Only in Brooklyn would there be a neighborhood built on the banks of a Superfund site that embraces the reality with a tongue-in-cheek vibe. Outdoor bars overlook the canal, giant warehouses have been converted into adult playspaces and a shop sells tourist merchandise like t-shirts advertising the (fake!) Gowanus Swim Team. You can easily spend a day in action with enough activities, from archery to ax throwing, to burn off any amount of energy. To round out your day, relax in a backyard spa, chill out with a drink, and sing your heart out at a karaoke bar. Gowanus is nothing less than an adult playground to let your inner child loose.
11am: Get caffeinated
The first thing on the agenda is always going to be caffeine. At Runner & Stone, an adorable bakery and restaurant, you can get your quick fix of steaming coffee with a side of baked goods. Even if you’re not usually tempted by sweets, the croissants, apple turnovers, or soft pretzels, made in-house with local whole grain flours and fruits, might be just the thing to pair with your cup of joe. Sit by the window for a bit and enjoy the people watching. Runner and Stone, 285 Third Avenue, Gowanus
12pm: Choose your own adventure
Spend the afternoon indulging your inner child in whatever activity makes your body want to move. There’s a lot to choose from: Royal Palms Shuffleboard, where first-come-first-serve courts are rented for $40/ hour, no experience necessary. Or pull a bow and arrow at Gotham Archery, where $35 will get you an introductory class and 45 minutes in a lane. Or climb a wall at Brooklyn Boulders by jumping into an Intro To Climbing Class (which run all day) where for $49 you’ll get expert instruction on climbing. Or, do what we did, and choose Kick Axe, where, in the comfort of a lodge-themed bar, you can let out all of your rage by learning to throw hatchets at a bullseye. Although this seems like you would need some outdoorsy experience or good upper body strength, I can attest that none of this is necessary. An instructor will be with your group the whole time, ensuring that you don’t lop off your kneecap, but also keeping team scores and giving pointers. This way you can also focus on socializing and drinking beer. You’ll learn the two and one hand throws, and it’s amazing how quickly you’ll get the hang of it. One of our Brooklyn Based writers was such a natural, she’s considering join the league that meets on Monday nights. It’s $35/per person, and if you want to have a range to yourself, you’ll need to book for eight people—otherwise, you’ll be sharing your range with others. Kick Axe, 622 Degraw St., Gowanus.
2pm: Buy some souvenirs
The Gowanus Souvenir Shop is the brainchild of designer, Ute Zimmermann, who opened the doors to the shop in 2015, working with local artists to create merchandise surrounding this unique neighborhood. Goods include baseball caps that say “Gowanus is Superfun”, pins emblazoned with the Gowanus mascot, “Sludgie” the Whale, (based on the baby whale who got stuck in the canal and died in 2007), and Gowanus t-shirts featuring the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Don’t miss the “Under the Sea” wooden cutout photo opportunity in front of the store. Also, right now the store is the home to a few other pop-up stores within the store, where you can find affordable and completely unique gifts like a “Prince” print, a handmade cat pillow or nice-smelling candles. The shop also hosts events, like monthly walking tours (sign up for Sunday, October 13th at 11am) where you can “learn about the canal’s natural origins, iconic architecture, its key role in the Revolutionary War, and the cleanup of its present-day pollution directly from Joseph Alexiou, the author of Gowanus: Brooklyn’s Curious Canal. Or visit during Gowanus Open Studios on October 19th for a Calendar Launch Party. Gowanus Souvenir Shop, 567 Union St., Gowanus.
