Bay Ridge, Brooklyn: The New York Many Visitors Don’t See

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To say that millions of people visit New York every year, especially around the holidays, is an understatement. According to CNN, in 2012 alone, approximately 41 million domestic visitors and 11 million international visitors vacationed in New York City. These visitors primarily go to the typical tourist spots such as the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center (especially during the holidays to see the Rockettes perform in the famed Christmas Spectacular show), and obviously, the Statue of Liberty.

New York City is most definitely one of the most (if not the most!) exciting and historical cities to see. Of course, I may be a little biased as I am a native New Yorker, but ask anyone who has ever visited what out-of-towners like to call “The Big Apple” and they will have some colorful story to tell about their stay. Whether it was their experience getting lost in the labyrinth of New York’s subway system, watching the lighting of the monstrous yet beautiful Rockefeller Christmas Tree, catching a Broadway musical or going to Times Square and getting their picture taken with the Naked Cowboy. Love it or hate it, a visit to New York is an unforgettable experience for anyone.

When people visit New York, the first place their mind goes to is Manhattan. And of course, it does! All the places I just mentioned, and more, are in Manhattan, where else would you go?

Welcome to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

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When I tell people from other states that I live in Brooklyn, the reaction is often mixed. At times I’m asked if it’s scary or dangerous, or if the pizza is really as good as everyone hears (the answer to that is yes!). People also ask if there’s anything fun to do there like there is in Manhattan, and the answer to that is yes as well.

Very few people have heard of the area in Brooklyn called Bay Ridge which overlooks the New York Bay and has a rich history. Just a brief history lesson before getting into things to do and see when you decide to visit: The colonial history of Bay Ridge began in 1652. The Dutch West India Company acquired the land from the Nyack Indians and originally referred to this area as Yellow Hook for the color of the clay found there. But after the yellow-fever epidemic of 1848–49, the residents chose to rename their home to reflect the beautiful surrounding bay and glacial ridge their home overlooked. Soon wealthy industrialists and businessmen were drawn to the area as a summer retreat and built mansions on the Bay Ridge bluffs. Many of these beautiful homes are still in existence and preserved by the Historical Society, and the architecture and craftsmanship are unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

Shore Road Parks

Shore Road Parks runs 90.25 acres connecting from the scenic Owl’s Head Park to the historic John Paul Jones Park. There is a two-and-a-half mile winding path on which walkers, joggers, and roller-bladers can enjoy clear views of the New York City harbor, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty. Shore Road Parks creates a beautiful vista for ships entering and leaving the New York harbor. Within the Parks are the Narrows Botanical Gardens located at 69th street and the Shore Road Gardens located at 90th street. There are several ball fields, playgrounds and a dog run which draw thousands of individuals and families each week. During the summer it’s common for various neighborhood events to take place such as movie nights, concerts, benefits, etc.

The John Paul Jones Park, (also known as “Cannonball Park”) mentioned above, is named after the American Patriot and Naval hero, John Paul Jones (1747–1792), who, through victorious leadership in the American Revolution, became known as “the father of the Navy.” The City of Brooklyn acquired this Parks property between 1895 and 1897 as part of the proceedings for the construction of Shore Road. There is The Civil War Memorial which was presented by The United States Military in 1900. There is a massive, black, 20” bore, Parrott cannon, founded in 1864, with surrounding cannon balls, which originally stood in Fort Pitt, Pennsylvania. You will also see The Revolutionary War Memorial received from Parks in 1916 from the Long Island Daughters of the American Revolution. This Memorial consists of a bronze tablet on a granite boulder. Then, in 1931, Parks received The Dover Patrol Naval War Memorial. The granite shaft by Sir Ashton Webb was a gift from England after World War I.

Many a bridal party have had their wedding portrait taken here as “Cannonball Park” boasts a remarkable view of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Food, Drink, and Nightlife

I’ve heard it said that if you live your entire life in New York and ate at a different restaurant every day you still wouldn’t eat at the same place twice. Personally, I don’t know how true this is but it wouldn’t surprise me if it were. Walking through the streets of Manhattan it’s almost impossible to walk one block without seeing at least one or two restaurants. At least one or two restaurants! While Manhattan does have some of the best restaurants, Bay Ridge can most definitely boast the same…and much less expensive.

Needless to say, Italian restaurants and pizzerias are all over New York. One restaurant you cannot pass up when you visit Bay Ridge is Gino’s Restaurant on 74th street and 5th avenue In Brooklyn. This long-standing establishment has been in existence for over 50 years. Gino’s started out as a small neighborhood pizzeria and over the years has grown into one of Brooklyn’s best-kept secrets for fine dining, signature dishes, and quality service. They also have a full bar which includes organic wines, private dining rooms for special events and private dining. This is the perfect establishment to experience authentic New York Italian cuisine at very a reasonable price.

If you’re looking for a night out, want to hear some live music and have a couple of drinks without breaking the bank one the most popular spots in Bay Ridge you can go to is The Wicked Monk on 95th street and 3rd avenue in Brooklyn. This restaurant and bar are designed from the original wood and stained glass that were shipped directly from the chapel in Greenmount Monastery (Gallows Green), Cork, Ireland, which was built in 1897. When you walk through the doors of this establishment you are transported back to a Gothic Irish Monastery. There are live bands every weekend, a full menu serving lunch brunch and dinner and a full bar.

If you’re in the mood for a martini or two you can’t do much better than Delia’s Lounge on 92nd street and 3rd avenue in Brooklyn. With an eclectic, cozy mix of décor from around the world, cushiony couches and a fireplace, you can sit back, relax and enjoy one of their more fifteen types of martins or anything else from their full bar. Delia’s also has a menu of appetizers and entrees served until late at night.

There are many other places I could recommend, these are just a few of my favorite spots. Bay Ridge is only a 45-minute train ride from Manhattan and it is undoubtedly worth a visit next time you come out to New York.

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Brenda Thornlow is an author, animal advocate, and certified Reiki Master from New York. Her books can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.

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