Insider’s guide to Williamsburg, New York

Get to know Williamsburg beyond the hipster cliches. Williamsburg resident, Mike Joy, loves the open spaces and unparalleled views of Manhattan and is letting us in on some local secrets.

When I have friends in town we start with used clothes shopping at Crossroads, Buffalo Exchange and L Train Vintage. Then we grab brunch at either 12 Chairs or Sunday in Brooklyn (they’re across the street from each other so we go where the wait is shorter.) If it’s warm out, we’ll lay out at Domino Park or watch the sunset from the William Vale Hotel rooftop bar. At night we go dancing in East Williamsburg at either House Of Yes, Sutherlands or Brooklyn Mirage. These clubs often have DJs or specific parties, so check their websites to get tickets!

My favorite sight is Domino Park! Williamsburg is very much a residential neighborhood, so is short on tourist sights. Luckily, in summer 2018 they opened Domino Park right along the East River and it provides gorgeous views of Manhattan, spots to lay out and read and a kick-ass taco spot with margaritas and micheladas!

Domino Park, located along the East River in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, includes a 1,200-foot-long waterfront esplanade with panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline. (

My best snowy day experience ever was at Freehold. We had a massive snow storm that shut down the subways and canceled work for everyone in New York City. My neighbors and I trekked through the snow to Freehold in South Williamsburg, and laid on the sofas, drank mimosas and listened to music all day meeting other locals who were enjoying the surprise mid-week vacation day.

When I have a day off, I’ll escape to Fire Island. It’s a trek out of the city (about 2 hours), but Cherry Grove or Pines are both car-free communities on Fire Island with beautiful beaches and are perfect getaways from the city.

My favorite place to shop for gifts is Bedford Avenue. Bedford is the heart-line of Williamsburg and is full of boutiques and shops, both new and used, where you can find gifts your friends will love. On weekends there are street vendors set up as well with more artisan items.

Experience Williamsburg’s creative energy in the neighborhood’s independently run boutiques on Bedford Avenue. (jumis /

My friends and I love to grab drinks at Brooklyn Barge. It is technically in Greenpoint, the neighborhood north of Williamsburg, but it is the coolest spot to grab drinks on warm nights. The barge juts out into the East River, has plenty of space to walk about and chat with friends, and sells food in case you get hungry.

My hidden foodie treasure is Smorgasburg on Summer Saturdays. A huge parking lot on N7th and the East River is transformed into a food-tent paradise. All the best restaurants in New York set up tents and sell their best dishes. After grabbing your favorite food you can sit on a huge lawn and have a gorgeous view of Manhattan. There’s also a biergarten if that strikes your fancy!

Don’t leave town without trying Pies ‘n’ Thighs on South 4th. It can be crowded during peak times and weekends but is only closed from 4p-5p, so head over late night or mid-day for some true American cooking and a must-visit for any trip to Williamsburg.

Best place to get a capture a better than a postcard image of Williamsburg is on the quiet backstreets. Although the Bushwick Collective (in Bushwick, Brooklyn) is arguably more famous for its street art, Williamsburg has numerous walls featuring incredible artists and their work. The streets of Williamsburg are an open-air art gallery.

The backstreets of Williamsburg are an open-air art gallery with artists like Naveen Shakil making their mark on the neighbourhood. (Mike Joy)

The most inspiring thing about Williamsburg is the large amount of open space. Compared to Manhattan, Brooklyn is quite a bit lower. We have McCarren Park in the North and Domino Park in the South. There are numerous rooftop bars, restaurants with outdoor seating and the river walk where you can catch the ferry into Manhattan. Everyone knows the best views of Manhattan are from Brooklyn.

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