Wasting away again in Times Square: The new Margaritaville Resort is a slice of island paradise in an urban jungle

5d ago

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There are two places I’d normally never voluntarily visit: Times Square and Margaritaville. Combine the two and you’ve got my idea of a nightmare.

Or so I thought.

I was recently tasked with spending a night at the just-opened Margaritaville Resort Times Square. Despite some initial hiccups, and much to my surprise, I had a comfortable and — dare I say — enjoyable stay.

The hotel joins several recently opened Margaritaville resorts, including Jacksonville Beach, Florida; Nassau, Bahamas; and Palm Springs, California, and promises an island-inspired oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle. The opening is especially exciting for New York City because it marks a sign of revival in the city’s ailing hospitality industry.

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(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

In This Post

Booking

The Margaritaville Resort brand isn’t a member of any major hotel loyalty program. That said, it is in the process of rolling out the Margaritaville Perks program, which will provide benefits like early check-in, late checkout and complimentary beverages. According to the program’s FAQ page, it will offer: “No points, no tiers to reach, no waiting for qualification. Just straightforward immediate benefits, value-adds, and Perks.”

I decided to book my stay directly on the hotel’s website and pay using my Chase Sapphire Reserve card to earn 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent (a 6% return based on TPG valuations). Rates currently start around $200 per night before taxes and fees but will likely increase as demand picks up. The real kicker, though, is a $49.95 nightly resort fee. While resort and destination fees are common in the area, this one is definitely on the steeper side. It gets you the following benefits:

  • Pool access
  • Fitness center access
  • Wi-Fi
  • In-room coffee
  • Premium movie channels
  • Priority seating at restaurants

As you can see, the benefits aren’t very extensive. The biggest benefit here is the pool access. However, the pool wasn’t open yet during my stay. Luckily, the front desk agreed to waive the fee for me because of this.

Related: How to avoid paying resort fees

Location

As its name would suggest, the Margaritaville Resort Times Square is in Times Square. More specifically, it’s located at the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 40th Street, just a few blocks from the center of all the action. In case you don’t want to eat all your meals on-site, there are lots of big chain restaurants nearby, like Applebee’s, Red Lobster, TGI Fridays and Olive Garden — or you can find plenty of more local (read: better) options in basically any other part of the city. Attractions like Bryant Park, Fifth Avenue and the Empire State Building are also just a short walk away.

It can be an ideal base for tourists, especially first-timers to Manhattan, though locals like myself and more frequent travelers tend to avoid the area due to all of the crowds and traffic, which can make it make it annoying and difficult to get around quickly. However, I wasn’t too bothered this time around since I was just glad to see tourists again in what was essentially a ghost town for the last year.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

The hotel is a roughly 50-minute drive from New York-JFK, 30 minutes from LaGuardia (LGA) and 45 minutes from Newark (EWR), depending on the traffic. Or, you could get there in minutes by taking a helicopter to the nearby heliport. The Times Square-42 Street subway station, which is served by the 1, 2, 3, 7, A, E, N and Q lines, is just across the street.

Related: Everything you need to know about getting around New York City

Check-in

There are two separate entrances at the Margaritaville Resort: One for hotel guests and one for diners. And they felt like two entirely different worlds.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

The restaurant side was as tacky as you’d expect, with a gift shop and staff trying to lure customers off the street. However, guests entering the hotel walked through a calming entryway that made you feel as though you just stepped onto an island. 

The centerpiece was a giant blown-out flip-flop, similar to the ones you’ll find at some other Margaritaville properties — a nod to the line “I blew out my flip-flop,” in Jimmy Buffett’s iconic song “Margaritaville.” (If you don’t know every lyric to the song yet, don’t worry, you will by the end of your stay.)

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

I was immediately struck by the attention to detail in every design element. For instance, the back of the giant flip-flop was Margaritaville-branded.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

While the hotel stayed true to its tropical theme, it seamlessly integrated nods to the Big Apple at every turn. Every painting and replica of the Statue of Liberty on the property hoisted a margarita in place of her torch.

