We’ve been in a very pro-Brooklyn mood all week around here, focusing on all the best that the borough has to offer. And that’s all well and good! But we’d be remiss if we didn’t also address the fact that there are plenty of things in Brooklyn that are, well, not so great. Which, obvious, right? Right. But we’re not just talking about the things that are obviously no fun (i.e. spending the day at Ikea around someone with whom you will want to continue to have some kind of relationship). No, we’re talking about the things that are supposed to be good and fun and the kind of activities recommended by absolutely everybody you know, but that are actually pretty shitty ways to spend a day or night. So, here, let us save you some trouble and re-direct you away from the kind of shit that will depress the hell out of you, and toward better alternatives. It’s the least (literally the least) we can do.
1) Biking Across the Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge is the most beautiful bridge in New York City. That’s just a fact. (It is not, however, the bridge with the best name. That honor goes to the Outerbridge Crossing which connects Staten Island and New Jersey and was named after George Outerbridge. This is one of the best New York City factoids. Learn it. Love it. Use it.) And—especially now that the weather’s getting nicer—there will always be people recommending that you ride a bike over it. Maybe even a Citibike, which conveniently has about 437 docking stations in DUMBO alone. But don’t do it. Do not be tempted by the idea of yourself gliding over the East River, your bike wheels skimming over the arc of the bridge, feeling about as close to flying as is possible while still so close to the earth. That WILL NOT be what it’s like. Instead, you’ll have to navigate through hordes of people walking in the bike lane and suddenly stopping so that they can take snap photos of the view. It will be the most frustrating thing you’ve ever done and you will hate every second and not be able to enjoy the sights at all. Just don’t do it. Stay away.
Alternative: If biking is how you want to get into Manhattan, the Williamsburg Bridge’s bike path is far more amenable to cyclists. And if what you want is to cross the borough’s most famous bridge? Use your feet. Just don’t walk in the bike lane. For the love of all things good and civilized, do NOT walk in the bike lane.
2) Eating Pizza at Grimaldi’s
Surely any renowned, decades-old pizzeria with a perpetually long line must be worth the wait, right? Wrong. While Grimaldi’s is a DUMBO institution and does make some pretty good pizza, it’s nowhere near worth waiting on line for what can literally be hours. Especially when there’s actually plenty of other good eating destinations nearby, including the neighboring Juliana’s, which makes a pie that is close to identical to Grimaldi’s (probably because it’s run by the original owners of Grimaldi’s) and never has a long line.
Alternative: Juliana’s (19 Old Fulton Street, DUMBO) or one of the many other excellent area restaurants, including Gran Electrica (5 Front Street, DUMBO), Iris Cafe (20 Columbia Place, Brooklyn Heights), and Atrium DUMBO (15 Main Street, DUMBO).
3) Riding the Cyclone
So, we love Coney Island. We really do. But we don’t have the best relationship with the Cyclone. Let’s just say that it’s left us in severe pain for days after being whipped down and round its steep hills and sharp curves. It was those low seat backs! Whiplash city. And we know that the Cyclone has recently upgraded its seats so that riders have neck support and thus are less likely to end up in a neck brace, but what you’re then left with is just an old rickety roller coaster that costs a ridiculous amount of money to ride. Which, fine and everything. But kind of disappointing, no? You can do better on just about any other ride on Coney Island.
Alternative: The Wonder Wheel offers you unparalleled views and a real thrill if you ride in the swinging cars. And Coney Island’s relatively recent addition of the Slingshot is one of the best amusement park rides we’ve ever been on. Plus, you’ll get to see a video of just how crazy you look when you’re screaming in terror while being launched 2,000 feet over Brooklyn.
4) Weekends in Prospect Park
While nowhere near as bad as Central Park on a sunny, temperate weekend, Prospect Park tends to get a bit chaotic on Saturdays and Sundays—especially now that the weather is nice. Oh, it can still be fun to walk around (especially if your wanderings take you past the drum circle or into the Vale of Cashemere or past the little Quaker Cemetery), but it’s best to save your park ramblings for a weekday when you can feel like Olmsted and Vaux (rhymes with Fox) built this verdant wonderland just for you.
Alternative: If you must go to a park on the weekend, we suggest taking the trip out to Marine Park—Brooklyn’s biggest—and exploring the acres of marshland there, and maybe even stopping off for a visit to Brooklyn’s best secret beach, Dead Horse Bay.
