Red Hook spent years as a shipping port, occupied mainly by dockworkers. There was also a criminal element; Al Capone spent some time there before decamping for Chicago. All these years later, the waterfront neighborhood retains a gritty, industrial aesthetic evident in its cobblestone streets and warehouses but is now filled with idiosyncratic museums, destination restaurants and DIY businesses, which—along with views of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty—draw crowds of visitors looking for a fun day out.
The southern Brooklyn neighborhood is accessible by New York Water Taxi, which offers daily rides from Lower Manhattan’s Pier 11 to the Ikea dock. You can also take the F or G subway line to the Carroll St. or Smith-9th stops and walk over.
Here are 15 fun things to do once you’re there:
Sample some chocolate at Cacao Prieto, where all of the bars, bonbons and liqueurs are made on site. Take a tour on a weekend day at noon, 2, 4 or 6pm.
Try an old-school hero at Defonte’s. The no-frills sandwich shop has been in operation since 1922 and is known for its Italian sandwiches stacked with meats. For breakfast, the popular egg, potato and mozzarella combo is the way to go.
Admire art at Pioneer Works, a former warehouse turned cultural center. The space hosts exhibitions, talks and programs. The related Pioneer Books offers reads on subjects like music, visual art and poetry—some written by artists affiliated with the space.
Browse through the bins at Record Shop for jazz, rock, blues and gospel titles. It also stocks used books and movies, hosts live music performances and has a salon (The Walk-In) in the back in case you need a haircut. Why not?
Enjoy Texas-style brisket at Hometown Bar-B-Que. The spacious restaurant also serves pulled pork, house-made sausage, queso mac and cheese and baby back ribs, which taste best doused in the house’s signature barbecue sauce.
Escape to New England via the Red Hook Lobster Pound. The seafood eatery offers one of the City’s best lobster rolls, done Maine style (with mayonnaise and served on a buttered bun).
Delve into the neighborhood’s maritime heritage at Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge. The moored-down wooden barge is open on Thursdays from 4 to 8 pm and Saturdays from 1 to 5pm.
Get the inside scoop at the Ample Hills Factory and Museum. The ice cream company’s new factory—which shares the space with a museum, bakery and scoop shop—churns out all of its hit flavors, including Ooey Gooey Butter Cake.
Sample locally made spirits at Red Hook Winery or Van Brunt Stillhouse. At the winery, taste handcrafted rosé, white or red wines made on site. If bourbon (or grappa, rum or moonshine) is more your thing, head over to the distillery. Tours are available at both locations.
Cut into some steak at Red Hook Tavern. This newcomer, from the guy behind Hometown Bar-B-Que (plus a few other friends), serves a dry-aged New York strip topped with garlic herb butter that’s worth a visit on its own.
Drink like a local at Sunny’s Bar. The oldest drinking spot in the neighborhood (around since 1890) has a lively atmosphere thanks to its roster of regulars, live music nights and affordable drinks.
Capture the sunset at Louis Valentino, Jr. Park and Pier. The views from this small waterfront park come with the Statue of Liberty in the background.
Savor a slice at Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies. The Red Hook mainstay has served its tangy specialty for more than 20 years. Along with pies and tarts, the waterside spot serves “swingles”—frozen, chocolate-dipped key lime tarts on a stick.
Travel to the tropics during Fort Defiance’s tiki nights. Every Thursday, the restaurant-bar hosts a pop-up complete with classic tiki drinks served out of cups carved with faces and other quirky designs.