7 Favorite Summer Spots

7 Fun Activities in Brooklyn

Can you believe it’s August? This summer is flying by. What have you been up to? We’re trying to squeeze in as much as possible before it gets cold and blustery again. A few readers have asked for Brooklyn recommendations, so here are seven spots we’ve been loving this summer…

7 Fun Activities in NYC

7 Fun Activities in Brooklyn

1. Kayak under the Brooklyn Bridge. Kayaking is free in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and the views are spectacular. You sit on top of the kayaks (versus putting your legs under a skirt), and it’s not scary at all. We took the boys and I was amazed by how game they were! They hopped right into the boats and “helped” paddle. Here are the hours and locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, if you’d like to try it.

7 Fun Activities in Brooklyn

7 Fun Activities in NYC

7 Fun Activities in Brooklyn

2. Eat sandwiches and straight chill at Brooklyn Crab. This three-story open-air seafood “shack” in Red Hook has become our home away from home, on weekends. We head to the back garden, which has tables for adults — plus sandboxes, jungle gyms and mini golf for kids. Parents can drink beers and eat crab rolls, while kids muck around. It’s awesome. Last weekend, Anton played his first game of cornhole!

7 Fun Activities in Brooklyn

7 Fun Activities in Brooklyn

3. Watch a movie at Nitehawk. One Saturday afternoon, I took myself on a solo date to see the movie Frances Ha. I biked to Nitehawk in Williamsburg, which I assumed was a regular theatre, but then I saw that each seat had a table and menu. You could order food and drinks during the film! I ended up getting mac n’ cheese and kicking back. They also have a brunch series for lazy Sundays.

7 Fun Activities in Brooklyn

4. Meet for dinner at Fort Defiance. This Red Hook restaurant has been our go-to date spot this summer. It’s small and bustling, and they throw open the front windows on warm evenings. Alex recommends the hangar steak, and I love love love their lentil soup (of all things! I swear it’s amazing) and asparagus salad with a fried egg.

7 Fun Activities in Brooklyn

5. Play on Jane’s Carousel. I’ve written about the Dumbo carousel before, but it has become such a huge part of our lives! We go at least once a week, and the boys adore riding the horses and throwing rocks into the river. Such a beautiful place for kids and adults. (P.S. Check out this arresting photo of the carousel after Hurricane Sandy.)

7 Fun Activities in Brooklyn

6. Get the meatballs at Frankies Spuntino. Frankies shows up on every Brooklyn guide, and there’s a good reason why: Their meatballs! Also, their cavatelli with sausage, brown butter and sage. Also, their ricotta crostini. The waits get insane at night, so we usually go for lunch. You can sit in their pretty restaurant or in the breezy back garden. (Here’s a funny graphic about their meatballs.)

7 Fun Activities in Brooklyn

7 Fun Activities in Brooklyn

7. Go on rides at Coney Island. Our little guys flipped out over the rides at the Kiddie Park — cars that go in a circle, boats that go in a circle, planes that go in a circle… you get the gist. We went one boiling hot afternoon, and cooled off by eating gelato and dipping our feet in the surf. Then the next morning, they begged to the point of tears to go back, so WE DID. Coney Island also could make an awesome date; you could go around 5:30pm, when it’s cooler and less crowded, then ride the Wonder Wheel and have dinner on the boardwalk.

What have you been up to this summer? Any other NYC tips? I’d love to hear!

P.S. The full Cup of Jo Guide to NYC.

(Top photo by Linsey Laidlaw of our kids at Milkmade. Brooklyn Crab photos by Ryan Muir and Brooklyn Crab. Nitehawk photos by Nathalie Todesco Basset and Tippa Tippa. Fort Defiance photo by The Greats Story.)

  1. Jill says...

    Grilled Corn and margaritas at The Habana Outpost in Brooklyn!!!!

