We had a room for 2 nights at the Waldorf=Astoria. It’s someplace we had never stayed before and who knew if we would ever be able to again? So Sharon took lots of notes and photos so she could remember. Here are her DORK notes of the visit.
- How will we get to New York? Oh, hello companion ticket!
- How we choose what hotels to stay at in Times Square (and why did we end up staying somewhere way more expensive than what we would usually pay).
- Hotel Review: The Towers of the Waldorf=Astoria New York
- To Uber, Taxi or Subway? That is the question.
- Why we had never been to Harlem before and what we did when we went there.
- How I earned more Delta miles for dinner and hotel than I did for my flights.
- Why I think everyone needs to see Sleep No More at least once.
Travel plans are all Joe’s department. But I’ll be perfectly honest. Despite Joe’s penchant for getting us rooms in nicer hotels for very little cost, I usually don’t like staying at “fancy shmancy” places. We are not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination and as someone who grew up very middle class, I am much more comfortable and at ease at a Holiday Inn Express or a LaQuinta than I am at a Four Seasons or a Ritz Carlton. But I’ll make exceptions for old, historic places. You see, I love old architecture. Churches, houses, offices, you name it – if it’s an old building, especially from the time of about 50 years on either side of the beginning of the 20th century, I love it and just want to stare at every little nook and cranny, preferably for long stretches of time. Meanwhile, we had gotten wind that the owners of the Waldorf=Astoria (opened in 1931; my sweet spot for architecture!) were going to soon close the entire hotel for 3 years to do major renovations (they are going to turn the majority of the hotel rooms and suites into condominiums). On top of that, although I had grown up in New York (first Brooklyn, then Staten Island, specifically), I had never even stepped foot in the building and very much wanted to before it closed, so I could see it in its originally intended form. So when Joe found the opportunity to stay there for 2 nights, I shed my comfortable blanket of “as long as it’s clean, a middle of the road hotel is fine” and jumped at the chance.
The main lobby of the Waldorf=Astoria (that’s not a typo – the history of the hotel was actually 2 separate hotels on 5th Avenue, the Waldorf and the Astoria, built by two feuding relatives in the late 1800s. When they sold the properties in the late 1920s to make way for the Empire State Building, they joined forces to build the Waldorf=Astoria – the equal sign showed that neither owner was better than the other) was built in the Art Deco style, with strong curves and clean lines. The outside of the building earned Historic Landmark status in the 1990s and the ground, first, second and third floors are in the midst of gaining said status. Besides playing host to millions of guests over the years, including eight decades of U.S. Presidents, the Waldorf=Astoria has also has had some very famous people who lived there, including Cole Porter (his piano, still in use, is in the main lobby), Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower.
The Grand Clock sits in the center of the lobby and is an attraction unto itself. Built for the World’s Fair in 1893 and purchased by the Waldorf=Astoria in 1931, it was meant to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus discovering America, so it shows explorers, politicians and sports figures in bronze bas relief around its pedestal. The clock chimes every 15 minutes and is just wonderful.
Off and above the lobby are some lovely ballrooms, restaurants, bars, shops, etc., which we looked at as we walked around for an hour and change (there was a tour available on the Saturday we were there but we didn’t ask about it until late Friday night. The front desk didn’t know much about it and the concierge was gone for the night by that point, so we didn’t bother. I wish we had.). I’m so glad the upgrading will only affect the upstairs rooms and the lobby and surrounding areas will be unscathed!
Because we were staying at the Towers of the Waldorf=Astoria, we had a separate entrance on 50th Street, instead of the main entrance on Park Avenue. The lobby was much smaller (but just as elegant), and therefore much quieter. The staff at the Towers was lovely and we especially enjoyed talking to Cha Chi (yes, it’s pronounced Chachi) and Daniel, who helped us with our bags, answers questions, etc. Our entrance was on the ground floor but the main lobby, located on the 3rd floor, was just an elevator ride away (via an old Otis elevator with gorgeous wood paneling).
The suite we were in was impressive, although not quite as much as the lobby. Redecorating had obviously happened since the 1930s and although it appeared that the original doorknobs, doors and bas relief ceiling mouldings were all intact, the furnishings, and especially the bathroom (which looked like it had been redecorated in the mid-1970s, with with lots of brass and lucite) were a very different style from the lobby. But it was still really cool overall, with a nice view of Park Avenue!
So yeah…as much as I’m more comfortable staying at moderate hotels, our experience at the Waldorf=Astoria was just wonderful and I’m really glad we were able to do it! It’s a gorgeous building, both inside and out. My fingers are crossed that (A) the renovations allow some of the original charm of the remaining rooms to still shine and (B) they somehow offer another “too good to be true” deal that we nab before it’s pulled, LOL!