AFAR’s Very Own Eloise on What Makes a Great Hotel

Senior deputy editor and hotels expert Jennifer Flowers reflects on her childhood growing up in the Plaza Hotel and this year’s Stay List.

Writer as young girl standing in hotel hallway

Jennifer Flowers in the Plaza Hotel in 1987, with her brother Justin in the background.

Courtesy of Jennifer Flowers

Between 1984 and 1988, I was a real-life Eloise. My dad served as managing director of the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Like the heroine of the classic children’s book series by Kay Thompson, I lived on the property with my family. I absorbed the daily rhythm of life at this historic address while Yoko Ono, Barbara Walters, and Liberace passed through its halls. I’d shadow my friend Louise, the housekeeper who kept an eye on me, as she went from room to room, teaching me how to tuck bed corners while telling me stories about her home in Jamaica.

One day, my mom, brother, and I were riding the elevator with the actor Anthony Perkins of Psycho fame. When we arrived on Perkins’s floor, my brother barked “Scat!,” eliciting a warm smile from the actor, giggles from me, and a look of horror from my mom.

Childhood antics aside, I saw guests get married, celebrate birthdays, and gossip over tea at the Plaza. (They also partied here. Though it was well before my time, Truman Capote hosted his famous Black and White Ball in the Grand Ballroom in 1966.)

I grew up understanding that at the best hotels, guests simply feel at home. And not by accident: The people behind the scenes create this feeling through extraordinary service and a passion for the place where they live and work. In landscapes more remote than Manhattan, the presence of a hotel can make it easier for travelers to visit a destination at all.

For these reasons and more, I’m so proud to publish our 2023 Stay List, AFAR’s yearly compendium of the world’s best new hotels. In it, we showcase properties that strive to tread lightly on the land by reducing energy use, waste, and water consumption. Others on the list foster cultural exchange between visitors and residents. And still others use biophilic design to connect us more deeply with nature.

I’m not Eloise anymore, but I still get a charge from that distinctive feeling of community only a very special hotel can create. I hope you do, too.

Jennifer Flowers is an award-winning journalist and the senior deputy editor of AFAR.
From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More From AFAR