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Williamsburg, Brooklyn


by Jimmy Im
Globetrotting Williamsburg Brooklyn Moxy Williamsburg Rooftop Lounge (Photo: Michael Mundy)

The hotel scene continues to grow every year, and it’s not uncommon for travelers to book a hotel in Williamsburg as their base for NYC visits.

Moxy Williamsburg Rooftop Lounge (Photo by Michael Mundy)

As a Manhattanite for 13 years, I rarely visited Brooklyn. Manhattan has it all: renowned neighborhoods, restaurants, bars, attractions, landmarks, so I had little reason to cross the East River.

For a time, there was a running joke with my friends that I’d visited the Maldives more than Brooklyn (true). Yet the joke stopped in 2020 when the pandemic hit. I moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn for more space and a fresh new start. Just across the East River (you can literally see the East Village, my old neighborhood, from here), Williamsburg has long been a dynamic neighborhood for New Yorkers and tourists alike, and it’s growing faster than ever before.

Williamsburg is a stylish, trendy, and eccentric neighborhood, initially recognized globally in 2008 when The New York Times first coined the word “hipster” in an article about Williamsburg’s explosive gentrification. There’s a Whole Foods, Apple store, Trader Joe’s, and famed Manhattan restaurants with Williamsburg locations, such as Jack’s Wife Frieda and Butcher’s Daughter. Unlike Manhattan, Williamsburg feels more residential. Scenic, green parks sprawl along the river, from Domino Park, opened in 2019, to the recently revamped, $16-million, 11-acre Marsha P. Johnson State Park, named after the transgender activist who helped pioneer the 1969 Stonewall protest. Williamsburg is incredibly pet friendly, most food and beverage places have outdoor patios, notable restaurants continue to rack up highly coveted accolades, and the burgeoning hotel scene is a true testament to Williamsburg’s tourism growth.

Menu Highlights at elNico (Photo by Alice Gao)

Menu Highlights at elNico (Photo by Alice Gao)

Williamsburg is also quite affluent, being one of the most expensive neighborhoods in NYC, according to Property Nest. Travelers and locals alike shop high-end stores (Nike, Sandro) to award-winning, Brooklyn-based boutiques (Brooklinen, DS & Durga), and luxuriate in modern comforts, from dining to art.

Williamsburg continues to exceed expectations for residents and visitors. It is now home to Revel’s largest ultra-fast electric vehicle (EV) charging hub in New York State, which opened at the historic The Dime Building in May 2023. Ongoing projects in Williamsburg are destined to become landmark attractions. River Ring (riverring.com), a waterfront park in the works will feature three acres of public open space and a beach (yes, a beach). Designed by James Corner Field Operations, River Ring on the East River will include an amphitheater, pools with a large sandy beach, a YMCA, indoor pool, and a circular esplanade extending into the East River.

This groundbreaking attraction won’t open until 2030, but travelers can still visit plenty of popular outdoor attractions, such as the $3 billion Domino Park, which opened in 2019. A beautifully landscaped, 5-acre riverside park, Domino Park took over the iconic Domino Sugar Factory site next to the famed Williamsburg Bridge. Now, it’s brimming with tourists and locals alike, where you’ll see everything from wedding photo shoots to gay volleyball teams playing throughout the week. The park is also home to a gourmet Mexican restaurant, dog park, sprawling lawns with a sand-pit volleyball court, and a bridged platform for breathtaking views of Manhattan. Around dusk, hundreds of people gather to catch the sunset over Williamsburg Bridge and the Manhattan skyline. The historic, well preserved landmark factory itself will soon be home to vertical gardens, retail shops, public plazas, and office and residential spaces.

