Brooklyn offers so many things to see and do, so if you're feeling overwhelmed by the multitude of options, we've highlighted 20 activities and spots you must visit when you're in town. From a walk across an iconic bridge to an afternoon in a botanic garden, there are many ways to spend the day in the borough. Be sure to include some of these on your Brooklyn itinerary.
Watch Now: Essential Things to Do in Brooklyn
One of the best parts about visiting Brooklyn is enjoying the views of Manhattan across the East River. All along the waterfront from DUMBO to Williamsburg, you can find plenty of rooftop bars, where you'll find amazing views of the skyline. 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge and the William Vale are two particularly popular spots, but you can also enjoy the view from one of the waterfront parks or take the East River Ferry across for some more dynamic skyline-watching.
If your trip to Brooklyn is inspiring you to embrace your inner-hipster, it doesn't get more ironic or fun than a trip to the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club in Gowanus. This 17,000 square-foot Florida-themed bar has 10 full-sized shuffleboard courts and an on-site food truck. The sport has even become so popular in Brooklyn, the club runs its own league and competitions. It is a bar, so the venue is not family-friendly and does have a strict 21+ only rule. Also, courts fill up fast so make sure you make a reservation ahead of time.
If you want to get around like a true Brooklynite, renting a Citi Bike, or going through a traditional bike shop, is a great way to see the borough. You can design your route based on what you personally want to see, like biking across the Brooklyn Bridge or opt for a more organized bike tour. There are lots of tour operators like Brooklyn Bike Tours that have tours themed around graffiti or beer or can even guide you all the way to Coney Island. If you're not sure if you're ready to bike alone in New York, a bike tour is a great way to ease into it.
If you're looking for a semi-scandalous experience to summarize the heart of Brooklyn's club scene, the House of Yes is it. In Bushwick, right next to the Jefferson Street stop, this night club is known for its grand burlesque and circus-themed productions and patrons that put everything and more into their outfits. All guests are encouraged, but not required, to wear costumes, which is a great reason to hit the thrift shops like nearby L Train Vintage earlier in the day. All of the dance parties are typically 21+, but you can check the online calendar for any upcoming "all ages" shows. You can either buy tickets at the door or online.
DUMBO, a once-industrial neighborhood turned trendy artsy hot spot, has spectacular views of Manhattan and New York's beautiful bridges, including the Brooklyn Bridge. It's the first neighborhood in Brooklyn you'll find after walking the Brooklyn Bridge. It's a combination of old warehouses, interesting shops and restaurants, and pricey high-rise apartments. You can find art galleries and occasionally big neighborhood art shows here. And DUMBO is home to the famous pizzeria Grimaldi's, as well as Jacques Torres chocolate shop, St. Ann's Warehouse (which hosts edgy theatrical performances), and numerous other artsy venues.
One way or the other, the Brooklyn Bridge is a must-see when traveling to Brooklyn. It's not just an enjoyable experience for tourists, many born-and-bred New Yorkers find themselves still charmed by the bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge connects two great New York City boroughs, Manhattan and Brooklyn, and you can walk it, drive it, bike it, or just admire it from afar from multiple vantage points around the city.
There's even a dedicated pedestrian walkway on the Brooklyn Bridge, above the roaring car traffic, so it's a wonderful stroll. If you're really rushing, it should only take you about half an hour to walk across the bridge, but most people should account for a whole hour, especially if you think you'll need a lot of time to take photos.
The Brooklyn Bridge connects two great New York City boroughs, Manhattan and Brooklyn, and you can walk it, drive it, bike it, or just admire it from afar from multiple vantage points around the city.
One way or the other, the Brooklyn Bridge is a must-see when traveling to Brooklyn. In fact, it's not just an enjoyable experience for tourists, many born-and-bred New Yorkers find themselves still charmed by the bridge.
There's even a dedicated pedestrian walkway on the Brooklyn Bridge, above the roaring car traffic, so it's a wonderful stroll. If you're allotting a specific amount of time for the walk, here's a breakdown of how long it takes to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
This unique museum housed in a decommissioned subway station in downtown Brooklyn has a collection of vintage subway cars. You'll feel as if you stepped into a time machine as you peruse the cars dating back to 1907. The museum tells the stories and history of mass transportation in New York City through its exhibits and collection of memorabilia.
If you have kids in tow, be sure to attend one of the many public programs for children. They also host tours, art shows, and other events at the museum. Don't forget to allot time for visiting the gift shop, which has some of the best NYC transit-themed souvenirs.
Get artsy at the Brooklyn Museum. Before you enter the museum, you must pause in front to stare at the mesmerizing fountain that shoots water up from the pavement. 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 David Bowie, Basquiat, Georgia O'Keefe, and many others. On the first Saturday of the month, also known as Target First Saturdays, the museum is free to the public from five to 11 p.m.
