Now I’ve lived in Brooklyn for five months, I know that any other area I move to will always pale in comparison. After my first week-long visit here in 2015, I just knew Brooklyn was where I had to live for a while. I’d never experienced city-FOMO before, but the area lingered in my mind long after I’d returned to London. And when it didn’t wear off, I decided to move here. Living in NYC as a Brit is practically impossible without bending a few visa rules which I’ll come clean about soon. But obviously…no regrets. The buzz in NYC’s most sought-after borough is unparalleled compared to everywhere else I’ve ever visited and there are countless distractions and things to do in Brooklyn. (Luckily most of them are free, though).
In 2016, I lived in Crown Heights; a predominantly black neighbourhood with a range of lively Caribbean food spots and budget clothes shops. One of my favourite things to do was just to watch people, watching other people, from the steps of their houses in the summertime. Known as ‘stoop culture’, this form of outdoor-chilling isn’t just an aesthetic feature of 90’s hip-hop videos, it’s a marker of community here. And Brooklyn, like NYC overall, has to have the biggest mix of cultures and languages out of any city in the world; I’m constantly amazed at the diversity.
If you’re headed here in summer, or any other time of the year, here are my ideas for things to do in Brooklyn, when you’re broke AF.
1. Go to Prospect Park
Sure, Central Park is an impressive oasis of green nestled between the skyscrapers of Manhattan, but Prospect Park is its less flashy, tourist-free cousin. In Central Park you’ll repeatedly be asked to part with your money for a ride in an embarrassingly large horse-led carriage. And you’ll probably get cursed out by any one of the lycra-clad joggers who won’t take kindly to you posing in their way. Prospect park is smaller, more picturesque and most importantly, if you’re in Brooklyn – it’s local.
2. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
This never gets old for me. Largely because I took the photo above and can’t stop gloating about it. Nah, but seriously; a trip to the Brooklyn Bridge at any time of the year is great for a photo op or running path. Just watch out for the other cyclists and runners because they will mow you down.
3. Go thrift shopping in Williamsburg
There are so many great ‘thrift shops’ in Brooklyn and most of them are in, or close to Williamsburg. One of my favourites there is Monk Vintage Thirft Store (496 Driggs Ave, Brooklyn) which sells actual vintage and old label stuff for a decent price. Wandering around Williamsburg during the weekend, you’ll also find several other places to shop, but because of the increasingly affluent crowd who now inhabit the super-hip area, you might some of the vintage shops actually have crazy price tags. Artists and Fleas, a weekend warehouse market (70 North 7th Brooklyn) has lots of pretty things for sale, but bring your dollar.
4. Do the Brooklyn Museum
Probably the best museum I’ve ever been to, the Brooklyn museum is a the city’s best celebration of feminist art, black culture and poltitically charged exhibitions. On the first Saturday of each month it’s free entry and a different museum theme with ‘Target First Saturdays’. Usually running from 5-11pm, there are guest speakers, live music, free films and arts and crafts activities for the whole family.
5. Go to Coney Island
Ok, so all my NYC friends think Coney Island is a waste of time and money and it might well be. But if you’re a NYC newbie, then a visit here will just satisfy all your American cultural cravings in one fell swoop. Tacky rides, a busy beach-front and nauseatingly fatty foods (cheese fries, candy-floss, pretzel hotdogs etc), Coney Island’s everything like the movies. And when you’re bored of the flashiness, there’s plenty of characters to spot on the beachfront and some cool artwork too. Just don’t hang around too late because it gets a bit…colourful.
6. Eat out – A Lot
Omg the food; this needs a whole post in itself. Brunch in Brooklyn can be a whole-day affair and because I lived to close to Franklin Avenue, I was spoilt for choice. Cent’anni, (742 Franklin Avenue), has an amazing outdoor area and perfectly cooked pancakes. But when it came to my favourite spots for a propa’ main meal, Sweet Chick in Williamsburg (164 Bedford Ave) owned by rapper Nas, is a good place to try chicken and waffles if you can’t get to Harlem’s famous spot, Melba’s. And if you’re in Coney Island – or even if you’re not – Totonno’s (524 Neptune Ave) is an old-school Italian eatery with all its original decor and the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life.
Visited Brooklyn and missed some of these spots? Or live there and hate my list? Let me know.