Speaking of parks, LGBTQ resident Anna Garwood, the founder of Williamsburg Pickleball, brought the global pickleball craze to McCarren Park, a massive 35-acre haven known for summer concerts and events. Scores of people play pickleball here on the weekends. “Pickleball is easy to learn; you can be a beginner or advanced player and still have a blast,” says Garwood. “It’s good for you, not only physically, but for your mental health. It’s a very social sport and brings communities together. I think that’s why it gained so much popularity during the pandemic; people were craving human connection, and pickleball does that in a really fun and healthy way.” Garwood, now a USA Pickleball Ambassador, runs Instagram account @Williamsburgpickleball that often announces game times. “I’m excited to see that the gay community regularly come out to play,” she adds.

Room With A View At The Wythe Hotel (Photo courtesy of The Wythe Hotel)

Room With A View At The Wythe Hotel (Photo courtesy of The Wythe Hotel)

The hotel scene continues to grow every year, and it’s not uncommon for travelers to book a hotel in Williamsburg as their base for NYC visits. Williamsburg has a cluster of luxury boutique hotels within a three block radius near McCarren park, and Wythe Hotel (80 Wythe Avenue, Tel: 718-460-8000. wythehotel.com), right on the waterfront, is arguably the most alluring. The historic, 1901 former cooperage was converted into a 69-room hotel with a famed restaurant, 6th floor rooftop bar, and four over-the-top lofts. Rooms feature 13” original timber ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows with commanding views of the Manhattan skyline. The hotel’s Le Crocodile, helmed by chef Aidan O’Neal, serves exquisite French fare in an elegant yet casual brasserie that was named one of the 100 Best restaurants in NYC, according to The New York Times. The signature Roast Chicken with Herb Jus and Frites is excellent, and the Orzo Cacio e Pepe, with rich flavors and textures, is a menu staple.

Coda Williamsburg (160 North 12th Street, Tel: 718-218-7500. codahotels.com) has been making headlines since November 2022 when it took over the famed McCarren Hotel & Pool. Coda gave the building a major facelift to take on an entirely new vibe. The 64-room hotel is now sleek and stylish with a lobby boutique store selling curated merchandise, Bohemia, an Indonesian restaurant, Creatures of All Kind, a lively rooftop bar, and Coda Beach Club, a unique, true Brooklyn gem. A hotel pool in Williamsburg is rare, especially outdoors, and Coda hosts fabulous poolside events with DJs, including gay-themed parties.

“We’re so excited to be open, particularly in Williamsburg, which has quickly become one of the most inclusive and queer-centric neighborhoods in NYC; a destination that truly continues to thrive,” says Ronny Baroody, general manager at Coda Williamsburg. “Coda is a few minutes from LGBTQ community staples like Metropolitan Bar and Macri Park, plus famed Bedford Ave is right on our corner, and recreational destinations like McCarren Park live right outside our front door. As a member of the LGBTQ community myself, I’m always thrilled to see all-encompassing diversity at our rooftop bar, and of course, travelers and locals alike who absolutely love our pool. Inclusion and diversity have always been a built-in, non-negotiable principle with our team and guests!”

Penny Williamsburg elNico (Photos by Alice Gao)

Penny Williamsburg elNico (Photos by Alice Gao)

Penny Williamsburg (288 North 8th Street, Tel: 929-594-2020. penny-hotel.com) quietly opened in August 2022 and has quickly become a stomping ground for creative types. The hotel is playful and visually compelling with a lobby that functions as an art gallery featuring local artists. The 118 rooms offer residential views, curated with books from iconic The Strand bookstore, as well as kitchenettes and Stagg EKG pour-over coffee kettle with fresh-ground Devocion (local, popular coffee shop) coffee. The outdoor courtyard is a magnet for “work from roam” millennials, and the rooftop bar is the hotel’s crown jewel. On the 11th floor, the rooftop offers indoor and outdoor space and terraces with panoramic views of Williamsburg’s skyline, best viewed with a curated cocktail ElNico, which features modern Mexican fare, is helmed by chef Fernanda Serrano, who only at 30 years old is one of the most buzzing talents in NYC with a solid resume that includes Mexico City’s Pujol, considered one of the top restaurants in the world, and 3-Michelin-starred El Celler de Can Roca in Spain.

