“It’s the nicest hotel in New York City,” our driver enthused as we pulled up to Mandarin Oriental, New York. The instant our town car came to a stop, a doorman escorted us out of the car while another had already started loading our bags onto a trolley—flawless execution, per usual.
I felt the Mandarin Oriental vibe before I even walked through the door. The dark marble, the iconic fan logo, the silver lotus leaves on the glass doors and other Asian chic that I love was everywhere. And, it was just after Christmas so festive decor was still on display, even on the check-in desk’s immaculate bonsai trees.
Mandarin Oriental, New York’s Location
This New York City luxury hotel, conveniently located at the Southwest corner of Central Park at Columbus Circle, is fantastic for families.
At the edge of Central Park here is the 10-acre Heckscher playground and meadow with swings, tire swings, slides, synthetic turf, water features, entertaining squirrels and plenty to climb on. When the kids get fidgety, bring them here to burn off steam.
During the winter, the Trump ice skating rink is just a few minutes walk from the playground.
The hotel elevator will let you off into The Shops at Columbus Circle, a shopping area with stores ranging from H&M to upscale brands as well as restaurants and New York’s busiest Whole Foods Market (per the cashier). The latter is incredibly convenient for snacks and smoothies (they do not sell wine, however).
The Columbus Circle subway stop is just steps from the hotel’s front door and it’s a straight shot to the American Museum of Natural History among other places. I believe it took us about 30 minutes with no traffic to get to JFK airport from the hotel. We also walked to Times Square in about 15 minutes.
Rooms with Spectacular Central Park Views
We took turns enjoying the lounge chair by the window. The scene to behold from our Central Park View Room was just spectacular. The room itself was, too, from the wallpaper and art to the comfortable bedding. A nice rollaway bed (there was an extra $95/night fee for it) was placed in the room for my daughter along with a robe and slippers, just for her.
I’m a fan of the details often seen in Mandarin Oriental rooms and this one was no different. There were books placed for our enjoyment, welcome fruit, lots of extra toiletries, plenty of glassware and little things like this that actually all add up in the end. Technology is state-of-the-art (could not believe the crystal clear sound on the phones) with flawless WiFi among other things. A yoga mat in the closet is for guest use, too.
Much to my surprise, the bath amenities are by my favorite Hong Kong luxury brand, Shanghai Tang.
On New Year’s Eve, guests of the hotel received party hats, glasses and blowers. After adventuring (no joke, it was crazy) through Times Square earlier in the day to see Matilda the Musical, we decided ring in the new year by caving up in our luxe digs and ordering room service—definitely the right thing to do.
Excellent Food from Asiate to In-Room Dining
As more or less half-day tourists, we spend quite a bit of time eating our way through luxury hotels. And, this was certainly not a hardship at Mandarin Oriental, New York. On our first evening, we were so mesmerized by the views that we decided to enjoy (a lot of) shared plates in the Lobby Lounge which overlooks the city lights of Columbus Square.
But, this isn’t your average lobby lounge with piano music and bland ambiance. With a location adjacent to the swanky MO Bar, it’s lively in the evening and clearly popular with locals. In fact, we were told that the only reason we were able to secure a table without a reservation was because we were hotel guests. Our slight wait in MO Bar (kids are allowed at the tables, not at the bar area) wasn’t a hardship because I wanted to check it out anyway. My advice is to make a reservation in advance.
Everything we ordered was delicious. I enjoyed a few glasses of nice wine while my husband worked his way through the cocktail menu, raving about the Baby Buddha as his favorite (Hendrick’s Gin, cucumber, cilantro, lime juice, sparkling sake). Our server had spent some time at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, an icon in Hong Kong and where my husband lived until we were officially relocated there.
And then there’s Asiate. Wow. A perk of my daughter being an early riser was that we were in the restaurant when it opened at 7:00 a.m. and scored the best corner table each time. Floor-to-ceiling windows showcase Central Park and well beyond—spectacular in morning sunlight. A cool glass display near the kitchen houses 1350 bottles of wine. As tempted as you might be to order room service breakfast, get dressed and go downstairs. It will be worth the effort. Next time, we’ll do dinner here, too.
Though there are kids menus throughout the hotel, my daughter preferred the Asian specialties. I could hardly blame her.
Luxe Spa and Fitness
Make a reservation for the uber-luxurious spa as soon as you know your schedule. I wasn’t able to find an appointment that would work for me after checking in but will definitely plan in advance next time. I read that over 60% of guests are New Yorkers which in my eyes is a testament to the facility. I peeked in though. It’s gorgeous with the same spectacular views and I can only imagine how blissful the treatments are.
The lap pool is for exercise, not so much for kids to splash around in.
MO Panda Club
Mandarin Oriental, New York just launched MO Panda Club, an exclusive kids program offering a unique view of the city. The program is available through Dec. 31. Highlights include:
- Pocket Panda – Each child will receive a pocket panda upon arrival, and a list of must-see attractions.
- Welcome Treats – Younger fans will be welcomed with MO Panda Club-themed treats.
- Tailored Experience of NYC – Guests may choose to explore Central Park on horseback or take a tour of Grand Central Terminal.
- Special Children’s Menu and Swim Hours – Guests will enjoy a New York City-inspired dish at Asiate or mocktail at Lobby Lounge, followed by a dip in the 36th floor pool.
- Mini Manhattan Family Package – Families create their perfect weekend getaway.
Fun Facts and Final Thoughts
After over a decade-long love affair with Mandarin Oriental Hotels, I just learned that each property has its own fan design (often seen on books, in-room stationary and other literature). Vivienne Tam, one of my favorite designers, created the signature fan for Mandarin Oriental, New York.
Did anything go wrong? No. The only thing I could think of is that we didn’t get a call when our room was ready. We had dropped our bags early and headed off to sightsee. It didn’t matter because it was ready as promised and earlier than normal check-in when we returned. There isn’t in-room coffee, but they did have it in front of the Lobby Lounge early in the morning. I’m not sure we’ve ever had in-room coffee in a New York City luxury hotel, now that I’m thinking about it.
Who is this hotel for? During our stay, we saw everyone—business travelers, couples, and quite a few families. Rooms command some of the highest rates in the city, but when it comes to aspects we look for in a luxury hotel (room amenities, food, service, location, ambiance, perks for kids and little unexpected flourishes) they excel at every single one so you do get what you pay for.
Will we return? Definitely. See also my Luxe Kid’s Guide to New York City.
Mandarin Oriental, New York
80 Columbus Circle at 60th Street
New York, New York 10023
+1 (866) 801 8880
Photo credits: Central Park view, room and pool photos are courtesy of Mandarin Oriental, New York