What To Do in Brooklyn? (Insider’s Guide)

Top ten things to do in Brooklyn only locals know about

While most New York visitors only begin to explore what Brooklyn has to offer, this guide will take you on an insider’s trip of Brooklyn. On your next visit, live like a local for a day by visiting these  hidden gems in Brooklyn that you probably haven’t yet seen.

When tourists think of Brooklyn attractions they think of the obvious ones.  The Brooklyn Bridge, Williamsburg, the trendy DUMBO neighborhood, Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, Peter Luger and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens are all contenders for the top 10 lists geared towards tourists.   But if you really want to “live like a local” try these out!

1. UrbanGlass

One of the best things to check out in Brooklyn is the UrbanGlass studio, a glassmaking studio well known in the area for honing your skills in the art of glassblowing. Space is comprised of the Agnes Vares Art Center and the UrbanGlass|ware store, both of which feature some amazing glass blown pieces for you to look at.

UrbanGlass studio
UrbanGlass studio, NYC

If you have some free time take one of the classes or workshops! UrbanGlass has one day & weekend workshops as well as intensives and weekly classes. Intro to Glassblowing gives you one of the most exhilarating and intimidating experiences of your life since you will be handling molten glass. But it is so worth it. In fact, any of the classes you could take are probably incredibly unforgettable; my class experience certainly was.

For those of you who want to learn more but can’t commit to a class, there are other activities for you to do to! UrbanGlass also has occasional Open Studios featuring demonstrations and glassmaking activities. More information for the studio is located here.

UrbanGlass is located on 647 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY.

2. IKEA Ferry

Free on the weekends, the IKEA Ferry, powered by the NY Water Taxi, is one of the best ways to view Brooklyn from the water. The famous Swedish furniture store IKEA is located in Red Hook, Brooklyn, features many of the same products found in other IKEAs but it is always fun to look around and see what’s available in this giant store. Also when you need a break, the cafeteria has those delicious Swedish meatballs available for your enjoyment.

IKEA Ferry; image via flickr/time-to-look

While being in the store is always fun, the ferry is a great alternative to see the Brooklyn and Manhattan skylines if the Staten Island ferry is too hectic for you. Bring your family or friends and take the ferry from Manhattan to Brooklyn for a fast and fun view of the city. Definitely do it on the weekend though since those are the days that the ferry is free!

Stops for the IKEA Ferry run from Wall Street, Pier 11 in Manhattan.

3. Coney Smorgasburg

Operated by Brooklyn Flea, Smorgasburg has been around for a while and all of the locals love it. Smorgasburg features different food and beverage vendors in one location for locals to come and eat at a varied number of outlets. Originally located in Williamsburg, hence the name, Smorgasburg has opened a location on Coney Island, and it is fantastic!

Coney Smorgasburg
Coney Smorgasburg, image via smorgasburg.com

Tucked away behind the beach and next to Luna Park, it’s loud character and giant art murals actually help it to blend into the Coney Island setting so it is a little hard to notice, which actually helps with the ambiance. Featuring giant concrete murals created by famous street artists, Lady Aiko and How & Nosm as two amazing examples, locals can get some food (I recommend Queen Cobra Thai’s pineapple fried rice or something from Home Frite) and enjoy the wonderful atmosphere.

Coney Smorgasburg is located on 1320 Bowery Street, Brooklyn, NY.

4. Little Choc Apothecary

New York City’s first vegan creperie is so incredibly delicious that you may want to go back another time after your first trip. With its selection of savory & sweet crepes, Van Leeuwen ice cream, Toby’s Estate coffee, and yummy turtle cookies (which are just oh so good), the Little Choc Apothecary is becoming a popular favorite with the locals. Combine the delicious food with the homey wood featured interior, and the friendly staff, the Little Choc Apothecary is a relaxing way to spend a Brooklyn afternoon.

Little Choc Apothecary is located on 141 Havemeyer Street, Brooklyn, NY.

