Despite its name, you can’t book a bed at the McKittrick Hotel. It’s not a hotel per se but still manages to draw in thousands of visitors each year. Located at the base of the Chelsea High Line, it’s a huge old warehouse that’s been transformed into several different spaces — each with the same charm and nostalgia for bygone eras, but each with its own unique purpose.
The McKittrick Hotel is perhaps best known as the home of the interactive theatre experience Sleep No More. I’ll be honest, it’s incredibly hard to explain the premise of this performance, and if you talk to anyone that’s been, you’ll get a variety of different descriptions and a variety of different reactions. Upon arriving to your scheduled performance time, you’re given a mask, which is to be worn throughout the rest of the evening. You’re now part of the performance, and the entire hotel is a stage for you to explore on your own. You’ll be wandering through different rooms on different floors, following individual actors who may drag you into different sections of the hotel to perform different scenes. You’ll stumble into an old infirmary on one floor, a taxidermist’s office on the other, or even a graveyard. It’s a sensory avalanche, an eerie, hypnotizing combination of contemporary dance and dramatic theatre.
Sleep No More’s spectacular set design and entrancing music and lighting work together to build a truly overwhelming experience — and you may need to take a moment to gather yourself in the Manderley Bar (which is encouraged) during the evening, for a cocktail and live music. There are no rules here, and no expectations.
As someone who has been to Sleep No More twice now, I can assure you that no two nights will be the same — and my second visit was totally different from my first, in the scenes that I watched and the moments that I took part in. If there’s any advice that I can give to people visiting a performance, it’s to fully embrace the unorthodox nature of the evening. Allow yourself to discover the story, and to be immersed in the performance. Follow the recommendation of experiencing the evening as an individual — even if you arrive with friends or a partner, spend the evening alone and then share your experiences with your party afterwards. It will, without question, be one of the most unique theatre experiences you’ll ever have, and it’s best appreciated with an open mind and a thirst for curiosity.
Commonly visited before Sleep No More, the Club Car is a separate dining area that’s also used as a performance venue and late-night dance-party speakeasy. This summer, it hosts a surf and turf dinner created by Balthazar and Minetta Tavern alums Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr. The indulgent prix fixe dinner features a 10-ounce dry-aged boneless rib-eye with an accompanying choice of succulent broiled lobster, soft-shell crab, scallops romesco, or razor clams oreganato. Like the opulent dinner, the space itself evokes nostalgia for a bygone golden age. Low lighting, a live DJ, and a cozy nostalgic design makes this the perfect dinner date spot. The food, a good value due to generous portions, is also rustic and charismatic. Flavorful steaks are prepared simply but well, and the wonderfully decadent desserts round out your meal.
But my favorite part of the McKittrick Hotel has to be its rooftop escape, Gallow Green. Beautifully designed with heavy green canopies, open-air seating, and restored wooden features, it’s honestly like being transported to a secret, luxurious treehouse over the streets of Manhattan. The rustic themes of the Chelsea skyline are incorporated into the space with its own stylish use of tram tracks and wooden beams, and the elegance of the hotel is brought to the open air with constant references to the yesteryear tones seen elsewhere in the property. At night, guests dine under the stars in what feels like an abandoned Scottish train station, and Gallow Green’s famous pizzas are baked in a wood-burning oven. The signature cocktails change through the seasons, and groups can also enjoy large-format punches.
For me though, the space is best enjoyed with one of the best brunches you’ll find in New York City. For $38 per person, you can dine on an all-you-can-eat brunch, with two hours of assorted salads, organic smoked salmon, apple-smoked bacon, and a manned carver station. Vegetarian options are also available: organic eggs and grilled and roasted vegetables, as well as yogurt, fruit, and homemade granola. And if you’re craving something sweet, feast on never-ending French pastries, freshly baked muffins, or hot waffles. Under the warm summer sunshine, with a live band performing, it’s the ultimate way to celebrate the weekend. This truly charming venue perfectly matches all that’s great about brunch. Arrive with a large appetite — you’ll need to make a lot of room for a true banquet of great food and drinks, including the classic mimosa and Bloody Marys along with signature cocktails like the Gallow Green, made with butterfly-pea-flower-infused vodka, Lillet Blanc, and fresh lemon.
It would be hard to find another location as versatile and engaging as the McKittrick Hotel. There are so many different, unique aspects to the property for visitors to experience. Whether you immerse yourself in the fantastical world of Sleep No More or escape to the rooftop hideaway of Gallow Green, this New York City hotspot will have you looking at Manhattan in a very different way.