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9 ways to embrace winter in Brooklyn

There’s a lot complaining about the weather this time of year. But face it — if you truly hated Brooklyn’s winter, you would live in Florida.

And guess what? This time of year, people who have moved from here to Miami start to miss winter. So it really behooves you to embrace winter in Brooklyn. Make an effort. It can be fun.

Here are nine things you can do to surrender to the season.

Skate in Prospect Park

What a wonderful way to commune with the cold: Spend hours gliding around a glistening slab of ice.

Prospect Park has a beautiful open-air rink called LeFrak Center at Lakeside. The winter ice-skating season started in late November. What are you waiting for?

If you want to amp up the romantic aspect of your experience, you can try night-skating. The rink stays open until 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

You can ice skate at LeFrak Center at Lakeside or try your hand at curling. Photo: Martin Seck via the Prospect Park Alliance
You can ice skate at LeFrak Center at Lakeside or try your hand at curling. Photo: Martin Seck via the Prospect Park Alliance

Admission is $7.50 on weekdays and $11 on weekends (which start on Fridays at 4 p.m., as far as LeFrak Center is concerned). You can rent skates for $8 if you need them.

If you have hopelessly wobbly ankles but don’t want to be left out of the freezing fun, LeFrak Center offers a 90-minute introductory class in curling. You know, the sport that looks like shuffleboard but it’s played on ice? The Brooklyn Lakeside Curling Club teaches the $59 course.

Swim with the Polar Bear Club

The members of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club really know how to embrace winter. They swim in the freezing Atlantic Ocean every Sunday from November to April.

Once a year, the venerable group — which has been in existence since 1903 — allows non-members to swim with them. That’s New Year’s Day.

On New Year’s Day, you can swim with the Coney Island Polar Bear Club. Photo: Arthur De Gaeta/Brooklyn Eagle
On New Year’s Day, you can swim with the Coney Island Polar Bear Club. Photo: Arthur De Gaeta/Brooklyn Eagle

No matter how cold it is, thousands of people turn out in bathing suits and/or funny costumes to raise money for charities. It’s a bracing way to clear your head after a night of New Year’s Eve celebrations, to say the least.

If you want to participate in the New Year’s Day Coney Island Polar Bear Club Swim, you must register on the group’s website.

Drink by a fireplace

There are bars in Brooklyn with fireplaces if you know where to look for them.

One of them is Black Mountain Wine House in Carroll Gardens. Its cozy rustic ambience could make you love winter, or at least like it.

A fireplace gives a cozy feel to Black Mountain Wine House in Carroll Gardens. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle
A fireplace gives a cozy feel to Black Mountain Wine House in Carroll Gardens. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle

The bar at 415 Union St. is tucked away on a quiet residential block, which also adds to the feeling that you’ve left behind the hustle and bustle of the cold gray city.

As a bonus, this bar has mulled wine on its winter menu. That means it’s heated up, but you knew that, of course.

Watch the sunrise on the Brooklyn Bridge

Seeing the sunrise on the Brooklyn Bridge is on so many people’s bucket lists. The famous landmarked span, which opened in 1883, affords excellent views of the dawn’s early light over the East River.

The light is lovely on the Brooklyn Bridge shortly after sunrise in December. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle
The light is lovely on the Brooklyn Bridge shortly after sunrise in December. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle

You shouldn’t take the iconic bridge for granted because you live here, or shun it because its pedestrian and cyclist lanes are crowded so much of the time. At dawn, there’s plenty of room to stroll around.

There’s something you need to know so you’re not disappointed by your experience. In the summertime, when you stand on the observation platform facing the carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park at dawn, you see the sun come up in an orange ball directly behind the Manhattan Bridge. It casts an orange glow on the river.

If you exercise a little patience, the wintry dawn light starts to brighten the facades of the World Trade Center and neighboring Lower Manhattan skyscrapers after 8 a.m. It’s very, very lovely.

Enjoy a rooftop bar (without freezing to death)

Brooklyn has numerous rooftop bars with epic views. In the summer you can sit outdoors up in the sky, sip cocktails and soak up the scenery.

