On those beautiful spring days when you don’t have the time to get out of town for some rejuvenation, Ditmas Park is an easy escape. Just like our last day trip in Crown Heights, we’ve got you covered with an absolutely perfect day in this historic district.
The Flatbush neighborhood looks straight out of a John Hughes suburb, with gorgeous Victorian and Craftsman houses that look very out of place in Brooklyn. Michelle Williams bought and renovated a mansion out here, and the neighborhood has that feminine and undeniably cool vibe that she is known for. Start your day with a shvitz, brunch farm to table, indulge in delicious cocktails in a flower shop, and finish with a show in an exquisitely restored 1920’s theater. It’s the quaint weekend you want without the annoying bed and breakfast.
10am, Spa: Brooklyn Banya
Start your day of wellness by relaxing at a spa. Well, maybe “relaxing” is not the right word for time spent in a bathhouse getting swatted with bunches of oak leaves by a “platzka man.” But there is a wet and dry sauna, a steam room, a jacuzzi and a cold pool, and the platzka man’s services are optional. Brooklyn Based writer Tyler Wetherall described the experience on her recent visit to this spa housed in a “repurposed garage: “After a few rounds I reach a state of complete equanimity. It is impossible to think of anything, and I wonder if this is the true appeal. Beyond the socializing and health benefits of a good sweat, the sensory indulgence empties the mind of everything beyond the banya. Russians have been doing this at least since the 12th century; I’m pretty sure they’re onto something.” If anything, you’ll leave refreshed and with a new experience under your (freshly steamed) belt. Brooklyn Banya, 602 Coney Island Avenue; admission $40; Mon-Fri: 11am-11pm, Sat-Sun: 8am-11pm; towels provided, bring swimwear and sandals.
12pm, Brunch: The Farm on Adderley
After a scintillating schvitz, you’ll definitely be hungry for brunch. The Farm on Adderley is the OG of restaurants in Ditmas Park. Since its opening in 2006, there has been a nearly endless line of people waiting in line for brunch. But the wait is worth it for farm-to-table feeds like Buckwheat Porridge ($9), Red Flannel Hash with corned beef ($14), or a Grilled Cheese with apple slices ($10). If it’s nice weather, plan to sit out back in the relaxing garden, sip on a seasonal brunch cocktail like a “June in April” which is made with ragtime rye, lemon juice, lemon thyme honey and juneberry juice and pretend that you’ve left Brooklyn for a vacation. Of course, if the wait for a table is ruining your chill vibe, try Lea Brooklyn, an inventive cozy Italian eatery next door. The Farm on Adderley, 1108 Cortelyou Road, Ditmas Park.
2:00pm, Shopping: Brooklyn ARTery
Brooklyn ARTery is the kind of gift shop that you want to find when traveling. The owners are long-term Ditmas Park residents and have an eye for talent. Locally made candles, jewelry, artisanal foods and palo santo are all great Brooklyn souvenirs. If you’re in the market for unique gifts for a friend, you’ll find one among the quirky tea towels, socks and pencil cases. Where else are you going to get an “I [picture of a bike] Brooklyn” sign? Brooklyn ARTery, 1021 Cortelyou Road, Ditmas Park.
If it’s Sunday and you’d like a few farm finds, the Cortelyou Greenmarket has been a neighborhood scene since 2003. Your favorite stands like Bread Alone, DiPaola turkeys and Knoll Crest Farms eggs are all here. Plus, it’s great people watching. Cortelyou Road between Argyle & Rugby
2:30pm, Peep Some Victorians
You don’t have to go far off the main strip to see the incredible architecture that the neighborhood is known for. Lovingly restored and creatively painted Victorians line the side streets off of Cortelyou Road. Spend a bit of time getting lost in the tree-lined streets of this residential district, looking out for turrets, stained glass windows and slate roofs. Saunter down Argyle Road and back up Rugby to see some beauties. This is one of the largest collections of Victorian houses in the country, and to think, this is not what Brooklyn is known for.
3:30pm, Wellness: Third Root Community Health Center
At this point of the day, you may be feeling a little low energy. It’s time for some self-care, especially if you skipped the Banya earlier. Third Root is a great addition to the neighborhood, offering massage, private and community acupuncture, yoga classes and breathwork classes within an accessible environment. “Social justice is at the core of healing. Among our goals are to challenge systematic health disparities, hierarchies within different modalities of healthcare, and to provide a different model of care that grows out of love,” their website states, and they’re not kidding. You can book a private massage or acupuncture session or combination of both on a sliding scale! On the second Saturday of each month, you can find Community Acupuncture all afternoon until 5pm, while the first Saturday of each month at 4:30pm is Brown Sugar: Yoga for Folks of Color. Sunday is time for a 3:45pm Restorative Yoga class or a 5:15pm Queer and Trans Yoga class. A single class is $15. Third Root Community Health Center, 380 Marlborough Rd, Ditmas Park.
