When you stay at a Signature Collection hotel, you can expect exceptional service at every turn—and that includes getting expert advice on crafting New York City experiences that perfectly match your personal needs and desires. Concierges at the luxury level are knowledgeable ambassadors for the City and go-to repositories of useful local information who can help you with far more than finding restaurant reservations or theater tickets. Most concierges in the Signature Collection hotels belong to Les Clefs d'Or (“the keys of gold”), an international association of professional hotel concierges whose members adhere to the highest level of excellence in the hospitality industry. Whatever your request is—as long as it's moral, legal, kind and humanly possible—they will move mountains to make it happen, according to Harald Mootz, Vice President and Secretary of Les Clefs d'Or. As a veteran concierge with 20 years' experience working in NYC luxury hotels (including the St. Regis New York, where he is currently stationed), Mootz is passionate about industry standards within what he calls one of the most rewarding positions in the service industry. (Yes, he’s heard it all, but don’t ask him to tell tales out of school, as discretion is one of the hallmarks of being a good concierge.) Below Mootz offers insights to the concierge experience and a peek at some of his go-to resources on New York City. Keep reading to find more tips from him and other Signature Collection concierges for best enjoying winter in NYC.
What are the qualities that make a good concierge, especially in a New York City luxury hotel?
Harald Mootz: The most important quality one needs to possess is the desire to serve the public with passion and in a truly genuine fashion. You must love your city and all that it entails, and want to share it each and every day with your guests. A quality that will serve you well is the constant desire to want to know more—to go out, explore and experience.
What resources (e.g., guidebooks, publications, websites, people) do you use to find information about NYC?
HM: Being an avid reader of the local rags (The New York Times, New York Magazine, Time Out New York, Where Magazine, City Guide, Front Desk, and the Village Voice, to name a few), websites that cater to the food industry (Grub Street, Chowhound, Gothamist, Immaculate Infatuation, NYC Foodie Girl, Restaurant Girl and GrubHub), and going out with fellow colleagues to new openings and tastings keep me abreast of what's going on daily in this city of constant change.
What is the most surprising request you have ever heard (or have heard of) while working in New York City hotels?
HM: Nothing really surprises me anymore. The daily hunt for unique merchandise (falconry gear? medical equipment? foreign medication?) pretty much keeps my job as interesting as possible!
What makes winter such a special time to visit NYC?
HM: Winter is a great time to find deals in hotels and explore the city and all it has to offer. When it snows, it's a magical time to see the dichotomy of a lively and energetic city and the peace and quiet that snow brings to the streets.
Anabela Moumdjian, assistant chef concierge, Hôtel Plaza Athénée:
Most people are familiar with The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's beloved story about an asteroid-hopping boy and his flower, but not many know that the French author wrote and published the illustrated novella in New York City at the height of World War II. To celebrate the writer-aviator's time here, the Morgan Library has curated an exhibition featuring his working manuscript and drawings, letters to and from family members about his progress, and other ephemera.
Kevin Oakes, assistant chef concierge, JW Marriott Essex House:
After a day of shopping at famous Fifth Avenue stores, lace up your skates at Wollman Rink in Central Park and marvel at the beauty of a New York City night. Then rest your feet and warm up with a classic cocktail at South Gate Restaurant & Bar.
Jared Gullekson, chef concierge, The London NYC:
Winter is one of the most exciting times of the year to visit NYC. If you have already visited Rockefeller Center, shopped along Fifth Avenue and skated at Bryant Park, I suggest venturing out to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where The Brooklyn Flea & Smorgasburg has moved indoors for the winter. Every weekend, shoppers can browse the wares of more than 200 vendors and 75 food booths in a 50,000-square-foot space.
Kenneth Abisror, member of Les Clefs d'Or USA, chef concierge, Mandarin Oriental, New York:
Take a nighttime cruise of the harbor and load your camera with a fresh memory card for shots of the City skyline, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. Unforgettable!
Gunter Kleemann, member of Les Clefs d'Or USA, chef concierge, The New York Palace:
Winter is a good time to catch up with the City's museums, such as the Rubin Museum of Art and the Skyscraper Museum.
Raphael Pallais, member of Les Clefs d'Or USA, chef concierge, The Plaza Hotel:
Surround yourself with live, exotic butterflies inside the vivarium of the American Museum of Natural History.
Carlos Leon, concierge, The Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park:
Hop on Metro-North for a quick ride to the New York Botanical Garden. For family-oriented sports activities, you can always skate at one of the many open-air rinks in NYC, including at South Street Seaport and Brookfield Place in Lower Manhattan.
Suzanne Carter, member of Les Clefs d'Or USA, chef concierge, The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park:
Enjoy a hot beverage by the fireplace at the Central Park Boathouse and watch the boats on the lake go by, or take in magnificent views of the iconic Chrylser Building from Upstairs at the Kimberly and warm up by the fire on the patio. After shopping, head up to BG Restaurant to people watch and enjoy the lovely sight of Central Park.
Harald Mootz, member of Les Clefs d'Or USA (VP/Secretary), concierge, The St. Regis New York:
Enjoy a hot chocolate or cider and watch the skaters at Bryant Park Winter Village.
Carlos Freire, member of Les Clefs d'Or USA, chef concierge, Trump International Hotel & Tower:
Drop off your shopping bags, and then head to Café Lalo for champagne and a sumptuous dessert. Or, since it's chilly in NYC, consider a cup of hot chocolate at Max Brenner—the perfect warm-up.
Eric Valencia, senior concierge, Trump SoHo New York:
One of our favorite spots to recommend is Little Prince, a French bistro located less than a five-minute walk from the hotel. The food is delicious. They suggest patrons cozy up to the bar area, which is home to an extensive wine list and house-infused vodka cocktail specialties like the Royal Spice—a seasonal drink perfect for the cold weather. For families, one of our favorite spots is the Children's Museum of the Arts. Located less than five blocks from the hotel, it's easy to get to with a large group. The museum is home to many exhibits and interactive workshops specifically designed for kids—a perfect option for indoor family fun during the winter months.
Michael Romei, member of Les Clefs d'Or USA, chef concierge, The Towers of the Waldorf Astoria:
Ski in Manhattan! Cross-country skiing is offered several places in Central Park in the winter—though there has to be 6 inches of snow on the ground first.