Blake Walsh

21 Best Things to Do in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (From a Local)

  • Published 2023/05/06

I’ve always been fascinated by the vibrant and ever-evolving neighborhood of . Williamsburg. It has has captured my heart with its unique blend of culture, history, and modernity.

From scrumptious eateries to trendy boutiques, jaw-dropping street art to the lush green spaces, this corner of Brooklyn offers a little something for everyone.

Join me as I take you on a journey through my top picks for the best things to do in Williamsburg, a neighborhood that has truly come into its own as a must-visit destination for both locals and tourists alike.

An Unforgettable Day at McCarren Park

Running track of McCarren Park

Cory Seamer /

I recently spent a fantastic day at McCarren Park, right on the border of Williamsburg and Greenpoint. This lively park is perfect for people-watching, with folks from all walks of life enjoying the outdoors together.

People at McCarren Park

James Andrews1 /

I loved exploring the playing fields, playgrounds, and running tracks, and even took a refreshing dip in the park’s famous mammoth-sized swimming pool. The park was also impressively clean, with workers consistently collecting garbage and emptying trash cans.

Wooden benches along McCarren Park

James Andrews1 /

Overall, McCarren Park is a must-visit spot in the North Brooklyn area for outdoor fun and relaxation.

My Incredible Experience at Nitehawk Cinema

Exterior of Nitehawk Cinema

Richard Scalzo /

I recently discovered the coolest spot for a night out in Brooklyn – Nitehawk Cinema!

This unique theater combines movie-watching with restaurant dining, creating a truly unforgettable experience.

I was amazed to find that I could enjoy a cocktail, beer, or wine while feasting on gourmet dishes, all while watching a fantastic film.

What really stood out to me was how the nightly menu was carefully curated to match the contemporary or classic film being shown.

The chefs at Nitehawk get really creative with their movie-inspired recipes, adding a fun twist to the dining experience.

The cinema itself, built in a converted warehouse, has a charming old-fashioned vibe, complete with a vintage marquee and barber-station-turned-bar.

I loved attending their film series nights, which were organized by director, genre, theme, or social issue.

It was also a treat to watch special indie film screenings with the directors or actors present. Nitehawk Cinema offers a one-of-a-kind viewing experience that nourishes both your taste buds and your mind. If you’re in Williamsburg, don’t miss this gem!

A Spooky Adventure Awaits at Madame Morbid’s Trolley Tours

I recently took a ride on Madame Morbid’s Trolley Tours, and let me tell you, it was an incredibly fun and spooky experience!

The black, velvet-curtained Victorian trolley transported us through some of the oldest parts of Brooklyn as our guide regaled us with chilling tales of hauntings, crimes, murders, and obscure lore.

The tour took us to unmarked graves and infamous murder sites, making the experience both thrilling and educational.

I learned about death, mourning rituals, and four centuries of dark history in Brooklyn. The trolley’s atmosphere was perfect, with its unique ambiance and videos playing inside to keep us engaged while en route to various points of interest.

Our host and driver were fantastic, making the tour even more enjoyable. I highly recommend Madame Morbid’s Trolley Tours for anyone who loves ghost stories or just wants to learn more about Brooklyn’s history.

It’s a perfect activity for the fall and Halloween season, and I can’t wait to bring my friends along next time!

Exploring the Hidden Gems of New York at City Reliquary

Exterior of City Reliquary

Rhododendrites, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the City Reliquary, a unique museum in Williamsburg that showcases the fascinating history of New York.

Founded by David Herman, who started displaying old objects in his apartment window, the museum has since grown into a treasure trove of artifacts and mementos that celebrate the city’s past and present.

Recycled flower pot at City Reliquary

Cmangis, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As I wandered through the museum, I was captivated by the variety of items on display.

From Brooklyn Bridge souvenir coins to subway tokens, historical rocks, and neon signs from old restaurants, each piece told a story about New York’s rich history.

The City Reliquary also features temporary exhibitions, lesser-known stories of New York, and community collections that highlight the everyday lives of New Yorkers.

I was impressed by how the museum brought these narratives to life, making them accessible and engaging for visitors.

In addition to the exhibits, the City Reliquary hosts year-round community events like block parties, film screenings, and backyard concerts.

This allowed me to get a taste of New York’s vibrant culture and connect with the local community in a unique and memorable way.

