Incomparable State of Mind

Hotels & Destinations

“New York City always offers record-breaking attendance, and it’s a great value proposition because you can do more here in a few days than you can do in a week anywhere else,” Heywood says. “It’s a draw for both business travelers and leisure visitors, so many meeting attendees will extend their stay for vacation here. We are a business capital, and it’s a place where business gets done.”

The options are endless when it comes to New York City meetings, making it the perfect place for events of all sizes, any time of day. It is, after all, the city that never sleeps. Tourism is the fifth-largest industry, with more than 363,000 people employed in the hospitality and leisure sector. The city is home to more than 93,000 hotel rooms (anticipated to reach 110,000 rooms by the end of 2016) and 24,000 restaurants in five diverse boroughs. “Plus, the city’s seamless public transportation and pedestrian-friendly nature make it easy to navigate,” Heywood says. “We’re also a transportation hub, with three major airports in the area, as well as multiple train stations including Penn Station and Grand Central.”   

But that’s just the start. Here are 11 ways New York City is keeping things fresh with new and improved offerings sure to inspire attendees at your next event in the Big Apple.

Main image: Wollman Rink in Central Park

1. Cool Convention Space

Though space is at a premium in Manhattan, the city actually is ideal for larger conventions and trade shows, thanks to a number of convention centers. The newest spot on the scene is the TKP New York Conference Center, which opened in June near Bryant Park and offers 32,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space in 10 rooms. The 4,872-square-foot Empire Ballroom accommodates 279 theater-style or 272 for banquets. A series of smaller rooms includes the Manhattan room, which can host up to 150 for receptions; the East Village room, which seats up to 80 for banquets; and the Bryant Park room, which can host 75 for receptions or 78 theater-style.

Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, with 675,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, is wrapping up a major renovation that includes a new high-performance curtain wall and skylights, enlargement of the main entrances, and upgrades to the mechanical and electrical systems. It has also installed a 6.75-acre green roof. Improvements are expected to reduce energy consumption by 26 percent.

Another convention option is Piers 92/94. Situated along the Hudson River on the west side of Midtown Manhattan, the piers offer up to 208,000 sq. ft. of convention areas in a raw, clean, well-lit space that can be customized for a range of trade shows, meetings and special events.

2. On the Waterfront

World Yacht at Pier 81

The island of Manhattan and its surrounding rivers offer a variety of places for meetings, special events and team building. Hornblower Yachts recently unveiled a $20 million infinity yacht that sails the Hudson and is ideal for parties or large celebrations with up to 1,000 guests.

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is a permanently parked aircraft-carrier-turned-museum a few blocks from Piers 92/94. It can host groups of 20 to 5,000, many of whom will be drawn to the ship’s latest addition—the Enterprise, a NASA space shuttle, which now occupies its own pavilion atop the carrier.

Nautical-minded attendees can be accommodated via fun charter cruises that let them see the city from the water. World Yacht at Pier 81 offers a variety of options for charters ranging in size from 150 to 500. For more active attendees, Manhattan Kayak Company provides stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking tours of the Hudson River that make for a perfect team-building activity.

3. Sporting life

Sports fans have much to love in New York City, where events at the top athletic venues are a home-run proposition. Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, which opened in September 2012, is home to the Brooklyn Nets and future home of the New York Islanders. It also hosts countless hot concerts and other events.  This sports and entertainment complex features 100 suites with VIP services and four clubs.

Another option for athletic-minded groups involves events at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, which recently renovated its private suites. The “new” Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009 in the Bronx, features a museum, a martini bar, several restaurants, 56 luxury suites, 410 party suites and more. Citi Field in Queens, home to the Mets, has 200,000 sq. ft. of space. Event sites range from intimate settings for 25 to lavish spaces for 6,000 guests in areas as large as 110,000 sq. ft., including the baseball field, a museum, the clubhouse and private clubs.

4. High Line is Hot

The High Line Hotel

One of the must-see new additions to the city is the High Line, a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s west side in the Meatpacking District. New Yorkers and tourists alike flock to this unique space year-round (though summer sees much bigger crowds). Your group can get into the act as well: The largest event space there, the Chelsea Market Passage, features 5,900 sq. ft. of space and includes artist Spencer Finch’s iconic glass installation “The River That Flows Both Ways.” The industrial 14th Street Passage has 4,000 sq. ft. of space, and the outdoor Diller–von Furstenberg Sundeck features expansive views of the Hudson River. Group tours give attendees a chance to learn about the history of the High Line and the public art there.

