”There are certain things that are just better left alone, and the Carlyle is one of them.”
The Carlyle, a Rosewood Hotel
There’s a memory I have at the Carlyle Hotel that redefined what a luxury hotel really could offer. I was sitting in the lobby on one of their golden velvet sofas in the corner at the peak of check-in traffic. A dashing man who exuded importance came through the revolving door to the top of the stairs above the lobby. The front desk manager saw him descend and was at his side in seconds, shook his hand, presented him his key, and the guest’s check-in experience was probably the world’s fastest.
The Carlyle Hotel treats very important people in the way that they want to be treated. The discreet service, the private and residential feel, and the timeless chic vibe of the art deco hotel has made the Carlyle the favorite for some of the world’s most famous people. The Kennedys had an apartment here and the Carlyle became known as the New York White House during his administration.
The Carlyle Hotel legacy has no rival in glamor. Dorothy Draper, the woman who created the interior design industry, got her big break working on the Carlyle in 1930. We can thank her for feminizing spaces with cheery jumbo stripes and cabbage-rose chintzes—rooms and suites to make us feel happy.
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Draper was one of many famous hotel residents who also included Ludwig Bemelmans, who painted his beloved Madeline character in Central Park on the walls of the hotel bar that took his name. Once for work, I had to babysit a bachelor billionaire visiting New York; Bemelmans Bar was the obvious place to take him. He loved it. Both Bemelmans Bar and Café Carlyle are legendary venues for jazz and cabaret, so they may inspire you to book a babysitting service during your family vacation.
There’s a reason the Carlyle was chosen by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their first visit to New York. It was Prince William’s mother’s favorite, too. The Carlyle assures privacy and has been called the palace of secrets. When we entered our suite, we smiled at an exceptional touch: monogrammed pillowcases for my husband and me. It made me wonder right away if the Duke and Duchess had a bed made for them that read “W C” across it. How had the staff handled that monogram dilemma?
Making guests feel at home is what the Carlyle does well. When I was a new mom nine years ago, I checked into the Carlyle with my daughter who was 9 months old at the time. Compared to the pack and plays or portable cribs other hotels had offered, the Carlyle brought my daughter a lovely full-sized crib with wonderful linens and enough Lady Primrose baby amenities to last her for a year. Though, now, they carry the Erbaviva baby line.
The Rosebuds Family Program
We returned as a family of four on Memorial Day weekend, ready to stroll the deserted sidewalks of the Upper East Side and explore Central Park with friends. Our coral red suite was appointed with lovely touches like pink roses and welcome cookies and milk. It contained a kitchenette and half bath, plus an entry closet perfect to stow our stroller. Even though the Carlyle is essentially New York, our suite had a strong London vibe with its upholstered headboards and botanical and architectural prints.
Our small bathroom was lined with mirrors on every surface to make it feel bigger. And true to the hotel’s service, on this trip I enjoyed the Kiehl’s grapefruit body wash, so housekeeping left me five more bottles, noticing my use and preferences.
Compared to other luxury hotels in New York that don’t let you forget you are in a hotel room, the Carlyle suites feel like your own pied à terre in a glamorous pre-war building. The two rollaway beds in the living room displayed Rosebud welcome kits for the children with puzzles, water bottles, and Frisbee in their backpacks. We requested a picnic blanket, too, and we were ready for a day in the park. Had it rained, we were a short walk from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The rhododendrons in Central Park were in full bloom, and the city was ready to welcome summer. We strolled down the shaded promenade to listen to the different musicians, but we got very engrossed in the large bubble makers. Kids don’t ever tire of bubbles. We made it to the carousel, bought balloon swords, and lingered at Bethesda Fountain to see the wedding parties arrive for photos. On our return to the hotel, we stopped at its neighbor, the Upper East Side institution, Sant Ambroeus, for gelato.
The Carlyle Hotel doesn’t have much on site for families, but the East 76th Street location is ideal for easy access to shopping and eating. Within a few minutes, one can reach Third Avenue and face a challenging decision between two legendary Parisian patisserie-boulangeries by Messieurs Payard and Keyser.
This trip, we had Sunday brunch at Maison Keyser, having our fill of croissants, great coffee, and egg cocottes with spinach and goat cheese. It proved to be a bit rich for me with the Béchamel sauce, so I wish I had stuck with the egg tartines on their amazing sourdough bread. Another favorite of ours is Candle Cafe for excellent vegan food that even carnivores would enjoy.
Our final day, we had breakfast at the Carlyle restaurant, simply because the space is so beautiful, I felt I must forego my room service breakfast habit for the occasion. The entire first floor of the hotel was decorated with deep magenta orchids. Sitting in the dining room with other families and European hotel guests, I could enjoy a bit of civility if I chose to ignore the Rescue Bot action figures on the table.
Spa & Salon at the Carlyle
I peaked at the spa and fitness center, though I didn’t use them this time. The Senses Spa is the Rosewood Hotel brand specializing in oxygen facials using Intraceuticals. Yves Durif leads the hair salon on site. Beauty is serious business here, and the Carlyle’s salon and spa each have numerous VIP sections as the hotel transforms into the unofficial dressing rooms for celebrities attending the Met Gala.
When I was a teenager, my mother and I would visit New York from our Southern city and get a “New York hairstyle” at our hotel’s salon. Because it was the 80’s, we always ended up wearing the newest looks from Dynasty. I am sure if my daughter and I visited the Carlyle, the look would be far more timeless.
Madeline in Manhattan Package
The hotel offers seasonal events for children around the Madeline theme. Saturday morning holiday teas with Madeline are wonderful for the seven and under crowd, and the hotel has recently launched a Madeline package that includes the book, a tote bag, a plush doll, and a special Madeline cupcake from the Magnolia Bakery. Go ahead and book this, pretending it is for your daughter. I won’t judge.
There’s always a festive tea each holiday for children. Read our favorite ways to celebrate the holidays with things to do with kids in New York City.
I enthusiastically recommend a Memorial Day or holiday family weekend at the Carlyle Hotel. The Upper East Side was empty and easy to explore; we walked into every restaurant without a wait. Our suite was a wonderful haven for card games and movies after walking all day. My husband who doesn’t comment on design kept saying, “I love this room. Why do I love this room so much?” I smiled, “Because you are sitting in the same Bergère chairs we have in our bedroom. You feel like you are home.”