Pardon my enthusiasm, I absolutely LOVE Red Hook in the summer and am having a really hard time keeping this post concise because the neighborhood is oozing with hidden gems. Keep your fingers (and toes) crossed that the new Ikea doesn't totally change the dynamic of RH.
Start at the end of Van Brunt St on the piers to see the most beautiful subway train ruins and dilapidated pre-Civil War warehouses, which are visually adjacent to a perfect view of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. The contrast is lovely (my crappy iPhone photo above does it no justice).
Each summer weekend on the pier (499 Van Brunt St) the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition has a free show of local Brooklyn artists. Every Saturday at 3:00, also on the pier, is the Red Hook Waterfront Arts Festival, performers this summer include local Latin funk band Radio Mundial, improv troupe Hip Hop Commedia and the dance ensemble Urban Bush Women.
A couple blocks east on Van Brunt is the Tini Wine Bar (414 Van Brunt St). Tini has the most delicious menu, the cheese plate has loads of fresh fruit and yummy cheese. Most of the food served is grown and produced locally from Red Hook Farms. In the summer, over-sized shabby chic sofas are set up in front, amazing for lounging for hours, and they have the oldest, fanciest scrabble board that I have ever seen. I challenge anyone to a game. This is one of my favorite spots in New York, really.
Cannot leave out the beautiful block of Van Brunt between Dikeman and Coffey Streets, with Saipu (ridiculously-sweet-smelling, gorgeous garden items), Erie Bassin (meticulously curated antiques), Metal and Thread (jewelery and houseware hand-crafted by Brooklyn-ites) and Gestarc Gallery (esoteric, kind-of okay art).
I am cutting myself off here but really, there are a so many other wonderful spots in Red Hook. The neighborhood makes me incredibly happy and (particularly if you're good at Scrabble) I would love to spread the joy and show you around!