A Day @: Williamsburg Provides Uncommon Eating, Shopping, and People Watching
By Anne Marie Kelly, Contributing Writer, September 12, 2018
Williamsburg is yet another one of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods which has transformed over the last couple of decades. It morphed from a sad example of urban decay to a much sought-after home to the young and vibrant. It has also gotten so big that you can’t take it all in over the span of a single day, so even don’t try. But if you want to explore a bit of North Williamsburg, here are a few suggestions to help you enjoy every minute.
Travel by boat, if you can. If you’re coming from Manhattan, make the journey part of the fun by taking the East River Ferry to Williamsburg. You can delight in the majesty of the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines while enjoying the water breezes and the boat traffic on the East River. North Williamsburg is an inexpensive ($2.75) 15-minute trip from the ferry’s 34th Street departure gate.
Go on a Saturday and sample Smorgasburg. One of the splendors of New York City is its ethnic food. Smorgasburg on the Williamsburg waterfront makes tasting New York’s culinary richness as easy as, well, pie. It puts all kinds of cuisine in one place, such as duck fat French fries; vegan Filipino desserts; South Philly cheesesteaks; handmade dumplings; Shanghai-inspired street food; Japanese squid; smoked oysters salteñas; ramen burgers; and New York classic cheesecake in frozen pops. It’s the largest weekly open-air food market in the US, attracting thousands of people each weekend to sample food from more than 100 local vendors. (And, it’s a short walk from the ferry.)
Smorgasburg is open every Saturday in Williamsburg and every Sunday in Prospect Park through the end of October. Both feature an eclectic mix of food vendors – but the Williamsburg Smorgasburg has more of them. And while the Prospect Park Smorgasburg is leafier and more family-oriented, the Williamsburg vibe is decidedly young and hip. Friendly Millennials and Gen X’er’s steal the show. The Williamsburg Smorgasburg is located in the East River State Park, so the Manhattan views are as good as they come, as is the feeling of being up-close-and-personal with the river. In warmer weather some patrons even wade in the river or sit on rocks at the water’s edge while they enjoy their food.
Think of Williamsburg as an outdoor art gallery. Williamsburg teems with street art – it’s a bit like visiting an outdoor art gallery. Like street art everywhere, the preferred canvas is whatever giant sides of older buildings and brick walls are available. A giant rendering of a squirrel, for instance, can be seen on a wall behind a corner carpark at North 5th and Berry Streets. It’s by ROA, an artist from Belgium who generally paints wild or urban animals. His Williamsburg urban squirrel manages to look both scary and loveable at the same time.
But please don’t forget to also look down as you view the neighborhood’s artwork or you’ll miss the great surprise of seeing Paul Richard’s “drip art”. His paintings, which are found only on the sidewalk, are made by skillfully dripping paint in one fluid motion to create an image.
Stop by Artists & Fleas. Williamsburg is a shopper’s paradise, particularly for those seeking bohemian, vintage and one-of-a-kind pieces. A great place to find different merchants in one location is Artists & Fleas – a weekend market located in a former warehouse on North 7th Street. It’s more akin to a hard-goods version of Smorgasburg than a traditional flea market. Dozens of artists and artisans showcase handmade new, vintage and secondhand treasures. Even if you’re not in a buying mood, it’s a fun place to view unique crafts, clothing, artwork and jewelry.
Don’t Forget to People Watch. One of the best entertainments in any city is people-watching. North Williamsburg is a great place to see young people in all shapes, sizes and colors dressed up (or, dressed down) showing the world their fashion flare. Enjoy the many, many restaurants, coffee shops and side-walk cafés and people watching all you like. The Williamsburg vibe is hip, trendy and – most of all – very friendly.
Cover: Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; photo: Anne Marie Kelly.