Spend the day in Gowanus: What to do and eat in the Brooklyn neighborhood

By staff

Ahh, Gowanus, your putrid canal used to be a turnoff but now it's the place to be.

Since it was settled in the 1800s, everyone’s nasty waste would get flushed straight into the Gowanus Canal, on display for all to see and to smell, but now, it has developed into a vibrant, usually not-stinky and fashionable neighborhood that still has industrial charm.

Some of Gowanus’ old warehouses have been converted into hip bars, and their walls have been covered with gorgeous murals. And from pie shops to themed bars to kitschy souvenir shops, it’s easy to have a busy and fun day in Gowanus.

Here’s your itinerary for the perfect day in the neighborhood.

Grab breakfast at the Four & Twenty Blackbirds

Photo Credit: Four & Twenty Blackbirds

Founded by sisters and pie makers Melissa Elsen and Emily Elsen in 2009, Four & Twenty Blackbirds offers a seasonal menu with ever-changing delicious pies. Their Gowanus pie shop, located at 439 Third Ave., opens at 8 a.m. on weekdays, 9 a.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m. on Sundays, so you can get your pie on (and your day started) bright and early. Because who doesn't love pie?

Tour the neighborhood’s murals

Photo Credit: Groundswell

Scattered throughout Gowanus are numerous bright, colorful murals. And if just roaming around and finding them on your own isn't satisfying enough for you, community group Groundswell offers fantastic walking tours of the neighborhood's must-see murals.

Peruse Books Are Magic

Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Bestselling novelist Emma Straub and her husband, Michael Fusco-Straub, opened Books Are Magic (225 Smith St.) in 2017 to offer the neighborhood a variety of bestsellers, children's books and "weird books that no one's seen anywhere else," according to Fusco-Straub. The shop also has events daily (discussions, readings and presentations) and offers discounts like 10 percent off some bestsellers.


Stroll along the Carroll Street Bridge

Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

To get the best views of the famous Gowanus Canal, we recommend a romantic stroll on the Carroll Street Bridge. As one of just two retractile bridges left in the city, New York nerds will love walking along the canal on a sunny day.

Pig out at Pig Beach

Photo Credit: Jessica Hirsch

This Gowanus barbecue joint at 480 Union St. is known for its garden, which is a chill summer hangout, but with Balthazar's Shane McBride and Del Posto veteran Matt Abadoo manning the smokers, Pig Beach has won some serious barbecue accolades for its pork. Its 7,000-square-foot indoor space offers a fun place to chow down on brown sugar and sticky honey-glazed baby back ribs, pork shoulder drizzled with hatch vinegar barbecue sauce and mac 'n' cheese with toasted Goldfish crackers all year-round.

Get a treat at the Gowanus Souvenir Shop

Photo Credit: Gowanus Souvenir Shop

Don't let the phrase "souvenir shop" put you off -- the souvenirs at the Gowanus Souvenir Shop are not just your typical tacky T-shirts and mugs. Their souvenirs, which are all produced in-house, include beach balls, temporary tattoos, lapel pins and snow globes that are actually awesome. The store is also filled with a mix of historical objects, antique books and tchotchkes created by local artists. Celebrate the fabulous day you're having in Gowanus by visiting the shop, which is located in a factory, at 567 Union St., that dates to the late 1800s.

Take a class at the Brooklyn Fencing Center

Photo Credit: Stephen Small

Ever wanted to channel your inner "Parent Trap" and take a whack at fencing? Brooklyn Fencing Center, located at 600 Degraw St. on the border between Gowanus and Carroll Gardens, offers classes for all ages across 6,500 square feet of fencing facilities. The center allows beginner fencers to join up easily, with free equipment rental and class punch cards that work any day of the week. The center is also home to a yoga program.

Throw an ax like a lumberjack

Photo Credit: Kick Axe Throwing

A bar that lets you throw axes as you drink called Kick Axe Throwing (622 DeGraw St.) has spread in popularity. For 75 minutes and $35, you can learn from an "ax-pert" how to throw like a lumberjack and sip on beer, wine or a malt beverage and enjoy pizza or a "high-end" Pop-Tart. Just be sure to wear close-toed shoes -- you don't want to ruin a good time.

Hit up Royal Palms Shuffleboard

Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Forget billiards -- Royal Palms Shuffleboard is revolutionizing bar games with its array of shuffleboard courts. Located in a warehouselike space at 514 Union St., Royal Palms is bringing shuffleboard -- yes, the game that your grandparents play down in Florida -- to New York's coolest crowds. Bonus: It features a different food truck every night of the week, so come hungry and ready for a surprise.

Get dinner and drinks at Lavender Lake

Photo Credit: Clint Spaulding

Back when the Gowanus Canal was smelly and polluted, locals cynically referred to it as the "Lavender Lake." Bar and restaurant Lavender Lake has put a spin on the old name with its adorable atmosphere and various special events, from Chili Wednesdays to Throw 'Em Back Thursdays. The upscale menu includes good cocktails (Help Me Rhonda, Sloop John B and Good Vibrations) and delicacies such as fried Brussels sprouts, burrata and orange salad, and shrimp pappardelle. Head to 383 Carroll St. -- preferably in the warm weather so you can enjoy the gorgeous outdoor seating area.

Get scoops of goodness at Ample Hills Creamery

Photo Credit: Evan Barbour

This popular spot at 305 Nevins St., which is a spinoff of the original Prospect Heights location, offers a rotating roster of two dozen ice cream and sorbet flavors like Mexican hot chocolate, the much-loved Salted Cracked Caramel and It Came From Gowanus (salty chocolate ice cream with orange-scented brownies, hazelnut crack cookies, white chocolate pearls). You won't regret getting a scoop or two . . . it's a must.