Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to 24 hours in Brooklyn. In recent years, Brooklyn, New York has become synonymous with hipster culture. If you tell people you want to spend 24 hours in Brooklyn, they imagine that you’re going to do it while sipping a craft beer through your handlebar mustache while riding a vintage bicycle.
Now, I am a native New Yorker, so I still remember when Williamsburg, Brooklyn was a good place to go if you wanted to get murdered. Now it’s the place to go to get artisanal toothpaste for your cockapoo.
But despite the Great Hipster Invasion of Brooklyn, the borough still has many charms. With 24 hours in Brooklyn, you can drink excellent craft beer, eat delicious pizza, meet some local artists, drink craft beer, watch some arthouse movies, peep on the Brooklyn Bridge, and also drink some craft beer. Still think Brooklyn is for hipsters only? Snap out of it!
24 Hours in Brooklyn
Where to Stay?
I always laugh hysterically when people ask me this question. I have lived in the same apartment in New York City my entire life. That means I have never stayed in a New York City hotel. If I had unlimited funds, I’d spend my 24 hours in Brooklyn over the bridge in Manhattan at the Hotel Carlyle for the glamour and the bar with the Madeline drawings on them.
Or I’d stay at the Plaza, so I could pretend that I was Eloise from the adorable children’s books. I’m basically a Very Fancy Eight Year Old Girl who refused to grow up.
If you’d like to explore great deals on over 1400 other hotels in New York City, click here.
24 Hours in Brooklyn
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
If the weather is rainy or snowy, which happens quite often in NYC, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out without feeling like some gauche tourist with gross feet.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
24 Hours in Brooklyn
Morning: Dumbo: The New Brooklyn Tour
As I mentioned before on this blog, I’m a big fan of the tour company Urban Adventures. (They don’t pay me anything. I just like them because I have excellent taste. I actually don’t accept free tours because I want my readers to trust my judgment. Do you hear that, world? Don’t even think of trying to give me money!)
Anyway, Urban Adventures has recently started to run tours with the New York Times called New York Times Journeys. I assume the Times picked this name because it can never resist the opportunity to be pretentious.
But though I love to rag on the Grey Lady, their tour of Dumbo is a completely fantastic experience to start your 24 hours in Brooklyn. You’ll get delicious food and drink, the chance to meet lots of locals, and even a secret viewing point of the Brooklyn Bridge! There was so much I learned on this tour, but I’ll get you started with…
Approximately Top 5: Dumbo Edition
1) The Views
So the name of the neighborhood in which your 24 hours in Brooklyn begins is Dumbo. Dumbo the neighborhood in Brooklyn has nothing to do with any cartoon elephants. It stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, which is where the nabe is located. Apparently the nickname was given by local artists who wanted the area to sound weird and unappealing so it wouldn’t get gentrified. Spoiler alert! They did not succeed.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with New York City’s geography, the city is made up of 5 counties. In NYC we like to do things differently, so we call these 5 counties “boroughs”. I’m pretty sure the 5 boroughs are Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and New Jersey.
Each borough has lots of little neighborhoods, like DUMBO. Confusingly enough, each borough has both a borough name and a county name. So Brooklyn, the borough, is also known as Kings County. Confused yet? Now you understand why New Yorkers are cranky all the time.
Anyway, because of DUMBO’s location right under the Manhattan Bridge and just across the East River from Manhattan, you can get amazing views there of the Manhattan Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Manhattan skyline. But I’m not going to tell you where I took this photo! I promised my guide Sheli I wouldn’t spoil the information. You have to take the tour to find out.
2) Brooklyn Roasting Company
I’ve already told you that Brooklyn used to be a hipster-free grit zone with nary a coffeeshop in sight. So it might surprise you to learn that DUMBO used to be home to…a giant coffee company. This company was known as Arbuckles, and in the 1800s they were one of the first coffee companies to sell beans that had been roasted instead of just serving them green and making people do their own roasting.
(I think Starbucks should give a nod to this blast from the past and start serving Green Coffee Lattes. I’m sure with enough milk and sugar they’ll taste adequate.)
Nowadays, one of the old Arbuckle warehouses is now home to the Brooklyn Roasting Company. We got to meet the manager of the company as he took us around the store and showed us their cool old coffee machines. They look like something a coffee mad scientist would create!
