Bushwick, the lesser-known neighbor of Brooklyn's astoundingly popular Williamsburg, has a storied past. In the 19th century, it was a vital part of America's beer history—and was once even known as the beer capital—but its breweries closed by the 1970s, leaving the neighborhood neglected and many of its buildings shuttered. In recent years, however, creatives have begun to flock to the area. Factory facades have been transformed into canvases for talented street artists, galleries have cropped up around the community, and new breweries have moved in.
Guests normally begin their visit with a self-guided tour of the street art—some of the country's finest—and a gallery hop, then round it off with a beer, a sampling of Bushwick's innovative eats, and perhaps a night out at one of the most quirky nightclubs in the country.
Enjoy an Eccentric Night Out at House of Yes
House of Yes is difficult to describe: It's a nightclub, but probably not like any other nightclub you've seen. An average night might feature aerialists suspended by ribbons from the rafters, body painters, or other circus acts. Housed in a spacious former ice warehouse and doused in street art on the outside, House of Yes calls itself a "performance-fueled nightclub." When it isn't putting on the funkiest and most lively all-night rager in Brooklyn, it's serving as an incubation space for local creatives.
Catch a Show at The Bushwick Starr
For a different kind of performance (i.e., one that doesn't usually involve trapeze artists and heavy drinking), there's The Bushwick Starr, a humble black-box venue that puts on regular plays and avant-garde performances. This not-for-profit theater is an Obie Award winner, so you can catch quality theater, dance, and puppetry acts for cheap. Apart from shows, it hosts frequent events, from workshops to festivals, for youth and the community.
Get Some Fresh Air
It's no Central Park, but Bushwick's Maria Hernandez Park does occupy nearly 7 acres between Knickerbocker Avenue, Irving Avenue, Starr Street, and Suydam Street. A makeover by the Bryant Park Corp. upgraded it from vacant space to lush, urban playground, complete with a basketball court, handball court, fitness equipment, a colorful kids' playground, and performance stage. Whether you're exercising or picnicking on a summer day, Maria Hernandez Park is the place.
Check Out the Street Art
You can spend the day exploring the world's best museums in Manhattan, but the warehouse walls of Bushwick are brimming with just as much art. Start your street art tour at the Bushwick Collective on Troutman Street at Saint Nicholas Avenue, where colorful murals are painted on the walls of neighboring blocks. If you're visiting during the summer, the Bushwick Collective hosts a block party on the first Saturday in June which attracts quite a crowd. Although this is the stretch of Bushwick known for street art, there are also other notable murals around the Bushwick/East Williamsburg border near the Morgan Avenue stop on the L subway line.
Shop for Books
Just a few blocks from the Bushwick Collective is Molasses Books, whose laidback atmosphere evokes a college bookstore vibe. The former barbershop also has a cafe inside, so you can lay into a good story while sipping a latte or beer. If you're on a budget, check out the worthwhile selection of dollar books on two shelves outside the shop. To add to the retro appeal, Molasses contains an impressive selection of pulp classics.
Continue shopping for more new and used books at the incredible Human Relations Bookstore, which has a vast selection of fiction, non-fiction, plays, and more. The final stop on your literary tour is Better Read Than Dead, a small, local-favorite bookstore packed to the brim.
Go to a Brewery
When the Kings County Brewers Collective opened its spacious taproom in 2016, Bushwick became home to its first brewery in 40 years. This hipster-friendly watering hole (KCBC, for short) is known for its no-frills space on Troutman Street—where dogs are welcome—and cleverly named brews: Superhero Sidekicks, Savage Crush, and Brew Man Group, just to name a few. Needless to say, the brewery was an excellent addition to Bushwick, promptly reviving the neighborhood's once long-gone beer scene.
Want to learn more about Bushwick's beer history? Consider taking a Bushwick Brewing Tour.
Get to Know Bushwick's Culinary Scene
At one time, people only trekked to Bushwick for its legendary pizzeria, Roberta's; now, the restaurant scene in Bushwick is flourishing, with new eateries opening every month. Roberta's should, of course, remain on your Bushwick bucket list. The perpetually packed artisanal pizza joint makes world-class, wood-fired pies. But other perennial favorites in the neighborhood include a French restaurant housed in a former garage, Le Garage, and Faro, a neighborhood favorite that serves handmade pasta made from local grains.
A Mexican dinner for under $10 can be found at Los Hermanos Tortilleria, where the tortillas are made fresh. It's cash only, but tacos are only $3 each. And don't forget to save room for a dessert from Fine & Raw Chocolate factory, located near the Morgan Street subway station.
Dine at the Movies
Syndicated serves up a menu of duck confit nachos, porchetta, and the perfect Dark 'N Stormy cocktail to sip on while you watch a retro flick. The theater's repertoire of classics mixed with current indie films appeals to all cinephiles, and its upscale cinema snacks would impress even the most critical foodie. If you’ve ever wanted to dine on something more substantial than a soft pretzel or wished the standard movie theater served craft cocktails, this is the spot for you.
Go Gallery Hopping
Bushwick is home to countless artists and creatives who live and work in the neighborhood's old loft buildings. Tour the studios at Bushwick Open Studios, which usually takes place in late September, for a glimpse of what keeps their brains busy. There's also art on show at the Bushwick Galleries any time of year.
Just a short walk from the mural-lined streets that make up the Bushwick Collective is a stretch of galleries on Willoughby Street. Stop in Koenig and Clinton, originally located in West Chelsea, the Microscope Gallery, or the Stream Gallery.
Dig Through Incredible Vintage Wares
No trip to Bushwick is complete without a round of vintage shopping. The neighborhood, like most of Brooklyn, is brimming with curated consignment stores approved by the local hipsters. Start by checking out Urban Jungle, a certifiable vintage mecca jam-packed with every single article of clothing you can imagine, and from almost every era. Whether you're looking for a pair of patriotic cutoffs or a grungy flannel, rest assured Urban Jungle has it within its seemingly infinite stock. Others include Collections BK, GG's Social Trade & Treasure Club, and Chess and the Sphinx.