Relax and recharge at Brighton Beach

Brighton Beach is a multicultural day trip to the sea.

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Taken by Erin Wong
Photo: Erin Wong

Recently, I made the B-train trek to Brighton Beach on the south side of Brook­lyn and found the open beach brim­ming with relax­ing New York­ers, all thought of work and con­flict left behind in the con­crete city. The beach is only a few blocks from the train stop; just fol­low the salt air and you’re there. Once you emerge from the urban jun­gle and get onto the board­walk, the Atlantic pulls you into familiar childhood memories of days on sand, the smell of sunscreen, and eating ice cream.

People spill across the beach, which sprawls for almost a mile along the Brooklyn coast. Amid the oddly inspired clash of music and cul­tures, one thing was clear: Brighton Beach is a des­ti­na­tion for all. Brook­lyn fam­i­lies, Brook­lyn teens, seniors, tod­dlers, tourists, and New York­ers coex­ist peace­fully beside the steady ocean rhythm.

[pullquote align=”right”]Brooklyn teens, families, and tourists coexist peacefully beside the steady ocean rhythm[/pullquote]Although the wind might some­times pick up, brush­ing your cheeks and dust­ing your towel with sand, the breeze will be warm and sooth­ing. True, the water is still cold enough to make your mus­cles tense up, but don’t let that keep you from dip­ping your feet in. And there are plenty of dry activ­i­ties to do at the beaches in New York. Brighton Beach offers vol­ley­ball nets for the more ath­let­i­cally inclined, not to men­tion plenty of room for soc­cer or ulti­mate. Beach-goers do every­thing from people-watching to read­ing to tan­ning, and some­times all at once. Relax­ation is the real high­light here, but the beach also offers an oppor­tu­nity for cre­ativ­ity out­side the city.

Stretch out for some yoga and prac­tice sun salu­ta­tions, bring a stereo and spread the good vibes, build sand­cas­tles with great big moats and bury some treasure—or your friends.

I would plan to leave a few hours before sun­set, as the sum­mer hasn’t peaked yet and the winds pick up as dusk begins to fall. Unless the day is scorchingly hot. But before you leave Brighton, check out the clas­sic board­walk and the sur­round­ing streets. If you’re look­ing for student-friendly restau­rant prices, it’s easy to lose your­self in Lit­tle Odessa, in the vibrant street scene and company of immi­grant Rus­sians. The neigh­bor­hood is per­fect for fam­ily day-trips or day-long dates.

When I returned to my City Atlas desk the fol­low­ing day, I felt refreshed and revi­tal­ized. It helped to escape the grid for a while, to finally kick off my shoes and walk bare­foot at the water’s edge. On the ride back to Manhattan, I had thought of our maps; a bit of sea level rise could put Brighton Beach under­wa­ter, and the tide could over­flow the com­mu­nity of Lit­tle Odessa. To my sur­prise, that gives me greater deter­mi­na­tion in the other part of my life, to work on climate solutions.

For all cli­mate war­riors: if we don’t cel­e­brate the lives we have, we can for­get what we’re fight­ing for. Maybe global warm­ing isn’t going to pause while we try to get poli­cies through our gov­ern­ment, but there is time if we need to take a day to stretch out our toes and clear our heads.

Because after soak­ing up the sun, I remem­ber that I love what I’m doing. I’m fighting for invaluable moments like a day at the beach.