What to Do in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn

Street scene under the subway line, Brighton Beach
••• Jessica Antola/Getty Images

Steps from the carnivalesque atmosphere of Coney Island is another seaside stretch of Brooklyn, which is a world away from the neighboring beach. While Coney Island has a steady influx of tourists, Brighton Beach is a residential community that is often referred to as Little Odessa due to its many residents from Russia and the Ukraine. On the main drag, Brighton Beach Avenue, many of the storefronts signs are written in Russian. You're sure to catch snippets of conversations in various dialects as you explore the main street.

This part of Brooklyn is steeped in history. Immortalized in Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs. It was once home to Hotel Brighton, a 19th century resort for the New York City elite, as well as a race track and bungalow colonies. Although these places are long gone, there are still signs of Brighton Beach's history. On the boardwalk, there are posters with pictures of the beach's 19th and 20th century attractions and if you stroll a few blocks...MORE from Brighton Beach Avenue, you'll find a few bungalows still remain. 

Brighton Beach's historic boardwalk is just one block over from Brighton Beach Avenue, and you can see the beach from the elevated train line. Once you step off the train, it's less than a five minute walk to the scenic beach. The beach is free to the public and is often much quieter than Coney Island. An added plus is the renovated changing facility and bathroom. There are a lot of families on the beach, and locals hold court at the benches situated underneath the covered patch off of the boardwalk.    

However, there is a lot more to do at Brighton Beach than spend a day soaking in the rays on the sand (although spending a day doing that is perfectly lovely). If you'd like to explore Brighton Beach, here are seven ways to spend the day. Don't worry, we have sunbathing and swimming on the list. From a DIY food tour to an evening floor show, there is much to do in Brighton Beach. Here's your guide to this unique part of Brooklyn.

Getting There: To reach Brighton Beach, you can take either the B or the Q train to Coney Island Avenue or Brighton Beach Ave. If you take the subway to Coney Island Avenue and take a left out of the subway, you'll enter the beginning of Brighton Beach Avenue. If you choose to go right, you will be in Coney Island. For those who want to immerse themselves in Brighton Beach, get off at Brighton Beach Avenue, which will leave you in the center of town. 

  • 01 of 07

    Relax at the Beach

    Brighton Beach on a spring day, Brooklyn, New York City
    ••• Sascha Kilmer/Getty Images

    Escape from the annual sweltering New York City heatwaves and cool off with an ocean breeze. If you've been sightseeing and want a break, spend the day at Brighton Beach. The sandy beach is just steps from the subway, making it an effortless escape.

    Foodies shouldn't bother packing provisions for your beach day, instead you can walk down Brighton Beach Avenue and stop in Gourmanoff, a large market with a Whole Foods vibe, housed in an old theater. The market retains the theater's architectural design, which adds to the upscale atmosphere. Gourmanoff has a large selection of hot prepared foods. Order some blitzes and devour them as you have a picnic lunch on the beach. 

    Don't forget to pack some sunscreen!

  • 02 of 07

    Stroll on the Boardwalk

    If you don't want to dip your feet in the water, you can stroll, bike or run on the historic Brighton Beach boardwalk. Simply soak in the ambiance as you watch locals play chess and chat on the lively boardwalk. Or watch others stroll by as you have a meal or a drink at Cafe Volna located on the boardwalk. If you have kids in tow, there is a large playground off of the boardwalk.  

    The views of the iconic parachute jump in the distance coupled with the posters including facts and snapshots of Brighton Beach throughout the past century, evokes a romantic timeless feel, as you walk on the boardwalk. The beauty of a boardwalk stroll, is you don't have to wait for the summer crowds. Bundle up as you walk down the boardwalk breathing in the ocean air and taking in a part of Brooklyn's history, and you'll feel as if you have the beach to yourself. 

  • 03 of 07

    Dine on Incredible Food

    Russian Food Stand, Brighton Beach.
    ••• Jessica Antola/Getty Images

    You can pretty much spend a day eating and drinking in Brighton Beach. Brighton Beach Avenue is filled with markets and sit down restaurants. From sweet shops selling imported Russian candies to local markets, there are many places to find some tasty ethic eats on Brighton Beach Avenue. There are also a few spots to check out on Neptune Avenue, another main shopping street in the area.

    If you want to sit down and have a proper meal, get a table at Skovorodka for some authentic Russian and Eastern European food including smoked fish, salads and classic soups (yes, they have borscht). If you want to dine seaside, Tatiana Grill, not to be confused with the neighboring Tatiana Nightclub and Restaurant) on the boardwalk offers lunch specials. 