Fortunately there’s nothing mad about the coffee. I paid it my highest compliment by drinking it black. (It’s my policy to only put milk and sweetener in mediocre coffee. The good stuff gets nothing in it.)
3) Anne Patterson
I mentioned that Dumbo got its nickname from artists who wanted to discourage people from moving in the neighborhood and jacking up rent prices. And you’re in luck because on this tour, you’re going to meet one of those cranky artists!
Anne Patterson specializes in art that kind of looks like curtains. It’s fun because when you enter her studio/home you need to wiggle your way through one of your pieces. (That’s me above, still clutching my artisanal coffee.) For some reason, the curtain seems to be making my skin glow.
I personally think everyone should have an Anne Patterson curtain in the middle of their home. It would make a mere walk through your apartment an exciting adventure! And as a bonus, if a thrill killer ever invaded your apartment, it would make a terrifying place for him to hide in!
4) Pastry at Smile to Go
The New York Times Journeys offer hands-on experiences, and I’m pretty sure any activity that requires you to wear gloves is by definition hands-on. The next stop on the tour is at Smile to Go, a small local restaurant with three locations only in New York City. Once again we got to meet the manager, but I’m pretty sure the manager at Smile to Go is not the same manager at Brooklyn Roasting Company. If he is, I admire his multitasking ability and his mastery of the art of disguise.
The manager showed us how Smile to Go prepares their rich olive oil loaf every morning. They even change the glaze seasonally. Since this was the winter, they were covering the olive oil loaf with a citrus frost. He dressed the loaf freshly with the beautiful icing and let it crystallize right before our very eyes. All other citrus-glazed olive oil loaves will seem stale to me after this experience!
After the manager did the glazing, we each got to cut our own loaf. He showed us how to measure the correct amount using a ruler. I was impressed with our group’s knife skills because no one cut off even a little bit of his or her finger. Then we were able to indulge in our own individual pieces of EVOOL (Extra Virgin Olive Oil Loaf). Don’t worry that the loaf will taste like olives. You can’t taste any olives at all. The oil just gives the bread a special touch of Greek moistness. OPA!
5) Untamed Sandwiches
Now that we’ve had our dessert, it’s time for the main course! We’re off to another local chain with three locations only in New York City: Untamed. Untamed has what I would consider a very Brooklyn philosophy to making sandwiches. They only use sustainable, free-range, grass-fed meat, and they also use local vendors like Brooklyn Roasting Company for the coffee and Grandaisy Bakery for the bread.
Cynics out there might roll their eyes at all the do-gooding, but the proof is in the pudding, and by pudding I mean sandwich. If being sustainable tastes this good, let’s all be sustainable. We were given two sandwich quarters and my favorite was The Butt because I’m not a very mature person.
Also it had pepper jelly in it and pork and pepper jelly is one of my favorite combinations. It makes me feel like I’m at a Georgia barbecue in someone’s backyard. (Vegetarians need not worry. There was a very tasty veggie and cheese sandwich available too.)
6) Randolph Beer
Our final New York City only chain with exactly three locations is Randolph Beer. This brewery makes its own beer and also kindly serves up the beer of others. The brewskis are divine, but what makes this place really exciting is the way you order.
You get a card and fill it with money. Then you use the card at different taps located on a wall to the side of the bar. The card reader at each tap keeps track of how much money you have spent. You get to roam about sampling as many of the beers as you want. You could try them all! It’s like Chuck E. Cheese for beer snobs.
My favorite beer was the Randolph IPA called “Built Fjord Tough”. It was citrusy and hoppy at the same time. I like a beer with a full bunny’s worth of hops. Beer should taste like beer. Also “Built Fjord Tough” is a cute pun and I can never resist a pun.
24 Hours in Brooklyn
Afternoon: Brewed in Brooklyn Tour
After the DUMBO tour concludes, you are but a hop, skip, and an L train ride away from our next stop in our 24 hours in Brooklyn, the Brewed in Brooklyn Tour. This tour takes place in Williamsburg, which is basically The Vatican for hipsters.
As I hinted in my opening to this post, Brooklyn’s craft beer culture is legendary. (We will learn why ere long.) My guide for this tour was a friendly beer enthusiast named Jenny. She definitely taught me more than…
approximately top 5: brooklyn beer edition
While this tour is most accurately marketed as a beer tour, it also serves as a historical tour of Williamsburg. I promised Jenny that I would stop just referring to Williamsburg as a place only fit for trust fund hippies who make Mason jars from scratch. In fact, Williamsburg has a rich and vibrant history, and it is well worth your time, even if you suffer from hipsterphobia.
