9 cheap things to do with your parents when they visit Brooklyn

What are you going to do with these people? Via Flickr's Robotpolisher.
What are you going to do with these people? Via Flickr’s Robotpolisher.

‘Tis the season for jorts, drunkenly re-installing a window unit (advice: no) and — eep — parent visits. Assuming your M &/or D have a few New York trips under his or her belt, it’s time to mix it up from the Met-High Line-Grimaldi’s trifecta. Continue to impress your parents or at least give them reason to act impressed by taking any of our suggestions come their next pilgrimage. Make them proud by showing off your savvy, budget-conscious tour of the city, and maybe you’ll impress them enough they’ll buy you a real meal in a sit-down restaurant for once.


The Green-Wood grave of Hendry Chadwick, who invented baseball's scoring system
The Green-Wood grave of Hendry Chadwick, who invented baseball’s scoring system

Walk among baseball legends
Sunset Park
Price: FREE to $15

Green-Wood Cemetery — besides boasting title as the highest point and Brooklyn and with it, a killer view of Manhattan — plays resting place to tons of baseball pioneers. Henry Chadwick, the so-called Father of Baseball, lays to final rest among Charles Ebbets, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgersr. Players for the long-defunct 19th century teams Knickerbocker, Excelsior Clubs and more join them beneath the cemetery’s sloping emerald hills.

Self-guided tours are more fun and at your rickety parents’ pace. However, should you be on a time crunch, the park also offers a few different tours.

To keep well-rounded, be sure to pay respects to the late visual artist Basquiat and legendary composer Leonard Bernstein while traipsing the grounds.

Extra credit: Although not terrifically close (about half an hour, if you hop the R and Q; an hour walk through Prospect Park), former home to the Brooklyn Dodgers, Ebbets Field could be an after-party stop. The site is now several apartment buildings, so there’s not a whole lot to see, but should either of your parents be half as baseball nerdy as my own father, the idea is still quite the thrill.


yeah, when was the last time you was on a TRAM?? Via.
yeah, when was the last time you was on a TRAM?? Via.

Ride the skies above the city
Roosevelt Island Tramway, Upper East Side
Price: $2.75

The ride lasts about 15 minutes, packing in gorgeous city views, like the United Nations buildings, from a steep height. Toss some snacks in your bag, though, because sadly there isn’t much restaurant-wise perched on Roosevelt Island to impress parents or normal people. Consider it the alt-version of the Staten Island Ferry, except this time, with a park.

A 15-minute walk on the other side of the tram leads you to the FDR Memorial, Four Freedom’s Parks which also offers free tours on Saturdays. The park, however, stays closed on Tuesdays.


You'll have your parents screaming "I'm on a boat" in no time. Via.
You’ll have your parents screaming “I’m on a boat” in no time. Via.

Kayak ‘round Hudson River
Pier 96, Pier 40, 72nd Street, Governors Island
Price: FREE

The Downtown Boathouse super loves the Hudson. So hard they strive to provide free kayak rentals for floating upon it. Only the Pier 96 and Pier 40 locations are open during the week, though (5 pm to 7 pm Monday through Friday, 5 pm to 7 pm Thursday, respectively).

For the skiddish parents (or their adult children [you]), they also offer free lessons.


Yes, tell your parents that drinking beer is an essential part of NYC history. Via.
Yes, tell your parents that drinking beer is an essential part of NYC history. Via.

Tour a world-famous brewery
Brooklyn Brewery, Williamsburg
Price: FREE to $8

Visit the near-waterfront warehouse and wet Maw and Paw’s respective whistles. With Brooklyn Lager now served on tap in exotic locations like Tallahassee, Fla., parents are already familiar with the brewery. But what about all the weirdo, experimental brews hardly available outside of the factory itself? For example, did you even realize that zesty Radius brew is available only within three miles of the brewery? Because it’s true. Let the parentals feel smug sipping on exclusive renditions and learning the brewery’s mobtastic history from a tipsy dude standing on a keg.

Tours are free and don’t require a reservation on the weekend; they cost $8 during the week. Find more touring info via Brooklyn Brewery’s website.


Coffins were made here; now it's an all-vegan bar. Dig it, daddy-o. Via.
Coffins were made here; now it’s an all-vegan bar. Dig it, daddy-o. Via.

Drink at a bar that used to be something else
Price: Varies

An especially cool part of our borough is its recent past. Grab you and your birth orchestrators a pint at a former gas station (Hot Bird, Clinton Hill; happy hour until 8pm means $4 drafts, $5 wells, $6 wine) or pencil factory (now fittingly Pencil Factory Bar, Greenpoint).

