There are hotel brands, and then there’s the Peninsula.
I’ve been enamored with Peninsula hotels ever since 2010.
I was living in Bangkok in a $200/month apartment.
To celebrate my birthday I decided to go to the Mandarin Oriental on the Chao Praya river to visit Bamboo Bar – one of the best jazz bars in the city.
I got an Aviation cocktail for $10 and couldn’t believe I was spending so much money on one drink.
I nursed it for 2 hours.
It was on that night I first learned about the Peninsula Hotel.
It was across the river from the Mandarin Oriental, and just looking out at it, it oozed luxury and class.
A few days later, I ventured back across town just go to see it for myself.
Wandering around the lobby and clearly feeling like I didn’t belong in my flip-flops and t-shirt, I vowed that one day I’d stay at a Peninsula.
A few years later I visited the flagship Peninsula in Hong Kong and had drinks at their restaurant, Felix.
Equally as impressive.
Why am I telling you this story that you probably care nothing about?
Because last week after 3-year COVID-induced hiatus, I visited my favorite city in the world: New York City.
I only had two nights there, but I knew that especially since I hadn’t been traveling much lately, I wanted to do something special.
What’s more special than fulfilling that lifelong dream of staying at a Peninsula Hotel?
Ok, I’m sure I can think of a few more things more special than that – but honestly, it was a big deal for me. It was a reminder of how far I’ve come in my life and businesses over the last decade plus.
But I wasn’t prepared for just how special this experience would be.
Did the Peninsula Hotel NYC live up to expectations? Is it worth staying there on your next trip to the City?
Let’s find out.
First Impressions of the Peninsula NYC
Normally when I visit New York, I stay in Chelsea or Soho. Rarely do I get up towards Midtown, but again, I wanted to do something special this trip – and many of the most interesting luxury hotels in New York are just south of Central Park.
When I think of the grandest, most regal hotels in New York (and subsequently, the country) the three that come to mind are the Peninsula, St. Regis, and the Plaza.
I’d stayed at the Park Hyatt the night before (a decidedly different experience that I’ll write about soon), and was ushered to the Peninsula via their Mercedes SUV house car.
While it felt a little weird to be driven from one hotel straight to a competitor, they didn’t seem to mind in the slightest.
There’s some work being done to the outside facade of the Peninsula, but that didn’t detract from its extraordinarily stately presence.
I realized that despite visiting New York close to 20 times, I’m not sure I’d ever been on this specific block before. Odd considering, its location right on 5th Avenue is a mecca for shopping, tourism, park access, museum access – and just about anything you could want to do in the City.
Upon entering the hotel, any doubts about my decision to splurge and stay here were immediately put to bed.
It is one of the more stately and impressive lobbies you’ll find.
Originally built as the Gotham Hotel in 1905, it still oozes turn-of-the-century class, despite changing hands and being in and out of bankruptcy a number of times over the years.
It was bought by Peninsula Hotels in 1988, and has since become one of the most iconic and luxurious hotels in the City.
If you were to describe the hotel in a few words, the first few that came to my mind were: opulent, marble, and classic.
An Unexpected Upgrade
I knew I’d be arriving on the early side, and when I’d informed the hotel ahead of time that I may be getting there as early as 10am, they seemed more than happy to accommodate my request.
“No problem, Mr. Ogle, we’ll have your room ready for you then!”
This may not be an option on weekend nights when the hotel is fully booked out, but their willingness to accommodate my schedule was a nice surprise, and this level of service would carry on throughout the entirety of my stay.
The bellman happily took my bags, and I walked up the grand staircase to the check-in desk.
Once again, a very friendly woman asked how my trip has been and got me checked in.
In the process she said:
“My apologies for the construction work outside. It shouldn’t affect your stay too much, but also it looks like we can upgrade you to an Executive Suite!”
Upgrades are always good, but often that can just be code for an extra 50 square feet of space.
However, this upgrade? This was not that.
This was different.
This was special.
My Executive Suite at the Peninsula was on the 19th floor, had over 700 square feet, and in what might be the most impressive feature of any New York hotel room I’ve been in, it had…
Yes, it was large enough to have a hallway between the living room and the bedroom.
I’m not sure a hallway has ever made me feel so fancy.
The Executive Suite at the Peninsula NYC
Whether you’re in a standard Superior room or decide to splurge on a Suite, you’re going to be treated to a very special stay.
Walking into the room, you truly feel like you’re melting into your own urban oasis.
I’d had a wonderful room at the Park Hyatt the night before, which was also quite large – but felt quite cramped in comparison.
You walk into an oversized living room/office with a beautiful view of midtown Manhattan.
Take a left and you have a hallway with a luxurious bathroom.
This may sound weird, but one of the most impressive amenities at the Peninsula are the shampoo and conditioner bottles.
They were made for Peninsula by local “fragrance curator” Mackenzie Reilly, but rather than being your typical plastic bottles, they had metal construction – which I’d never seen before in a hotel.
I was so intrigued by this, that I asked about it, and found out they just started doing it this year as part of their sustainability initiatives.
The benefits are twofold:
- Each Peninsula Hotel has a different set of fragrances inspired by the destination itself. So the amenities here are unique to the NYC property, which is really cool.
