Brighton Beach: Soak Up Sun and Culture

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Coney Island’s Luna Park receives all the good press and the Brooklyn Aquarium gets nature lovers young and old excited, but did you know that one of New York’s City’s best, family-friendly beaches is just a few blocks away from all the madness? What’s more, you don’t have to get in a car or stick to a LIRR schedule to get there. Read on to learn all about what Brighton Beach has to offer (hint: there’s more than sun and sand).

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Getting There
You can take the subway! On weekdays, take the B train to its last stop, Brighton Beach (or the Q on weekdays). The ride is about an hour from Manhattan, so bring books, toys and snacks to keep the kids entertained. Be sure to enjoy the spectacular view as the train crosses the Brooklyn Bridge.

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, get off the train, cross the street, walk a block and there you are at the Coney Island Boardwalk and the Brighton Beach beach. Easy peasy.

Most people that come tend to pick a spot further west, making this particular stretch of sand much less crowded, even on big, three-day weekend holidays like the 4th of July.

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Family Friendly Amenities
One of the best, family-friendly aspects of Brighton Beach is how flat it is. As long as your vision is good, you should have no trouble keeping an eye on your kiddos even as they run back and forth from your towel to the water. The sand is soft and perfect for building castles and digging moats, and the water is often warm. Plus, it’s relatively shallow, staying just waist deep for quite a ways out. There are some rocky jetties that you shouldn’t climb (though, of course, people do anyway) that make nice geological boundaries, as in, “You can play from that jetty to that jetty, but don’t go out any further, you hear me?”

You’ll also find public fountains where you can wash the sand off your kids (if they’ll let you), and, most, most importantly, clean and efficiently run public bathrooms.

While you should bring your own picnic blanket, umbrella, lawn chairs and towels (this is a DIY kind of place), if you’ve forgotten a necessity, the beach is mere blocks away from shopping. You can pop into CVS for sunscreen, floaties, buckets, shovels, water and even a lawn chair if needed. Or grab some beach balls and goodies at the $.99 Cent Store.

If your kiddos get tired of playing in the sand and water, there are several playgrounds right on the beach for them, as well as the fantastic, large Brighton Beach Playground – complete with sprinklers – right off the boardwalk.

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Local Color
Brighton Beach has been known for decades as a Russian neighborhood, and that’s who you’ll meet when you visit. Families with kids of all ages make daily pilgrimages there, meaning your little ones will find plenty of potential playmates (not to mention abandoned shovels and other sand toys).

And, while Subway sandwiches and Dunkin’ Donuts are readily available within walking distance, if you’d like to soak in some local culture along with the sun’s rays, consider pulling up a chair at the outdoor seating of Tatiana Grill or Cafe Glechik for some ethnically authentic cuisine.

Alternately, as you step off the subway platform, pop into the grocery store, Brighton Bazaar, where you can purchase exotic delicacies like caviar, pirogi, shish-kabob and kvas, an alcoholic drink made from fermented black or rye bread, at a lower price, and chow down right on the beach.

(If the idea of drinking fermented bread makes you a bit queasy, there are also carts that travel up and down the beach, selling cold soda and beer.)

Of course, if you’re feeling uber-American, it wouldn’t be Coney Island without the Coney Island Nathan’s Famous hot-dogs and snow-cones.

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After Dark
The beach itself closes at 6:00 pm (cop cars come to chase everyone out of the water; then, as soon as they’re gone, a good part of the population goes back in). But, there’s still plenty to do if you’re not ready to hop back on the subway. You can grab a meal, then wander down towards Luna Park, ride the Wonder Wheel, then get some ice cream or cotton candy. The sugar will help keep you awake until 9:30 pm when, starting with the last Friday in June, there’s a spectacular fireworks display! (On the other hand, if your tot is the sort who gets frightened by fireworks, you might want to make sure to be gone before then.)

What is your kiddo’s favorite beach activity?

–Alina Adams

Photos by Alina Adams