Category: NYC

NYC’s First Annual Formula-E Series Race

NYC’s First Annual Formula-E Series Race

2017 formula e brooklyn

The 2017 Formula-E Series race is the first-ever sanctioned auto race within New York City. The reason for not having auto racing on a tiny island of 8-Million people, is to avoid adding even more noise & air pollution to the area. For this reason, Formula-E is perfect. Formula-E racing exclusively uses all-electric open-wheel race cars. The entire race is centered around proving that the future of auto racing can be sustainable & auto-friendly. It is not just the race cars that are fully battery-powered. The safety car and trucks used on the course are also all-electric. This certainly makes for a unique experience!

Promoting Eco-Friendly Transportation Even Outside of the Race

formula e bike valet in red hook

The entire Formula-E organization promotes eco-friendly transportation all around. Putting a course in NYC was perfect for this. The race organizers did their due diligence sending information emails with a large variety of options to get to the race. They heavily discouraged driving yourself to Red Hook. They provided a free bike valet, shuttle buses from two of the closest subway stops, ride-share, and multiple entrances making walking feasible. Roads outside the event were not closed off so the regular MTA buses were using their normal routes. I was pleasantly surprised for the Information emails to even include which train lines were out of use for the weekend. Would love to see more larger event planning include those details!

Pro Tip: The bike valet was free for anyone, you did not need to show your ticket to the race. The service was available until 7pm.

Setting Up A Formula Race in Brooklyn

Formula-E’s first ever NYC race was held in the neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn on the water in the cruise terminal there. Although this was the first year for the race, apparently they signed a 10-year agreement with the city for it to be held annually in this location. The Formula organization spent millions of dollars making upgrades & modifications to the track & surrounding areas.

Personally, Red Hook is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Brooklyn. In fact, I’ve written a whole separate post about this unique neighborhood. It has beautiful views of downtown Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. There are awesome food places including Steve’s Key Lime Pies and the bakery Baked. Also the neighborhood was ripped apart by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy several years ago and is still rebuilding. To see it being a destination for a large event like this is wonderful.

Top Notch Event Organization for Formula-E

formula e nyc signage organization

I’m used to attending large events and tend to get lost or confused at the layout. I’m sensitive to bad signage and have little tolerance for an organization not providing enough signs, bathrooms, food, and other facilities. So I quickly noticed that Formula-E went all out for this one!

Since it is a temporary location, the bathrooms were port-a-johns. However, they never got to the point of being unusable. And there were enough of them spread throughout that I never had to wait (truly a miracle). There were also two separate privacy facilities for diaper-changing/breast-feeding. I had feelings about this!

So, the Formula series of races are predominantly International/European. Most of the tracks are not in the US and it does not have a huge following in the US. For example, you have probably heard of NASCAR but aren’t as familiar with Formula-1 racing. The race, organization, and environment just felt a bit more European/nicer than standard car events I’ve been to. Also, I haven’t been to a car race in a while, but I was happily surprised by the breast-feeding/changing privacy areas for moms & children.

Outside of facilities & signage, there was plenty to do in what they called the E-Village! You could check out one of the electric single-seat cars close-up. There was a all-electric pace car on display. There was information, a VR booth, and lots of other fun car activities. The whole area was huge since it was spread out along half of the 1.2-mile track. I did not even get to see one side of it. I arrived around 11am and was able to get around easily. But by 2pm, the crowds were huge making it not as fun to explore the area. It was also very hot – but what can you do in July in the city.

In true Brooklyn fashion, food was provided by a row of local Food Trucks! And alcohol had it’s own large area with normal-priced drafts provided by Red Hook brewery, Six Point. I did notice that the prices for everything were standard. There was not any baseball-stadium-price-gouging here. What a relief! You could only have booze in the restricted area but this area was huge! Lots of tables, seats, shade, and a large-screen to see the goings on of the pre-race events.

There was plenty of entertainment (also in the alcohol section) from a pop/rock band, to a brass band, then a break dancing group. Everyone is allowed in the alcohol area. If you are over 21, you get a wrist-band. The children’s activities were also in this area (which to me is brilliant). There were kid’s games, face painting, etc.

Since it was so hot, the race provided many water fill up stations throughout the whole village & grandstand area. You were allowed to bring in a water bottle. I didn’t, because I’m so used to venues banning them. But I will remember this for next time. If you needed to buy a bottle of water, I think they were $3.

