When you get the obnoxious call your college buddies want to spend the weekend in New York, you’re almost tempted to say, “No.” You might already forced to go into Manhattan five times a week, and Saturdays are meant for relaxing — not showing your friends a glamorized version of the city. Why should you spend two days shuffling your friends across the East River just to spend money on things you hate?
There’s no reason to give up your hard-earned time and money. It’s time to show your friends they don’t have to spend a fortune to have fun in this city. Here’s your guide showing them how Brooklyn is just as good as those overdone tourist spots, if not better.
When they want to go to: The High Line
Take them to: Brooklyn Bridge Park
You won’t find a park with better views, food or activities than Brooklyn Bridge Park. Yes, the High Line is artsy and vertical, but Brooklyn’s bigger, sea-level version is better. Any time you go on the High Line it’s too crowded to walk more than one foot at a time. But at Brooklyn Bridge Park you’ve got more than 80 acres of open space to do pretty much whatever you want.
Feeling active? There’s a roller rink, beach, basketball court and soccer field — all of which are free to use. All the High Line has is a grassy spot to do yoga.
Hungry? At the High Line you’ll find overpriced tacos and popsicles, but at Brooklyn Bridge Park there’s plenty of cheap options scattered among Smorgasburg. You can score incredible ice cream for less than $5 at Ample Hills Creamery or $3 tacos at the Dos Caminos cart.
Booze is no better at High Line. A glass of wine will set you back anywhere from $9-20. But you can wind down at Fornino in Brooklyn Bridge Park with a $6 Brooklyn Lager while you watch the sun set. Even better? The skyline view atop Fornino is something romantic comedies are made for. All you can see from the High Line is New Jersey.
When they want to go to: McSorley’s Old Ale House
Take them to: Brooklyn Inn, 148 Hoyt St.
This could be Brooklyn’s oldest bar, it could not. But it’s certainly a better place to bring your friends than the overcrowded, sweaty McSorley’s. The famed East Village spot has too many negatives to warrant a visit. First up: They only serve two beers, light and dark. Yes, it’s cheap at $3 per pint, but who wants to cross the river just to try two types of brewskies? Brooklyn Inn has six beers on tap, any mixed drink your heart desires, and a rotating mix of bottled beers if you’re feeling picky.
There’s plenty of history behind the Brooklyn Inn, which opened sometime in the 19th century. The wooden bar looks like one Truman Capote would have enjoyed, and it’s certainly one that Jonatham Ames still enjoys. When lit by candlelight it gives off a haunted vibe. Similar to McSorley’s, Brooklyn Inn is cash-only and has its motley crew of regulars. But at Brooklyn-side, you’re less likely to sit next to a group of frat boys yelling, “CHUG, CHUG, CHUG!”
When they want to go to: American Museum of Natural History
Take them to: Morbid Anatomy Museum, 424 Third Ave.
Ben Stiller wouldn’t want to be the security guard for this Gowanus haunt. The Morbid Anatomy Museum specializes in all things creepy and is the ideal place in Brooklyn to frighten your friends. Admission is $10, half the price of AMNH’s “suggested donation” of $22.
Instead of seeing the overhyped T-rex, check out mummified creatures or dolls of the deceased. Get in touch with your inner Emily Dickinson at the Art of Mourning exhibition, which takes a look at post-mortem pictures, jewelry and “death masks.” Whatever that is, you’ll want to see it. If you’re feeling brave, you can also take classes in taxidermy or try your hand at Victorian art.
The MAM is also sometimes open after dark and has the occasional party or lecture series. A particular spooky one is right before Halloween, discussing the history of monsters. Events typically start at $8, not bad for a night of horror.
When they want to go to: The Rink at Rockefeller Center
Take them to: LeFrak Center at Lakeside Prospect Park, 171 East Dr., open from November to March
No need to wait in line for hours to skate in the same space as Al Roker. The two picturesque outdoor rinks at LeFrak Center in Prospect Park give you plenty of room to attempt a double axel.
