How to show out-of-towners a good time (for cheap) in Dumbo
The start of summer comes with an influx of pests: mosquitos, pantsplainers, street harassers… and of course tourists, some of whom happen to be your friends and family. As quaint as it can be to show them around and do a few touristy things, it can also be exhausting. There’s no doubt you’ll feel a financial strain within minutes of your first meal out, and a mental strain as try you explain to your beloved out-of-towners that he Rainbow Bagel isn’t worth the hype. But the next time your regularly-scheduled programming is interrupted by someone’s first trip to New York City, and Brooklyn at that, you won’t need to flounder for options, because you can simply take them on our Broketown Tours (TM) journey through DUMBO.
First an underutilized waterfront, then a refuge for artists, Dumbo has shifted from an area with one of the highest rents in the city over the course of just a few decades. So bring it back to its roots and still take in everything it has to offer without being an overcharged dumbo! We’ve put together a roundup of neighborhoods spots and sights that cater to tourists and locals alike in both their hype factors and their price points. Pace yourself and split food, and you can probably do most everything on this list for $20. After all, your tourist friends may only be here for a few days, but you live here, and you’ve still got a ways to go before you can afford your next vacation.
A visit to Dumbo wouldn’t be complete without visiting Brooklyn Bridge Park. From either the High St. (A/C) or York St. (F) stops, you can walk the park in its entirety, including stops at all the traditional attractions. As you stroll under the bridges or picnic at the tables set up by Jane’s Carousel ($2, free for ages 3 and under), kick back and enjoy the recently expanded Green Necklace making its way around the borough.
FREE highlights of the park include the public art, frequent events (hello, free summer movies), pickup basketball games and the new environmental education center. For a small fee, the piers also have roller skating ($6) and an all-new climbing wall ($9). All the while, there’s a great view of the Brooklyn Bridge.
While an entire day could be spent walking up and down the park, five minutes away you’ll find the Dorje Ling Buddhist Center (98 Gold St.), free to enter, where prayer flags are woven in between barbed wire fencing and Instagramming tourists are far less frequent. A quiet respite from walking under the deafening N/Q, this Tibetan center was established in 1991 and has since offered free access to activities, events, and practices for holidays.
SHOPPING AND CULTURE
The best part about shopping with tourists is that you don’t actually have to buy anything to experience it alongside them. And for a neighborhood so small, Dumbo offers a surprising number of one-of-a-kind boutiques and shops, including two incredible independent bookstores. Powerhouse Arena (37 Main St.) hosts book launches, readings, and signings from authors such as Salman Rushdie, David Sedaris, Joyce Carol Oates, and T.C. Boyle. Great for finding a quick souvenir or a break from the heat, plus a wealth of New York-based artists and authors available to browse. Around the corner is P.S. Bookshop, a secondhand and rare bookstore with reading chairs scattered throughout the musty shelves. While your friends fawn over Jonathan Franzen, you can leaf through that gently used copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn you’ve been meaning to read, or just buy it for under $10.
On the first Thursday of each month, dozens of galleries participate in Dumbo’s Gallery Walk (free). But if you happen to visit Dumbo one of the other 30 days of the month, you’ll still trip over galleries almost as much as the cobblestones. Bring the folks to Masters PRJ (91 Water St.) for international contemporary art, get abstract at Minus Space (16 Main St..), or check out feminist gallery A.I.R. (155 Plymouth St.). Don’t forget to keep an eye out for Dumbo’s colorful street art along York street and under the bridges!
Craving some action? The Gelsey Kirkland Ballet (29 Jay St.) is a great alternative to the ballet at Lincoln Center, and tickets are way cheaper at $25-$35. Pro tip: if you can charm the staff members, you can even peek in on daytime rehearsals for free.
SNACKS AND EATS
You won’t be alone if you just want to brown-bag it in the park or under the bridge. But don’t force a grocery store lunch on your out-of-towners: a first-timer’s visit to New York wouldn’t be complete without trying the food.
Caffeine lovers can head over to Brooklyn Roasting Co. (25 Jay St.) at their historic roasting headquarters for a seriously good cappuccino. If you’d rather save money for your meal while your tourist friends try the coffee, though, you can just watch and smell the beans being roasted, chat up the knowledgeable staff, or walk through the bookshop that shares a door with the roasters.
Food trucks are everywhere in this increasingly commercial area, but for a cheaper option, split a pie at Grimaldi’s (1 Front St.), voted one of Brooklyn’s best coal-oven pizzerias. Pies start at $12. Alternatively, show your insider knowledge by heading to Juliana’s (19 Old Fulton St.), opened by Grimaldi’s founder, and located just next door. Pies start at $16.
If you’d rather do something without table service (splitting the bill has been known to end many a friendship) or those famished from a day of sightseeing, Shake Shack (1 Old Fulton St.) is great for picking up a to-go bag and doing a parkside picnic. Sip on one of their signature Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie-infused concrete shakes while taking the East River ferry ($4) for a cheap and ‘gram-worthy route to Manhattan or Greenpoint. (For anyone not blessed with a Shake Shack in their home state, this really can be a truly religious experience.)
On a hot day, the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (Pier 11, Fulton Landing) is irresistible. Cones are around $5. But if the lineup is long or you’d rather indulge for cheaper, you can always take shelter in the air-conditioned and less expensive Jacques Torres Chocolate (66 Water St.), where chocolates run about $1.80 per piece.
SUDS ON SPECIAL
You made it! You got through a whole day of sights, nosh and cultural experiences in Dumbo with tourists in tow, and you didn’t break the bank (we hope). Here at Brokelyn, we believe that deserves a drink. A cheap drink, of course. So here’s a list of great happy hours to enjoy with friends or family after a day well-spent:
Before heading home for the day, take advantage of these great happy hour specials:
From 2-7pm, 68 Jay Street Bar has $2 Yuengling bottles, $3 drafts and $4 glasses of wine.
From 4-7pm, Superfine (126 Front St.) features $3.50 well drinks, $3 draft beers, and free pool tables.
From 4-7pm, Olympia Wine Bar (54 Jay St.) touts $5 glasses of wine, plus a $12 cheese plate.
The quintessential “Brooklyn” experience? Following Rebecca on Twitter: @viewfromthest
Originally published on 5/16 in Brokelyn.