The frontwoman of rock ‘n’ soul band Brandi & the Alexanders (and mom of two!) shares her go-to stages, parks and playgrounds — for both kids and adults
JJ Byrne Playground – Old Stone House Garden
I’ve held both of my twins’ birthday parties there (they just turned 2).
The playground is actually really, really cool. It has the Old Stone House, which is one of the oldest structures in Brooklyn, I believe. They turned it into a museum and it sits in the middle of the playground. They have a little garden, which is where we usually have our parties, and it’s surrounded by a thousand things for kids to do: a huge park on one side where you can play sports; the other side is a really nice playground for tots and older kids. The garden in the center is quite serene, where you can just sit and watch or read a book or have a picnic.
It’s one city block, but it’s hard to find that in Brooklyn, I think, where it’s like everybody is congregating in this one place where we go and have a good time. It always brings back nice memories for me.
3rd St & 5th Ave, nycgovparks.org/parks/j-j-byrne-playground
Floyd Bennett Field
I love riding my bike down there. It’s a national park, right here in Brooklyn! Lots of open space and water/bridge views. Just natural landscape of Brooklyn plus a ton of history, if you’re into that kind of thing.
You can walk to the water or ride to the water. There’s a private residential area over there, and they block that part off, but the rest of it you can just drive around and see a completely different side of Brooklyn. It’s flat, it’s quiet. There’s the Rockaway bridge that’s right over it. It’s nice. I love that park! What’s not nice about a national park?
The Way Station
The Way Station was one of our first shows, and we still go back there. It’s definitely this cool, weird bar. It’s a Dr. Who theme, but you have to know and like Dr. Who to even get that — which I didn’t get. The point is, it’s very cool and quirky, and that’s where we got our start.
It’s a cool place to see up-and-coming music and musicians who are just coming out. It’s great because the people who go there support you. Our band started like seven years ago — the first iteration of the band — and we still have people who, when they see our name on the billboard outside, will come in and watch our show. We’ll walk down the street, and that neighborhood specifically is where people will be like, ‘Oh, you’re Brandi from Brandi & The Alexanders!’ It’s cool because you have that community and that bar, and they really support live music and support musicians. It’s nice to see that. Not every place has the musicians at heart.
683 Washington Ave, (347) 627-4949, thewaystationbk.com
Ample Hills Creamery Rooftop
The perfect place for a summer-night hang.
Obviously the ice cream is a bonus, but it’s just quiet. It’s just one of those settings where you can just chill, relax, eat your ice cream, enjoy life and forget about everything for a minute, you know? And when it’s packed up here, it feels like a party, so it’s nice either way.
Usually [I get] the Salted Crack’d Caramel, and I do like peanut butter and chocolate. Sometimes I get cookie dough, sometimes I try a new flavor. They had a hot and spicy flavor, and I love spicy food — for me, the spicier, the better. And it’s in ice cream? Awesome.
305 Nevins St, (347) 725-4061, amplehills.com
Brooklyn Crab is this amazing place down in Red Hook. You need to get a group of friends, go down there. You’re gonna have drinks, you’re gonna have snacks, and you’re gonna play cornhole and other games. It’s a very cool adult playground with drinks and seafood. It’s almost where I had my kids’ second birthday, because I was like, you guys are still young enough that it’s really for us, right?
My husband and I actually went down there for a date night not too long ago, and I wish that we’d known how much fun it is, how many things there are to do there. There’s a sandbox for kids — which is great, because I can bring my kids — but there are so many things for adults to do, and the drinks aren’t cheap, but they’re not too expensive. It’s just a fun atmosphere — and a good view of the Statue of Liberty.
24 Reed St, (718) 643-2722, brooklyncrab.com
Prospect Park Parade Grounds – The Colonnade
One of the most beautiful pieces of architecture in NYC. It’s just this stunning Grecian structure in the middle of Brooklyn! Great for hanging, dancing, impromptu performances, weddings or any other large event. Would love to put on a show here someday.
The Parade Grounds themselves are very cool, and I feel like it’s a part of Prospect Park that a lot of people don’t see because they go to Grand Army Plaza and they hang out there. If you’re on the south side of the park, you know the Parade Grounds. It’s quiet, it’s open. That whole area of Prospect Park is just cool. People always talk about Central Park, and I’m like, whatever, we’ve got this.
Coney Island Ave & Parkside Ave, prospectpark.org/visit-the-park/places-to-go/parade-ground/
This is the best beach in Brooklyn, hands down. It used to be quieter before the snack area was revamped, but the addition of great foods and drinks is very much appreciated. There’s still plenty of space to be had on the beach. It’s not NEARLY as packed as Coney Island, and it’s so close!
I went for the first time last year or the year before with my babies, and I was like, how does this beach exist? It was amazing. If I could go there every weekend, I definitely would, and I recommend that… I don’t recommend that everybody go there, because otherwise it’ll get stupid crowded. But if you’re cool, go to this beach.
Rockaway Beach Blvd, nyharborparks.org/visit-parks/
This is the place where my professional music career began. It’s a longer story, but right after I quit my job and needed to start finding paying gigs, I got offered a background vocalist gig here…
It was this old-school soul revue they were putting on at Littlefield once a month or once every other month. You get up there with a bona fide soul artist from like the ’50s — so, they’re old, but they’re still doing their thing. They’re 70, 80 years old and performing. Like, some of them got moves… some of them would just sit in a chair. They all could still sing. It was just a really cool first foray into really getting paid for singing. It was nice to be able to be like, I’m getting paid to do something I really enjoy doing.
And Littlefield is a great place. They have comedy, music, dance, all that stuff.
635 Sackett St, littlefieldnyc.com
Brooklyn Bridge Park – Pier 1 Playground
I know it’s pretty pedestrian and touristy, but this area of Brooklyn has so much to offer for everyone: places to sit and hang, boozy sand bars, playgrounds (even one specifically for toddlers), the carousel, food and drinks, views, space and a little peace and quiet.
I feel like Brooklyn doesn’t close, but it starts to wind down. Manhattan itself, never. You can go anywhere and there’s a thousand people on the street. But Brooklyn is like, we have a bedtime. And it’s nice. Because people go home, and if you’re the people who are out, it’s actually great. You can find space in Brooklyn — I love that.
102 Furman Street, brooklynbridgepark.org
[This interview has been edited and condensed.]