We can just drive around Brooklyn!
November 29, 2013 7:14 AM   Subscribe

Help! My brother and his many children (ranging from 4 - 19 in age) are heading up to visit from PA right now. They live in Illinois, and spent Thanksgiving with other relatives. They are only coming for the day, and when I asked what they wanted to do, my brother said "we can just drive around and see Brooklyn".

So...I don't drive. I live in Greenpoint, and I realized that most of my activities are things that would appeal to adults but not little kids and teenagers. A drive through Brooklyn would be fun and interesting...if I had a series of small stops we would make along the way to create the adventure. I'm probably nervous but I'm just blanking! I am way more familiar with North Brooklyn and Manhattan. Any suggestions? I was thinking of the Superhero Store for one. Any amazing historical ice cream shops I should know about? Places to stop for quintessential neighborhood treats? The best pizza slice in the world? What route to take? Thanks in advance for any suggestions!
posted by catrae to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: maybe head down to park slope and cruise through 5th ave? lots of little shops there. then head over to prospect park and crunch through a bunch of fallen leaves. after that, drive over to the waterfront and piers in brooklyn heights to get some nice views of the city. for pizza, while you're in that neighborhood you can hit up Juliana's (the real Grimaldi's).
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 7:18 AM on November 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by molecicco at 7:20 AM on November 29, 2013

Uh, hm.... I'm pretty sure driving around Brooklyn isn't that fun for kids. I would definitely have him park, get on the train and head to Manhattan to a museum or something.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:22 AM on November 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Promenade, grimaldis and brooklyn bridge park is my go to for out of town visitors. Might also want to check out Brooklyn farmacy in carroll gardens for the kids. Not sure if it's open but prospect park/brooklyn botantic gardens/brooklyn museum are all next to each other and have kid friendly exhibits.
posted by tabula rasa at 7:24 AM on November 29, 2013

Just driving around Brooklyn sounds fine, I guess, but driving around and making a bunch of little stops sounds like fresh hell. In the vast majority of Brooklyn neighborhoods it's hard to find street parking, so you're going to be driving around Brooklyn [in circles, looking for parking] quite a bit for each planned stop.

Does your brother know NYC fairly well and/or understand that we do not have the car culture that is omnipresent in most of the US? "We can just drive around and see Brooklyn" might have been his version of "we can just walk around and see Brooklyn" which is so much more sane and appropriate.

Not sure about the distribution of ages of the kids, but the Transit Museum in Downtown Brooklyn is great for the younger ones, and it positions you well to walk to Brooklyn Bridge Park. Once you've walked through Brooklyn Bridge Park (it's less than a mile), you'll arrive in DUMBO for the aforementioned Juliana's pizza and The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.
posted by telegraph at 7:25 AM on November 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding the Transit Museum, it's a hoot.
posted by troika at 7:37 AM on November 29, 2013

Best answer: I respectfully disagree about car culture in Brooklyn, since our spoke-and-hub subway system makes driving a far better option for intra-boro transit.

Of course, street parking isn't always fun, but it's easy to park once in a given neighborhood and plan to do a lot of walking. I don't know how this will fly with kids in that age range, so give yourself lots of wiggle room and try to keep things loose.

