It was about a year ago that I planned a trip to New York City and got a sneak peek at the LIFE Hotel. I was in town attending the New York International Auto Show and stayed at the nearby Stewart Hotel near Penn Station. On a whim, I walked into the hotel and was graciously given a tour of the still under-construction hotel (although some rooms were available).
What a difference a year makes!
This year, I was planning a return trip and the timing fell right at the end of March. It’s an especially busy time in New York City, especially as it’s the week leading up to Easter and many families are spending their Spring Break in town. So I had a challenge – find a hotel that offered reasonable rates for deluxe accommodations. Bonus if it was within walking distance of the Javits Center or included breakfast.
I remembered that little boutique hotel that had enchanted me and asked to see if they might be able to accommodate me and fellow travel/automotive writer, Shannon. LIFE Hotel graciously offered us a media rate and a stay as a LIFE Preferred Guest (more on that in a bit). The only downside is that only king rooms were left.
Shannon and I know each other pretty well and decided that we’d make the most of our girls’ stay even if we had to snuggle up in the same bed (luckily, a king bed is big enough that our feet never even touched).
As you may recall from the sneak peek last year, LIFE Hotel is situated in the old LIFE Magazine building. Each room is unique in its design and offers everything from a king with a pull-out sofa, two queens, private terraces, and even a two or three room suite.
We graciously accepted the king room and took full advantage of the LIFE Preferred Guest program that offered:
- A daily $30 food & beverage credit
- Room upgrades at check in (subject to availability)
- 12pm early check in and 4 pm late check out (subject to availability)
We took full advantage of the program and both fell in love with the midtown boutique hotel that absolutely none of my friends had heard of! Let’s talk details.
Location – LIFE Hotel
Located on E 31st Street between 5th and 6th (things I had to learn because cab drivers don’t know where this hotel is!), LIFE Hotel is situated in Midtown Manhattan just a few short blocks from Penn Station. Unbeknownst to me, this little section of midtown is known as Korea Town.
Koreatown is an ethnic Korean enclave in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, centered on West 32nd Street between Madison Avenue and the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Broadway, which is known as Greeley Square. ~ Wikipedia
Although it was a little far from Javits, it was close to shopping, fantastic restaurants (including the one in the hotel), and fairly easy to grab a cab or Uber (Note: if you’re requesting an Uber, double check the pick up address. You may need to correct it!).
Safety – LIFE Hotel
Although I don’t prefer to walk anywhere in the city at night, especially by myself, it’s sometimes a necessity in Manhattan. Although I took cabs and Ubers to get around, I did a fair share of walking. It’s proximity to the Empire State Building and other tourist attractions assures that the streets are usually pretty busy and I never felt unsafe around the area.
As for the safety inside the hotel, it feels very quiet and almost residential inside. The lobby is small with a restaurant and bar but this out of the way boutique hotel seems to attracts more discerning travelers and less of the late night party crowd.
Character – LIFE Hotel
Where did the name LIFE come from? This building was once the headquarters of the iconic LIFE Magazine where celebrated artists both lived and produced the publication (rumor has it that Norman Rockwell stayed a time or two).
Built in 1893, it became home to LIFE magazine in 1895 where it served not only as the offices for the magazine but also the residences for the staff members. Although the building has changed hands many times, even serving as a different hotel, this iteration is designed to capture the essence of its prime era.
From the LIFE Hotel website:
- LIFE Magazine was published from 1883-2007, and the team lived in 19 West 31st Street from 1895-1931
- Franco-American sculptor Philip H. Martiny (1858-1927) created the Life Angel at our entrance
- Carrère and Hastings are best known for their landmark projects like the New York Public Library, Frick Mansion, and Ponce de León in St. Augustine, Florida.
- Our half moon bird cage elevator is one of only two in the United States
- In the 1890’s it was one of the taller (skyscraper) buildings in New York City
- We were one of the first buildings to use steel throughout its structure
- Many of our guest rooms have the original floors from the artist, writers and editors apartments
- Wood Paneling in the Lobby and our Speakeasy was a result of a nationwide search to find what was originally designed in the building
- Molding in the rooms are replicated and restored from what was found throughout the building
- A new collection of emerging local NY artists are curated throughout the guest rooms, corridors and lobby (over 200 original pieces)
Vanity – LIFE Hotel
If you’re looking for a large luxurious bathroom, you might not find it here. But with two women staying in the room, we had no issues managing our bathroom and prep time with the large mirror and makeup mirror in the bathroom and the aged half mirror in the room. The only downside is that no full length mirror was available in the room but if you’re looking for a luxurious robe to lounge in, they have you covered.
Toiletries – LIFE Hotel
LATHER is the in-house brand for the LIFE Hotel toiletries. As luck would have it, my back-up toiletries (in case the hotel doesn’t have the quality I’m looking for) were also from LATHER so I wasmore than happy to put them all to good use. That means you can leave your back-ups at home. And yes, there’s a hairdryer.
Comfort – LIFE Hotel
Dressed in stark white, the bed linens and pillows provided the perfect place to rest my head at the end of a long New York day. And I loved the fact that the room showcased polished concrete floors. While some may not find that comfortable (it’s fine with me – I brought slippers!), it’s much more preferable to me than carpet that can house who knows what.
One thing to note – even on the 10th floor, this part of Midtown Manhattan stays busy. Between sirens and garbage collection, it can be a noisy night’s sleep. Be sure to bring earplugs if noise is something that bothers you.
Extras – LIFE Hotel
Once you have a hotel with the right location and the right level of amenities, it’s the extras that put it over the top. There were several things that stood out in my mind at the LIFE Hotel.
Upon being greeted warmly at the front desk, we were given two water bottles to be used on any of the alternating floors for ice and highly filtered water. What an amazing concept! I was never thirsty and didn’t have to pay $7 for a bottle of water in NYC (yes, I’ve done that!).
The service was warm and friendly. We were greeted with a handwritten welcome note from the staff in the room. And during the rest of our stay, we seemed to see the same people at the front desk and at the restaurant. They were not only friendly but cheerful – like they actually enjoyed their jobs! And with a small hotel (only 98 rooms), they remembered us from day to day.
Speaking of the restaurant, the on-site restaurant, Henry at LIFE Hotel, was amazing. So amazing that you’ll see an entire post about it soon.
But I can’t fail to mention something so simple it’s genius. On the back of every hotel door, you’ll find three magnets. You should the appropriate one for your front door and you’ll never have to awkwardly greet housekeeping in your towel again!
Perfect for a couples getaway or a few girlfriends taking on the town. With larger rooms that include pull-out sofas and individual rooms that can be combined into a suite, larger families can be accommodated as well. If you’re looking for NYC from the Mad Men era, the LIFE Hotel might be right up your alley.