If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path experience that showcases the true spirit of New York

My Thrift Shopping Experience at Williamsburg

I remember the first time I visited Williamsburg, it was like entering a treasure trove of vintage and artisanal finds!

I spent an entire day hunting high and low in their shops, discovering elegant and artsy items in every price range.

One of my favorite stops was this eclectic junk shop where I found so many unusual items to choose from and boggle at. It was such a fun experience sifting through the assortment of curiosities.

Next, I stumbled upon a clothing store filled with fabulous collections of vintage and pre-loved clothes, shoes, and oddball thrift pieces.

It felt like walking into a dream as I browsed through the overflowing racks of beautifully curated vintage clothing, all sensibly priced for curious thrift shoppers like myself.

As I continued exploring, I found a store that seemed to have vintage everything: women’s outfits, jeans, T-shirts, plus-size clothing, men’s pieces, sunglasses, kimonos – you name it!

It was such an exhilarating experience to dive into self-expression through shopping at these amazing Williamsburg thrift stores.

Visiting the Brooklyn Art Library

Interior of Brooklyn Art Library

Aloha Jon, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Where to start? A hidden gem tucked away in Williamsburg. As soon as I stepped inside, I found myself immersed in one of the most remarkable artistic initiatives I’ve ever seen.

The library holds The Sketchbook Project, which is the world’s largest collection of over 50,000 sketchbooks filled with memoirs, doodles, sketches, and other creative endeavors from thousands of artists.

It was incredible to experience a slice of life moment in another’s shoes as I browsed through the collection and visualized the stories, hues, shades, and emotions people chose to express.

Entrance door of Brooklyn Art Library

Aloha Jon, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I learned that if you’re artistically inclined, the project allows you to buy a sketchbook, fill it up with your work, and donate it back to the library.

They also have initiatives like the Pen Pal Painting exchange, where you can connect with someone worldwide by sending each other paintings.

All you have to do is order a kit, pick a theme, and then send back your canvas. The library swaps your work with another person’s, and then you’re free to connect.

As I sat there enjoying some random samples of sketchbooks, I couldn’t help but fall in love with Brooklyn all over.

My Shopping Experience at Desert Island

I remember the excitement I felt when I stumbled upon Desert Island, a hidden gem nestled in the heart of Williamsburg. This small comic book shop might not look like much from the outside, but it’s full of offbeat treasures and a knowledgeable staff that’s always ready to help you find them.

As I stepped inside, I was greeted by owner Gabe Fowler, who proudly described his creation as an abstract idea of punk rock.

The shop was stocked with a unique array of items, many on consignment from individual artists, and some coming from far-flung areas.

I was amazed by the variety of underground and alternative comics, zines, art magazines, graphic novels, screenprints, rare artist’s books, manga, and other goods that I’d never seen in mainstream stores.

I learned that Desert Island is also the brainchild of Comic Arts Brooklyn, an annual comic book festival and art book fair, as well as Smoke Signal, a quarterly comics anthology newspaper that won an Eisner Award.

As I browsed through the store, I couldn’t help but get lost in the world of comics and unique artwork.

My visit to Desert Island was an unforgettable experience, and I left with a newfound geeky obsession that I can’t wait.

My Celebration of Diversity at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center

Exterior of Williamsburg Art and Historical Center

Cinema VII, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

My visit to the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center was truly an unforgettable experience. Housed in a stunning 1857 former bank building, this gallery welcomed me with its ornate architecture and diverse array of artistic perspectives.

The Center’s mission to bring together different artistic communities resonated with me as I explored the space.

They strive to create a bridge between local, national, and international artists, as well as emerging and established artists across various disciplines.

Witnessing their creative laboratory at work made it clear that their goal is to make great works by diverse artists available to diverse audiences through revolutionary approaches.

As I wandered through themed collections showcasing lives lived out in the world – from broad sweeping strokes to everyday minutiae – I was struck by how they managed to feature artists from every walk of life.

The poetry slams, stage readings, symposia, festivals, and lectures that take place at the Center are living testaments to their innovative approach in bringing performing arts alive for all.

Founder Yuko Nii’s ambitions and dreams were palpable throughout my visit. Her vision of building rainbow bridges of art where people form the colors on an artist’s palette truly came alive during my time at the Williamsburg Art & Historical Centre.

My Experience Tuning into the Williamsburg Music Scene

I can still feel the excitement from when I first explored the thriving music scene in Williamsburg.

Over the past decade, live music venues and record stores have transformed this neighborhood into a haven for music lovers like myself.

As someone with a deep interest in music, I felt like I hit the jackpot in Williamsburg.

The spacious warehouses that had been converted into incredible music venues and storefronts overflowing with record albums were truly mesmerizing.

I found myself drawn to well-worn venues where bands and indie songwriters would captivate passionate crowds with their unforgettable performances.

The camaraderie among fellow music enthusiasts was palpable, making me feel right at home.

I also discovered nightclubs that served as compact spaces for up-and-coming musicians, complete with disco lights and a groovy psychedelic vibe that kept everyone dancing till dawn.

Browsing through numerous record stores in Williamsburg allowed me to rediscover vintage vinyls and throwback albums that catered to my old soul while also introducing me to tunes I’d never heard before.

Whether it was attending a live show by an unfamiliar band or dancing until sunrise at a rave club with newfound friends, my experience following the vibrant sounds of Williamsburg’s music scene left an indelible mark

My Memorable Skyline Views from Marsha P. Johnson State Park

People at Marsha P. Johnson State Park

John Penney /

Marsha P. Johnson State Park, is a peaceful stretch of open green space along the East River. This park is named in honor of transgender LGBTQ+ icon Marsha P. Johnson, a key figure in the Stonewall Uprising of 1969.

As I explored the park—which was once a 19th-century shipping dock—I noticed remnants such as old cobblestone streets, railroad tracks embedded in concrete, and historical interpretive signs scattered throughout. It was fascinating to see how this area had transformed over time.

The highlight for me was laying out a blanket on the grass and savoring unobstructed views of Manhattan’s skyline across the river; seeing iconic buildings like the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building with such clarity made for an unforgettable experience.

My friends and I even picked up some delicious treats from Smorgasburg—a nearby food festival with an enormous selection of delicacies—for our weekend brunch by the water. As we shared great food and conversation under that beautiful sky, it felt like we were creating new memories that would last forever.

Ultimate Williamsburg Bar Crawl Experience

Williamsburg’s vibrant bar scene left me eager to embark on a bar crawl with my friends, and it turned out to be one of the hippest and most happening drinking experiences we’ve ever had in the city.

We began our adventure during happy hour, clinking steins and enjoying an array of beer drafts on tap, stylish cocktails, strong draughts, flavored spirits, natural wines, and much more.

Each bar we visited had its unique atmosphere—some with energetic vibes while others offered solemn skyline views or eccentric aesthetics.

We found kitschy artist spots alongside punk-rock bars as well as dreamy outdoor gardens perfect for sipping drinks under twinkling lights.

The lively music playing in the background at many venues added to the experience as we savored tasty bites that complemented our drinks perfectly.

Our energy was high throughout our Williamsburg bar crawl adventure—a testament to this neighborhood’s unforgettable charm.

Embark on a Williamsburg Food Journey

Food Truck at Williamsburg

Leonard Zhukovsky /

After a long day of mingling and exploring Williamsburg’s attractions—including its fantastic music scene—it was time for a well-deserved food journey.

This bustling neighborhood boasts a thriving culinary scene that easily rivals Manhattan’s offerings!

We explored various dining options before settling on places serving their signature dishes—from mouthwatering international cuisine to old-school appetizers bursting with flavor—all accompanied

Sliders for sale at Williamsburg

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by perfectly matched wine and cocktail pairings. The rich, savory baked goods and exotic hors d’oeuvres we tasted were just the beginning of our culinary adventure.

Throughout our food journey, we enjoyed meals in cozy kitchen spaces, charming bistros, popular brunch hangouts, photogenic restaurants, and sunlit diners—all adding to Williamsburg’s unique charm.

It’s essential to make reservations ahead of time since many places fill up quickly with hungry city-dwellers searching for top-notch dining experiences.

Barbecue for sale at Williamsburg

Allen.G /

Taste your merry way through the neighborhood, and if needed, make sure to book reservations on time, as the slots tend to get filled up quickly with hungry city-dwellers looking for a top-notch meal.

Enjoy your truly excellent food in the comfort of homey kitchen spaces, cute bistros, popular brunch hangouts, photogenic restaurants, sunny diners, and many other places threaded throughout Williamsburg.