  2. RBC says...

    I thought those were the Laidlaw/Morris kids! I used to go to church with them. And I went to high school with Ryan Muir. Sometimes the world feels very small. Missing my own summers in Brooklyn, but glad that I’m 8 months pregnant here in Canada rather than sweltering NY! ;)

  3. Nitehawk is definitely a wonderful gem! Their bowls of popcorn are huge and so flavorful, their drinks are great, they have a theme food and drink for every movie, and they play such cool old movies. Seeing Scream with a bunch of people at midnight in October is definitely the greatest.

  4. florence says...

    these are definitely all my summer faves! must try nitehawk.
    another little park we go to in brooklyn is in red hook, valentino pier. we grab lobster rolls from red hook lobster and picnic. for dessert, grab the frozen chocolate covered key lime pies on a stick next door at steve’s!

  5. Victoria says...

    Aw, someday! I just had my 2nd baby, but I feel like a lot of people I know are in the 2- and 5-year-old sweet spot where the city has suddenly opened up to them and they can do all kinds of fun family stuff. My husband got one of those huge cargo bikes to put 2 kid seats on, but we are a ways away from the baby being able to use it. Right now it feels like we will never get there, but I am so excited to kayak all together!
    The carousel is the best, especially with the art exhibits nearby.
    Also recommend the splash pad at Prospect Park (right where the ice rink is in the winter). It can get a little crazy later on, but early is so nice.
    When my daughter was 2, she and my husband went to California on their own for 5 days, and Nitehawk was pretty much my first solo stop. So good!

  6. Robin says...

    Luv the top spots of summer, can you write a similar post for top Fall spots in NYC sans kids?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, great idea! will start working on it :)

  7. We love the splash pad at LeFrak Center in Prospect Park. The space is massive and there’s a really great restaurant that serves delicious food, wine, beer and cocktails. We live close by and it’s been our go to spot this summer. Joanna, it’s worth checking out.

  8. Monica says...

    How about any recommendations for places to stay? We are headed to Brooklyn in mid October! Great timing on this piece. Appreciate the recommendations. No kids, just two empty nesters.

    • Loren says...

      Airbnb is great for tourists wanting a more authentic New York experience. You can also talk to your host beforehand so everyone is comfortable before booking your stay. I hosted briefly last year when I had one roommate move out before another roommate moved in and I was pleasantly surprised by how great the experience was.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes airbnb is awesome — so many nice places in brooklyn! i’d definitely go that route.

  9. Dorothy DeMaria says...

    If you haven’t already you should check out Marine Park around Sheepshead Bay and Prospect park. Also Sheepshead Bay has great seafood and boat rides

  10. Susan M. says...

    What a great list! Keeping for our eventual trip. The crab place sounds amazing. And how sweet to take the kids twice to Coney Island. They have the coolest parents! :)

  11. Great list. There is also free kayaking up in Inwood on Sundays from 9am-11am at the Inwood Canoe Association. One of my favorite spots in NYC is the GW bridge. It’s totally under-rated but actually has a great view of the Manhattan skyline. It’s also pretty close to where I live too. =]

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oooh what a great trip! thank you!!!

  12. It is so sweet that you took the boys back to Coney Island when they begged. <3

  13. Stephanie says...

    Love Nitehawk! That’s one of my favorite Brooklyn spots to catch a flick. Frankies looks amazing! Definitely want to try.

    I’m a fashion blogger in NYC. To follow my adventures featuring the best of NYC’s fashion and food, check out Always looking to collaborate with new bloggers, so contact me! See you there xx

    – Stephanie

  14. Abbie says...

    Great list!!
    I would add throwing your bikes on the ferry and riding to Governor’s Island. Great food and activities for the kids. Not to mention a killer view.

  15. You nailed all the best Brooklyn spots! I’d add Smorgasborg at the Brooklyn Bridge Park on Sundays (though it’s gotten a teensy bit crowded this year–I recommend going early). Also Fornino’s in the park is awesome pizza + a bar + views. Down the street on Joralemon is River Deli, which I love, and also in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood there’s Jack the Horse, the best restaurant ever, and they recently opened up an oyster bar next door.

