Manhattan is heaving with stylish places to stay: the grand old dames lining Central Park, Midtown classics with legendary pasts, and a host of design-led boutique properties with ravishing interiors and a price tag to match. But increasingly – whether due to rising room rates in the city, better transport connections, or the desire for a more diverse New York experience – visitors are prepared to sleep outside Manhattan and travel into the borough as and when they like, opting for the less frenetic pace of New Jersey, Brooklyn or Queens as a base.
We recently published a post on some of the hippest hotels in Williamsburg, the Brooklyn neighbourhood that's home to the most concentrated cluster of modish non-Manhattan abodes. Make no mistake, if you’re looking for warehouse-chic and design flair you’ll find it here in spades. But if the whole hipster scene leaves you cold and/or you don’t sport a beard, the world beyond Manhattan offers many other options. Here’s three of our favourite alternatives.
Hoboken, you say? In New Jersey? Yes, that’s right. Look west from the High Line or Hudson River Park, and there it is across the water. No, it doesn’t quite have the cultural cache of Brooklyn or Queens but then neither of those can claim to be the birthplace of baseball or Frank Sinatra. This tiny waterfront city (also the setting, incidentally, for Marlon Brando’s rousing ramblings in On The Waterfront) might have to compete for attention with its neighbouring NYC boroughs, but we say it’s worth investigating as an alternative place to stay – even if only for a night or two. Why? Well for starters, getting to and from Manhattan is a cinch (more of which later). But Hoboken’s attractive, one-square-mile downtown offers plenty of reasons to linger for a while; the swanky 225-room W Hoboken being just one.
Smack bang on the waterfront, W’s only New Jersey outpost is impossible to ignore, towering like a poised eagle over gleaming condos and streets of spruced-up brownstones below. It’s no less audacious on the inside either, with a soaring look-at-me lobby and lounge presided over by British artist Ann Carrington’s remarkable Manhattan Mettle mural, bestowing a tangible sense of place upon the showy public area.
But the real showstopper here is the uninterrupted view, and it is quite simply astonishing. If you’ve never witnessed the entire New York skyline turn from day into night – not from within the city itself, but slowly, deliciously, from afar – it’s reason enough to stay here. The best vantage points are from the slick Manhattan-facing guest rooms high above the Hudson, whose angular layouts provide space for a huge circular sofa opposite floor-to-ceiling windows – leaving the enormous plush bed, lengthy workspace and in-room entertainment almost surplus to requirements. Trust us: you will not want to leave that sofa. But if you can drag yourself away, the cinematic spectacle continues downstairs at contemporary Tuscan steakhouse Zylo and its sunny 50-seat patio – a real find and genuinely one of the best hotel restaurants we’ve come across on our many trips to NYC – or with the fashionable set in late night indoor/outdoor bar Lulu’s. And if it’s balmy outside, you can stroll along the riverfront walkway onto Pier C park, for sunset picnics and more water-level views.
Getting to Hoboken from Manhattan couldn’t be easier: just take a PATH train from one of six stations in Lower Manhattan and Midtown. Depending on your start point, journey time is between 8–14 minutes. Trains are frequent and run 24 hours. Or glide across the river on the 8-10 minute NY Waterway ferry service.
Washington Street – which runs parallel to River Street – is Hoboken's main retail and dining thoroughfare. Along here, and in the side streets which run off it, you'll find a clutch of high-quality neighbourhood restaurants and bars: try Amanda's (908 Washington Street), new Italian Anthony David's (953 Bloomfield Street) or Bin 14 Bistro and Wine Bar (1314 Washington Street).
W Hoboken is a member of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, a Virgin Atlantic Flying Club hotel partner with over 1100 properties in almost 100 countries. Visit the Flying Club website for details of how you can earn miles with every Starwood stay.
W Hoboken, 225 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey. Double rooms from US$ 323 (£192), whotels.com/hoboken
Z Hotel, Long Island City
Despite its lack of a waterfront location, the views from Long Island City’s Z Hotel are equally stunning. Over in Queens on the opposite side of Manhattan, the boutique Z sits four blocks inland from the East River within a skinny, minimalist tower block, though don’t judge a book by its cover – once inside, the hotel is all eclectic industrial-chic perfection. Vintage travel ephemera – antique travel trunks, old-style departure board – lends a retro feel to the lobby, and in the lounge downstairs the polished wooden floors, beaten-up leather club chairs and oversized chandeliers continue the artfully thrown-together look.
