Things to do in Brighton Beach (Little Odessa)Бра́йтон-Бич (Маленькая Одесса)
Brighton Beach, New York is one of those places that really embodies the idea of America being an emigrant nation. The area is located in the lower part of Brooklyn next to Coney Island. Travelers would be surprised to find that the signage is written in Russian.
The region became popular with Russians mainly during the 1970s, but particularly after the Second World War. Many of the people came to the area from former Soviet Republics (including Russia) under the mask of religion. Most claimed Jewish heritage and were seeking asylum from persecution. The neighborhood has been marked with crime and controversy, but has strongly maintained its language and culture. At times as you walk through the streets of Brighton, you might think that you are not in America. Because of its ties to the former Soviet Union, the area has been nicknamed ‘Little Odessa’ , referring to Odessa, Ukraine.
The area offers several nice venues as well as a good selection of food. Although it is visited by outsiders, there is not a heavy tourist influence. Many people simply do not know about it. It is a little off of the beaten path, especially for those who are only going to be visiting New York briefly. If you live in New York City, or plan to visit, I recommend visiting the neighborhood for a little taste of Russia.
When you do, here are 6 things to do in Brighton Beach:
- Stroll down Brighton Avenue – Brighton Avenue sits underneath the rail lines that pass above it, which adds to its off the beaten path feeling. Walking down Brighton Avenue gives you a chance to see all that the street has to offer from foods, to specialty products and services.
- Catch some sun on the beach – Brighton Beach is a nice little beach a few blocks over from the Avenue. It is hard to believe that you can find a white-sandy beach just a few minutes from downtown Manhattan, but it is true. The water is nice during the summer, and it is definitely swimmable.
- Shop at one of the international food markets – There are two major international food markets on the Brighton avenue in addition to the other smaller corner shops. Stop in and try pick up some Russian specialties and other international foods. The markets sell fresh meats and serve cooked goods ready for immediate consumption.
- Visit St. Petersburg Gifts and Books store – The St. Petersburg gifts and books store sells Russian language books, and books that explain Russian culture. Even if you cannot speak or read Russian, there are books to teach you! They also sell CDs, videos, pictures, and those signature wooden matryoska dolls that make great gifts for friends and family.
- Practice your Russian – Learn a few Russian phrases before you head to Brighton Beach. You will be able to practice them pretty much anywhere. Russian is the first and only language of many of the residents of Little Odessa. Remember “prev-yet,” “pazhulsta,” “spa-see-ba,” meaning hello, please, and thank you respectively. That is a good start. Check online for more handy phrases.
- Eat a piroska, or two – Russians, including the former Republics, have good food. Because of the influence that the Central Asian Republics have had on Russian food, you can find different food choices and diverse tastes. If you have time, you can stop at one of the local restaurants like Tatiana’s for a full meal, or find a restaurant on Brighton Avenue. Those who are pressed for time can stop by any of the markets or street vendors to get their dessert pastries and meat piroskas to-go.
How to get to Brighton Beach? The best ways to get to Brighton are either to take the B-line towards Brighton Beach, or the Q-line towards Coney Island (get off at the Brighton Beach stop)
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Have you been to Brighton Beach? Are you likely to visit it in the future?
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