Discovering Red Hook, Brooklyn

Red Hook Brooklyn
Jerry Trudell the Skys the Limit / Getty Images

Red Hook in Brooklyn is a surprising neighborhood tucked along an old industrial waterfront.

It's chock-a-block with refreshing views of both the water and southern tip of Manhattan, dedicated local residents, and interesting venues. Red Hook makes for a great day trip from Manhattan for tourists and visitors, and an interesting place for Brooklyn residents to explore.

Red Hook in Brooklyn is more than your typical Brooklyn neighborhood. It's a work in progress, defined by a mixture of light industry, open space, residential enclaves and a still palpable sense of urban pioneering. The population density here is lower than in most of Manhattan, so it can seem, by comparison, very quiet.

Brooklynites can find interesting pizzerias and bars here, the occasional art show, several excellent nurseries for plants and flowers and a large community garden.

Tourists and locals alike can treat yourselves to take a spectacular twenty-minute ferry boat ride to Manhattan, see old trolley cars and trolley tracks, pick up New York's best key lime pie from the baker, and visit Brooklyn's quirkiest museum, a historic floating barge, the  Waterfront Museum & Showboat Barge.

How to describe Red Hook? It exhibits an odd combination of elements from the 19th to the 21st centuries.

You'll certainly find big box stores (IKEA), and a huge supermarket that draws gentrified Brooklynites (Fairway) from afar. Parts of Red Hook hums with light industry, so in the early mornings on weekdays there's a lot of purposeful activity as trucks pull out for their daily routes. Smack in the middle of Red Hook sits a huge low-income housing project. You can find a glass blowing studio here, and picnic in a little park that feels so close to the Statue of Liberty you feel like you are sitting in her lap.

Where the Erie Basin meets Brooklyn, you can find fabulous walks vast waterfront piers and take the measure of extraordinary, large warehouses, many converted into artists lofts. In the summer, you can swim in an immense, 1930s-era Olympic-sized swimming pool at the Red Hook Recreation Center. On Sundays, there's a fiesta and good food stands that pop up as intense soccer games are played on municipal soccer fields. On a more pedestrian note, Red Hook, thanks to its open spaces, is also where generations of Brooklyn kids have taken their driving tests.

Welcome to Red Hook, Brooklyn.

01 of 06

IKEA in Red Hook Brooklyn

Thousands of people who would never think of visiting Red Hook go there anyway, for one reason: IKEA.

The IKEA store in Red Hook, Brooklyn, brings to the city what many suburban malls offer: one-stop IKEA shopping for a wide range of affordable furnishing. But, in Brooklyn, there's more! The IKEA megastore in Brooklyn also offers:

A ferry service to and from Manhattan's South Street Seaport.

A wonderful waterfront walkway and path, fun for children, lovers, and folks out for a stroll.

Special summer promotions, for instance, free meals for college kids during the summer, if they spend a certain amount of money at the store.

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02 of 06

Red Hook in Brooklyn: Worth the Trip? Best Way to Get There?

Alas, no subway goes to Red Hook. So how to get there deserves a few minutes of planning. Red Hook is less than two miles from Brooklyn Heights. It's closer, even, to Carroll Gardens and Park Slope.

It's definitely worth a visit!

On and near Van Brunt Street, you will find an interesting row of storefronts: a handful of galleries, bars, restaurants, and the highly regarded Baked bakery.

But, if you are going by public transit, allow time.

The following slides detail various transportation options, the best of which are:

  • IKEA Ferry
  • driving
  • biking
  • IKEA shuttle buses to Brooklyn Heights/Downtown Brooklyn; Carroll Gardens; Park Slope
  • B 61 bus
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03 of 06

Getting to Red Hook Brooklyn by Bike or by Foot

In Red Hook Brooklyn, huge waterfront warehouses such as this have been adaptively reused as artists work spaces and apartments.
Ellen Freudenheim

Cycling is a really fun way to explore Red Hook. Walking to Red Hook is not the best option if you're averse to quiet urban streets.