Checking Out The 1.2-Mile Circuit Track in Red Hook

formula e red hook grand stand 1

Unlike most NASCAR races that have a traditional oval track, most Formula courses have a road circuit. This means there are hair pin turns, different directions, switch backs, plus long straight-away’s. There are two Grand Stand sections. I sat in Grandstand 1 which had a great view of Red Hook proper. For the course, I could see two long straight-aways, the race start/finish, and a switch-back turn that took out at least two of the cars! Since you can’t see the full track from any seat, there were large jumbotron’s in the area. These were also nice to see replays.

The Grandstand 2 section had a view of a sharp turn in the second half of the course and another hair pin. It might be interesting to sit there next year. For getting good seats, you want to sit a bit higher up so you can see more of the track. I think tickets were available online and at various shops in Red Hook leading up to the race. My ticket cost $90 for single-day. You could get a weekend pass for maybe $150 – I’m not positive on that.

Formula-E races are taken place over a weekend. One race is Saturday & the other is Sunday. There are qualifiers each day. Even though it is the same drivers, the starting set-up may be different. Despite having practices, Sunday could likely be a different race since the drivers now have a better idea of racing on the track.

I wasn’t super familiar with Formula-E before buying the tickets. The race is quite different from other auto races. The actual race itself lasts about an hour. This one had 43-laps. Exactly at the half-way point of 23 laps, they had to switch batteries. The drivers are not allowed to change tires at all during the race. This is because, “swapping batteries” actually means getting a whole new car. They jump into a new prepared identical electric car to then finish the next 23 laps. Before switching, the leader got his battery down to 1% before going into pit.

The strategy of races with tires & fuel (for NASCAR specifically) always amazes me! Racing is strategy as much as it is endurance. To have to strategize your driving with battery power, is such a unique element of Formula-E. They also regenerate power by braking, which happens often in those tight turns.

Overall I had a great time checking out the first-ever Formula-E race in NYC! For me, I did not have to travel far and was able to see one of my favorite neighborhoods in a different way. I look forward to Formula-E hopefully returning next summer. I would only change bringing a water bottle and wearing more sunblock.

The winner of the race was Sam Bird of the DS Virgin Racing team! Vroom vroom!

All Photos of Formula-E in Booklyn

Shipwrecked NYC is an Amazing Mini Golf Interactive Pirate Adventure

Shipwrecked NYC is an Amazing Mini Golf Interactive Pirate Adventure

Shipwrecked NYC is an indoor miniature golf course located in Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY. Featuring a storyline, prop design, and a hill course, this mini golf experience is perfect for kids and adults.

Shipwrecked Miniature Golf (Interactive Pirate Adventure) in Red Hook Brooklyn NY
Shipwrecked Miniature Golf (Interactive Pirate Adventure) in Red Hook Brooklyn NY

Theater majors should always make miniature golf courses if this will be the end result.

I was at first skeptical of an indoor mini golf course. Mini golf is about waterfalls and being outside in the sweltering heat with zero shade and being able to laugh at all the other golfers and kids crying and mosquitoes that you can swat at with the club. Wouldn’t indoor mini golf lose all that? Well, yes. And in exchange we get an interactive adventure with a story and a plot and scenes! What a way to golf!

Think of this as a very small-scale children’s version of something like Sleep No More. As you golf, you are immersed into a story of a fellow pirate who sunk his ship while looking for treasure. On your golf-pirate-adventure journey, you travel underwater, then trek through a jungle, get lost in some caves, and finally find treasure. It is designed for both kids and adults because there are a lot of puns and dad jokes. We went as two adults and had a blast.

This is a traditional hills miniature golf course. The owners of Shipwrecked NYC bought a mini golf course in Maryland that was being torn down. They purchased everything then relocated all the holes to Brooklyn. The course is easy but still fun. You are definitely not losing anything with the added indoor experience.

I can’t find it now, but while reading up about the course and it’s owners, I found a fascinating interview with them. In it, they said that they just want to make people “smile, laugh, and have fun”. Shipwrecked NYC definitely accomplishes all of that!

Indoor Mini Golf Brooklyn Style

The four areas I describe above are designed as scenes. Each scene (underwater, jungle, caves, treasure) is in a separate room with four miniature golf holes set up.

First Scene: Jungle
First Scene: Jungle
Second Scene: Jungle
Second Scene: Jungle
Fourth Scene: Treasure
Fourth Scene: Treasure (Third scene was Caves but it was hard to take a photo)

The golfing part is traditional and fun. Everything is about a par 2-3. The rooms themselves are extremely immersive since they are all separate. Because the experience includes a story, the golf course is closed off from the main lobby. Where in traditional outdoors mini golf, you can see everyone on the course, here you can’t. We always had every room to ourselves. Not because it wasn’t busy, but because that boosted the experience. At 1pm on a Saturday we waited about 15-minutes to start. Not being able to see the course before starting also really adds to the excitement.

