Once filled with full-sleeve tats and man buns, the Williamsburg scene has been transformed by young professionals and families pouring into new high-rise condominiums (a Whole Foods even opened in 2016). But it's still a top-notch evening destination for food, drinks and entertainment. East of the Brooklyn–Queens Expwy (BQE) also has some cool spots, while south of Division Ave is an ultra-orthodox Jewish enclave that offers little for visitors. South of Myrtle Ave is mainly residential.
Traditionally Polish Greenpoint and mainly Latino Bushwick have recently seen an influx of young creatives seeking cheaper rents.
Williamsburg and Greenpoint are at their buzziest on weekends, especially in warmer months, as gangs of twenty- and thirty-something party kids vie with thirty- and forty-somethings with babies and dogs in tow, creating impromptu open-air parties with phenomenal Manhattan vistas, such as from the rooftops of Berry Park or Northern Territory, or the deck of Brooklyn Barge. If you can get here during business hours or early weekday evenings you'll be much more likely to stake a claim on a table and get a few rounds of bar service in before the evening action heats up. Events abound in outdoor spaces near or along the water in summer, many of them free, such as outdoor movies in the parks, so check online resources to see what's on. Come weekend time, Smorgasburg is a must-visit, though again, the earlier you get there, the less time you'll spend in line. (Same for shops in these areas: there's less competition in the aisles during business hours.) A few stops down the L train, quieter East Willamsburg has a number of nice little bars and restaurants – especially for vegan food.
Bushwick hasn't much during the day to interest casual visitors, although if you want to get a feel for regular neighborhood life, the central, community-focused Maria Hernandez Park can be a lovely place to sit and people-watch, as locals walk their dogs and catch up with their neighbors on the street. (Sci-fi fans will want to keep their eye peeled for the front door painted like a Tardis at the park's northwest corner.)
- McCarren Park Taking a break – or a free swim – in this chilled-out multi-use park in the hip, hip heart of Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
- City Reliquary Revisiting the past of everyday New Yorkers through the encyclopedic collection at this fascinating little gem of a museum.
- National Sawdust Expanding your artistic horizons at one of the diverse music concerts at this innovative, avant-garde performance center.
- Brooklyn Bowl Whiling away the hours with bowling, beer and BBQ wings by day, then rocking out to live bands at night at this vast venue in a former iron works.
- House of Yes Throwing on the body paint and glitter to dance away the night at a wild, art-themed party at this ultra-creative Bushwick nightclub.
During peak leisure times, the bars and restaurants around the Bedford Ave L train stop are often packed with young Manhattanites making the trek across the river in search of some Brooklyn cool. Head to the less-trafficked parts south, between Grand St and Broadway, to find places with a more casual, local vibe. You can also try crossing east of the BQE to explore East Williamsburg around Metropolitan, Union and Grand Aves.