In the past couple of decades, Brooklyn has transformed into a must-visit destination. Known for its notable restaurants, arty neighborhoods, eclectic shops, and a literary scene, Brooklyn has emerged as a cutting-edge cultural haven. This section of New York City is easily accessible from Manhattan via subway or a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or Manhattan Bridge. Although many people add a day in Brooklyn to their Big Apple itinerary, it’s definitely worthy of its own trip. The setting for numerous TV shows and inspiration for a plethora of famous novels, you should come for a visit and experience your own Brooklyn story.
If you’re coming for a summer visit, you should definitely add a trip to Coney Island or Brighton Beach to your itinerary. Those two neighboring beach towns are also fun to explore during the offseason. However, visiting in the summer, when the beaches are lively, the boardwalk is packed and all of the shops are open, is a perpetually festive experience.
Although you might need more than a couple of days to see all of the sites, here’s a glimpse at the highlights.
Day 1: Morning
There is a hotel boom happening in Brooklyn. If you're staying in Downtown Brooklyn or Williamsburg, where most of the new hotels are opening, you can take the subway or bus to Eastern Parkway and Grand Army Plaza. Start your day marveling at the beauty of the historic arch at the start of this majestic Brooklyn roadway.
8 a.m.: Get an early morning sugar rush as you sip a Cherry Lime Ricky at Tom's Restaurant, a family-owned authentic 1930s era diner that has been a local favorite for over seventy years. The breakfast menu has an extensive list of pancakes including cinnamon pancakes served with apples or bananas, lemon ricotta pancakes, and many other breakfast foods that will delight even the finickiest of eaters and can turn anyone into a morning person.
9 a.m. - 12 noon: After you've gotten your fill of coffee and pancakes, walk off your breakfast with a stroll through the lush Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Since 1911, Brooklyn folks have been flocking to these verdant gardens. Enjoy perusing the Cranford Rose Garden or take in the beauty of the Cherry Esplanade. For complete serenity, visit the peaceful Japanese Hill and Pond Garden with its pond and Shinto shrine. There are various tours and activities at the garden, so be sure to check their website for information about the day's events. If you have kids in tow, you should definitely stop by the interactive children's garden.
Day 1: Afternoon
12 noon - 3 p.m.: Once you exit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, you'll be a ten-minute walk to Franklin Avenue, a bustling restaurant row in Crown Heights. The stretch starts across Eastern Parkway on Franklin Avenue. For a casual lunch head to Franklin Park, a garage-turned-beer-garden, which also houses Dutch Boy Burger, where you can have a burger (it has veggie burgers), hot dogs, and other comfort food. If a casual lunch isn't what you had in mind, a walk down Franklin Avenue is a foodie dream. You'll have a pick from artisanal brick oven pizza to overstuffed tortas on this avenue filled with quaint cafes and vibrant restaurants.
3:30 - 6 p.m.: Once you're done with lunch and window shopping at the boutiques along Franklin Avenue, it's time to get arty at the Brooklyn Museum. Before you enter the museum, you must pause in front to stare at the mesmerizing fountain. In addition to a fun fountain, this prestigious art museum has a large collection of Egyptian art in its permanent collection, as well as contemporary art. The rotating exhibits have included Basquiat, Georgia O'Keefe, and many others. The museum is open until 6 p.m., except Thursday when it closes at 10 p.m., and the first Saturday of the month when the evening is free to the public from 5-11 p.m. through First Saturdays. Tours are available.
Day 1: Evening
6 p.m.: After a few hours at the Brooklyn Museum, you've probably worked up an appetite and are in search of some good grub. Walk down Eastern Parkway, past the large main branch of the Public Library and by the swank Richard Meier glass apartment building, toward the leafy brownstone-lined streets of Park Slope. Enjoy a nice walk through this historic section of Brooklyn with its charming blocks.
This residential part of Brooklyn houses two main streets. Seventh Avenue has many chain shops and a few restaurants. For good eats, it's best to head straight to Fifth Avenue, where you can find many fantastic dining options, from vegan eats to al di la Trattoria and Stone Park Cafe, which are two of Brooklyn's most beloved restaurants. Or you can head to Flatbush Avenue, where you can choose from restaurants near the Barclays Center.
