Where to Stay in Manhattan: The Roger Smith Hotel
Hi! Quick disclaimer: there are a few affiliate links in this post. If you use these links, and end up making a purchase or booking a trip, I could make enough money to go Paris! Just kidding, but these links do support Rachel Off Duty at no additional expense to you. Thanks for supporting the blog!
Stay: Roger Smith Hotel
Located At: 501 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10017 (Midtown)
Stay Here For: Independently-owned hotel hospitality, central location (close to Grand Central Station!), some of the biggest and most affordable rooms you’ll get in Manhattan, a can’t-miss rooftop bar
I am obsessed with almost everything about New York. The food, the speed that people walk (likely to burn off all that delicious food), the shops, the sense of purpose. I’ve spent my entire life dreaming about eventually winding up in New York City, and every time I visit I only reaffirm this goal even more. But two things I definitely do not love about this city? The cost of a hotel room, and the square footage you get for the top dollar you have to shell out.
To combat the crazy costs of your average room in the city, several micro hotels have started popping up, offering anywhere from 50 - 160 square feet (yep) of space for a price that’s ‘budget’ by New York standards, but moderate to expensive compared to pretty much anywhere else. I love micro hotels. I really do, and I have a lot of fun staying in them, but when it comes to the price tag of a New York micro hotel, that’s wince-worthy, in my opinion.
But the beautiful thing about NYC is that there really is something for everyone if you just know where to look. Spacious accommodation at an actually reasonable price? Look no further than Manhattan’s Midtown East, where you’ll find the Roger Smith hotel. Whether you’re traveling with friends or just looking for a larger-than-average central accommodation in the city, the Roger Smith is perfectly primed for all sorts of travelers both in terms of square footage and in terms of price. And it’s so much more than that, too.
I stayed at the Roger Smith hotel a few weeks ago with my boyfriend, Jacob, and one of our good friends on a quick trip to New York. Here’s everything you need to know about the hotel and why I think it’s great!
Roger Smith is located on Lexington Avenue in the heart of Midtown East, a happening slice of Manhattan that most people probably recognize, even if you’ve never been to New York, thanks to iconic fixtures like the Chrysler Building and the Rockefeller Center. If you’ve never seen the Chrysler Building before, you’ll be able to spot the massive, pointed skyscraper right away from the hotel’s rooftop, as it’s only located a few short blocks down the street.
Also nearby, you’ll find Grand Central Station, which is both a destination in itself and a central hub that will take you anywhere you need to go in Manhattan and beyond.
The Roger Smith hotel is actually a family-run, independently-owned property that has been in business since 1929. The owners of the hotel have a personal interest in and passion for art, and it’s apparent throughout the entire property even before you enter the building. Outside, you’re met with brass sculptures lining the entrance and the exterior walls. Inside, there is art and sculpture woven into the decor at every turn, from the lobby, to the rooms, to the common areas. The hotel feels historic and period-driven in terms of design, but not in a way that makes it feel dated or stuffy. There’s intention here, and a sense of honoring each artistic touch, whether old or new.
The family-run aspect of the hotel is also tangible in other ways. The staff of the property is incredibly personable, and everyone is in-tune with individual guest needs. When we checked in, the front desk was expecting us and had already been briefed (briefed! In a meeting!) that we were coming. I’d imagine this same level of attention might extend to all sorts of big occasions – people checking in for honeymoons or bachelorette parties or birthdays, things like that. Beyond that, we found that the majority of the staff has been working at the hotel for 10, 20, and even 30+ years. Much of the rest of the staff on shorter terms are interns, who are offered lodging and guidance in the Big Apple in exchange for a helping hand. And everyone that works here is so friendly, we must have had no less than 20+ minute conversations with almost everyone we met.
Like I mentioned earlier, there are 2 very distinct trends in New York City hotels right now: incredibly modern or incredibly small. Both of those routes are great in different ways, but Roger Smith actually fits neither of these molds. Instead, you’ll find rooms and suites made to feel like coming home to an actual home. Charming prints and patterns, eye-catching wallpaper, vintage-style furniture, and art decorate each space, and no two rooms in the 132-room property are the same.
That said, in every room, you will find a slew of uniform comforts – coffee and tea, luxe locally made Beekman 1802 bath products, a flat-screen TV, an iron + ironing board, bath robes, and a blowdryer. Something you don’t see everyday but will also find in each room is a bookshelf full of books. The ‘take one, leave one’ rule applies here, and the hotel aims to encourage guests to share their favorite reads with others who might also find themselves here.
In the room we stayed in, which was one of their larger suites, we had a foyer (a foyer!! Who has a foyer in a hotel in New York?), living room, dining room, study, kitchenette (complete with glassware and plates), bedroom, 2 closets, bathroom, 2 showers (standing shower and a tub), and a balcony – a unicorn in Manhattan. The couch in the living room pulls out into a full-size bed, which in addition to the bedroom meant that all 3 of us slept comfortably.
After you’ve explored your room, you can take the vintage elevator up to the top floor. Here you’ll find several different hangout spots to explore.
The first is Henry’s, an open-air rooftop bar that’s open from April to November. While the Roger Smith does not have a restaurant, it makes up for it by serving bites and cocktails here. Lights strung along the railings and against the exterior brick wall help to create a really special setting to sit and sip and converse right as the sun is beginning to set. If you’re with friends, order a pitcher of sangria and a platter of spinach & artichoke dip. A great deal in the city, and really tasty too!
Around the corner, you can also grab a drink at the Penthouse, a beautifully decorated hideaway with a wraparound terrace. Unlike Henry’s which is fully outdoors, the Penthouse has cozy nooks, a piano, a fireplace, and ample seating both indoors and out.
Last but not least, you’ll also find an event space on the 16th floor called the Solarium, which is an open venue and terrace built to host anywhere from 90 to 120 people for private events.
There’s also a bar on the first floor, Lily’s, but it was closed during our stay.
WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT
During our 3-day stay, something was very apparent the entire time: there’s a level of hospitality here that you just don’t experience at most hotels. It’s not the learned and perfectly manicured form you find at a larger chain accommodation. It’s not scrappy and ill-prepared either. It’s a kind of genuine attentiveness and familiarity that can’t be learned. The kind that comes with an almost 100-year lineage of charming guests and welcoming them home. And it’s subtle. You notice it in the free snacks (yogurt and granola) in the lobby at all hours. In the bellman who greets you excitedly even though you’re just there to pick up your bags. In the interns, who seem to adore the hotel family they’ve made for themselves. And in the staff, who have devoted years and years of their lives to preserving this space and serving the people in it.
It’s these little things I genuinely wasn’t expecting on our stay, but that left a lasting impression that already makes me want to return. So while you won’t get modern, or flashy, or high-tech, you will get special touches, and attentiveness, and thoughtfully curated rooms designed by passionate people. And that, I think, is what really makes this ‘a great little New York hotel.’