If you like bustling, dark grey streets painted with grunge, yet are chock full of avant-garde expressions, vivid images, and diverse commercial establishments, then on your next trip to New York City, avoid Manhattan, and experience the hip side of the realm in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Come feast. Gorge your eyes, ears, and taste buds on the global spices of NYC.
After you land at JFK, take a cab to Williamsburg. Check in at the William Vale Hotel on North 12th Street off Wyeth Avenue. One of the newest, tallest buildings in Williamsburg–a wealthy, enclave along the East River in Brooklyn.
Besides the view of McCarron Park, Manhattan sparkles off in the distance, easily seen from rooms facing north and west. If you like rooftop lounges, you can revel in the vertical signature of Manhattan from the Vale rooftop as you sip a cocktail. You can even swim with a view of the skyline. Or enjoy comedy shows, a classical concert, or symposium of ideas. Beyond the hotel, you’re smack in the middle of hip Williamsburg.
A block away is the Brooklyn Bowl, Output, Spritzenhaus33, The Gutter, Music Hall of Williamsburg, and a host of other restaurants and bars. Hang out on a Saturday night and this area is as crowded as Times Square.
There’s a CitiBike rack on North 10th Street where you can rent a bicycle for the day, bicycle around Williamsburg, or cross the BQE (shorthand for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) into edgier East Williamsburg. If you follow Metropolitan Avenue (which begins at Kent Street and the East River in Williamsburg), you can bicycle east into the guts of Bushwick.
Darker. Grittier. Sexier. Artier. And poorer Bushwick.
You’ve arrived in the backdrop for an old film noir fifty years ago. A place where hipsters go to hear music, see disposable street art on industrial buildings, and enjoy, not only off-off-Broadway shows but off-off-across-the-river un-Broadway-like shows. Comedy. Drama. Musicals. And then hang in the restaurants and bars that have popped up on nearly every block. It’s an unstructured community with venues on every street, art everywhere, and industry interspersed with old, rundown apartment houses and lofts.
If you’re out overnight, you won’t have to look far to see semis growling around the side streets as they crawl out of warehouses hauling tomorrow’s goods. Or, if you dig inner-city freight trains, there’s one that runs between Randolph and Messerole Streets in Ridgewood–east of Williamsburg on the northern edge of Bushwick.
Explorers emboldened by the whistles of hurtling trains can dine at Bunker Vietnamese, on Randolph and Scott Streets (literally in the middle of nowhere), then head over to Jupiter Disco, or Lot 45 Bushwick across Flushing Avenue for dancing and drinks, and hang through the early morning hours. When waiting on either Scott or Gardner Avenues, a freight train might roar by. It’s a pretty cool sight.
But one caveat.
While the industrial area’s full of beautiful street art on every street, it’s also dark and deserted, and while the streets are safe, they’re empty overnight. You WILL NOT find many cabs cruising about, and while public transportation is available (it’s a five-minute walk to the L train stop at Wyckoff Avenue and Troutman Street), that time of the morning, expect an endless wait on an empty platform. So, know where you are. If you prefer speed, call for an Uber once you’re ready to head back to Williamsburg. Couple excitement with well-being.
If you’re in this same Ridgewood/Bushwick area during the day, walk or bicycle around and feast your eyes on an incredibly rich potpourri of colours and shapes painted on brick walls. The variety is breath-taking, most of the artwork is a product of the Bushwick Art Collective, which offers free walking tours of the area. When you’re ready for a meal or drink, endless choices await.
Because Bushwick, Brooklyn is so large and diverse, it may be better to consider a guided tour, to begin with. You might try the Bushwick Beer, Bites & Art #Instawalk. The tour runs four hours and costs about $65 per person.
So, this holiday, chill, Brooklyn style. When you’re outside Bushwick, see an NBA game at the Barclays Center. Or, enjoy a porterhouse at Peter Luger’s. Or, subway it to Coney Island, stroll the beach, then head over to Nathan’s Famous for frankfurters, French fries, and a beer.
Visit Bushwick, Brooklyn and find out why the borough has become the creative engine of New York City.
If you’re still undecided on the area that best suits you, check out our guide on where to stay in New York.