Updated: Feb 21, 2014
id: Times Square behemoth
atmosphere: big and bustling
cool detail: revolving rooftop restaurant
By Terry Trucco
At a glance: Not many Manhattan hotels remind me simultaneously of Las Vegas and mega cruise ships. But not many Manhattan hotels are 45-story giants with towering atriums and exposed elevator cars, glassed in waterfalls, flashing lights and multiple branches of Starbucks.
This enormous 45-story John Portman creation from 1985 has the appearance of an alien creature plopped in the middle of midtown and looks like no other hotel in town. Yet this busy, buzzy place is quite simply the best-situated hotel in Times Square. If larger than usual rooms, chain-hotel efficiency, spectacular city views and easy access to the Theater District and Times Square’s multitudinous delights (and frights) do it for you, this could be your hotel.
The Marquis is too big to make my heart sing, but it’s easy to see its appeal. It’s efficient (those elevators shoot up and down like rockets). It’s clean (large plastic orbs filled with germ-fighting hand disinfectant are situated throughout the lobby). And everything you might want is under one roof -- ballrooms, a rooftop restaurant, an uber-gym, even a Broadway theater, the Marquis, currently awaiting a new production.
Best of all, the hotel is looking sharp following a much-needed renovation to the massive eighth-floor lobby and all 1,949 rooms. So long, power suits and Gordon Gekko suspenders; hello, 21st century.
Heads up: The lower floors of the hotel are being converted into new retailing venues so expect some construction. But it doesn't impact guest rooms or the lobby. Also, the facade of the building is eviscerated as it awaits new digital advertising billboards.
Rooms: Renovating 1,900+ plus rooms is no mean feat, but the Marquis completed it in spring 2012. Rooms flaunt crisp, coffee-and-cream interiors and up-to-date amenities like coffeemakers and at long last, WiFi. I like the pretty-yet-practical brown carpeting patterned with interlocking circles and the sleek, dark wood dresser, supporting a flatpanel TV, and ample desk. And kudos to the big white bed’s dark backboard outfitted with reading lights and scored with metal accents. An orange loveseat sleeper and gold club chairs introduce autumnal accents -- or maybe they're just a color-coded reminder that you're staying at the Marriott.
I'm not a big fan of Portman atriums, but they guarantee every room an outer window, ie no gloomy air-shaft views. (Caveat: Broadway views cost $50 extra.) Rooms, like the hotel, are grand scale. The smallest measure 430 square feet and all feature king-size beds with the Marriott foam mattress, which I love.
Bathrooms are conventional but big enough for a shower/tub combo and a generous black granite countertop.
Food and drink: Don’t expect edgy, but you can score something to drink or eat (including something healthy) at almost any hour – and that’s in addition to room service - as long as you're willing to swallow the price.
The renovation jettisoned the sushi bar and touristy American-style restaurant in the eighth floor atrium lobby. In their place is Crossroads American Kitchen and Bar, a good-looking, open plan duo that gobbles up a chunk of real estate in the enormous eighth floor lobby. The showpiece centerpiece is the mirrored black tower, as shiny as Darth Vader’s helmet and punctuated with eleven TV screens, rising behind the round bar. The screens were tuned to a football game (Giants vs. Eagles) the day we visited, creating a circle of playing field green on the black for a dash of sports bar drama. Seating is ample and varied – club chairs, banquettes, purple benches and 20 seats at the bar.
In addition to breakfast, the adjoining restaurant features predictable fare – burgers, chicken, pastas – with health conscious additions like turkey burgers on wheat buns and salmon burgers.
I chose a banquette with a good view of the game and opted for a $14.95 Negroni (pricey but good if you like Campari) and a $9 humus plate – warm pita, celery sticks and baby carrots (bland and too overtly healthy) in the bar.
The Broadway Lounge, an expansive area with an open kitchen and big bar, occupies the front of the floor. Sporting upbeat post-renovation duds – aqua carpet garnished with huge circles, cheery turquoise club chairs – it’s congenial if huge, and the Times Square views through the floor-to-ceiling windows are spectacular.
For even better views, the aptly named View rooftop restaurant and bar revolves majestically on the 45th floor. The food on the pricey prix fix menu gets ho-hum reviews from Zagats, but the view gets five stars.
Amenities: Befitting a large hotel, the fitness center is spacious and, in its way, spectacular, thanks to opposing walls of windows facing the Hudson and the atrium and a fleet of machines. Free WiFi in the lobby, but you pay in the rooms ($16.96 a day; the fee also includes unlimited local and long distance calls within the U.S).
The Marquis Theater is on the premises and is usually home to a musical. For a behemoth of a hotel, service can be quite attentive. When a friend wound up with two extra 9 to 5 tickets a while back, the Concierge sold them for her and mailed her the check. Pets allowed (nonrefundable $250 cleaning fee).
Surroundings: As good as it gets if you want Times Square. The Marriott is on Broadway – literally – and flanked by some of Broadway’s most notable theaters. Attractions like Madame Tussauds, Ripley’s Odditorium and the TKTS discount ticket booth are an easy walk as are countless Theater District restaurants. Grand Central Terminal, Bryant Park and the New York Public Library are a short walk away; Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Museum of Modern Art and Fifth Avenue stores (Saks Fifh Avenue, Juicy Couture, Bergdorf's) are only slightly further afield. The Empire State Building and Macy’s are also easy to reach. Lincoln Center is three stops away on the 1 subway line (the station is a short three block walk). And bus stops are nearby.
Back story: The Marriott opened in 1985, but its prime Broadway location did not come easily. Five historic theaters, including the vaunted Helen Hayes and Morosco, were sacrificed to make room for Portman’s behemoth, an action preservationists dubbed “The Great Theater Massacre of 1982.” But Times Square was a raunchy dump at the time, and revisionists believe the Marriott heralded the start of the area’s revitalization (or Disneyfication, depending on your sentiments).
Keep in mind: Calling an elevator can be confusing (you punch in your number and get directed to the appropriate elevator, but once inside the there's no buttons to push in case you change your mind). No minibars in the rooms.
What We Saw: