This is my ridiculously long version of The New York Times' popular "36 Hours in" travel series. The NYT did one a couple years ago for all of Brooklyn, which was commendable, I guess, but also kind of ridiculous given the size of the borough, which is the most populous in NYC. I thought it would make more sense to do one just for Williamsburg, since people often ask me what to do there and where to go.
Williamsburg is a trendy, burgeoning, artist neighborhood, full of restaurants, music venues, and lots of things to do. It's by the East River with a growing waterfront area and very close to Manhattan. Three different subway lines service Williamsburg--the L, G, and J/M/Z--and the Williamsburg Bridge drops you right into the Lower East Side. If you're downtown, you can take a cab to Williamsburg for $10-$12.
Williamsburg's early history was built around the shipyards. Then in the mid-1800s, it became a tremendously successful area, with many businesses founded there, including Corning and Pfizer. At one point, it supposedly possessed 10 percent of the wealth of the U.S. and was a key engine of economic growth. In the '70s and '80s, the area was in decline and probably most well known for being where police officer Frank Serpico was shot during a drug bust.
In recent years, it has been singled out as an enclave for indie artists and musicians, and often mentioned in songs, TV, and pop culture, although many of the original pioneers were long ago priced out due to increased gentrification. There is a large community of Hasidic Jews in South Williamsburg that's holding strong, but the Dominican and Puerto Rican populations, while still large, have been decreasing and moving to other areas. There is also a considerable Polish population in Williamsburg, especially North into bordering Greenpoint, which is known as Little Poland and has the second largest Polish population in the U.S. (after Chicago).
As has already been reported ad nauseam, Williamsburg is also known as a hipster capital of sorts, making it the target of complaints involving skinny tattooed guys with beards on bikes, rich kids with no jobs in $3,000/month apartments, and a whole lot of organic, vegan, locally-sourced, socially-conscious, homemade, small batch, premium stuff (this last bit isn't really a bad thing, in my opinion). Sure, this exists, but as long as I've lived in NYC, people have complained about, well, everything, but specifically, the demise of the gritty city. Do I wish the waterfront wasn't covered in high-rises? Yes. Would I prefer it was lined with abandoned lots and ruined buildings instead? Not really. The regulations aren't what they should be though--this is a complex topic for another time.
Williamsburg's not perfect. Rents are continuing to rise, pushing out people and businesses that helped make this community what it is today. I don't want it overtaken by chains (an Urban Outfitters? Really?) and I don't want it to lose any more of its edge. And seriously, if we get an Olive Garden, you can bet I'll be moving.
We're not at that point yet though, thank goodness. There are still many artists and musicians here, and all kinds of cool, creative sorts doing and making interesting things. Ignore the hipsters *and* the hipster-haters, and come visit Williamsburg. You'll love it. The French tourists are already here.
36 HOURS IN WILLIAMSBURG, BROOKLYN
1) A WALK ON THE BRIDGE
The Williamsburg Bridge is 7,308 feet long, so an entire round-trip may eat up too much time, but don't miss the opportunity to walk at least part of this suspension bridge and get an unparalleled view of the Manhattan skyline and East River. In addition to pedestrians and bicyclists, the bridge also carries 8 lanes of traffic and 2 subway tracks, so watch your step! :)
2) A COCKTAIL OR TWO
Williamsburg has way more than its fair share of bars. If you're in South Williamsburg, though, there are a handful of standouts. For whiskey, rum, and other evil libations, partake of the well-crafted cocktails at Post Office (188 Havemeyer Street between South 4th and South 3rd Streets; 718-963-2574; postofficebk.com) or Dram (177 South 4th Street between Driggs and Havemeyer Streets; 718-486-3726; drambar.com), both well-known for their creative mixology. If you want to be outside, try the rooftop hangout at rustic, Vietnamese bar, Bia (67 South 6th Street between Wythe Avenue and Berry Street; 718-388-0908; bia67.com). Starting at 6pm, don't miss Donna (27 Broadway; 646-568-6622; donnabklyn.com), where you'll be off the beaten path a bit and enjoy a relaxed, Latin-American-inspired vibe with great cocktails in a beautiful space. N.B. All of these bars are open until early in the morning (2AM-4AM) and serve snacks, so they are also great options if you're out past midnight.