Check-in wasn’t actually on the ground floor, however. A friendly attendant was quick to escort me to the elevators and direct me to the main lobby on the seventh floor. The attendant even paged my name to the front desk so that they knew I was coming. I definitely wasn’t expecting such a personalized welcome!

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

The front desk staff immediately greeted me with wide smiles (vaccinated staff and guests were not required to wear masks). The hotel was less than a week old, so you could sense there was still a lot of excitement in the air.

Check-in was quick and easy, though I wish I would have received some information about the property, such as what floor the gym was located on and what was included in the resort fee. As previously mentioned, I asked the front desk if they would waive the resort fee because the pool wasn’t open yet and they agreed without hesitation.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

This wasn’t a cookie-cutter hotel lobby. Like the ground-floor entrance, every element had been carefully thought out and designed to encourage guests to linger. Touches like a chandelier made of margarita glasses helped give the space an unpretentious hint of sophistication. I almost forgot that I was in the middle of Times Square as “island time” started to kick in.

Room

After a long wait for an elevator, I finally made it to the ninth floor. The elevators were shared with the public restaurants, but you needed a key to access guest room floors. I was assigned Room 906, located right next to the elevator bank.

It was a standard king room that faced the side street and overlooked the pool. It measured about 225 square feet — a tight squeeze but fairly standard for New York City.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

My immediate impression was that the room was bright and inviting. As you’d expect from a brand-new hotel, everything was in pristine condition.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

I loved the incredible attention to detail. Everything was Margaritaville-branded and made to look like you’re in the tropics while tying in hints of New York City. With the curtains closed, it truly felt like I was staying at a beach resort. The room featured lots of light wood, turquoise accents and even a ceiling fan.

The coastal decor was on theme without being kitschy. Elements like the wall moldings and trunk-style dresser helped give a more sophisticated feel. Considering this room already felt higher-end than I expected, I’m especially curious now to see how Margaritaville’s new luxury brand will stack up once it launches in the fall.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

The bed itself was quite comfortable and I had a great night’s sleep. It was dressed in crisp, white linens with four large pillows. The duvet had a subtle parrot design and the decorative pillow said “Changes in Latitude” on one side and “Changes in Attitude” on the other — a nod to another Jimmy Buffett song.

I also appreciated that there were built-in power outlets and USB ports on both sides of the bed.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Despite being in Times Square and having floor-to-ceiling windows, the room didn’t have a problem with street noise. The only outside noise I occasionally heard came from the hallway, and it wasn’t loud enough to be an issue.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Across from the bed was a large TV and desk area. The desk was clutter-free and offered more built-in power outlets and USB ports but might not be ideal for working for long periods due to the backless bench accompanying it. Then again, most people staying here probably won’t be working for long periods — or at all.

The closet was basically just a small rack. It had four hangers and two pairs of flip-flop-style slippers. I understand why the hotel skipped out on an iron and ironing board, but at least a steamer would have been nice.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

The closet also housed the minibar. There was a Keurig with a variety of Margaritaville-branded coffee, two water bottles and an empty minifridge. There was also a safe.

If you looked closely, you noticed that the artwork behind the minibar was a map of Manhattan. Again, a subtle but distinct reminder of the hotel’s location.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Opposite the closet was the bathroom, which was separated by a sliding door. It contained a single vanity, toilet and walk-in shower.

The shower featured two showerheads — a rainfall showerhead and a hand-held one — and came with St. Somewhere Spa-branded toiletries stocked in large, reusable containers. I thought that the towels were extremely soft.

Again, there was great attention to detail. The sink had whale-tail faucet handles and the artwork in the bathroom was a New Yorker cover of Lady Liberty relaxing in a hammock suspended from the Brooklyn Bridge — with a margarita, of course.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Amenities

So, what does that $50-per-night resort fee get you?

