Indie music, artisan cocktails, graffiti art. An underground club? No — just the lobby at the Ace Hotel. The rock-and-roll Ace is at the forefront of a New York City boom in hipster hotels. But, like any self-respecting hipster, most of these hotels would probably loathe being labeled as such. Whatever you call them, hotels like the Ace, the Standard, and the Bowery share a cool-kid sensibility, with everything from vintage furnishings and salvaged-wood beds to Jackson Pollock-style modern art and small-batch booze in the minibar to scene-stealing rooftop lounges. Here are our top hip picks.
If Jean-Michel Basquiat and a tech start-up got together to design a hotel lobby, it might look like the Ace Hotel in the Flatiron. The massive lobby is the face of the Ace, and it’s a 21st-century blend of digital savvy, urban art and funky coffeehouse. Eighteen-foot ceilings rise over thrift-store sofas and communal wooden tables, and a wall of 4,000 graffiti stickers collected by Bronx artist Michael Anderson brings the grit of the city streets into the room. As well, the Ace lobby features a live music and events lineup that is on par with the best clubs and galleries in town.
The lobby may be the centerpiece, but it’s ringed by equally buzzy enclaves, like the Michelin-starred, meat-centric The Breslin, helmed by the princess of pork April Bloomfield. Also at the Ace is Stumptown, the first East Coast branch of the cult coffee chain from Portland (the Ace’s home base), which hand-selects its beans from organic farms in El Salvador and Indonesia. The Ace’s bold artistic sensibility floats up through all the floors. Each room and suite has a distinct, original piece of art, like a wall painted with intertwining black tree branches that appear to be dripping paint. Ace Hotel owner Alex Calderwood has a background in fashion and design, and the furnishings showcase this, from old wooden chests to turntables to desk-mounted pencil-sharpeners. Remember those? 20 W. 29th St., 212-679-2222, acehotel.com; from $189
The Jane Hotel
Greenwich Village may be famous for its bohemian history, but it can sometimes be hard to find any trace of it amid the million-dollar brownstones and cupcake shops. Not so at the Jane Hotel from hoteliers Sean MacPherson and Eric Goode. The two both have ample experience in creating “of the moment” spaces (they worked together on the Bowery Hotel and MacPherson, known for having something of a Midas touch with hotels, was the mastermind behind the Waverly Inn) and cleverly mined the quirky legacy of the West Village at the Jane, which was once home to Titanic survivors and, later, sailors. Oddball details abound, including a carved moose head and stuffed monkey bellhops (really). The rooms are modeled after vintage train compartments, complete with brass hooks for hanging clothes. Yes, rooms are snug at just 50 square feet, but those searching for New York’s hippest spaces are coming to see the city, not the inside of their hotel room, and the petite floor plan translates into the some cheapest prices in the West Village — starting at 99 bucks for a room with shared bathroom. For the scene’s more elder statesman, there are the considerably larger Captain’s Cabins, with marble bathrooms with rainfall showerheads, which start at $225.
One of the benefits of staying at the Jane is that you’ve got a built-in nighttime hangout. The Jane Ballroom, the former site of a theater that hosted Hedwig and the Angry Inch, is where guests and discerning A-listers sip artisan cocktails amid potted palms and a faded disco ball. And if you kick off the morning with an ink-black espresso at the hotel’s French-Moroccan Café Gitane, you’ll be doing so with the elites of the art-fashion-and-trust fund set. Note that Sean MacPherson’s growing empire includes the funky new Marlton, also in the West Village, which opened in 2013 in a 1900 landmark building where Jack Kerouac penned two novellas. 113 Jane St., 212-924-6700, thejanenyc.com; from $89
King & Grove, Williamsburg
When a hotel hits the pages of Esquire in an article titled “What to Wear, Where,” there’s no question of its place on the trendy circuit. The stylish, eight-story hotel, rising over McCarren Park in Brooklyn, ticks all the hipster boxes — saltwater pool, rooftop bar (with rockin’ music, like reggae nights), a cocktail menu by Johnny Swet (Pastis, Freemans) and the restaurant Elm, by Michelin-starred chef Paul Liebrandt. The rooftop bar Upper Elm hosts all sorts of cool events, including DJs and performances by local bands.
