Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all opinions are my own.

For the past six years, I’ve been part of the SPG Amex Stars program, so I’ve been able to experience some incredible hotels, events and destinations. This year, the partnership was to complete a trip during the fall and stay at a Marriott property chosen from a list of destinations that ranged from Hawaii to New York.

Normally, I would choose to go to Hawaii but because we changed my dad’s 90th birthday party from a Bahamas cruise to a party at my brother’s yacht club in Connecticut, I picked nearby New York. The timing was perfect because my wife has been begging me to take her to New York City during Christmas Time so she could see the Radio City Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular and the tree in Rockefeller Center.

We stayed at the JW Marriott Essex House, which is located at 59th Street and 7th Avenue, overlooking Central Park. As you probably know, Marriott bought Starwood in 2016 so now Marriott has over 6,700 hotels worldwide and 30 different brands (here’s a list of them all). The best part is that they adopted SPG’s policy of not having any blackout dates. That means that if a room is for sale, you can use your points to book it.

I was able to book two nights at the JW Marriott Essex property for 120,000 points on the Marriott website. The location of the plush JW Marriott Essex House can’t get much better since it’s smack in the middle of New York City and on the edge of Central Park so the park-facing rooms have stunning views. Central Park has always been my favorite part of the Big Apple because it’s like a haven in a concrete jungle. It’s even better now that I have a two-year-old; it’s a safe place for him to run around, they have excellent playgrounds and a world class zoo.

The Essex House has changed hands a number of times but Marriott, as they usually do, has whipped this property into shape. They’ve remodeled the rooms while leaving the lobby and the grand hallway untouched. The beds are comfortable and because of my Marriott elite status, I was upgraded to a junior suite. That meant Natalie and Jack got to sleep in the big cozy bed while Dada got stuck on the pullout couch. I didn’t mind since we had the extra space and I didn’t have Jack rolling on me like a dinosaur in the middle of the night. Sorry Natalie, but Jack prefers to sleep with you!

The rooms have flat screen TVs but what’s even better is that they offer guests access to their accounts on Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube and Pandora. It takes a while for it all to load but it’s a great option instead of paying for an in-house movie or watching one with commercials on regular TV.

If you’re a Marriott Rewards elite member, you have access to the Club lounge, which is located on the lobby level. The club lounge space has been beautifully remodeled. Most importantly, the staff is friendly and you will find that the food is above average for a hotel club lounge.

Another reason why the location is so great is because it’s within walking distance of everything you need like restaurants, shops, grocery stores (there’s a nearby Whole Foods), subway stations and theaters. We went to one of the most famous theatres of them all when we took Jack to a matinee showing of the Radio City Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular. We got the tickets through Marriott Moments and it included dinner at either Hard Rock Café or Dave and Busters (alcohol not included). In case you’re not familiar with Marriott Moments, it is a collection of close to 120,000 experiences located in over 1,000 destinations globally. These moments range from 110,000+ evergreen, attraction tickets and tours, and can be purchased by anyone with a credit card, to around 8,000 exclusive moments available just for members for redemption with points. Members earn loyalty points on all purchases made with a credit card. For more information check out moments.marriottrewards.com.

All of this thanks to the Starwood Preferred Guest® Card From American Express. Even if I wasn’t one of their brand ambassadors, I would still be recommending this card for a number of reasons, including:

  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95/year
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • For each dollar of eligible purchases charged to the Card, Card Members can earn:
    -6X points at SPG and Marriott Rewards participating hotels
    -2X points on other eligible purchases
  • Automatic Silver Elite Status with the ability to earn Gold Elite Status after spending $30,000 on the Card in a calendar year. Note: effective January 1, 2019, Card Members will earn Gold Elite Status after spending $35,000 on the Card in a calendar year.

And last but not least:

  • The Annual Night Award (redemption level at or under 35,000 points) every year after your Card account anniversary (The Card Member will be responsible for all incidental charges and, at properties where resort fees are applicable, for payment of additional mandatory resort fees.)

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