3) OYSTERS, ANYONE?
Need something a little more substantive? Go for the raw bar and largest premium Absinthe collection in NYC at hoppin' New Orleans-inspired Maison Premiere (298 Bedford Avenue between South 2nd and 1st Streets; 347-335-0446; maisonpremiere.com). It can get quite crowded, so be prepared for a bit of a wait (or alternatively go earlier, much later--they're open until 4AM on Saturdays--or for brunch). For a sexy Peruvian twist, check out Desnuda (221 South 1st Street at Roebling Street; 718-387-0563; desnudany.com) for ceviche and cocktails. And if you want less of a buzzy scene, go to the quieter, more romantic, Akariba (77 North 6th Street and Kent Street; 718-388-6160; akariba.com), a Japanese oyster & sake bar in North Williamsburg.
4) DINNER DOWN SOUTH
By now, you're probably ready to eat for realz. Williamsburg is having a love affair with Southern cooking, so you've got a lot to choose from. Traditional Southern-style fried chicken, catfish, and excellent homemade pies make up the menu at the very popular, Pies 'N' Thighs (166 South 4th Street at Driggs Street; 347-529-6090; piesnthighs.com). Giant pork chops, meatloaf, and other comfort dishes are done well with a refined twist at Brooklyn Star (593 Lorimer Street between Metropolitan Avenue and Conselyea Street; 718-599-9899; thebrooklynstar.com). There's top-notch, Best-of-NYC BBQ at Fette Sau (354 Metropolitan Avenue between North 4th Street and Havemeyer Street; fettesaubbq.com) and Briskettown (359 Bedford Avenue between South 4th and South 5th Streets; 718-701-8909; delaneybbq.com). For an Asian-fusion-inspired take on Southern cooking, check out hipster fave, Fatty 'Cue (91 South 6th Street; 718-599-3090; fattycue.com). And if you want to venture even further South, try Uruguayan at stylish and cozy Tabaré (221 South 1st Street between Driggs Avenue and Roebling Street; 347-335-0187; tabarenyc.com), which has excellent empanadas, octopus, steak, and a cute outdoor garden.
To work off all those drinks and eats, it's time to get your body moving! Start things slow with a little skeeball action at Full Circle (318 Grand Street between Havemeyer and Marcy Streets; 347-725-4588; fullcirclebar.com). Then hop over to nearby PIPS (158 Roebling Street between Hope Street and Metropolitan Avenue; 347-674-7706; pipsout.com) for a couple games of ping pong...sorry, I mean *table tennis*. If you're getting crushed, you can take a break with a bit of art browsing (PIPS is also a local art gallery). If Pac-Man, Frogger, or Q*Bert are more your style, spend a few rolls of quarters at Barcade (388 Union Avenue; 718-302-6464; barcadebrooklyn.com) which has over 40 different classic '80s arcade games to choose from. And if you want to go big, bowl a few at Brooklyn Bowl (61 Wythe Avenue between North 12th and North 13th Streets; 718-963-3369; brooklynbowl.com), an entertainment center combining bowling, live music, and loads of good, but calorific, snacks brought to you by growing NYC comfort food empire, Blue Ribbon (not that you'll need more food by this point!).
6) MIDNIGHT MOVIES
Not ready for bed? Cool your heels at Nitehawk (136 Metropolitan Avenue between Berry Street and Wythe Avenue; 718-384-3980; nitehawkcinema.com), Williamsburg's leading indie movie theater. Nitehawk was the first in NYC to get permission to serve alcohol in a movie theater and it does the eat + drink + movie experience right. Get a nightcap served to you in the theater and enjoy a big screen midnight film. Recent offerings included anime classic, Metropolis, Hardbodies, Night of the Living Dead, Dark Star, and Frankenhooker (yes, that's a real movie). For more unusual midnight movie choices, check out Spectacle (124 South 3rd Street near Bedford Avenue; spectacletheater.com), a community run theater staffed entirely by volunteers. It specializes in offbeat gems and has a price that's tough to beat ($5/movie).
