Is Red Hook the city’s new weekend getaway destination?
But will vacationers see it as a charming secluded seaside town or a transit-starved industrial district with more decrepit lots than brunch joints?
There was only one way to find out — hop on a B61 bus for a day trip!
The much-maligned B61 is notoriously late, slow, and packed, but the half-hour it took me to travel from Downtown to my vacation destination gave me time to read my copy of Fodor’s Brooklyn, which gives the neighborhood three out of five stars for sightseeing but only one for shopping.
Every city has an Ikea, but only Red Hook has one where you can dine on exotic but affordable Swedish fare — I got a smoked salmon wrap, a pastry I can’t pronounce, and an elderflower juice for $7.96 — while gazing out onto picturesque views of Lady Liberty.
And forget chartering a sightseeing boat — any $10 purchase scores you a free ticket on the Ikea water taxi.
No coastal getaway is complete without some leisurely strolling along the waterfront. Red Hook doesn’t have gleaming sandy shores for beachcombing — though bodies and gnarly fish sometimes wash up on the rocks — but there is a vintage street car near the beloved neighborhood Fairway for unique holiday snaps. If only the city would finally put it into action, sightseers wouldn’t have to catch the bus.
Fodor’s may only give one star for shopping but tell that to the sale section at Ikea, where you can pick up a slightly scuffed coffee table with three perfectly serviceable legs for a steal!
For less cumbersome souvenirs, we stopped off at a new record shop called Swoopy’s Groove Palace and picked up some vinyls from its wide selection including a horror-themed disco album record called “Terror on the Dancefloor.”
Owner Bene Coopersmith said he only opened the shop just a few months ago but agrees that Red Hook has all of the makings of a top tourist destination.
The neighborhood’s sole museum, the floating Waterfront Museum off Pier 44, is only open two days a week, so we instead went searching for some history in local haunt Fort Defiance — named for a Revolutionary War fortification on the neighborhood’s shores where the Continental Army was able to hold off the Red Coats while Gen. Washington escaped.
My traveling companion and I mulled this important history while enjoying the bar’s happy hour — sampling the neighborhood’s finest goat’s cheese and a bitter cocktail named for the Red Hook Criterium — the world-famous bicycle race that take place in the local streets each year.
New York winter and Red Hook’s grungy waterfront parks don’t offer much opportunity for tanning, so headed over to Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies — a local stalwart of 16 years — where there is a little bit of sunshine in every bite of. The pie shack’s vibrant Key West colors and freshly-squeezed key limes were enough to make me forget that I was sitting in an industrial parking lot in 30-degree weather.
It was an exhausting but exhilarating day in Red Hook — imagine what could happen in a weekend?! My previous memories of the neighborhood were soured by a four-hour trip to Ikea and I ran out of time exploring Red Hook’s abundance of sights, shops, and food.
So could Red Hook really be the borough’s newest tourist destination? You’ll have to catch the B61 and see for yourself.