The Gowanus Canal hasn’t traditionally ranked up there with Times Square and the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a prime NYC tourist destination, and if you get close and take a good whiff, you’ll know why.
Oddly enough, though, the neighborhood of Gowanus, whose canal—among other things—has been known as a Mafia dumping ground, has been transformed by millennials into a booming restaurant and bar scene over the past few years: It’s a great place to visit to see what “new Brooklyn” is all about.
Eating in Gowanus
Food options abound in Gowanus: Solid brunch spot Runner & Stone has a variety of fresh flavored breads and a killer baguette. Grab a slice of life-changing pie at Four & Twenty Blackbirds. The salted caramel apple put them on the map, but I’m a sucker for the strawberry balsamic (available seasonably).
Drinking in Gowanus
Unwind with a beer in the huge backyard area at Lavender Lake. Order some fried Brussels sprouts and look for the high-water mark left when the Gowanus Canal flooded the place during Hurricane Sandy. Head to nearby Threes Brewing for a great selection of beers and a rotating menu of snacks from local restaurants, or check out Givers and Takers, a bar backed by a member of Mumford & Sons.
Shopping in Gowanus
Want to bring home a slightly weird souvenir of your trip like a taxidermy kit for a loved one? Head to the gift shop at the Morbid Anatomy Museum for all your taxidermy and occult needs. You can learn about the checkered history of the Gowanus Canal and pick up a locally made memento at the Gowanus Souvenir Shop, or create a custom-made terrarium at Twig Terrariums.
Playing in Gowanus
Gowanus has more than food to keep you busy, though you can both eat and sing karaoke at Korean BBQ joint Insa, enjoy archery lessons at Gotham Archery, or get in some climbing at Brooklyn Boulders, New York’s largest indoor rock-climbing gym.
Check out the online calendar for The Bell House, an old warehouse converted into a bar/event space that hosts everything from standup comedy (I saw Louis CK perform here for $5) to 1990s hip-hop dance parties. Or channel your inner grandparent in a very cool setting at the Royal Palms, a popular bar and shuffleboard club with league nights and bingo.