    Maybe you're too sandy and aren't dressed for a visit to a restaurant and are just in the mood for a snack. If so, you must stop by Gulluoglu for a piece of baklava and a turkish coffee or tea. They have an extensive selection of baklava. The...MORE famed cafe, has its baklava imported from the Istanbul factory where they have been baking the famous Turkish dessert for over a century. It might be the perfect way to end a delightful day at the beach. 

    On Neptune Avenue, order khachapuri — a traditional georgian cheese bread — at the Tone Cafe Georgian Bread, a beloved neighborhood restaurant serving a menu of Georgian eats. 

    For those who aren't daring eaters, don't worry, there's a Starbucks right next to the subway entrance.

  • 04 of 07

    Spend the Day Shopping

    Saint Petersburg Bookstore
    ••• Alison Lowenstein

    The first stop on your Brighton Beach shopping trip should be the Saint Petersburg Bookstore, filled with Russian books and souvenirs including many matryoshka, Russian nesting dolls. In addition to books and Russian bric-a-brac, they have kitschy t-shirts. Although, you might not want to pick up the one that reads, Trust Me I'm a Russian Spy, there are many Russian themed items that make great gifts, including a large children's section with toys and Russian puzzles, etc. 

    Walking down the Avenue, you'll find many shops with racks of clothing lining the sidewalk outside their storefront, but if you're not up on Russian fashion, you might want to stick to purchasing knick knacks, and a great place for presents and other fun goods is Kalinka. The shop is packed with Russian goods and toys. 

    You don't really need a list of stores when you visit Brighton Beach and Neptune Avenue, you can stroll along the Avenues and enjoy perusing the locally owned shops.

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  • 05 of 07

    Go to a Russian Bathhouse

    ••• Mermaid Spa

    You might feel like you've been in a sauna if you visit NYC during a typical humid summer, but if you want a beneficial steamy experience, book a day at a Russian bath house, which is also known as a Banya. There are a few notable ones in the Brighton Beach area, where you can dine, swim and relax in a shvitz (aka sauna). Don't forget to pack flip flops and a bathing suit.

    Drink juice and swim in the Russian Baths of Brooklyn with its Russian and Turkish steam rooms. Relax on their sun deck or book a Dead Sea Salt scrub or other spa treatments.  

    A few miles from the heart of Brighton Beach is the Mermaid Spa in Seagate. The Mermaid Spa is a local favorite and has a Russian Steam Room, a Sauna, an ice sauna and even a meditation cave. It gets busy, so get there early.

    You can rent a private cabana on the rooftop deck at Brooklyn Banya on Coney Island Avenue. The banya has a pool, dry and wet saunas, steam room, and a cafe serving Russian fusion cuisine. 

  • 06 of 07

    Take in a Floor Show

    ••• Tatiana Restaurant and Night Club

    The floor shows that accompany a Russian banquet are as lavish as one you'd find in Vegas or on a cruise ship. The two main venues for a Russian dinner theater experience are The National Restaurant and Nightclub on Brighton Beach Avenue and Tatiana Restaurant and Nightclub located on the Brighton Beach Boardwalk. 

    The National Nightclub, which was started by three siblings from Odessa Ukraine has been open since the 1970s. Featured on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, The National offers some of the most flashy nightclub shows in New York City. Dine on authentic Russian cuisine as you watch a glamorous floor show.

    The "Russian Style" banquet at Tatiana in Brighton Beach includes numerous appetizers, salads, beef stew, lamb, dessert and much more. You can opt for a standard banquet or splurge for a deluxe. However, even though they serve incredible Russian food, it's not about the cuisine at Tatiana. Book a banquet package on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, which comes...MORE with entertainment. Banquets start at seventy dollars per person. The cabaret floor show is not to be missed, and either is the assortment of meats and other ethnic favorites. Dine family style as you watch costumed dancers.

  • 07 of 07

    See a Concert

    Originally opened as the Oceana Theatre in 1934, the grand theater on Brighton Beach Avenue has had quite a history; Jackie Mason, and Ray Charles once performed here. The space also had a long stint as a multiplex and then a popular Russian dinner theater and nightclub. Now the theater, which shares its space with the posh supermarket, Gourmanoff, is Master Theater. The almost fourteen hundred seat concert hall attracts a wide variety of Russia's best talent. Check out the schedule for upcoming shows.