Eloise at the Plaza

The cherished 1950’s children’s lit. character and her pug companion live on in present day

By Sisi Penaloza

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Ah, The Plaza Hotel, New York. Where F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald gallivanted in the fountain and Eloise effused, “Oh, I absolutely love the Plaza” as she pranced through the marble lobby. If you have a toy breed (especially a pug) and a love of literature, booking a stay in Room 1832 at The Plaza may just be the new item on your travel bucket list.

Eloise” is a series of children’s books written in the 1950s by Kay Thompson and illustrated by Hilary Knight. Eloise is a precocious girl who lives in the “room on the tippy-top floor” of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan with her Nanny, her pug dog Weenie, and her turtle, Skipperdee.

The Plaza Hotel’s one-of-a-kind Eloise Suite, designed by pink-loving fashion designer Betsey Johnson, is indulgent in every way. The decor channels the plucky spirit of the Plaza’s most famous “resident,” right down to the original Hilary Knight prints adorning the walls.

The Eloise Suite is located on the hotel’s 18th floor and sprawls over two rooms – one for budding young Eloises and one for their parents – accurately rendered in the book’s infamous palette of pink and black. Johnson goes to town on the interiors. The suite features a signature Plaza chandelier, candy-striped wall panels complete with gold leaf molding, a white, zebra-print carpet, a sparkly padded pink headboard and ottoman, and Eloise’s name scrawled in neon lights affixed to the wall above.

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The centerpiece of the suite is a King bed sheathed in custom bedding depicting images of the irrepressible fictional heroine who charmed her way into the affections of generations of readers. The suite is also equipped with a wall-mounted flat screen TV and DVD player, Eloise DVDs and books, a tea set and Eloise and Weenie dolls, Eloise robes and towels.

Upon arrival, a dedicated Eloise Ambassador escorts guests to the suite where they sign the official guest book and have photos taken. The photo is then framed and presented at turndown. Inside the suite, guests will find all kinds of fabulous details, such as a fashion nook filled with costumes for dress-up, so little ones can model their favorite looks. There’s also a reading nook where you can drink in gorgeous park views and watch favorite Eloise movie clips, or enjoy story time with your furry companion.

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Believing there is a little bit of Eloise in everyone, the Plaza has always catered to fans of the books who visit the hotel. On March 1, 2008, the hotel reopened following a $400 million renovation. The new Eloise shop opened the following year. At 2100 square feet it is much larger than any previous Eloise shop, and is a must-visit for fans and newbies to the books alike.

Staying at The Plaza is an iconic experience, from the Rose Club’s impossibly plush, sophisticated ambiance, to the elegant Champagne Bar. In 1998, the Plaza was also designated as a literary landmark by the Friends of the Library, USA. From Princess Grace of Monaco to Jacqueline Kennedy, generations of mothers and daughters and grandmothers and granddaughters have made the pilgrimage to The Plaza to see the Eloise portrait and go to the Palm Court to have tea.

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I have always been partial to this hotel, designed by famed architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, to be “the greatest hotel in the world” when it opened October 1, 1907. No expense was spared on the 19-story, French Renaissance style “château.” Think 1,650 crystal chandeliers, Swiss organdy curtains, private-label Irish linens, and gold-encrusted china. And now, as a member of The Fairmont Hotels, this National and City Historic Landmark structure is once again one of the premiere hotels of New York.

The social pedigree of this venerable institution is impeccable. In the 1950s Eartha Kitt and Peggy Lee played the Persian Room. In 1964, The Beatles stayed at the Plaza on their first visit to the United States. On November 28, 1966, in honor of publisher Katharine Graham, Truman Capote hosted his now legendary “Black & White Ball” in the Grand Ballroom.

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This Manhattan mainstay — an attraction in and of itself — is posh in every way, complete with white-gloved butlers pulling out all the stops for a perfect stay. On my last visit, I experienced possibly the most precise and polished room service in the history of in-room dining. The hotel offers chef-driven room service menus to enjoy in the comfort of your pajamas. Perfectly groomed staff are neither too pushy, nor impossible to find when needed—the perfect combination of “on-hand” without being “overhead.”

When I first started reviewing hotels professionally, it soon became obvious that the truly game-changing tipping point amongst the highest-end blue chip hotels always comes down to service. However much money has been lavished on a hotel’s dining, lighting, spa and designer bathtubs, if the staff aren’t above and beyond expectation, it’s going to feel like a fail. That human touch is something you can’t teach – it’s either there or it isn’t. The Plaza has it in spades.