Brooklyn Travel Diary: your guide to eating, seeing, and doing in the Brooklyn borough of New York City based on local tips and a week of exploring.
I recently spent a week in New York–mostly Brooklyn–visiting my brother and seeing all I could see. I switched hosting providers for the blog and it was down for about a day *cue meltdown* so, although I had already planned to work on different blog things during this time, I spent quite a bit more time doing so than I thought I would. Thankfully, I still got to explore quite a bit and see much more of the city than on any of my previous trips. Brooklyn alone was much bigger than I remembered so it took most of the week to fully explore it. I hope to make this an annual trip, visiting a different borough each time because there’s so much to do and see. In addition to falling in love with Solange’s new album, I ate and saw so many memorable things and am sharing all the details of what I liked best below along with tips to help you during your next trip to the city. Get your scrolling fingers ready!
Where I Went
Brooklyn Botanic Garden: This garden was so gorgeous and dreamy, y’all! It’s a great place to explore whether you are alone, on a date, or with family or friends. It’s expansive (52 acres!)–I walked around for almost three hours and didn’t see everything. Of course, I was taking lots of pictures and moving at a very leisurely place. There are subsections throughout dedicated to everything from Shakespeare to herbs and produce to Brooklyn natives. There are also water features and wildlife. A visit here should be on your Brooklyn to-do list for sure.
Furious Thoughts: The venue was Museo del Barrio in Spanish Harlem. I am an avid listener of The Read [podcast] and bought a ticket to see Kid Fury’s standup show as soon as I realized I would be in New York when it occurred! My brother, who is not familiar with Kid Fury’s work, decided to go as well and both had a fantastic time.
Brooklyn Bridge Park and Piers: The views of the water, city skyline, and Statue of Liberty are gorgeous and the park and surrounding area was bustling with people just out enjoying the day.
Housing Works Thrift Store: This store is part of a non-profit organization that provides services to assist individuals dealing with homelessness and/or HIV. I initially likened it to Goodwill but they are not the same. I popped in to browse while I was walking from lunch on 5th Ave (more below) and snagged a copy of Questlove’s Something to Food About. Getting a good bargain is made even better by supporting an organization that helps connect people to the resources they need!
Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store: This store was the cutest place I saw the whole time. I loved every inch of the cheeky mugs, decor, bar accessories, and candles–oh, the candles! Annie’s has “millennial girlboss” written all over it. They have an online store as well and my favorite items are linked below.
Gift Man: This is a souvenir shop where I bought Brooklyn tee shirts for my family and a shot glass for myself. Although it’s cheesy and I don’t typically take shots, shot glasses are a no-brainer item you can pick up just about anywhere when looking for souvenirs so I have one from many of the cities I’ve visited.
What I Ate
[Italian | Sit-Down Restaurant | Went for Dinner]
This restaurant serves unique dishes in a setting I would describe as both cozy and moody. The portions are generous and the presentation of the food and fabulous. I would recommend Verde for solo dining, a date, or an intimate group. I ordered and enjoyed the Crispy Gnocchi with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe, and Sweet Emy cocktail.
[Tapas & Bar | Sit-Down Restaurant/Lounge | Went for Drinks]
Beso is a grown and sexy, neighborhood spot. We went for drinks during happy hour, which is 5-8pm on weekdays except for Mondays, when it’s 3-11pm! I had the ginger and strawberry margaritas with were nice and strong. 🙂 The ambiance here was fun yet relaxed and the music helped set a perfect vibe.
[American | Sit-Down Restaurant | Went for Brunch]
I don’t know any other word to describe this place besides turnt. Bottomless mimosas, good music, impromptu karaoke sessions, and a waitstaff that will dance with you make this a must-visit spot when you go to New York City. My brother is a frequent flyer there and we went for brunch on a Saturday afternoon. This place has its own Instagram filter and the mimosas are 90% champagne, y’all. It was a good ol’ time! I ordered the blueberry waffle to go wash down my mimosas with and it was sensational. (I had to dive in before snapping a pic!) It was packed with blueberries and accompanied by whipped cream, maple syrup and a sweet berry puree.