Though beer production has been going on in Williamsburg since the 1800s, that’s not the industry the neighborhood was first famous for. The old WB used to be home to a li’l company called Domino. (The sugar, not the pizza.) That’s why the first stop on the tour was at a local bar called Sugarburg. The name pays homage to Williamsburg’s industrial history.
“Forget the history!” I can hear you squawk. “We’re here for the beer!” Happy to oblige! All the beers on this tour are local to Brooklyn of course. Jenny ordered me a saison, which was a light and refreshing ale. I asked for more information about what a saison is beyond that, but apparently a saison is difficult to define. I personally think there’s no such thing as a saison and it’s just a term beer nerds invented to make laypeople feel stupid.
2) Most Holy Trinity Church
You might be a little surprised to find a church on a beer tour. But that’s only if you don’t know anything about Germans. The Most Holy Trinity Church, which is still operational today, was created to serve the influx of German immigrants into Williamsburg in the 1800s. Of course, these Germans brought their fine beer making ways with them.
The Germans are most famous for the “lager” style of beer. Making lager requires underground caves that allow the lagering process to occur. That’s why they are still uncovering giant lagering caves hidden underground all over Williamsburg. (Maybe there’s even one hidden under this church! I definitely recommend that you interrupt mass here by bringing a jackhammer and trying to dig up the lagering caves on your own. Lager-cave-digs are not legally considered vandalism within Williamsburg.)
3) Danny’s Pizza
You can’t spend 24 hours in Brooklyn without a slice of pizza. And no one wants to drink three beers without a snack in between. We headed to Danny’s Pizza to sample three different kinds of New York-style pies. You have your classic thin crust “floppy” style. It is traditional in NYC to eat it by folding it in half and stuffing it in your mouth. Forks are not allowed.
Next we have the Sicilian pizza. This is the giant, thick square slice you see above. Basically the crust is a hunk of focaccia. Also with the Sicilian slice, when you eat it, you’re supposed to leave the gun and take the cannoli. That’s just science. The final piece is the grandma slice, which is like the Sicilian except the crust is much thinner and crunchier. (Vegetarians don’t need to worry. No grandmas are actually used in the making of the grandma slice.)
Jenny explained that one of the reasons that we were stopping for pizza on the tour was to discuss why beer production stopped in Williamsburg during the first half of the 20th century. Obviously the most important reason was Prohibition. It’s very hard to make money from selling beer when selling beer is illegal.
But another reason is that Williamsburg didn’t stay a German neighborhood forever. Other immigrants started to come in from countries like Italy, and some of the German immigrants moved to other neighborhoods. It’s all part of the fascinating mix that allows us in New York City to enjoy a fine lager made in a secret underground church cave with our grandma pizza!
4) Brooklyn Brewery
OK, so there isn’t actually a stop at the famous Brooklyn Brewery on this tour. But you can’t talk about beer in Williamsburg without mentioning it. Fortunately a classic Brooklyn Brewery lager is included with the pizza, so we have a good excuse for talking about its history.
For decades, beer production was dead in Brooklyn. Then along came two Brooklyn natives named Steve Hindy and Tom Potter. Hindy had been a journalist stationed in Middle Eastern countries where selling alcohol is illegal. Necessity is the mother of invention, which is a fancy way of saying that Hindy learned how to make his own brew.
Eventually Hindy and his childhood friend Potter decided to open up their own brewery in Brooklyn, and the legend was born! Today there are exactly 1,345.25 craft breweries in Williamsburg alone.
My favorite fact about the Brooklyn Brewery is that the designer Milton Glaser did the logo. (He’s most famous for creating the I <3 New York campaign.) Even though they were broke at the time, Glazer agreed to do it in exchange for free beer for life. He is 89 years old, and he still shows up at the brewery regularly to get his free lager on. That’s what I call living your best life!
My second favorite fact about the Brooklyn Brewery is that I (platonically) went to prom with the son of one of the founders of Brooklyn Brewery. If that doesn’t adequately establish my native New Yorker bonafides, I don’t know what will!
5) The Well
Our 24 hours in Brooklyn beer history lesson continues apace! The next stop was a bar called The Well, which is located inside the former Hittleman Brewery. This brewery was almost bankrupted during Prohibition, but the Hittleman family kept it going by making near beer, which doesn’t sound nearly like anything I’d like to drink.
