If you live in Manhattan, you know. Cramped apartments with brick wall views. Steamy subways, crowded and in disrepair. Tourists in backpacks clogging sidewalks. Welcome to another summer in the city, where lack of cross ventilation leads to drug-like dependency on air conditioning, driving Con Ed bills as high as the temperature of the pavement. But if you think the answer to the discomfort is a relaxing weekend in the Hamptons, or along the shore, think again. Trains are slow, indirect and don’t allow large breed dogs. Plus, you’ve got to carry your haul on your back like a hobo, so forget taking those cobwebbed tennis rackets, again. How about a car? NYC rental prices eclipse every city across the U.S., yet, assuming you can find one, the first five hours will be spent in tunnel and LIE or 95 traffic. And hopefully you booked your dream hotel or AirBnB last fall, since the entire tri-state population competes for the same limited inventory from Jersey to Maine, during high season. Otherwise, prepare for a night at the Econo Lodge or in Aunt Terry’s old basement bedroom.
But what if you could reach a hotel in a vibrant neighborhood ripe for exploring, in less than 30 minutes by subway? Say, one with a large pool and views of the river and Manhattan, where all rooms have balconies and dogs are welcome? A hotel with a gym, trendy roof bar with priority access to guests, and a high-profile restaurant made for leisurely breakfasts? One with a 15,000-square foot elevated promenade boasting rolling hills and shady green spaces that don’t harborticks. It exists, and it’s called The William Vale.
Over the weekend, I tested my theory as to whether a staycation in Williamsburg could elicit the same level of decompression as a trip to the woods or the beach. By eliminating the frustrating elements in the first paragraph while adding the luxuries listed in the second, the answer proved a resounding yes. Yes, you can have a satisfying, pleasurable, relaxing holiday in Williamsburg. And you can do it in 24-hours. Here’s how.
Sunday at Noon: Check-in at The William Vale
Located on North 12th and Wythe, this towering, grown-up property on the fringe of hipsterville near McCarren Park, opened a year ago. The revitalized commercial neighborhood filled with warehouses, bars, restaurants, and now a burgeoning hotel row, offers plenty to explore without feeling saturated. As the room wouldn’t be ready until 3, I swapped shorts for a bathing suit, checked my backpack, and beelined to the pool.
1-3 PM: Vale Pool with Lunch
For a city-dweller, the chance to spend a summer day at a 60-foot-pool with a cocktail in hand, is the primary draw of booking at this hotel. While I scored a lounge chair (FCFS for hotel guests), the deck proved crowded, and getting a seat required fleetness of foot. Most patrons, a mix of young and middle-aged couples, a few parents with kids, and several large, partying (but respectful) groups, were guzzling rosé in various formats. I ordered an Aperol spritz, a bit pricey at $14, but hey, I was on vacation. As for food from the limited menu, the lemony hummus dip was flavorful and filling, but the fried shrimp tacos, undercooked, meager in size (1 per taco), and delivered nearly an hour late, cannot be recommended at $16. Next time, I’d gamble on a sandwich or the guacamole, instead. Right off the pool, a 5000-square foot terrace can hold outdoor events or just overflow when the pool fills up.
3 PM: King with Balcony
Key in hand, I headed to the 19th floor. While I can’t comment on other room categories, my “king” quarters were quite wee, although the space was superbly utilized. Bonus: the compact closet fit an ironing board and lots of hangers. I hung my pants and dresses, something I rarely do on single night stays. The bathroom featured a walk-in steam shower with circular floor tiles in gray, white, and black that felt nice under my feet. I snapped a photo for whenever I get around to renovating my apartment bathroom. Toiletries came compliments of L’Occitane. From the balcony, I could see the edge of North Williamsburg and the entirety of Greenpoint. Using my iPhone, I noted
4:30 PM: Greenpoint Beer and Ale
I grabbed a stool at the expansive bar inside a former industrial space. While tasting flights end after 4 pm, the bartender was happy to let me sample their small batch beers before deciding. I chose the “Forced Perspective Oat IPA.” Fresh, floral, complex yet light, without too much bitter hoppiness, it was perfect for a summer afternoon.
5:30 PM: Northern Territory
I saw the bustling crowd on the roof from my balcony, so I knew to head upstairs. A DJ spun EDM while girls in yoga pants, amorous couples, and Aussie surfer types sipped sparkling rosé in cans and snacked on casual grill fare and fries. The festive air reminded me of how quiet provincial towns in Europe are on Sundays. Even major cities. Not Williamsburg. People were out in throngs like it was Saturday night and the strains of house music filled the streets.
7 PM: Mister Dips and Vale Park
The William Vale boasts publicly accessible green space with views of the river, so I poked around. People had just started camping out for sunset, making picnics of ice cream cones and burgers dished out of the silver Mister Dips Airstream.
8 PM: Sunset drink at Westlight
The sight of a snaking line outside the hotel to access Westlight elicited brief panic. That was, until I remembered the hotel guest elevator bank provides direct access to the posh 22nd floor roof bar. So, without waiting a second, I waltzed right past the hostess desk, ordered a rum cocktail at the bar, and headed to the balcony to catch the show, along with half of Brooklyn.
9 PM: Dinner at Llama Inn
Within a ten-minute walking radius are a ridiculous number of good restaurants from which to choose. Reynard’s at the Wythe, Norman by Noma co-founder Claus Meyer, Lillia by Missy Robbins. In the spirit of being transported out of Manhattan, however, I opted for Peruvian beneath the rumbling BQE. Yes, they have roast chicken and ceviche (under “raw”), but the tightly edited menu focuses on bright flavors in Peruvian-inspired dishes. The red wine and pisco-based cocktail on tap, the Llama del Rey, was a touch too sweet, so I defaulted to pisco sour as accompaniment to my chicken thigh anticucho and fluke tiradito
11 PM: Bedtime
While parties were still rolling at nearby bars and clubs – evidenced by the incessant EDM soundtrack in the air – I turned in for the night. Beneath a cozy down-filled duvet, head propped on a plush pillow, I drifted off dreaming of breakfast.
Monday at 8 AM: Breakfast at Leuca
I couldn’t leave without dining at the hotel’s star restaurant. Opened by Andrew Carmellini with a focus on Southern Italy, his culinary intention carried through to breakfast. Polenta waffles and lemon-ricotta pancakes sounded appetizing, but I preferred protein to dessert, and opted for the eggs benedict. Two perfectly poached orbs came flecked with crisp pepperoni, served over crunchy, olive oil-soaked bread. The croissant revealed perfectly flaky, buttery layers. In service to my liver, I sucked down a beet, ginger, and carrot-based juice, plus a macchiato for a punch of caffeine. The dining room was gorgeous. I sat on a caramel-hued leather couch in the front room, which, although below street level, receives light from large windows above
9:30 AM: Coffee by Brownville Roasters at Norman
Claus Meyer of Noma opened this café and restaurant a few blocks north of the hotel. Coffee service in the airy space starts at 8 AM. Danish roaster Omar Maagard, formerly of The Coffee Collective in Copenhagen, directly sources beans which he roasts with trademark Scandinavian lightness.
10 AM -12 PM: Poolside
Spent the remainder of the morning in a lounge chair reading a book. Why not enjoy a refreshing dip without the weekend crowd?
12 PM: Check out
Normally 11 AM, I asked for an extension since I was departing on a Monday. Friendly and efficient Raquelle at the front desk prepared my bill and had me paid up in less than two minutes. Did I need a taxi, she asked? “Nope, my load is light. Just a backpack” I said. “I’ll just hop on the L-train and be home in twenty.” So easy.
Read Lauren Mowery’s staycation guide on FORBES.COM