The hippest place to hang out in New York this summer
By Tim Donnelly
June 21, 2014 | 5:17pm
The hottest way to kick up your heels this summer? Dancing the night away at the Playland Motel, a year-old space that’s helping the Rockaways shift from a storm-battered cove to its former glory as a premier New York beach.
The motel’s bar is booking big-name DJs, including MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden, for dance parties where sweaty, scantily clad bodies gyrate. And the setting is just as cool as the music.
The walls of the bar are made of weathered wood, reminiscent of a beach shack, and the space is filled with bright orange tables and a light-up neon palm tree. Beachgoers in their 20s and early 30s, clad in coverups and pastel shorts, drag sand in with them. Some carry skateboards; surfers pop in after a day on the waves.
“I really love the idea of the Rockaways becoming something bigger and better,” says Hank O’Donnell, a 24-year-old Williamsburg resident who works in real estate. Like him, many of Playland’s patrons are young Brooklynites visiting the area for the day.
The hot spot opened last Fourth of July weekend across the street from the old Playland amusement park, which was torn down in 1987 after 86 years of operation. And although Playland is techincally a hotel by function, the real draw is the backyard: a large, sandy area with a bar, candy-colored lawn chairs, wading pools, pingpong and cornhole.
“We became enamored with the Rockaways,” says co-owner Robin Scott of the inspiration to open Playland. “We were also a little bit worn out on trying to get down to Montauk and the Hamptons.”
And unlike the Hamptons, you can comfortably wear your bikini in the bar without any sneers or sidelong glances.
“After the beach, you don’t want anything uptight,” says Giulia Simioni, 32, who’s sipping a Landshark beer. She’s been to the Playland to mingle with surfers almost every weekend since last summer.
Playland has become a the hangout of choice for 20 and 30-something Brooklynites visiting the Rockaways for the day.
For 2014, the motel brought in artists to redesign some of the guest rooms and added a new food option, Bolivian Llama Party, which serves empanadas and pork sandwiches. Attached to the establishment is Whit’s End, a pizzeria run by Whitney Aycock, who serves up wood-fired pies with fresh ingredients such as arugula and lemon ricotta. Alcock, who lives on the Rockaway peninsula, says Playland is way overdue.
“It should’ve been here forever ago,” says Aycock, 40. “No pretension — [it just] fits the neighborhood.”