New York — Winter in Manhattan. The Radio City Rockettes have packed in the Christmas spectacular. The ribbons and lights hung by the cash registers with care have been sold at 50% off. The Bronx may still be up, but the mercury is way down.
There's a way to enjoy New York's delights -- the shows, the shopping, the fine dining, the posh hotel, the cheesy behind-the-scenes tours that you secretly love -- without freezing while trying to hail a cab.
So, leave the Eskimo boots at home. (Uggs are so last year.) If you're so inclined, you can spend a weekend wining, dining, shopping and getting your culture fix without ever leaving the building -- if your building happens to be the Time Warner Center.
The $1.7-billion, 55-story center, completed a year ago, is New York's most ambitious skyscraper project to be built since the 2001 terrorist attacks. Perched jauntily on Columbus Circle where Broadway meets Central Park South, the twin-pronged center soars 750 feet and contains one of the most expensive apartments ($45 million) sold in New York City.
If you're a tourist who wants to come in from the cold and stay in, the center holds almost everything you'll need -- the Mandarin Oriental hotel, the CNN backstage tour, the Samsung product showcase, a high-end shopping gallery, half a dozen of the best restaurants in town and a large dose of haute culture, courtesy of the new Jazz at Lincoln Center theater complex.
Such creature comforts don't come cheap, however. A weekend spent exploring the Time Warner Center could test your credit limit. On the bright side, you'll save on taxi fare.
A blizzard, you say? Why, it's so cold out that you just may feel compelled to snuggle under the covers and order up a hot toddy from room service. Here's my New Yorker guide to a hot winter weekend in cold Gotham.
Inside the hotel
The high rollers who stay at the Mandarin Oriental don't settle for low floors with brick-wall views. That's why the guest rooms start on the 38th floor and soar skyward from there. It's all part of the my-skyscraper-is-bigger-than-yours mentality that drives New Yorkers. Gazing out the bathroom window with its commanding Central Park view, I couldn't help but wonder why I didn't have a deep, Japanese-style marble soaking tub in my own apartment. Come to think of it, why is this bathroom with its dual vanity, separate tub and shower, and tastefully hidden toilet roughly the square footage of my entire apartment? Well, because I'm a New Yorker whose last name isn't spelled T-R-U-M-P.
I like the rooms at the Mandarin Oriental because, like any regular Joe, I think having several flat-panel LCD TVs in my suite is swell. Besides, it's fun to stare out your floor-to-ceiling glass windows while reclining on a posh settee. A high-art book arranged artfully on the low accent table reminds me that a stay at the Mandarin Oriental isn't just about swanky excess; it's about tasteful swanky excess.
The only thing better than the rooms may be the hotel's immaculate spa with its steam rooms, exercise equipment, treatment rooms and aerie minimalist pool. The weather outside may be frightful, but who cares when you're floating in a cloud-level pool of blue? Post-swim, you can take a break from all that leisure in a relaxation room equipped with cushy white chaise longues and a water cooler infused with floating citrus that looks as though it were snatched from a SoHo art gallery.
The Time Warner Center caters to two of my interests. I'm a news junkie. And, as with most men, my hands get sweaty and my heart beats faster when I get to stare at and play with the latest high-tech gadgets.
Inside CNN, modeled after the CNN studio tour in Atlanta, gives guests a chance to go behind the scenes at the first 24/7 news network. It's like the walk-along version of the Universal Studios tour but substitutes Larry King for the shark-attack sequence.
Evening tours (5:30 until the final 8 p.m. departure) are the best times to see such broadcasters as Lou Dobbs, Paula Zahn and Anderson Cooper. The tour I took wound past glassed-in CNN memorabilia (think Ted Turner's original office telephone) and provided a glimpse of an egalitarian Cooper sitting among his staff and doing journalistic-type work. I resisted the urge to bang on the glass to get his attention.
After the tour and the inevitable gift shop stocked with every form of T-shirt and stuffed fluffy object a heart could desire, I stepped into the Samsung Experience next door. It's not a store, it's an "experience" -- really -- because you can't buy anything.