I’ve been hearing a lot about Hudson Yards, and am tempted to hole up there on my next visit to New York, but the location—in the middle of nowhere, really—is worrying. Will I find enough to do in that neighborhood to keep me entertained?
An Intrigued Out-of-Towner
Strictly for research purposes, I’ve spent some time in the new $25 billion, 14-acre Hudson Yards development, at 30th Street and Twelfth Avenue. Yes, it’s a weird, out-there location, and Hudson Yards is trying its damnedest to create a neighborhood where one never existed before. Enter the billionaire-developer school of city planning: take fancy architecture, as in the Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed culture-in-a-box called the Shed, fancy restaurants like TAK Room by Thomas Keller, fancy shopping, delivered in a vertical mall … and add the very fancy Equinox Hotel, located in its own eco-sphere, kind of like a Carnival cruise ship.
On a recent Friday night around six p.m., I checked into Room 732 at the 212-room hotel. I am not on intimate terms with the Equinox brand and its 100-plus locations around the country, but I’ll wager that not even its most devoted, buff regulars would recognize this skyscraper of black glass, chrome, and marble as the most obvious complement to the eponymous health club. However, maybe that’s the point. It’s sparkling, luxurious, and expensive, certainly. But for the healthy bit, you’ll have to scroll through the experience a bit further.
This fine living is not exactly free; room rates begin at $700 a night. Look at it this way—the Plaza’s are also pricey, and they don’t include complimentary cosmetics made from locally cultivated herbs. My own room was a junior suite on the 32nd floor, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Hudson—clean and contemporary par excellence, thanks to designer David Rockwell. The room was large, and the bathroom was surprisingly small in comparison. The overall design is safe, if a bit generic, in a West Elm sort of way. But that seemed to perfectly reflect what appeared to be its target clientele: young, groovy, and fit. Forget the sumptuous duvets and 400-thread-count Matouk linens—it’s all about the mattress, handmade in Greece from natural fibers, crushed coconut shells, horsehair, cactus, and seaweed. You’re rolling your eyes, but it works. Alas, since I don’t travel with passwords for Netflix and Amazon at the ready, we weren’t able to access the big-screen Apple TV, which was a drag, but instead, we tuned out and turned in early.
I suppose I could have ventured up to take an exercise class on the fourth floor’s 60,000-square-foot gym—room after windowed room for weight lifting, rowing, cycling, yoga, and Pilates. Dozens of daily classes are offered, between 6 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. There’s an indoor pool, but it’s the sleek outdoor pool and its sprawling deck that will have you thinking, Who needs South Beach?
The spa, too, has its own floor, complete with a mind-boggling menu. Perhaps a 60-minute facial is enough, but do your best to schedule a punishing but restorative deep-tissue massage, which uses Function Botanicals CBD-based ointments. There’s also the state-of-the-art cryotherapy operation, where you strip down to your skivvies, socks, and heavy mittens and disappear into a 2001: A Space Odyssey–like glass chamber chilled to minus 160 degrees. Reportedly, this flash-freezing method builds collagen and reduces inflammation, but its real draw is the promise that a three-minute, $60 treatment could burn up to 400 calories. Those who are comfortable with needles might enjoy IV drips of every color and variety. With rates beginning at a hefty $200 per drip, some formulas vow to cure jet lag, vitamin deficiencies, hangovers … But I have to draw the line somewhere.
Electric Lemon, the hotel’s restaurant, overseen by Stephen Starr, has delicious food, despite its spotty and occasionally annoying service. I skipped the avocado toast, but enjoyed the chickpea pasta and “beauty bowl” of beet yogurt and bee pollen. Those looking for more substantial fare will appreciate the roasted duck breast, Berkshire pork, and 14-ounce ribeye.
And all of this inside an expensively veneered universe in a new-new neighborhood! How could we have known that we needed cryotherapy before breakfast, Pilates for lunch, a stroll though Uniqlo and Vuitton, with a stopover for espresso at Blue Bottle, before massages and vodka-and-tonics poolside and hay-roasted oysters at dinner? All of this and a handmade horsehair mattress from Greece? Who could ask for anything more?!
Richard David Story is a veteran travel writer and editor based in New York