Exploring Williamsburg’s Modern and Creative Shows

Exterior of Pete’s Candy Store

Kent Westlund, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Williamsburg is home to a thriving creative scene that turns contemporary art into captivating performances. We attended various innovative stage shows featuring lively and talented performers from all over the neighborhood.

At Pete’s Candy Store, we enjoyed open mic nights, New York trivia sessions, animated readings of classics along with comedy sketches filled with surreal tales of magic and wonder. They also hosted feminist talk shows LGBTQ+ storytelling events as well as ever-popular poetry readings by up-and-coming poets—providing something for everyone.

The Brick Theater was another fantastic venue where we experienced nightlife artistry through multi-layered spoken word performances reflecting on art films or interpretative multimedia dances that left us mesmerized.

A tour at Brooklyn Brewery

Signage of Brooklyn Brewery

stock_photo_world /

For beer enthusiasts like myself, a tour of Brooklyn Brewery was an absolute must.

I learned that this brewery played a significant role in reinventing the industry in Brooklyn since its inception in 1988. The brewmaster took a turn-of-the-century beer recipe and added modern modifications to create the unique flavor now sold worldwide.

Building sign of Brooklyn Brewery

Leonard Zhukovsky /

The diverse and life-loving team behind the brewery takes pride in bringing good beer back to Brooklyn, always aiming to make it “delicious, adventurous, and available to the people.”

Their passion for their craft is evident during Sunday afternoon tours when they share brewing science insights, beer history lessons, and their own story while connecting you with beer experts and offering samples of their latest creations.

A Fun-Filled Karaoke Night Out in Williamsburg

Nothing tops off an adventurous day quite like belting out tunes with friends at one of Williamsburg’s many karaoke lounges. We found several spots offering karaoke along with delicious snacks and entertaining games.

Whether renting private rooms or singing at an open bar area, we had access to vast song selections accompanied by complementary music videos—making for some hilariously entertaining dance moves as we tried hitting those high notes like pros!

These karaoke lounges offer food menus along with affordable drink packages that catered perfectly to our fun night out.

My Adventure Admiring Williamsburg’s Street Art

A person making street art at Williamsburg

Leonard Zhukovsky /

Williamsburg, with its creative soul and diverse hipster culture, served as the perfect backdrop for my exploration of some truly jaw-dropping street art.

This neighborhood is renowned for its vibrant murals, and I couldn’t help but be captivated by the splashes of color adorning walls at every turn.

Street Art at Williamsburg

Leonard Zhukovsky /

During my walk through Williamsburg, I was amazed by acclaimed works such as the candy-colored Peace and Love Wall, Muhammad Ali’s Louisville Lip wall, and Elvis Presley’s geometrically-styled ‘War is Hell’ mural.

It felt like a treasure hunt discovering photorealistic animals; antiestablishment graffiti; rich messages of love painted in bright hues; cartoon-like daubs of bold color; and surreal human figures that provoked thought.

Colorful mural at Williamsburg

Leonard Zhukovsky /

Each time I turned a street corner or glanced at a nearby building, I found myself inspired by the artistic visions that make this unique neighborhood so special.

A Night Out at Brooklyn Steel

Brooklyn Steel is one of the top ten live music venues in the country, so attending a concert there was an absolute must during my time in Williamsburg. This 1,800-seat venue boasts a main floor, balcony area, 40 restrooms, and three bars—providing an unforgettable experience for music lovers like myself.

Since opening its doors in 2017 with five sold-out performances by rock band LCD Soundsystem over consecutive nights, Brooklyn Steel has hosted numerous live shows that delight audiences from near and far. Catching a performance at this incredible venue is something I’ll never forget.

Dining With Views at Laser Wolf Brooklyn

There’s nothing quite like savoring delicious food while taking in stunning views of Manhattan’s skyline from Laser Wolf Brooklyn’s rooftop location.

This rooftop skewer house offers top-notch drinks alongside award-winning Israeli cuisine that left me craving more.

As I enjoyed traditional hummus paired with pita and an array of colorful vegetables, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the breathtaking views of the city.

The charcoal-grilled meat and veggie skewers that followed were equally impressive, and the soft-serve ice cream for dessert was the perfect way to end our meal.

Bowling Fun at The Gutter

No trip to Williamsburg would be complete without stopping by The Gutter—a vintage bowling alley for those aged 21 or older that opened in 2007 with eight classic hardwood lanes from Midwest alleys. This unique spot also features a music/event area as well as

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