Forget Barcelona, Disney World or the Hamptons for summer vacations. When American families want the real urban experience, they are coming to Brooklyn.
That’s what the Tallarita family of Enfield, Connecticut is doing this summer.
“We normally spend our vacations on the beach in Maine, but we’re happy about being here,” said Jeanette Tallarita. “My sons even forfeited playing baseball this summer to come down here to Brooklyn. We wanted to experience the city without having to work and still get the feeling of what it’s like to live in the city.”
Jeanette’s husband, Patrick, said the couple first got the idea to vacation in the borough last year when they took their 18-year-old daughter Chelsey to JFK Airport on her way to Spain.
In coming to drop their daughter off, the couple, along with one of their 17-year-old twin sons, stayed at the Brooklyn Marriott overnight and visited Coney Island.
“I thought Coney Island would be a neat place to stay but there was no place there,” said Tallarita, a Connecticut state employee and former Enfield mayor.
The seed of vacationing in Brooklyn had taken root, though. Tallarita placed a notice on Craig’s List last winter that his family was looking for a summer sublet in the borough.
At the same time, Tallarita called the borough president’s office and talked to several police precincts about crime in the borough and which neighborhoods provide a safer vacation experience.
Finally, the posting in Craig’s List struck pay dirt when he found a family in Park Slope that was going away to California from July 4 to August 19.
“When we told people back home what we were doing, their first reaction was, ‘What are you, nuts? Vacationing in Brooklyn.’ But it’s amazing how much you can do here,” he said.
Tallarita said his dad wanted to come down to the borough as well and so his parents have also stayed at the vacation pad.
“We were sitting around last night and my mom said, ‘I didn’t want to come and now I don’t want to leave here,’” Tallarita recalled.
Tallarita said the family has a summer home in Old Orchard Beach, Maine and over the last few years he has taken the kids to different parts of the country and the world, but they seem to be enjoying this year’s trip.
“They’re able to take the subway on their own. My sons recently found their way to Staten Island where they saw the Staten Island Yankees play the Brooklyn Cyclones,” he said.
Chelsey, a Central Connecticut State University student, said she was surprised when her parents first told her about the family’s summer vacation plans, but she was excited at the same time.
“It’s fun and never boring and different than going to the beach every year. In Enfield you can’t wake up in the morning and walk down the street for coffee and breakfast. Even taking the subway is exciting. You don’t need a car to go everywhere,” she said.
The twins, Andrew and William, who are both Red Sox fans and play for the Enfield High School baseball team, said they are also enjoying the family holiday, especially attending Cyclone games at KeySpan Park, and playing catch in Prospect Park.
Jeanette, originally from Walpole Massachusetts, outside Boston, said she finds Brooklyn much friendlier than Beantown.
“I’m astounded at how friendly people are. They’re nice to you everywhere you go. We were on the Ikea ferry and even shopping in Downtown Brooklyn on the Fulton Mall the woman in charge of the dressing room was very nice,” recalled Jeanette.
“I feel safe here and not intimidated in any neighborhoods and I like the ethnic diversity. I’m a country girl at heart, but I do like the city,” she added.
Jeanette said while she has seen many of the Brooklyn sites, she still wants to visit some of the Russian nightclubs in Brighton Beach.
Meanwhile, Patrick is keeping a log of their trip including times, places, eats and transportation.
For instance, he recommends taking the water taxi as a transportation mode, and Di Fara Pizzeria on Avenue J as a place to eat.
“Di Fara was the total experience. The pizza was very good and the experience was old world and pure. It was just about the pizza,” said Patrick.
With their children now getting older, Patrick and Jeanette Tallarita also have an eye toward retirement, but forget senior communities in Arizona or Florida.
“We’re thinking about retiring in Brooklyn. In our minds the beauty of retiring to a city is you can do what you want when you want to do it. If you want to have Chinese food at two in the morning, you can do it,” said Patrick.
“It’s amazing if you research it, how many inexpensive or free things you can do here.”