5) Bargain-Hunting at Brooklyn Flea
Now entering its 7th year, the Brooklyn Flea has quickly become a borough-wide institution, and with good reason! There’s lots of interesting stuff to peruse, from clothes to jewelry to housewares to, well, just about anything you can think of. There’s only one problem—it’s not that cheap. Which, I know, I know. Nothing in Brooklyn is really that cheap anymore. And that’s
terrible fine. It is what it is.
Alternative: Stoop sales. They’re your best hope for getting any kind of a real deal. Any vintage treasures that are housed in a brick-and-mortar shop are going to have prices influenced by the crazy overhead it takes to pay rent in Brooklyn. Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shop in them, only that you’re going to be paying top dollar.
6) Waiting for Hours for Any Kind of Hybrid Food
Look, at least Brooklyn isn’t home to the cronut, but we are home to the ramen burger and people do stand on long, long lines for ages just to eat one. And actually, this “overrated thing to do” applies not just to hybrid foods but also to waiting hours upon hours for any kind of food, especially if it’s brunch! It’s just not ever going to be worth it, because in the end? It’s just food. And Brooklyn is chock full of good places to eat without torturing yourself first.
Alternative: Eat any one of these burgers. You’ll be far happier in the end.
7) Going to Hear a Band at Union Pool
There are a lot of music venues in Brooklyn and since none of them is Terminal 5, we’ve already come out on top in the live music game. And, sure, no place is perfect, but some are definitely not as good as others, and Union Pool qualifies as one of the places that just isn’t worth going to. Why? Well, not to be too much of a jerk about it, but it has a lot to do with the people who tend to go to Union Pool. Music just isn’t as fun to listen to when you’re surrounded by a lot of bro-y guys and girls who are trying to explain to each other what “basic” really means.
Alternative: St. Vitus is probably our favorite small venue in Brooklyn, although it might soon be everyone else’s too, what with the whole Nirvana reunion. Still, though, it’s enough of a schlep for most people that it will stay somewhat off-the-radar.
8) Eating Cheesecake at Junior’s
True story: in 2000, a friend of mine was Jeffrey Tambor’s personal assistant on a movie shoot, and as wrap day treat for the cast and crew, Jeffrey Tambor had my friend buy 25 cheesecakes from Junior’s to celebrate. Which sounds like a nice thing, right? Right. I guess. Except that Junior’s cheesecake is actually, secretly, totally not that good. It’s dense and chalky and coats your tongue and teeth with a sticky sweet dairy mess for hours after eating. Ew. Don’t do it. Also, my friend saod that there was a TON of cheesecake left over. Nobody wanted to eat it in the end.
Alternative: If you really want cheesecake, go to Monteleone’s (355 Court Street, Carroll Gardens) or Villabate Alba (7001 18th Avenue, Bensonhurst).
9) Walking the Brooklyn Heights Promenade
Sure, if you’re walking down the Brooklyn Heights promenade, the views of downtown Manhattan are unparalleled. But you’re still just looking at downtown Manhattan. And you’re doing it while standing on top of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (fuck you forever, Robert Moses!), with all the attendant traffic noise and exhaust fumes. Brooklyn Heights is a beautiful neighborhood, better to stroll around its tree-lined streets, while keeping an eye out for some of the best houses in Brooklyn.
Alternative: If you really want to spend time on the Brooklyn waterfront, head to Brooklyn Bridge park in DUMBO, or over to Valentino Pier in Red Hook. Brooklyn has miles of waterfront pathways, and most are also far less congested than the promenade.
10) Riding Jane’s Carousel
Jane’s Carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park is absolutely stunning to behold, positioned as it is right on the waterfront, in a jewel box-like glass house, right in between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. That said, it doesn’t go very fast. Which might sound like mere quibbling, but actually matters, I think, to kids young and old. There’s certainly an argument to be made that maybe you shouldn’t even be going on the carousel at all if you’re an adult, but I won’t make that now, because hey, who am I to judge? (I am no one to judge, but will definitely do it anyway.
Alternative: Few are the times that I will recommend forgoing a Brooklyn-based activity to travel to Manhattan, but, decent as Prospect Park’s carousel is, there is none better than the one in Central Park. Those horses really fly.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen