Date Traveled, May 2013
Ikea's Swedish meatballs are legendary and the reason I go there. I have heard they sell furniture too but the foods the real reason to visit :-). And here in the city, you get a free weekend water ferry with all the great sights between downtown Manhattan and the gritty Brooklyn neighborhood where the Ikea is located. Enjoy the ride and enjoy some meatballs while you are there.
The NY water taxi to the Brooklyn Ikea at Pier 11
I am always surprised by how many people have never thought to try Ikea's food. They give me blank stares when I use the words Ikea and food together. Yes I have bought furniture there but I know I am not alone in being one of the people who visit Ikea primarily for the food. And its not just their Swedish meatballs, which alone would make it worth it, but they have so many other good to awesome choices. Their ribs are excellent, their fries are great and the chocolate cake slices are absolutely delicious. And all the food is cheap. Maybe not as cheap as a regular fast food place but really cheap for what you are getting.
Heading out from Pier 11 in lower Manhattan
Governors island and the Statue of Liberty
If you already know about Ikea's meatballs, well whatever your thoughts on it, a ride on the weekend to the Brooklyn Ikea on New York water taxi is a great way to spend a couple of hours on a nice clear day. The water taxi to Ikea is free on the weekends and departs pier 11 in downtown Manhattan near South street seaport every 40 minutes. The ferry has an open section on the top level and you are treated to some great sights, the Brooklyn bridge, the lower Manhattan and Jersey city skylines, Governor's island and of course, the Statue of Liberty. In addition you get some views that the regular tours or the free Staten Island ferry will not give you, especially the gritty and partly derelict former industrial sections of Brooklyn where the Ikea is now. If the regular sights aren't particularly interesting, riding past the old docks and warehouses make for something interesting to see as well. And at times you will see large cruise ships docked in this part of Brooklyn. Once saw a few warships docked here as well during fleet week.
And if you have never eaten at Ikea and are in the city in a weekend, the scenic ride to the Brooklyn Ikea alone is worth going all the way to try it once.
There always is a line for the ferry on the weekends but nowhere near the mad rush you get when you take the Staten island ferry and you almost certainly will have a spot. On warmer days people will make a beeline to the top of the boat to ride on the open section up there. So unless you are at the front you may not get a place to sit up there, which is fine as its a short ride and if you want to take pictures you are going to need to stand anyway. On the return trip however it can get particularly crowded occasionally late in the afternoon when everyone decides to head back to the city at around the same time. Still I haven't missed a boat due to the crowds yet.
The taxi top and the gritty Brooklyn docks in the view
Approaching the Brooklyn Ikea
Once you arrive and disembark, the entrance is a short walk from the pier and you are led straight up to the cafe area. I figure they know many people grab a bite before they start shopping and the seating area is usually packed, as are the lines for ordering food, at least on the weekends. Still, the lines move fast and you can be seated with your meal within a few minutes of getting in there. Getting back out is more convoluted as Ikea forces you to traverse the entirety of the store to get out. If you are not in a rush this is a good chance to burn some of the meatballs off while you browse their displays but if you are trying to rush out to get to the next ferry on time, remember it takes time to navigate the zigzag path to the exit and then you still have to get to the pier.
Ikea's Swedish Meatballs!
Once out you get to enjoy the ride again, this time with a slightly different perspective heading back toward the city and its skyline.