There has always been something magical about The Plaza Hotel. With charming, old-world style, and an ideal location on 58th and 5th, The Plaza offers a lot of convenience and style. However, with prices nearing $1000 USD per night, staying there has been nothing more than a lofty dream, until recently.
I often rave about Fairmont’s loyalty program; The Fairmont President’s Club. I truly believe it offers some of the best elite benefits of any hotel program, often rewarding their most loyal guests with unpublished benefits on a regular basis. Luckily for me, and anyone else aspiring to stay at The Plaza, Fairmont manages the property, translating to unique opportunities for those with Platinum status.
Normally Fairmont requires 10 stays or 30 room nights per calendar year for Platinum status. However, The Platinum Card (American Express Canada) offers accelerated top tier status by completing only 5 room nights in a year. Platinum benefits will be awarded immediately upon completion of the stay requirement, and benefits will extend into the following year. If you reach Platinum prior to September of any calendar year, you will be awarded with a set of certificates immediately and a new set the following March. Brad and I were both able to reach Platinum status quickly, meaning we both received a free night certificate, 2 suite upgrade certificates, 2 room upgrade certificates, and $100 USD in dining or spa gift cards. Additionally, we will both receive a second set of certificates in March! Awesome value by intentionally staying at Fairmont properties and using our American Express Platinum cards.
The Plaza, along with The Savoy London, are the hardest hotels to redeem free night certificates for, much in part to capacity control measures. Although the exact number is unknown and may be variable, these two properties only allow a certain number of certificates to be redeemed per month. This is in contrast to other Fairmont properties where just the basic ‘Fairmont Room’ category needs to be available.
Out of curiosity, I called the Fairmont President’s Club reservations team in early September to inquire about free night certificate use at The Plaza. The friendly agent was able to see that the earliest month available for free night certificates was July, 2017, 10 months out. However, as luck would have it, there was a last minute cancellation for September, 2016 and the agent happily informed me I would be able to redeem a certificate this month if I had upcoming travel plans. I didn’t at the time, but quickly changed my plans to accommodate a quick weekend in New York to take advantage of the opportunity.
Most Fairmont hotels allow you to stack certificates, meaning you could potentially redeem a free night certificate and apply room or suite upgrade certificates for a larger or more stylish room. However, The Plaza is one of only a few hotels that don’t allow suite upgrade certificates and only one certificate may be used per stay. Although somewhat disappointing, I was still floored that I was able to find space for a Plaza Room using a free night certificate.
The Fairmont Plaza, New York Arrival
I was scheduled to land at JFK at 0700 on Cathay Pacific Flight 888 from Vancouver. Since I was set to arrive on Sunday, and not being my first time in New York, I decided I would try taking the train from the airport. After all, I wasn’t expecting to get an early check-in for 8am so I was in no rush. Getting to midtown Manhattan from JFK by subway is surprisingly easy.
Google Map Directions from JFK Airport to The Plaza Hotel
I arrived at terminal 7 just after 0630 and was through customs in less than five minutes. From there, I walked over to the platform and waited about four minutes for the next train to arrive. The Airtrain took about 10 minutes to get to Jamaica Station where I easily transferred to the E line to Manhattan. The subway was very quiet (being a Sunday) and I actually enjoyed the experience. I would note that during rush hour, or with lots of luggage/children, it would likely be less stressful and more economical to get a taxi or Uber from the airport. I arrived at 5th Ave and 53rd Street about 45 minutes after getting on the Subway and had a short 5-minute walk to 58th and 5th.
Opened in 1907, the Plaza remains a cultural icon steeped in history. I was certainly excited as I approached and saw the exterior.
The location is arguably one of the best in Manhattan on the Corner of 58th and 5th. Just down 5th avenue is world class shopping, including the iconic Bergdorf Goodman right next door. Out the front doors and to the left is Central Park; New York’s most famous attraction. I spent most of my downtime on this trip exploring the park and it was great having such a convenient location.
As I walked up two friendly doormen greeted me. They were quick to grab my luggage and escort me through the revolving door into the beautiful lobby.
The revolving door was the only way in or out of the main lobby and became a bit congested at time with tourists attempting to snap pictures in the famous lobby. The hotel used to have an entrance off 59th avenue but that has recently been converted to the private residences entrance.
The Lobby was stunning, with amazing detail and old-world décor. The detail in the ceiling and floor was impressive, and I immediately felt like I was in a different era, away from the hustle and bustle of New York City.
The main lobby just past the revolving door was open to the public and often became crowded with tourists snapping photos. The main lobby also featured the entrance to the Famous Palm Court Restaurant.
Immediately to the left of the guest only section was the Champagne Bar, featuring light dining options and an impressive selection of champagne.
There was nobody waiting at check-in when I arrived at 8:30am. I had spent some time taking pictures of the lobby but was still well in advance of my noon check-in, which is a benefit for Platinum members in the Fairmont President’s Club. I was greeted by name when I walked up to the counter, which is something that always impresses me. I was informed the room was ready early, and I had been upgraded to an Edwardian Suite on the 14th floor, with views overlooking 58th avenue.
I was stunned. Not only are suite upgrades rare without certificates, I was offered an 8:30am check-in! I quickly made my way to elevator, just opposite the reception, eager to see my room. The elevator was tiny, given the age of the hotel, but was beautifully finished with wood and glass with a gorgeous mosaic floor.
