Fifty Grande Issue 6 editor note

Issue #6 Letter From the Editor

BY Chris M. Walsh | March 13, 2024

An odd truth about New York is that its residents are always trying to leave. For a city that is often romanticized as an embodiment of achievement and lofty pursuits, where so many have inextricably intertwined their own identity to a place, the amount of time spent by New Yorkers to get away from the place they call home is baffling.

Trips of all kinds are an always-trending topic of conversation: day jaunts, long weekends, full-on vacations. Some leave for whole seasons. Though what is often interpreted as wanderlust is, at least how I see it, a basic physiological need for space. When the American researcher John Calhoun conducted social experiments on rats in the mid-20th century, he found that overpopulation — big surprise — didn’t end well for those rodent communities. And living on an island that’s way too small (Manhattan) for the number of people who call it home (1.6 million) seems like the human equivalent of a Calhoun study. 

My own instinctual drive for space led me to a hotel. For four years I lived across the street from a small boutique hotel called NYLO, which later became Arthouse. In my time living nearby — during which I twice switched jobs, got married and had two daughters — I spent, roughly, a million hours in that hotel’s lobby. It’s where I’d go for a break. I’d gone often enough to be on a first-name basis with the doormen. Same for the lobby bartenders and front desk staff. I was a regular in their industrial-vibed bar area. More often than not I’d slide into a high-top chair to work at the faux library’s communal mahogany table. Right behind the bar is where I’d sneak my daughter onto the piano bench and let her pound the keys until we were asked to stop. The comfy velvet chairs by the elevators is where I’d catch up with friends visiting the city. And I always knew my wife needed a break of her own when she’d say, “Why don’t you go over to the hotel for a while?” 

I was there a few nights a week, almost every week, for four years. It’s not a stretch to say that the cozy, plush, quirky lobby was as important to me as my apartment. I planned the first issue of this magazine there, too. 

As spaces, hotels fill a unique, underappreciated niche — publicly accessible and yet intimate and personal at the same time. You could argue that regular patrons of restaurants and bars form similar connections, but hotels are next-level. They are essentially temporary homes where we’ll sleep, lounge AND eat and drink. You can’t sleep overnight in a bar. Not regularly, anyway.

Beyond this public-but-personal benefit, they have a unique ability to amp and even evoke behavior. There’s some mix of design, decor, service, staff, amenities and clientele that coalesce and enable visitors to let loose or relax or indulge or luxuriate or pamper or whatever. That’s the secret sauce part — time spent in the confines of a great hotel is a vacation in itself, regardless of the hotel’s locale. You could be in a beautiful beachfront room overlooking the ocean or just hanging in a lobby on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It’s all a getaway. 

This issue is a celebration of hotels. There are 110,000 of them in America (see more fun stats on page 6) and on page 60 you’ll find our first Greatest Hotels Ever honors. I said Greatest Hotels Ever, people! The 50 picks on our inaugural list were culled from reader nominations, and they represent a very specific kind of awesomeness: They are notable, yet affordable (average night stay is under $350, usually way under), and they embrace the things we love — music, food, art, design and exploration. We recommend you try them. 

There’s much more to see in this issue, so please have at it. As always, I hope you enjoy.