Gorgeous views and roomier rinks aside, the price difference ought to convince you to stay clear from 30 Rock. The midtown option is nearly $40 (with skate rental), while the total cost in Brooklyn is only $12. Use the money you save for hot chocolate at nearby Baked and Brewed or feast at one of the many delicious pizza joints nearby.
There’s plenty to do around LeFrak once you’re done skating, whether you want to roam Prospect Park or check out the shops on Flatbush Avenue. But once you leave Rock Center, you’re sadly trapped in the hell that is Midtown during the holiday season.
When they want to go to: The Statue of Liberty
Take them to: Minerva, Green-Wood Cemetery, 500 25th St.
Let’s be honest: if anyone asks you to pay for a boat ride to see the Statue of Liberty, it’s not happening. Especially between October and April. Take a stroll through Brooklyn’s largest cemetery instead, where you can encounter Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom. The statue is meant to be a friend to Lady Liberty, and was purposefully placed facing it with an outstretched hand less than 4 miles away.
Also, entrance to the cemetery is free. Wouldn’t you rather stroll around south Brooklyn than pay upwards of $20 to get seasick in the Hudson? But if your guests are insist to see the colossal green sculpture, take them to Brooklyn Heights Promenade or Valentino Pier for a great view.
When they want to go to: Upright Citizens Brigade
Take them to: The Knitting Factory, 361 Metropolitan Ave.
Yeah, UCB might be the starting place for future comedic geniuses, and your friends might want to see the place where the likes of Broad City and Amy Poehler got their start, but it’s not all laughs. The theater is small and in the middle of the most boring section of Midtown. And you better arrive a little buzzed, because you can’t buy booze up in the middle of the show.
So instead get your comedy fix at this Williamsburg staple — for free. On Sundays, Hannibal Buress’ no-cost show offers a look at up-and-comers in comedy. Plus, famous guests occasionally make an appearance (Aziz Ansari and Louis CK have been known to stop by). You can get liquored up any time during a performance, and afterwards you’ve got all Williamsburg has to offer just steps away. And while the cheapest UCB shows usually cost $5, Hannibal’s is always free.
And if Williamsburg ain’t your speed, check out our latest guide to free and cheap comedy all over the borough.
When they want to go to: Central Park Zoo
Take them to: Brooklyn Parrots (various locations)
Don’t crane your neck to see the elusive snow leopard for $12, chances are he won’t come out. But wildlife is plentiful in Green-Wood Cemetery or Brooklyn College where Monk Parakeets fly free.
The birds live in New York year-round and arrived in Brooklyn by accident when Argentina was looking to get rid of the winged creatures in the 1960s. Since then, they’ve been seen throughout the city, but inhabit a few areas of Brooklyn. You can even go on a free “safari” to see the tiny green birds.
If you’re looking for something a little more tame, stroll down Park Slope’s 5th Avenue to check out one of the city’s beasts in its natural habitat: the bodega cat. Storefronts won’t advertise their pets for legal reasons, but watch out for a tale between bags of chips. There’s no admission required, and you can even give the feline a scratch behind the ears.
When they want to go: Times Square
Take them to: Kings Plaza Mall (5100 Kings Plaza)
Let’s be honest: someone who wants to go to Times Square probably isn’t your real friend. But if you have an overeager pal who is amped on crowds, you can enjoy an afternoon at Kings Plaza Mall. The Brooklyn shopping center is essentially an outpost of Times Square. Why? It represents American Consumerism at its finest, with plenty of big box stores and chain restaurants. While you won’t be able to satisfy your midtown Ruby Tuesday craving, there’s an oversized Sbarro where you can get a New York slice.
As far as costumed characters go, it’s unlikely the mall will have a giant Hello Kitty accosting you for pictures. But just wait until the holidays come around. Then you can be like everyone else in Midtown waiting in line for a photo with Santa (he’s definitely less creepy than that off-brand Elmo).
Once you’re done with mall crowds in Brooklyn, you’re steps away from the lush wonderland that is Marine Park for some much needed detoxing. Looking for something similar when leaving Times Square? Get real. When exiting the Midtown hellhole, there’s nowhere within a 15-block radius that’s nearly as peaceful.
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