to purchase our tickets, but I think that wait was mainly because they didn’t have many people working.  There was no line at all for the elevators, but you can tell that they’re always prepared for a long line, considering the many switchbacks of rope and dividers.  We also snuck past the green screen too!

I don’t think I’m overstating things that when I say that the elevator to the observation deck was the coolest elevator I have ever been in.  Crazy cool lighting, a clear roof that allowed you to see the tremendous speed that the elevator was traveling, and a recap of NBC history all in like the 45 second ascent to the top.  Truly amazing stuff.  I was totally unprepared for how cool it was, so I only managed to snap this crappy photo.

It was really amazing to see the NYC skyline at night.  Unfortunately tripods aren’t permitted at Top of the Rock, but there were plenty of wide, safe surfaces to set down the camera for a long exposure (I had researched that in advance).

There was also some amazing indoor spaces, including this interactive colorful room that you could make change by touching or talking.


There was also some nice indoor spaces with comfortable couches and mood lighting.  Considering our sore legs thanks to a full day of sightseeing and the chilly October evening air 60 floors up, we sat for a little bit on the indoor sofas and relaxed.

Once we were done, we hung out for a bit near the Ice Skating rink at Rockefeller Center, and decided to walk back to our hotel.  It was only a few blocks, but we were some tempted to hail a cab.  We were exhausted!  But we walked and we were just fine.

We got back to our hotel, I took a long hot shower to ease my leg muscles, and we went to sleep.

Andaz Fifth Avenue, New York City (Hotel Review)

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This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series New York City 2013 Trip Report

When we decided on New York City as a quick weekend getaway, my mind immediately was set on the Andaz Fifth Avenue. Over the past few years, I’ve seen the Andaz Fifth Avenue reviewed many times on miles and points blogs. Part of its allure seemed to be the great value as a points redemption. The hotel can cost $500+ per night. So redeeming just 22,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points for one night makes it a pretty great deal. I was excited to see that points redemptions were available for our desired weekend, so I transferred 66,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to my Hyatt Gold Passport account. The transfer was instantaneous, and I made our three night reservation immediately.

Our taxi from Penn Station to the Andaz was a bit absurd. The last few times I was in New York City, I was a broke college student, so taking a taxi cab anywhere was always way out of the budget. So, perhaps I was a bit out of the loop on New York City taxicab etiquette. But I thought that I could give an address, in this case, 485 5th Avenue, and the taxi driver would know where to go. Well, he needed to know the cross streets. What the hell do I know about cross streets? I mean, in DC I can just say “Take me to 400 12th Street, NW” and they know right where that is. (I actually don’t know if that’s a real address, but you get the point).

After a quick Google Maps inquiry on my phone, I discovered that the cross streets were 41st and 5th Avenue. Annoyed, he asked whether he could drop us off three blocks before that cross street because something about something traffic and one-ways. Or something. I really had no idea what he was saying.

So I just said no and that we wanted to be driven to the hotel at 41st and 5th Avenue. I did not want to be carrying my luggage, no matter how light and compact, three blocks to a hotel we had never even been to before. He agreed to drive us to the destination, although he sounded pretty irritated about it.

I digress.

We arrived at the Andaz, which has a nondescript entry. As you enter through the tall doors, it’s like you’re being granted entrance to some secret society or something. The entire time we were there, two employees staffed the doors to open them for guests as they entered and exited the hotel, as well as being nearby to get them a taxi or to help them out of a taxi.

(Exterior photos taken during the daylight since we arrived when it was dark)

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Andaz Entrance on 41st Street

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Hotel logo as seen from the corner of 41st and 5th Avenue

When we arrived, we ventured toward the small check in “desk,” which is actually just a small white table with four employees staffing MacBook Pros.

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Check-in area and elevators

  

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Staffed Lobby Doors

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An iMac available in the lobby for guest use free of charge. I used it a few times to print our updated tickets to the 9/11 memorial, as well as to print our boarding passes after we re-booked our return Amtrak train.

A gentleman checked us in. We had booked an Andaz King, and I asked if there happened to be any upgrades available. He said they wouldn’t have any suites available until the following night. But he offered to upgrade us to a “Pure” room, which faces an interior courtyard, so it is quieter than the rooms that face the street. We figured why not. He escorted us all the way to our room, which I was not expecting, but it was a nice touch. As we walked to the room on the 5th floor, he told us a bit about the Andaz brand.

One thing I found slightly annoying, although it is certainly not unique to the Andaz Fifth Avenue, was that we had to take two separate elevators to get to our room. First world problems, I realize, but the annoyance really became apparent after a long day of sightseeing and we just wanted to get to our room to relax. We had to do take two elevators to our room during our stay at a Westin in Philadelphia as well last year during a weekend trip.

On the second set of elevators, he explained that we would need to swipe our hotel room key to gain access to our floor. I made a light joke about being thankful for the security, saying “Oh that’s good, because I’ve seen Law and Order plenty of times.” He chuckled, and then Ken was quick to point out we were from DC, which these days has a much higher murder rate than New York City!

Anyway, he showed us to our room and proceeded to give us a brief overview. He covered how the lights worked (which I’m glad he did. It wasn’t as easy as just flipping a switch), how the automatic curtains worked, that all the snacks and non alcoholic beverages in the room were free of charge (Free! No paying $3.50 for a bottle of Coke from a hotel vending machine!), and explained that there was a computer hooked up to the back of the television. For what purpose, I don’t remember. Which brings me to #2 minor complaint about the Andaz — the computer ran all the time, which made for a slightly annoying whirring sound all night long. Nothing too loud to keep me awake, especially after exhausting days of sightseeing, but just something to be aware of for light sleepers.

Ken asked whether breakfast was included. I knew it wasn’t, but I forgot to tell Ken. But, I’m glad he asked because the host showed us the breakfast room service menu, told us to fill it out that night, and write it to his attention. He would comp us breakfast for the next morning. That was certainly a great gesture and a sign of great customer service.

The room was large by New York City standards.

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Looking down the hallway after entering the hotel room door. The bathroom entrance is on the right.

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Desk area. Sorry, we had already started to set stuff down!

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Looking other direction down hallway with bed and desk partially in view.

 

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King Size Bed. Very comfortable and a good selection of pillows.

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Standing next to desk, looking back towards hotel room door.

 

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Fridge stocked with sodas, water, and a light selection of alcoholic beverages. Ken and I certainly took advantage of the bottles of water and sodas. Every day, the fridge was re-stocked.

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A few light snacks were also free, plus there was some liquor available for purchase.

  

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Double sinks in bathroom.

 

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Shower area next to sinks.

 

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More complete view of shower.

Not visible in the above picture though is the rain shower head in the ceiling. The bench was lovely, and under the bench (not pictured) was a large heavy bowl that you could fill up with water to soak your feet. I did that every night of our stay! The small silver thing to the right of the bench that looks like a soap holder is actually the water faucet, which ran like a waterfall, which you could use to fill up the large bowl. Finding the perfect water temperature was a bit difficult. I tend to like my showers on the hot side, but it was hard to find that sweet spot of hot enough without being too hot.

Also, this is a personal preference, and I realize that it bucks current trends, but I don’t like showers without doors. In addition to liking my showers hot, I like them to be steamy too. And it’s just too hard to “trap” the steam in a shower when there’s no door. Eventually it would get steamy when the entire bathroom filled with steam, but obviously that takes a lot longer. I find showering just a bit too breezy without a door!

The bathroom was stocked with CO Bigelow products.

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CO Bigelow Body wash, Conditioner, and Shampoo. (Not pictured: Body lotion that was available on the sink)

I don’t have a photograph of it, but the only thing I didn’t like about this bathroom was the way the toilet was situated. The toilet was behind a half partition wall, but if you walked into the bathroom as someone was using the toilet, you’d be able to see them just fine. I’m not sure why they bothered with a partition wall since it didn’t offer privacy from others who may have been using the sink or shower.

The view wasn’t much to write home about, but because we faced this interior courtyard, our room was very, very quiet for New York City. So, while it was no Splash Suite, we didn’t have to worry about street noise.

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View from Andaz King “Pure” Room

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View from Andaz King “Pure” Room

I have an informal rating system for hotels that I stay at. So here you go for the Andaz 5th Avenue!

  • Mattress Comfort: Did my back hurt when I woke up in the morning? No. Great Bed Comfort!
  • Towel Quality: Did the towels wrap all the wrap all the way around my body? Yes. Best hotel towels EVER.
  • Shower Quality and Comfort: Did I have to duck down my 5’9” body in the shower to get my hair wet under the shower head? No. The rain showerhead was like 3 feet above my head!
  • Room Temperature: Did I wake up at times during the same night alternating between feeling hot and cold? Yes. Unfortunately we couldn’t quite get the room temperature comfortable at night.
  • Would I Recommend it to a Friend: Yes, but with a caveat. If I had paid the full price for this room, I don’t think I would have been terribly impressed given the money we would’ve spent. Yes, the service was great, the rooms were comfortable, and the free snacks were appreciated, but would it have been worth $450/night? Not to me.