by Ron Bernthal
Renaissance Newark Airport Hotel
1000 Spring Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
Airport hotels around the country have seen an increase in overnight guests, as well as corporate meetings, and they have responded by updating their guest quarters and adding amenities like fitness centers, high-tech meeting rooms, and much higher quality, on-site restaurants.
I noticed these improvements and expansions at airport properties around the country, but it always seemed that NYC-area airport hotels were behind the times with their facelifts. Until I visited the Renaissance Newark Airport property, located on the busy Route 1/9-Spring Street corridor that parallels EWR. In June, 2011, the 397-room hotel, part of Marriott’s Renaissance brand for the past three years, completed its multi-million dollar property-wide renovation, an almost year-long effort whose results was apparent as soon as I entered the lobby for check-in.
I liked the new, clean look of the lobby, with its large front desk, marble floor, and a trendy-looking, two-sided, decorative gas fireplace separating the lobby from a comfortable “den/library,” a large room filled with upholstered chairs, large wood tables, and a complimentary computer and printer.
On the other side of the lobby is the hotel’s Ironbound Grill Restaurant and Lounge, a venue that seems to be as popular with local residents as it is with guests. There are numerous Portuguese and Italian dishes on the lunch and dinner menus, a testament to Newark and Elizabeth, New Jersey’s hard-working, early 20th-century immigrants. For a true American-style meal, however, go for the sliced steak sandwich and sweet-potato fries. The restaurant offers breakfast, and the adjacent bar/lounge, with several TV’s on the walls for sports games, provides food from the restaurant menu, and light meals until midnight.
My room on the 5th floor was large, with wide windows offering a panoramic view of Newark Airport’s runways, a comforting sight when an early morning flight is scheduled the next morning. Beyond the airport I could see the spires of the Manhattan skyline, with thousands of windows reflecting hues of red and gold in the late afternoon sun. Part of the recent hotel renovations included adding extra sound-resistant glass in every guest room window, and it was evident the thick panes were doing their job – not a murmur of sound was heard as jets took off and landed just across the road.
A nice Herman Miller Aeron chair faced the desk, which itself was covered with a thick slab of frosted glass as a work surface. A 37″-flat panel HDTV, in-room fridge, coffee maker, iHome docking station, six pillows on the King bed, and a nice selection of Aveda bath toiletries were all great amenities. High-speed, reasonably priced, Internet access was wired or wireless. Free Internet access is available in the public areas of the hotel. Throughout the property, as well as in the guest rooms, are interesting black and white, framed photos of historic Newark images, showing details of building facades, street scenes and Hudson River views. Rooms on the 9th and 10th floors are priced higher, but access to the Club Lounge, with its complimentary breakfast and evening hor d’ouerves, is a great perk. l.
During my overnight visit I did not have the opportunity to use the indoor swimming pool, fully equipped fitness center or the Finnish-style sauna, all opened 24-hours a day. The lobby level is much bigger than it looks during check-in, big enough to have a second entrance on the other side of the hotel that serves 18 meeting rooms, with 17,000 square-feet of meeting and event space. This high-tech conference center facility, with its close proximity to the airport and corporate offices in northern New Jersey is popular with local corporate meeting planners, including those from Met Life, Merck, Prudential, Johnson & Johnson and Novartis, who keep the hotel’s staff busy with day-long meetings and F&B events. A 7,200 square-foot ballroom attracts bar mitzvah, wedding, prom, reunion and corporate groups.
The hotel offers free shuttle service every 20 minutes to Newark Airport terminals, and is located only 5-10 minutes drive by taxi to the North Elizabeth or Elizabeth, NJ Transit rail stations, where frequent trains run directly into Manhattan’s Penn Station (35 minutes). A stay/park package is also available for guests who wish to leave their vehicle at the hotel during their out of town trip.
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