Uh yeah, we’re suggesting a trip to Ikea with the whole family…in the chilly months. Sound like madness? Just hear us out. Everyone says that Brooklyn is the borough for families, and Ikea in Red Hook has bought into the belief. They’ve made it extra welcoming with a free family program, amazing play space, kid-friendly food, monthly events and more. Follow our tips and discover the wonders of this Swedish megastore. We think you’ll actually have a grand ol’ time.

When to Go
Avoid the weekend madness when college kids and yuppies hit the scene. Have you ever visited Ikea on a weekday? You can hear the decorative birds chirping and have the whole place to yourself. If you’ve ever wished for a bigger apartment, a visit to Ikea Brooklyn is the perfect fix. There are plenty of rooms to explore! Yes, we know some of you have work during the week. Ikea serves dinner and closes at 8:30pm, so you can skip cooking and let the kids get the willies out before hitting the hay.

How to Get There
For Manhattanites, New York Water Taxi offers a ferry from Wall Street’s Pier 11 to Ikea’s own dock in Red Hook. The ferries from Manhattan run 2:00 pm – 8:00 pm during the week every 40 minutes. The last ferry leaves Ikea Brooklyn at 7:40pm. The weekend offers extended hours and free ferry rides, but we don’t suggest visiting then as it could be a zoo. Kids 12 and under always ride free, and during the week adults pay $5 round-trip. If you purchase $10 or more of merchandise at the store, you’ll be credited back the ferry ride admission by showing your receipt.

If you prefer driving, parking is easy and free. For you Zipcar members, there are six designated Zipcar parking spots so you can reserve a car one-way or round-trip easily, depending on your needs.  Public transportation to Brooklyn with free shuttle service to Ikea is available as well, but this could be trying for mom, dad and babes.

The Highlights
Smaland* is the supervised play area near the entrance with a huge ball pit, books, puppets, toys and videos.  Ikea employees will watch your potty-trained kiddos (between 37” – 54” tall) for one hour for FREE! Yes that’s right, we said free childcare. You can actually get a little shopping done or do a cheap dessert date in the restaurant, knowing the kids are close by and having fun under watchful eyes.

After working up an appetite at Smaland or the awesome children’s section where toys and games are free to explore, hit the Restaurant where kids get a full meal for just $2.49. Family-friendly fare like chicken tenders, mac n’ cheese, steamed veggies, mashed potatoes and the famous Swedish meatballs are among the options and also come with your choice of drink. If you visit on a Tuesday, kids eat FREE!

By signing up for the free Ikea Family Loyalty Program, you’ll get complimentary perks like 30 extra minutes at Smaland, free coffee or tea every time you visit the restaurant, special discounts on items every month, and a chance to win a $100 gift card every time you scan your card at checkout.

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The kiddos will also love a special treat on your way out at the Bistro past the registers near the exit. For just $1, you can snag a low-fat frozen yogurt cone and treat the family on a dime. They won’t care it’s yogurt when they see huge sweet swirl on top of a sugar cone. This is the ideal recession special – cheap, delicious and fun.

Before hopping on the ferry or heading home, you’ve got to spend some time in the 22-acre public waterfront Ikea Esplanade by the ferry landing, designed by renowned architect Lee Weintraub. Lots of foliage to admire, recycled art from the old shipyard to explore, and a paved walkway and bike path for new walkers or fledgling skateboarders. It’s industrial yet lush, an only in New York landscape worth an Instagram post.

* Note: Smaland will be closed Tues, Nov 13 – Thurs, Nov 15, 2012 for refurbishment. Might be worth a wait to check out the new spruced up play space!

Ikea Brooklyn
One Beard Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231
Online: ikea.com/us/en/store/brooklyn

Let us know about your trip on the ferry to visit Ikea in the comment section below. 

–Sarah Choi

Photos courtesy of WarmSleepyJulien Menichini, and Xurble