- Peninsula amenities 99.9% free of single-use petroleum plastics. “This unique initiative makes The Peninsula the first hotel group to take a truly holistic, planet-conscious approach to honour the aromatic story of each of its home cities.”
It was interesting to see that what I just assumed was a minor touch, actually had a lot of thought behind it and a much better story than I was expecting.
It’s a little touch that honestly feels weird to mention, but made the experience of staying there feel slightly elevated.
There was a bathtub with a TV, as well as TVs in the living room and bedroom.
The bed is every bit as comfortable as you’d expect from a 5-star hotel. Not quite as soft as the Ritz Carlton bed I slept on in Lake Oconee, and more in line with beds at recent stays at the Four Seasons Atlanta and Four Seasons Punta Mita.
This is a very good thing, btw.
There’s isn’t much to complain about with the room, especially this particular room. But if you were to quibble, it’s starting to feel a little bit dated in comparison to other more modern hotels in the city.
Despite recent renovations, some of the tech in the room, while still far above what you’d get in most hotel rooms, does have a user interface that feels like it’s from a different era.
That said I appreciated how easy it was to use, and how I could access everything I needed easily in one place.
During the 24 hours I was staying here, the weather in the City was all over the map. Periodic thunder and lightning, along with hourly downpours, left me less than thrilled about venturing out into the city.
Fortunately, the hotel was the perfect place to enjoy the day. Between shooting YouTube videos in my hotel room, a surprisingly delicious dinner in the bar, and the requisite spa time – it was a special day.
The Spa at the Peninsula New York
I’m not shy about my love of a good hotel day spa when I travel.
I rarely actually get treatments, but having a gym, pool, sauna/steam/hot tub is always something I look for when I travel.
And fortunately, there are few better places in the city to take advantage of this than the Peninsula.
It’s one of Forbes’s only 5-star spas in the city, and considering it’s located on the top floor of the hotel, you know you’re in for something special.
I ventured up about 5pm after getting a surprising amount of work done during the afternoon.
A men’s attendant was more than happy to give me a tour of the locker room, and after changing I wandered down to the sauna to destress before four hectic upcoming days hosting a golf event.
The dark motifs of the men’s relaxation lounge, immediately help calm you from the hustle of the city, and the nice sized sauna was comfortable and relaxing.
There was a eucalyptus steam room as well which is a nice compliment to the sauna.
6 jets, a large rainfall showerhead, and a “waterfall” allowed you to mix and match your water to simulate a lush tropical rainstorm, or bathing under a tropical waterfall.
Honestly, it was just a super fancy shower, but I loved it.
The Pool at the Peninsula NYC
I spent close to an hour going back and forth between the different spa amenities and the insane pool a floor above.
Oh, I haven’t mentioned the pool yet?
On the top floor of the hotel is a fantastic, full-featured gym, as well as a pool with some insane views of the city. At 3,300 feet it’s among the best hotel gyms I’ve used, and is on par with the gym at the St. Regis Atlanta which was quite impressive.
This is hands down one of the best pools in Manhattan. It’s inside, but it’s got solarium-like windows that give you the feel of being outside.
It’s not quite the lap swimming mecca of the Park Hyatt Tokyo, or even the Park Hyatt NYC – but you can certainly do it.
While I was there, there were a handful of families enjoying the pool and soaking in the views – so I briefly hopped in, and then went back down for another round in my “Experience Shower” 🙂
There’s also a nearby outdoor patio, but with it being a rainy day I didn’t explore it much.
There are a number of current specials and packages with their “Life Lived Best” promotion, that are worth looking into.
Dining at the Peninsula NYC
Unfortunately, Monday nights are not necessarily the best night to be hanging out in New York City.
There were two new cocktail bars I’d been wanting to check since my last visit, and both were closed on Sunday and Monday nights – the two nights I was there.
Along with that, the rooftop bar Salon de Ning at the Peninsula was also closed.
Although it’s probably for the best with the rainy weather.
In lieu of that, I headed to the bar at the Peninsula’s Clement restaurant and enjoyed dinner.
All of the signature cocktails on the menu came in at an expensive (even by New York standards) $27.
Along with my $34 burger, it certainly wasn’t the most inexpensive meal I could have had in the city, but it was also extremely tasty.
I had a “Fall of Rum” which was essentially a rum espresso martini, which was decadent and delicious.
This is the 2nd time over the past month that I’ve been introduced to a rum espresso martini. It was recommended by a bartender at Deadshot in Portland recently, and I’m definitely a fan.
The burger was nothing over the top, but it had a huge and delicious patty that was cooked to a perfect medium rare.
Overall it was a delightful meal, at a price requisite of a 5-star hotel in New York.
There was a private event happening in Clement that evening, but it looks like it would be a very nice place to dine.
Final Impressions of the Peninsula NYC Hotel
After an albeit brief stay, it was clear from the very beginning why Peninsula has the reputation they do.
The service was phenomenal.
The location is about as good as it gets for your typical New York City tourist or business person. Only about a 10-minute walk to Times Square.
The spa and dining are among the best hotel offerings in the City.
And the hotel itself, while showing its age in a few areas, feels stately and gives a true sense of occasion while staying there.
I’m not sure when I’ll make it back to the Peninsula in New York, but I’ll be very excited when I do. Now with travel opening back up it’s time to head back to Bangkok and Hong Kong and have more experiences that would make 25-year-old me proud.