If you're starting in Greenpoint, pack some Peter Pan Donuts for the ride (but you didn't need me to tell you that). Since it's vaguely on the way, and since I'm sure they want to experience Williamsburg, you might stop at Desert Island on Metropolitan, hidden behind a former bakery sign, to pick up some comix for those seeking distraction. Then, since you've got a car, why not head out to Red Hook and enjoy brunch at Hope & Anchor? It's spacious and delicious. Plus, the segment of the BQE that loops around Brooklyn Heights provides the most majestic views of Manhattan. While you're in Red Hook, you might enjoy the Waterfront Museum, situated on an awesome barge and only open Saturdays from 1-5pm (it has a sweet Rube Goldberg machine), or perhaps you'd like to pick up some Steve's Key Lime Pies (their cool shop is situated in a hidden little industrial corner of Red Hook with cobblestone streets and lots of factories). Next, I'd definitely head to the Slope to check out the Superhero Supply Co. If everybody's tired of driving already and feeling up for some physical activity, maybe I'd head Gowanus-ward to spend a couple hours scrambling up walls at Brooklyn Boulders. Fun for all ages. Then: lunch! Pizza! Spumoni Gardens, in Bensonhurst, is the place to trek to. They've got a parking lot, and divine Sicilian slices. It'll take you halfway across Brooklyn, but that's why you're driving, right? On the way back, you might be able to experience the famed Dyker Heights Christmas lights. Things start lighting up right after Thanksgiving, but I'm not sure if this weekend will be too soon for you to experience the real deal. But either way, you can park on the side of the Belt just under the Verrazano and enjoy its ridiculous size and the huge ships floating up the Narrows beneath it. And finally, on my way back to Greenpoint, I would park in DUMBO, take in the aforementioned Ice Cream Factory, or Jacques Torres (whose chocolate factory is right next door to their retail store!), perhaps stop at powerHouse Books, and then walk around under the bridges. The ever-expanding park is lovely, and it comes replete with an awesome little beach under the Manhattan Bridge.

Look. This is ambitious. It's already 11, and you've got young kids. But my argument is that driving around Brooklyn gives you the complete freedom to explore America's fourth largest city while pivoting on the fly, experiencing some beautiful sights and entertaining kith and kin of all ages. You guys should hop in the car, fire up Yelp and pretend there's no such thing as peak oil. If you're hungry, eat. If you want to see the sights, open your eyes. If you want to play, play. You can only plan so much.

Happy Thanksgiving!
posted by thejoshu at 8:00 AM on November 29, 2013 [10 favorites]

(Whoops, it's Friday! You'll have to save the barge for next time.)
posted by thejoshu at 8:01 AM on November 29, 2013

Brooklyn boulders to expend some teen energy.
posted by shothotbot at 8:56 AM on November 29, 2013

Best answer: I'm a big fan of aimlessly driving around Brooklyn and have done so many times, and I feel it's an activity that doesn't necessarily require a lot of advance planning. You don't need to worry about planning a lot of stops, as driving through an area with so many distinct and wildly different neighborhoods will be plenty interesting for your guests on its own, and you can make stops as needed/requested. As long as the non-driving adult has access to a smartphone you can adjust your route as desired and look up things to do nearby. Since you'll have several kids of rather disparate ages I think you'll have more luck letting them guide the trip as it happens rather than overplan and having them complain/disagree about where they're going.

Bedford Ave or Franklin/Wythe Ave: Will take you north/south between Greenpoint - Williamsburg - Bed-Stuy - Crown Heights - Lefferts Garden - Flatbush and all points south

Ocean Parkway between Coney Island and Prospect Park

Loop around Prospect Park

4th Ave from Atlantic Ave all the way down to the tip of Bay Ridge, and either back up to follow the D/N from where they split from the R or down the Cross Bay Parkway towards Coney Island

Grand Army Plaza - Eastern Parkway - Broadway Junction - Broadway - Broadway Triangle. From Broadway Triangle you can take Graham Ave. back into Williamsburg/Greenpoint or take Flushing Ave. to head towards Downtown Brooklyn

Drive around Green-Wood Cemetery

If they don't mind leaving Brooklyn:
Flatbush ave all the way to the Rockaways, then drive up and down along the water (note that this requires crossing a bridge with a $3.50 toll)
McGuinness Boulevard into Astoria, then to Astoria Park (great views, free parking)

You can also let each kid take turns picking a random destination/direction/neighborhood.


I don't have any specific recommendations for individual places but I would look through some of Gothamist's Best Of lists, either to earmark some places to stop by in each area you pass through or to let the kids look through the lists and pick a few places they're interested in stopping by.

While I love the Brooklyn waterfront and definitely think you should bring them there, keep in mind that it will be particularly cold and windy there and it might not be tolerable to walk around for extended periods of time.
posted by fox problems at 12:26 PM on November 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Just wanted to follow up with a huge THANKS to all of you, esp. fox problems and thejoshu. So, I found out that driving around Brooklyn for an adventure is a blast! Especially with people who are from a small town in Southern Illinois- so much to see and everything is unique! Thanks for the suggestions everyone.
posted by catrae at 7:37 AM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

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