In the winter, the next best thing to open-air rooftop drinking is indoor rooftop drinking beside floor-to-ceiling windows. One place you can do this is at the Westlight, which is the bar located on the top floor of The William Vale, a Williamsburg hotel that opened a couple years ago.

The William Vale’s rooftop bar has floor-to-ceiling windows so you can really take in the views. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle
The William Vale’s rooftop bar has floor-to-ceiling windows so you can really take in the views. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle

You can see the Williamsburg Bridge, and new buildings on the neighborhood’s shoreline. The Manhattan skyline from the World Trade Center to the Empire State Building and beyond is displayed before you as you sit in the warm bar.

The William Vale is located at 111 North 12th St.

Hike through Marine Park’s nature preserve

Marine Park’s nature preserve is extraordinarily beautiful this time of year.

You did know that the park has a nature preserve with hiking trails that lead you past marshes, prairie grass and osprey nests, didn’t you? Visiting it is such an adventure.

Marine Park’s nature preserve is endowed with subtle beauty in the wintertime. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle
Marine Park’s nature preserve is endowed with subtle beauty in the wintertime. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle

In the summertime, the grasses are oh so green. In the winter, they are austerely beautiful shades of brown.

A good hiking trail to start with is steps away from the B3 bus stop near the corner of Burnett Street and Avenue U. You can walk right to the edge of the water.

Drink hot chocolate

Winter is an excellent time of year to drink hot chocolate. If you don’t have a favorite place to do this, try the Chocolate Room.

As you can imagine, the workers in this cafe take hot chocolate very seriously. They make a classic version of this venerable drink with milk chocolate and Madagascar vanilla and a dark version with bittersweet Belgian chocolate and Valrhona cocoa.

Here’s a cup of classic hot chocolate and a serving of cheesecake in the Chocolate Room in Cobble Hill. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle
Here’s a cup of classic hot chocolate and a serving of cheesecake in the Chocolate Room in Cobble Hill. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle

There’s also a dark chocolate version with ancho and chipotle chilies, cinnamon and cloves.

Park Slope has a Chocolate Room at 51 Fifth Ave. There’s also one at 269 Court St. in Cobble Hill — which has the added advantage of being right next door to Cobble Hill Cinemas. You can get your chocolate fix, then satisfy your need to occasionally see a film on a big screen.

Eat pho

Pho, the noodle-filled Vietnamese soup, is a dish that makes winter worthwhile. That huge bowl full of steaming broth can heat you up too much on a summer’s day.

Pho Hoai at 8616 Fourth Ave. in Bay Ridge is one great place to go when pho cravings set in.

Pho’s an ideal winter comfort food. Pho Hoai in Bay Ridge is one excellent place to eat it. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle
Pho’s an ideal winter comfort food. Pho Hoai in Bay Ridge is one excellent place to eat it. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle

The Combination Extra Big Bowl, or Xe Lua, has six different cuts of beef in it.

The stock for the soup takes at least six hours to cook and is made with seafood and vegetables as well as beef, the New York Daily News said in a 2012 story that named the restaurant as one of the best places in New York City to eat pho.

Escape to the tropics

Sometimes it’s easier to love winter if you can temporarily escape to the tropics.

You can do this without leaving Brooklyn.

There’s a Tropical Pavilion in Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s greenhouse complex. The air is so warm. There are palm trees all over the place. Ferns and foliage are so gigantic, they belong in a fairy tale.

It’s nice and warm in the Tropical Pavilion at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle
It’s nice and warm in the Tropical Pavilion at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle

It’s magical to linger in this lush jungle when it’s a harsh 20 degrees out in the streets.

There’s also a delightful Desert Pavilion in the Steinhardt Conservatory. Other visual thrills — and warm temps — await you in the Aquatic House and the Warm Temperate Pavilion.

Famous 52-acre Brooklyn Botanic Garden is located at 990 Washington Ave. in Prospect Heights. Admission is free on Tuesday through Friday from December through February.

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