Williamsburg has changed a lot in the last twenty years. In the early '90s, it was a place for artists who were priced out of Manhattan, and it soon transformed into the epicenter of Brooklyn's hipster culture. However, the edgy hood is in a constant battle with mainstream culture. There was a lot of buzz when Williamsburg got its first Starbucks, and now it's home to Brooklyn's first Apple Store and a Whole Foods, which boasts an incredible food hall. Despite the influx of chains, Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg's main shopping street, is still filled with many local shops and restaurants and the area works hard to maintain its indie feel.
See a Movie
Nitehawk Cinema, Williamsburg's dine-in theater, with a second location in Park Slope near Prospect Park, features a wide range of cinematic treats, from rarely seen 35-millimeter films to new independent features. If you want to check out other movie theaters where you can eat and drink, get a ticket for a show at Syndicated in neighboring Bushwick. This movie theater and restaurant has both first run and retro movies and often features themed weeks and trivia nights. Downtown Brooklyn is also home to an outpost of the Alamo Drafthouse, another movie theatre where you can order food while you enjoy the show.
Coney Island is just a train ride away from Manhattan, but it feels worlds apart. Busiest during the summer months, Coney Island feels equal parts beach escape and kitschy carnival. In the summer, you can spend a day on the sand soaking in the rays on the beach, which is free to the public, or enjoy a stroll the iconic boardwalk. Home to an aquarium, an amphitheater, a minor league baseball team, and tons of great eats, this scenic stretch of Brooklyn should be on every Brooklyn travel itinerary.
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is not to be missed. Depending on the season, you can walk through beauty in the Cherry Esplanade, Cranford Rose Garden, Fragrance Garden, Magnolia Plaza, Shakespeare Garden, or Herb Garden, among many others. It's a great place to take some brag-worthy photos, too. The idyllic 52 acres of the blooming Brooklyn Botanic Garden is not to be missed. Depending on the season, you can walk through beauty in the Cherry Esplanade, Cranford Rose Garden, Fragrance Garden, Magnolia Plaza, Shakespeare Garden, or Herb Garden, among many others. It's a great place to take some photographs or to simply enjoy the quieter side of Brooklyn.
Visit the Animals at the Prospect Park Zoo
The Prospect Park Zoo is open year-round and includes a petting zoo and several exhibit areas. If you're traveling with your family, this zoo is the perfect size for little children and has wonderful exhibits for the little ones, both indoors and outdoors. Check out the quirky gophers and wonderful rabbits, as well as farm animals.
This theater has quite a history, originally built in 1904 as The Majestic Theater, it was transformed into a movie house in the early 1940s, which shuttered in the 60s. After almost two decades of being closed, the theater was restored and reopened in 1987 and now is the BAM Harvey Theater. BAM Harvey Theater is a Brooklyn institution and is a must-visit. It now plays host to productions throughout the year including visits from the Royal Shakespeare Company and classics by famous playwrights like Henrik Ibsen and Oscar Wilde.
If you don't have evening plans, head to the Bell House located in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn. Check out their calendar for a list of shows and events. The Bell House is a great place to see concerts and comedy. It's also where live game shows from NPR and WNYC, Ask Me Another, is recorded. You can get tickets to watch the show and if you're interested in being a contestant, you can apply through the official website.
You can spend the day in the world's best museums in Manhattan, but you should know that the warehouse walls of Bushwick are filled with some of the best art in NYC. You can start your street art tour at the Bushwick Collective on Troutman Street at Saint Nicholas Avenue, where the colorful murals are painted on the walls of the neighboring blocks. Although this is the stretch of Bushwick known for street art, there are also other notable murals in the Bushwick/East Williamsburg border near the Morgan Avenue L stop. You can stop in at Friends NYC on Bogart Street for some vintage threads as well as a great collection of new clothes and jewelry or, if you're in need of a pick-me-up, try the super-strong Ethiopian coffee at Bunna Cafe.
Greenpoint is so cool that there's a laundromat that doubles as a bar and an old Polish banquet hall was transformed into a bazaar where you can play ping pong, listen to your favorite bands, and enjoy some karaoke. Greenpoint, still a vibrant Polish community, is also home to numerous hipsters. From a lazy afternoon at the scenic Greenpoint Waterfront to window shopping on Manhattan Avenue and grabbing a retro breakfast at Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop, a visit to Greenpoint should be on your list of places to see on your next trip to Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Bridge Park, nestled on the shore of the East River across from lower Manhattan has spectacular views, with a huge vista of New York Harbor, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, lower Manhattan, boat traffic on the East River, and of course, views of the Statue of Liberty. And there's more: Brooklyn Bridge Park is a cultural and sports venue, with a lively calendar of concerts, summer outdoor movies, outdoor exercise classes, chess instruction, kayaking, and more.
Music fans will enjoy watching a concert on a charming old barge that's been renovated into New York City's only floating concert hall, called BargeMusic. Bargemusic has a calendar of chamber music. It was founded in 1977 by a violinist who created a concert hall on a 100-foot steel barge from 1899 that used to be a working vessel. Enjoy hearing music at this unique venue. For those traveling with kids, Bargemusic has a free concert series for families, which typically takes place on weekends and offers a great introduction to classical music for kids.