Bucket List Worthy
By Jessica Festa
The Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Top of the Rock, and the Chrysler Building; these are all quintessential New York City attractions. There is, however. one experience many travellers are missing out on: Brooklyn.
As a resident of this outer borough, I’m always asking NYC visitors if Brooklyn is in their plans. Unfortunately, I often find people have safety concerns, are confused about how to get there, or are clueless about activity offerings. To help change that, I’ve put together this list of 10 reasons why you should add Brooklyn to your NYC itinerary.
There’s a misconception that Brooklyn is far away — most likely because you have to cross a bridge to reach it. The truth is getting to Brooklyn is no more of a hassle than getting around Manhattan, as a number of subway lines connect to the outer borough.
If you’re in downtown Manhattan, you can be in Williamsburg in less than 15 minutes. For those unfamiliar with the NYC subway system, apps like Embark and HopStop let you enter in your starting and ending points for clearly laid out directions. And if you’re uncomfortable navigating subways, taxis are inexpensive from lower Manhattan.
To eliminate surprises with costs, try Uber for inexpensive car service and upfront pricing.
New York City has a reputation for being expensive. While there are many outrageously priced restaurants, hotels, and attractions in the city, Brooklyn’s offerings tend to be less expensive but still of high quality. For example, while a craft cocktail in Manhattan will often cost about $12 to $15, speakeasy-style venues in Brooklyn tend to range from $8 to $12. Restaurants, shops, bars and experiences also tend to be more affordable. Because Brooklyn is less touristy, you’re less likely to have to deal with markups based on the fact you’re not a local.
Walking around Times Square can send even the calmest person into a panic attack. Even moving away from Midtown can be overwhelming when you combine the crowds with Manhattan’s looming skyscrapers, incessant traffic, and rapid pace. Despite Brooklyn’s enormous size, people move at a slower pace, with the borough having a more neighbourhood-like feel.
Brooklyn also tends to be more easy-going, especially when it comes to food and drink. Don’t worry if you left your heels or dress shirt at home, as anything goes in B.K.!
I realize this is a blanket statement and not everywhere in Brooklyn is safe. However, there are many locations where — as long as you use common sense — you don’t need to worry, like Williamsburg, Bushwick, Greenpoint, Park Slope, Fort Greene, Cobble Hill, and Gowanus. If you’re unsure of where to go, Perfect Strangers of NYC offers an informative
There is also a Brooklyn safety map that clearly lays out specifically where it’s okay to explore.
While you can explore art all over New York City, there’s no denying Brooklyn is a hub for experimental creativity, mainly in the neighbourhood of Bushwick. In fact, many of nearby Williamsburg’s art spaces are moving to this up-and-coming neighborhood.
Start by taking a stroll down Troutman Street between Wycoff and St. Nicholas, where you’ll find an unofficial outdoor graffiti gallery. Next head to the Morgan L-Train stop to explore nearby galleries like English Kills (114 Forrest Street), Storefront Bushwick (16 Wilson Avenue), and Norte Maar (83 Wyckoff Avenue). At The Bushwick Starr (207 Starr Street) you can see quite non-mainstream shows, although Bizarre Bar (12 Jefferson Street) is where you’ll really experience avant-garde acts through freak shows, live suspensions, Coney Island-style circus acts, alternative parties, and burlesque-with-a-ping-pong-show twist.
Fun fact: If Brooklyn were its own city it would be the fourth-largest city in the United States. Knowing this, it’s not surprising there are myriad things to do in the borough.
After exploring the above-mentioned experimental arts scene in Bushwick, head to nearby Williamsburg and partake in the city’s best vintage shopping. Here you can also attend waterfront weekend events like the Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg; savor artisanal eats at the many farm-to-fork restaurants lining Bedford Avenue; sample free treats at Mast Brothers Chocolate; go wine tasting at Brooklyn Winery or Brooklyn Oenology; sip craft brews at Brooklyn Brewery; hear live music at the Knitting Factory or Brooklyn Bowl; and dance all night to top DJs at Output Club.
Some other top Brooklyn experiences include cycling the Brooklyn Bridge from Dumbo; climbing at Brooklyn Boulders in Gowanus; savoring traditional South African food, art and music at Madiba Restaurant in Fort Greene; enjoying the outdoors at Prospect Park near Park Slope; and experiencing offbeat shows and Amusement Park thrills at Coney Island.
While the Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Museum of Natural History and Guggenheim Museum are worthwhile, Brooklyn features a number of institutions perfect for educating yourself in a quirky way. First of all, Williamsburg’s City Reliquary (370 Metropolitan Avenue) is a history museum showcasing L-Train paint chips, a local’s private unicorn figurine collection, geological core samples, antique subway maps and other offbeat artifacts. There’s also Cobble Hill’s Micro Museum (123 Smith Street), featuring unusual multi-sensory works like storytelling furniture, a Stairmaster that transports you around Paris’ Louvre through images, and a chair that reads you idioms. To learn about maritime history in a unique space, the Waterfront Museum (290 Conover Street at Pier 44) in Red Hook resides aboard the 1914 Lehigh Valley Barge #79, the only accessible surviving all-wooden Hudson River Railroad Barge from the Lighterage Age (1860-1960).
For travelers who enjoy meeting locals, Brooklyn’s neighbourhood feel makes it a much easier task than in Manhattan. Especially in gentrified neighbourhoods like Williamsburg, Bushwick and Fort Greene — which are full of mom and pop shops and friendly residents — people are used to meeting transplants, as many are themselves. This makes it easy to strike up a conversation with a local at a bar or coffee shop, exchange numbers, and have someone who knows the area show you some worthwhile experiences.
They didn’t create the website Halloween or Williamsburg for nothing. Especially in the country’s most iconic hipster neighbourhood, you can spend hours sipping coffee at an al fresco cafe and watching the many unusual fashions that pass you by. Unpractical vintage is all the rage, as is anything worn by your great- great- great-grandparents or that would generally be considered uncool in another city. In Williamsburg, however, they effortlessly pull off meshing together eras, quirky patterns, and subcultural styles.
For those who picture Brooklyn as an urban jungle full of grit and grime, you’re only half right. Part of the borough’s charm is its mix of rough-around-the-edges aesthetics, hipster hoods and scenic outdoor spaces. For those wanting beautiful al fresco spaces, the 585-acre (237-hectare) Prospect Park was planned by the same designers — Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux — — who designed New York City’s iconic Central Park. Here you’ll find a meadows, sports fields, a zoo, a bandshell, a nature conservancy, a cemetery, historic architecture, playgrounds, and numerous opportunities for relaxation and recreation. It’s located near the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, with its themed gardens and rare plants. Other beautiful outdoor spaces in Brooklyn include Brooklyn Bridge Park, East River State Park, Asser Levy Park and the Coney Island Beach Boardwalk.