    Also Governer’s Island! The ferry is cheap from the Brooklyn Bridge park. I love to go there, lie in the hammocks, explore whatever weird/interesting this is going on, then kick back with a glass of wine.

    • Loren says...

      I love Governors Island! It’s free and there’s always amazing art to find and the views are spectacular. I make sure to go at least once a summer.

    • Genevieve says...

      I was in NYC last week for 3 days with my kids and we took the ferry to Governor’s Island (trying to escape the HEAT) and it was fantastic!!! The ferry is free for the kids and is like 2 bucks for the adults and only takes about 15 min. The island is beautiful, calm and there was many fun things to explore. We really liked the garden of sculptures and the tree house. The view of Manhathan is incredible!

      I’m keeping this article for a future visit to Brooklyn :-)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      good suggestion! I haven’t been over there since toby was a newborn and we missed the ferry we wanted to take home and i was almost in tears :) we have to redo it! sounds idyllic.

  16. Laura C says...

    Lovely plans! I am amazed with Nitehawk!
    I am longing to see September again. We are having a horrible Summer here. 104F is too hot.

  17. yael steren says...

    There is also a great ice cream place in Brooklyn – the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. It’s homemade and delicious!! xo yael

  18. Loved this! I’ve been meaning to get out to Brooklyn recently but I’ve been sitting on my butt in Manhattan all summer :)

  19. This post makes me wish I lived in Brooklyn!! Alas, I live in Union City. (Moved here in June!) Not too far away but man, would I love to live more in the city and be able to walk/bike to all these fantastic places. xo

  20. kayaking under the brooklyn bridge sounds like a fantastic adventure! and the dumbo carousel looks absolutely magical. what wonderful activities to put on your summer bucket list!

  21. Its summer here in the UK as well but its raining non stop and its too windy! I want my real summer.

  22. Tatiana says...

    Wonderful guide, I’m saving it for my next NYC trip with my LO. Last time I visited I was still childless. It’s a shame I did not even make it to Brooklyn then, as a typical tourist I thought Manhattan was the centre of the world :) Sounds like you really enjoy living in Brooklyn. I wonder how often do you even go to Manhattan now?

  23. Oh man, that whole article has made me want to grab my passport!!

  24. Susy says...

    This post screams home to me, and it makes me sad! We moved from Brooklyn to CA last fall and I’m seriously missing Brooklyn in the summer!! I would probably move back in a heartbeat if we had the chance! We were in Park Slope, so the zoo and LeFrak Center were both inexpensive, close activities for us. Great for little ones!

  25. Natalie says...

    I watched Frances Ha this week too! Loved it. and Loved your rec for Tig- my sisters and all watched it this week and bawled:)

  26. I love Brooklyn Crab! This list makes me miss NYC. Thanks for sharing!

  27. Mary Jenkins says...

    loving these photos of your family! i second the rec for Threes Brewing. guest chefs from great restaurants like frannies and buttermilk channel cook their menu. have a great rest of the summer!!

  28. Celia says...

    Love Brooklyn Crab! I met the hubs there for drinks one random weekday last week just to blow off steam (literally, it was hot!). Turns out they do trivia there–guess which team won? :D

  29. I love NYC in the summer! The only thing I’ve done on your list is Coney Island. My boyfriend and I went on the Wonder Wheel but he FLIPPED OUT because he’s terrified of heights haha :)

    Meet Me in Midtown

  30. Melissa says...

    Love this list. Today I took my two boys to the museum of natural history which is always one of their favorite NYC sights (dino-sors)! I have such a weird question for you, but I’d love if you did a post on this. You’ve moved around the city so much, how do you make friends in your neighborhoods? It seems like there are always photos of you and your boys with other little kids, and to me, it’s one of the hardest things about raising kids here. People are always moving, or busy, or just don’t want to connect! Would love to hear your tips.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I’d love to write about this! i’ll try to figure out any tips. thanks so much for the great question. xo

    • Kelly says...

