You keep telling people you want to “do something” this weekend. Something that doesn’t involve going to the same brunch spot and folding laundry while you sing Dream Girls at your dog. But it turns out that doing things on weekends takes research, and lots of verbs like “make” “do” “try” and “go.”
If you’re serious about getting out of your apartment for at least a couple of hours, hopefully this guide will make it a little easier. You’ll find mini-itineraries for various locations around the city, each with a few restaurant or bar suggestions, plus other, non-food-related things to do nearby.
gowanus: Climbing & Shuffleboard
If Step Brothers taught us anything, it was that you shouldn’t live with your parents in your 40s, and that more space means more room for activities. In terms of the latter, Gowanus is a perfect example.
There’s a lot to do in Gowanus, and plenty of square footage to do it in. For example, you can go climbing at Brooklyn Boulders. This is a particularly good Saturday plan if you’re feeling any combination of adventurous, not-hungover, and interested in pretending you’re closer to real mountains than an institution called The Transit Museum. They have $32 day passes and a bunch of different classes you can sign up for (including intro to climbing, yoga, and “climber core”).
Afterwards, do something that doesn’t involve getting chalk on your hands. For a drink, Lavender Lake and Threes Brewing are fun, and you can feel free to bring all the contacts in your phone - both spots are big enough for a medium-sized wedding reception. If you’re looking for dinner and feeling tired-edging-on-hangry, try Ghenet, a relaxed neighborhood spot with really good Ethiopian food. Or get Korean barbecue at Insa. Important: they also have karaoke.
Scaling artificial rocks in a flattering harness isn’t for everyone. If you’d rather spend your afternoon drinking blood orange margaritas and playing a resort sport, Royal Palms Shuffleboard is for you. We’d just recommend making a reservation ahead of time. For an evening activity, go see a show at Littlefield or The Bell House - there are great comedy events, live music, and dance parties almost every night, and tickets are usually in the $20 range.
Upper east side: DESIGN WORKSHOPS & CHEEsE
There’s a pretty solid chance you’ve been to The Met before. But you may not have made it to the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum yet. It’s located in the old Andrew Carnegie Mansion right by Central Park, which means it’s more beautiful and historic than 75% of the buildings you probably see on your normal commute.
Before you go to the museum, hang out in Central Park. Even if you’ve lived in this city for years, we’d bet money that you haven’t rented a tandem bike there - until now. And for a light breakfast beforehand, get some coffee or pastries at Bluestone Lane. This particular location is in an old church right across from the park.
Cooper Hewitt runs Saturday design programs that are all completely free and family-friendly. Draw your own light fixture or make a miniature 3D landscape, and remember why you didn’t go into design (or why you did). There’s also an exhibit called “The Immersion Room” which allows you to project different famous designs onto the walls and ceilings, and draw on top of them like you did in your parents’ basement when you were 7.
Adult tickets to the museum cost $16 if you buy them online, but they also do pay-what-you-wish admission from 6pm-9pm on Saturday nights. In case you want to go to dinner afterward, some casual spots in the area are Naruto Ramen and Earl’s Beer and Cheese (which is more like a beer bar with good food). For something a bit fancier, try Korali Estiatorio on 3rd Avenue for Greek food.
BELMONT: ARTHUR AVE & THE BOTANICAL GARDEN
If you’re in the mood to watch a bird land on a branch and wonder why nature is a mother but not a sister, go to the Botanical Garden in the Bronx. You could easily spend most of your day here - they have fall activities like canoe trips, birds of prey demonstrations, and something called “forest bathing” where you meditate in close proximity to a pile of leaves. They also have great places to set up a picnic. Just make sure to check out the Dos and Don’ts section of their website beforehand, so you don’t accidentally get in trouble for “bringing multiple changes of clothing for personal photoshoots.”
As long as the weather is reasonably tolerable, we’d suggest the picnic route. To do this right, head to Arthur Avenue for some classic Italian sandwiches, cheeses, and baked goods. Try Mike’s Deli or Calabria Pork Store for sandwiches, and Delillo for pastries.
If you’d rather sit down in a restaurant (and not on a bench where someone has definitely tried to domesticate a chipmunk), Zero Otto Nove and Antonio’s both serve good Italian food and work well for groups.