Amid all this activity, the 64 rooms are refreshingly restrained. A model of minimalist chic, the airy rooms feature bamboo flooring, crisp white linens and marble bathrooms. Of course, the hotel’s location alone would warrant the hipster label: It’s in the center of Williamsburg, just a short stroll from numerous activities that get the cool stamp of approval: bowling (Brooklyn Bowl), locally sourced beer (Brooklyn Brewery), progressive art (Pierogi) and cocktail-fueled spelling bees (Pete’s Candy Store). 160 N. 12th St., Brooklyn, 718-218-7500, kingandgrove.com; from $189
It could be the image of Andy Warhol on the bottom of the rooftop pool. Or the lightbox headboards by artist Lee Friedlander. Or maybe it’s the new Blue Ribbon Beer Garden that opened this year, where you can drink imported suds with names like Evil Twin Ryan and the Beaster Bunny, along with pork rinds and barbecue Cornish hen. Hipness emanates from all corners at the handsome Thompson LES, which rises over Allen Street. Of course, that’s no surprise for those familiar with the Thompson Hotel brand (60 Thompson in SoHo, Gild Hall near Wall Street), which was one of NYC’s earliest trendy boutique chains to stake claim in Manhattan with its opening in 2008. But, it’s here in the Lower East Side that the Thompson aesthetic seems to be most at home. From the industrial design by Ed Rawlings Architects to the potent cocktails at the Above Allen bar to the delectable sushi at the always jammed Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya, Thompson LES has reached the top tier of hipness in the LES, where competition is fierce. Pack the skinny jeans and bowler hat. 190 Allen St., 212-460-5300, thompsonhotels.com; from $399
The Standard High Line
A hip hotel is often an extension of its owner, and that’s certainly the case with the Standard High Line. The dashing Andre Balazs (who has dated everyone from Uma Thurman to Naomi Campbell) makes as many headlines as his hotels. And his hotels make plenty of headlines, including the star-magnet Chateau Marmont in Hollywood and this Page Six darling, the Standard High Line, an 18-story tower that straddles the High Line, an elevated park. The Meatpacking District was already trendy, but its hipness quotient spiked when the Standard moved in.
When picking a room, it’s hard to go wrong: All 338 rooms have views — choose between river or city — and floor-to-ceiling windows that actually crack open. Many of the rooms have glass-walled bathrooms for true loos with a view. It’s the Standard’s dining and drinking, however, that solidified its hipster cred: Guzzle beer and chow on sausages at the boisterous Biergarten, which has cornered the neighborhood market on happy hour. Or, take the party upstairs, to Le Bain, a penthouse disco with a summer plunge pool, or the Top of the Standard (formerly the Boom Boom Room), where you can look out at views of Manhattan while sipping a cocktail of the same name. 848 Washington St., 212-645-4646, standardhotels.com; from $379
Hip hotels are proliferating in Brooklyn faster than handlebar mustaches. The Wythe is one of them. In fact, the hotel has become a fixture in Williamsburg. Built in a renovated factory on the Williamsburg waterfront, the Wythe Hotel incorporates local materials and art throughout the hotel, including in the loft-style rooms with exposed-brick walls. Beds are made from salvaged wood, custom-made wallpaper comes from Brooklyn-based Flavor Paper and bath products are courtesy of Rockaway-based Goldies. And the booze in the mini bar? Small-batch, of course. The local theme continues enthusiastically in the restaurant, Reynard, run by the team behind Marlow & Sons and Diner, with a seasonal menu that might include scallops with sweet potatoes and bacon, and trout with yogurt and turnips. The Ides bar, which unfolds on the sprawling sixth floor, swells nightly with a crowd that’s as eye-catching as the view. 80 Wythe Ave., Brooklyn, 718-460-8000, wythehotel.com; from $195
Never underestimate the allure of nostalgia. Walk into the velvet-strewn lobby of the Bowery Hotel, with its faded oriental rugs and tasseled pillows, and you might expect to see Hemingway puffing a cigar in the corner. Eschewing the glass-and-steel route, Sean MacPherson and Eric Goode (yes, they make this list twice) went Old World or, as New York Magazine put it, “more bootleg than boutique.” Of course, the fact that they chose the Bowery as their location is probably their boldest move. Yes, the area is gentrifying rapidly (witness the Whole Foods at Bowery and Houston), but the street still has plenty of leftover grit from its days as a strip of brothels and flophouses. Grit, of course, draws trendsters like honey draws flies. Even if you don’t stay here, you can soak in the Bowery hotel ambiance at the farmhouse-chic Gemma — all stone walls, dripping candles and distressed woods — where the country dishes are as homey as the crowd isn’t. The cocktails, though, hit the perfect balance, like the concoction of Old Overholt whiskey, Luxardo maraschino liqueur and dry vermouth, with this hipster name: Brooklyn Boy. 335 Bowery, 212-505-9100, theboweryhotel.com; from $425
Z Hotel NYC and Ravel Hotel, Long Island City
When it comes to views, Long Island City is the King of Queens. The same could be said for its trendy hotels. New hotels have been sprouting up in this industrial Queens neighborhood faster than Starbucks in Manhattan (which is saying a lot). Top of the heap are the stylish Z Hotel NY and Ravel Hotel, which maximize their stunning Manhattan views with floor-to-ceiling windows and rooftop bars, where you can sip cocktails against a stunning skyline backdrop.
It’s the surrounding neighborhood, however, that bestows hipster status on these hotels. After all, you’re only as cool as your newest cool find, and LIC is very much that. The neighborhood, with a long history of progressive art, has eclipsed most parts of Manhattan as fertile new ground for galleries, artist studios, bars and, now, hotels. Case in point: Due to open later this year is the Paper Factory Hotel, which is housed in, yes, an old paper factory, with airy rooms built up around old printing equipment. Z Hotel NYC: 11-01 43rd Ave., 212-319-7000, Queens, zhotelny.com; from $175 and Ravel Hotel: 8-08 Queens Plaza South, Queens, 718-289-6101, ravelhotel.com;from $155
Discover more of top places to see and things to do while in New York City with our Best of New York series.