A major selling point of the Margaritaville Times Square is its sixth-floor pool. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open during the time of my stay because the hotel was still waiting for permit approval from the city.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Once it does open, it will be the only outdoor pool in Times Square. It will also be heated so that it can stay open year-round, weather permitting.

The hotel also had a 24-hour gym located in the basement. I thought it was pretty basic with just two treadmills, a cable machine and some free weights. There were also two Echelon stationary bikes, but they were useless because they weren’t connected to the internet and the Wi-Fi didn’t reach the basement. My other main qualm was that, unlike other common spaces, there was no hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes in the gym.

Aside from in the basement, there was free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel. It worked fairly well with 12.38 Mbps download speeds and 14.29 Mbps upload.

Although I didn’t get to check it out, the hotel is also home to a synagogue. The synagogue rented space on the property from the previous owner and the buyer was required to work out a deal with the congregation. It’s safe to say that this is the only synagogue in a Margaritaville. Just don’t expect them to be playing Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise” there.

Food and beverage

Speaking of cheeseburgers, Margaritaville’s other major draw for visitors is its restaurants and bars. The resort had a total of five food and drink outlets on-site, though not all were fully open yet.

Predictably, the hotel’s main restaurant was Margaritaville. It took up the second and third floors of the hotel and was home to New York’s largest tiki bar.

The upper floor had a tequila bar theme and featured a large model of Jimmy Buffett’s seaplane, Hemisphere Dancer.

But the centerpiece of the restaurant was a 32-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty holding a margarita in place of her torch. If you’re lucky, you might even be seated inside of the statue.

Every hour, on the hour, the restaurant goes dark and there’s a lively light show featuring the replica of Lady Liberty. While it’s likely going to be a hit among families, the show definitely caught me off guard as it started while I was taking the first bite of my dinner. I was truly amazed at how different the overall ambiance of the restaurant was compared to the quiet, upscale hotel.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

The menu featured the chain’s signature dishes, including a Cheeseburger in Paradise, Volcano Nachos, margaritas and more. I went with the fish tacos. While they were far from the best fish tacos I’ve had, they did the trick. My only major qualm was that I could have done with a bit less of the cream sauce, but you come here for the experience, not the food.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

After dinner, I was able to persuade a friend to meet at the hotel’s rooftop bar aptly named 5 o’Clock Somewhere Bar — for drinks. Like the rest of the hotel, the bar felt worlds away from the main restaurant.

It was located on the 32nd floor and offered sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline. The space was chic, but the vibe was relaxed and unpretentious, unlike some other rooftop bars in the area.

It will also be a great viewing spot for Times Square’s iconic New Year’s Eve ball drop.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Unfortunately, the ambiance was all this bar had going for it. I tried the signature Midtown Margarita — I was at Margaritaville, after all — and was disappointed by how watered-down it tasted, especially considering it cost $20 a pop. C’mon Jimmy Buffett, pour me somethin’ tall and strong. My friend’s Wings on Broadway drink was a bit better but definitely on the sweeter side. It contained Ketel One Botanical Peach and Orange Blossom, Giffard Abricot du Roussillon, cane syrup, lemon juice and tropical Red Bull.

We probably would’ve been better off getting $5 margaritas from Chili’s, but like the restaurant downstairs, this is the type of place you go for the experience. While not nearly as high up, personally, I’d rather spend $20 for a subpar drink and good view here than pay double that for admission to the Empire State Building’s observatory and get no drink — not to mention the large crowds there.

I was hoping to also get dessert while on the roof, but unfortunately, the kitchen wasn’t operational yet. The rooftop’s food menu looked a lot more upscale than what was served downstairs, including items like a charcuterie board, ceviche, wagyu sliders and shishito peppers.

Since I was still craving dessert, I thought I’d give room service a shot when I made it back to my room. Although prominently advertised on the room’s phone, I quickly learned that in-room dining wasn’t actually a thing here. Instead, I was directed to go back down to the main restaurant and place a takeout order.

