The Budget Travel guide to Brooklyn

Synonymous with the whatever is cool, Brooklyn brings together the cutting edge of music, literature, art, fashion and food.

Once known primarily as the hometown of Biggie Smalls, Jay-Z and Barbara Streisand, Brooklyn has come into its own over the last two decades. Now synonymous with the whatever is cool, Brooklyn brings together the cutting edge of music, literature, art, fashion and food, melding its diverse cultures and ethnicities with the wave of hipsters and yuppies begging to pay sky-high prices to live within its stylish limits.

If you’re planning a visit to Brooklyn, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer number of neighborhoods to explore and the many things to do. But fear not, we’ve made a list of what to see, explore, eat and drink in this, the most populous borough of New York City.

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Take a Water Taxi to Red Hook

The small peninsula of Red Hook was once one of the busiest ports in the world. Now, surrounded by water and without access to a nearby subway line, it has established itself as a quiet, quaint urban oasis, housing an eclectic host of artists, artisans, boutiques, restaurants and bars. Grab a water taxi to Fairway, a huge waterfront supermarket with a waterfront park, grill and restaurant, and eat lunch while enjoying the borough’s best views of the Statue of Liberty.

Don’t fill up on their famous lobster rolls because just down the block is the newly opened Ample Hills Red Hook Factory, the largest ice cream production facility in the city. Next, take a stroll down Van Brunt St., which yields boutiques, vintage finds, and bars like Fort Defiance, then head towards Valentino Pier to let the kids run around and visit Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie for a take home treat.

For a night out, consider joining the line at Hometown BBQ for smoked meats by the pound or a enjoy a more dignified dinner and cocktails at the Red Hook Tavern. And don’t forget a nightcap at Sunny’s Bar, a kitschy local hangout with a wide-ranging list of musical guests, including the intermittent surprise performance from the hood’s own Norah Jones.

Get Pizza at Roberta’s

This now-established pizza joint with working garden was established in Bushwick over 10 years ago as a small communal oasis for those in the know—and brave enough to make the schlep to this not-yet gentrified area of Brooklyn.

As the first of the hipster, trend-setting businesses in the neighborhood, Roberta’s Pizza is now a global sensation, with locations in Manhattan and Los Angeles, but the wood-fired ovens still push out chewy, charred crusts piled with creative toppings—like the Bee-Sting Pizza with sopressata, chili and honey or the Beastmaster with sausage, onions, capers and jalapeno.

Rotating pastas are also worth the trip and the Duck Prosciutto starter can be ordered with home-made bread and butter. If you need some green, the Romaine Salad is studded with sweet, crunchy walnuts and a sprinkling of pecorino cheese. 261 Moore St., Brooklyn, NY 11206

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Play at a Waterside Park

Over the last decade, the city has poured huge amounts of cash into making waterfront Brooklyn livable. So, it’s worth taking the time to explore one of the beautifully located parks hugging the East River. Brooklyn Bridge Park and Empire Fulton Ferry are a duo of parks which span the neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), and include three fully functional piers housing playgrounds, sports fields, basketball courts, a roller rink, bike trails, a hotel, a carousel and some of the most stunning views of downtown Manhattan you’ll ever see.

You’ll also find the Time Out Market food hall, with 21different dining options to choose from, as well as Forninos, a sunset-friendly rooftop pizza restaurant. Move further north and you’ll hit Williamsburg’s Domino Park, a six-acre oasis transformed from the remnants of the former Domino Sugar Refinery. Kids will love the playground centered around a mini, climbable sugar refinery, but there’s also a dog run, bocce courts, beach volleyball and waterfront esplanade to explore. Grab a bite at Tacacina, an upscale taco shack and cocktail bar with plenty of outdoor seating.

Visit Industry City

Located in Sunset Park, a neighborhood formerly known for its transformative tacos, Latin American culture and thriving Chinatown, this towering complex of enormous repurposed warehouses merges business, makers, entertainment, dining, art, leisure and shopping in a space of over two million square feet. Shoppers might want to browse the Brooklyn outpost of ABC Carpet & Home, haggle for bargains in the Design Within Reach outlet or ogle the hand-screened, custom wallpaper at Flavor Paper, then wander over to one of the food kiosks like Avocaderia, Burger Joint or Kotti Berliner Doner Kebab.

If you’re a fan of the Land of the Rising Sun, you’ll want to check out the new Japan Village, which encompasses a full food hall, Japanese supermarket and marketplace. Stringing the warehouses together are communal courtyards, letting you stumble on things like The Frying Pan bar decked out with ping pong tables and nine-hole mini golf course, sunset yoga classes, open-air concerts, art installations, and expanses of turf for the little ones to run around.

A $5 Game Room will keep the kids busy for a few hours if you feel like doing some exploring or spending a little more time in the art gallery featuring rotating series of exhibitions. Oh, and did we mention Industry City is also the home of the New York Net’s training facility? You can check out a list of activities and events here.

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Spend the Day at Coney Island

This historic amusement area has been hosting excitement seekers from near and far for over a century. And no matter when you’re visiting, there’s always something to see or do. Set up camp on the beach and ride the waves, then wander over to the rides and attractions to build your perfect itinerary of fun.

The big rollercoasters are not included in the all-you-can-ride wristband option for the Luna Park amusement area, so you’ll have to buy individual tickets if you want to ride the legendary Cyclone or the newer Thunderbolt. Younger kids can also enjoy the more accessible rides at Dino’s Wonder Wheel and the New York Aquarium is also just a brief walk down the boardwalk. But don’t say goodbye without a stop at the original location of Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, and don’t forget the cheese fries.

Drink Up at a Local Distillery

Brooklyners can make them as well as they can drink them, so taking a tour of the borough’s distilleries is a great way to enjoy locally crafted spirits. You can’t go wrong with a name like Brooklyn Brewery, and this Williamsburg mainstay has been making and distributing craft beer since the 80s. If you feel like trying the different brews, you can visit the Tasting Room, or book a Small Batch Tour or attend one of the public events.

The New York Distilling Company is also based in WIliamsburg and puts out spirits like Dorothy Parker New York Gin and Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin—but make the trip and you can sit at the full service bar for cocktails or join a free tour or a VIP tour which includes a flask of house-made rye.

Red Hook’s Widow Jane does double duty, producing local whiskey and sharing space with the Cacoa Prieto chocolate factory. Stop by to taste the whisky, bourbon rye at the distillery’s bar, Botanica, or join a walk-in tour. Private tours can also be arranged and include tastings of both booze and sweets. All tours take place on the weekends.

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