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10 Best Things to Do in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Guide to Brooklyn's Hottest Hipster Neighborhood: Shop, Dine, Drink, Play


Williamsburg, one of Brooklyn's most popular and exciting neighborhoods, straddles old and new. You can explore the lively arts, music, and boutique scene here, chill in numerous cafes, dine in some very good restaurants — and soak up the creative energy and young vibe.

A mecca for young creatives for over a decade, Williamsburg is in the same cosmos as hip East Berlin.

Interestingly, the hip Williamsburg scene plays out against a backdrop of old industrial buildings, modest attached homes (though punctuated by increasing numbers of expensive waterfront high rises), and a long-standing residential community of Hasidim. Williamsburg is a mish-mash of cultures and vistas, a place that's perhaps not as beautiful as, say, the campus of Brooklyn College, nor as uniform as landmarked brownstone Brooklyn.

If there's one neighborhood that's indicative of the "new Brooklyn," it's Williamsburg. Come take a look! Because even if you've lived in Brooklyn for a thousand years, Williamsburg can seem like foreign terrain.

How to Get to Williamsburg.

1. EAT in a Williamsburg Restaurant

Another fine dining option in Williamsburg is Dumont. Photo courtesy of Peter Leuders.
Williamsburg is one of Brooklyn's foodiest neighborhoods, meaning one can find excellent wine, cheese, meat and produce. Better, the area's popping with good eateries, from fine dining to cool, freshly prepared tacos. Visitors enjoy a wide range of restaurant options — take your pick, by cuisine, ambiance, price or location. The sky's the limit. For instance, Steak house Peter Luger and Dressler are both Michelin rated one star restaurants (2011). Here's a list of the best picks for Williamsburg restaurants.And, if you like beer, wine, and cocktails, you can drink your way through this neighborhood.

2. GO BOWLING: Go Bowling & Enjoy Gourmet Food & Indie Band Concerts

New Year's Eve at Brooklyn Bowl, 2011
Brooklyn Bowl is an unusual venue: half bowling alley, half concert venue — and the food is prepared by one of Brooklyn's leading names in restaurants, Blue Ribbon foods. So come with the kids, or with out-of-town guests, or a date or friends, it's fun. Concerts are sometimes sold out, so buy tickets in advance.

For plain old bowling, head to The Gutter (200 N 14th St), another bowling alley with a bar that has vintage overtones.

3. DRINK GOOD BEER: Tour Brooklyn Brewery, Visit Williamsburgs Bars & Beer Gardens

Brooklyn Brewery by post406
For a relaxed experience, visit the Brooklyn Brewery, a local institution that's helped reinvent the beer industry in Brooklyn, once home to many major brewers. Enjoy the varied beer-drinking venues for discerning drinkers that pop up every few blocks of this hopping area. Check out Williamsburg's various beer gardens.

4. GO FOR A DRINK: Visit a Cocktail or Wine Bar

Interested in a casual experience that costs less than dinner out, but feels fancier than just having a beer? Have a nibble with your date at a bar ( See best bar food in Williamsburg.) Or, head to one of the interesting cocktail bars in the neighborhood. If wine's your thing, explore some of the neighborhoods small, low-key, tasteful wine bars.

5. SEE A SHOW: Theater, Live Music, Art

Clown show at Brick Theater
Williamsburg's full of creative people who toil at their day jobs but revel in their "real" work as musicians or performers, writers or artists. So it's not surprising that one can find poetry readings (check Pete's Candy Store), music performances (see the Music Hall of Williamsburg or Brooklyn Bowl) and theater, for instance at Brick Theater. And don't miss the chance to have a delicious brunch, dinner or midnight meal served to you while> watching a flick at Nighthawk Cinema.

6. SHOP: Vintage! And, Take a Stroll on Grand Street

If it's vintage clothing you're shopping for, Williamsburg has a lot to offer, and in different price ranges. For just plain hunt-and-find experience, go to the huge, popular Beacon's Closet. But there's more....

The classic Williamsburg trendsetting store for mid-century modern is Two Jakes.

7. PLAY OUTDOORS: Go to a Summer Outdoor Movie, Shop at Brooklyn Flea

Visit the outdoor food market, Smorgasburg, held on summer weekends
Enjoy several parks in Wiliamsburg. McCarren Park is centrally located betwen Nassau Ave, Bayard St, Leonard St, and N 12 Streets and has baseball fields and basketball courts, bocce, playgrounds, running tracks and dog run areas. You can also visit East River State Park for killer Manhattan views.

Summer The list of things to do in Brooklyn simply explodes as the summer rolls around. In Williamsburg, you can go to free outdoor movies in the park (see below), take the ferry to DUMBO or Manhattan. Or, on the weekends, eat outdoors like a king or queen at Smorgasburg, an outdoor food festival held every weekend in East River State Park.

8. FARM-TO-TABLE: Take a Cooking Class at Kitchen, Tour Mast Brothers Chocolate

Mast Brothers Chocolate
Given the locavore, farm-to-table ethos in this corner of Brooklyn, it's no surprise that one can also find interesting cooking classes. Need to learn how to carve a hock of ham? What to do with knives? How to make a killer pie crust? Take a class at Brooklyn Kitchen. Then head to Whisk, a to-die-for kitchen supply store. Or, treat yourself with a tour of the acclaimed Mast Brothers chocolatier.


Even if you're not from the 'hood, why not have a birthday party or special occasion in Williamsburg? (Because if there's anything people know in this neighborhood, it's how to party.) Check out the best bars in Williamsburg for a birthday party.

Or, plan to attend one of the many events in the neighborhood, like the Northside Festival, held in June.

10. Walk or Bike Across the Williamsburg Bridge

It's not as famous or as picturesque as the Brooklyn Bridge, but the Williamsburg Bridge played an important role in New York City history. There's both bike and pedestrian lanes (cyclists are advised to be careful when returning to Manhattan's traffic) and it makes a nice alternative trip to the now-crowded Brooklyn Bridge.


Free Things to Do in Williamsburg

Williamsburg can be expensive — but it doesn't have to be.

There are great parks (and free outdoor movies in the summer), window-shopping and holiday festivals in the winter. It's fun to simply walk around the area to see how the different strains in the neighborhood — Italian, hipster and moneyed residents — all play together. Check out the bike stands at the subway stations (you'll see a lot of bikes), local art galleries, and gaze at the skyline of Manhattan.

A trip to Williamsburg can cost hundreds of dollars (if you dine and drink well, or shop), or no more than a subway ride. After all, the best entertainment of all is free: people-watching. Free Things to Do in Williamsburg.

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