7) BIG CUPPA JOE
Clear your morning head with a big cup of joe to go at slow-drip coffee geek mecca, Blue Bottle's Williamsburg location (160 Berry Street between North Fourth and North Fifth Streets; 718-387-4160; bluebottlecoffee.net), or grab the best espresso in the nabe at Parlor Coffee (82-84 Havemeyer Street; parlorcoffee.com), a hidden coffee counter located at the back of the Persons of Interest barber shop. If you prefer to find a place to sit for a bit, go to Toby's (125 North 6th Street; 347-457-6160; tobysestate.com), Black Brick (300 Bedford Avenue between South 1st Street and Grand Street; 718-384-0075; Black Brick on Facebook), or splurge on a cafe con leche at Cubana Social (70 North 6th Street; 718-782-3334; cubanasocial.com).
Smorgasburg, Brooklyn's premier outdoor weekly market for foodies, recently moved to a larger space on the waterfront (East River State Park at Kent Avenue and North 7th Street; smorgasburg.com). On Saturdays, 75-100 food vendors from all over NYC hawk their eats and food wares--from porchetta, dosas, Asian hot dogs, and lobster rolls to homemade gourmet kimchees, mayonnaise, and pickles. This is a fun way to sample a variety of food from local businesses and buy goodies to take home. It's open rain or shine through the end of November. On Sundays, the same space holds the Brooklyn Flea Market, run by the same group that runs Smorgasburg.
Enjoy the incredible view of Manhattan with a stroll along the East River waterfront. On the way
back up (or down), take a break at Kent Street and North 6th. There is a large park with benches where you can take in the sights and hang with the locals. This is also the location of one of two new ferry stations in Williamsburg. You can take the NY East River Ferry (eastriverferry.com) to/from Williamsburg, the Brooklyn Bridge/DUMBO, Governor's Island, E. 34th Street in Manhattan, and other stops for $4/single ride or $12 for an all-day pass.
10) FUN WITH ICE CREAM
Get an afternoon pick-me-up with innovative sweets at artisanal, small batch, premium ice cream and soda shop, Oddfellows (175 Kent Avenue; 347-599-0556; oddfellowsnyc.com), which has unlikely, but delicious, flavor combinations, including Cornbread, Maple-Bacon Pecan, Miso Butterscotch Cherry, and Buttermilk Blueberry, and even Burnt Marshmallow Milkshakes! At Momofuku Milk Bar's Williamsburg outpost (382 Metropolitan Avenue at Havemeyer; 347-577-9504; milkbarstore.com), make your teeth hurt with delights such as the infamous Crack Pie, Cereal Milk Shakes (with or without booze), and Compost Cookies.
11) SHOP TIL YOU DROP
Williamsburg is bursting with shops. Overflowing in fact. GQ even named it the best shopping neighborhood in the country. There is no way to even scratch the surface here, so I strongly recommend just walking around the neighborhood and checking out whatever strikes your fancy. That said, these are a few of my favorite stores. For vintage, visit Awoke Vintage (132 North 5th Street near Bedford Avenue; 718-387-3130; awokevintage.com) or Rabbits (120 Havemeyer Street between South 1st Street and Grand Street; 718-384-2181; rabbitsnyc.com). For new men's styles, check out Hickoree's (109 South 6th Street between Berry Street and Wythe Avenue; 347-294-0005; hickorees.com) and ID New York (232 Bedford Avenue between North 4th and 5th Streets; 718-599-0790; idnewyork.com), For both men and women, I've had good luck at Brooklyn Denim (85 North 3rd Street; 718-782-2600; brooklyndenimco.com), In God We Trust (129 Bedford Avenue between North 9th and 10th Streets; 718-384-0700; ingodwetrustnyc.com), and Joinery (263 South 1st Street between Roebling and Havemeyer Streets; 347-889-6164; joinerynyc.com), where I got really cool fishbone earrings. For hip, but not overly trendy clothes for women, check out Jumelle (148 Bedford Avenue between North 8th and 9th Streets; 718-388-9525; shopjumelle.com) and my go-to place, Meg (54 North 6th Street between Kent and Wythe Avenues; 347-294-0777; megshops.com), which has cute dresses and outfits appropriate for work. (Meg, the designer, is very nice and is often at this location.). Meg even offers free alterations anytime. I often covet the stylish eco-clothes, bags, and other accessories at GGrippo Art + Design (Grand Street near Bedford Avenue; beinfashionspain.com), a workspace + retail boutique that imports items from Bein in Spain.
