The Best Things to Do in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

Smith Street is one of two major thoroughfares in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
Smith Street is one of two major thoroughfares in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn | © David Grossman / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Elena Calvo
3 August 2021

As one of Brooklyn‘s off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods, Carroll Gardens offers a plethora of cultural activities – from Shakespeare in the park from Smith Street Stage to cocktails at Clover Club.

Over the years, this historically Italian district has evolved into a much-coveted, upscale neighborhood with not one, but two main arteries lined with indie boutiques, easygoing bars and eclectic eateries (the pizza scene is excellent). The vibe is overwhelmingly family-friendly and wholesome, with kids in strollers and on scooters everywhere you look. We’ve selected the best things to do in this Brooklyn neighborhood.

Grab a beer at Bar Great Harry

Bar, Pub, American, Pub Grub, $$$
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If you’re into your craft beer, head to Bar Great Harry. They have 18 varieties on tap – from the fruity Threes Brewing’s Dare to Know to the Coconut Merlin stout from Firestone Walker. Inside, you can expect the real Brooklyn experience with exposed brick walls and a laid-back atmosphere, plus pinball machines to play. Why the unusual name? Well, it’s inspired by a small cocktail bar in the Chinatown area of Yokohama, Japan. The owner says if you go to Yokohama, look them up. You won’t regret it.

Find hidden treasures in Yesterday's News

Store
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Stroll down the brownstone streets of Carroll Gardens and you’ll come across Yesterday’s News. Vintage clothes, vinyls, old magazines, forgotten books, antique furniture and postcards are just some of the gems you’ll find here. It’s the perfect place to lose yourself for an hour or two. There’s some super cool pre-1970s furniture inside – the store doesn’t offer delivery itself, but can recommend a company that does.

Sip cocktails at Clover Club

Bar, Cocktail Bar, American, $$$
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Clover Club has all the elegance of an Upper East Side bar infused with the relaxed vibes of Brooklyn. It’s the craft cocktails that draw locals in, best enjoyed by the cozy log-burning fireplace. Try the eponymous Clover Club, a kind of gin sour, mixed with egg white to give it that smooth finish. The food is worth ordering, too – try the buttermilk fried chicken “handwich” served with potato chips.

Stroll through Carroll Park

Park
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Historic Carroll Park is one of the oldest in Brooklyn, and it is always brimming with activity. Expect to see locals practicing Tai Chi, shooting hoops or playing a friendly game of kickball or bocce. At peak times, the park seems like the site of an international kids’ summit, with kids climbing animal sculptures, dashing through spray showers and drawing chalk designs on the sidewalk. Grab a coffee and find a quiet corner to enjoy the scene.

Unleash your inner artist at the Painted Pot

Shop, Store
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The Painted Pot is the perfect rainy day pastime for artists of all ages. Paint your own pottery or glassware, or create your masterpiece on canvas. It makes a great souvenir to take home – or offload on an unsuspecting relative. They also host pottery workshops, where you can try your hand at the wheel. Reservations are required, so book ahead. Open to anyone and everyone, the Painted Pot’s only requirement is creativity.

Watch Shakespeare performed by Smith Street Stage

Concert Hall
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Debuting in 2010 with an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, Smith Street Stage’s mission is to bring classics plays from Shakespeare and reimagine them for the general public. Past performances have included Much Ado About Nothing and Macbeth. There’s no need to book ahead, as entry is free – the plays are performed outside in Carroll Park, in almost all weather. Get there early to nab a folding chair. Donations are welcomed.

Go canoeing on the Gowanus Canal

Architectural Landmark
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Weekend canoers on the Gowanus Canal enjoy beers with the Downtown Brooklyn/Fort Greene skyline in the background. Image shot 10/2018. Exact date unknown.
© Robert K. Chin / Alamy Stock Photo

Float down the Gowanus Canal on a canoe. Yes, it does have all the accoutrements of an urban waterway, but there’s beauty to be found in this unique blend of nature and industry: Queen Anne’s lace and other native flora pop up around the shoreline, and you might even spot a beautiful white egret flying between the sailboats. Local faves Ample Hills Ice Cream and Royal Palms Shuffleboard are standing by for post-canoe fun.

Try street food from Red Hook Park

Park
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Customers wait on line for Salvadorian food at the Latin food vendors in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York
© Richard Levine / Alamy Stock Photo

The Red Hook ball fields have long been the Brooklyn nerve center for soccer practice, especially promoted by the city’s Latino population. On summer weekends, Mexican, Central American and South American street vendors set up shop, slinging out tamales, enchiladas and arepas. Make a day of it by taking a dip at the enormous Red Hook Pool, one of the largest in the parks system, or stroll down Van Brunt Street, Red Hook’s main thoroughfare with quirky shops, bars and restaurants.

Anne Bauso contributed additional reporting to this article.

These recommendations were updated on August 3, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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