When I used to hear about timeshares, I’d always think about the “Asspen” episode of South Park, where the adults are held captive in a never ending timeshare presentation. At best, I thought timeshares were only suited for retirees in Florida. At worst, I thought they were some kind of pyramid scheme. That’s why, when I was offered the chance to stay in a timeshare in Midtown Manhattan, my first thought was: “what’s the catch?”
I’ll admit, I was motivated more by sheer curiosity than by excitement. The Central at 5th, a Hilton Club that’s part of Hilton Grand Vacations, is located on E 48th St. in Manhattan, and I showed up expecting a typical Hilton hotel experience. What I found felt less like a chain hotel and more like an upscale apartment building.
The best way to describe Central at 5th is that it feels like coming home and taking your shoes off after an exhausting day in New York. When I checked in, I was given a card with the concierge’s name and number, and a list of nearby restaurants. Apparently, being a member entitles you to 15% off at participating local restaurants, which was a cool and unexpected perk. But that certainly wasn’t the only perk.
Exploring the property, I quickly realized that Central at 5th was more than just a place to rest your head at night. There are two outdoor patios with comfy chairs and couches, where you can relax, get some work done, or even enjoy occasional movie nights hosted by Hilton Grand Vacations. There’s also a gym, and a members lounge with food, TVs, and kitchen area. That means there’s no need to navigate the stressful city foot traffic to hit the local gym, or find a noisy cafe to eat and work.
By the time I got to my room I knew this place was different than a typical hotel, but swiping my electronic key card, muscle memory led me to expect a somewhat standard room. Turns out, a 1BR in a Hilton Grand Vacations property isn’t just a bed, cookie-cutter desk, cramped bathroom, and a window overlooking a parking lot. My 1BR suite had a spacious living room with a huge, comfy sofa (which pulled out into a bed) adjacent to a small kitchen area. A door connected the living room to the bedroom, spacious in its own right, with electronically-controlled curtains and blackout shades, a TV, and a closet with (the most important amenity) soft robes. The bathroom, however, might have been the best part of the room. With a large tub, waterfall shower, bidet-equipped toilet, and heated tile floor, it was impossible to mistake this for a typical hotel room.
What really made the Central at 5th feel different, however, was the staff. Whenever I’d leave, I’d be farewelled with a warm, “see you later,” or “enjoy your day,” and return to a “welcome back.” Even though I was just a temporary member, I got the sense that being a member there is less like belonging to an exclusive club and more like belonging to a family. And amid the stressful bustle of Midtown Manhattan, that feeling goes a long way.
While pretty much everywhere in Manhattan is within a few minutes’ walk of great food, Central at 5th is particularly ideal for accessing some of the city’s best eateries. It’s directly across the street from Hatsuhana, a great sushi restaurant, and just a few blocks away from Isla & Co, an Australian-inspired restaurant where you can try kangaroo skewers. If kangaroo isn’t your thing, you can just head upstairs from the restaurant to the Daintree Rooftop & Lounge, a cocktail bar with panoramic views of the city skyline.
Okay, so what makes it a timeshare? How does membership even work? I’ll admit, it took me a while to wrap my head around it, but it’s actually pretty straightforward. Basically, you can purchase ClubPoints on an annual basis, which can be used at a variety of Hilton Grand Vacations resort locations. ClubPoints can be used to book stays at over 150 Hilton Grand Vacations properties, and even plan experiences like cruises, yacht charters, and guided tours through the ClubPartner Perks program. The number of Points you’ll purchase should be based on how many nights a year you plan to travel, where you’d like to visit, and how much space you need during your stay. Unused Points carry over to future years, too, so you don’t have to worry about wasting Points.
So rather than merely being a “guest” at a traditional hotel, ClubPoints make you feel like an apartment owner, and give you the flexibility to stay at a wide range of properties. And no, no one locked me in a room and forced me to buy a timeshare — but I was tempted nonetheless.