Also creating buzz is The High Line Hotel, a boutique property that opened in June and is located on the grounds of the former General Theological Seminary. Additionally, a $90 million extension of the High Line park, called the High Line at the Rail Yards, is in the works, with the first phase projected to open in 2014. It will extend High Line park to West 34th Street and connect the Meatpacking District and West Chelsea with the future 7 line subway station, the Javits Center and the new Hudson Yards neighborhood.

5. Designer Digs

If there is one thing New York is known for, it’s style. For planners striving to put attendees up at a hotel with fabulous flair, NYC & Company recently announced the city’s first-ever Design Collection program, showcasing hotels that exemplify great design, many with meeting and event space or locations close to convention centers. The hotel collection features inspiring architecture, cutting-edge interiors, collaborations by top designers and private art collections or culinary adventures. It also includes some of New York City’s trendiest properties such as 6 Columbus, A Thompson Hotel; 60 Thompson, A Thompson Hotel; Chambers Hotel; Dream Downtown; Dream New York; Eventi, A Kimpton Hotel; Gansevoort Meatpacking NYC; Gansevoort Park Avenue NYC; Gild Hall, A Thompson Hotel; Hudson New York; The James New York; Le Parker Meridien New York; The Muse Hotel; Smyth Tribeca, A Thompson Hotel; W New York; W New York–Downtown; W New York–Times Square; and W New York–Union Square.

6. Hot New Hotels & Historic Hotel Updates

Rooftop of NoMad Hotel

New York City is constantly growing and changing. The city has seen an influx of new hotels that will impress attendees. Newcomers and soon-to-open hot spots include the green-focused NoMad Hotel, which opened in late 2012; the Langham Place Fifth Avenue, which opened in May; the hip Viceroy New York, which opened in September; the Hyatt Times Square, opening in December; and the Philippe Starck-designed SLS Hotel New York, debuting in early 2014.

Even some of the city’s most historic hotels are getting into the renovation act. The 597-room Paramount Hotel recently revealed upgrades to its 1928-era property. The New York Palace transformation is nearly complete, with renovated Tower Rooms and 86 suites. The InterContinental Barclay has new meeting rooms and has updated all 909 guest rooms. The Hotel Chandler has debuted a restaurant and meeting space following a $10 million renovation. The Roosevelt Hotel, which dates back to 1924, completed a major renovation last year. It features 1,015 guest rooms and 30,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

7. Rooftop experiences

Ink48, A Kimpton Hotel

There’s nothing like taking in views of the New York City skyline from a fabulous rooftop. Each season sees the debut of hot spots, so consider hosting a function at one of the buzz-making locations.

The brand-new Courtyard by Marriott Herald Square boasts an 18th-floor rooftop bar called Monarch. It’s located near the famed department store, Macy’s, where a new visitors center opened in September. The center, a collaboration between Macy’s and NYC & Company, gives visitors access to tourism information and ticketing services.

There’s a cool new rooftop garden restaurant and bar at McKittrick Hotel, site of the popular immersive theater experience, Sleep No More, a fun activity for meeting-goers with an adventurous side. The Hudson Hotel’s Sky Terrace is a rooftop oasis on the 15th floor, with unobstructed views all the way to the Statue of Liberty. On the ground floor outdoors, there’s Tequila Park Taqueria with more than 40 varieties of tequila. Press Lounge at Ink48, A Kimpton Hotel, which is within walking distance of the Javits Center, is one of the city’s best rooftop lounges.

The Novotel New York Times Square completed a dramatic, $85 million renovation in September. The 480-room hotel features a 5,700-square-foot outdoor terrace seven floors above ground with unforgettable views of Times Square.

8. Dynamic Downtown

The National September 11 Museum and the new One World Trade Center tower are scheduled to open in 2014. The One World Observatory will be a three-story observation deck atop what will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere upon completion in early 2015. At 1,268 feet, the observatory will offer stunning city views, dining, a gift shop and events.

New hotels cater to groups of all sizes in lower Manhattan, including Andaz Wall Street and Conrad New York. The Millennium Hilton recently revamped its lobby and F&B outlets, and The Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park recently unveiled 12,000 sq. ft. of renovated meeting space.

9. Beyond Manhattan

NYC & Company recently launched a new tourism campaign called Neighborhood X Neighborhood, which highlights all five boroughs (Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island).

The 100-room Z Hotel NYC in Queens’ Long Island City is perched along the East River. The new Z Roof boasts 5,000 sq. ft. of space and incredible views of the Manhattan skyline. The famous Bronx Opera House, where Harry Houdini, the Marx Brothers and George Burns performed, has been transformed into the new 60-room Opera House Hotel.  It offers meeting space for up to 25.

