With its racing splendor dating back to 1867, you might hear an ole timer use the phrase “The Run for the Carnations” or “The Test of the Champions,” referring to the third leg of American horse racing’s Triple Crown series. One thing that’s not a long shot is the verifiable, bankable excitement of this race that follows the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes: New York’s Belmont Stakes, taking place Saturday, June 8 and may be the site of a Triple Crown victory.
The Belmont is run annually in Elmont, on Long Island, some 40 minutes by car—or 8 minutes by helicopter—from New York City. So naturally, I suggest using Manhattan as your home base, and road-tripping from there. Of course, the Big Apple has no shortage of stellar, top-notch hotels, entertainment and dining venues, which makes a short list for this horse-centric road trip quite tricky. Nonetheless, I put together a list featuring classic institutions and enticingly refined NYC traditions that syncs up with our desired road-trip destination.
Let’s work backward. You’ll probably be taking Manhattan’s 59th Street (Queensboro) Bridge en route to the race (assuming the helicopter’s not in your budget!), so we’d best check you in close by. A top choice is The Carlyle Hotel at 76th Street and Madison Avenue. This iconic, grand hotel has the best views of Central Park! Bemelmans Bar, nestled within the hotel and featuring fantastically whimsical murals by Ludwig Bemelmans, author and illustrator of the beloved Madeline children’s books, is an absolute must, while a great spot for a classic coiffure is Yves Durif Salon on the third floor. And why not follow it up with an exquisite facial rejuvenation and skincare spree at the hotel’s famed Sisley-Paris Spa. (Yes, yes please!)
Keeping in step with elegance, another amazing pick for your stay is The Pierre Hotel on 61st Street and Fifth Avenue. Why? It, too, offers easy access to the Queensboro Bridge, just a few blocks away, drastically cutting down your “commute” to the big race. Plus, you’re mere steps from the Metropolitan Club (fab!), Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman, and can stroll right into Gotham’s famed “Museum Mile,” featuring the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Guggenheim, The Frick and, yes, so much more.
If horsing ’round is up your alley, then Lower Midtown’s NoMad neighborhood is for you. The newer Phillippe Stark-designed Mondrian Park Avenue, at 30th Street and Park Avenue South, is one of the newest hot spots in town—a cross between the Ace Hotel, W Hotel and The Plaza. Elegant, relevant, sexy!
Cocktails! Let’s start with champagne at Ladurée. The Parisian implant has three locations in town: one in SoHo, another on Madison Avenue and yet another at The Plaza Hotel. The Plaza’s iconic Oak Room has been restored beautifully, its original splendor fully recaptured, and is also a great option. Of course, if you’re in the mood to step out and explore more, the skyline’s the limit! If you’re limited by dietary restrictions, a simple Google search for the best vegan restaurants in NYC will produce buckets of good recommendations. But as of late, the highest marks go to Trip Advisor’s Travelers’ Choice 2018 winner Spice Symphony, which has two NYC locations. If, conversely, you’re a meat lover, then the finest, buttery-aged porterhouse can be found at the world-famous Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn—which makes for a terrific detour on your way back from the track, before taking the nearby Williamsburg Bridge back over to Manhattan. And for fish? Even three decades after its launch in Manhattan, you’ll still need to pull some strings to get into Le Bernardin, unquestionably one of the best restaurants in the world, which consistently serves up the most exquisite seafood dishes on the planet. (And its still the only restaurant in Manhattan never to lose its four-star [highest] ranking from The New York Times, thanks to Co-Owners Maguy Le Coze and famed Executive Chef Eric Ripert.) But never say never, I always say!
For brunch, you can’t get better than the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center. This Gilded Age throwback hasn’t just been restored, it’s been completely reimagined beyond even its original grandeur. If it’s just drinks and impressive Manhattan skyline views you want, venture to the adjacent venue, Bar SixtyFive.
If you want to stay on script with equestrian-centric luxury, here’s one great place to work into your schedule: The Wild Horses Of Sable Island Gallery, home to the most extravagant equine art. I wouldn’t miss this or artist Roberto Dutesco’s coffee table book of the same name. Socrates Sculpture Park, in Astoria, Queens, is pure New York City: hipster. Groovy. It’s. Right. Now. The outdoor metal sculpture park is literally on the way to Belmont Park. Old Westbury Gardens is only ten minutes from the track and doesn’t disappoint. Tour the Westbury House, a King Charles II-style mansion, which touts that it’s “nestled amid 200 acres of formal gardens, landscaped grounds, woodlands, ponds and lakes.”
Also, check out BelmontStakes.com for premium hospitality packages, which put you in a luxe, air-conditioned, front-row seat at the racetrack. Need a one-of-a-kind saddle (yes!), racetrack scarf or satchel? Hermès doesn’t just accommodate, it excels beyond bespoke! I ain’t kidding.
There are a lot of fun things to do on the way to the track, people! It’s time to double down on the Belmont Stakes!