4:00pm, Bar Crawl: Sycamore Bar & Flower Shop
After some stretching and deep breathing, it’s time for some libations. You might need a glass of water first, but then it’s cocktail hour. Back up two blocks to Sycamore, the most beautiful bar idea ever. It’s the mullet of Brooklyn bars: all business in front (at the flower shop) and a party in the back (bar). You may be tempted to pick up a bouquet of the day, or a dried flower boutonniere, or even a cute selection of pins. Otherwise, plant yourself in the back and choose from the selection of over 75 bourbons and whiskeys. A Beer & Bouquet ($10) will get you a pint of Lionshead and a bouquet at the bar; it’s probably the sweetest deal in town. Sycamore Bar & Flower Shop, 1118 Cortelyou Rd, Ditmas Park
5pm, Bar Crawl: The Castello Plan
At The Castello Plan, you’ll want to settle in. There’s lots of wood, comforting artwork, pleasing smells, and, most importantly, great drinks. A Unicorn’s Blade brings the magic with mezcal, vermouth, and a grapefruit twist. Or keep it local with a Brooklyn Crossing, which is a classic dirty martini with assorted pickles. Climb up on one of the stools at a large high top, or if you can, sit at the bar and get to know the friendly staff. You may be tempted to call it a night and just order some food here, and you’d definitely be pleasantly satiated, but there’s more to do and see. The Castello Plan, 1213 Cortelyou Rd, Ditmas Park.
6pm, Dinner: Manchego
After a filling brunch, you may not be too hungry for an early dinner. But you’ll find exactly the right things to pick on at Manchego, a Spanish-style tapas bar. Decadent dates wrapped in bacon, blistered shishito peppers, or a jamon serrano and cheese plate that arrives on a slab of tree trunk will whet your appetite. There’s a happy hour every day until 7pm, so free to try the special reds for only $6. If you need a little more coating before drinking any more, there are big plates like the Spanish Spaghetti which is a large pot of pasta that will surprise you with hidden surprises in each bite: garlicky shrimp, mussels, cherry tomatoes or morsels of chorizo. (And if you’re more in the mood for ramen, Manchego shares a kitchen and chef with Koko Ramen around the corner.) Manchego, 1502 Cortelyou Rd., Ditmas Park.
7pm, Show: Kings Theatre or Bar Chord
It’s evening and you’ll have to hustle if you’ve got a show to see. You’ll have already bought tickets for a show at the incredible Kings Theatre. This is going to be a 12 minute walk. Just continue down Cortelyou, and hang a left onto Flatbush Avenue. Two blocks later you’ll be standing in front of one of the most opulent theaters left in the country. This ornate palace was designed in 1929 as one of Loew’s original “Wonder Theaters” and you will gawk at the absolutely awe-inspiring restoration of lush carpets, velvet seating, plaster details and detailed ceilings. The theater itself will probably overshadow any show you see here (and historic tours are also offered), but the line up is always interesting. Coming up is a stage adaptation of the cult heist movie, Set it Off (April 28 and 29), a live band playing the songs of David Bowie to accompany a screening of his musical, Lazarus (May 2); a symphonic mashup of Radiohead’s classic album, OK COMPUTER, with Brahms’ 1st (May 19), a night of illusions with celeb-magician, David Blaine ( July 12 and 14), a live performance by the stars of the hip-hop dance show, Bring It Live! (July 21) and a screening of Monty Python’s The Holy Grail followed by an audience Q&A with John Cleese himself (July 28). 1027 Flatbush Avenue, Flatbush.
If there’s no show on your calendar, you can slow it down. Digest your food, by walking all the way back down Cortelyou until you hit Bar Chord. Almost every night of the week there is free live music ranging from jazz to latin to bluegrass. Music enthusiasts will also love the vintage guitars decorating the space. Enjoy a good jukebox and a back garden where you can nurse your last drink of the night and appreciate the sounds of this unlikely suburban-style neighborhood. Bar Chord, 1008 Cortelyou Rd, Ditmas Park.
To get to Ditmas Park, take the B or the Q to Church Avenue, the Q to Cortelyou Road, the Q to Beverley Road, the B or the Q to Newkirk Plaza, or the Q to Avenue H.