Researcher and artist Mimi Onuoha was living in Brooklyn…right before she found out she had been selected as one of five Fulbright-National Geographic digital storytelling fellows. She’s since hopped the pond to London to explore how technology and culture influence and affect each other, but she’ll never get Brooklyn out of her soul. As she says, “you can’t help but find endearing a city that will offer you everything but only kind of heart you back.” Here are some of Mimi’s favorite things about New York City’s most populous (and some might say popular) borough.
Brooklyn Is My City
When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is dependent on the weather. If it’s nice outside, we’ll grab a Citi Bike and cycle down to Prospect Park to relax in the best green space Brooklyn has to offer. If the weather isn’t great, we’ll head straight to a bar called Spuyten Duyvil, where even the pickiest beer aficionado will be satisfied.
Wednesday is the best time to visit my city because there are fewer tourists, smaller crowds, and less pressure.
You can see my city best from the window seat of an airplane. Arriving, of course; not leaving.
The City Reliquary in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs. This charming museum/pop-up shop/extraordinary place is absolutely worth experiencing.
My city’s best museum is the Brooklyn Museum because of Target First Saturdays, when exhibitions stay open past normal hours (with free admission) and the museum fills with drinks, music, and general fun—a far cry from the obligatory museum trips you dreaded as a child.
If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that you can get anywhere you want at any time for an affordable price. You may deal with some nonsense along the way, but you’ll get where you want to go.
The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is on the rooftop of a friend’s apartment. If you lack a friend with a roof, find a rooftop bar and arrive early to beat the crowds.
My city really knows how to celebrate the beginning of the warm weather season by hosting all sorts of fun and free events like the Afropunk Fest and Prospect Park’s summer concert series. Everyone comes to life in the summertime; it’s definitely the best time to visit.
You can tell if someone is from my city if they know the exact place to stand on the subway platform so that when they exit the train, they’re in the most convenient spot when they arrive at their destination.
Just outside my city, you can visit the Hudson River Valley in upstate New York. Take a hike in Bear Mountain State Park, peruse the art galleries in Beacon, or be charmed by the idyllic feel of Wassaic. Heading just a few hours north of Brooklyn can expose you to all sorts of beautiful sites.
My city is known for being rude, but most people are actually quite nice, welcoming, and lovely.
Black Swan is my favorite place to grab breakfast and the best spot for late-night eats. This restaurant/bar is a fixture of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, where you can go, at all times of day, for good food, better drinks, and an always entertaining group of patrons. As the locals say, “Bed-Stuy, do or die!”
To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read the NonsenseNYC, by Jeff Stark. You’ll have to subscribe to the email list, but it’s worth it for newcomers who want to get a general idea of what’s going on in the borough and way beyond.
When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I remind myself that there are many delicious places to eat that are also quite cheap. I recommend taking a trip down to Sunset Park and trying Tacos El Bronco (you can’t beat one- to two-dollar tacos!).
To escape the crowds, I go to Queens, which is like Brooklyn, except underrated. One of the most diverse places in the United States, this borough clearly has two great things going for it: tons of different types of people and foods. Start in Astoria and make your way over to Flushing, taking a pit stop at Corona Park.
The dish that represents my city best is Sunday brunch, and mimosas are my city’s signature drink. While you can sample them almost anywhere (I like Chavela’s in Crown Heights), make sure to get there before 11 a.m. or after 2 p.m. to avoid the rush (or go during primetime and embrace the rush, because, really, isn’t that part of the experience?).
Subway swing dance parties could only happen in my city.
In the spring you should try roller-skating at Prospect Park.
In the summer you should go to the West Indian-American Day Carnival, or any of the other raucous parades that explode over the streets of Brooklyn when it’s warm outside. Plus, you’ll get your fix of roti and meat pies for the year.
In the fall you should visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to see the leaves as they change color.
In the winter you should check out DUMBO, where you can enjoy the beautiful lawn between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges in blissful silence because all other Brooklynites will be locked up in their apartments miserably awaiting spring.
If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the delicious doughnuts at Dough, in Bed-Stuy. Pro tip: go on a weekday, because on weekends the line stretches out the door.
The best book about my city is Adelle Waldman’s The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. because it paints a perfect slice-of-life picture of a particular subset of literary Brooklynites.