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Borough with a view: Brooklyn beckons with new hotels, other perks

Elaine Glusac, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Travel News

Jake Gyllenhaal is walking into my New York hotel.

It's not on Fifth Avenue or one of the trendy corners of Lower Manhattan. It's in Brooklyn. And it -- the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge -- might be the buzziest new hotel in the city, star sightings or no.

Because the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, like the new William Vale Hotel and the Williamsburg Hotel, both new to Brooklyn's waterfront, have something that Manhattan doesn't have: the skyline panorama.

Developers have newly awoken to the Wall-Street-to-Harlem vista framed across the East River and begun touting it via rooftop bars, hotel rooms and improved parks.

From early fan Walt Whitman to the contemporary Avett Brothers, centuries of artists have sung the praises of Brooklyn, among the largest cities in the nation before neighboring New York swallowed it in 1898. It's the epicenter of the country's craft renaissance, where creative entrepreneurs and artisanal food producers thrive, giving rise to hipster culture that has spread flannels and beards to the Nashvilles, Austins and Omahas of the nation.

But for a traveler visiting New York, is Brooklyn enough? Can you do the Big Apple without taking a bite of Manhattan?

 

The short answer is no. Broadway, and specifically the teen-angst Tony-winner "Dear Evan Hansen," was too compelling to keep me solely in the borough. But the long answer is mostly. And here's why.

The 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 trains are your friends

First, understand that Brooklyn, measuring 71 square miles of land, is sprawling and that not all of it is convenient. But if you stick to Brooklyn Heights and downtown Brooklyn, the closest quarters to Manhattan and serviced frequently by the 1 through 5 subway trains, you have access to both boroughs and cheaper rates on food and lodging (fashionable Williamsburg is less accessible, but Uber-friendly).

Staying in Brooklyn, my son and I got off the 1 train from our Broadway visit (20 minutes by train) to a very quiet downtown Brooklyn at 11 p.m. on a Friday night. We dubbed it the "city that sleeps," and that's not such a bad thing when it comes to hotels, which are proliferating here.

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