Moving beyond clothing (whew!), Williamsburg loves its vinyl and real paper books (yes, those), so be sure to peruse the music and literary goodies at Spoonbill and Sugartown Booksellers (218 Bedford Avenue between North 4th and 5th Streets; 718-387-7322; spoonbillbooks.com), which has an excellent selection of art books, Academy Records Annex (96 North 6th Street between Berry Street and Wythe Avenue; 718-218-8200; academy-lps.com), Ear Wax Records (recently moved to 167 N. 9th street off Bedford Avenue;718-486-3771; Ear Wax on Twitter), and comic store, Desert Island (540 Metropolitan Avenue between Lorimer Street and Union Avenue; 718-388-5087; desertislandbrooklyn.com). Cool furniture and houseware shops abound, but don't miss the eclectic finds at RePop (143 Roebling Street between Metropolitan Avenue and Hope Street; 719-260-8032; repopny.com) and Golden Calf (319 Wythe Avenue between South 1st and 2nd Streets; 718-302-8800; goldencalfbrooklyn.com), where I bought a lovely Turkish tablecloth; kitchen specialist, Whisk (231 Bedford Avenue between North 3rd and 4th Streets; 718-218-7230; whisknyc.com); Fuego 718 (249 Grand Street between Driggs and Roebling Streets; 718-302-2913; fuego718.com) for the perfect Day of the Dead gift, and Future Perfect (115 North 6th Street between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street; 718-599-6278; thefutureperfect.com) and Open Air Modern (489 Lorimer Street between Grand and Powers Streets; 718-383-6465; openairmodern.com) for mid-century lovers, two of my favorite places for browsing stuff for my apartment that I usually can't afford (well, OK, I did buy an adorable owl pillow at Future Perfect once). Billyburg even has a surf store (we are located by the water after all and there's some good surfing out at the Rockaways and other locations), so get your toes on the nose with surfing boards, swimsuits, and gear at Pilgrim Surf + Supply (68 North 3rd Street between Wythe and Kent Avenues; 718-218-7456; pilgrimsurfsupply.com). I know I am having to leave out so many good places! Sorry, but my editor says I'm already way over on the word count. Moving on...
