June + Brooklyn = yes, amirite? Just picture yourself: biking over the Brooklyn bridge, stopping at food trucks and sitting on stoops, instagramming that skyline from a ferry. Today, Brooklynite Katie is telling us where we can find $40 a night Airbnbs, cheapo pierogis, and free performances by Grammy-winning choirs!
Hi! I’m Katie. I help millennials reach big money goals and become financially confident over at More Money For Me. Fun fact about me: once upon a time I contracted the modern mutation of the bubonic plague while backpacking in Uzbekistan (seriously!).
I moved to New York five years ago, and today I live in Brooklyn with my boyfriend and adorable pup, Missy. There’s tons to do/see/eat here, and contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to have a fantastic visit!
Cheap Lodging in Brooklyn
Most of Brooklyn is perfectly safe, but if you’re concerned about a specific neighborhood when searching for a place to stay, check out this crime map.
Airbnb — $40+/night for a room, $70+/night for an apartment
There’s a good selection of $40+/night private rooms on Airbnb, like this eclectic Williamsburg pad ($48), this colorful Bushwick room ($40), or this airy room in an historic building near Prospect Park ($50). This no-frills setup in quiet Midwood goes for just $23/night, but I’d only recommend it if you’re okay with a long subway ride. For an entire apartment in a reasonably convenient/safe neighborhood, expect to pay $70+/night—this centrally located garden apartment for two in hip Fort Greene costs $80/night.
Related: Airbnb is always an affordable option and if you’ve never used it before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking!
Hostels — $33+/night
If you want to meet other travelers, there are several hostels in northern Brooklyn worth looking into. For a dorm bed, the International Students Residence in hipster-filled Williamsburg costs $33/night, the nearby NY Moore Hostel goes for $35/night, and the New York Loft Hostel on the Brooklyn/Queens border starts at $40/night. Another option is the riverfront Greenpoint YMCA, which includes a 24-hour security desk, access to a pool and fitness room, and views of Manhattan across the East River (private single room, $60/night).
Listings Project — under $1,000/month
If you’re staying for a month or longer, I highly recommend signing up for the Listings Project newsletter, which sends out furnished apartment share listings every week with great deals all over the borough, like this Greenpoint sublet ($1,000/month) or this gorgeous Clinton Hill room ($950/month).
Cheap Food in Brooklyn
Two Bro’s Pizza — $1/slice
The gold standard in New York dollar-pizza, Two Bro’s offers big plain slices for a buck, and enough counter space and benches to eat in on a cold day. Add parmesan, red pepper flakes, or oregano out of the shakers if you’re feeling fancy.
Vanessa’s Dumplings — $2 for 4 dumplings
Known for being cheap and tasty, Vanessa’s Dumplings serves everything from classic pan-fried veggie dumplings (4 for $2.25) to sesame pancake sandwiches with Peking duck ($3.75) to steamed spicy pork buns ($2.25). Try one of the 20+ flavors of bubble tea ($3) at the Brooklyn outpost of this mini chain.
La Newyorkina — $4 for a paleta
These Mexican “paletas” or ice pops are insanely tasty and come in flavors like blueberry with mint, cucumber lime, and my favorite—coconut. The flagship store is in Red Hook, and there are food carts around the borough. Look for La Newyorkina chamoyadas (sweet/spicy shaved ice with pickled fruit and tamarind candy) at Smorgasburg during the summer.
Baba’s Pierogies — 5 pierogies for $8
Choose between unusual fillings like Jalapeño Cheddar, Sauerkraut, or Mac and Cheese at this pierogi shop. There isn’t much seating, but it’s worth waiting for a table for these yummy, filling dumplings. I’m a big fan of the blueberry dessert pierogies with homemade whipped cream ($8.50).
Milk Bar — cookies for $2.25
Try the cult favorite corn cookie ($2.25), the trademarked Cereal Milk ® soft serve that tastes “like the milk at the bottom of a bowl of cornflakes” ($5), or a compost cookie made with pretzels, potato chips, oats, coffee, chocolate chips, and butterscotch ($2.25). A $5 slice of Crack Pie may seem expensive, but considering that the filling is literally butter, the cost per calorie is actually a great deal!
Varrio 408 — $3 for a big, tasty taco
These are hands down the best tacos I’ve eaten in NYC. Vegetarians will love the nopalitos cactus tacos, and the specials are always amazing—my personal favorite is shrimp with chipotle sauce. Every taco comes with extra tortillas and most are packed with rice, beans, pico, and sour cream. Try each salsa at the free salsa bar, then load up on your favorites!
Brooklyn Roasting Company — $1.50/small cup of coffee
Stop in for one of the Fair Trade/Rainforest Alliance/Organic certified coffees. They also sell sweet treats and pastries from other Brooklyn-based eateries like donuts from Dough ($3). Take your coffee to go and wander DUMBO’s cobblestoned streets and repurposed industrial buildings. This neighborhood served as the set for countless movies including Vanilla Sky and Spiderman! Before you leave, snap a classic selfie on Washington Street with the Manhattan Bridge in the background.
Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket — cheap produce and local treats, Saturdays
Most stands at the largest farmer’s market in Brooklyn offer free samples of local jams, cheeses, baked goods, seasonal produce, and more. Make a meal of it and bring your selections to one of the picnic tables or barbecue pits in nearby Prospect Park. Other farmer’s markets can be found throughout the week at Borough Hall, Fort Greene Park, Greenpoint/McCarren Park, and other locations.
Cheap Activities in Brooklyn
Bike everywhere — $10 for a 24-hr pass, $25 for 7 days of rides
A fun alternative to the subway and much cheaper than a taxi, consider renting a bike through the CitiBike program. There are hundreds of rental stations throughout Brooklyn and you can pick up/return a bike at any of them. Best for experienced bikers, and BYO helmet.
Prospect Park — free
Explore 585-acre Prospect Park, designed by the same landscape architect team as Manhattan’s Central Park. Jog/walk/bike the 3 mile Park Drive loop, roller skate at the LeFrak Center ($6), and learn to churn butter at the Lefferts Historic House ($3 donation). You can’t leave without visiting the gorgeous Boathouse and Lullwater Bridge, site of many (expensive) weddings. Long Meadow is the perfect spot for sunbathing, frisbee-playing, and general relaxation, and don’t miss Dog Beach, where you can watch adorable pups play.
Smorgasburg and Brooklyn Flea — free until you stuff your face!
Eat your way through Smorgasburg, a foodie’s paradise, where you can sample Brooklyn’s best eateries for just a few dollars. Then, dig through vintage finds and local artisans’ wares at one of the sister flea markets spread throughout the borough.
Ride the Ikea Express Ferry — $5 or free on weekends
Run by the New York Water Taxi service, this ferry helps Manhattanites transport Billy bookcases, but it’s free for anybody who shows up at the Ikea dock in Red Hook. You’ll get great views of the Statue of Liberty, Governor’s Island, South Brooklyn and lower Manhattan’s skyscrapers. This Ikea is craaaazy busy on weekends, but getting a quick fix of Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, and lingonberry sauce ($5) shouldn’t take too long—and a filling breakfast is as cheap as $1.
Concert/church service at the Brooklyn Tabernacle — free
Home of the six time Grammy Award-winning Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, this non-denominational church seats 3,200 people and holds three services every Sunday featuring the choir. Arrive an hour early to make sure you get a seat.
Go sledding in Fort Greene Park — free
Choosing to visit Brooklyn in the winter doesn’t mean you can’t have a blast outside! This park is essentially one big hill topped by a Revolutionary War monument, making for 360° of excellent sledding. After a big blizzard you’ll see folks of all ages zooming downhill on sleds, cardboard boxes, boogie boards, and air mattresses. You’ll probably find an abandoned sled or two at the base of the hill, but if not, buy one at the nearby Target.
Clinton Hill Historic District — free
Walk past dozens of 19th-century mansions, churches, villas, and row houses along Clinton Avenue. Then, make your way to the nearby Pratt Institute’s Sculpture Garden, the largest in NYC, showcasing works by both students and famous artists. I like this detailed Clinton Hill neighborhood guide.
Brooklyn Bridge Park — free
Brooklyn Bridge is an NYC icon, but I’m a much bigger fan of the nearby park for its contemporary redesign and unbeatable daytime and nighttime views of lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge, and even the Statue of Liberty. At the northern end, ride Jane’s Carousel ($2), open year-round, and in the summer join a free fitness or yoga class by the water. There’s also free kayaking on Saturdays and Thursday evenings in the summer. Head inland a couple blocks and stroll along the Promenade in the beautiful Brooklyn Heights neighborhood for more postcard-worthy views of lower Manhattan.
Brooklyn Brewery Tour — free on weekends
This place is a beer-lover’s dream. Stop by the communal Tasting Room for a beer ($5), then join a free weekend afternoon tour of the brewery to learn about the history and brewing process of this internationally known brand.
Take a subway ride above ground — $2.75
Take a B, D, N or Q train from DeKalb Avenue station into Manhattan to ride over the Manhattan Bridge. You’ll get great views of lower Manhattan, DUMBO, the Brooklyn Navy Yards and the Williamsburg and Brooklyn Bridges. Or, take the F or G train to the world’s highest subway station at Smith-9th St Station in Gowanus. It’s built on an old viaduct! You can see the Statue of Liberty and One World Trade Center from the subway platform.
Green-Wood Cemetery — free
Nearly two centuries old and spread out over nearly 500 acres, this magnificent cemetery was once the second most visited tourist site in America. It’s also the site of a Revolutionary War battle, home to a flock of wild parrots, and the inspiration behind America’s public parks. There are free maps at every entrance and you can find a self-guided walking tour with loads of info on their free app.
Thanks so much for sharing your insights, Katie! I’m sure there are lots of Brooklynites reading this – what would you add to the list?
photo credits: garth pratt // kevin rajaram // airbnb // airbnb // two bro’s // coffee, light and sweet // la newyorkina // baba’s pierogies // milk bar // varrio 408 // brooklyn roasting company // grand army plaza greenmarket // bike everywhere // prospect park // prospect park boathouse // smorgasburg // ikea express ferry // brooklyn tabernacle // sledding // clinton hill // brooklyn bridge park // brooklyn brewery // subway // green-wood cemetery // cc