Even after the mermaids parade past the waves off Coney Island, the diversity and richness of Brooklyn will still provide countless summer adventures for city-bound kids and families. Perfumed flowers are in bloom at the botanic garden, cool music wafts across Prospect and Fort Greene Parks, and Carnival is just around the corner. If you need a break from Mr. Kool and the fire hydrant, here are a few suggestions for how to get the most out of the hot months without burningn a hole in your pocket.
Think of Grand Army Plaza as the center of a wide range of possibilities—just a stone’s throw away are the Brooklyn Public Library, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Botanic Gardens, and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. Call the numbers below for updates and hours.
Brooklyn Public Library
A comprehensive treasure in a gorgeous building dating back to an era when public spaces mattered, the library offers excellent services—all free, all summer long—from reading programs and computer classes to events like the recent folk arts series, which featured a section on Brooklyn’s water tower builders, the Rosenwach family of Greenpoint. More than a library, it is an active and essential community center.
Brooklyn Museum of Art
Often in the spotlight for its controversial works and ongoing battle against the Mayor’s censorship efforts, the museum’s featured summer exhibitions include a Leon Golub retrospective and “Digital: Printmaking Now.” It also offers excellent permanent collections, storytellers, summer classes, gallery tours, family friendly activities, as well as fantastic music and monthly “First Saturday” events. Admission is free with suggested contributions for adults $6 and $3 for children.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
A perfect place to unwind in the heart of Brooklyn. Along with walking tours, the garden features art exhibits with botanical themes. Starting in July the Gardens will offer a unique tour of “framed views” that highlight vistas embedded in the landscape. Adults can learn about garden design through a series of special tours while children can explore some of the same ideas through hands-on workshops. Free garden tours at 1 pm every Saturday and Sunday.
The Brooklyn Children’s Museum
The Brooklyn Children’s Museum offers hands-on exhibitions, workshops, and weekend multicultural performances. A free trolley runs on the weekends from Grand Army Plaza to the museum with a stop at the Brooklyn Museum of Art along the way. Free admission on Fridays after 5pm.
Come to the Prospect Park Bandshell and hear everything from Brazilian samba (Olodum), Pakistani hip-hop (Junoon), Mexican lyricism (Julieta Venegas), eclectic techno (Trans-Global Underground), and Cuban salsa (Issac Delgado) to Senegalese pop (from the great Baaba Maal). Also check out dance performances from the Mark Morris Company and rhythMEK, the BQEProject’s live score for The Blue Angel with Marlene Dietrich, and much, much more.
Prospect Park Bike Trail
Although you’ll have to share it with large crowds of rollerbladers and joggers, Prospect Park offers a 3.5-mile loop that encompasses a lake, rolling meadows, and some of the city’s finest flora and fauna. At the southern-most tip of the park is a bike trail to Coney Island, which is for pedestrians and bicyclists, and runs along Ocean Parkway. Though you have to stop for the occasional red light, it’s a great free-from-car-traffic ride. Plus, there is the added bonus of finding yourself at the original Nathan’s once you arrive at the water.
Music and More in Fort Greene Park
Located near Downtown Brooklyn, historic Fort Greene Park is home to the monument for prison ship martyr from the Revolutionary War. The park has tennis courts and playgrounds, and stages amazing free weekly music concerts featuring some of the finest blues, jazz, reggae, and R&B artists around. Bring a blanket, grab a patch of grass and enjoy. Concerts and performances are typically scheduled for Tuesday evenings (7-8pm), although there are also many Saturday events, from communal doggy scrub downs to poetry readings, outdoor film screenings, and dance performances.
The Transit Museum
For those who love to learn about how the city works, head to the New York Transit Museum. Located in Brooklyn Heights at the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street, the Museum, housed in an authentic 1930s subway station, is home to a century’s worth of history. Explore the subway’s architecture and ornate tile tradition, discover the origins of the “Subway Series,” or call ahead and reserve a spot on the museum’s four-hour tour aboard a vintage train that traverses the city from Coumbus Circle to Rockaway Park.
Take a Hike
Discover, or rediscover, the city from the ground up. Big Onion Walking Tours specializes in tours with an ethnic and historical focus—pick a subject and put aside at least two hours. Cost is $9, $7 for students and seniors and $12 for a food-included “Multi-Ethnic Eating Tour.” Call 212-439-1090or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Finally, if you’d rather explore the borough from the cooled precincts of an air conditioned apartment, try www. brooklynexpedition.org, a great educational website that offers access to information about Brooklyn in general, from the history of its neighborhoods to the architecture of its famous bridges and homes.
MEGHAN MCDERMOTT is a Local Editor and contributing writer for the Brooklyn Rail.