Step Aside, Upper East Side

Quest takes a break from the Upper East Side to report on the booming scenes in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn—from one hip ’hood to the next.

CHELSEA

View of street art from the Highline in Chelsea

Packed with the city’s best art galleries including Hauser & Wirth, Gagosian, and Gladstone, it’s no wonder Chelsea attracts an artistic and creative crowd. Currently undergoing renovations, Hotel Chelsea—known for the list of notable artists, writers, and musicians who have resided there—remains a main attraction of this culture-rich neighborhood. Chelsea is also home to the majority of the city’s most unique and elevated park, the Highline. The Highline, a platform with greenery and wildflowers, provides unrivaled views of the city and, most importantly for Chelsea dwellers, the chance to witness a wide array of artwork including site-specific commissions and billboard interventions—all significantly supported by Donald R. Mullen, the Brown Foundation, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Restaurant “musts” include the Red Cat—a local hotspot with New American eats—and Salinas, a romantic tapas joint perfect for date night.

MEATPACKING DISTRICT

Tao Downtown

The Meatpacking District is a hub of New York’s best nightlife, filled with posh restaurants, clubs, and hotels—there is never a dull moment in this neck of the woods. This glamorous neighborhood is home to the renowned Standard Highline—a hotel that seemingly leaves little reason to travel outside the property. Each room offers modern floor-to-ceiling windows with sweeping views of Manhattan. The hotel also features a penthouse discothèque and rooftop bar, Le Bain; the very popular Standard Grill restaurant; a bustling German beer garden on ground level; the Top of the Standard’s Boom Boom Room night club and lounge; and a little ice skating rink for cold winter days. Other chic hotels closeby include Gansevoort Meatpacking, with a rooftop pool for summer, and Dream Downtown, where you can enjoy upscale Mexican restaurant Bodega Negra or party at PHD Rooftop. Some notable restaurants in the area are Tao Downtown, Catch, and Santina. When you’re not out on the town, be sure to explore the passageways of the Chelsea Market, one of the world’s greatest food halls with over 35 vendors.

EAST VILLAGE

Mr. Purple atop Hotel Indigo

A foodie’s haven, the East Village is best known for all its amazing neighborhood restaurants. In fact, you can’t walk down a street in this area without being tempted by one—the options are truly endless. Pylos on 7th provides a breadth of classic Greek cuisine in an elegant atmosphere, and just a couple blocks away, Lavagna offers top Italian trattoria fare in an intimate setting. Looking for brunch options? Pop into Pardon my French or Fonda for a killer bottomless brunch. The East Village’s young and hip demographic is also endlessly lured by the energetic nightlife with an abundance of cocktail bars like Cuban rum house Cienfuegos or Hawaiian-inspired tiki bar Mother of Pearl—both specializing in vegan plates. And not to mention the city’s best speakeasies like Death & Company and the more discreet Lovers of Today. Nearby is also Mr. Purple, a trendy rooftop bar at Hotel Indigo.

WILLIAMSBURG

Nitehawk Cinema

The hipster stereotype of Williamsburg is certainly on point. This neighborhood in Brooklyn, just over the Williamsburg Bridge, has recently experienced major gentrification driven by hipster culture and vibrant nightlife. This enclave draws in a young crowd that is attracted to the buzzy cafes, shops, and restaurants, and the beautiful waterfront views of Manhattan. The funky and boutique William Vale Hotel has been a major attraction since it was established, largely because of Westlight, the hotel’s rooftop bar. Additional hotspots include the Nitehawk Cinema movie theater, which serves food and craft cocktails to your seats; Freehold, a bar coined “a hotel lobby without the hotel”; the Western-inspired Urban Cowboy bed and breakfast, which feels like a rare magical retreat amidst urban chaos; and, of course, the Smorgasburg.

WEST VILLAGE

The quiet and scenic West Village can be characterized by its enchanting cobblestone streets and old 19th-century townhouses, as well as its tendency to stray from the city’s standard grid system. The neighborhood has plenty of trendy bars and restaurants, and continues to prove itself as a favorite of celebrities and New York’s elite. Points of interest include the Jane Hotel over looking the Hudson River, which attracts in-the-know travelers from around the globe due to its prime location and hip bar, and the Garret—the hidden speakeasy over Five Guys on Bleecker Street. The area’s top dining spots include Jack’s Wife Freda for brunch, Bar Pitti for a casual and authentic Italian meal, and L’Artusi or the Waverly Inn as more formal options. And don’t forget to stop by Big Gay Ice Cream—it serves award-winning ice cream and frozen yogurt, and is representative of the area’s LGBT spirit like the adjoining Greenwich Village.

GREENWICH VILLAGE

The Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street

Greenwich Village, affectionately referred to as “the Village,” has the low-rise character and neighborly charm of a dreamy European city. In this coveted zip code lies the iconic Washington Square Park—both a gateway to the Village and the unofficial hangout for students attending New York University. University life in Greenwich Village is heavy, with a large part of NYU’s campus spread throughout the neighborhood. Students are drawn to the exciting bars like Caffe Dante, which has been a community staple since opening its doors on Macdougal Street in 1915. The Village will also always be recognized as a cradle of the modern LGBT movement because of the 1969 Stonewall riots at the Stonewall Inn. This bar is still an iconic Greenwich Village institution, and it boldly displays its ongoing support for gay rights throughout its interior; images from the actual riots hang throughout the bar, and perhaps more nudity than one may have signed up for.

SOHO

Skylight Clarkson Square

This fashion-forward area of New York is not only home to Skylight Clarkson Square, New York Fashion Week’s most recent primary show venue, but it also serves as one of New York’s top shopping districts. Unlike shopping on the Upper East Side’s Fifth and Madison avenues, SoHo offers a unique blend of both high-end and inexpensive retailers from Chanel and Prada to more affordable options like Uniqlo. The area is also rich with design shops and eclectic one-of-a-kind boutiques like American Two Shot—offering industrial-chic clothing and a coffee bar under the same roof. For a shopping break, be sure to drop into Ladurée for tea, macarons, and an unbeatable ambience, or end your spree with dinner at Balthazar or Boqueria. Looking for a place to stay or hang out? The majestically designed Soho Grand Hotel, situated in the heart of SoHo, is where it’s at. The hotel’s Grand Bar & Lounge is a favorite haunt for savvy locals and refined travelers alike.

TRIBECA

Roxy Hotel

Known as one of New York’s most expensive and star-studded neighborhoods, Tribeca is arguably the hottest residential neighborhood to call home right now—it’s no wonder a group like the Four Seasons chose to establish a second Manhattan hotel at this location. The area is packed with successful professionals drawn to luxury real estate like the Woolworth Towers or the Fisher Brothers’ new 111 Murray Street building. The area is also popular for families and exercise gurus who can often be spotted en route to their early morning class whether it’s Soul Cycle, Barre, or Barry’s—you name it. Some of the area’s top hangouts include hip Italian restaurant Locanda Verde, the lively Belle Reve bar, and the Roxy Hotel (formerly Tribeca Grand), which boasts a vintage movie theater and popular lounge. Perhaps most noteworthy is the annual Tribeca Film Festival, which entices millions of people each year from the worlds of art, film, and music.