5. SkyIce NYC

Feeling a little hungry? Well, Brooklyn is an amazing place to satisfy your appetite! For some great Thai food & delicious ice cream and sorbets, check out SkyIce NYC. SkyIce NYC is a yummy place to go for some delicious Thai food but the main highlights are the desserts. Definitely try some of the sorbet when you are there! Roasted coconut, in particular, is delicious. The SkyIce Sampler is another great option for you! Try a bunch of different flavors and get a varied taste of delicious flavors on your tongue. This is a great place for treating yourself!

SkyIce Sweet & Savory
SkyIce NYC; image via SkyIce Sweet & Savory Yelp page

SkyIce NYC is located on 63 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY.

6. Audrey’s Concerto

To add more dessert to your life, head on over to Bay Parkway and step into Audrey’s Concerto, a café, dessert restaurant, and bakery. Hayao Miyazaki fans will definitely appreciate the décor as much of it draws influence from the famous movie, “My Neighbor Totoro”. The bakery even has Totoro designed doughnuts available in individual packages. They also custom-make cakes so check out the menu. The tiramisus there are also incredibly delicious. I personally like the matcha tiramisu and like to pair it with the lavender rose with a honey drink. Audrey’s Concerto is a cute spot that you will not want to miss.

Audrey’s Concerto is located on 2379 86th Street, Brooklyn, NY.

7. Bar Chord

Located in Ditmas Park, Bar Chord is a chill bar focused on providing its customers with great music, cool times, and good drinks. Bar Chord is a great place to relax, hang wit your friends, and find out about some cool new bands. Many bands come here to perform and the shows start at 9 pm.
Bar Chord also has an awesome selection of vintage guitars that are part of the Underdog Guitars collection, which could be bought by some of the patrons.
If you are in NYC in the winter, Bar Chord is a wonderful place to warm up and escape the cold. The great tasting drinks and the live music will definitely help to warm up your spirits.

Bar Chord is located on 1008 Cortelyou Rd, Brooklyn, NY.

38. Fifth Estate

Another cool bar in Brooklyn is the Fifth Estate, which has a cool retro vibe in the front of the house and fun retro video games, like pinball, in the back, where they also happen to feature live performances. The Fifth Estate is a great bar to frequent with your friends during happy hour to chill, play some games, listen to some cool bands, and get some beers and shots for $5. When you’re there definitely also check their calendar since they host burlesque nights and trivia nights, which just makes the Fifth Estate a fun place to get to know Brooklyn nightlife!

The Fifth Estate is located on 506 5th Avenue Brooklyn, NY.

9. Music Hall of Williamsburg

Brooklyn is also a great place for concerts and the Music Hall of Williamsburg is one of the best-known locations for bigger live music concerts. The tickets for the concerts aren’t super expensive ranging from $18 to $40, for the more popular acts. The acoustics of the venue are great for audience members as they can hear the music of the bands so you’ll definitely be able to enjoy the performance you’ve come to see. Additionally, the Music Hall of Williamsburg is centrally located so before and after the show you can duck into a lot of different restaurants and bars to make your experience really fun. Definitely look at the calendar and check out the upcoming acts!

The Music Hall of Williamsburg is at 66 N 6th Street, Brooklyn, NY.

10. Celebrate Brooklyn!

Organized by BRIC Arts Media, Celebrate Brooklyn! is one of the best performing arts festivals in the city. As one of the longest-running outdoor event series in the city, Celebrate Brooklyn! is a popular summer event that takes place in Prospect Park. Featuring popular acts in a variety of genres, Celebrate Brooklyn! is a fun program to let loose, dance to some great music and experience the outdoors in New York City.

Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival.
BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival. image by Prospect Park Alliance

Definitely go to one of the big headliners if you have a chance. Chaka Khan was a huge headliner this year and a ton of people came out to see her. Also definitely go to the Latin music performances, which always excite the crowd and are a load of fun! No matter which performance you pick you’ll definitely have a great time!

Share on: