Williamsburg, New York is So Over
When you tell people you’re travelling to New York, everyone will rave about how awesome Brooklyn is, how you must go there. So you’ll catch the L train to Williamsburg, you’ll wander around, take a street art selfie and then wonder where all the fun stuff is.
Don’t worry, this is where most people get stuck. Williamsburg is where the Brooklyn boom all started, but that was nearly two decades ago. Now you’ll find the thriving heart – the incredible parties, the Instagramable eats, the rocking dive bars – elsewhere in this sizeable New York borough. So grab your Metro map and venture forth – here are the best things to do in Brooklyn, New York (outside Williamsburg).
If you want to party
Bushwick is where all the fun is: great bars, low-key music venues, lots of street art and interesting shops. What Williamsburg once had simply moved east into more affordable areas.
So where to start? Head to Bushwick during daylight hours to grab some coffee at Terra Firma, AP Cafe or Little Skips before making a beeline for the Loom Building. It’s filled with an array of amazing independent shops, ranging from skateboards to tattoos to the incredible House of La Rue, which is the best place in Brooklyn to pick up a crazy outfit to party in.
When it comes to food, Bushwick (like most of New York) is all about pizza. Hugely popular Roberta’s has a very low-key vibe, with seating both outside and in, plus their own veggie garden on the roof. And the pizza? Wood-fired and expertly-crafted deliciousness. If pizza isn’t your thing, head to the rustic Montana’s for Southern-style eats or tacos du jour at Tex-Mex haven El Cortez.
Bars in Bushwick are special. Gotham City Lounge is what would happen if the guys from Big Bang Theory went punk and opened a dive bar, whilst fans of cleavage-themed decor will consider Boobie Trap to be their big pink neon, Barbie-doll covered heaven. What Bossa Nova Civic Club lacks in size it makes up for in style and you’ll find its doors open 7 days a week, so partying on a weeknight is not out of the question. Just head there early on weekends to avoid spending most of your time in the queue.
If you’re after a night you’ll never forget, try the House of Yes. Be warned: it’s not for the faint of heart or narrow of mind. Expect circus performers, live music, wigs and a whole load of positive vibes.
Further south is Gowanus, snuggled in between Red Hook and Park Slope, whose smelly canal is perhaps best known as a former Mafia dumping ground. The area is full of artists, giving it a quirky and innovative vibe.If you arrive hankering for a caffeine fix, try ethical Brooklyn institution Crop to Cup or the new outpost of the Midtown coffee temple Ninth Street Espresso. Line your stomach with pastries at Runner & Stone’s bakery or pie at Four & Twenty Blackbirds before visiting the Morbid Anatomy Museum, whose gothic exploration of the human body and medical history might leave you a little queasy.
Follow up with another very popular “club”: the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club. Shuffleboard is kind of like curling and thankfully you can get a free lesson when you visit – but try remembering the rules once you’ve visited one of the two full bars in their huge warehouse space. With the addition of food trucks and board games, it’s a great place to head with a group of friends.
If you’re after something touristy
No big-eared baby elephants here I’m afraid. DUMBO stands for ‘Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass’ and it’s where everyone heads to get the iconic Brooklyn selfie, with the bridge framed by the beautiful red brick buildings at the intersection of Washington & Water Street.
Once you’ve scored the perfect shot, head across to Brooklyn Bridge Park. There are 85-acres of touristy fun to be had here, from Jane’s Carousel to ice cream at the Ample Hills Creamery (open seasonally). Try free roller skating at Pier 2 on Mondays and Fridays 3-6pm or catch a free film on Thursday evenings in the summer at Movies With A View.
Brighton Beach/Coney Island
The beach and boardwalk at New York’s most iconic seaside destination make a great cheap day out. Catch the sun and people-watch the locals: just remember to bring something to sit on as the sand is often peppered with cigarette butts and candy wrappers. Thankfully the water is clean and calm so you can cool off here when the city’s summer temperatures soar.
If roller coasters are your thing, Luna Park reopened in 2014 and keeps thrill-seekers enthralled with the 115-foot-tall Thunderbolt or the 90 mph Sling Shot.
On Mondays in summer, stay on the beach till sunset when a 40-foot inflatable screen transforms it into an outdoor cinema. And it’s free!
If you’re after an adventure
Red Hook is relatively remote, which means it has artsy vibes and not many public transport options. Be prepared to do a lot of walking or Ubering.
You’ll be rewarded with a fun area where the locals all know each other and some great dive bars. But before you start drinking, there’s food. On a warm evening, get a seat upstairs at Alma. My friend took me here recently and not only is the Mexican food fantastic, the outside wall rolls away to reveal incredible views of downtown Manhattan. Alternatively, you can sample lobster straight from the tank at a fraction of the price at Red Hook Lobster Pound’s picnic tables.
Speaking of live performance, how about some drag queen karaoke? You may not come across any contestants of Ru Paul’s Drag Race at the Hope & Anchor, but you will have a very entertaining Friday or Saturday night at this 50s-style diner.
Ok, so Rockaway Beach is officially in another borough: Queens. But you do have to catch the A train through Brooklyn to get there, so it still counts.
If you fancy yourself a surfer, head to the spiritual home of the Ramones, as it’s your best option for surfing with a New York postcode. If you’ve never touched a board, don’t worry: you can grab a lesson from Locals Surf School.
Once you’re wiped out head to Rockaway Beach Surf Club, the heart and soul of this area. Not only can you grab incredible tacos, beers and cocktails here, but across the summer they feature exhibitions and film festivals that celebrate their culture and community.
If you want to live like a local
Fort Greene and Clinton Hill
A little more chilled than its northern neighbours, the adjacent suburbs of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill are so picture perfect you’ll feel like you’ve walked onto a film set. You can get a feel for the ‘like-a-local’ vibes by heading to the Brooklyn Flea Market in Fort Greene on Saturdays, which is self-described as ‘part vintage bazaar, part hipster hang, part old-fashioned town square, and part food bonanza’.
Park Slope and Prospect Park
Where do hipsters go after 40? They move to Park Slope! Despite its quieter vibe, you’d be a fool to miss out on some of the free events that happen in this area. Prospect Park is a whopping 385 acres and hosts a number of festivals and concerts, including BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn, which offers a lineup of free gigs across the summer.
It also houses the Brooklyn Museum, which hosts a very popular free monthly art and performance evening called Target First Saturdays.
So, as the song suggests, it really is up to you New York, New York! With an abundance of places to go and things to see (for free!) you should make sure Williamsburg is not your first and last stop in Brooklyn.