I ended up picking up a slice of the”homemade” Key lime pie, which was rather unremarkable and probably not worth the hassle. Although the menu suggested the pie was in limited supply and to “get yours while they last,” there were plenty left when I was there at the end of the night.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Room service wasn’t the only thing missing from this hotel. There also weren’t any restaurants that served a full breakfast. There was just Joe Merchant’s Coffee & Provisions, a small coffee shop in the lobby which offered made-to-order drinks and grab-and-go pastries. Luckily, there are plenty of other great breakfast spots in the area.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Also in the lobby was the License to Chill Bar. Although I can’t speak for how the drinks tasted, like the rooftop bar, it seemed like the hotel was going for a more upscale vibe here.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

It also offered a large outdoor seating area, complete with an outdoor fireplace.

While the views weren’t as good as those on the rooftop, there was a live feed of the view over Seventh Avenue.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Before checking out, I made sure to grab lunch at the hotel’s second main restaurant, LandShark Bar & Grill. It was located on the sixth floor, next to the pool, and offered plenty of seating.

I was feeling adventurous, so I got the ahi poke bowl and Long Island Beacher drink. The drink was extremely sweet, consisting of Margaritaville-branded passion fruit tequila, Bacardi mango rum, New Amsterdam peach vodka, sweet and sour mix and cranberry juice, but it was almost half the price of my margarita on the rooftop and much stronger.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

I try not to be a complainer, but the poke bowl was a mess. The fish didn’t taste very fresh and the rice was all lumped together — even with a knife, I had trouble breaking it up. Not to mention, it was on the pricier side, costing $20. So, I ended up ordering a side of fries and calling it a day. Lesson learned: Stick to simpler dishes like burgers and chicken tenders — or don’t eat here altogether.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Service

What really made my stay was the service. Everyone I interacted with was friendly and seemed genuinely excited and happy to be there.

Although I initially had some issues with my room’s phone, I requested a dental kit and it was delivered within 10 minutes. I was most surprised that the hotel automatically offered turndown service. Although a small gesture — it consisted of turning down the duvet on the bed, emptying the trash basket, closing the curtains, replenishing the water bottles and placing slippers next to the bed — it added a sense of luxury to my stay. Not to mention, many high-end hotels aren’t even automatically offering standard housekeeping anymore.

Despite the hotel just opening, the front desk staff had a high level of professionalism. In addition to agreeing to waive my resort fee without hesitation, they passed a new safety test we have here at TPG. Specifically, when I asked them for a replacement key, they remembered to first check my ID.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Note on accessibility

The hotel’s website has a dedicated page for accessibility and states that it is committed to offering “an inviting paradise for all” but doesn’t list all accessibility features offered yet. That said, we found that there are three types of accessible rooms: standard rooms, deluxe rooms and premium rooms — all with either a queen bed, a king bed or two double beds. Other features include Braille signage, visual alarms in hallways and a well-lit path to the entrance.

All common spaces are wheelchair-accessible, including the restaurants, lobby, fitness center and pool. Although the pool wasn’t open yet, we saw that it was equipped with a pool lift.

Related: How to travel on a budget as a wheelchair user

Overall impression

I must admit, I came into this stay with low expectations, but this hotel ended up being a pleasant surprise. The Margaritaville Times Square did an excellent job executing the tropical theme while also spotlighting New York City rather than ignoring it. It also does a good job of separating the kitschiness of the main restaurant from the hotel.

We usually suggest that travelers avoid a hotel during the first few weeks of operations, but the only major issue I encountered was that the pool wasn’t open yet. Otherwise, the rest of the hotel appeared complete and the service was polished.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

While my view of Times Square hasn’t changed, I would consider a staycation at the Margaritaville if I need a taste of fun in the sun in the middle of New York’s cold winters. I just probably won’t eat any of my meals on-site next time.

Featured photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy.

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