There's more to trendy Williamsburg than dive bars, clubs and hipsters. North Williamsburg, or Northside, is now quite family-friendly as its artsy residents have welcomed children of their own, spawning many attractions for families that reflect the Brooklyn nabe's fashion-forward vibe, like funky baby boutiques, laid-back kid-friendly restaurants and cool live entertainment. Plus there's the beloved 35-acre McCarren Park featuring playgrounds, sports fields and a renovated pool. Although much of the neighborhood’s waterfront is currently being redeveloped, East River Park offers exceptional views of the Manhattan skyline and the Williamsburg Bridge.
Although South Williamsburg is sometimes lumped in with its northern neighbor, it’s really a separate area with its own vibe. Home to a diverse community that includes sizable Hispanic and Hasidic populations, it has fewer family businesses than its northern neighbor, but the area feels authentically New York and is worth exploring. East of the BQE, Williamsburg continues to Graham Avenue with tree-lined streets of family homes and small shops and restaurants, many owned by local Italian families.
For the purposes of this post, our geographical boundaries are the East River to Graham Avenue, and North 14th Street (cut short by McCarren Park) to Division Avenue, with Grand Street the divider between North and South Williamsburg. Here are our top 50 things to do with kids in Williamsburg.
1. Hunt for vintage clothing, art and knickknacks, as well as handmade wares on Saturdays at Artists and Fleas.
2. Invent, create and learn at The Geek Forest.
3. School your little cinephile with Nitehawk Cinema’s kid-friendly series: Hawks with Babies, Lil’ Hawk Friendly and Little Bookworms.
4. Buy fresh pasta and homemade sauces at Savino’s Quality Pasta.
5. Shop for organic baby goods like shoes, clothes and hats at Smoochie Baby.
6. Sign up for AquaBeba’s individualized, fun swim classes for kids ages 4 months to 11 years.
7. Ogle NYC curios at The City Reliquary; best for school-age kids and older.
8. Peruse the gear, gadgets and toys at children’s boutique Wee Babe.
9. Treat yourself to a massage at Massage Williamsburg, because every parent deserves a bit of “me” time.
10. Order super-delicious brick-oven pizza at Motorino Williamsburg.
11. Feed your sweet tooth at Sweethaus.
12. Sample exotic packaged and prepared eats from 100 vendors at the Smorgasburg food market on Saturdays.
13. Try old-school Italian treats like cannoli, gelato and pignoli cookies at Fortunato Brothers Cafe.
14. Chow down on mac ’n’ cheese at kid-friendly Brooklyn Mac.
15. Romp on rustic equipment and gaze at the Manhattan skyline in East River State Park.
16. Take a dip in the restored McCarren Park Pool.
17. Knock down pins at Brooklyn Bowl, which offers weekend family hours.
18. Climb, crawl and conquer a climbing wall at Klub4Kidz.
19. Run around or shoot hoops in Vincent V. Abate Playground in McCarren Park.
20. Hit the Leonard Library for quiet time with kids' books.
21. Cool off in the sprinklers at Jaime Campiz Playground.
22. Marvel at beautiful buds and birds in the Green Dome Garden.
23. Check out designer kiddie duds at Sweet William.
24. Gawk at cool and colorful robots in the Williamsburg Walks wall mural on North 3rd Street.
25. Chow down on burgers and fries at kid-friendly The Burger Guru.
26. Explore the world of flavor and other kid-friendly workshops and exhibits at the Museum of Food and Drink.
27. Shake your groove thing at the Williamsburg Movement and Arts Center.
28. Paint your own pottery at Baked in Brooklyn.
29. Register for a Music for Aardvarks class with kid rocker AudraRox at Mini Jake, Wild Was Mama and other neighborhood locations.
30. Play your heart out at Twinkle, a play space for kids under age six.
31. Enter the lottery for free swimming lessons at the Metropolitan Pool and Recreation Center.
32. Celebrate the annual Our Lady of Mount Carmel Giglio Feast in July.
33. Catch free family films in East River State Park on select weeknights at SummerStarz.
34. See more adult alfresco flicks on Wednesday nights at McCarren Park's SummerScreen.
35. Grab a gourd on Pumpkin Day at McCarren Park in October.
36. Wear your coolest costume for the annual Halloween Witches Walk.
37. Watch floats and live camels go by during the Three Kings Day Parade in January.
38. Enjoy a Purim carnival at the Chabad of North Brooklyn.
39. Grab locally grown veggies and fruits at the Williamsburg Greenmarket on Thursdays.
40. Pick up trendy discounted duds for kids and adults at Brooklyn Industries Southburg Outlet.
41. Enjoy an satisfying meal in a restored 1927 dining car at Diner.
42. Sample out-of-this-world pastries at Caprices by Sophie.
43. Romp on the boardwalk at Schaefer Esplanade and then take a ride on the East River Ferry.
44. Slide, swing and climb at William Sheridan Playground.
45. Tumble and jump at Ms. J's Gymnastics and Dance.
46. Drop in for art classes for all ages at The Painted Cloud.
47. Check out cool art and performances at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center.
48. Gaze at the Manhattan skyline from Grand Ferry Park.
49. Browse hip children’s furniture and gear at Mini Jake.
50. Bite into fresh lard bread from Napoli Bakery.
Photo credits: Create, paint and bake at Baked provided by the venue; Three Kings parade by Timothy Krause via Flickr; McCarren Park Pool courtesy the park; Drop-in art at the Painted Cloud courtesy the venue; Robot graffiti photo by Gerald Rich via Flickr; Donut at Smorgasburg by Jeremy Keith via Flickr; Artists & Fleas shopping courtesy the venue; Burgers by Burger Guru courtesy the venue.
This article first published in July 2012.