Jetsetter Guides

Neighborhood Watch: The 12 Coolest Things to Do in Gowanus, Brooklyn Now

Ask a New Yorker about Brooklyn’s coolest neighborhoods and they’ll likely rattle off a list that includes Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Park Slope. While Gowanus may not be on the tip of everyone’s tongue, the emerging neighborhood has a lot to offer. From shuffleboard clubs and scoop shops to comedy venues and backyard BBQ joints, here’s everything worth doing now.

A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.

See recent posts by Chelsea Stuart

Pouring a beer at Threes Brewing
Interior of Threes Brewing
Outdoor space at Threes Brewing

Threes Brewing

While you can try out Threes Brewing beers at bars across the city (or even bring some home after a trip to Eataly or Whole Foods), why not go straight to the source in Gowanus? The BK-based brewery calls Douglass Street home, and guests can pop by their taproom to test out the company’s lagers, hop-forward American ales, and farmhouse ales. In fact, with a twenty-four line draught system, you can even test out brews from other local purveyors. Want to make an afternoon of your visit? Enjoy plates from The Meat Hook (think: beer brats, hot chicken sandwiches, and housemade pickles) in the brewery’s 3,200-square-foot backyard which features an English ivy- and wisteria-covered trellis. Weekly programming—think: trivia nights, boozy bingo, and crawfish boils—also offer ample excuses to round up your friend group.


Event space at Public Records
Bar at the Public Records

Public Records

All-day vegan cafe/magazine shop? Check. Hi-fi record bar? Check. Sound room? Check. Brooklyn loves a good multi-purpose venue, and newly-minted Public Records—which takes up residence in Brooklyn’s former ASPCA headquarters—brings quite a few concepts to the table. During the day, visitors can enjoy vegan bites from Henry Rich, the restaurateur behind Boerum Hill’s Rucola, while at night, eclectic live sets run the gamut from ambient techno and Detroit deep house to classic quartets and underground jazz trios.



Freek's Mill

Gowanus isn’t exactly a gastronomic hotspot, but if you were to teleport straight to Freek’s Mill without any prior knowledge of the neighborhood, you may think otherwise. The American, brick-lined eatery centers around an open kitchen with a wood burning stove that churns out roasted oysters, BBQ kohlrabi, and carrot carpaccio with marscapone, honey, and citrus. Add a comprehensive wine list to the mix, and you’ve got Gowanus’ premiere date night spot.

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Bar at the Bell House
Crowd at a show at the Bell House

The Bell House

NYC has no shortage of comedy clubs—that’s for certain. While iconic venues like the Comedy Cellar and Carolines on Broadway may catch the lionshare of tourist attention, Brooklynites know The Bell House packs just as much talent. On any given night, you could find big standup names like Pete Davidson and Maria Bamford; pop culture phenoms like Jonathan Van Ness and Antoni Porkoski (of Queer Eye fame—duh); live podcast tapings from comedy, true crime, and NPR hits like Las Culturistas, My Favorite Murder, and Ask Me Another; and—arguably our favorite of all—sets from the writers behind our favorite SNL skits.


Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club

If you thought shuffleboard was a geriatric sport relegated only to retirement homes and cruise ships, think again. Retro Royal Palms packs its 17,000-square-foot Gowanus warehouse with millennial hipsters who wait hours just to get in a game. Luckily, downtime is filled with many a fun distraction, including a pineapple-heavy cocktail menu, a la carte food truck snacks, table games like giant Jenga, and bathroom—yes, bathroom—photo opps (hello, flamingo wallpaper).



Ample Hills Creamery

With multiple NYC locations, Ample Hills may be well on its way to chain-dom, but the Walt Whitman-named shop earns its keep on our list with a Gowanus location that serves up mouthwatering scoops and more. Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, PB Wins the Cup, and Mexican Hot Chocolate flavors are enough to get us in the door, but the furnished rooftop deck—where, in our experience, you’ll sometimes run into celebrities low-key hanging out at a toddler’s birthday party—is just the cherry on top of this sweet ‘lil creamery. 

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Person blowing glass at Brooklyn Glass
Glasses and sign at Brooklyn Glass

Brooklyn Glass

Sick of paint and sip classes? Yeah, us too. At artist-owned Brooklyn Glass, guests can try their hand crafting shot glasses, terrariums, and even custom neon signs via hands-on, five-hour courses—no previous glass blowing experience necessary. If you rather observe than participate, you can also check out an open house where instructors show off advanced glassblowing, neon bending, and flameworking skills. Previous events have included 'Hot Glass Cold Beer,' where guests received a glass-blown drinking glass and free drinks all night long.


Spead of pies from Four & Twenty Blackbirds

Four & Twenty Blackbirds

What’s discovering a new neighborhood without seeing what sweets they have to offer, right? At sister-run pie shop Four & Twenty Blackbirds, customers can choose from more than 10 flavors—and we’re not talking run of the mill pecan or blueberry. Whether you pair your cafe au lait with matcha custard, strawberry balsamic, or brown butter apple streusel isn’t even the big question. Will it be a single slice or a pie for the table?




Gowanus is a hit with comedy fans across the city, and Littlefield—a 1920s textile warehouse cum comedy/art/music/dance party/performance venue—is part of the reason why. The Sackett Street spot packs its calendar full of all sorts of events including a variety of stand-up shows, pun competitions, and a weekly event where comics share their most embarrassing “childhood artifacts”. No time to eat before your show? Littlefield whisks in authentic tacos from neighboring Antojitos El Atoradero, so you’re good to go.



Kick Axe Throwing

If throwing back a beer and chucking an axe at a modified dartboard doesn’t sound like fun, maybe we’re not the ones to give you advice on what to do in Gowanus. But, if you’re down for some backcountry fun, let us go on. Groups of 8+ can rent out their own range for 75 minutes of throwing. Each session is guided by an Axe-tructor who begins with a 10- to 15-minute rundown  and then facilitates competitions. Bonus: Kick Axe gets a bullseye for atmosphere with burly leather sofas, plaid oversized chairs, and cowhide rugs.



Pig Beach

BK may not be a BBQ destination, so to say, but when a brisket craving strikes and you find yourself in the city, Pig Beach’s pitmasters have your back. From baby back ribs and pork shoulder to provolone and hot pepper-stuffed sausage and, as of summer 2019, smoked Louisiana alligator, the meat sweats are all but certain here. While communal picnic tables are always available inside, when it’s nice out, make your way to the backyard beer garden which is strung with string lights.


Brooklyn Boulders

Last time we checked, there weren’t many scalable mountains in BK, but you can try your hand rock climbing with a day pass at Gowanus’ Brooklyn Boulders. Whether you’re an experienced climber ready to go it alone or a beginner looking for a course where you can pick up basic skills, you’ll find options here. PS: Climbing shoes and gear can be rented at the front desk, so no worries if you’ve rolled into town with nothing but a weekender’s worth of bar- but not boulder-friendly footwear. 


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