The beauty of Providence being so close New York City is the ease of hitting the city that never sleeps, with a comfortable three-hour ride on Amtrak’s Acela Express train. Train fares vary; ours one weekend was $300-plus round-trip, which might seem high but given that it plunks you in the heart of the city at Penn Station, it’s more convenient than flying. Plus, parking at the station in Providence is downright cheap at $8 a day. Fares on Amtrak’s Northeast Regional trains are cheaper, and take about a half-hour longer to get to Manhattan. You can also pick up the slower trains at the Kingston and Westerly train stations, where parking is free.
Once you arrive, the Big Apple is your oyster, with an incredible array of places to eat, museums to visit and gorgeous hotels to rest your head. We took our lodging at the iconic Loews Regency Hotel, a landmark in midtown Manhattan and a short cab ride from the train station.
The Regency is a beauty, benefiting from a massive, $100-million renovation that ended in January 2014, necessitating closing the hotel for a year. Shuttering a popular hotel in arguably one the world’s most popular cities might seem economically disastrous, but Regency’s legacy was enough to ensure solid bookings upon reopening.
Its ideal location at the corner of Park Avenue and 61st Street helps, close to Central Park, Madison Avenue and Museum Mile; check out the four-block long Fifth Avenue landmark façade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with fountains, paving, lighting and bosques of trees.
The renovations of the 379-room Regency hotel were designed by New York’s Rottet Studio, Meyer Davis Studio Inc. and Jonathan Nehmer + Associates, and include a 24-foot high lobby ceiling, with a grand marble entrance with bespoke finishes and a lobby lounge with velvet sofas, power and hardline Internet outlets and New York-created art installations such as those by Brooklyn-based Nina Helms.
The guestroom makeovers feature Frette linens and bathrobes, smart TVs with movies on demand, speedy and free WiFi, bedside and desk power outlets and electronic window shades. There are also signature suites ranging from 700 square feet to 1,550 square feet, with views over Park Avenue, 61st Street and the New York skyline.
Holiday travel is expensive anywhere, and at the Regency, a random check of mid-week stays popped up at $659 a night. Fast forward to mid-week January, it goes for $429, plus there are a variety of package plans available.
A big plus at any luxury hotel is the spa, and at the Regency that is the Julien Farel Restore Salon & Spa, with floor-to-ceiling windows and furnishings from the Maletti Group and offerings of various massages, nail and hair treatments, and even a dedicated men’s salon, JF Men, where men can get shaves, grooming and Farel’s signature hair treatments. My masseur was a total pro, and was able to pinpoint old sports injuries before working on them, adjusting his approach and also offering therapeutic tips.
The famous New York “Power Breakfast” was conceived at the Regency in 1975 during the city’s financial crisis, when leaders from the public and private sectors convened there before the workday began. It’s still going strong, and with power prices: Think $25 eggs (two) with herb-roasted potatoes, toast and bacon, ham or sausage. On the bright side, the portions are huge and very tasty.
The hotel is a reasonably short walk to the theater district where one night we took in “School of Rock” at the Wintergarden Theater on Broadway, an Andrew Lloyd Weber creation with young musician/actors putting on a tremendous performance that warranted a thundering standing ovation at the end. Prior to that, we dined at Serafina, a mainstay Italian restaurant with decidedly less-than-usual New York prices. A dish of Bolognese pasta there with the most succulent meat sauce will run you $19. Even the spaghetti with lobster dish is a mere $27.
And if you can, do not miss truffles from the Momofuku Milk Bar. We’d never heard of them before and almost wish we never did, because we could not stop eating them when friends treated us to a plate full of these little round vanilla rainbow cake treats mixed with vanilla-infused milk and coated with white chocolate, then rolled in rainbow cake crumbs. They were the most extraordinary, addictive dessert balls of unearthly goodness ever.
There’s a lot to offer in The Big Apple, and the ease of getting there from Providence makes it all that more appealing.