Continuing with my NYC series (June 2016) takes us on to Brooklyn! Most people visiting New York City for the first time will spend most of their time in Manhattan but our accommodation was over in the Brooklyn / Williamsburg area so we were fortunate to see quite a bit of Brooklyn too.
NYC’s (Manhattan) skyline is probably my favourite skyline that I’ve seen and one of the best places to view it is from across the water in Brooklyn. Consequently one of the first tourist hot-spots that we visited in Brooklyn was a trip down to Brooklyn Bridge park.
I say hot-spots but on the morning we visited it was actually pretty quiet. This little parked area is one of the best photo spots in the city as you can get right by the water and get some great photos of both Brooklyn bridge and the city’s skyline in the background. It also seemed a dog-walking favourite for some of the locals so the four legged ones approve of this location just as much! To be fair, if you’re going to walk your dog you might aswell do it somewhere with a view, right?
After snapping plenty of photos we followed the signs towards Brooklyn Bridge as we wanted to tick off one of the bucketlist items for many visiting NYC, walking the bridge end-to-end. I suppose it doesn’t really matter if you walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan or vice versa but I personally felt like we did it best in walking towards Manhattan (and its stunning skyline) rather than away from it as there isn’t really anything noteworthy to see walking towards Brooklyn.
Much like Brooklyn Bridge Park, the beginning of our walk felt pretty quiet. We weren’t up obscenely early but given the bright blue skies I was a little surprised it wasn’t busier. Walking towards Manhattan provided us with numerous photo opportunities including that of the Statue of Liberty which was as close as we’d come to it at this point of the trip.
As we continued to stroll along it began to get busier, perhaps just because it was later in the day but it also felt like much of the foot traffic had started at the Manhattan side so inch by inch we’d encounter more people – many of which were oblivious to their surroundings and were consistent in their ability to get in to people’s ways, particularly cyclists who must hate having to tackle this bridge to get between the two boroughs.
Overall though it was an experience I enjoyed. It offers some wonderful views and for a city as expensive as NYC, it’s surely one of the best free activities.
I think we spent much of the remainder of this day in Manhattan so our next adventure on the Brooklyn side of the water was later in the week. Myself and Kelly planned to meet our friend Pran over near Brooklyn’s botanical gardens so made our way on the subway towards Prospect Park. Getting off the subway we decided to go and get a refresher. We were pondering the local options and just before we were about to enter one place, a local onlooker steered us away and advised us to check out a place further down the road.
For all the talk of New Yorker’s being unfriendly, she was one of many we encountered who again took time out of their day to help us. We followed her towards this tiny little shop selling juices of various kinds. The woman was fascinated with our accents and was friendly with the shop assistants too, she was definitely a regular so added a homely and local feel to the place.
The verdict on the juice was a little less positive and more of a mixed bag. Personally I was quite fond of mine but Kelly was less convinced, I think we’d both appreciated the effort of a local recommendation though. Soon enough we’d waved goodbye with our juices and found ourselves a little shaded spot in Prospect Park to enjoy it (or not in Kelly’s case haha).
Unfortunately for us Pran was on the other side of the park and waiting over near Brooklyn’s botanical gardens so we had to navigate our way over to meet him before making our way in to the picturesque botanical gardens.
There was a small entry fee but personally I felt it was value for money. The botanical gardens are quite large, stunning and felt really relaxed. Locals can acquire an annual membership (I think) and I had envy of those sat in the shade with a book which gave off the impression they were locals and frequent visitors of this beautiful part of Brooklyn. It’s a little out of the way for those staying in Manhattan, perhaps even ourselves to some degree but it was worth a visit and somewhere I’d definitely go back to. If I lived locally I think I’d frequent it a lot as an escape from the chaotic city.
Eventually moving on from the botanical gardens we ventured in to Prospect Park which was equally peaceful. Central Park is one of my favourite parts of Manhattan and Prospect Park is Brooklyn’s less touristy equivalent. There perhaps isn’t as much to do here but tell that to the locals who were out basking in the sunshine whilst enjoying a variety of activities: picnics, reading, sunbathing, kite-flying and more. Similarly to Central Park, I could easily see myself spending many an afternoon here as a local. There was the right balance between having a bit of life to it whilst maintaining a level of tranquillity. Along with the botanical gardens, it offers the perfect escape from city life.
Beyond those two days the main activity throughout our time in Brooklyn was eating and drinking. Our hostel was in Brooklyn anyway so it was somewhat convenient but Pran also lives in the area so we had the benefit of some local insider recommendations which perhaps let us experience the best of Brooklyn / Williamsburg for food and a couple of beers. We checked out a few places, including the ‘famous’ Robertas which delivered on its reputation in offering (one of) the best pizzas in New York City. I know everywhere probably says they have the best pizza in the city but the waiting times here go some way to suggesting the locals agree.
Sadly between Kelly not drinking at the time and Pran having to work throughout the week we didn’t have any crazy nights out, nothing more than a couple of beers at a variety of different places but given some of my hangovers traveling it’s probably no bad thing. At any rate, I knew New York City was somewhere I’d definitely return to so I could forego drunken antics on this trip and instead could embrace the company and enjoy a more relaxed evening.
Despite not being crazy, some of the bars we went to were pretty cool. The Wythe hotel’s rooftop bar offered great views of Manhattan and there were others (I can’t remember the name of) with a much more chilled vibe. One of my favourite evenings was quite early in the trip. I couldn’t tell you the name of the bar but we picked up some beers inside and then found ourselves a table in the street. We watched the sun go down and just talked away for a couple of hours which was really nice, particularly having not seen Pran for a while before this trip.
With the exception of a couple of nights, which were also fun, we didn’t really see much of Manhattan’s nightlife but Brooklyn / Williamsburg felt hip and a fun place to enjoy an evening.
I think on a first visit to NYC it’s easy to overlook Brooklyn and spend all of your time in Manhattan but there are a few gems to be found in Brooklyn too. I’d probably stay in Brooklyn again when I return to NYC. Not only for the above reasons but there were a few things we didn’t get around to visiting. We did pass the interesting-looking library but missed out on going in, similarly Pran raved about Brooklyn’s museum which we ran out of time to enjoy.
Nevertheless it was a good first introduction to the borough and one I thoroughly recommend making time to explore. That wraps up this portion of NYC. Next up on the blog? Trips to Liberty and Ellis islands.