I got off the elevator on the 14th floor and was initially impressed by the clean look. The hotel was recently renovated and like other old hotels in the city, managed to blend modern with elegant.
The hallways were spotlessly clean and brightly lit. The detail in the molding was showcased by some LED lighting feature. Similar to other hotels, The Plaza has a signature scent, which I can only describe as amazing.
I was given room 1431, a one-bedroom Edwardian Suite measuring approximately 1100 square feet with views overlooking 58th avenue. The room features one full bedroom and living room with butler bar. It also had a huge master bathroom and separate powder room just off the entrance.
The entrance to the suite was well lit and spacious. To the left was a large closet and small powder room with sink and toilet.
To the left of the closet was a small powder room with toilet and sink.
The Bathrooms feature 24 carat gold plated hardware by Sherle Wagner. Although not my particular style, they were certainly luxurious and high quality and totally appropriate at The Plaza.
The living room was large and spacious with high quality furniture. Again, the style wasn’t my favorite, although completely what I expected at such a historical property. The sitting area featured a large, comfortable couch and two chairs with a marble coffee table. The large work desk was placed in front of the window overlooking 58th avenue. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a view due to the large building next door. The living room also featured a butler bar with welcome fruit and water on my arrival. The bar featured a small fridge, sink, and glassware with plenty of cupboard space. There was a decorative fireplace on the wall separating the living room from the bedroom with a large television directly above.
All suites at The Plaza enjoy access to butler service. Upon arrival, my butler introduced himself and asked if I needed anything. He suggested I take advantage of Fairmont Fit; a unique program offered to members of the President’s Club. Basically, the hotel provides exercise gear by Rebook – including shoes, sock, shorts etc. The butler also brought a map of Central Park and some complimentary water.
The bedroom was separated from the living room by two pocket doors and the fireplace wall. The detail throughout the room was impressive, with original hardwood floors and hardware on closet doors.
The bedroom was large and featured a king size bed with very comfortable linens and pillows, which is the norm in all Fairmont hotels. The room had two large side tables and a very large window overlooking 58th avenue with a sitting chair in front. The view was marginally better than the living room window but still featured obstructed sightlines. There was still a lot of natural light in the room courtesy of the large windows. Unfortunately, the room did not feature bedside curtain or temperature control, although the lighting could be adjusted from bed. The closet was very large and featured original hardware unique to The Plaza. The wall directly opposite the bed housed a large cabinet with minibar and television wall-mounted above. The minibar selection was impressive and the butler asked if there was anything else I would like to see added. I rarely use the minibar due to the extortionate prices, and The Plaza was no exception.
The bedroom featured a massive master bathroom with separate bathtub and shower. Although very traditional in style, I actually really enjoyed design. The mosaic tiles were stunning and the white and gold contrast was sharp. The entire bathroom was spotlessly clean. Amenities were Rose 31 by Le Labo, similar to all other Fairmont properties. The bathroom also featured 4 or 5 different types of bath salts and other standard amenities such as comb, toothpaste, sewing kit, etc. The toilet was separated in a small closet and the shower was absolutely enormous, with both handheld controls and rainforest head. Two robes were provided and there were plenty of ultra-soft towels.
The Fairmont Plaza New York, Dining Options
I don’t generally eat on property when staying in hotels. I usually find the food to be worse value than finding a local spot off property, and can usually connect more with the local culture. In New York there are literally thousands of places to try, ranging from street food to fine dining. However, I did get in-room dining once on arrival, since I was somewhat tired after the redeye flight.
I ordered a turkey club which came with avocado and bacon with a side of french fries. The order arrived promptly and tasted very good. However, at $35 USD, it was very poor value considering it was just a sandwich and fries.
Other options on property include the Palm Court off the main lobby, The Champagne Bar, The Todd English Food Hall in the basement, or the Famous Oak Room and Bar. The Champagne Bar is great for light fare and cocktails or champagne whereas the Palm Court is well known for high tea with a more classic setting. The legendary Oak Room was closed during my stay and I didn’t manage to make my way to the basement, although I’ve heard very positive things about the Todd English Food Hall.
The Bottom Line
The Plaza New York City was certainly an experience. From the commanding exterior façade to the traditional guestrooms, this hotel definitely takes you back to a different era. While I generally prefer more contemporary style, I did appreciate the classical feel. The Plaza is a very unique property and I’m happy that it’s retained a lot of its original charm. The location can’t be beat for those looking to spend some time in the park, on Broadway, or shopping along Fifth Avenue.
Service was generally exceptional, although I didn’t have much interaction with staff. Butler service was a nice touch, however, New York City has a tip driven service culture and I could see expenses adding up quickly if you requested ice more than a few times throughout the stay.
Given that rooms sell for around a thousand dollars per night, President’s Club free night certificates present extraordinary value at this property, although availability can be an issue. Furthermore, Platinum members seem to get special attention with early check-in and late check-out guaranteed, and (while not a published benefit) room upgrade based on availability.
While I would never pay the rate to stay in this hotel (or most other 5-star properties), I wouldn’t hesitate to use another certificate given the outsized value and prime location.
- Location, location, location
- Historical and cultural significance
- Traditional style
- Expensive paid rates
- Limited (and pricey) dining options
- Traditional style