The Bronx Zoo is also right across the street from the Garden (and even closer to Arthur Ave), and your kids and/or adult friends may have a meltdown if you don’t go. Their “Winter Total Experience” tickets are $20 for kids and and $28 for adults, and get you into seasonal exhibits like the butterfly garden and the gorilla forest. Admission is totally free on Wednesdays, but this isn’t the Wednesday guide.
ridgewood: PING PONG & PIZZA
Take the L train to Halsey for a day in Ridgewood, and start out at Nowadays. It’s a giant indoor/outdoor bar that’s unlike any other place in the city - mostly because it has enough programming to rival a well-run Connecticut day camp. For example, until October, they have a free party every Saturday with live music, $15 plates of BBQ, and a ping pong tournament with a $50 bar tab prize. There’s also an indoor dance party every Saturday night, as well as regularly scheduled indoor listening parties, dance nights, concerts, and literary readings. Take that, Eagle Rock Day Camp.
If you don’t want a plate of barbecue at Nowadays, try Houdini Kitchen Laboratory nearby. Despite sounding kind of like a folk/metal band, this is actually a pizza spot, and they make great food in a space where you’ll want to spend some time. They’re open from noon until 11pm on Saturdays, but regardless of when you go, make sure to order the Queen pizza. It’s a margherita pie with creamy stracciatella instead of regular mozzarella. You are what you eat, after all.
Let’s say dance parties, ping pong tournaments, and pizza only keep you entertained for a few hours. Spend the rest of your day walking through Ridgewood to get to a few of our other favorite spots. The Bad Old Days is a cool neighborhood bar with a fake fireplace and a bunch of board games (it sort of feels like a living room that you don’t have to decorate or clean up yourself). There’s also While in Kathmandu, which serves Nepali food, including some really good meat and vegetable momos. By the time you’ve walked there, you’ll be close to the M train and you’ll have already forgotten how overly-competitive Molly got during ping pong at Nowadays.
CHELSEA: FISH TACOS & ART
Gallery exhibits change nearly as often as a Type A person’s Brita filter. Which is to say, every few months. So even if you’ve done the Chelsea gallery thing before, you’re bound to see something new on a repeat trip. Still, you’re more likely to enjoy it if you’re not starving, so it’s probably a good idea to start with brunch. For a sit-down meal, we like Cookshop - but if you want something quicker, go to Los Mariscos in Chelsea Market for the best fish tacos in Manhattan.
Then, start to make your way down either 21st or 24th Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues). Both blocks are lined with shows, and popping into them will feel a little like art trick-or-treating. If you want a few specific spots to check out, try Gagosian, Metro Pictures, and Gladstone galleries. They’re all open from 10am-6pm on Saturdays, and they have regularly-rotating contemporary installations.
Scientists are still trying to figure out why standing with your arms crossed (a.k.a. the classic I’m-looking-at-some-art pose) is so exhausting, but what we know for sure is that after a while, you’ll probably be ready for another meal. If you want tapas in a niceish space, Tia Pol and El Quinto Pino are both great. If you’re feeling pizza and a more relaxed atmosphere, Ovest is just a few blocks north of most of the galleries. It has chewy-crusted pies, a pretty large selection of wines by the glass, and a foosball table out front.
INDUSTRY CITY: SAKE TASTING & MINI GOLF
When tech startups inevitably create their own utopian villages around the world, they’ll probably look a bit like Industry City: a complex of warehouses in Brooklyn with expensive drip coffee, a shared “innovation lab,” and indoor mini golf.
You don’t need to work and/or live there (yet) - just go visit on a Saturday. They have live music pretty often, plus an outpost of Brooklyn Flea that runs through October. Walk around and look at vintage furniture, craft leather shoes, and antique Star Wars alarm clocks that no one needs and everyone wants. There’s also a bar with an attached arcade and indoor mini golf course (for $5 you can play as much as you want). Since Industry City does a lot of of family programming, you’ll probably see some kids around, so be cool. But also know that they have frozen drinks and Dance Dance Revolution. Again, be cool.
While you’re in the area, stop by Brooklyn Kura, the only NYC brewery where you can get craft sake by the glass. Its tap room is only open on weekends, and their Saturday hours are 1-9pm. They have some outdoor seating, and a few different housemade sake varieties (including one called Occidental that tastes a little like bananas). There are also snacks and cheese boards on the menu, but don’t expect to have a full meal here.
