In Big Apple, luxury for little ones

By Felicity Long
The Eloise Suite at the Plaza was created by fashion designer Betsey Johnson.For a world-class city, New York has been surprisingly slow to jump on the bandwagon in terms of family-friendly luxury hotels. Fortunately, despite the initial lag, the trend has finally caught on and, like most things in the Big Apple, it's being done in a big way.

• One property that has been ahead of the curve in welcoming families is the Plaza, which, as fans of Eloise know, was the fictional home of the spunky literary heroine since Kay Thompson first published "Eloise" in 1955.

Over time, the hotel, now a Fairmont property, wisely capitalized on the connection, recently spinning it into a full-fledged side industry. In addition to numerous Eloise-themed activities, there is a two-room Eloise Suite on the 18th floor, created by fashion designer Betsey Johnson, complete with zebra-striped carpet, pink-padded headboard, prints by original Eloise illustrator Hilary Knight on the walls and an assortment of Eloise dolls, books and DVDs.

Rates for the Eloise Suite start at $995 per night and include a monogrammed Eloise bathrobe, a $100 gift card for use at the Eloise shop, an Eloise camera, a framed photo of the guest inside the suite and an Eloise book.

Guests can also opt to book the adjoining Edwardian Suite, where parents can enjoy champagne and truffles. Rates start at $2,045 per night for the two-bedroom option.

Of course, one of the issues with Eloise is that she tends to appeal to girls — the pink-phobic will not be comfortable in the Eloise Suite, for example — so this season the property created new seasonal packages in partnership with the Magic Tree House children's book series, which features both girl and boy protagonists and has sold more than 110 million books worldwide.

The Magic Tree House: The Plaza Rock package, for example, includes accommodations in a deluxe room or suite, a copy of the Magic Tree House books "Thanksgiving on Thursday" and "Pilgrims," tickets to the National Museum of the American Indian in lower Manhattan and other amenities.

A Magic Tree House: New York City Holiday package swaps the books with "A Ghost for Christmas Time" and "Rags and Riches: Kids in the Time of Charles Dickens" and replaces the museum visit with tickets to ice skating at the Wollman Rink.

Rates start at $920 per night.

• One of the newest entries into this market is the five-star Hotel Plaza Athenee, which has entered into a partnership with Nelvana Enterprises to introduce Babar, the royal elephant of children's literature, to its young guests through packages, welcome gifts and special events. The program, which is being timed to coincide with Babar's 80th anniversary, went live this summer and will continue to expand into the holiday season until the end of the year.

Guests who book the hotel's new Babar's Children's Package will receive a Babar gift basket that includes a 13-inch plush Babar toy, a "Babar Comes to America" picture book and a Babar kaleidoscope along with four tickets to the nearby Central Park Zoo and four tickets to the Top of the Rock observation deck at Rockefeller Center.

The package also includes continental breakfast for up to four guests, accommodations for two adults and two kids in connecting guestrooms or a two-bedroom suite, milk and cookies at turndown and loaner Babar DVDs for kids to watch in their rooms.

Valid for children under 10, the package is priced at $1,490 per night for two connecting guestrooms; $2,225 for the two-bedroom suite.

The elephant king was carefully chosen for its suitability to the upscale nature of the property as well as his cross-generational fame. Babar has been the subject of more than 100 books in 17 languages that have sold more than 10 million copies in the U.S. and has been brought to life in several TV series and a full-length movie.

In addition, this summer Babar was all over Manhattan, hanging out in displays at Saks Fifth Avenue, the Books of Wonder children's bookstore and even the New York Stock Exchange.

In the works are future Babar events, such as themed birthday parties, storytime and holiday parties at Christmas.

Special events aside, the 142-room hotel also serves families by offering 16 rooms and 23 suites that can be interconnected.

Parent-friendly amenities include the Bar Seine lounge, the Arabelle restaurant and the Spa Valmont, equipped with four spa suites: three for singles and one for couples.

The Grand Hyatt New York offers an American Girl package.The Grand Hyatt New York is also reaching out to families with packages that capitalize on its lively atmosphere and central location above Grand Central Station and near major attractions.

An American Girl Package targets young visitors (and their American Girl dolls) with milk and cookies on arrival, a $25 American Girl Place gift card and a doll bed to take home. Breakfast is free for kids under 5 and discounted 50% for ages 5 to 12.

Package rates start at $250, per room, per night, double.

An Explore package includes tickets to the Museum of Natural History, full breakfast and a late checkout at 1 p.m.

Especially appealing for families who book the Grand Club-level guestrooms are complimentary breakfast and snacks and beverages during the day in the multiroom club, which features indoor TV and WiFi and an outdoor terrace.

Finally, infants are not forgotten with a Babies Travel Lite program that enables parents to preorder products, including diapers, formula and baby food in their favorite brands, to be delivered to their rooms on arrival.

Parents can also enjoy fine dining at New York Central Bar and Kitchen, which features a sophisticated menu using carefully sourced ingredients, sleek decor and windows overlooking the city. Meanwhile, kids can enjoy the For Kids by Kids organic menu created by famed cookbook author Alice Waters.

• The 391-room Trump SoHo is casting a wide net for families this season that includes the often-overlooked teen market. The new Young Entrepreneurs Program at the Trump SoHo, designed for ages 3 to 17, offers film screenings at the Children's Museum of Arts, cooking classes, treatments at the Spa at Trump and classes in etiquette.

The program is an extension of the brand-wide Trump Kids program, which features swimming lessons; in-room movies, children's books and board games; kid-friendly room service menus; and the services of a nanny.

Young guests also receive a monogrammed robe and milk and cookies; use of rollaways and sofa beds as well as loaner strollers, high chairs and baby carriers is complimentary.

Best of all, the property offers that perennial family favorite, an outdoor pool, complete with a 4-foot-high waterfall.

A NYC Family Package, including in-room breakfast and rollaway or sofa bed, is priced from $645 per night.
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