3pm: Soak in a secret sauna
If you mistakenly believe that there are no undiscovered back corners left in Brooklyn, then you haven’t been to CityWell Brooklyn. Housed in essentially the backyard of a brownstone, this wellness mecca is almost unnoticeable from the street. When you see a wooden sign with a raindrop, you’ll know you’re in the right place. You’ll need to reserve far in advance to make sure your spot is secure—they limit the experience to about 14 people max at a time, and if you’re having trouble finding a date online, call (347-294-0100) to figure out the best option for you or your group. Once you do, this tiny spa offers a surprising urban retreat where you can soak outside in the hot tub then roast in the cedar saunas. Don’t let the cool autumn breeze or even winter snow detract you from stopping by, because you’ll be warm and cozy under the open sky in this hidden oasis and you can shvitz in the indoor steam shower afterward. Hydrotherapy options range from community hours Tuesday and Thursdays from 10:30am-noon; open hours on Sundays 3-5pm (women only) and Mondays and Fridays 6-8pm (all genders); or private hydrotherapy for yourself or a group. They offer massage, too, which you can add on a soak and sauna, pre-or post-treatment. Prices for hydrotherapy range from $25 to $100 a session. CityWell Brooklyn, 496 President St., Gowanus
5pm: Happy Hour
Keep the relaxed vibes going with a drink before dinner. At Parklife, you can enjoy this unseasonably warm fall weather in the enormous patio. There are 4,000 square feet of outdoor space that includes cornhole, a curling table, and an evening bonfire, weather permitting. People come for the patio and the tacos, but during the week, they also come for the trivia nights, bingo, and drunken Jenga. Even if it’s raining, there’s a cozy indoor space that is still comfortable for groups. On the day we went, the evening was warm and we grabbed a table outside with a frozen Belafonte made of dark rum, coconut, and Hawaiian Punch, continuing the theme of feeding our inner child. Parklife, 636 Degraw St., Gowanus.
6pm: Dinner with a side of karaoke
Insa has been one of our go-to special occasion restaurants since it opened years ago. This isn’t a new restaurant, but one of those always fun restaurants that you can go as a duo or a large group and have just as smashing a time. There is literally no other karaoke restaurant (probably in the world) that has as good of food as this one does. From the owners of The Good Fork in Red Hook, this restaurant has outstanding Korean dishes including meat to grill at the table and a variety of kimchee. I’d also do an order of the Korean rice cakes, the fried chicken and the tasty japchae. After you’re finished, book a private karaoke room ($60/hour) in the back where you can belt out favorites, while (of course!) ordering more cocktails. (Pro tip: If your heart is set on karaoke, reserve a room ahead of time to make sure it’s available, or call ahead to learn of the one Thursday each month that they offer it free in the bar.) Insa, 328 Douglass St., Gowanus.
8pm: Think out of the black box
This neighborhood is a goldmine for live events and performances. Between Littlefield and The Bell House, you can find a line up of comedians, live podcasts, game shows, bands, and dance parties. For instance, on October 11th, for only $12, go see Mortified at Littlefield, a show where people read entries from their old diaries, or visit on a Monday for the always hilarious Butterboy comedy show. On October 18th and 19th, comedian Maria Bamford is on stage at The Bell House and there are still tickets for the Friday night show (see the Bell House calendar here). If you’re willing to take a chance on something you’ve never heard of, you’re bound to have a good time. Littlefield, 635 Sackett St., Gowanus (full calendar here) or The Bell House, 149 7th St. Gowanus (full calendar here).
10pm: Have a nightcap with some groove
If you’re not ready for the evening to be over, head over to Public Records, on the border of Boerum Hill where you’re bound to hear some good music along with your last few drinks of the night. Brooklyn Based writer, Regina Mogilevskaya reviewed the spot recently and found out that it is pretty much the perfect location for any time of day. “After 6 pm it turns into a vibrant bar, strong cocktails flowing (the Mezcal Melon is a treat) and Japanese-inspired dishes like mushroom fried rice and buckwheat soba being served. In the corner, a dedicated DJ spins long sets…. But where Public Records really makes its mark is its Sound Room, a venue with a free-flowing, curated program of vinyl selectors, ambient musicians, and experimental performers.” Plus the space itself is a beautiful setting to end the night with either a cappuccino or cocktail. Public Records, 233 Butler St., Gowanus