Swimming in the Sky | The Millennium UN Plaza Hotel in New York

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There’s no way Jack Torrance would have chased his wife and kid with a hatchet if they’d been caretakers of a hotel in Hawaii instead of Colorado. Winter is a sickening, deathly season, capable of driving anyone mad. Even this New York winter, with temperatures usually in the 40s or 50s, and a dusting or two of snow, got a little soul-crushing by March. Since my birthday occurs at the start of this stupid month, Luciana and I decided a remedy for cabin fever was in order. We needed an indoor pool.

New York City has a lot of terrific luxury hotels, but there’s a surprising dearth of indoor pools among them. Anyway, it’s surprising if that’s what you’re looking for. Most tourists don’t come to the city to swim or sit in a sauna, and it’s got to be expensive to maintain a pool here. If you’ve got the money you can stay at the Mandarin Oriental, but that wasn’t in our budget. Other hotels, like the Crowne Plaza in Times Square, have access to a pool, but it’s part of a local fitness club and you’re sharing it with regular club members. We wanted a relatively affordable, easily accessible, not heavily trafficked indoor pool, preferably in a hotel with good skyline views. We chose the Millennium UN Plaza on East 44th Street.

The Millennium is nice, but it’s one of those luxury hotels that feels stuck in the ’80s. The lobby is black and mirror-y, like a Trump property. The restaurant and bar looked a little like a high-end strip club. The rooms were outdated, but nice, and ours had a dazzling view looking south, with the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building lurking to our west. The staff placed us on the 38th (and top) floor, and for the $185 we paid on Kayak.com we considered it money well spent, if not a terrific bargain, for the standard king.

As for the pool, that alone made it worth it. Situated on the 27th floor with windows facing south and east, it’s a decent sized lap pool with an 8.5 foot deep end. A swim at sunset is especially decadent as the daylight reflects into the pool area off the United Nations’ glass monolith next door. Saunas can be found in the locker rooms, and there is an adjacent exercise facility as well as indoor tennis courts ten floors up.

The hotel is trafficked more by businesspeople and diplomats than by tourists, so you’re not going to find many free amenities. Wi-Fi is extra, and of course you’ll pay for your breakfast – this ain’t the Days Inn. Rooms have large flat panel HD TVs with cable, but here is something I don’t get: How come hotels invest all this money in HD TVs with cable, but when I turn one on, it looks like the same shitty antenna reception I got back in 1982? Only this time it came with an incessant hum. The first (and so far only) hotel I’ve stayed at in recent memory which actually had HD TV on its HD TV was the Hampton Inn in downtown Chicago. Not that we were there to sit around and watch SportsCenter or anything, but at 11 pm when I’m about to fall asleep, I wouldn’t have minded watching SportsCenter.

Overall, I give the Millennium UN Plaza a decent if not outstanding recommendation. It has the indoor pool with a view, which was key. Since it was just a one night stay, we didn’t care if it was centrally located (it’s not), or offered free coffee (it doesn’t). I’d say the only other disappointment is that the pool closes at 7:30 pm on Saturday nights, again because the usual clientele just isn’t the type to stay in and swim. So we got ours in early and headed out for a delicious filet mignon at Ben and Jack’s Steakhouse down the street.

(For a list of New York City hotels with indoor pools, click here.)

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