The Ace Hotel New York is back in biz — and its buzzy all-day lobby scene is still the place to be
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I’ve been a fan of the Ace Hotel brand for years. It’s known for its hip lobbies and rooms that are outfitted with turntables, guitars and minifridges stocked with craft beer. Most Ace locations have an on-site craft coffee shop, bar and restaurant. In other words: it’s a hipster’s paradise.
I’ve always liked this vibe. I stayed at the Ace Hotel New York before I moved to New York, and frequented the lobby bar and coffee shop pre-pandemic. A friend of mine even DJ’d in the lobby a couple of years ago. I had an excellent experience when I stayed at the hotel in 2015 and have been itching to return ever since.
Unfortunately, the hotel closed for more than a year during the coronavirus pandemic, finally reopening in early May. So, I decided to revisit the Ace during its first week of reopening to see how it stands up in 2021. I went into the experience with high expectations, so let’s see how it went.
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The Ace Hotel brand isn’t a member of any major hotel loyalty programme nor does it have its own, which I think is unfortunate. Regardless, I booked directly on the Ace Hotel New York’s website when it was offering $119 (about £85) per night rooms as a part of a reopening sale. Unfortunately, however, that $119 was a whopping $180.22 (about £129) after a list of taxes and fees.
Here’s the breakdown:
- Destination Fee: $40.17
- Occ Tax: $2.00
- Jacob Javits Fee: $1.50
- City Tax: $6.99
- Sales Tax: $10.56
While the exorbitantly high New York hotel taxes are unavoidable — unless you’re staying this summer — the destination fee of $40.17 after tax is what really gets me. According to Ace’s website, this fee gives you the following benefits:
- Access to the 24-hour fitness centre
- High-speed internet
- Complimentary domestic and international phone calls
- 10% off in The Lobby Bar
- 10% off at Rudy’s Barbershop
That still seems like a bit much for these limited benefits, but I get that it’s a way for the hotel to generate much-needed income. I just wish the hotel would build this fee into the room rate. Frankly, advertising $119 nights only to add a 30%+ fee at booking is deceptive advertising, but I digress.
Related: How to avoid resort fees
The Ace Hotel is located at 29th Street and Broadway in Manhattan’s NoMad neighbourhood. This puts you within reach of a handful of subway lines and Penn Station. Plus, the Ace is within walking distance of Koreatown and a ton of great restaurants. It’s also close to the Empire State building; try and get a north-facing room for a view.
I much prefer this location to a hotel in the middle of Times Square. It’s close to all the action but far enough removed from the tourism centre that you have some calm in the evenings and can live more like a local than a tourist.
It’s also a great location if you’re coming in from Newark (EWR) or New York-JFK airports. From Newark, take NJ Transit to Penn Station and walk a few blocks to the hotel. Likewise, those coming from JFK can take the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) to Penn. Both options let you beat New York traffic and are far cheaper than an Uber.
Check-in and lobby
The check-in process actually begins online before you arrive. For a contactless check-in, you can pre-register for your stay by uploading a photo of your ID and entering your credit card info online before arriving at the Ace. I did this, but strangely, I was still asked for my ID and had to charge my credit card at the check-in counter. This isn’t a huge deal but made the online check-in process seem redundant.
Regardless, the check-in process was simple at the hotel. The front desk clerk was super friendly and seemed genuinely excited about the hotel’s reopening. We chatted about the property for a moment and he handed me a set of hotel keys. He also informed me that they were out of the Small room I booked, so I’d been upgraded to a Double with a view of the Empire State Building.
Now for the important part: the Ace Hotel lobby.
Yes, it’s still ultra-cool, but it’s changed a little bit during the pandemic. The Lobby Bar’s seating area takes up the majority of the lobby. There’s lounge seating at the front, high-tops scattered around and a couple of tables at the centre of the lobby. One major change is that the large co-working table at the centre of the room has been removed and replaced with two smaller tables.
The lobby’s aesthetics are still second-to-none. The building that houses the Ace Hotel was built in the early 1900s and has been a hotel since 1904. It’s dimly lit and filled with dark furniture and large pillars — you can tell there was lots of effort put into restoring its heritage with a modern twist. It creates a cosy vibe that just feels cool. After all, there’s a reason locals and tourists alike frequent this hotel lobby.
I had a drink in the lobby later that evening (more on that soon) and a coffee in the lobby the next morning. Opening Ceremony — the hotel’s shop — is currently closed, but you can buy t-shirts and other nicknacks at the check-in area.
After checking in, I took the lift up to my room and walked down the dimly lit hallway. Unlike the lobby, however, this dimness wasn’t so aesthetically pleasing. Something about the hallways felt uninspiring and frankly a little creepy. This isn’t a huge deal but is a stark contrast to the beautiful lobby.
All rooms are sealed with a sticker so you know that your room has been sanitised. I appreciate this touch and hope this sticks around after the pandemic is fully behind us. Sure, it’s just a sticker, but it’s nice to have an assurance that the room is clean.
When entering the room, you’re immediately greeted with an open closet of sorts. It’s essentially some pipes used to make a hanging area for jackets. There’s also a safe, ironing board, extra towels and a set of robes.
