Alanna, 31, was born and raised in Yorktown – a city just one hour north of the famous NYC. Athough now a resident of Madrid, Spain – Alanna called Brooklyn home for nearly 10 years and she’s here to share her top 10 (+ one extra) favorite, off the beaten path places to visit in Brooklyn and NYC.
And when visiting the big apple, Alanna wants us all to know this: “. . . that we New Yorkers have an undeserved reputation for being unfriendly. On the contrary, most true New Yorkers I know are some of the kindest, most open, generous people I have encountered in my life. The difference is that New Yorkers value time more than anything else. Time does not necessarily equal money, but in a city where everything and everyone moves a million miles per minute, time is precious. We don’t have the time to spend on incompetence, fakeness, or arrogance – and we will let you know it with our attitude and our actions. However, we are always available to help someone in need, give friendly advice and directions, and be social when asked. If I had to sum up New Yorkers in one word, it would be that we are direct. We will not waste your time, we expect that you will not waste ours.”
So with that in mind, get ready for discovering a side of the most famous city in the world in a way you didn’t know before — and don’t be afraid of those intimidating locals 😉
My Top 10 + 1 off the beaten path places to visit in Brooklyn/NYC
1. Williamsburg Waterfront at sunset (end of N. 6th Street, past Kent Avenue (Subway: L train to Bedford Avenue). Beautiful illuminated view of midtown NYC. Once the sun has set, stay to watch the lights twinkle in place of the starts in the nighttime sky. It’s always fun to see “which outfit” the Empire State Building will be wearing each night.
2. Red Hook (Fairway and/or Brooklyn Crab and/or Steve’s Key Lime Pie) – Red Hook is one of the more remote, difficult neighborhoods to get to in Brooklyn, but its worth the commute. If you close your eyes, it’s as if you were transported to a coastal Connecticut fishing village with a large artist population and a view of the Statue of Liberty. Plus, the food is incredible – Brooklyn Crab offers some of the best summer-style seafood in NYC, and Steve’s Key Lime Pie has become an institution. Also, ask any New Yorker about Fairway, an amazingly affordable gourmet supermarket, and they will not be able to keep their mouth shut. It’s a great place to pick up some picnic grub and watch the boats come in and out of New York Harbor.
3. Mercury Lounge – Mercury Lounge is one of the last venues standing from my concert-
heavy days living in NYC (RIP N.6, Galapagos, Luna Lounge, and most recently, Glasslands). I have seen some of my favorite, at one time up-and-coming bands play here (including the bands my friend play(ed) in). It’s always worth checking out the calendar and making a trip. It’s also next to Katz’s Deli, which, you know, is a New York institution, if pastrami on rye is your thing.
4. Grocery shopping in Chinatown – When I was a child I hated Chinatown. It was scary place where the signs were in a language I couldn’t understand. As an adult, I have come to appreciate it as a unique place in the world where you can experience a different language, people and culture without leaving your own country. To me, the best way to experience Chinatown is about walking around, exploring the markets for authentic items and ingredients, and seeing what you turn up with.
5. Union Square Farmer’s Market first thing in the morning – Unknown to most tourists, New York State has always been a hub for agriculture, and boasts some of the most fertile land in the United States (think Hudson River Valley and Allegheny Plateau). Come to the Union Square Farmer’s Market to taste the local bounty, especially during apple season (There is a reason NYC is called “The Big Apple”; one bite of our apples and you’ll know why!). Most high-end chefs make the trip every morning at 8am to get the freshest and most unusual local ingredients, so the earlier you get here the better. There are also a number of vendors that serve fresh, hot apple cider and apple cider donuts, which is a stellar way to start your day.
6. Via Quadronno Café, 73rd St. between Madison Ave and 5th, you will undoubtedly visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (and well you should!). Once you have had your fill of culture for the day, refuel at this charming hidden Italian café, which makes the best latté in New York City. Don’t act surprised when you see a celebrity or two at one of the marble tables.
7. Ft. Tilden Beach – Remote and abandoned beach in a nature reserve on the border between Brooklyn and Queens. No lifeguards on duty, so you must swim at your own risk. A peaceful retreat that is only a subway ride away.
8. Breakneck Ridge – With a commute of just over an hour on the Metro North, Breakneck Ridge is one of the most challenging short hikes I’ve ever been on. The name “breakneck” comes from the fact that most of the hike is at a 90-degree incline and, if you were to fall…well…you get my drift. There are two summits to the hike and both offer a breathtaking view of the Hudson River Valley, and of West Point, the most prestigious ar my academy in the U.S. (Both Generals Lee and Grant from opposing sides of the American Civil War were students). On a clear day, you can see all the way to Manhattan.
9. Smith Street, Cobble Hill – The neighborhood where brunch was invented. Cute restaurants, cafés, clothing stores, specialty shops line this street. It’s the perfect location to take a Sunday stroll.
10. Bamonte’s Restaurant, Williamsburg – forget Little Italy on Mulberry Street. If you want an authentic, Italian-American meal with the possibility of seeing a mobster (even if it’s just in the form of signed pictures of Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Deniro, etc. on the wall), head to this restaurant in the non-hipster section of Williamsburg. They have been serving red-sauce dishes for over 100 years and the ambience will take you back that far as well.
11. Fort Tryon Park, Washington Heights – The last stop on the A/C subway line is definitely worth the trek. Ft. Tryon Park is home to the Cloisters, a medieval castle that was transported from the old country to NYC and is home to the famous Unicorn tapestries. The gardens surrounding this branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art are well manicured, and if it weren’t for the view of the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson, you might imagine you were in a European village rather than the home of the Wall Street, Times Square and Grand Central Station.