By Bike: Directions for Cyclists Going to Red Hook from Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn Heights, Manhattan

  • Take the bike lane going down Court Street, turn right on Bay Street, then a quick right onto Columbia Street, another quick right onto Lorraine Street, and had toward Wolcott Street. Turn right onto Van Brunt Street.
  • Check out the NYC bike path maps.
  • Several cautionaries: take care crossing into Red Hook under the Gowanus Expressway as it's a busy traffic intersection; bring a bike lock, and make sure you stay in the bike lane, as the NYPD can be aggressive about ticketing cyclists.

By Foot:

  • It's about a half hour (and not particularly beautiful) walk from Carroll Gardens to Red Hook's Van Brunt Street. On the other hand, walking is a good way to see the "real" Brooklyn!
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04 of 06

Directions to IKEA and Red Hook Brooklyn from Car

Red Hook's beautiful, desolate waterfront views often surprise first-time visitors.
Ellen Freudenheim

Driving? Once in Red Hook, there are occasional signs pointing to IKEA Plaza. But it can be a slightly confusing part of town.

IKEA and Red Hook are very close to Wall Street, just on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. And the area is also within two miles or less of Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Gowanus, Park Slope, and parts of Sunset Park.

By Car from the East: Coming from the BQE (I-278), exit at Hamilton Avenue. Go straight to Van Brunt.

By Car from Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge to IKEA: Take the first left onto Court Street. Continue down Court Street, cross under the overhead highway at the end of Court Street. Turn right on Bay Street, and left on Columbia Street (which becomes Halleck Street) to Beard Street, where IKEA is located.

By Car from Manhattan via the Manhattan Bridge: Exit onto Jay Street, and bear right onto Sands Street. Merge onto I-278 W via the ramp to Bklyn- Qns Expy/Verrazano Bridge; take the Hamilton Avenue exit (#26)onto Hamilton Ave. You will be heading toward Battery Tunnel/Manhattan for about a half mile.
From Hamilton Avenue to IKEA: Turn right onto W 9th Street, and left onto Columbia(which becomes Halleck Street) to Beard Street, where IKEA is located.

From Hamilton Avenue to Van Brunt Street: Make a U-turn on Hamilton and drive NW to Van Brunt.

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05 of 06

Getting to Red Hook Brooklyn by Subway and Bus

Once, Red Hook was connected to other parts of the city via these trolley. These old trolleys and trolley tracks are still visible in Red Hook, near Fairway supermarket.
Ellen Freudenheim

OK, so you want to travel to Red Hook by subway or bus, but how? Here are some options. You can also combine the subway and bus.

By Subway: The closest trains are the F or G train to Carroll Street. You can walk from there (See the above directions by foot). However, you can also grab a public bus from Brooklyn Heights or Park Slope subway stops. Bring a book, though, the buses come every 10 minutes, and that's on a good day.

By Public Bus: From Brooklyn Heights or Downtown Brooklyn, or Park Slope: Take the B61 Bus. NOTE: The B77, which may be mentioned in some guide books or online sites, used to connect Park Slope and Gowanus with Red Hook. This bus was discontinued in 2010.

By IKEA Shuttle: You can also get a free IKEA shuttle bus. The IKEA shuttles pick up and deliver people to Smith Street in Carroll Gardens, and to Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street in Park Slope, and Borough Hall in Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights. Check the company website for the frequency and schedule of the shuttles.

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06 of 06

Red Hook Directions by IKEA Ferry: Manhattan to Brooklyn, Brooklyn to Manhattan

IKEA Water Taxi
David Berkowitz/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Take a fun 20-minute boat ride from Manhattan! An IKEA Water Taxi runs from South Street Seaport to IKEA's Terminal. This IKEA ferry leaves from Pier 11 (4 blocks south of the South Street Seaport). The ferry runs starting at 2 p.m. every 45 minutes on weekdays​ and starting at 11:30 on weekends.

See the New York Water Taxi website for prices and details.  

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