12) PRE-SHOW DINNER
Shopping (and writing about shopping) definitely works up an appetite, so sate it with an early dinner at any number of eclectic choices--from the adorable Bistro Petit (170 South 3rd Street at Driggs Avenue; 718-782-2582; bistropetit.com) which features delicious, refined Korean-French fusion to global tapas at Williamsburg stalwart, Traif (229 South 4th Street between Driggs Avenue and Roebling Street; 347-844-9578; traifny.com) and its sister Mexican nouveau restaurant, Xixa (241 South 4th Street; 718-388-8860; xixany.com). For a clandestine dinner date, get a private room for two, four, or more at multi-level Japanese izakaya, Zenkichi (77 North 6th Street between Berry Street and Wythe Avenue; 718-388-8985; zenkichi.com), or find the big bicycle sign by the Marcy Street subway station to enter the hidden Steampunk realm of Old-Meets-New-World European restaurant, Moto (394 Broadway between Keap and Hooper Streets; 718-599-6895; cafe-moto.com). 1 or 8 (66 South 2nd Street between Wythe and Kent Avenues; 718-384-2152; oneoreightbk.com) serves up excellent sushi, Japanese small plates, and not-to-be-missed shrimp dumplings in an all-white, modern setting. For rustic Italian fare, Aurora (70 Grand Street at Wythe Avenue; 718-388-1500; auroraristorante.com) has excellent handmade pastas, appetizers, and salads, and a large outdoor seating area. Charming St. Anselm (355 Metropolitan Avenue at Havemeyer Street; 718-384-5054; St. Anselm on Facebook) takes rustic even further with an open grill for expertly cooking steaks, chicken, fish, and veggies, including some of the best grilled mashed potatoes around. For more upscale, innovative cuisine, check out critically acclaimed, Gwynnett Street (312 Grapham Avenue between Ainslie and Devoe Streets; 347-889-7002; gwynnettst.com), or try to get a reservation at Aska (90 Wythe Avenue between North 10th and 11th Streets; 718-388-2969; askanyc.com) for experimental, perfectly composed Scandinavian dishes which are all the rage right now. And if you want to experience one of the best Neapolitan pizzas in NYC, make a point of visiting the recently re-opened Motorino (139 Broadway between Driggs Avenue and South 6th Street; 718-599-8899; motorinopizza.com) for a clam or margherita pie.
13) IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Williamsburg is an indie art lover's paradise. Book a main event at Music Hall of Williamsburg (66 North 6th Street between Berry Street and Wythe Avenue; musichallofwilliamsburg.com), the neighborhood's premier large(ish) music venue. Upcoming artists range from Heartless Bastards, CSS, and Polyphonic Spree to Paul Weller, Bob Saget, and Goblin. I saw Lianne La Havas here and it was an amazing show. For a more come-what-may experience, stop by Pete's Candy Store (709 Lorimer Street between Frost and Richardson Streets; 718-302-3770; petescandystore.com), a longtime Williamsburg dive bar + performance space, and see what's going on. There's live music every night at Pete's--sometimes well-known folk or roots artists; sometimes open mic for locals. On the first Monday of every month, they host a popular s-p-e-l-l-i-n-g b-e-e. For an alternative to music, see (or participate in) a live play at The Brick Theater (579 Metropolitan Avenue between Union Avenue and Lorimer Street; 718-285-3863; bricktheater.com) housed in a renovated garage. The Brick specializes in experimental theater, which sometimes involves having the audience be part of the fun (don't say I didn't warn you!). And if you prefer dance, check out the goings-on at Triskelion Arts (118 North 11th Street, 3rd Floor; 718-599-3577 ; triskelionarts.org) which is dedicated to helping and showing the work of rising choreographers.
14) PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM
I think it's time for something a little more intimate (cue music). Williamsburg is awash with small music venues that don't really get cranking until after 10pm. So, get a second wind going and enjoy a late-night show at the Williamsburg Jazz Music Center (367 Bedford Avenue at South 5th Street; 718-384-1654; wmcjazz.org), Glasslands (289 Kent Avenue; 718-599-1450; theglasslands.com) which focuses on punk and indie rock, and the legendary Knitting Factory (361 Metropolitan Avenue at Havemeyer Street; 347-529-6696; bk.knittingfactory.com) which relocated to the neighborhood a few years ago.
15) LATE NIGHT MUNCHIES
All those tunes got you all amped up? Wind down with a nosh at one of these late-night eateries, including local favorite, Snacky (187 Grand Street; 718-486-4848; Snacky on MenuPages), known for tasty bites, including Asian fusion tacos and pizza, dim sum, and peanut noodles; Rosamunde Sausage Grill (285 Bedford Avenue between South 1st and Grand Streets; 718-399-2170; rosamundesausagegrill.com) for fancy homemade hot dogs; Japanese tapas restaurant, Bozu (296 Grand Street between Roebling and Havemeyer Streets; 718-384-7770; oibozu.com), for Japanese ramen available only after midnight; more traditional British fare at Gordon Bennett (109 South 6th Street; 718-599-9109; Gordon Bennett on Facebook), and upscale gastropub food at Allswell (124 Bedford Avenue; 347-799-2743; allswellnyc.tumblr.com).
