Things you need to do when you’re in Brooklyn
If you’re in Brooklyn—stay in Brooklyn. Give yourself a chance to explore NYC’s coolest borough in non-touristy ways. Eat cuisines infused with immigrant flavors. Discover Brooklyn’s distinct English accent. Walk through neighborhoods with personalities of their own and find orthodox Hasidic Jews living alongside hipsters in the same zip code.
1. Walk the length of Williamsburg bridge
Of course you’ll want to walk the length of Brooklyn Bridge, cause that’s what everyone does when they visit New York City for the first time. Do it by all means at any time of the day, but you are likely to encounter crowds of noisy tourists blocking your way, stopping often to take selfies. If you want to get breathtaking views of the East River, Manhattan, and Brooklyn with the subway chugging along in right by your side—walk across Williamsburg Bridge instead.
Built in 1903, this Bridge was once the largest suspension bridge in the world. It connects Williamsburg in Brooklyn to Lower East Side in Manhattan. You’ll cross paths with an odd combination of orthodox Hasidic Jews and trendy hipsters who now reside where the bridge meets Brooklyn. Your walk is likely to be windy with air gushing through the bridge to create a tunnel effect. However, you’ll get dynamic views of Manhattan skyscrapers with zero tourists along the way. The Williamsburg bridge offers one of the best views of the Empire State building by night with New York City buried in the background. If photography is your thing, be sure to bring your camera along.
2. Get snooty about street art
Williamsburg is a gentrified neighborhood in Brooklyn characterized by graffiti, cyclists, and hipsters. You can walk into dive bars to get a taste of the local craft beer, sample gourmet sausages and burgers, or try fine dining options of New American cuisine that blend traditional American with foreign elements.
However, if you are in the mood to get a flavor of street art, walk through the streets of hipsterburg photographing graffiti painted in varied styles across shop fronts, walls, and houses. Advertising banners of a few brands are splashed in vibrant colors to mimic a similar style. Walking tours that take you through suburbs of the city, often conducted by New Yorkers themselves are a great way to learn about New York’s local culture. Free Tours By Foot is one such company that can give you a glimpse into the graffiti of Bushwick and Manhattan. What’s great is that you can choose to pay what you like once the tour is over.
On tours like this one, you’ll learn about the graffiti art boom of the 1980s. You’ll learn about different styles in which graffiti artists make their mark on city walls. You’ll learn about the legal ramifications of using spray paint in public spaces in what might be considered vandalizing public property. You’ll learn about terms like urban art, guerrilla art, and post-graffiti. You’ll learn about street artists such as Left hand Wave, Faile, R. Robot, Dark Clouds, and many more.
3. Take a break from the city at Verrazano
If you want to get away from crowded streets, museums, and restaurants—get into a car and drive along the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway away from Manhattan until you’re in Bay Ridge, a homely suburb of Brooklyn right by the Verrazano bridge. A road-sign will tell you that you’re in a scenic area. But, the view of the double-decked suspension bridge lit up by lights, stretching its arms from Brooklyn to Staten island, with ships sailing underneath, can tell you quite the same.
You’ll find many cars parked under the bridge transporting families just as eager as you to enjoy the view. Photographers with their tripods, fishermen, skaters, and joggers frequent this part of the bay, also called the Narrows. The bridge is so wide it appears to bend along the earth’s curvature. You might find it odd that the two towers that support the bridge are 41 millimeters further apart at the top than at the bottom.
4. Spend an afternoon doing nothing in Prospect Park
When in Brooklyn, doing nothing is equal to doing everything. If you have an afternoon to yourself stroll through the streets of Park Slope just to check out the regal beauty of brownstones. If learning celebrity trivia gets you all excited, you’ll be happy to know Sarah Jessica Parker still lives in one and the Obamas did too. If you want to check out what these brownstones look like on the inside, you’ll find Sarah Jessica Parker’s video online, guiding you through some expensive real estate.
A truly awesome way of doing nothing at all is to people watch in Prospect Park. The Long Meadow is an ideal picnic location in the park where you can laze around under the shade of a tree. If you have kids, you’ll be happy to know that the park has a skating ice rink and carousel of its own. And just like Central Park, this park has a zoo with red pandas and open-air venues for live music.
If lying in the lap of nature is more of your deal, you’ll find the Ravine most riveting. Just walk to the center of the park, where the forest becomes substantial, and where rivulets and lakes cross your path. Prospect Park also has its very own farmers markets operated by GrowNYC. You’ll be able to lay hands on all things organic if you’re in the park on a Wednesday or a Saturday.
5. Spend a weekend at Smorgasburg
If you like hanging out in Brooklyn and consider yourself remotely enthusiastic about food—you cannot ignore The Brooklyn Flea. This outdoor market opens its doors in April and shuts only in November. On Saturdays its parked at Fort Greene and on Sundays at Williamsburg.
The market is the place to lay hands on vintage furniture, peculiar art, local crafts, funky handmade jewelry, dresses, hats, and antiques. However, what the marketplace is really about is the Smorgasburg—the biggest open-air food extravaganza in all of America. You need to be really hungry to survive this food fest. So forget breakfast and put in an hour of cardio before you get ready to eat.
100 local vendors attract anywhere between 20,000 to 30,000 people each weekend to chomp through pork, beef, chicken, burgers, and sausages. These days vendors have got creative with vegan options as well. Of course, you’ll get plenty craft beer and music at open-air concerts to keep you going on a hot summer day.