Some 150 years ago, wealthy Manhattanites traveled by boat to their extravagant summer homes along Brooklyn’s “gold coast,” Bay Ridge. Today, families take a different mode of transportation—the R train, to the end of the line—to experience the once-Scandinavian, now diverse neighborhood where Saturday Night Fever was filmed. Located between two highways (the Belt Parkway to the west and the Gowanus Expressway to the east), the area stretches from 65th Street to the base of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at Shore Road and 101st Street. As in other borough nabes (think Carroll Gardens), you’ll find a mix of old-timers, young third- and fourth-generation families, and newcomers. The Verrazano, which rises 200 feet above New York Bay and connects Brooklyn with Staten Island, is the neighborhood’s most iconic—though not always beloved—landmark. Fifty years ago, locals protested the plan to build the suspension bridge when 7,000 residents had to be displaced to make room for it. There’s history, too, in Bay Ridge’s remarkable variety of residential architecture, which includes sprawling single-family homes, charming prewar buildings and classic brownstones; a row of mansions sits on Shore Road between 80th and 83rd Streets.
Where to eat
Tons of eateries call Bay Ridge home; you’ll find everything from family-style Italian meals to authentic kebabs. Peppino’s(7709 Third Ave, 718-833-3364, ilovepeppinos.com) more than tolerates rambunctious kids—one of the restaurant’s hallways is an art gallery devoted to crayon drawings. As at its Park Slope sister location, the house specialty is brick-oven pizza.
Locals have been coming to Hinsch’s Confectionery (8518 Fifth Ave, 718-748-2854) for more than 80 years. The luncheonette excels at tuna melts, homemade ice cream and egg creams. For the area’s wurst meal, head to the German Schnitzel Haus (7319 Fifth Ave, 718-836-5600, schnitzelhausny.com). Parents can drink imported beer from a boot while underage guests nosh on kinderteller (children’s plates).
Where to shop
Chain stores like Century 21 and the Children’s Place line 86th Street, and smaller shops dot the main commercial strips, Fifth and Third Avenues. In addition to playthings by Groovy Girls and Melissa & Doug, Kaleidoscope (8722 Third Ave, 718-491-2051, kaleidoscopny.net) offers a stuff-a-bear station; consider it a smaller, much more affordable version of Build-A-Bear. The BookMark Shoppe (8415 Third Ave, 718-833-5115, bookmarkshoppe.com) has a stellar children’s-book section and hosts storytimes throughout the year.
Don’t miss the butterfly garden and lily pond at Narrows Botanical Gardens (Shore Rd between Bay Ridge Ave and 72nd St, narrowsbg.org). The 4 1/2-acre stretch of parkland hosts its annual Harvest Festival on October 18. Kids can decorate pumpkins, get their faces painted and try out a potter’s wheel.
Make sure to have ID if you want to visit The Harbor Defense Museum (enter from Fort Hamilton Pkwy at 101st St, 718-630-4349, harbordefensemuseum.com). Why? It’s on Fort Hamilton, a 234-year-old, still-active U.S. military base. Kids can check out Revolutionary War uniforms and artillery once used to defend our city’s coast.
If the weather’s nice, grab a sandwich at the Bay Ridge Deli (Third Ave at 68th St) and head to Owl’s Head Park for a picnic. Enter the 27-acre hilltop park at Colonial Road and 67th Street to watch daredevils zoom around Brooklyn’s only public skate park.
The American Veterans Memorial Pier (Bay Ridge Ave at Shore Rd) is home to the borough’s 9/11 memorial—a 25-foot bronze sculpture of a “speaking trumpet,” a communication device used by 19th-century firefighters. The 69th Street Pier (as it’s known to Brooklynites) is also a year-round fishing spot. Bring a rod and join the locals.
Artsy little ones can stop by The Painted Pot (8009 Third Ave, 718-491-6411, paintedpot.com) to decorate mugs and figurines or make mosaic coasters and picture frames. Kids with a flair for accessorizing can string necklaces and bracelets in the beading area.
6 Families can Rollerblade or bike along the four-mile Shore Promenade. The strip runs parallel to the Belt Parkway and passes under the Verrazano Bridge (the kiddo set will find this pretty cool). Cross over the parkway on either of the two pedestrian bridges (located just south of 80th St and 92nd St) to enjoy the 79th Street Playground or Vinland Playground.
Locals refer to the privately owned landmark on Narrows Road between 82nd and 83rd Streets as the “gingerbread house,” but it’s actually an Arts and Crafts--style home built in 1917 as a cottage on the grounds of a much larger estate. Youngsters will be intrigued to learn that the garage once had a revolving floor.