16) IT'S BRUNCHTIME
Wakey, wakey! I know what you're thinking--more eating??? But when you're in NYC on a Sunday, you do brunch. It's a rule. For the best brunch in Williamsburg, go to Diner (85 Broadway between Berry Street and Wythe Avenue; 718-486-3077; dinernyc.com), located in a renovated diner car with a tilted floor and servers who write your menu on the table. Diner always has innovative, delicious brunch dishes, wonderful sweets, and killer Bloody Marys. If the wait's too long, try its sister restaurant and general store, Marlow & Sons (81 Broadway; 718-384-1441; marlowandsons.com) next door, for a quieter meal (get the frittata, egg sandwich, and scone). Enjoy Brooklyn by way of Nice at one of my favorites, Pates et Traditions (52 Havemeyer Street between North 6th and 7th Streets; 718-302-1878; Pates on Facebook), which specializes in regional dishes from the South of France, particularly buckwheat crepes with a variety of sweet and savory fillings. If those don't appeal, consider a more traditional French bistro breakfast at Le Barricou (533 Grand Street between Union Avenue and Lorimer Street; 718-782-7372; lebarricouny.com), hearty pork belly, scotch eggs, meatloaf sandwiches, and hash at ever-popular, Rye (247 South 1st Street between Roebling and Havemeyer Streets; 718-218-8047; ryerestaurant.com), or brave the crowds at North Williamsburg hot spot, Five Leaves (18 Bedford Avenue between Nassau Avenue and Lorimer Street; 718-383-5345; fiveleavesny.com) for Moroccan scrambles, ricotta pancakes, burgers, and giant bowls of mussels and frites. If you just can't stomach a big brunch, grab a spicy breakfast taco and strong coffee to go at Whirlybird (254 South 2nd Street between Roebling and Havemeyer Streets; 718-384-1928; whirlybirdbrooklyn.com) or a real, homemade NYC bagel at Bagelsmith (189 Bedford Avenue between North 6th and 7th Streets; 718-218-7414; m.mainstreethub.com/bagelsmithbedford) or The Bagel Store (349 Bedford Avenue and South 4th Street; 718-218-7220; thebagelstoreonline.com).
17) LAZY SUNDAY
All this fun deserves a bit of relaxation. If you want to be outside, sit in the shade with a book at 35-acre McCarren Park (North 12th Street and Lorimer Street; nycgovparks.org/parks/mccarrenpark), site of many outdoor concerts and other activities, or choose from a variety of outdoor pool options, including the recently renovated McCarren Park Pool (Lorimer Street at Bedford Avenue; NYCGovParks.org) or pay for a more exclusive experience at King and Grove's large, three-season, saltwater, rooftop pool which is free for hotel guests and $35-$45/day for the public (160 North 12th Street between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street; 718-218-7500; kingandgrove.com). Award-winning Brooklyn Brewery (79 North 11th Street; brooklynbrewery.com), makes its home in Williamsburg and offers tastings and tours of its facility (make a reservation). If you prefer wine, try Brooklyn Oenology (209 Wythe Avenue between North 4th and 5th Streets; 718-599-1259; brooklynoenology.com) which focuses on local wines and has a tasting room open every day, or Brooklyn Wine (213 North 8th Street between Driggs Avenue and Roebling Street; 347-763-1506; bkwinery.com), which makes its own wine and even allows you to make your own! Brooklyn Wine's tasting room and wine bar are open every day, and they even offer good food to help the wine go down more easily. If your stomach needs a rest, just walk around the neighborhood, enjoy the free graffiti (there's lots of it--much of it interesting), and take in some art at a number of boutique galleries, such as Cinders (28 Marcy Avenue between Metropolitan Avenue and Hope Street; 718-388-2311; blog.cindersgallery.com) or Cotton Candy Machine (235 South 1st Street and Roebling Street; 718-387-3844; thecottoncandymachine.com) where I've bought several art music posters. Wrap it all up with a bow at local chocolatier, Mast Brothers, (111 North 3rd Street; 718-388-2625; mastbrothers.com) where you can see this dark chocolate being made and take home an almond sea salt bar, truffle, or maple syrup chocolate bar or two.