It’s possible you’ll be slightly drunk on sake at this point - and/or just in need of something that isn’t rice wine. Conveniently, there’s a full food hall in Industry City, and our favorite things there are the doner kebab sandwich from Kotti, the al pastor tacos from Taco Mix (originally located in East Harlem), and the ice cream from Blue Marble. Or you could always walk about 15 minutes south to one of the best Mexican restaurants in the city: Tacos El Bronco in Sunset Park.
red hook: bbq & key lime pie
No matter how much you love waiting on thousand-degree platforms and sharing eye-rolls with strangers when the announcer says “we should be moving in a few minutes,” you can’t take the subway to Red Hook. There’s a ferry you can catch at Wall Street if you’re coming from Manhattan, but otherwise, plan on taking the bus or biking to get there.
Hometown Bar-B-Que makes some of the best pork ribs in the entire city, and they have extended hours from noon to 11pm during the summer. This certainly works for lunch, but they also have live music every Saturday night.
If you or someone you’re with is in the mood for some kind of “activity!”, go to Pioneer Works. It’s a theater and multi-use art space with a jungle-like outdoor patio that’s a 10-minute walk from Hometown BBQ. On Saturdays, they have workshops, concerts, and exhibitions (you can see their full schedule here). If the idea of an “activity!” gives you an allergic reaction, try Red Hook Winery for a drink (just be aware that they have weddings at the winery pretty frequently in the summertime - so come dressed up and decide on a fake name beforehand).
There’s also a place to eat pie. Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies sells excellent key lime pies (no surprise there) in both full and mini sizes. Get a frozen mini one dipped in chocolate, and stare out at the water thinking about how some islands get to be tropical and vacation-y, and New York just gets to be New York.
LONG ISLAND CITY: ART & HOT DOGS
There are lots of museums in LIC, but you’re going to want to eat something before you cross your arms and stare at a sculpture made entirely from spoons. We have a whole list of restaurants we like in the neighborhood, but LIC Market and Jackson’s are best for brunch.
Once that’s taken care of, as we said, you have a whole range of reasonably-priced museum-y options. MoMA PS1 has an outdoor event series called “Warm Up” every Saturday, which is basically just a big party with DJs and the occasional dance battle between strangers. For an experience seven notches more relaxed, try the Noguchi Museum - their Saturday hours are 11am-6pm, and it costs $10 to get in ($5 for students). If you walk about a block from Noguchi, there’s also the Socrates Sculpture Park - it’s completely outdoors, completely free, and it has great views of the East River.
After any or all of those, Anable Basin is a great place for a drink. Groups will fit right in here (it gets noisy), but if you’re by yourself, just sneak away to one of the picnic tables by the river and come up with names for all the ferries that go by.
Also, they serve hot dogs.
GOVERNORS ISLAND: HAMMOCKS & OYSTERS
Going to Governors Island is like leaving the city and entering Neverland. You can only get there by boat, there’s a Mister Softee truck that’s in the same spot every single Saturday, and most importantly, there’s this thing called “open space.” If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, imagine the middle chunk of Central Park with 50% less people and noise.
Ideally, our Neverland would also have lots of great restaurants. The reality is that you don’t have too many food options on Governors Island, so you should pick up some picnic food before you get on the ferry. If you’re coming from FiDi, we’d recommend grabbing Italian sandwiches from Pisillo (they’re roughly the size of an adult’s arm), and if you’re taking the ferry from Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO, Smile To-Go is a good option. Also important: ferry rides are free before noon on Saturdays and Sundays.
Once you’re there, rent a bike or claim your second apartment, a.k.a. one of the hammocks. There’s lots of public art to explore, and all of the installations (including the indoor ones) are free. If you think you could easily be convinced to quit your desk job and develop a composting start-up, you can also check out the urban farm.
Before you head home, stop by Island Oyster for a drink and a snack. It’s an outdoor bar that feels like a luxury boat, and there’s a row of tables with completely unobstructed views of Manhattan - practice glaring at people in advance so you’ll have the tools you need to claim one. Just don’t forget that the ferries stop fairly early, and the Brooklyn ones stop before the Manhattan ones do. Check the schedule here, unless you want to be the star of a future documentary about what happens when someone gets stuck on Governors Island overnight. At least you’d be guaranteed a good spot at the bar for Sunday.