Over the years, I’ve been asked to recommend my favorite spaces in New York. Well, truth is, I don’t really have a favorite. My recommendations depend entirely on the circumstances surrounding the event in question. More recently, I’ve noticed a lot of people seem to be interested in ‘classic’ or ‘quintessential New York” event venues. This is surprising and notable because for the past 10 years, my clients usually asked for something off the beaten path. As I started thinking about all the classic spaces in the city, I admit, there’s something appealing about the glam of the big boys. So, without further ado, my short list of quintessential NYC venues and my running commentary and thoughts on each. Enjoy.
CLASSICS AND LANDMARKS:
NY Public Library, 42nd Street
Gotta love this venue for its grandeur and authenticity. If you don’t understand the allure, rent Sex and The City (the movie). Poor Carrie. It’s easy to fall in love with the proportions of the marble arches in Astor Hall, which seats 250 for dinner and dancing or up to 750 for just cocktails.
Attention warm weather brides! There’s no air conditioning in Astor Hall or the McGraw Rotunda.
Photo: Christian Oth, copied from the NYPL website
The atrium ceiling in the Bartos Forum is breath-taking. You can fit 450 guests for seated dinner and dancing. Price to rent both spaces is around $35K and does not include catering. The library controls the bar and prices begin at $35++ pp for a 5 hour event (not including food, staff or rentals).
Photo: Christian Oth, copied from the NYPL website
Museum of Natural History
Dinosaurs and Elephants and Whales, oh my! A bride once told me she had a dream about getting married under the ‘whale belly’. I’m a great believer in the power of dreams. Visualizing a space “dressed” for an event is a lot like day dreaming. Seeing it come to fruition is the best part. A talented day dreamer would love this space. There are endless possibilities and they’re all good. Prices vary depending on time of year, day of week and type of event, but if you’re dreaming of Ocean Life, be prepared to spend $15K just for membership, and another $50K for space rental.
If you’re looking for something sleeker and chic-er, there’s the Powerhouse, a contemporary, loft-like room with a lighter price tag. $5K for membership and $11K space rental fee for a 5 hour affair. FYI – space rental does NOT include catering.
Photographs by D Finnin/AMNH & R. Mickens/AMNH
Ellis Island and The Statue of Liberty
If you love history (and boat rides), this venue is perfect and offers the versatility of indoor and outdoor spaces. If the weather cooperates, go for dining al fresco on Liberty Island. Ellis Island is a great plan B. Be prepared to spend up to $10K for a boat to transport your guests, a fee between $10K and $20K for the National Park Service Rental Fee (dependant upon your number of guests) and approx $250 + tax and 20% service fee for catering, staff, bar and basic rentals. That’s a small price to pay for such an extraordinary venue. Ellis Island holds up to 750 seated with a dance floor.
Check out this video for a better understanding of the experience…
The Plaza Hotel
Recently restored to its former glory, this space is classic NYC gilt and glam. Great Expectations is the exclusive caterer. You’ll be happy with them….lovely team, great food and service. Prices around $300 ++ pp.
Photo from The Plaza website
Old world grandeur, twin marble staircase, wood paneling and painted ceilings right on Fifth Avenue and 60th Street. Bridal party, family and friends can get ready next door at the Pierre or across the street at the Plaza. Other affairs on other floors can take place at the same time. And if you’re not already a member, you’ll need a club member to sponsor you. Exclusivity is a key ingredient here. Prices for a Saturday night start around $300 pp + tax and gratuity.
Central Park Zoo
Another one of a kind NYC venue. After all, where else can you entertain your guests with a sea-lion demonstration during cocktails? The site fee of $30K includes a clear top 30 x 178 tent which accommodates up to 250 for a sit down dinner with dancing. If you add side tents, you can seat up to 700. 100% of the site fee goes to the Wildlife Conservation Fund. Choose from their list of recommended caterers or bring your own.
For a real bargain, check out packages at the Bronx Zoo. Site fees start at $2,500 and their in-house caterer is very reasonable too. Seat 80 for dinner inside the Congo (see the Gorillas as you dine) or 150 seated in the Great Hall beside the Madagascar exhibit, or 300 tented by the Giraffes.
Four Seasons Restaurant
A late addition to this post, I am remiss for not mentioning the Four Seasons Restaurant. Exceptional food and service are only matched by the Philip Johnson design. Pool Room is one of a kind with rigging points on the ceiliing which allow for wonderful creative decor options. If you need to ask how much, don’t ask. One of a kind.
There are so many other spectacular and quintessentially New York venues but I’ve got to get back to event planning.