New York City’s Lower East Side isn’t exactly known for being calm and peaceful, but it’s also one of the best areas to stay if you want to experience the authentic culture, nightlife, and food scenes the city has to offer. So what’s a mindful traveler to do?
Sister City, a new wellness-focused hotel in a former Salvation Army building on the Bowery—one of the LES’s most iconic thoroughfares—opens in May and wants to make your Big Apple visit way more Zen. The newest property from Ace Hotel Group, which offers rooms starting at $199, is designed to make you feel “energized by the present moment, calm, comfortable, and well cared for,” says Kelly Sawdon, chief brand officer of Atelier Ace, the company’s in-house creative studio. One way the space aims to make good on that promise is through its collab with meditation app Headspace, officially launching today, Well+Good exclusively reports. The idea is that by outfitting each room with a Bang & Olufsen Beoplay speaker offering the Sleep by Headspace programming (sound and visualizations called Sleepcasts), you’ll be able to clock in great, restorative sleep rather than falling victim to the stress and sounds of the city keeping you up.
“It’s so easy to get stressed when traveling, and so tempting to get lost in thought,” Headspace founder and CEO Andy Puddicombe tells me. “Mindfulness helps us to be more present in our life, so we feel less stressed and less distracted.”
“We wanted to design a space that considered what’s truly needed for the modern traveler, one that provides respite from the city, but at the intersection of beauty and simplicity.” —Kelly Sawdon, chief brand officer of Atelier Ace
Beyond helping you have the best sleep ever, Puddicombe’s stance on the importance of busting stress aptly describes the whole intention of Sister City. “New York City is a place of infinite possibility, a brilliant amalgam of art, finance, tech, fashion, music, gastronomy—it’s absolutely singular in its energies and histories,” Sawdon says. “We wanted to design a space that considered what’s truly needed for the modern traveler, one that provides respite from the city, but at the intersection of beauty and simplicity.” And, based on how the space looked from a pre-opening tour, they got what they wanted.
The feeling of Zen starts before you even get inside the hotel, as you stroll through a garden intended to create a liminal space between the frenetic, concrete Manhattan presence and the calming, gentle ambience of Sister City. The idea stems from the philosophy behind the winding paths of Japanese gardens, which allow people time to decompress and shed the baggage and stresses of everyday life. (And in New York City, that stress can be courtesy of anything from being stuck in a stalled, jam-packed subway car on a steamy summer day to trying to have a conversation over the constant wailing sirens or watching the cab meter tick higher and higher while you’re in bumper-to-bumper traffic.)
Upon entering the facility, the minimalist aesthetic inherent to Japanese and Scandinavian design of “less but better” is clear. “Both Scandinavian and Japanese design understand that ‘simplicity’ isn’t the same thing as ‘simplistic,’ and follow the path of making things that are purposeful, quiet, and beautiful,” says Sawdon.
Guest rooms are outfitted with Italian cherrywood bed frames with built-in underneath storage. There’s a wooden clothing valet and a foldable desk that can be tucked away when not in use, and the simple sink is set in a soothing black-and-white Italian terrazzo. Think: Mid-century minimalist. And unlike many city hotels, rooms are positioned to allow for an optimal flow of natural light. (Of course, there are window shades for those who enjoy sleeping in.)
And while you wouldn’t be wrong to have a list of must-try restaurants on your NYC itinerary, Sister City is making the case for claiming a worthy spot upon it. Its all-day restaurant, Floret, fuses Mediterranean hits with bold flavors of North Africa and East Asia on Chef Joe Ogrodnek’s menu, which emphasizes locally sourced ingredients and seasonal vegetables. For an extra dose of nutrients, the restaurant also offers juice programming featuring a selection of seasonal fruit, vegetable, and herb blends made in-house from farm-fresh ingredients.
Also minimalist is the attention you can choose to receive. If you’re someone who would love nothing more than a “quiet chair” at a hair salon, or be able to get from a hotel lobby to your room without confronting a gauntlet of people you don’t want to talk to, consider Sister City your ultimate introvert playground. There’s self-service check-in in the lobby and utility closets in the corridors, so you can help yourself to amenities like extra towels, a steamer, or a hair dryer without having to call someone if you don’t want. You can also replenish your in-room water carafe (and soothe your environmental conscience in the process) with filtered H2O at water stations without having to speak to a single soul.
But if the mood does strike to enjoy some company, options abound. Pull up an armchair in the lobby library space with one of the many books curated in collaboration with the New Museum next door. And for a dose of vitamin D—and some of the best views of Lower Manhattan, especially at sunset—head to the 11th floor to Last Light, Sister City’s rooftop bar, which is also the perfect perch for a peaceful nightcap. And if that, along with Headspace’s in-room offerings, isn’t enough to ease you into slumber, Marpac Rohm Travel Sleep Sound Machines and Morihata Binchotan Charcoal Eye Masks are available in the lobby market. Consider all your Zen bases covered.
Not convinced the Big Apple makes sense for a restorative getaway? There’s scientific evidence that city views can boost your happiness. And if Sister City puts you on a sleep-prioritizing kick, check out these other hotels specializing in snooze-forward offerings.
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