Tell me about Brooklyn
July 11, 2019 8:25 PM   Subscribe

Thanks to everyone who replied to my last question, where I was feeling a bit "meh" about my entire trip to New York City. I'm feeling more excited about it now and I've done more planning, so yay! I'm back looking for ideas! I'm staying in Brooklyn (East Williamsburg) during my trip and I *think* I want to spend the first two days of my trip (July 30&31) in Brooklyn and take it easy. What should I not miss during these two days?

I know that East Williamsburg is closer to Manhattan than certain areas of Brooklyn by subway, so maybe spending the first two days in Brooklyn is illogical!

I know for sure I'd like to visit Prospect Park and the New York Transit Museum, but aside from that I'm not sure what I should see.

Also, what should I be eating in Brooklyn? I like good food, but I'd like to stay with moderately-priced/casual-ish restaurants or low key bars. Nothing too fancy.
posted by VirginiaPlain to Travel & Transportation around New York (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I would go to the Brooklyn Bridge Park for a place to stroll and relax.
posted by AugustWest at 9:37 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]

The transit museum really is great, don’t miss it.

I loved what we saw in the Brooklyn Museum, if you are interested in art. If you knit/crochet/sew, Brooklyn General Store has the most amazing things (on the fancy yarn store side and not the budget/acrylic end). Human Relations is a great used book store.

In terms of meals, I think Champs Diner was my favourite place when we stayed in Brooklyn - it’s vegan and has a mostly diner style menu. The po’ boy was delicious.
posted by carbide at 12:37 AM on July 12

When you're ready to get out there and explore more of NYC I can recommend to walk over the Brooklyn bridge into Manhattan. If the weather is nice it has some great views. Want to explore more exotic yet still reasonably priced ethnic food? Head on over to Roosevelt avenue in Queens. With 2 weeks you will *not* run out of things to do even if it's just exploring and walking around. I used to live in NYC many years ago but it was only on a recent visit back that I finally got around going waaaaay up to the northern tip of Manhattan and visiting the Cloisters.

you *will* have a great time!
posted by alchemist at 1:39 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]

Depending on where you are in E. Williamsburg, the curated street art of Bushwick is either a quick walk or a subway stop or two on the L train.

Tons of places to coffee up, eat and drink in B'wick, too. This new turkish place is the hotness right now.

Check out House of Yes if you wanna get your Burning Man flavored dance or art or weird film thing on....
posted by newpotato at 5:53 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]

And if you're going over to Astoria for the great cheap eats, I highly recommend going to PS1, my favorite museum in the city. It's small, housed in an old school and has an excellent cafe. Also near Astoria are the Noguchi Museum and the Socrates Sculpture Park, very near each other.
posted by newpotato at 6:01 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]

The Brooklyn Botanical Garden is an excellent spot to while away an afternoon--or whole day.
posted by carrioncomfort at 6:07 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]

You'll have a great time, you could easily spend two weeks in Brooklyn alone and not run out of things to do.

One thing to note is that it can be kind of annoying to get between different neighborhoods in Brooklyn, so I do recommend choosing one neighborhood each day or each half a day and sticking to that.

The transit museum and Brooklyn Bridge park are close to each other, and would make a nice day. For food around there, there's a food court in City Point Shopping Center that has outposts of a lot of good NYC restaurants, including cheaper ones, that you would do nicely for yourself in. If you need an A/C break, Alamo Drafthouse is a cool movie theater in the same center.

I would then suggest a day at the Brooklyn Museum and Prospect Park. There's a cute little zoo in the park, if that's your thing, as well as a nice botanic garden right there. I like Gladys Caribbean and Lincoln Station sandwiches around there, and Ample Hills is a beloved Brooklyn ice cream shop not too far away.

Williamsburg and, maybe, Greenpoint would easily fill another day -- maybe your first day? East Williamsburg has great beer, if you like beer -- Interboro, Grimm, and Kings County Brewers Collective -- as well as great food (I like Bunna Cafe) and street art. Williamsburg has a metric ton of cute shops and bars, especially if you just walk down Driggs, Bedford, and Berry Streets between around Metropolitan and North 8th. Go to Crif Dogs if you like hot dogs! And Greenpoint has polish food (try the Polish and Slavic Center Cafeteria if you're there when it's open!), more good bars, and a quieter neighborhood feel.

