What to Do
What isn’t there to do in Brooklyn? Seriously, you’ve got an abundance of choices here, we’ve narrowed it down to some key institutions and newer, cooler places and activities. Enjoy!
1) Catland (Bushwick): Catland is here to fill all of your occult needs, whether you’re shopping for crystals and spell books or looking to sit down with one of their renowned tarot readers for a bit of guidance.
2) Gallery Walk (Bushwick): There are a ton of great gallery spaces in Bushwick, so spend a day walking around this vibrant neighborhood taking in the art and scenery. Here’s an excellent map to help you sort everything out.
3) Then She Fell by Third Rail Projects (Bushwick): Despite several years of running, this immersive theater experience still remains perpetually sold out if you don’t book at least six weeks in advance, in part due to its 15 members-per-show maximum. Surpassing the popularity of even Sleep No More, Manhattan’s most popular immersive show, Then She Fell is set in a hospital ward and loosely based on the writings of Lewis Carroll.
4) Coney Island Amusement Parks and Boardwalk (Coney Island): Go spend the day at the beach! Visit the aquarium! Ride one of the world’s oldest and legit scariest roller coasters, the Cyclone! Eat a hot dog at Nathan’s! Just have fun you crazy kids. This is the place to do it.
5) Brooklyn Bridge Park/Jane’s Carousel (DUMBO): The beautifully restored Brooklyn waterfront resides at the foot of the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges and boasts downtown Manhattan’s skyline in the background, making this the perfect place to take all your iconic Instagram shots. (You will also see, like, a ton of people getting wedding photos done here. A ton.) Make sure to take a spin on Jane’s Carousel, a vintage merry-go-round housed in a glass cube, that feels like a larger than life jewel box and is a super-special addition to any trip to Brooklyn.
6) Minus Space (DUMBO): This awesome gallery hosts fascinating installations and is a must-visit for any art lover.
7) Brooklyn Academy of Music (Ft. Greene): Home to the best in theatre, dance, comedy, literary talks, and cinema, BAM (as it’s known in Brooklyn) is the borough’s cultural crown jewel. It’s hard to narrow down just one thing to do here, but if you get a chance to see one of the theatrical productions, take it. Years later, and I’m still reeling following seeing Derek Jacobi in King Lear and Kevin Spacey in Richard III.
8) MoCADA Museum (Ft. Greene): This museum plays host to the contemporary art of the African diaspora and is a valuable asset to Brooklyn’s cultural institutions, filled as it is with provocative, important works that you won’t find anywhere else.
9) Maha Rose Spiritual Center (Greenpoint): If you’re looking for a spot to do a little internal work, look no further than our beloved Maha Rose, where NYLON staffers have experienced both reiki and hypnotherapy. The ultra-soothing spot offers lots of classes and services, and also has a beautifully curated gift shop for all your crystal needs.
10) The Lesbian Herstory Archives (Park Slope): This place is a genuine treasure trove of lesbian historical artifacts, home as it is to the “world’s largest collection of materials by and about lesbians and their communities.” Go spend an afternoon exploring and learning; geek out, you have our full permission.
11) Prospect Park (Park Slope): Despite its name, Manhattan’s Central Park is not so central—especially if you’re in Brooklyn. Good thing Brooklyn has its own verdant wonderland, and it was even designed by the same folks who did Central Park. Plus, Prospect Park is just as pretty and it never gets crazy crowded the way its sibling does on the weekends. And, in the summer, you can partake in a great concert series there called Celebrate Brooklyn! Don’t mind if we do.
12) Brooklyn Museum (Prospect Heights): Home to notable exhibitions like the current Marilyn Minter and Georgia O’Keeffe shows, the Brooklyn Museum is usually host to at least one destination exhibit and is always worth wandering around. Take advantage of First Saturdays, if you can, where admission (which, admittedly, is always suggested donation) is totally free and there’s lots of fun, extra programming.
13) Brooklyn Botanic Garden (Prospect Heights): Survive winter in the greenhouse, welcome spring with the cherry blossom festival, walk beside a lake in the summer, and learn a whole lot about plants you didn’t even know existed in New York (or otherwise!) all year round. FREE on Tuesdays!
14) Skateboard in Cooper Park (East Williamsburg): Cooper Park may not be huge, but it has quarter pipes and rails for those of you who like to shred. Conveniently located next to the dog park, so you can check out lots of cute dogs. Win/win.
15) Brooklyn Flea/Smorgasburg (Williamsburg): Though it started small, in the parking lot of a high school, the Brooklyn Flea is now a huge enterprise, spanning multiple neighborhoods in the borough (and beyond; one will open in Manhattan this year). It’s still super fun to walk around though, deals can often be found, and the wares are always very cool. Plus, you can eat at Smorgasburg, always full of delicious and often quirky food. Ramen burger, anyone?
16) Knitting Factory (Williamsburg): While it’s a great place to catch a concert, we’re partial to seeing comedy at this venue. Despite the low-key vibe, high-caliber talent comes here, like Hannibal Buress and Chris Gethard.
17) Cooking Classes at Milk Bar (Williamsburg): While chance are you’ve been to Momofuku’s bakery, Milk Bar, plenty of times, you’ve probably never attempted to recreate their signature crack pie or birthday cake truffles, thinking it to be an impossible task. Not so much if you register for a cooking class, available only at their Williamsburg location, where Milk Bar’s bakers will instruct you every step in making of their most popular creations.
18) National Sawdust (Williamsburg): This insanely gorgeous space (you sort of feel like you’re in a UFO when inside) is home to some of the most innovative art and performance pieces in Brooklyn. We saw an opera there last year during which dinner was communally served on long wooden boards. We know that might sound confusing to you, so believe us when we say we were semi-baffled while we were experiencing it and yet we also loved it? It was delicious, and the opera was grand.
19) Nitehawk (Williamsburg): Going to the movies has once again become an experience thanks to a number of theaters offering a full menu and alcohol and themed parties. Retro-esque Nitehawk cinema has been the leader of the movement since 2011, showing movies both new and classic, as well as hosting special events like its monthly brunch series and Spoons, Toons & Booze, an uber-popular and perpetually sold-out showing during which you can get an all-you-can-eat cereal bar, cocktails, and a Saturday dose of cartoons.
20) Northside Festival (Williamsburg): Now entering its ninth year, this North Brooklyn festival takes over for a handful of days in June, bringing some of the best curated music lineups. Here’s the thing: We currently exist in a major Festival Era; every day seems to bring news of some insane lineup featuring only the biggest names in music, all playing in some obscure location where the only draw is really the music. And that’s all great! Really. But what makes Northside Music so special is the way in which it maintains the DIY aesthetic that was once emblematic of all of Brooklyn’s music scene. So, while, yeah, Northside has some big names playing this year (Dirty Projectors, Miguel, Thursday), what it really does so well is ensure that every one of the 400-plus bands that are on its lineup is worth seeing, even if you’ve never heard of them before. You just never know which of these acts will be the next Chance the Rapper, who just so happened to play his first-ever NYC show at Northside.