With all the lights and sights clamoring for your attention in Times Square, it is easy to walk right past the understated Knickerbocker Hotel without even noticing. Yet the secret is out about this newly redone New York City landmark. The hotel, which once played host to legendary actresses, oil tycoons and sports figures, is an oasis of soothing luxury in the midst of the Times Square madness.
Since Times Square underwent its transformation from home of the peep shows to a family-centric mecca with megastores like M&M World and attractions like Madame Tussauds, more families have chosen the area as a Manhattan home base. Yet the large chain hotels that predominate don’t offer the style and service that discerning families want. While not entirely family-focused, The Knickerbocker goes out of its way to make children feel welcome.
Young guests are greeted with a welcome amenity, which during our stay included a backpack with a small umbrella. They also receive milk and cookies, and rooms are outfitted with child-size robes. For those who prefer to stay in for entertainment, the hotel also offers an Xbox gaming console on loan.
It is convenient to get anywhere in the city by subway from The Knickerbocker, which sits between Broadway and Bryant Park. A quick train ride will take you up to Central Park or the museums on the Upper West and Upper East Sides. Meanwhile, a short walk brings you to other famous landmarks, including Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building.
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If you plan on seeing a Broadway show when in town, the location couldn’t be better. In fact, when we visited to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 and 2, it was so nice to be able to stop by the hotel to refresh and have dinner in the short break between performances.
For winter visits, Bryant Park offers a great alternative to the famous Christmas tree and ice skating in Rockefeller Center. And the Christmas market in Bryant Park is quite charming. Even during the summer months, the park offers a quiet and shaded spot to have a bite to eat or sip a coffee from nearby Blue Bottle Coffee. If you head around to the other side of the park, you can poke your head into the beautiful New York Public Library and take a photo with the famous lions that guard the entrance in front.
The Knickerbocker offers 330 guest rooms, including 27 Junior Suites and four Tribute Suites. Yet you would never guess that the hotel is that large, given the quiet lobby and public areas. During our visit, it was near capacity, yet there was never a long wait for an elevator or loud crowds in the lobby or hallways. In fact, stepping inside from the frenzy of Times Square, you immediately relax in the hushed calm.
You might expect that light and noise from the streets below would seep into the rooms, but the designers have done an excellent job at sound- and light-proofing with blackout shades and thick windows.
The rooms offer a sleek, contemporary feel that is also peaceful. Soaring 12-foot ceilings and large windows and doors create a sense of space. Luxury finishes such as intelligent lighting controls, plush mattresses, beautiful fabrics, feather pillows and Ted Gibson bath amenities allow guests to escape the city in a bubble of elegance.
Families will enjoy one of the nine Corner Junior Suites with sofa beds for extra space, or you can splurge on a One-Bedroom Suite with a connecting room. There are a couple of caveats for families with light sleepers: In the Junior Suite, the bathroom wall that faces the sleeper sofa is made of opaque glass. If you turn on the light in the middle of the night, it will flood the room with brightness. However, the sheer size of the bathroom may make up for that downfall! The other is that not all Junior Suites offer a sofa bed, so be sure to request one that does.
Charlie Palmer at The Knick is perfect for a pre-theater dinner. The servers will inquire if you are seeing a show and confirm the start time to ensure that you can enjoy your meal at the proper pace while still leaving on time. There is a three-course prix fixe menu or the option to order a la carte.
The restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner and can serve up to 250 guests, so getting a reservation isn’t a problem, and neither is a crowded, loud dining room. The menu features American cuisine, meaning you will likely be able to find something for pickier eaters, such as the fried chicken or Niman Ranch Burger.
For more casual breakfast or coffee on the go, Jake’s Coffee Roasters in the lobby offers grab-and-go options. The coffee shop is named after “Jakey” Astor, son of hotel founder John Jacob Astor IV, born just four months after his father died on the Titanic. It offers custom coffees and espressos along with pastries, fruits, granolas and gourmet flatbreads.
You can’t stay at The Knickerbocker without taking in the view from the St. Cloud Rooftop Bar. There are indoor and outdoor seating options, and children are welcome as long as they don’t sit at the bar. In addition to craft cocktails, they also offer a menu of small plates. With vistas overlooking the famous ball that drops on New Year’s Eve, it is no wonder that people pay big bucks to ring in the New Year here.
In winter, the bar also offers an après-ski atmosphere, complete with a roaring fire and cozy throw blankets. This is also when they serve their famous raclette, the classic wheel of melted Alpine cheese.
Families will love the sophistication and convenient location of The Knickerbocker, especially when visiting town for a Broadway show. The quiet calm and luxury experience is a welcome change from your typical Times Square/Theater District hotel.
Editor’s Note: Tamara received a media package in order to review The Knickerbocker for families. As always, all opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Tamara Gruber.
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