Moxy Williamsburg (353 Bedford Avenue, Tel: 718-782-6699. marriott.com) is the latest hotel opening (March 2023) and the largest with 216 rooms. It’s the only hotel on Bedford Avenue (the famed Main Street of Williamsburg), right next to the Williamsburg Bridge. All rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, most facing the bridge and Manhattan skyline (the higher the floor, the better).

While Moxy may be the “millennial-centric” brand of Marriott, Moxy Williamsburg (the 5th in NYC) goes above and beyond in terms of luxury, considering the Sealy beds and same linen that St Regis hotels use. Guests at the hotel’s indoor/outdoor rooftop lounge, open for brunch and dinner, can see all three Manhattan bridges. The art here is compelling (all local artists), including the lobby mural using three-quarter million crayons. The same team of the famed Broken Shaker in Miami handles food and beverage, and the hotel also has a dance club, Jolene, as well as several communal spaces, including an atrium garden. The Israeli restaurant, Mesiba (mesibabk.com), is lively with an opulent flair (a gorgeous slab of imported marble serves as a bar), and the creative and modernTelAviv inspired cuisine is memorable. Expect “nishnushim” like fresh Frena bread with sour cream and large dishes like lamb neck with yemini pancake, amba, pickles and fresh herbs.

Moxy Jolene Sound Room (Photo by Michael Kleinberg)

Moxy Jolene Sound Room (Photo by Michael Kleinberg)

For your dining pleasure, ASKA (47 South 5th Street, Tel: 929-337-6792. askanyc.com), is a two-Michelin starred restaurant helmed by Swedish chef Fredrik Berseliuss, known for Nordic-rooted carefully curated tasting menus (seasonally changing) that bring to mind the late Noma in Copenhagen (formerly “the best restaurant in the world”). The small, dim-lit space in a restored 1860s warehouse building is perfect for couples, and the outdoor garden is ideal for those who want to “gram” their plates dressed like pieces of art. Francie (136 Broadway, Tel: 718-218-7572. franciebrooklyn.com), one of only seven restaurants in all of Brooklyn to earn a Michelin star, serves European inspired dishes, including their popular and delicious lobster ravioli and crown roast of duck. Half a dozen of the front and back of house employees identify as LGBTQ, according to owner John Winterman.

Kumquat Painkiller at Penny Williamsburg (Photo by Eric Medsker)

Kumquat Painkiller at Penny Williamsburg (Photo by Eric Medsker)

For a more casual meal, check out Mekelburg’s (319 Kent Avenue, Tel: 929-457-6676. mekelburgs.com), known for its gourmet comfort food, from salads to sandwiches, such as Nana’s Meatloaf hot sandwich voted “Best Sandwiches in America” by Bon Appetit.

Williamsburg is at it’s best during the witching hours thanks to the renowned nightlife scene here. Streets are packed with bars, lounges, and clubs, which are all gay-friendly, and a beer at Metropolitan (559 Lorimer Street, Tel: 718-599-4444. metropolitanbarny.com) is essential during any visit. The legendary, low-key, friendly neighborhood dive bar is known for its jam-packed outdoor patio, no matter the season. If you’re feeling more clubby, 3 Dollar Bill (260 Meserole Street, Tel: 718-366-3031. 3dbnyc.com) has become a regular for locals since opening in 2018. All types of gays pack the lively performance space/nightclub, dancing to house music and seeing famous faces in drag shows, such as Shangela from RuPaul’s Drag Race, until the wee hours of morning.

Williamsburg is not only gay-friendly, it’s one of the gayest neighborhoods in NYC. In fact, Metrosource deemed Williamsburg one most LGBT-friendly neighborhoods ( along with iconic “gayborhoods” like Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, and the West Village), and as Williamsburg continues to prosper and grow, Iam proud to be part of this exciting and welcoming community.

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