Thumb Google about your neighborhood and find something sure to blow Momma’s mind — such as a bygone coffin factory (now Pine Box Rock Shop, Bushwick; happy hour ‘til 8 means $3 well drinks).


It doesn't look like much. That's because it's good. Get it, mon frere? Via.
It doesn’t look like much. That’s because it’s good. Get it, mon frere? Via Yelp.

Stuff your faces with fresh tortillas
Price: $3 and up

Take advantage of Bushwick’s rich Hispanic culture. Hop off the L train’s Jefferson stop and almost immediately into tortilla factory slash restaurant Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos. The tortillas are hot off the oven. This is an especially good option for quick, impressively authentic lunch. And it’s BYOB!

Extra credit: There’s an excellent junk shop across the street. The owner expects haggling, though, so skip it if M&D are of the meek variety. For more options, check out our 15-taco tour of Bushwick.


These people make fancy mayo, which, let's be honest, is the part of BK your parents really want to see.
These people make fancy mayo, which, let’s be honest, is the part of BK your parents really want to see.

Shop at an embarrassingly specific gourmet shop
Prospect Heights
Price: FREE to um, a lot?

Let’s face it: our parents delight in how hilarious our existence can be in Brooklyn. You pay how much in rent? Why are so many kids carrying banjos? Did that guy have a pet lemur? Let them relish in the weird.

Empire Mayo is one great spot to let them collect material and hang hard with the delicious, delicious white lady (the other, legal, sandwich-friendly kind). With varieties ranging from bacon (duh) to white truffle to Vadouvan (??!), Empire’s a perfect example about which they can lament to bored Minnesotans around the water cooler at home. Nine-dollar mayo tubs is one definition of exotic.

Also worth checking out: artisanal olive oil shop O Live (South Williamsburg) or swanky soda shop + EGG CREAMZZZ Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain (Carroll Gardens).


Make some pasta and then eat eat, you're all skin and bones. Via.
Make some pasta and then eat eat, you’re all skin and bones. Via.

Learn how to make fresh pasta
Brooklyn Kitchen, Williamsburg
Price: $95

Little Italy is chill and all, but the most one could expect to learn from time spent there is to avoid the by-the-slice shops until your belly contains a whole six-pack. Instead, get legit with Dad and master the art of fresh pasta at Brooklyn Kitchen’s class. It’s a bit pricey, but it eats up a lot of time and you’ll learn the difference in folding ravioli, tagliatelle and more shapes that are hard to pronounce. Class concludes with, duh, a big old tasting complete with wine pairing.

The Brooklyn Kitchen offers a variety of food-oriented classes varying as widely as the price tags attached (starting at $60, climbing to $200). Check out the full schedule via their website and be sure to book in advance—these fill quick. And when you add in food, wine and knowledge, it’s way more value than your usual fancy restaurant dinner.


Sir Patrick Stewart is a great human, and maybe you'll see him around BK.
Sir Patrick Stewart is a great human, and maybe you’ll see him around BK.

Shamelessly lurk for celebrities
Union Square
Price: FREE

I worked at Union Square’s Barnes & Noble for a few months last year and holy shit famous people love that spot. Part of the reason I took that position was because rumor had it Bruce Springsteen was a regular (and also I had to pay rent). I sadly never saw The Boss during my time there, but others bustling through during my short stint: Patti Smith, Lauren Conrad, people coworkers told me were SNL cast members and Natalie Portman.

If nothing else, use the free public restrooms on the third floor before hoofing on to indulge them in their SoHo shopping dreams. Fingers crossed it brings you a free lunch, if not a brag-worthy shoulder-rub with Garry Marshall.

Then there’s always Smiling Pizza in Park Slope, where you might find Sloper Patrick Stewart lurking about with a slice; or the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower, which is always used or filming and events — in the past few years, it’s been the set for Gossip Girl, a Kanye West concert and, just two weeks’ ago, filmings of Boardwalk Empire featuring Brooklynite Steve Buscemi; and Brooklyn Larder is to known to be a sighting spot of BOTH Gyllenhaals.

And if you don’t want to hunt down all those ubiquitous pink signs telling you which project is filming on which block that day, there are always websites that keep track of them so you can stalk (politely) your favorite stars. But remember the No. 1 NYC rule of seeing celebrities is to act cool at all times.

Follow Beca, who would like very much for her parents to visit, at: @becagrimm

Additional reporting by Tim Donnelly.


  1. gene99

    Trust me on this: Your parents would be happy to pick you up and go someplace safe to eat (like Long Island).

    And whatever you do, don’t take them to your apartment.

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