Things are more low key in the guest rooms, all of which face the skyline. Full height windows, light bulbs suspended in mason jars, stencilled walls, and a palette of dark neutrals set the tone, though once again, the views steal the show and there’s no point trying to pretend otherwise. For more of the same, grab a hot pink pew on the rooftop terrace during happy hour, and watch as the sun dips low behind the Chrysler Building.
As for Long Island City itself, this once-industrial neighbourhood has been bubbling under the tourist radar for years, but New Yorkers surely can’t keep its burgeoning art and dining scene to themselves for too much longer. Just one stop from Grand Central on the 7 train brings cutting-edge venues like MoMA PS1, the Noguchi Museum and Museum of the Moving Image (in neighbouring Astoria) into play, while craft beer and cocktail joints like Alewife Queens and Dutch Kills will see you well-watered into the night.
Multiple Manhattan-Long Island City transport options exist in addition to the above mentioned 7 train, including a further 7 subway lines (the E, F, G, M,N, Q and R trains) and the East River Ferry from East 34th Street in Midtown to Hunters Point South (which travels on to points further south in Brooklyn like Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Brooklyn Bridge Park).
Alongside these, the hotel also provides a free direct shuttle service to and from Midtown Manhattan, leaving on the hour between 7am and 11pm, and returning on the half-hour.
Z Hotel, 11-01 43rd Avenue, Long Island City, NY. Double Rooms from $154 (£92). zhotelnyc.com
Aloft, Downtown Brooklyn
Bordered to the west, south and east by the brownstone-lined avenues of Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and Fort Greene, and to the north by the cobblestone streets of Vinegar Hill and DUMBO, the commercial neighbourhood of Downtown Brooklyn is well placed for exploring all the borough’s best bits.
One of the USA’s fastest growing central business districts, Downtown Brooklyn has experienced rapid urban revitalisation over the past few years, with new shops, restaurants and tech start-ups setting up home. Residential developments and swish new hotels like Aloft have also sprung up; the latter establishing itself since its launch in 2011 as the lodging of choice for visiting design-conscious young professionals.
Life at the young-at-heart property revolves around the music-filled lobby: a playful, double height, well-zoned space which flows nicely from the back-lit floral check-in desk to twinkly W XYZ cocktail bar, the bright blue billiard table, and the business centre. Niceties like room service and restaurants are done away with in favour of a DIY approach: just pick up an on-the-go breakfast of fruit, muffins, bagels, tea and coffee at the Re: Fuel snack bar, and charge it to your room.
Guest rooms are a reasonable size for New York, though tall windows, lofty ceiling heights and large, light bathrooms make them feel much bigger. Double walk-in rainshowers, streamlined furnishings and simple décor make the best use of available space, enhanced by lots of blonde wood and a few colourful accents in the form of retro alarm clocks and stripey pillows on the bed. It’s a fresh and youthful aesthetic, with something of an ultra-luxury hostel vibe about it – in a good way. And it’s the perfect space to return to after a hot summer night at hip Downtown hangout Brooklyn Terrace – right here on the Aloft rooftop, where yet again the views – of greater Brooklyn, the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Bridge – are dazzling.
At just 20 minutes from the Brooklyn-side exit/entrance of Brooklyn Bridge, this is a walkable hotel from Lower Manhattan if you don't mind a stroll and you've time to kill – otherwise the city's easily accessible from multiple public transportation stops. The nearest subway stations are Hoyt Street (2 and 3 lines), Jay St-Metrotech (R line) and DeKalb Avenue (B,Q and R), all just a few minutes walk away.
But don't be too tempted to stray back into Manhattan every day – some of Brooklyn's best attractions are close at hand: Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the famous Brooklyn Flea Market to name but three.
Aloft is also a member of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, a Virgin Atlantic Flying Club partner hotel group. Learn how to earn miles with every stay.
Aloft Brooklyn, 216 Duffield Street, Brooklyn, NY. Double rooms from $141 (£84). aloftnewyorkbrooklyn.com
Header photo: View from the W Hoboken © Starwood Hotels
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.