      Hi Melissa! Here in Brooklyn there are tons of neighborhood list serves and online mom groups, boons for both friendship and cheap/free kid gear. Maybe your neighborhood has one? Ours is Cortelyou Moms and Flatbush Family Network.

    • Meghan says...

      We moved to NYC and didn’t know a single person (OK, maybe 3). But after having our daughter, bonding with other parents we met in Mom’s Groups, via list serves, and the classes we signed our daughter up for is how we made our friends. We now have a great group of friends with toddlers that we hang out with every week and even travel together! Joanna, I’d love to contribute if you choose to write more about this.

  31. Caitlin says...

    Joanna- Have you checked out Enoteca on Court (@ Union)? Not for a “summer spot” but it was one of our favorite places to eat (esp the pizza) in our neighborhood. We dismissed it as another mediocre red sauce joint, but it’s way more than that. We spent many winter nights eat pizza near the warm oven in the back and ordering a few pies for us and our neighbors while hanging on the front stoop in the summer. I really miss it now that we’ve moved to CA.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      ooh sounds so good!! thank you so much for the tip.

  32. Mollie says...

    This couldn’t have been published at a better time, we’re getting ready to head to NYC in a month! I can’t wait to check out the crab shack!

  33. Amanda says...

    I just got back to Seattle from NYC last night – my favorite spot in Brooklyn was Bedford Ave – amazing shopping :)

  34. Thank you so much for this post! It looks like you guys have so much fun. Makes me want to trek our little guy across the country to visit family in NY soon!

  35. Calliope says...

    I swear your posts about NY are like 10 movies within 3 paragraphs! Sooo envious! I live in Greece and Brooklyn seems years of light away!
    Have a great summer!

  36. Krissy says...

    Prospect Park is just the best. We’ve had lots of zoo days this summer, and the park’s new LeFrak Center/lake is such a great spot for kids. We’ve also been hitting up live music when we can (singalongs, plus there’s a fun band that plays at the 15th Street farmers’ market on Wednesday mornings). You’re right; Brooklyn in the summertime can’t be beat!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      so great!! we haven’t spent much time there this summer (other than biking around the loop at night sometimes) but we should explore more! the music and zoo sounds adorable.

  37. Definitely my unofficial NYC guide for our next travel! :)

  38. Oh, to be a child in your family, Joanna!! I would be one all over again! He he…seriously, I had the most enchanting early years ever…but not in Brooklyn where there such incredible things to discover both as an adult and kiddo! Speaking of carousels, my parents always took us to the early 1900s “flying” version at Watch Hill, Rhode Island; reaching out for that brass ring was thrilling as a seven-year old! Love your lists/links as always and can’t wait for more!!! xo


    adorn la femme

  39. Liz says...

    Such great spots!

    We’ve been spending so many weekends at Threes Brewing in Gowanus. Such a gorgeous backyard with excellent beer. They also have a coffee bar and a rotating kitchen featuring local restaurants! Very into biking around Prospect Park and finding amazing tacos all over Brooklyn, and drinking super frosty frozen margaritas at Habana Outpost in Fort Greene. Summer in Brooklyn is the best!

  40. Nicole says...

    Great list! I am highly motivated to do all of this before the summer ends. One question though: how do you get Anton to sit still for kayaking?! I have a little guy (slightly younger than yours) and I am constantly fearful that he will leap of the kayak into the water in part because he never. sits. still.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      good q! anton is always running around, too, and is super athletic. but i don’t know, maybe there’s something about being in a boat that kids just “get”? he just sat still and helped me paddle. he also was in a big lifejacket, so he was a little more constrained that usual? hope that helps!!

  41. Beth says...

    I am 3,000 miles away from Brooklyn, but this makes me want to hop on a flight this afternoon :)

    • Kimberley says...

      I feel the exact same way! That crab shack looks so perfect to me right now…