Greenpoint: North of Williamsburg is Greenpoint, NYC's Little Poland, which is increasingly attracting 20-somethings. There is no direct subway to Greenpoint from Manhattan, so it is a bit removed, but it borders Williamsburg, so it is easy to walk there if you're in the neighborhood. It's a mix of old and new worlds, with signs in Polish and Spanish interspersed with hip logos for coffee shops and bars servicing the incoming demographic. Glasserie, Paulie Gee's pizza, the Lobster Joint, and Indonesian at Selamat Pagi, are a few good eating options if you're up that way. And, of course, there are tons of traditional Polish places to try (mmm...pierogies!).
Bushwick: Just East of Williamsburg is Bushwick which is, like Greenpoint, increasingly attracting artists who can't afford Williamsburg. A couple of the best restaurants in NYC are in Bushwick -- Roberta's, which has amazing pizza (but do try other non-pizza, farm-to-table fare) with an outdoor party garden, and its upscale, Michelin star-level, sister restaurant Blanca -- and new restaurants are popping up all the time to service this growing community, including the popular Dear Bushwick.
IF YOU GO
From JFK or LGA airports, just take a cab to Williamsburg. From Manhattan, you can take the L (Bedford Avenue stop) or J/M/Z subway (Marcy Avenue stop). Williamsburg is the first stop in Brooklyn on both lines. Alternatively, you can walk or bike over the Williamsbridge Bridge from the Lower East Side of Manhattan, take a cab, or the East River Ferry.
Williamsburg is a walking neighborhood, like much of NYC, but if you want to, you can now rent a Citibike (multiple locations in Williamsburg...sometimes just a couple of blocks apart; citibikenyc.com) to get around. This might be a good option if you want to explore more of the neighborhood than you can manage on foot. Just be careful! Note that catching a cab in Williamsburg (or anywhere in Brooklyn) is not that easy, so if necessary, you may need to call for one to pick you up wherever you are. I usually use Northside Cab Service (718-387-2222; northsideluxury.com), but there are many others.
There are a couple of new hotels right in the heart of Williamsburg near McCarren Park. Luxury hotel, King and Grove (160 North 12th Street between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street; 718-218-7500; kingandgrove.com), has the aforementioned pool and will be opening a highly anticipated restaurant in Summer 2013 called Elm, helmed by well-respected chef, Paul Liebrandt. The Wythe Hotel (80 Wythe Avenue and North 12th Street; 718-460-8000; wythehotel.com) is across from Brooklyn Bowl and near the waterfront with roofdeck bar views that can't be beat. There's also Hotel Jolie (235 Meeker Avenue; 718-625-2100; hotellejolie.com), a small, more reasonably priced, hotel which is a bit further away, but still within easy walking distance of many shops and restaurants. If I had my choice, I'd stay at the Wythe.
Make sure to doublecheck hours for restaurants and shops carefully--some places do not have "regular" hours. Quite a few restaurants in Williamsburg are cash only, so be prepared for that too. Many don't take reservations, but some do, and given the popularity of the neighborhood, get a reservation if you can.
There are so many businesses and things to do that I've had to leave out. If you want to know about something in particular, email me or post a comment. For more on what to do in Williamsburg, here are a few other sites to check out: FreeWilliamsburg, The L Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, and Bedford + Bowery.
If you made it to the end of this, you deserve a medal! Thanks for reading, and if you visit, be sure to drop me a comment or email and let me know what you did that you loved (and anything you recommend people avoid!).