Hittleman was a clever guy, and when it was announced that Prohibition was repealed, he started producing beer but not selling it. On the day Prohibition was lifted, unlike the other breweries, Hittleman’s was ready to go with a fresh product!
Hittleman Brewery closed in the 1950s, but The Well is keeping Brooklyn’s beer drinking traditions alive and well today!
Of course, you don’t just want to learn about the beer. You’d like to actually taste some. I can’t guarantee what local beers will be available on tap on any given day. However, I can suggest trying an IPA if you enjoy the hoppy flavor.
IPAs are very popular in NYC, probably because we both have three capital letters in our name. IPA stands for India Pale Ale. It was created by the British in India because they needed an ale that was sturdy enough to withstand the long voyages to India. So technically that makes IPA the beer of choice for imperialists everywhere.
Our last stop on the tour is Interboro Spirits & Ales. Fair warning, unlike Sugarburg and The Well, this place is teeny tiny and gets stuffed with people on weekends, so you might not be able to find a seat. Interboro is definitely the trendiest spot on the tour, as the taproom only opened in 2016. (As you can probably tell from the name, Interboro is a distillery as well as a brewery.)
At Interboro, you can get a flight of three beers instead of just one big brewski. I always choose a flight if the option is available. More choices = better. That’s just science. As with The Well, the beers on tap will change daily, so I don’t want to get your hopes up by chatting too much about the specific beers I tasted. However, I will mention that my favorite was the Knock Out King IPA which is a collaboration between Interboro and The Other Half Brewery.
Jenny told me that The Other Half is another Brooklyn brewery that is so popular that people actually wait on line for hours in the cold to buy cans of their beer. But you can try Knock Out King with much less misery just by waiting for a few minutes on line at Interboro! Don’t say this blog never taught you anything important!
24 Hours in Brooklyn
Evening: Syndicated Bar Theater Kitchen
After a lengthy beer tour, you might be feeling a little sluggish. That’s why I suggest you spend the evening of our 24 hours in Brooklyn chillaxing in a comfy chair at Bushwick, Brooklyn’s finest dinner theater experience, Syndicated Bar Theater Kitchen.
Syndicated is just one example of the Movie Theater Restaurant. (The most famous example of the MTR is probably the Alamo Drafthouse.) At an MTR, the ticket for the movie is much cheaper than usual because the place makes its money on the delicious, restaurant-quality food and drink.
Also, at a movie theater restaurant, you can sit in a fluffy chair-throne with an actual dinner table in front of you. Before the movie starts, you place your order on the menu card and sometime during the film, silent stealthy servers will bring you your sustenance. You can place additional orders during the movie, but I find it a lot more convenient to get all the ordering done beforehand.
It was impossible for me to take pictures of my food during the movie because there was no light and flash is not permitted. However, I strongly recommend the Hot Mess sandwich, which is a fried chicken sandwich topped with hot sauce, coleslaw, and blue cheese. I recommend this because you’ll be in the dark, so no one will be able to see the sticky hot sauce that will get all over your face and fingers.
24 Hour Treat: Thanksgiving Old Fashioned
Syndicated is perhaps even more famous for its seasonal cocktails than for its food. Definitely don’t pass up the Thanksgiving Old Fashioned, which is cleverly made with Wild Turkey bourbon, sweet potato syrup, and cranberry bitters. It’s like Thanksgiving dinner in your mouth only with more booze and fewer creepy relatives! The perfect end to your 24 hours in Brooklyn!
In case you were curious about my film of choice, I was definitely there for the annual Christmas screening of Die Hard. (You can see that my special Die Hard Christmas sweatshirt and I were amped up for the occasion.) There are so many arthouse and cult movie cinemas in New York City, and I definitely recommend seeking out a quirky cinematic experience during your 24 hours in Brooklyn.
That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Brooklyn!
What would you do with 24 hours in Brooklyn? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in New York City right now? Have you ever watched Die Hard as a Christmas movie? And is digging up a church to find a hidden beer cave a fun way to spend the afternoon or a one-way ticket to Hell? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 Hours in Brooklyn. And there’s a million other things to do in New York City. Want to spend Christmas in New York? What about 24 hours in Manhattan? How about the Bronx? Or the best museums in Manhattan? In (gasp!) Staten Island? I’ve got you covered here!