We’ve been lucky enough to visit New York City a few times over the years, and each time it reveals something else, something unique which easily makes it one of our favourite cities in the world.
Naturally, most tourists still gravitate to Manhattan. But, much like London, extortionate rents and house prices are pushing the good stuff further and further out, making boroughs like Brooklyn a much cheaper, but equally captivating place to stay in, and explore.
New York was the penultimate stop on our six month round the world extravaganza, and we certainly left the best til last. With our sisters-from-another-mister at our side – Emma and Laurie Anne – we combined the traditional tourist trail with a few hidden Brooklyn gems.
Brooklyn is huge – on its own it would be the USA’s fourth largest city – but most of the good stuff is within a mile or so of the waterfront (yes – that waterfront with the AMAZING view of Manhattan).
Williamsburg is Brooklyn’s hipster paradise, but it’s fast becoming just as expensive as most of Manhattan. So we plumped for a lovely apartment in a tree-lined brownstone street in Fort Greene.
It’s got everything for your “New York” experience; the aforementioned brownstone homes, a high street with all the cold brew coffee and international food you could ever need (special shout out to the frozen margaritas at Habana Outpost) and a lovely little park complete with farmers’ market.
It’s also less than 20 minutes from downtown Manhattan, closer to the action than you’d be in the Upper East Side or Harlem, for example.
Fort Greene is also within walking distance to Brooklyn’s first properly gentrified area, Dumbo. It literally stands for Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass, and features all the trendy loft conversions between Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges.
A short amble through Dumbo takes you to the World’s Best View, the Brooklyn Bridge on your right with the whole of Lower Manhattan looming in front of it, the Empire State standing proudly in the distance and Lady Liberty off to the left. Go at dusk!
Brooklyn Bridge Park and its promenade snake all along the riverside towards Brooklyn Heights. If you’re quick you might spot legendary sculptor Anish Kapoor’s latest work Descension, a mesmerising whirlpool flowing permanently into the depths below.
Under the Brooklyn Bridge you can also find some of the best pizza we’ve ever tasted at Juliana’s. It rivals the other famous pizzeria a few doors down, Grimaldi’s, but Juliana’s is actually the home of Patsy Grimaldi’s original pizza business. It gets busy, but it’s worth it.
We were lucky enough to get a local’s guided tour of Brooklyn thanks to our good friend Erin, who lives in Clinton Hill. We walked down her local high street, ate great Venezuelan food, and dropped in on one of the only Welsh (yes, Welsh!) bars in town, Sunken Hundred.
We wandered all the way to the industrial Red Hook at the very eastern edge of the borough. Famous for its fishing and its dive bars, as well as amazing art galleries in old warehouses, independent chocolate makers, and the most famous Key Lime Pie in America.
A Brooklyn stay wouldn’t have been complete without a bottomless brunch, the new weekend activity du jour.
We nailed jugs of unlimited mimosas and amazing food in Williamsburg at Baby’s All Right, followed by a conversation outside with a marijuana aficionado who hosts a Vice programme about using weed in food, entitled Bong Appetit. You honestly couldn’t have made it up!
Yes, it’s all hipster in the extreme. But if you can’t be a hipster in Brooklyn (or a wannabe one at least), then when can you?!
Our Brooklyn experience was completed by our amazing Air BnB hosts Tracey and Pete, who invited us for wine and popcorn out on their stoop on our final night at their place.
We chatted about their super cool twin sons who’ve just graduated from high school and how their area has changed from crack dens to hipster hangouts in less than 15 years. We finally called it a night at 2.30am thankful that we chose to stay south of the river.
That’s not to say we didn’t totally nail the tourist thing in Manhattan!
We scaled the Top of the Rock, in our opinion the best observatory in New York, with the best views.
We cycled the length and breadth of Central Park (check Groupon for great deals, we paid $12 each for 4 hours).
We got our pictures taken in Times Square, but honestly, 15 minutes really is enough time to spend here!
We walked the amazing Highline, the elevated walkway and garden fast becoming an essential stop for any visitor.
We cheered on as the awe-inspiring New York Pride march snaked along Fifth Avenue towards Greenwich Village. We’ve never seen such a colourful, energetic parade. It did the city, and its people, proud.
We even nabbed our way in to exclusive members club Soho House in the Meatpacking District for an afternoon of ogling, celeb spotting and more drinking.
New York – we love you. We love the glamour as well as the grit, the world class architecture, the amazing food and drink and the sense that you can do whatever you like, whenever you like. We will be back!