Vicki Notaro crossed the river on her most recent visit and discovered a perfect summer destination.
I love New York. I know a lot of people say that, there’s even a fecking logo declaring it, but I really, really love New York. I’ve visited the Big Apple 13 times in 12 years, bought my wedding dress there, I celebrated my 30th there, and I can safely say it was love at first sight with the city that never sleeps – I distinctly remember exiting Penn Station into perhaps the grottiest bit of town, with yellow cabs whizzing by, noise roaring in my ears and an electric atmosphere and thinking yep, this is a bit of me.
However, as much as I love New York, I’d never strayed from the tiny island of Manhattan overnight. I’d visited Williamsburg for pints and brunch, but always taken the L train right back across the East River and slept in what many people consider to be the beating heart of New York. is trip though, I decided to be different. My husband and I were visiting our favourite place in summer, something we hadn’t done for several years, so we thought why not try something new and stay in Brooklyn for a few nights?
Williamsburg has undergone something of a cultural revolution in recent years. Formerly dilapidated and industrial, predominantly low rise and home to local old timers, it’s now a very hip hub. And I’m not a bit surprised – it’s perfectly positioned directly across from Midtown on the river, meaning it has stunning views of the Empire State and Chrysler Building, and that famous skyline.
Over the past five or six years, the hipsters have moved in to this particular Brooklyn ‘hood and gentrified it with food and flea markets, breweries and baristas and shtyle to beat the band. And over the past three years in particular, there’s been a rake of new hotels opening. Wythe Avenue used to just house the very trendy and expensive Wythe Hotel, but now it has serious competition in the form of William Vale, The Williamsburg Hotel, and two as-yet-unopened new hostelries.
I had been eyeing the aforementioned Williamsburg Hotel on Instagram as the interiors speak to me on a deep and extra level. Gold toilet fittings, beautiful tiles, exposed brick and incredible views all meant I was dying to stay there, so Joe and I checked in for three nights in June. I was not disappointed – it’s as cool as it looks on the ‘gram. There’s a tuk-tuk outside that’ll deposit you at bars and restaurants within a ten block radius for free, bikes you can borrow to explore from dawn to dusk, a gorgeous bar and restaurant with a basement terrace, and as of this summer, a rooftop pool and bar. It is quite simply fabulous – cool yet elegant, comfortable and compact, and of course, makes for a perfect picture.
We found it to be a perfect base for our Williamsburg mini break. After a night eating and drinking in the hotel, we woke up early thanks to jet lag and went for a wander. We came across lots of cute (closed) bars and cafes, wandered around McCarren park (and happened across an actual puppy party) and found ourselves at Sweatshop for a light nibble. It’s a small Aussie cafe that even serves Vegemite alongside healthy bites and good coffee, but we stuck to avo toast because we knew what lay ahead that afternoon.
Smorgasburg is a food festival that takes place every weekend in Brooklyn. On Saturdays it’s in Williamsburg and on Sundays a little further afield in Prospect Park, and it is quite simply heaven for foodies. It’s free in, and you can scoff as little or as much as you like, all depending on your appetite and budget.We arrived around noon, had a little drink at the bar (hey, we were on holiday) and then did three laps of the stalls.
We shared the infamous Ramen Burger (a burger sandwiched between two noodle patties), a Cuban
sandwich, a Philly cheesesteak, some meaty Chinese dumplings, fruity shaved ice and crunchy Venezuelan chips. It. Was. Divine. Foodies, do not miss it. ere are also lots of lovely dogs milling around, and places to chill out in the shade with your filthy “picnic”.
After that, we decided to head for Coney Island, somewhere I’d never been. Situated at the very tip
of Brooklyn’s south coast, it’s a bit of a trek, but it was totally worth it. Think of it like Dunmore East
or Bray on speed, complete with a theme park (LunaPark.org), a microbrewery (ConeyIslandBrewery.com) and a gorgeous and huge beach. There are games to be played, rides to try not to puke on, cotton candy to be consumed and fun to be had. I fell asleep on the subway back, completely tuckered out.
The next day we got up with a view to exercising after all the indulgence. The Williamsburg doesn’t have a gym, but they gave us free passes to the nearby Brooklyn Athletic Club. After a decent workout, we headed to Egg Shop for a feed. I’d visited the Manhattan outpost and loved it; this time it was so damn good, we went back for brekkie again the next day. Order the Hot Chix or the SoCal Burrito (it has chips in it!) and a side of hash browns.
The latter couple of days were spent exploring what Brooklyn had to offer. We strolled around nearby Greenpoint and tried local beers in Spritzenhaus, took in the street art of Williamsburg and visited Gutterball, a very cool and divey bowling alley, because it was too damn hot to be outside. We went to a brilliant bar called The Whiskey where we played beer pong very competitively during happy hour, and then took in the sunset from the top of the William Vale, another new hotel complete with a pool and startling views.
It’s a different vibe to Manhattan – quieter, calmer, more chilled out and dare I say it, even cooler in some ways. Consider Williamsburg for your next trip – it’s a great base to take in all the city has to offer, and we had the absolute time of our lives.