[Pizza | Sit-Down Restaurant | Went for Dinner]
This is a no-nonsense place that lays out the rules at the door and on the menu: no slices, no reservations, no credit cards. We went to the location under Brooklyn Bridge and normally, there is a line to get in but we managed to casually waltz in during a down moment. A line actually formed while were eating! I’m a plain jane when it comes to pizza and ordered extra cheese and mushroom on my half (split with my brother). As the rules state above, they don’t sell by the slice, so this is a place to go with friends or if you plan to take something to-go for later.
[Health Food | Take-Away | Grabbed Dinner]
I loved this place! It is on Bedford in Brooklyn and I walked about 30 minutes each way to get this salad so I probably net zero calories, right?? Here, there is a menu of salads or you can build you own. This is a small, black-owned business and the gentleman who helped me was also the owner. I opted to build my own and he remarked that I was putting together a really tasty salad and must know food. 🙂 I highly recommend the salads here. Everything is made in front of you and chopped up before packaging so that the variety of ingredients are all made bite-sized. My pictured salad is made up of arugula, spring mix, broccoli, beets, carrots, mushrooms, dried cranberries, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chicken, shrimp, and a spicy Thai peanut dressing.
[American | Sit-Down Restaurant | Went for Lunch]
The weather was nice (it had been chilly and rainy the days prior) so I dined outside and ordered their Lunch Tray Special, which is a burger with preset topping choices, skinny fries or a salad, and a cookie. The pros of eating outside were the pleasant breeze and people watching but I was also subjected to quite a bit of passing cigarette smoke and a teenage boy cussing out his dad as they walked by my table so…it’s up to you! I ordered a medium-well beef patty with lettuce, pickle, garlic aioli, applewood bacon, and Swiss cheese, skinny fries, and a peanut butter cookie. The food was very good and a good value for the price, in my opinion. My waiter also told me that I could have more cookies for free if I wanted but I passed since I would be heading to the place below later in the day.
[Bakery | Small Seating Area | Grabbed Dessert]
I walked past this place on my way to lunch and, based on the wonderful aroma of baked goods flowing out the door, knew I would have to stop in on my way back. I got the fig macaron, carrot cranberry cupcake, and pecan pie snickedoodle cookie to try and each was delicious! The macaron was my favorite and tasted a little bit like the Fig Newtons I ate growing up but far better. I definitely recommend this place because they have a wide variety of not only types of baked goods but also unique flavor combinations.
[American Southern | Sit-Down Restaurant | Went for Dinner]
This is where we ate on my last night in town. My brother likes it because the food reminds him a little bit of home. The vibe here was relaxed and almost like dining among a bunch of family members. If you are familiar with Lucille’s in Houston, it is similar, to me. We enjoyed the sounds of Lauryn Hill, Estelle, and Queen Erykah Badu while eating so this was for sure my kind of place. My brother ordered the catfish & grits and his girlfriend and I each ordered the beet salad, mine with chicken and hers with shrimp. You might be thinking “Why order a salad in a soul food type of place?” but I was in the mood for something light and it was SO good, y’all! In it are beets, spiced nuts, shallots, preserved lemon, greens, chicken, and yogurt lebneh. Usually, when you add chicken to a salad, it’s pretty plain but the chicken at Peaches was spiced to perfection and really complemented the salad well.
What I Found Helpful
Comfortable shoes are a must. Especially if you plan to follow my next tip, which is to…
…walk! We aren’t accustomed to walking long distances outside of exercise down South but I sincerely advise that you walk whenever possible while exploring. You’ll see and experience so much that you might miss out on inside of an Uber or taxi. You’ll save some cash, too. Of course, be sure to take your safety into account.
Headphones were the biggest lifesaver when walking and on the subway. Music or a good podcast help pass the time of a long walk or ride and sometimes RBF isn’t enough to deter would-be harassers.
Speaking of the subway, I recommend investing in a week-long Metro pass if you plan to spend that amount of time in town, or even a couple of days less. It costs $30 for unlimited rides at the time of this posting, which is much less than you’ll spend getting back and forth each day.
We visited lots of other places but to keep this post [somewhat] short, I only shared what I truly enjoyed. Let me know if you have any questions. What is your favorite thing to do in NYC or wherever you’ve most recently traveled? Thanks for reading!