Welcome to Williamsburg
Williamsburg has changed a lot in the last twenty years. In the early 90's, it was a place for artists who were priced out of Manhattan, and soon transformed into the epicenter Brooklyn's hipster culture. However, the edgy hood is in a constant battle with mainstream culture. There was a lot of buzz when Williamsburg got its first Starbucks and now it's home to Brooklyn's first Apple Store. It's also home to a new Whole Foods, which boasts an incredible food hall, where you can dine on some of Brooklyn's best eats. Despite the influx of chains, Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg's main shopping street, is still filled with many local shops, the area works hard to maintain its indie feel. Instead of heading to the ubiquitous chain store, try enjoying these top twelve activities to do in Williamsburg. From swinging on a trapeze at the new trapeze school to dining on tasty pizza at a trendy new restaurant, there are many things to do in this hopefully eternally hip hood.
If you need a place to stay, check out these boutique hotels in Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
Fly on a Trapeze
The noted Trapeze School New York, with locations in Manhattan, LA, Chicago and DC, recently opened an outpost in South Williamsburg. The indoor trapeze school, offers folks a chance to channel their inner acrobat and swing from a trapeze. In addition, to the one off visit, which will definitely impress all of your friends on social media, The Trapeze School also offers workshops, classes, parties and events. Contact the school and spend your afternoon flying on a trapeze at 30 Tompkins Avenue. However, if flying on a trapeze isn't your cup of tea, you might want to try these other quirky indoor sporty activities.
Yes, you can grab an authentic slice of New York pizza on most streets in Brooklyn, but it's a lot harder to come by a slice of Detroit style pizza in Brooklyn. Although some New York critics are weary of pizza from Detroit, Brooklynites are flocking to the recently opened Emmy Squared, run by the folks from the beloved restaurant, Emily in Clinton Hill. The Detroit style pizza's at Emmy Squared are simplistic and satisfying, and the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. Order a Deluxe, with sauce, mozzarella, sausage, peppers, mushrooms or The Emmy, with mozzarella, banana peppers, onions, ranch, side of sauce. Emmy Squared attracts quite a crowd, be sure to make reservations through Resy.
If a meal at Emmy Squared has you craving even more pizza, be sure to get a pie at these artisanal pizza restaurants in Brooklyn.
Spend a Weekend at the William Vale Hotel
This summer, The William Vale, will open in Williamsburg. The full service hotel will feature Vale Park, "set on a 15,000 sq. ft. elevated promenade, Vale Park features rolling hills, shady green spaces and postcard views," and the longest hotel pool in New York City. The William Vale will also be home to Westlight, a 22nd floor rooftop bar. The hotel opens in August and is offering summer specials. With amazing views and located in one of the hippest parts of New York City, this hotel is sure to be a frequently visited locale.
Eat Tacos and see a Band
There is no better way to celebrate the summer than sitting in the backyard at Union Pool, eating tacos served from the El Diablo food truck and listening to some indie music. Although you don't need warm weather to visit this year round destination, they have an indoor music venue and bar. Check out the calendar at Union Pool to see what bands are playing. If you've ever wanted to be apart of Brooklyn's indie hipster culture, where you can drink beers at a record release party for an emerging band, this is the spot. Maybe one day you can say, "you know who I saw in Union Hall?"
Go to a Gallery
New York City is filled with world class museums and galleries, including a stretch of west chelsea, that will satiate any art lover. However, Brooklyn has a growing gallery scene. If you want to check out the galleries of Brooklyn, be sure to start at The Journal Gallery. The New York Times noted, "If you want to be impressed by architecture, however, visit the slick space..." Currently The Journal Gallery is hosting a collection of works from various artists on display until August 7th. Check out their upcoming exhibits. and be sure to spend a lazy afternoon visiting the galleries of Williamsburg including The Hallows, Front Room Gallery, and many others.
See a Play
After seeing a performance at this black box theater in the heart of Williamsburg, I was quite charmed by this indie theater and its schedule of shows. Upcoming performances at The Brick Theater include Matthew Freeman's That Which Isn't and The New York Clown Theatre Festival. If you want to check out Brooklyn's theater scene, do note that don't have to go to Manhattan to see a play, there are many fantastic theaters in Brooklyn.
Buy Records and see a Concert
The Brooklyn outpost of this London based record store, Rough Trade NYC has an intimate concert venue at the back of the shop. The atmosphere of the spacious store filled with books and vinyl is similar to many places like Tower Records, HMV, which have unfortunately disappeared from the current cultural landscape. These were places where serious music lovers congregated for decades, and it's refreshing to hang out at Rough Trade. Like the shop's inventory, the well-curated list of performers, is a reflection of the best in the indie music scene. Recently when I saw a concert here, I felt as if I was seeing a friend's show (I wasn't), but the small space is a highlight when many of these folks can fill larger venues.
Want to see a concert at other unique music venues in Brooklyn? Be sure to check out our picks of unique music venues in Brooklyn.
Get an Ice Cream Cone
You can grab a cone at these Brooklyn ice cream shops, but you should definitely visit this quirky ice cream shop in Williamsburg for a scoop and/or a shake. With an eclectic changing menu of flavors including Cornbread and Thai Iced Cream, you will have a one of a kind experience at OddFellows If you can't make it to Williamsburg, they also have an outpost in the East Village, which features ice cream sandwiches. However, Williamsburg is the home of their flagship store and is the best place to escape the heat wave and relax with a sundae.
Visit the Smorgasburg
Any foodie visiting Brooklyn must make a pilgrimage to the Smorgasburg. In fact all Brooklynites know it’s spring when the Smorgasburg begins its Saturday stint in Williamsburg. This waterfront weekly food festival run by the folks at the Brooklyn Flea, is the ideal spot to sample the best of Brooklyn’s artisanal food scene. The Smorgasburg runs until November. This is also a great place to spot some of the best tote bags in Brooklyn, as locals sport a variety of bags, at this weekend food festival that attracts a hipster crowd. If you're looking for other Brooklyn food festivals, be sure to check out this list. The Smorgasburg is also located in Prospect Park and in the winter it's housed at Industry City. Come hungry!
If you want to swim in Williamsburg, you can head to the new pool at the William Vale Hotel, which boasts the largest hotel pool in New York. Or you can take the old school approach and head to the local pool, The McCarren Park Pool (it's free!) which reopened in 2012. Check out the website for a list of rules and hours. If you want something a bit more fancy, you can shell out between $45-60 for a day pass at the pool at the McCarren Park Hotel. If you spend the night, you get free access to the hotel's pool. In either case, if you pay for a day pass or spend the night, you can still sip cocktails on their rooftop bar, and cool off in the pool. From a free city pool to two hotel pools, there are many options for swimming in Williamsburg.
Visit a Distillery
Brooklyn's distillery scene is growing and you can visit one of these distilleries, but a visit to Williamsburg isn't complete with stopping at the New York Distilling Company's bar, The Shanty. Enjoy a free tour of the distillery on Saturdays and Sundays from 2-5pm, and stop in for a drink made with their gin and whiskey. With a gin named after the legendary Dorothy Parker and other drinks named for important figures in the city's history, this Williamsburg Distillery is a sure pleaser, and The Shanty has some of the tastiest cocktails in the city.
You can laugh at these Brooklyn comedy clubs, but you should definitely make note of the upcoming Brooklyn Comedy Festival, which runs from August 22-26th, and a majority of the festival takes place in venues around Williamsburg. If you get the ninety nine dollar access pass, you can swim for free at the William Vale pool, and you get discounts on rooms.