The story portion of Shipwrecked NYC is entirely optional and is at an extra charge. To hear the story features along the course, it is an extra $5 per game. This comes in the form of tokens ($1/token). You enter a token into certain set pieces along the course and get to hear more of the story. You have to do this! (figuratively, not literally). I cannot imagine going through this the first time without the story!

Getting to Red Hook

One of my favorite neighborhoods in Brooklyn is Red Hook and I have explored it several times already. Although Shipwrecked NYC is located closer to Gowanus than the main parts of Red Hook.

Shipwrecked NYC Hours & Location

You can take the F/G train and walk, or the B61 and walk, or take a car service (a cheap ride from most surrounding neighborhoods), or bike (a short ride from most areas in BK). It is located on Court St next to a lot of warehouses, apartment buildings, and an auto shop. Don’t worry, you’re in the right place. There is a sign out front though it might be hard to miss if you’re in a car or on a bike.

You will walk into what looks like a normal apartment building (and it is) where you have to take the elevator up to the second floor. There are signs all along the way pointing you in the direction of Pirate Adventure! There is an entrance area with lockers and I saw some scooters & strollers parked there. You might be able to leave your bike there, I’m not sure (there are not bike racks out front of the building).

While you’re in Red Hook, don’t forget to get a key lime pie and check out the pier!

Just a note, they sell some snacks and sodas but currently not alcohol.

shipwrecked_elevator

Shipwrecked NYC Details
Address: 621 Court St. , 2nd Fl. Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY
Hours: Mon-Thurs Noon-9pm; Fri noon-11pm; Sat 11am-11pm; Sun 11am-9pm
Price: Adults $14; Kids $10

New Way to Get to Rockaway Beach

New Way to Get to Rockaway Beach

rockaway-beach-queens

If you live in NYC and still haven’t made it out to the Rockaways, I highly recommend it. The beaches are beautiful and there is lots of access to the ocean. Plus, it is all free. Rockaway Beach is in the outskirts of Queens so getting there can be a trek. But thankfully the MTA does have train service directly to the beach access points. And that’s all included with a swipe of the metrocard!

The beaches have gained popularity since Hurricane Sandy wiped out all of the boardwalk and almost everything there. Some growth in food pop-ups and for-pay buses that go directly to Jacob Riis State Park have helped bring new visitors to the Rockaways. Thankfully, the MTA has noticed this too and increased train service as of June 2016.

rockaway-beach-shuttle-service

Extended Shuttle Service to Rockaway Beaches

According to the MTA, Rockaway Park Shuttle service has been extended to reach both A trains at Rockaway Blvd.

Old Way (pre-2016): Take a Far Rockaway bound A train to Broad Channel and transfer to the Rockaway Park Shuttle (S) train.

New Way (as of June 2016): Take either a Far Rockaway or Lefferts Blvd A train to Rockaway Blvd and transfer to the Rockaway Park Shuttle (S) train.

It is still a same platform transfer from the S to the A. The Shuttle extension to Rockaway Blvd is on weekends only until at least labor day. It is making regular A stops between Rockaway Blvd and Broad Channel. If you find yourself on a Far Rockaway train, you can still stay on it and transfer at Broad Channel if you’d prefer.

On their site, the MTA alluded to keeping the extra shuttle service on after Labor Day. Hopefully it will continue while all the NYC public beaches are still open. Remember, the water finally warms up in August so late summer is the perfect time for a beach trip.

rockaway-beach-sand

Full Directions to Rockaway Beaches

Once you’re on the Shuttle, the rest of the trip is the same. From Broad Channel onwards all stops have direct beach access. You will be about two blocks away from the beach. And the ocean will be visible from the train platform. There are several different parts of the beaches here. I am mostly familiar with the beach access around Beach 105th st. I haven’t been to Riis Park Beach in several years.

Swimming/Sunbathing: The Shuttle train will take you from Beach 90th st to Beach 116th st. There is now a boardwalk for most of this. There are some food places. There are public bathrooms. The beach is nice for sunbathing, playing, generally relaxing. And the water is great for swimming.

Surfing/Hanging Out: The Far Rockaway A train will take you from Beach 67th st to Far Rockaway/Mott Ave. I have never been down this way so I do not have first-hand experience. There are more food & drink options here. And this part of the beach is great for surfing. I’ve heard good things about taking surf lessons here as well.

Riis Beach: The Riis Park Beach is accessible by bus & car only. The Q35 stops here. And there are lots of pay options now for bus services that go directly from neighborhoods in Brooklyn to this beach. There is a Beach Bazaar now too. There are definitely more food/drink options than when I was there a while back. There is also a part of the beach that is very lgbtq-friendly.