You'll do fine for cheap, good food -- Google maps and yelp are perfectly fine to find you a place near where you are in a certain price range.
posted by EmilyFlew at 6:21 AM on July 12 [3 favorites]

Oh PS -- check museum hours before you go, I know the Brooklyn Museum for one is closed on Tuesdays. Also, I like walking over the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan. It's not quite as scenic as the Manhattan or Brooklyn Bridges, but it's much less crowded and it drops you off in the Lower East Side, which has so much great stuff to explore.
posted by EmilyFlew at 6:25 AM on July 12

* Pulls up chair and sits down *

Right. I have lived in Brooklyn for 12 years, I'm a member of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, I'm a 20 minute walk from the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and I like finding quirky things to do. In short - I Have Thoughts.

I know that East Williamsburg is closer to Manhattan than certain areas of Brooklyn by subway, so maybe spending the first two days in Brooklyn is illogical!

It's not necessarily that difficult to get around Brooklyn from where you are. You are fairly near some city buses and a subway (the G train) that everyone scoffs at because it doesn't go into Manhattan, but is actually a good way to get to some fairly popular non-Manhattan areas of town. The G train runs from Long Island City in Queens down through the neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Williamsburg - mostly the Eastern part of Williamsburg - before turning through the neighborhood of Bushwick (which I suspect is also near where you are, or you may even be IN Bushwick; some realtors fudge the boundary between those neighborhoods), then Bed-Stuy, then Clinton Hill and Fort Greene (where I live!) down through Cobble Hill and then to Park Slope, and there's a stop on Prospect Park. All of those neighborhoods I just mentioned will have things to see, and they're all different -

* Williamsburg is full of shops and funky restaurants, lots of vintage clothing stores and artisinal coffee roasters. There's also a small museum devoted to the history of food, a brewery that gives tours, and a cool bowling alley that sometimes has concerts.

* Bushwick is where a lot of the trendy artsy people moved when Williamsburg got too passe, and it's hot now. A fun free thing to do is to simply walk around the streets and check out the various murals everywhere that people have put up all over. I also recently had a very fine meal at a seafood place there.

* Greenpoint is a little scruffier than Williamsburg, but in an interesting way - there are more indie restaurants and shops. There's also still a sizeable Polish presence (the neighborhood used to be a sort of "Little Poland"), and you can find some good restaurants catering to that population; I had lunch with a friend and enjoyed a huge plate of pierogi and an enormous salad for only about 20 bucks. Another fun thing - there's a laundromat in Greenpoint that has a "secret" back room with a full bar and about 20 pinball machines. It's a great little weird fun place.

* Bed-Stuy is a neighborhood that's kind of on the cusp of gentrification. Historically it's been an African-American neighborhood for years (Spike Lee's movie Do The Right Thing was set there), but the western edge is starting to see some gentrifiers moving in. Still there's a lot of the old neighborhood left, and you can get good barbecue at Peaches in that neighborhood.

* Clinton Hill and Fort Greene are technically different neighborhoods but are both small enough for you to just consider them one; Clinton Hill is the northern, more residential half, that still has some beautiful, graceful old houses, perfect for a stroll; there's still plenty of shops, little coffee places, and fancy-pants restaurants. (I would be remiss if I didn't mention my local, as well, a place I refer to as Best Bar In The World but which I usually visit for brunch. And yes, their signature cocktails this summer are all inspired by Game of Thrones.) Fort Greene is where you'll find even more shops and restaurants, including Habana Outpost, a Mexican/Cuban inspired place that does great roast corn. (Sunday nights they also screen free movies on their patio.)

* Cobble Hill is on the cusp of turning into a "Little Paris" - it doesn't look all that different from a random Brooklyn neighborhood yet, but if you pay attention, you'll hear a little more French spoken by the people around you, and you'll notice one or two more French cafes than you'd find in other neighborhoods. (That is, that's what you'll usually notice - if you go during Bastille Day the neighborhood throws an enormous block party and the French influence is obvious.)

* Park Slope is almost stereotypically families-with-young-kids, but still has a lot of lovely graceful buildings that make for a nice stroll.

* The Prospect Park stop on the G train lets you off at the corner of 15th Street and Prospect; that's about midway down the north-south size of the park and right at the western edge, so it's a good place to enter to explore.