10. Garden varieties

Move beyond Midtown by visiting the plethora of museums, gardens, cultural centers and other artistic spaces that are yet another hallmark of New York City. Wave Hill is a 28-acre public garden and cultural center in the Bronx that overlooks the Hudson River and Palisades. Wave Hill House, the former estate house, recently underwent a two-year renovation and opened in July with a variety of event spaces.

L’Oreal, Pfizer, Chase Manhattan Bank and many others have seen their events blossom at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in the glass-enclosed Palm House, which has a capacity of 880. Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden on Staten Island is a regional arts center located in a former retirement home for sailors. 

11. Classic NYC

Top of the Rock, courtesy of Tishman Speyer

The first quarter of the year is normally the most affordable time to meet in New York City, according to Heywood. (Keep in mind that the Super Bowl is taking place in the area Feb. 2, 2014, so that will be a time to avoid.) Cooler temps offer attendees a truly iconic winter experience—ice skating in the city. The Rink at Rockefeller Center can be reserved for groups, as can the on-rink Rock Center Cafe, The Sea Grill and Cucina & Co. restaurants. Another popular skating spot is CitiPond at Bryant Park. The onsite Parka Lounge can host events for groups of 10 to 50; Celsius at Bryant Park, the rinkside two-story glass-enclosed restaurant, bar and lounge, can host groups of up to 500; and the entire rink can be rented for 200 to 750 guests. Wollman Rink in Central Park has been featured in several films, including Love Story. Stay cozy in heated rental tents or inside the 4,000 sq. ft. of rentable space.

The city that never sleeps is also the city that refuses to stay the same. That Empire State of Mind  not only inspires, but also makes attendees “feel brand new.”

Julie Keller Callaghan is editor-in-chief and publisher of American Spa, a magazine that reports on the national and international spa scene.

Hotel Chart

Click here for detailed information on the hotels in this story.

Broadway Bliss

For theater lovers, New York City is a true haven, and there are many ways planners can help attendees experience the drama. Take a Broadway show to the next level by teaming up with Exclusive Broadway and treating your meeting-goers to preshow cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, cast meet-and-greets, private Q&A sessions and photo ops. Some properties will also help connect your attendees to the Great White Way. The Mandarin Oriental, New York, for example, recently arranged for the Rock of Ages cast to perform during a meeting break to re-energize the crowd.

Planners who don’t have time to fit a show into a conference can direct attendees to TKTS for a theater experience before or after their event. These discount ticket booths found throughout Manhattan offer same-day tickets to Broadway and Off Broadway musicals and plays at up to 50 percent off.

Red-hot Restaurants

Bratwurst at Andrew Carmellini's Lafayette

It’s been said that a person could eat out every meal for a year in New York City and never visit the same restaurant twice. With 24,000 dining spots in five boroughs, that’s an understatement. Here are a few of the latest and greatest Manhattan restaurants:

ABC Cocina: Newest hot spot from celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten is located within ABC Carpet & Home, which means nearly every item on display is for sale. Modern food with a Spanish flair.

Andrew Carmellini’s Lafayette: Airy and spacious, it’s located in hip NoHo and offers fabulous French food. Notable noshes include organic breads, viennoiseries and pastries from its bakery.

Carbone: Italian-American restaurant from Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick pays homage to the popular Italian-American restaurants of mid-20th century, with a modern twist.

The Butterfly: Midcentury-inspired cocktail bar and supper club in Tribeca is ideal for private events for up to 70. Cocktails by renowned mixologist Eben Freeman and food by Michelin-starred chef Michael White.

Meeting Spotlight

  • Who: Thomson Reuters;
  • 260 attendees
  • What: Annual Global Ethics Summit and World’s Most Ethical Companies Dinner in partnership with Ethisphere Institute
  • When: March 2013 
  • Where: Grand Hyatt New York
  • Why: “Most of my team’s events are hosted in New York City. The main reason is that with all the major corporations housed there, most of our conference’s target market is there. Plus, New York is the most exciting city in the country. A major plus about hosting events in NYC is public transportation. Our attendees don’t have to worry about parking, and they can easily hop on the subway or bus or grab a cab or ferry to go anywhere in the city. The Grand Hyatt was an ideal spot for this—it’s connected to Grand Central Station. The amazing restaurants are another huge draw. Every morning people come in to the conference with stories about the amazing dinners and experiences they had the night before, and I can tell you for sure the most interesting stories are from nights out in NYC.” —Meghan A. Landis, conference planner, team lead