You’ve talked your mom into coming up to visit you. Or perhaps you’re one of those people whose parents visit them voluntarily. What do you do with her once she’s here?
What you need is activities that are mom friendly while demonstrating why you pay so much to live in Brooklyn. Sure, life in the city can be a little gritty, but it is also immensely charming. Brooklyn has so many things that are uniquely New York, surely there are things to do that both of you will enjoy. Yes, you could take her to the standard tourist sites, but can you really hide your disdain for that many hours? I didn’t think so. Plus, by now we no longer remember what, exactly, people do in the suburbs. Watch television? Go to the mall? I have no idea. You need to send her home with fun stories to tell her friends without giving her blisters or pushing her boundaries. We’re too old for our parents to be paying for things, so let’s also keep this low-budget.
Cheap & classy Saturday morning
Start off by taking her to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It’s free on Saturdays, so long as you’re inside the gates before noon. Even if it’s a little dreary outside, their greenhouses are lovely.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head over to the greenmarket at Grand Army Plaza. It’s fun to walk around to check out the wares, pet strangers dogs, and enjoy the sights. Pick up some bread, cheese, and fruit for a picnic. You can head into the park to relax in the grass or just cross over to the Brooklyn Public Library if you’re more into architecture. Both spots have world-class people watching opportunities. One word of caution – the library bathrooms are only slightly better to the ones in the park.
Walk back over to the Brooklyn Museum, where admission is a suggested donation. The Brooklyn Museum is huge and beautifully curated, so you can easily spend days there. It’s best to have a strategy and pick just one or two sections to explore. One overlooked treasure is their open storage area. Show your mom how you’re putting that MA in fine arts to good use.
Once you’re ready to sit down again, take her over to Franklin for some coffee – or a nice cocktail. If it’s not dark out, you can probably even still grab brunch. I’m partial to the Bearded Lady. Remind her of that time she helped you move into that awful sublet full full of roaches where all of your neighbors were drug addicts who would fight all night and pee in the lobby. Then point out that it’s around the corner and has a fancy boutique in the ground floor. Use this to get her blessing on your first co-op purchase or explain why you’re thinking of moving back home.
Alternate version: Grab snacks on the way to Brooklyn Bridge Park and enjoy them as you meander from Atlantic to the bridge, catch Barge Music’s free Saturday show, walk over the Manhattan Bridge, and get some soup dumplings at Shanghai Cafe.
Perhaps your family didn’t celebrate vacations by driving out to scavenge through the town dump. Some of my best family heirlooms are literal garbage. I once took my mom on a dumpster tour of Rochester, but even if you have a normal, non-dumpster-diving family, this one is still a lot of fun. Especially if mom drove in. And if it’s low tide. Especially right after a storm.
Wear sturdy shoes. You don’t need serious boots or anything, but this is not the place to wear your Tom’s. Gloves wouldn’t be the worst thing ever, but that’s up to you. This is a bad place to go if either of you is hung over or has any sort of balance issues.
Take Flatbush out to the end and park in the National Park Service lot in Floyd Bennett Field on Aviation Road. Don’t go all the way to the campgrounds. You can also take the Q35 from the Target near Brooklyn College, but that appears to be the route they reserve for emotionally unstable bus drivers, so I wouldn’t recommend it (unless you’re trying to convince your mom you need a car, even in NYC). Park, walk back out to Flatbush Avenue, dodge traffic to cross the street, and follow a path through the brush. Lots of people bike this route, too.
The path divides, but it all leads to the same place – Dead Horse Bay. Does it smell a little…oily? Welcome to the landfill.
Once the brush clears, you’re suddenly on a beach with a lovely view of a marina, the Marine Parkway Bridge, and the NYC skyline in the distance. Run free (very carefully!) and enjoy the beautiful and fascinating old bottles that litter the shore. If you turn back toward the reeds, you’ll see a neat cross-section of landfill and you can really see how the ocean has eroded the cap. You can walk up and down the beach, enjoying the art projects hippies have left behind, and it’s easy enough to find the path back to your car.
It seems sketchy and adventurous, but it’s part of Gateway National Recreation Area and thus totally legit and legal and not at all a toxic waste site. Like any National Recreation Area, it’s a leave no trace area. You might not get that impression if you happen to run into other people with shovels and bags of scavenged bottles. The bathrooms at Floyd Bennett Field’s main visitor center are vastly superior to the one by the parking lot.
Ready for the talk?
Perhaps your mom hasn’t been eager to talk about things like durable power of attorney, her will, or how she envisions her funeral plans and you’re eager to make sure those things are squared away. Just bringing it up seems a little crude, no? Here’s how to make sure the conversation comes up on its own.
It seems a little weird to most people that Green-Wood Cemetery is a place for people to visit for fun, but it’s long been one of America’s top tourist attractions. The main gates look like they belong in Europe and house a colony of parrots. Not only is the chapel beautiful and peaceful, it also has bathrooms. There’s a lot of cool stuff to discover. Trek up to find Athena and enjoy the view of the harbor. One of the ponds has turtles that weight more than I do. There are a bunch of dead celebrities. There’s a lot of opportunity to roam around, imagine the lives of people who came before us, and have some serious discussions about whether or not your mom has spoken to an estate attorney. Picnicking is generally frowned upon, but there are some really great picnic spots. If you get lost, go to the highest point nearby and walk toward Manhattan. Also, check out their events, because sometimes they have some surprisingly cool stuff going on. I took my mom on a tour of the crypts, because I am just that subtle.
Greenwood Park is the perfect spot to get a beer and a snack after all of those serious discussions. If Greenwood Park is too crowded, as is often the case on warm weekends, Sea Witch is nearby and has a backyard.
Right now you’re very close to lots of delicious tacos. Tacos el Bronco gets a ton of attention. If you’re not tired of climbing hills, Sunset Park (the literal park) is an excellent spot to claim a bench and stuff yourselves with tacos while enjoying the view.
If you’re not in the mood for tacos (is that possible?) and you haven’t had enough death, head up north on the R to get to the Morbid Anatomy Museum. Just remember that they close at 6pm. That’s fine, since it gives you plenty of time to get over to Lavender Lake for dinner and drinks before it gets too crowded.
Another great option to spark this conversation is to take her to see the mummies at the Brooklyn Museum. How does she feel about embalming?
The Transit Museum isn’t just for kids. The exhibits are cute. They usually have some interesting artwork in the theatre and it’s likely there’ll be a tour or event going on when you go. But let’s be real about the fact that we’re all going there to play on the subway cars. Go ahead, take some selfies with your mom. Did your mom visit New York as a kid or live here when she was younger? This is the perfect opportunity to get her to tell you some stories you’ve never heard before. The earlier you get there, the fewer screaming toddlers there will be to interrupt, so it’s worth getting up and out early for this one.
There are a lot of great lunch spots nearby, so there’ll always be someplace that’s not too crowded. Bedouin Tent is a popular spot that seems exotic to anyone from outside the city. And it’s cheap, but remember to bring cash. Whatever you do, please don’t take her to Junior’s.
Check the schedule at BAM to see what movies are playing. The theatre is beautiful and their films are well curated, so you can’t go terribly wrong.
Spirited is the perfect spot for after movie dessert and cocktails. Okay, yes, you’ll probably be the only people who aren’t on a date, but whose love is really going to last forever, right? That’s right. Maybe I just have a soft spot since this is the spot my parents and I had dinner after they helped me move into my first Brooklyn apartment, back when it was Beast. Also, the owner is super nice.
If you’re still going strong, The Vanderbilt is a great spot for dinner and another round.