After dinner, you can check out what's playing at the Barclays Center, a large arena in downtown Brooklyn, or you can stop in one of the many bars along Fifth Avenue, which vary from hipster haunt to sports bar. Another option is heading to the venues The Bell House or Littlefield in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn. Both of these venues have music, comedy, DJs, and other performances, as well as dancing and drinks. The Gowanus area is easily walkable from Park Slope and is home to hip bars and restaurants. Stop in at the Lavender Lake for a beer on the patio or if you're looking for a more wholesome night, order an ice cream cone (chocolate lovers must order "It Came From the Gowanus") at Ample Hills Creamery's rooftop terrace. If you're still up for more nightlife, walk down to Smith Street. This street runs from Carroll Gardens to Cobble Hill and is packed with restaurants and bars.
Day 2: Morning
9 a.m.: Start your morning with a walk across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, which stretches for more than a mile and offers some of the most stunning views of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Be mindful of the cyclists as you stop to take pictures of the skyline. Allow at least an hour to do a roundtrip walk. This will leave you time to read the plaques that are stationed throughout the bridge and tell you the history of this historic and significant bridge.
9 a.m. - 12 noon: Once back in Brooklyn, it's time to stroll through Dumbo, which is right next to the Brooklyn Bridge exit. Walk down Front Street and into the heart of this waterfront neighborhood whose name stands for "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass". It was once an industrial neighborhood but has since become home to galleries, shops, restaurants, and high-end condos. There is much to see on the cobblestone streets of Dumbo, including the scenic Brooklyn Bridge Park. At the entrance to the park is Jane's Carousel, a beautifully restored 1922 historic carousel. The scenic waterfront park stretches all the way to Brooklyn Heights and has a pop-up pool, a roller skating rink, soccer fields, and grills for a BBQ. You can easily spend a day relaxing in the park, but we suggest walking toward the historic Fulton Ferry landing and hopping aboard the NYC Ferry.
Day 2: Afternoon
12 noon - 3 p.m.: Purchase tickets for the NYC Ferry at the Fulton Ferry Landing and take the boat to North 6th Street in Williamsburg, which will drop you at the East River State Park. If it's a Saturday, you're in luck! Head to the famous weekly weekend food market, Smorgasburg. On Sundays, Smorgasburg is held in Prospect Park. At the Smorgasburg in East River Park, you can purchase a variety of sweet and savory food as you indulge in a gluttonous lunch.
You should also find time to squeeze The Brooklyn Flea into your itinerary. If you're in Dumbo on Sunday, the Brooklyn Flea is housed underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. The vendors sell handcrafted and vintage items. In the winter months, both the Brooklyn Flea and the Smorgasburg are housed in indoor locations, previous spots include Industry City and Williamsburg Savings Bank Clocktower building.
If you happen to be traveling to Williamsburg when Smorgasburg isn't in session, you should grab an ice cream cone at the Fulton Ferry Landing. The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, housed in a former fireboat house serves some of the best homemade ice cream in Brooklyn. Once you've devoured your scoop, hop aboard the ferry and head to Williamsburg.
You can either have your lunch at the Smorgasburg or head to Cafe Mogador, which is a short walk from the ferry stop for an incredibly tasty Moroccan brunch or lunch.
3 p.m. - 5 p.m.: Digest your food as you shop in Williamsburg. Be sure to stop in Rough Trade NYC. The Brooklyn outpost of this London based record store has an intimate concert venue at the back of the shop. The atmosphere of the spacious store filled with books and vinyl is similar to many places like Tower Records and HMV, which have unfortunately disappeared from the current cultural landscape. After you peruse the shop, walk down to Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg's noted shopping street with shops like Catbird, Spoonbill & Sugartown Booksellers, and many others. If you aren't much of a shopper, hop on the subway or head east and walk toward Bushwick to check out the street art.
Day 2: Evening
7 p.m.: If you spent the day shopping in Williamsburg or you chose an afternoon of looking at street art in Bushwick, you might want to have dinner at Roberta's, a popular Bushwick pizzeria. Sit in the garden and dine on a "Nun on the Run" pizza (mozzarella, A lp Blossom, brussels sprouts, caramelized onions, capers, lemon, and chili). Bushwick is filled with great spots for nightlife, but if you want to spend your last night in Williamsburg, you should book a table at Reynard in the Wythe Hotel, and then have a drink at the Ides Rooftop bar at the hotel or walk across the street to The William Vale, where you can have a cocktail at Westlight, a rooftop bar on the 22nd floor, as you toast the evening while soaking in the incredible views.