For those willing to weather the seemingly-endless subway ride from Midtown, Brighton Beach has got a whole lot to offer.  As New York’s signature “little Russia  by the sea”, it’s jam-packed with exciting things you can’t really find get anywhere else in a city where you can find pretty much anything.  The main street, shaded by an elevated subway track, is lined with various Russian businesses that offer everything from good food to Russian-language books and videos.  Here are some of the highlights for visiting Brighton Beach:

Go to the beach: This one’s a given.  Since it’s a bit further off from Coney Island, the Brighton Beach section is slightly less crowded.  The beach isn’t the best in New York (that goes to the Rockaways), but it’s still a great time.  It’s also a great place for a picnic, but more on that in just a bit.

Have a picnic: The markets on Brighton Beach’s main street offer all sorts of tasty Eastern European snacks that make for a great picnic.  Get some khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread),  jars of varenye (Russian jam) and ajvar (a Balkan vegetable spread), Russian sausages, bottles of tarkhun (a Georgian soda made from peaches) and pirozhki (a type of fried pie sold on the street).  It will make for a fantastic beachside picnic.

Get lunch: If you’d rather sit down for lunch rather than have a picnic, then Brighton Beach is filled with excellent restaurants.  My personal favorite is Skovordka, but some other excellent places include Kashkar Cafe and Euroasia.  I’d recommend trying some traditional Russian dishes, like borscht (cold or hot), beef stroganoff, shashlik or pelmeni.   

Go to the New York Aquarium: Many people forget that New York has an aquarium, and that’s a shame, because the New York Aquarium, just a short walk on the boardwalk from Brighton Beach, is one of the best zoos in New York.  It features plenty of indoor and outdoor exhibits, and 266 different species of aquatic wildlife.  

Ride the ferris wheel: Many people forget how close Brighton Beach is to Coney Island.  So while you’re down there, why not pay a visit?  You won’t be disappointed.  While it’s become a bit of a cliché, the ferris wheel on Coney Island offers stellar views of Brooklyn on one side and the ocean on the other.