An Off-The-Beaten-Path Guide to Brooklyn

HOY performers
HOY performers | Courtesy of Kenny Rodriguez / House of Yes
Photo of Julia Goicochea
5 August 2017

New York City’s Brooklyn has always been a destination for curiosity-seekers (and creators). From a robot band to a superhero supply store, the borough boasts a bounty of attractions you won’t find listed in any guidebook. Covering Brooklyn’s weirdest, most wonderful offerings, here is our guide to the borough’s best-kept secrets.

Robotic Church

Church, Art Gallery
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Didn’t think Brooklyn could get any stranger? The band of bots at Robotic Church may make you think again. Step inside a former Norwegian Seamen’s Church to witness this installation marrying art, technology, and music. Conceived between 1987 and 2006, the 50 computer-controlled sculptures, or “robot saints,” express themselves through sounds and gestures, together creating the borough’s most memorable musical performance.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Botanical Garden, Museum, Park, Forest
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Bonsai and rock display in glass roofed Steinhardt Conservatory of Brooklyn Botanic Botanical Garden in Brooklyn, New York.
Bonsai and a rock display are on view in the glass-roofed Steinhardt Conservatory of the Brooklyn Botanic Botanical Garden in Brooklyn, New York | © Dorothy Alexander / Alamy Stock Photo
For over a century, Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) has been the borough’s best bet for New Yorkers seeking respite from the city. Measuring at 52 acres, BBG is a veritable urban oasis, complete with standout gardens, such as the Shakespeare, Fragrance, and much-anticipated Flowering Cherry Gardens. Also hosting nighttime picnics, outdoor exercise classes, and more, this attraction could make a nature lover out of any New Yorker.

House of Yes

Bar, Nightclub, Contemporary
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It should come as no surprise that New York City’s best party takes place in Brooklyn’s trendy Bushwick neighborhood. As its name implies, anything goes at House of Yes, a creative event space known for its open-to-all atmosphere and genre-defying fun. Expect to encounter out-there programming, including deep house yoga, roller disco parties, and Soul Train revivals, at this empowering establishment.

Commercial Street Cat Village

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New York’s reputation as a “concrete jungle” is literalized at Commercial Street Cat Village, a Brooklyn-based colony of feral felines. You can thank Greenpoint’s furriest residents (along with the nonprofit group and colony creators Neighborhood Cats) for keeping the area’s waterfront rodent-free. When bodega cats just won’t cut it, come to Commercial Street to spot the city’s cutest pest controllers.

Carousel in Prospect Park

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Prospect Park Carousel, New York
Prospect Park Carousel, New York | Courtesy of Prospect Park/credit: Paul Martinka
Prospect Park’s carousel may sit in the park’s Children’s Corner, but make no mistake: this magical attraction is sure to excite both kids and kids at heart. Carved over a century ago in 1912, the carousel, with its 53 horses, one giraffe, two dragon-drawn chariots, and more, still boasts the best seats in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company

Shop, Store
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When life gets quiet (too quiet), visit Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company, the borough’s most exciting shopping experience. Catering to crime fighters and villains alike, this quirky store stocks everything from costumes to conveniently packaged powers, including canned cyclones and mind-reading machines. The store, committing to its genre, also hosts a secret lair, where a Dave Eggers-endorsed writing center helps support the next generation of comic book authors.

Red Hook Ball Fields

Sports Center, Stadium
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Not a sports fan? Not a problem! The real draw of the Red Hook ball fields has more to do with sustenance than sports. Work up an appetite with a round of baseball or soccer before tucking in at the city’s favorite food trucks. Since 1974, the Red Hook Food Vendors have been serving tastes of Latin America, including pupusas, tacos, and fresh fruit juices, to Brooklyn-based foodies.

New York Transit Museum

Museum, Store
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New York Transit Museum, New York
New York Transit Museum, New York | Courtesy of the New York Transit Museum
Manhattan doesn’t have a monopoly on museums: the less-mainstream New York Transit Museum spotlights an important part of New York City culture in Brooklyn. Appropriately situated in a decommissioned subway station, this 41-year-old attraction transforms an everyday experience, an encounter with mass transportation, into something extraordinary. Step aboard vintage cars dating to the early 1900s and spin the wheel of a city bus as you explore this underground world dedicated to, well, New York’s other underground world.

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