I have lived on Long Island for all 20 years of my life (except for time spent in college) and until recently, Brooklyn was by-far my least explored part of New York. In fact, it was the only borough of New York that I hadn’t been to more than once.
In the early spring of 2015, I was going about my business in Nashville, TN, almost a thousand miles from home, making plans to stay there for the summer. I love Nashville, but I was starting to get homesick and my school offered an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.
Belmont University has an incredible music business program, and that program led to the creation of a Belmont East/West study away venture that allows ~30 students to spend a semester studying and interning in NYC or L.A. instead of Nashville. I could have taken a bigger risk and gone to L.A., but I missed my city and my family.
I applied riiiiiiiiight before the deadline and was waitlisted.
About a month later, I received a call that someone had dropped out and I had a few days to decided whether or not I wanted the open spot. Up until that point, I had been unsure as to whether or not it made sense for me to go right back to where I started, but when I got that phone call, my heart leapt and I knew I had to say yes.
I had to leave all my new friends behind. I had to pack up all my things and move back home. I had to find an internship in New York even though I was in Tennessee. I had to save up enough money so I could work as an unpaid intern and still survive.
In late August of 2015, I moved into my new temporary home in Brooklyn Heights. My dorm was the size of an average bedroom except I shared it with two other girls (hello lofted beds). But, I was there. In Brooklyn. On my own in this strange new place. One subway stop from lower Manhattan and an hour long train ride to my parent’s house, but still a new place.
Everyone always says to study abroad if you can. There’s no experience like it. Most schools offer abroad programs, but not all offer options close to home. If you have the chance to study away within the United States like this, I say take it. It’s like a test run of a new city.
When I lived in Brooklyn, I was in Brooklyn Heights. It’s a small section of the borough on the far west side, and it’s home to the Brooklyn Bridge.
I spent more time in Manhattan, but when I was in Brooklyn I was in either Brooklyn Heights or Williamsburg.
Brooklyn Heights is a residential, family-oriented neighborhood. The buildings are beautiful and apartments are expensive. You won’t find a lot of fast food, but there are incredible restaurants and shops. It’s also home to Atlantic Ave. and the Barclays Center (Brooklyn Nets and New York Islanders).
Williamsburg is hipster central. Residents of Williamsburg re-invented the term “hipster.” You’ll find flannel on flannel and record store after record store; you’re likely to walk past an ultimate vegan paradise next to one of the finest foreign meat shops. It’s a weird and magical place. See: Jimmy Kimmel’s “Hipster or Hasidic?”
This is my guide for my Brooklyn. 🙂
- Brooklyn Bridge/Brooklyn Bridge Park – This is a must, whether you’re planning on exploring Manhattan or Brooklyn. It connects Brooklyn Heights to the financial district of Manhattan over the East river. The walk across the bridge is BEAUTIFUL in both directions. It’s a little over a mile, so I wouldn’t recommend doing it in heels though I have seen people try. If you’re going to do it, don’t be the guy that walks in the bike lane and/or stops suddenly. Please, for the love of God, pull over to the side if you’re going to take a picture. The park, which is on the Brooklyn side, includes a pop-up pool in the summers, a playground, and more. Shake Shack is also a thing. If you haven’t heard your New York friends rave about it then you probably don’t have real New York friends.
- Brooklyn Heights Promenade – If you need an address for the GPS, type in 55 Clark St. That’s the old St. George Hotel, which is now student housing. Henry is the cross street. The Promenade provides an unbelievable view. If you’re staying in the area, it’s a great place for a run. It’s lined with benches, so I loved sitting there with my coffee in the morning or with a good book. There is a great little coffee shop called Tazza right on Clark Street, or another one called Vineapple a few blocks down (both blocks connect to the Promenade). In my opinion, Vineapple is better for coffee and Tazza is better for food.
- Dumbo Beach/Pebble Beach – Though you’ll want to go to Long Island for a real beach, this provides a great view from the opposite end of the Brooklyn Bridge (the promenade proves the other view).
- Montague Street – Montague is a few short blocks from Clark St. It is lined with little shops, delis, and restaurants which range from casual pizza (Monty Q’s) to nice Italian (Armando’s) and don’t forget dessert (Chocolate Works).
- Atlantic Ave – Atlantic feels more like the city whereas Montague feels more like a village. On and around Atlantic Ave. you’ll find adorable toy stores, antique shops, and endless restaurants that all lead to and from the Barclays Center and BAM. If you’re looking for a bit of the south in New York, try Morgan’s BBQ (Texas BBQ).
- Prospect Park – If I had to compare it to anything, I’d say it’s the Central Park of Brooklyn. All sorts events happen here, so I’d check the schedule if you’re planning to be around Brooklyn. It’s also simply a beautiful place to take a stroll through. Dogs are welcome, and there are special areas with off-leash hours. You can partake in various sports, try your hand at ice skating (much cheaper than Rockefeller Center), and relive your childhood at the carousel. There’s also a historic house and a 400-animal zoo. There’s something for everyone.
- Other food & drink recommendations in Brooklyn Heights… Rocco’s Tacos for Mexican food and margaritas, Park Plaza for a diner on one side or a casual bar on the other (happy hour all night Mondays). Also check out Ozu for sushi.
- Baby’s All Right – This is my favorite music venue in Brooklyn, but that might just be because they have my favorite drink in Brooklyn (or maybe anywhere). It’s their signature drink – it’s called a “Pink Baby” and it’s frozen grapefruit lemonade with mate and vodka. It’s delicious and easy to drink one too many.
- If you’re at all into the music scene, Rough Trade is a record store that you must see. It’s modern music store meets classic neighborhood record shop, and it’s right around the corner from Music Hall Williamsburg. There’s also a great little burger place nearby called The Burger Guru. I recommend the Williamsburg or Spartacus (biased on that one because I’m Greek).
I wish I had explored Brooklyn even more while I was living there, but I hope to visit and explore more in the future. In a few weeks, I will eventually head to Cony Island and write about that adventure (technically part of Brooklyn but might as well be a foreign country for the cultural aspect). You can also read up on Manhattan from my perspective here.