As you may have heard this week, Mayor Bloomberg has categorically won the battle against.... everything he was battling. Other than gun violence and obesity, but anyway. The big news is that murder rates in New York were at a record low in 2012, and tourism hit an all time high, with 52 million people visiting our fair, not-as-fat-as-other-places-but-still-sort-of-fat city.
One has to wonder, though, how many of these tourists are making the leap into Brooklyn? Sure, the New York Times has already explained how to get a cab here for the low, low price of $20, but based on the sometimes-shorter lines and occasionally peaceful streets, it seems that we're not the tourist draw we could be. This can all be changed. If giants like the Barclays Center or the Brooklyn Museum aren't enough to tempt you to this side of the water, well, here is a totally subjective selection of other cool (and sometimes edifying!) stuff to do when you come to visit Brooklyn. Or even if you live here already, it's good either way. Mayor Bloomberg, if you or the city tourism board are reading this, thank-you checks (or a lifetime subscription to health insurance?) can be sent to me at our business address.
This is an obvious place to start, since the ferry will actually take you from Manhattan into Brooklyn, and in a way more pleasant fashion than the subway. Also, the vantage point it provides of the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge throughout the trip is not to be beaten. Shell out the $4 for fare, it's well worth it.
If you've crossed the river into Williamsburg and find yourself already missing that uniquely horrible Times Square feeling you had on your first night in town, you can easily recreate it with a crowded, annoying stroll down Bedford Ave — the Champs-Elysees of Brooklyn, you could say — on a Friday or Saturday night. Unlike Times Square, though, once you've had your fill of fear, anxiety, and elbowing strangers, you can duck onto a smaller street and find something good to eat that was not made by fucking Guy Fieri. Much better.
If this picture isn't enough of a selling point, I don't really know what to tell you. But what I will tell you is that this Brighton Beach institution is well worth the schlep, if not just for the floor show, then certainly for the decorations or the people-watching or the live music or the endless vodka or dishes like the "Seafood Amazing," which our own Kristin Iversen confirms is, in fact, amazing. It was also used as location for Bored to Death, if that tips the scales. Just go, and go now.
"Oh, whatever, just another monument, even though it's a very cool nautical one in a nice park," you might be saying. But no! As a tourist spot, the Prison Ship Martyrs' monument in Fort Greene park is totally multifaceted. Besides housing a crypt and serving as tribute to 11,500 American prisoners of war who died aboard British ships during the Revolutionary War, it is also a good place to eat a picnic of expensive, highly local, always delicious groceries from the nearby Greene Grape, and to watch some hyper-intense Brooklyn parents tend to their hyper-intense Brooklyn children in their natural habitat. I'm sure there will be some chill families and fancy dogs, as well. Many memorable Brooklyn
cliches staples can be checked off the list here.
Again, a pretty good way to see fabled, hyper-intense Brooklyn hipsters doing what they do best, which is expensive thrifting. And, now that we're officially in the dead of winter, the flea has moved indoors to the very cool space inside the old Williamsburg Savings Bank. While it's easy to poke fun, it's also pretty impossible to leave without finding some great piece of vintage jewelry or furniture, or records if that's your thing. There's lots to go around. I'll spare you the suspense on one thing though: it's not really worth it to pay $20 or whatever it is they're charging now for lobster rolls. That is immoral and insane. Instead, I'd direct you to...
Eye-rolling at Portlandia sketches and "Très Brooklyn" overload aside, there really is a higher per-capita quotient here of tasty, innovative food being sold out of trucks, so find some and eat it. Easy.
This one should be pretty obvious. It's a national historic landmark, resting place of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leonard Bernstein, and countless other luminaries (and rich people), and also just a gorgeous plot of land with a wealth of natural beauty and a dearth of guys trying to sell you shitty souvenirs from a card table they've set up on the sidewalk. Additionally, some L Magazine experts believe it to be a perfect spot for a first date. The jury might still be out on that one.
In case you've forgotten, the tacit goal here is to always, always find opportunities to one-up Manhattan in every possible way. And anyway, you always need to eat more. As such, it's time to pit our Chinatown Dim Sum against their Chinatown Dim Sum. Go to Sunset Park, eat a bunch of mystery dumplings, and tell me it wasn't worth the trip.
Much of Coney Island is still in the process of recovering from the devastation wrought by Sandy, and anyway, it's January, so roller coasters and the beach wouldn't have been the best idea to begin with. Instead, pay a visit to the Coney Island Creek, which has housed a mysterious, stranded submarine since 1970. It looks cool enough from afar, but you could also follow the lead of the intrepid randos in this YouTube video, who actually rafted out to the vessel to poke around the wreckage. Your call.
Ok, ok. Not everything can be an endless stream of historical sites, places it takes an hour to get to on the subway, mild seafaring, and so much food. You maybe need a stiff drink by now. And there are more than enough places to get an artful, fancy cocktail if that's your... fancy. But if what you really need is a beer-and-a-shot combo and a respite from all this culture in which you've been stewing, the best place by far is Jackie's, a beloved Park Slope holdout that most recently petitioned the White House for secession from the neighborhood. Just please, don't do anything to piss off the bartenders.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.