Hugely popular as a tourist destination, both for guests of locals and visitors to the Big Apple, Brooklyn, with a population of about two and a half million people, is big enough to be a city unto itself. What are the highlights to see, or to show visitors? Here's a guide to the basics.
Edited by Alison Lowenstein
Welcome to Brooklyn
In the past few decades, Brooklyn has undergone a serious transformation and is now home to indie shops and galleries. You can spend days exploring Brooklyn, but if you only have 48 hours, check out this itinerary. Here are fifteen highlights to help you plan your trip.
The most talked about bridge in the United States, and certainly New York's most popular bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge connects Manhattan's City Hall area with Brooklyn near the neighborhood known as DUMBO. Beautiful, often photographed, and offering an expansive view of the Manhattan skyline, NY Harbor and the Statue of Liberty, as well as other bridges, it's an icon of New York City.
It's rare that a city gets a whole new park, and Brooklyn Bridge Park won't disappoint. It doubles as a beautiful site, a cultural venue, a sporting venue, and an environmental education center. And, of course, it's within a hop, skip, and a jump from the Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO. Check out the Visitors Guide to Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Biking in Brooklyn
Find out about biking in Brooklyn. With miles of shorefront, famous bridges and parks, biking in and to Brooklyn is a fun thing to do. And, with increasing numbers of bike lanes, it's safe, too.
Coney Island, with its beach and boardwalk, roller coasters and amusement park rides, rich history, funky June Mermaid Parade, and cocky attitude, is quintessential Brooklyn. If you've been to Disney or Las Vegas, Coney is not that; it's the original, still raw, still curious, and still fun.
Visitors who want to walk the Brooklyn Bridge often have a wonderful time exploring the fabulous views of Manhattan, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, and the Statue of Liberty and NY Harbor from the neighborhood called DUMBO.
Williamsburg is the epicenter of hip culture in Brooklyn. A sprawling neighborhood that's easily accessible by the L train from 14th Street in Manhattan, Williamsburg is served by several different subway stations and is convenient to reach.
Known for indie music, late night restaurants, interesting, quirky and highly specialized bars, creativity and a youth culture, Williamsburg is simply not a place to miss. Long-standing Brooklynites will be amazed to discover how this once-dreary area has been rejuvenated, and visitors will have fun exploring the food, boutiques, and vibe in Williamsburg.
Red Hook, another hip and popular Brooklyn neighborhood with spectacular waterfront views, is tucked away on the "wrong" side of a major highway, the Gowanus Expressway, but close to Carroll Gardens and Manhattan.
When people in New York City use the term, "stroller gridlock," it's often in reference to family-friendly Park Slope. This brownstone neighborhood near Prospect Park enjoys a lovely turn-of-the-century feel, thanks to the landmarking laws that have preserved much of its historic architecture. Visitors enjoy roaming the stores along Fifth and Seventh Avenues, eating in small, interesting restaurants, meeting locals in numerous bars. The neighborhood's proximity to Brooklyn's lovely Prospect Park, Botanic Gardens, and Brooklyn Museum add to its appeal.
The Brooklyn Museum and Other Museums
If you think all the great museums in NYC are in Manhattan, think again. Brooklyn's got its fair share of interesting museums, starting of course with the large, beautiful Brooklyn Museum. Known equally for its historic collections (for instance, Egyptian and American period rooms) as for its occasionally edgy shows, the Brooklyn Museum is a vibrant place that's well worth a visit. And, of course, their free Target Saturday programs, which draw thousands of visitors, are renowned.
Brooklyn's 3 Most Important Museums
Brooklyn's Specialized Museums: Quirky, Unusual & Worth a Visit
- City Reliquary (Williamsburg)
- Coney Island Museum
- Jewish Children's Museum (Crown Heights)
- Lefferts Homestead, a children's historical museum in Prospect Park
- MoCADA, Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (Fort Greene)
- NY Transit Museum (Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights)
- Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge (Red Hook)
"Something for everyone" would aptly describe this lovely swath of green that's located in the middle of densely packed Brooklyn. On an average day, one can see cyclists and runners, moms walking their babies in the park. There's also horseback riding, tennis, pedal boating in season, ice skating in season, and numerous free programs for children. After a good snowfall, the park is used for cross country skiing, and of course, building snow forts and snowmen, and sledding. And every morning whatever the weather, a community of dog owners meets for popular off-leash time.
Many seasonal events are scheduled in Prospect Park, from the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot run in November, to New Year's Eve fireworks, to summer fishing programs for children.
Brooklyn's Creative Scene: Art, Literary Readings and More
Brooklyn is home to many musicians, writers, artists, poets, bloggers, composers, performance artists, literary agents, bands, publishers and others involved in creating music, art, and literature. So it's little surprise that literary readings, musical performances, and art shows are common fare throughout certain neighborhoods in the borough.
Don't miss the Brooklyn Book Festival held every September.
To get a handle on what's current in the Brooklyn literary scene, visit one of the borough's independent bookstores, and watch for readings at cafes, bars, music venues, and the Dweck Center at the Brooklyn Public Library.
For current art by Brooklyn artists, check out the Bushwick art scene, BWAC art shows in Red Hook, galleries and the annual Arts Festival in DUMBO, and annual springtime self-guided studio walks in Clinton Hill near Pratt Institute.
For music? Well, there's live music, of all kinds, from indie bands to classic reggae, all over Brooklyn! See local listings.
If you're a Brooklyn resident hosting guests from out of town for graduation or a family event, or if you're working in Brooklyn or just want a break from the pressure of Manhattan's crowds (and prices), Brooklyn now has a surprisingly rich array of options.
Don't miss this historic site, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, easily accessible from Manhattan.
Of course, this just touches the surface! There are over two dozen interesting neighborhoods, not to mention many film and musical festivals, community events, and sporting venues.
Explore Brooklyn’s many shopping streets from Smith Street in Cobble Hill to Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is home to many shops and vintage markets. From the famed Brooklyn Flea to seasonal holiday markets, Brooklyn has much to offer shoppers.