Hard Rock Hotel New York Review: A music infused gem in the heart of Times Square

Many will know the Hard Rock brand for having delivered music themed cafes/restaurants around the world for the last 50 years – including recently closed locations in Sydney* and on the Gold Coast. However, the brand’s true star power these days is found in their hotel & casino brand.

With locations from Sentosa Island in Singapore to Marble Arch in London, Las Vegas, where they’ve recently taken over the Mirage, to the Universal Orlando Resort, there are now 42 Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos globally, and 22 in North America alone.

The latest to open – in May 2022 – is a brand new build on 48th Street, in the heart of New York’s Times Square.

It’s positioned to be a music infused gem, serving as a comfortable, luxurious accommodation option for those who might want to use their trip to the Big Apple as an opportunity to lounge, rock out and be situated in the centre of live entertainment.

I had the chance to check out the hotel on a visit to New York last month, and here’s what the experience was like.

The Hotel

Let’s start with that incredible entry you see pictured at the top of this article; that atrium is what greets you after you walk through the rotating doors, and it is stunning. An outfit courtesy of “Empire State of Mind” (at this point, the unofficial anthem of New York City and a regular reference point in the hotel’s marketing) collaborator Alicia Keys, sits as the centrepiece of the space, with a massive staircase wrapped around, ascending to the second floor where the check in is tucked away. And don’t worry, you’ll also find outfits from Jay-Z and Beyonce by the elevators.

You’ll also find breakfast and lunch served here at Sessions Restaurant, with indoor and outdoor seating, and a full bar. The food there was much more impressive than what you might expect from the brand, if you’ve only visited their “Cafés”. Here, they bake on site, and make pastries and chocolates in the executive kitchen, with wonderful croissants. The indoor seating is positioned around the steps, with a gallery of music pieces (famous instruments, mostly), sitting in the wall.

And of course, there’s live music here. You’ll find a basement 400 capacity space for events and concerts, “The Venue on Music Row”, that has its own entrance separate from the hotel. Also hidden away in the building is Audacy Live, where they film and record intimate performances, such as this recent one from Death Cab For Cutie.

There’s the Rock Shop of course, with a Café featuring coffees and pastries on the ground floor – and the NYY Steak Restaurant, presented in partnership with the New York Yankees. Here you’ll find seafood, steak and even plant based options, with an emphasis on quality and presentation, courtesy of Executive Chef Oscar Gonzalez. And finally, there’s RT60, their stunning rooftop bar on the 34th floor.

You might note the guitar frets on the roof – you can’t look at anything in this hotel without realising the intent behind it. Look back up at the featured image of the atrium and you’ll see sound bars surrounding Keys’ dress. There’s sound waves designed into the carpets in the hallways, and you’ll also find memorabilia on every floor. The Beastie Boys, for instance, were a fixture on my floor.

One of the best feature of the design of the hotel, from a practical point of view, is that they have no less than 5 elevators for the public, ensuring that you never wait long for a lift to your room, in spite of the size of the property: 36 floors and 446 guest rooms and suites. This is a nice change from my usual experience of even up market hotels in New York City: two lifts for hundreds of rooms with one lift always broken. Oh, the benefits of a new build!

In addition to the design, additional music features are infused into the “The Sound of Your Stay®” program, allowing you to order a guitar to your room, records and listen to curated playlists from Spotify. Speaking of the room, let’s move onto it…

The Room

We stayed in a Deluxe King room, from where you’ll see glimpses of Times Square. And from the minute you enter the space, you’re greeted with nothing but comfort. Two comfortable, cosy kimono Hard Rock robes sit in the cupboard, with matching slippers. There’s some storage space, a laptop sized safe, a small sliding fridge, and a Lavazza® Espresso machine machine.

There’s a comfortable desk, and good air conditioning. The do not disturb signs & requests for housekeeping, are buttons, with a light that appears out the front of your room.

The room is well lit, with a number of mood settings (like “relax” and “sleep”), with buttons on the left side of the bed and near the door; manual blackout curtains in the bedroom, and an electronic privacy & shade screen in the bathroom.

A massive bath sits as the centerpiece of the bathroom, which has heated marble floors, a beautiful golden feature wall (which matches the shower heads etc.) and a huge rain shower. A toilet is also given its own space, with the hotels branding making its way to the toilet rolls; a “general admission” sticker on the roll already placed, and “b-sides” written around the backup.

