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red hook brooklyn

Red Hook: The Best Things to Do In Brooklyn’s Quirkiest Neighborhood

By / July 31, 2018
   Alec Perkins via Flickr cc by 2.0
   Alec Perkins via Flickr cc by 2.0

For a long time, Red Hook was the neighborhood to visit only when you needed a new dresser or futon from IKEA. But over the past few years, it’s become a popular destination for its bars, restaurants, shops, galleries, and distilleries.

It might not be New York City’s easiest area to get to — no subway line will take you to the Brooklyn neighborhood — but with a full day of things to do in Red Hook, it’s absolutely worth making the trip to this waterfront ‘hood and getting acquainted.

Here’s everything you absolutely need to know about Red Hook.

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The vibe

Once a bustling shipping port in the 19th century, Red Hook still shows its industrial history in the form of old warehouses and cobblestone streets that line the waterfront, but today there are modern residences and new businesses popping up all over the place. A work in progress with rising popularity, Red Hook is appealing for its laid-back feel that’s an equal mix of coastal and urban. With more and more New Yorkers calling it home, or at least making it their place to play, Red Hook is a growing community of creative types who welcome the isolation and small-town charm the neighborhood provides.

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Where to go

Waterfront Museum

Located aboard the 1914 Lehigh Valley Barge No. 79, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, this museum allows visitors to explore New York’s maritime heritage and develop a deeper understanding of how its waters have historically been used for commerce, carrying commuters, culture, and recreation. The museum offers free open boat tours Thursdays from 4pm–8pm and Saturdays from 1pm–5pm.

Pioneer Works

With a mission to “make culture accessible to all,” this non-profit foundation is free and open to the public from 12pm–7pm every Wednesday through Sunday, and offers educational programs, performances, residencies, and exhibitions. Whether you’re looking to be more involved in Red Hook’s artistic community or are just curious and want to see cool galleries, make it a point to stop at this welcoming creative collective.

Check here for the latest exhibitions.

Louis Valentino, Jr. Park and Pier

In what once served as a busy shipping port is now a park that offers panoramic views of the Statue of Liberty, Governors Island, the Manhattan skyline, and the New York Harbor. Named after a firefighter and NYC Parks lifeguard, the park is a popular spot for snapping photos, given its endless scenic backdrops.

Chocolate Factory and Distillery Tour at Cacao Prieto

Experience the best of two guilty pleasures on a tour that lets you sample both spirits and chocolate. At Cacao Prieto, weekend tours feature an hour-long look at the process that goes into chocolate making followed by rum and whiskey distilling. And yes, tastings are included with your $20 admission.

What to do

Red Hook Jazz Festival

This saxy fest takes place in late summer and showcases dozens of talented jazz musicians from the city and beyond. Plan on a relaxed, family-friendly environment and reasonably priced tickets that are available only the day of the show.

Check here for the latest festival information.


Learn a new skill by signing up for a number of different metal working classes at She-Weld, which offers blacksmithing, welding, knife making, and metal sculpture workshops. Classes range from daylong intensives to 10-week sessions, so there’s a wide variety for every interest.

Check here for the latest schedule.

Red Hook Flicks Presents: Summer Movies on the Pier

For eight weeks each summer, this film fest invites New Yorkers to bring picnic blankets and well-behaved (aka quiet) pups to watch movies for free, complete with sunset scenery and views of the Statue of Liberty in the background. You can bring your own snacks and drinks along, but if you’re running to Red Hook straight from work, rest assured there will be vendors selling bites on-site.

Check here for the latest lineup information.

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Where to shop

Erie Basin

Head here for all of your antique jewelry needs, especially if you’re in the business of buying a vintage engagement ring for your special someone. With a large selection of items that are $200 and under, you won’t go broke looking for a new unique statement piece, either.

Wooden Sleepers

If you’re interested in rocking genuine vintage menswear, this shop will hook you up with clothes as old as your grandparents, with jackets and outerwear from as early as the 1930s. You can also get sweaters and wool caps you won’t find anywhere else.

Record Shop

Although it doesn’t have an official name, you’ll find thousands of rare vinyls at the small, unassuming store located at 360 Van Brunt Street. Owned by longtime Red Hook resident Bene Coopersmith, the record shop lacks the usual pretentious vibe at most other music shops in the city, instead offering a welcoming atmosphere for music lovers to take their time and enjoy the songs and conversation.

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If you can eat at only one restaurant

Red Hook Lobster Pound

Although we count the Frito pie at Brooklyn Ice House, pork and chive dumplings at The Good Fork, and brisket tacos at Hometown Bar-B-Que as some of our favorite neighborhood eats, we have to say that Red Hook Lobster Pound is our top destination. Given its seaside location, nothing can beat the experience of enjoying the restaurant’s Maine Lobster Roll, which is served on a New England split-top bun and served with slaw, a pickle, and your choice of fries, potato salad, or green salad. Come extra hungry and order the Hot Crab Dip served with homemade Old Bay potato chips to make for an extra-heavenly meal.

Some might say that no trip to Red Hook can be complete without a visit to Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies, but we’ve got good news: They’ve partnered with Red Hook Lobster Pound and include their signature dessert on the menu here. Get it to go if you’re too full and thank us later.

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If you can drink at only one bar

Fort Defiance

With a reputation for masterfully mixed drinks, Fort Defiance is a local favorite that we’ve touted before for having one of the best hot cocktails in the city. But rest assured that there’s a delicious selection of drinks for every season, with the Godfather II (bourbon, scotch, amaretto, and sarsaparilla) and the Kingston Stinger (Jamaican rum, cognac, and Branca menta) as two of our year-round favorites.

How to get there

Subway: Take either the F or G train to Smith-Ninth Streets in Gowanus, and then prepare to walk a good 20 minutes to most Red Hook destinations.

Bus: Take either the B57 or B61 bus routes, which both make stops in the neighborhood.

Boat: For the most scenic of routes, take one of two boat routes to Red Hook: either the New York Water Taxi, which runs a daily shuttle from Wall Street’s Pier 11 in Manhattan to IKEA, or the NYC Ferry, which has a South Brooklyn Route that includes a Red Hook stop at Ferris Street and Clinton Wharf.

Want more? Check out our neighborhood guide to DUMBO.


Melanie is a Jersey girl who now calls Brooklyn home. She’s written for Fuse TV, MTV News, Interview Magazine and more, and enjoys creating content that informs, inspires and entertains people. She’s passionate about music, running, cheese and dachshunds, and her husband fully accepts her love affair with NYC.

More articles by Melanie Gardiner



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