And that's all just on the G train! I haven't even gotten to Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO (super-old and lovely historic houses for Brooklyn Heights, cool shops and galleries and a waterfront park for DUMBO), the Brooklyn Bridge Park (which shows free movies every Thursday night in summer, has free kayaking on the weekends, and has its own little pop-up restaurants and such throughout, including an outpost of what I think is the best ice cream in the city), Vinegar Hill (a small and sleepy little neighborhood that nevertheless has some fascinating houses), the old Navy Yard (where you can find a distillery that gives tours and a tiny waterfront history museum), Red Hook (an old waterfront shipping neighborhood that got a little cut off from the city when the subway was built, but is being made over at a bit of a slower pace; there's a fantastic bakery and a couple of funky bars, a little folk club and performance venue and a place that serves nothing but key lime pies, including key lime pies in POPSICLE form), Gowanus (a formerly industrial part of town that is undergoing some rapid changes - note, though, that the canal in the center is NOT the most pleasant place as it's quite dirty), Dyker Heights (a suburban-looking neighborhood full of beautiful houses), Sunset Park (a neighborhood that has both a "Little Mexico" and a "Little Chinatown" within two blocks of each other), Brighton Beach ("Little Russia"), and Coney Island (duh).

I know for sure I'd like to visit Prospect Park and the New York Transit Museum, but aside from that I'm not sure what I should see.

I've given some ideas above. Some I haven't mentioned yet:

* Yes to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the Brooklyn Museum. These are right next door to each other, and are both small enough that you can do them both in one day. (They even offer a combo ticket.) Or - if you are here on the first Saturday of the month, hit up Brooklyn Museum that night; they are free to the public from 5 pm until closing on the first Saturday of every month, and have a bunch of special programs throughout the museum, like lectures, concerts, films, kids' activities...all free. Or you could just hit up the free admission and check out the regular collection.

* Go to Coney Island, if for no other reason than just to look. But I urge you to at least consider riding the Cyclone.

* The Brooklyn Historical Society is walking distance from the Transit Museum, and both are small enough that you could do both in the same day.

* Green-Wood Cemetery is the final resting place of some famous people, and they give tours; you can also walk around yourself, they have a free map online with some of the famous residents' gravesites marked.

Also, what should I be eating in Brooklyn? I like good food, but I'd like to stay with moderately-priced/casual-ish restaurants or low key bars. Nothing too fancy.

You will be spoiled for choice at any price point, trust me. A fun thing to check out, though, is Smorgasburg, an enormous food-stall/food-truck festival-type-thing that happens every weekend; on Saturdays it's at a waterfront park in Williamsburg, and on Sundays it's in Prospect Park. I've seen everything from Thai noodles to Jamaica jerk chicken to "Ramenburgers" (burgers that use ramen noodles as the bun) to vegan rice bowls to single-origin chocolate bars to Persian ice cream there.

I am happy to make more detailed recommendations based on your location and other interests if you want to memail me. I very much love Brooklyn and I love helping people find things to do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:47 AM on July 12 [15 favorites]

East Willy shouldn't be too far from Monsieur Gus' L'Imprimerie. Start your day at a wonderful boulangerie and plan your itinerary over genuinely French croissants.
posted by whuppy at 9:27 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]

Speaking of breakfast, you should probably have a hearty one at Junior's the day you walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
posted by whuppy at 9:31 AM on July 12

* smacks forehead *

Junior's is the one place I should have included that I should be embarrassed about not including in my mega-comment. It's an old-school Brooklyn standby.

Go for breakfast, sure, but also go for a slice of cheesecake done right. Even if you don't think you like cheesecake; they do funky things with cheesecakes. Their Devil's Food Cheesecake is basically a devil's food cake with an entire cheesecake slammed between the two layers of cake and is exactly as amazing as that sounds.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:02 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]

One thing "moderately-priced/casual-ish restaurants" in NYC still means you'll drop $35-$50 on a meal. I think you want to check out cheap immigrant cuisine. Polish in williamsburg, Mexican food in Bushwick, Carribean food in Crown Heights (look for Roti shop, they sell carribean burritos basically) are good thoughts. The L will be not running that well on the weekends, so keep that in mind for dates you can hang out in BK.
posted by sandmanwv at 11:10 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]

Kind of off topic, but don't miss queens night market while you are in town. It's the best thing in all of NYC (I live here). Happens on Saturday, you need cash and it's a pain to get to. But, my god is it worth it.
posted by KMoney at 6:21 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]

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