Rock Spa® products have been made for Hard Rock by Gilchrist & Soames, with sweet grass shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and cleansing bar – found next to the bath as well as in the shower. You’ll also find a shower cap, vanity kit, hair dryer and scales.

As in the rest of the hotel, there are nice touches throughout the room to accentuate the music theme. Some are more obvious – like the fact that Bruce Springsteen is watching you sleep – while others may require a keener eye. For instance, the King Bed, perfect in its comfort, is adorned with guitars, both sewn into the pillowcases, and subtly designed into the duvet cover. All part of the branded “Sleep-Like-A-Rock® luxury cotton linens”.

You’ll see a sound wave in the artwork on the wall above the bed, ridges of vinyl on the key to your room (as well as on the packaging for toiletries), and the guitar pick that sits on the wall, for the security latch to lean against, is a particularly nice touch. I’m sure there’s a lot I missed, too.

The massive TV features a classic music video channel on channel 66 – which really should be the default channel for when you turn on the TV – as well as a number of well curated genre radio stations, designed for the Hard Rock hotels. You can also Chromecast to the TV, which is easy to set up on any smart phone.

For all the great design decisions, there are also some less-than-intuitive features in the room and hotel. The ice bucket will lead some to wander the halls wondering where the ice machine is. Turns out you needed to call the front desk and ask for it to be brought up – though they did so quickly, and also brought up some extra towels on request, after we accidentally left the do not disturb button on and needed some replaced.

Also, as is common of hotels in New York, it often took a while for the heat to start running through the water in the luxuriously bath or shower; and without the taps labelled, it proved confusing how to get the heat flowing. We figured it out – but not after some frustration.

There’s an easy solution to this, however – adding some of these questions to the FAQ page already sitting alongside the room service menu. On this, they should also put details of the “The Sound of Your Stay®” program, where you can order a guitar to the room, as this wasn’t quite clear unless you caught onto it on their website. There was, however, a note that you could order a yoga mat to the room, as part of their “Rock Om®” yoga program. It’s safe to say this hotel offers a LOT, and so research before you arrive is recommended. But regardless of what you do, you’re going to have a very comfortable stay. And it’s not like you’re without options of things to do. You are in the heart of New York City after all!

There are a variety of room types you can look through HERE – and the availability of rooms with balconies is a nice touch for the area.

The Location

It’s a short walk to all the shows on Broadway and a number of subway stations; you’re very much in the heart of Manhattan – you can even see Times Square from your window! You can visit Broadway Inbound to book tickets to a number of great shows, with classics like Wicked and The Lion King, more recent sensations like the Tony Award Winning SIX, A Strange Loop or the hilarious Mr. Saturday Night, with a rare chance to see Billy Crystal live on stage – in his first ever Broadway musical! And then there’s POTUS, which is one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen. Some things only happen in New York.

You can get Pizza’s from some of the most well known spots in Times Square around the corner, and you’ll find the M&M Store just across the street. Naturally, all those bright lights from Times Square make their way into your bathroom, but there is great soundproofing in the property, and the main room has black out curtains to ensure you get a good sleep, no matter what time you go to bed. Which, in New York, let’s face it – could be any time of the day or night.

Final Verdict

If you want a comfortable night’s sleep in Times Square, with the sights and sounds of music infused into every aspect of your stay, then look no further than Hard Rock’s newest hotel build. The design is phenomenal, the beds comfortable and the location unbeatable.

The only criticism is the need for more explanation around some aspects of the room and hotel – though being a brand new property, that will no doubt improve as time goes on, and doesn’t reflect the quality of what’s on offer.

All in all, there is little not to love about Times Square’s shiniest new attraction. Even if you’re not staying here, pop by one of the great restaurants on site, see if there’s an event on, and take in that incredible atrium. They really have gone above and beyond with this hotel, making it an attraction for Times Square in itself. Oh, and did I mention the croissants are delicious?


Address: 159 West 48th Street New York City, NY 10036
Book Now: https://www.hardrockhotels.com/new-york/

The writer stayed as a guest of Hard Rock Hotel New York for two nights. All photos by the author except the headline image, the photo of the Sessions Restaurant, and the photo featuring the robes; all three provided by Hard Rock Hotel Times Square. Photo of Times Square by Vlad Alexandru Popa.

*The Sydney cafe location in Darling Harbour closed in 2020 citing the Covid-19 pandemic, however a new location looks set to open in Manly – which would make it the only Hard Rock property currently operating in Australia, after the Gold Coast location also recently closed its doors.

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.