My Brooklyn Is Better Than Yours
Manhattan? Fuhgeddaboudit. These days, the most interesting part of New York is across the East River.
The bright lights of Manhattan may lure visitors to sleek clubs and trendy gallery openings, but Brooklyn has something edgier and hipper for those seeking real fun in the city (without dress codes and notorious socialites).
Whether you're looking to catch a daytime concert in an abandoned pool (at McCarren Park in Williamsburg), play bocce while you drink your beer (at Floyd, NY in Carroll Gardens), or see a live Balkan brass band (at Barbès in Park Slope), Brooklyn has you covered.
One of my favorite spots is right around the corner from my apartment--the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It show-cases some of the most beautiful flora the city has to offer and hosts the breathtaking cherry blossom festival each April. After you tiptoe through the tulips (and lilacs and orchids), take a short walk down Washington Avenue and visit the renowned Brooklyn Museum. The recently redesigned façade--a sheer glass pavilion created by Polshek Partnership Architects--is representative of the museum's dedication to contemporary art. The museum also has a fantastic series of kids' programs.
Even small towns boast yoga classes these days, but nothing quite compares to the outdoor Sunset Yoga classes offered by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy. Bring a mat and prepare to be awed by the view of the Manhattan skyline.
Unlike Manhattan, Brooklyn has a significant amount of open space. From rambling parks and playgrounds to vast rooftops, Brooklyn places an emphasis on getting outside and enjoying the natural beauty of the borough. One of Brooklyn's most beloved alfresco activities starts at a mere $8. Every Friday and Saturday night, and some Thursdays, in summer the Rooftop Films association hosts a festival of shorts and features at various locations, such as on warehouse roofs or at parks. Filmmakers can even submit their own efforts for consideration. I'm sure nothing beats seeing your hard work projected on a screen while gazing out at the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg Bridges.
If you're in Williamsburg, check out the newly reopened McCarren Park Pool. A popular public pool in the '30s and '40s, it was closed in the mid-'80s and became known primarily for its rather seedy nighttime inhabitants. But a few years ago the city cleaned it up, and now the space is used for dance and music performances. It's one of the hottest places to see bands like Sonic Youth and the Walkmen perform in the summer.
Music fans will also want to hit Southpaw on Park Slope's Fifth Avenue. Once a small venue specializing in great local bands, Southpaw has become a rock and roll institution, attracting nationally known acts like Cat Power and Sufjan Stevens. Looking for something a bit more eclectic? Moto, in south Williamsburg, is under the tracks of the J, M, and Z subway lines (look for the bike hanging above the door). The owners, both motorcycle renovators, have created an old-world European feel where you can hear live bluegrass and klezmer music while drinking a pint of the Belgian ale Corsendonk or one of the amazing wine selections.
The Riviera gallery on Metropolitan Avenue is part of Williamsburg's growing gallery scene. Some of the most interesting artists and illustrators around, such as Hyemi Cho and Dan Funderburg, have shown there lately.
Any Brooklyn story would be lacking if it didn't mention two classic spots. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux (who created Central Park in Manhattan), Prospect Park occupies more than 585 acres in the heart of the borough. With soccer and baseball fields and wide-open areas for picnics, the park is one of the few places where city residents can escape into nature. If sunbathing isn't for you, check out the pedal boats in the lake.
And these days, Coney Island is far more than the beach, Nathan's Famous hot dogs, and the Cyclone roller coaster. You can root for a minor-league baseball team, the Cyclones; gasp at the Mermaid Parade (Brooklyn's answer to Mardi Gras, this year's is June 23); and listen to great music at The Village Voice's Siren Music Festival in July. There's a buzz in the area: A group called Creative Time gathered artists to do pro bono work, painting signs and sprucing up storefronts and concession stands.