Westin Grand Central Review + SPG Amex US Open Tennis Event Details

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Occasionally a points program offers something pretty neat beyond the typical miles and points redemption options.  Due to the Starwood Preferred Guest program’s involvement with the US Open Tennis Tournament, they offer some unique experiences surrounding that event.  Thanks to being a part of the “Amex SPG Stars” program this year, I was invited to attend the US Open as a guest of that program. The SPG Amex Stars Program involves a series of three different trips/events for the year, which each one also associated with a pretty great giveaway for one of you (details at the end)! Going as part of this program also meant that my Open experience, flight to NYC, and hotel expenses were provided…which is I know is unbelievably generous.

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Westin Grand Central:

On this trip myself and the other bloggers attending the event stayed two nights at the Westin Grand Central that is located about a block or so from Grand Central Terminal. This makes it a realistic competitor with the Grand Hyatt New York that is also located on the same street. It is a newer addition to the Starwood line-up in New York City after being recently converted from the Helmsley Hotel. The location is very walkable to many popular attractions like Times Square, Broadway, the United Nations Building, the Empire State Building, etc.  Since it is very close to Grand Central, it is also located very close to a subway station which makes getting around town very simple.

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Rates at this hotel seem to start in the $250 – $300 range per night, but often shoot up to the $400 – $500 range during popular nights and peak seasons in NYC. As a Category 5 hotel, the points cost is either 12,000 or 16,000 SPG points per night, depending on peak season designations. This is actually one of the lower category SPG hotels in Manhattan, with many others costing 20,000, 25,000, or even 30,000 points per night.

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The rooms offer either one king bed, or two double beds, and were relatively spacious rooms for NYC. That isn’t saying much, but the room size felt “normal”, which is an improvement over some of the very small rooms I have seen in Manhattan.  The rooms with two double beds can accommodate two adults and two children, so this is a viable option for families traveling on points.  On the tour of the hotel that we received, we were told that this hotel does not have any rooms that are “squeezed” into the floor plan, so you won’t be stuck with an unusually small room at this hotel the way you might at some other Manhattan hotels.

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Example of a room with king bed

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Example of a room with two double beds

The traditional rooms seem to have a tub/shower combo, and the deluxe rooms have stand-alone showers.While I prefer showers for myself, if you are traveling with kids and need a bathtub, they are available in the basic rooms like the one that we stayed in.

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The gym at the hotel was very, very large for NYC hotel standards.  There is no pool available at this hotel.

20130906-084908.jpgIf you didn’t pack your workout gear, you can even borrow some New Balance gear from the hotel for a fee of $5. This is available at many Westin hotels as part of their “Stay Fit” campaign. It was free during the US Open if you showed your Open ticket, but normally there is the small fee. I was given a men’s size 8 shoe instead of a requested women’s size 8 shoe, so when I went to put them on it obviously didn’t work out…and consequently since my time was very limited on this morning, neither did I. I’m sure they would have switched out the size with no problem if I had asked, and I do think the program is pretty neat if you don’t get too creeped out by wearing gear that isn’t your own.

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The hotel has a restaurant and grab and go coffee/breakfast spot called LCL that basically converts into a bar and lounge as the evening wears on. In fact, I visited the bar to meet some friends the night I arrived and didn’t recognize it as the same space the next morning when I went for coffee and a muffin. They truly remove much of the breakfast oriented set-up and use the space in a different way in the evening hours.

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One of this restaurants “claims to fame” are their homemade potato chips. I’m not a big potato chip person, but I can recommend their Cali Ginger drink.  This is also where you would get your Platinum breakfast if you are a SPG Platinum member.

 US Open SPG Moments Event:

If you are a US Open fan who also happens to be a SPG Amex cardmember, then there are a variety of options you have to secure Open tickets and maximize your experience while there.  They have ticket packages available using SPG points via their SPG Moments program as well as some available for sale.  I received an email offering a lower promenade ticket to a match on 9/3 with included admission to the SPG hospitality tent for $165.

I saw this year were luxury box seats, courtside tickets to the men’s semifinals, a tennis clinic with Andy Roddick, and promenade tickets to the men’s finals. These went for a wide range of SPG points all the way from 10,000 points for promenade tickets, all the way to a winning bid of 300,000 points for courtside seats at the men’s semi-finals.

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My friend and I at the US Open thanks to SPG

While I don’t know what they will offer next year, this year they had a hospitality event area that was accessible via some of their ticket packages. The area had a complimentary open bar, passed appetizers, and a food station.  You also received a swag bag for visiting (which I gave away here).

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There was also a special guest speaker the evening we were there, just as there are many nights.  It was great to hear some stories from Monica Seles, and she also took the time to answer questions from the audience and autograph tennis balls for anyone who was interested after her talk.

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For those who are curious, she recommends starting kids on clay courts whenever possible, and said that 6 years old is a good age for kids to get started in tennis.  Ben from One Mile at a Time and his mom also attended the event, and you should read his post to learn about how the evening got a little more interesting than we expected thanks to the open bar in the hospitality area.

After spending probably more than our fair share of time in the hospitality area (blame the “Matchpoint Margaritas”) I was able to take in a little bit of both men’s matches that were going that night.  The first picture is where our actual seats were.  The second picture is where we ended up in the other match…no one seemed to mind.

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If you are a tennis fan, be sure to keep your eyes and ears open next year for options to attend thanks to the Amex SPG card and the SPG Moments program.  It really was a great time and an amazing experience.

Now on to the really good stuff…stay tuned for a post that will go live at 11AM Eastern that will provide details on how to enter to win 30,000 SPG points of your own that you can use to stay at the Westin Grand Central, secure a SPG Moments opportunity, or use however you like!

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