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The New Gold Coast

As a locus for five-star hotels, Columbus Circle lost some luster during the early nineties, when the St. Moritz and Plaza became outclassed by newer, more luxe properties around town. But with the reopening of the Plaza and the debut of splashy Six Columbus—not to mention a surge in shopping and dining options—the blocks near Central Park’s southern edge are suddenly hot again.


Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park  

THE SEXY NEWCOMERS

6 Columbus
6 Columbus Circle, nr 59th St.; 212-204-3000.
Rooms $425–$4,500.

A sister hotel to Soho’s 60 Thompson, 6 Columbus brings a little bit of downtown cool to a buttoned-up neighborhood. The 88 rooms are splashed with blue (right down to the midnight-blue subway tiles in the bathrooms) and festooned with Guy Bourdin’s fashion-y art prints. This hotel is more chic than downright luxurious, especially considering the top-flight price. But we say kudos to the developers for transforming a 1920 relic—formerly the run-down Westpark hotel—into an undeniably sexy enclave. Two $4,500-a-night lofts, each with Central Park views, and an exclusive rooftop bar, should ensure a celebrity following.

Empire Hotel
44 W. 63rd St., at Broadway; 212-265-7400.
Rooms $400–$2,200.

An older incarnation of this 413-room hotel was shuttered; the newly renovated version reopened in fall 2007 as a stylish property finally doing aesthetic justice to nearby Lincoln Center. Mid-century-modernist rooms in chocolate and caramel tones feature geometric prints, abstract art, and sunburst mirrors. The bathrooms are small but spa-grade, with teak showers. Go for a corner one-bedroom suite, with its panoramic views of the Met, the New York State Theater, and Alice Tully Hall—itself under renovations by the famed Diller Scofidio + Renfro architectural firm.

THE NEWLY MADE-OVER

Plaza Hotel
Fifth Ave. at Central Park S.; 212-759-3000.
Rooms $795–$3,000+.

Though the Central Park side of this historic hotel is largely taken up by condos, the rest of the building (282 rooms' worth) reopens this December looking as grand as it did during Eloise’s heyday. A chunk of pieds-à-terre (hotel suites reserved for fractional owners 120 days a year) are joined by spacious guest rooms, the smallest of them a generous 475 square feet. All overnighters, including full-time residents, get to enjoy the hotel’s services: butlers on every floor, the reopened Palm Court, the restored Oak Room & Bar, a new lobbyside Champagne bar, and below-ground services such as a spa from French Caudalie and a Warren-Tricomi salon manned by Vogue stylist Edward Tricomi.

Jumeirah Essex House
160 Central Park S., nr. Seventh Ave.; 212-247-0300.
Rooms $400–$1,500.

Over the last few years, Dubai-based hospitality company Jumeirah sunk $90 million into an extensive overhaul of the Essex, making it an instant player again. The newly redone rooms have cool technology, like a touch-screen panel on the phone that, among other things, lets you select mood lighting and accompanying mood music. There’s plenty of design emphasis on Central Park, evidenced most clearly by Korean photographer Atta Kim’s blown-up photo in the lobby. The rooms (intended for both business travelers and families) are awash in golden tones with honey wood accents and rust-red leather desk chairs.

THE MODERN CLASSICS

Mandarin Oriental, New York
80 Columbus Circle, at 60th St.; 212-805-8800.
Rooms from $895–$14,000.

Located in the Time Warner Center, the Mandarin is arguably Gotham’s most dramatic hotel. An elevator whisks guests up to the 35th-floor lobby, where floor-to-ceiling windows afford sweeping views of Central Park. Upstairs, rooms and suites are Asian-inspired, with cherrywood furniture, Fili d’oro linens, and bathrooms decked out in marble and Italian granite. A bi-level, 14,500-square-foot spa—with a wide range of Eastern-inspired treatments—is not just “good for a hotel,” it’s one of the city’s best. The in-house restaurant, Asiate, is a mod take on Eastern fusion, and some of the city’s most acclaimed (and expensive) restaurants—Masa, Per Se, and Café Gray—are just an elevator ride away.

Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park
50 Central Park S., nr. Sixth Ave.; 212-308-9100.
Rooms $745–$13,000.

Some hotels are extroverts, but this one’s all about keeping it classy and quiet. The 259 guest rooms and suites, many with park views, feature marble baths and Frederic Fekkai amenities, DVD players and flat-screen TVs. The beds alone are a sybarite’s dream, with 400-thread-count linens and piles of pillows. A darkly romantic lobby, the intimate La Prairie Spa, and newly opened Laurent Tourondel franchise, BLT Market (known for its obsession with seasonal, locally grown foods) round out your serene experience.

Hudson Hotel
356 W. 58th St., nr. Ninth Ave.; 212-554-6000.
Rooms $209–$699.

When Ian Schrager’s Hudson opened in 2000, it was one of the hottest stays in the city. The low prices—under $200 for many rooms (all with Francisco Clemente–painted lampshades)—made you forgive the fact that they were often coffin size. The buzz and novelty have cooled, and prices have gone up a bit, but Schrager’s baby still features the hip, Philippe Starck–designed lobby and its ultrasceney Hudson Bar.


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