The Knickerbocker was reportedly the first luxury hotel in Times Square when it opened in 1906. It played host to legendary political heavyweights, actresses, oil tycoons and sports figures but closed 15 years later because of financial distress. It was then known as the Knickerbocker Building and became the home of Newsweek magazine, garment showrooms and offices. In 2015, having been completely gutted, with the exception of the historic Beaux-Arts facade, it reopened, complete with 330 luxe guest rooms and suites.
Stunning. Couldn't ask for better, for it sits in the heart of New York City. Mere blocks from Fifth Avenue, the Museum of Modern Art, the Rockefeller Center and Central Park, there is a wonder of colour, excitement and anticipation as soon as you step out.
With its corridor lights dimmed and a welcoming hello from the doorman, there was a warm, cosy feel to the hotel as soon as we arrived. A porter was quick to take our bags and the two children were handed a colouring book and crayons, giving them a welcome diversion as we took in our surrounds. This isn't a hotel that boasts an abundance of public space but the Knickerbocker is about location and its proximity to all things that define New York City. The lifts to our fifth-floor room were modern and the corridors gave us plenty of space to haul our bags.
There were worries about whether the four of us would have enough space but those concerns were eased the moment we stepped inside our fifth-level abode, complete with 12-foot (3.6 metre) ceilings, an eight-foot high door and bespoke furnishings. There were two queen-sized beds awaiting us, along with a cot to ensure the two-year-old had a much-needed sleep. The modern bathroom gave us plenty of room while the spacious shower had a head at each end, and was almost like an oasis in itself. As the window shades closed with a touch of the button, so did our eyes.
Refreshed after a good sleep, we made our way upstairs to the Charlie Palmer restaurant, which doubles as a breakfast room and offers dazzling Times Square views overlooking Broadway and 42nd Street from our corner table. There could be no better way of starting our day with scrambled free-range eggs, smoked bacon and chicken sausage from the American breakfast buffet (a la carte is also available). While it was a delight to eat in, another suggestion was to take in the pancakes and fresh juice from any number of cafes nearby, watching the hordes dash to work. Throughout the day, New York City is a smorgasbord of culinary delight. For those after a splash of Thai, any number of friendly restaurants in the nearby Hell's Kitchen neighbourhood would appease.
Having made our way downtown by foot, there can be few more moving experiences than visiting the 9/11 Memorial Museum, a tribute to the lives lost when the planes hit the Twin Towers. The rich history of this city is obvious to all, and the American Museum of Natural History is a must visit. The dinosaur exhibition roared into life although it is worth checking how long all displays are open for for there are often daily closures for private events (see amnh.org). Our trip wouldn't have been complete without a visit to Madison Square Garden, which we are reminded is the "world's most famous sporting arena". That may be true, but the New York Knicks basketball team has been nothing short of awful this season (and for most of the past two decades). Our seats were good and the entertainment around the game kept even a two-year-old stimulated, but maybe it's time for the price of tickets (it cost $A800 for our family of four) to be cut to mirror how bad the team is. The team's name is an abbreviation of "Knickerbocker", a symbol of New York City and a nod to its Dutch heritage.
What a pleasure it was to stay in such a fabulous hotel in one of the world's great cities. There may be a feeling of fun chaos on the streets but once the hotel room door was shut, this became our very own getaway.
Doubles from $A430, including breakfast. 6 Times Square, New York, New York, 10036 (the south-east corner of 42nd Street and Broadway). Phone 1 212 204 4980; see theknickerbocker.com
Even in an unfamiliar cot, our toddler gave us the peace we needed.
Not the biggest of rooms, but a cosy way to spend brisk winter nights.
Jon Pierik and family were guests of the Knickbocker Hotel.