To some people, it may seem bizarre that we spent a weekend in New York and didn’t step foot into Manhattan. But to me and my brood (husband, three month old and two year old), it was the perfect way to enjoy the vibrancy and excitement of New York without getting caught up in the fast paced, relentlessness of a city. Instead, we opted to spend our time solely in Brooklyn which for those that don’t know the area, is one of New York’s five boroughs and is a melting pot of different communities and cultures with a healthy dose of hipster thrown in. In the last years it has undergone rapid gentrification and now the streets, particularly in Williamsburg, are lined with quirky cafes, clothes, interior shops and more.
We only had three nights there before heading Upstate so we crammed a lot in. Here’s my top picks which are a combination of things we did and things we-would-have-done-had-we-had-more-money-more time-and-less-kids (Thanks also to some further inspiration from my friend, Sophie – @sophiesoso) :
Brooklyn is renowned for extortionately high rental prices (average rent prices are $3000 per month) which the hotel rates reflect. People rave about the Wythe hotel (as well as the cocktails you can get at the rooftop Ides bar there) and I’ve also heard good things about Box House Hotel in Greenpoint which offers apartment style accommodation with a small kitchen and living room. Box House also have a shuttle service to take guests anywhere within a mile of the hotel – ie. they’ll drop you anywhere in Williamsburg or Greenpoint – which is great for transporting little ones / huge amounts of shopping / getting yourself back to your bed after one too many. We opted for an air b n b apartment in Williamsburg close to Bedford Avenue – a mile long stretch of road between McCarren Park and the Williamsburg bridge which is “where it’s at” (interestingly, there is huge controversy at the recent arrival of an Apple store…). This had the huge advantage that we could walk everywhere which meant we didn’t have to waste money on cabs or the subway, and we got to know the area pretty well by the end of our stay.
Wow, where do I begin? The restaurant scene in Brooklyn, particularly in Williamsburg, is electric and the ingredients are amazing. Brunch is the big thing in New York – though only on weekends – but that’s not to say that you can’t get wonderful breakfast or lunch every other day of the week. Go to Egg for simple fare in a minimalist vibe, the ricotta pancakes with honeycomb butter at Five Leaves are ridiculous (I literally could hardly speak as I was eating them out of pure wonder that something could taste that good) – not to mention the Moroccan Scramble with merguez sausage and chickpeas. Dinner one evening was a Moroccan affair with friends at Mogador and whilst the kids slept beside us in the buggy / car seat, we enjoyed a wonderful glass of wine and delicious plates of salmon and cous cous. The restaurant was buzzing though apparently brunch there is something special. Another evening we enjoyed some sneaky cocktails at Diviera whilst they whisked up a meat pasta for Jack and Sam eyed up the table tennis table. The crowds at all of these places were ridiculously trendy – safe to say, we decidedly brought the vibe down a notch on the cool stakes with two kids hanging off us (sorry guys). Also don’t forget to check our Smorgasburg, the Brooklyn Flea Food market on Saturday and Sundays (all day) on the Williamsburg waterfront which, with over 100 food stalls, is an absolute foodies heaven where you can find anything from churros to chicken wings – it’s totally buzzing (though maybe not ideal with two starving kids – queues can be quite long) Finally, don’t underestimate how good fast food is over there; we had an epic burger and chips at Shake Shack (now in the UK too!) and a plethora of amazing take away pizza places; one of these bad boys saved our jet lagged bellies circa 1am on our first night. We got ours from Best Pizza – it was epic – but I’ve heard good things about Antonio’s too.
No trip to New York would be complete without a visit to the waterfront to see the beautiful skyline. Dumbo, which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, is an excellent place to while away a day, especially with kids. Not only does it have a plethora of cool outdoor spaces overlooking the water, it also has a carousel for the little ones to ride on and you can catch the ferry back which is always a bit of an adventure for kids and adults alike. Also this Dumbo guide seems excellent to me. Sam is a big tennis fan so one of our days was also spent at the US Open which I have to say was awesome – if you can get to a sports match or manage to see a show whilst you are in New York, I’d massively recommend it. That place does live events so well.
Yes, I love travelling with my husband and kids but unfortunately the one front they massively disappoint on is shopping. We spent an afternoon wandering around the streets of Williamsburg with me darting in and out of as many shops as I could – here’s what I gleaned: Go to Catbird for everything from candles to jewellery (their tagline is “the Brooklyn mecca for all things sparkly and exciting” – need I say more?), Avigail Adams for gorgeous greek goddess headbands and bracelets, Soap Cherie for every natural bath product imaginable, Sprout Home for succulents, terrariums and macrame galore and Mociun for bright gemstones, ceramics and many more beautiful boho goods. I managed to sneak in a wander around Artists and Fleas, the designer and vintage market (open all day Saturday and Sunday – combine with a visit to Smorgasburg as they are opposite each other ) in a huge warehouse and a must for any trend-spotters, artists or designers. Or if you just like beautiful things at affordable prices; I came out with a gorgeous vegan lip gloss which I was pretty happy with.
Below are a few snaps from our time in Brooklyn – what an awesome corner of New York and the perfect way to start our America adventures…
Thanks for reading and as ever, please do leave me a comment with any tips you’ve got for Brooklyn or for the rest of New York. Or just to say hello – I love hearing from yas.