To the left, you’ll find a retro Smeg refrigerator stocked with a wide array of drinks. There’s an assortment of soft drinks, water bottles and alcoholic beverages. I was impressed by the selection of beers, which included some of my favourites like Brooklyn Lager. There’s also a snack bar next to the fridge that sells things like beef jerky and chocolate. You can also buy a phone charger and other essentials.
I didn’t buy anything from the minibar, but I love that it has unique snacks and drinks. This adds character to the Ace experience and really reinforces the fact that the Ace is something different than your average New York hotel.
Oddly enough, there wasn’t any coffee in the room. There was, however, a couple of packets of tea and a kettle for hot water. Thankfully, there’s a Stumptown Coffee in the lobby you can visit for a cup of joe in the morning.
The Double room is outfitted with two double beds, which are very comfortable. The mattress could be a little bit firmer, but the ultra-soft comforter and pillows make up for it. I was able to sleep through the night without an issue and woke up rested.
Behind one of the beds is a huge mural which I thought was a really cool touch. I also really liked how the opposite side of the wall was painted black. One of my gripes, however, are the bed frames and nightstands. They looked a little rattled from years of use and reminded me a bit of university housing furniture.
There’s also an acoustic guitar in every room, which was a cool touch. My girlfriend — a guitar player — joined me for the stay and told me the guitar was out of tune. I assume it’s more there for decor purposes anyway.
There’s a desk to the right of the room that was constructed from pipe and other industrial parts. At face value, that sounds pretty cool, but it was pretty beaten up and could stand to be refinished.
There’s also a record player with a handful of records in most rooms. As someone that collects records, I thought this was a super cool touch. You can also connect your phone to the stereo with an AUX cable, but it doesn’t support Bluetooth. This is another thing that should be updated for 2021.
There’s also a retro Pearl Jam book, pen and paper and a phone on the desk. I thought the book was a particularly interesting touch — I flipped through it and learned more about one of my favourite bands from childhood. You’ll also find the Ace Hotel Survival Guide on the desk which is essentially a guide to the hotel.
I also found a guide to hotel events on the desk. Like being in a time-warp, it was for mid-March 2020 right before the hotel closed for the pandemic. This leads me to believe I was the first person to stay in this room since the pandemic shutdown. Creepy, right?
One thing I found odd was the placement of the TV. It’s on a swivel mount on the right-hand side of the desk, but behind a pipe that makes up part of the desk. This makes it hard to manoeuvre the TV but I was able to make it work.
The bathroom design is typical for an older New York building. Everything is laid out in a row, and space is limited. The vanity is small but adequate. I did like the rainfall showerhead and the design of the bathroom was cool, too. I just wish it were a little larger. The Rudy’s toiletries are shared and there are charcoal hand-soap bars on the sink.
All in all, I still really like the rooms at the Ace Hotel. The hip aesthetic is charming and I love all of the small touches, from the Pearl Jam book to the record player to the unique minibar. That said, I’d like to see the furniture be updated with something that feels a little less dorm-ish, especially when rates go back to $300+ per night.
There’s a 24-hour gym on-site below the lobby accessed via a staircase next to the bar. You can also get your haircut at Rudy’s next door. I’ve had a haircut there before and it was great, but a little pricy. Make sure to use your 10% discount included in the destination fee.
The real amenity, however, is the lobby. As discussed, it’s a great place to co-work or have a beer after a long day of exploring New York.
Food and beverage
Let’s start with the bad news first. The hotel’s restaurant — The Breslin — is still closed. I was really excited to try it as it’s supposed to be a great place to eat. It’s a British-style gastropub with dishes crafted by chef April Bloomfield and executive chef Ryan Jordan, two of New York’s most awarded chefs.
Thankfully, the bar in the lobby — appropriately named The Lobby Bar — is open. When I visited, only table service was offered and there was no bar service. It was also very busy on a Friday night, so I recommend making a reservation on OpenTable before you go.
The bar’s menu has a sizeable cocktail list and a good beer selection. I ordered a local IPA from Three’s Brewing and my girlfriend had an Old Fashioned. We also shared the berber spiced nuts which were very tasty. The menu is a bit pricy, but it’s worth going for the atmosphere alone. Be sure to charge the bill to your room for 10% off.
We also swung by the Stumptown Coffee Roasters in the lobby the next morning and had oatmilk cappuccinos. The coffee was excellent and the lobby was pretty empty, so we sat down at the tables. You can also order coffee in the Lobby Bar in the morning.
The Lobby Bar and Stumptown Coffee Roasters were both great, and I’d recommend stopping by even if you aren’t staying at the Ace Hotel. The lobby’s atmosphere is excellent and the selection and quality of drinks are great, and the waitstaff was extremely friendly and attentive.
From the friendly front-desk agent to the attentive waitstaff at the bar, everyone I interacted with at the hotel was great. They all seemed genuinely happy that the hotel was reopen and wanted me to have the best experience possible. I really appreciated this.
The Ace Hotel is still one of my favourites. I really appreciate the hip design and attention to detail throughout the hotel. It makes everything feel so undeniably cool, and nothing about it feels like a typical hotel stay. Plus, the Lobby Bar is an awesome place to hang out and the on-site coffee shop is excellent. My only complaint is the furniture — it’s in bad need of updating, especially given the cost of a room during normal times.
Feature photo by Andrew Kunesh / The Points Guy
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