10 Best Things To Do In Brooklyn, New York

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With over 2.5 million residents, Brooklyn is the most populous borough of New York and also the biggest one in size. While Manhattan keeps the crown of the most visited borough, Brooklyn is right behind it, and you wouldn’t believe all the things to do in Brooklyn.

I might be biased because I live here, but I actually chose to move from Manhattan to Brooklyn. And I did it because I really appreciated this place. It is different from Manhattan, but still has it all – busy streets and high buildings, shopping, amazing restaurants, open parks, museums, street arts, clubbing, and more. Some people might admit that the Brooklyn scene is better than Manhattan’s.

One thing is for sure, traveling and exploring Brooklyn will reveal another layer of the magic of New York. Brooklyn offers unique experiences and places, and crossing the East River to Brooklyn on one of the three bridges that connect with Manhattan is a must-do when you visit New York City.

Wonder what to do in Brooklyn? Here are the 10 best things to do in Brooklyn, New York:

Walk on the Brooklyn Bridge

1.3 mile-long, the Brooklyn Bridge was the world’s largest suspension bridge when it opened in 1883. Today it’s one of the most iconic structures of New York City, and one of three bridges that connect Brooklyn and Manhattan (the other two are Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge).

Walking side to side above the East River takes about 40 minutes. In my opinion, it is better to start on the Brooklyn side and walk towards Manhattan. This way you not only get to enjoy the experience of this landmark but also to view the amazing skyline of downtown manhattan in front of you.

How to get here?

To start on the Brooklyn side:
A (blue) line to High Street-Brooklyn Bridge stop.

To start on the Manhattan side:
4,5,6 (green) lines to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall
J, Z (brown) lines to Chambers st.
R, W (yellow) lines to City Hall

The Brooklyn Bridge - things to do in brooklyn ny. a must see brooklyn site. things to do in nyc
The Brooklyn Bridge

Explore Williamsburg

Williamsburg is the biggest neighborhood of Brooklyn, located across from the East Village on the other side of the East River. In the 1990s it has undergone a massive process of gentrification, which attracted many artists and hipsters, who gave it its unique vibe, style, and nightlife.

The main area to explore here is around Bedford Ave. from McCarren Park in the north to Grand St. in the south. The streets are full of restaurants and bars – from American style to Japanese, Mexican, Polish, and more. There are also interesting shopping opportunities from thrift shops and people selling second-hand items on the streets, to designers boutiques and hipster brands.

Tips:

Tip 1: If you walk on Grand St. towards the water, you arrive at the recently opened Domino Park. It’s a nice boardwalk around the old Domino sugar refinery, with a terrific view of Williamsburg Bridge.

Tip 2: Every weekend between April and November, the Smorgasburg food market in Williamsburg takes place right on the waterfront of East River. This is one of the fun things to do in Williamsburg. It’s the place to have great food (many vegan options) while watching the city skyline and the Empire State Building. From the dock near the market, you can take the MTA ferry to Manhattan or a few other destinations in the city. It’s a great experience at the cost of a subway ride.

How to get here?

L (gray) line to Bedford Avenue.
J, Z (brown), M (Orange) lines to Marcy Av station, and a short walk.

Williamsburg Bridge from Domino Park - fun things to do brooklyn.
hipster things to do in brooklyn
Williamsburg Bridge from Domino Park

Shop at Fulton street

Shopping is an integral part of the New York City Experience. While many visitors who want to shop on a budget, travel to the outlets in New Jersey, Fulton Street in Brooklyn can offer a similar experience. Located in Downtown Brooklyn, Fulton Street is the place to find factory stores of all the biggest retailers and other stores with discounts. There are many options for quick dining in the area as well, so you can easily spend a few hours here.

Comparing to the outlets in NJ, arriving here is easy and requires just a subway ride. It is 10-15 minutes walk from the Brooklyn Bridge and close to the New York Transit Museum (read below).

How to get here?

A, C (blue), F (Orange), N, R, W (yellow) lines to Jay St. – Metro Tech
2, 3 (red) lines to Hoyt St
G (light green) line to Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sta
4, 5 (green) lines to Nevins St

Chill Out at Prospect Park

Prospect Park of Brooklyn is the smaller and less busy brother of Central Park in Manhattan. Designed by the same people who designed Central Park, Prospect Park has everything that a city park needs.

The Park is located between the residential neighborhoods of Park Slope, Prospect Heights, and Prospect Lefferts Gardens. The residents come here to picnic or just lie on the grass, athletes come to cycle, skate, or jog on the marked trails. There are baseball fields, playgrounds, and open meadows. The old Boathouse, which is one of the landmarks of Brooklyn, is standing on the edge of Prospect Park Lake.

Plan to spend a half-day of walking between the trees, gardens, and statues in the park. If you are here on a Sunday, don’t miss the Smorgasburg Food Market here (the same one as in Williamsburg on Saturdays).

How to get here?

2, 3 (red), 4 (green) lines to Grand Army Plaza Station
F (orange), G (light green) lines to 15 St – Prospect Park Station
B (orange), Q (yellow) lines to Prospect Park

The Boathouse in Prospect Park. what to see in brooklyn. brooklyn what to do
The Boathouse in Prospect Park

Visit The Brooklyn Museum

On the north side of Prospect Park, stands the impressive building of the Brooklyn Museum. It was built in 1895 and planned to be the largest art museum in the world, but throughout the years it struggled with maintaining its collection.

Nowadays, the museum is the third biggest in size in New York City and holds roughly 1.5 million artworks. It has a collection of ancient artifacts from around the world, with a strong representation of American art.

Like in many other big museums, the temporary exhibits might be the highlight of your visit, so check more information on the museum website.

If you want to know more about the museums of New York, check out The 10 Best Museums In New York City

How to get here?

Address: 200 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY 11238
2, 3 (red), 4 (green) lines to Eastern Parkway Brooklyn Museum Station

The brooklyn Museum - brooklyn points of interest. place to go in brooklyn
The Brooklyn Museum

Stroll in Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Right behind the Brooklyn Museum is the beautiful Botanic Garden of Brooklyn. Founded in 1910, the 52-acre garden is the place to see the beauty of nature with more than 18,000 kinds of plants. It is open year-round and with unique sights for every season.

The two highlights of the Botanic Gardens are the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden and the Cherry Blossom. The Japanese Garden is one of the first in America, and like other Japanese Gardens, it is known for its high level of aesthetics and preciseness. The Cherry Blossom takes place every spring and walking between the two lines of Cherry trees, and seeing their pink glory, is a magical experience.

How to get here?

Address: 990 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225
2, 3 (red) lines to Eastern Parkway Brooklyn Museum Station
4,5 (green) lines to Franklin Avenue Station
B (orange), Q (yellow) lines to Prospect Park Station

The Botanic gardens is one of the beautiful things to see in brooklyn. a great place to visit in brooklyn
The Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Visit New York Transit Museum

One of the most known symbols in New York City is the massive subway system and the subway lines that serve millions of people every day. If riding a subway is not enough for you, you can get more of the history of the subway system in the New York Transit Museum.

The museum is located in an old decommissioned station in Downtown Brooklyn. Court Street station was closed in 1946, but since then was used for other reasons, including several film shootings. In 1976 the first exhibit was opened and due to high popularity, it became a permanent one.

Today you can see pictures from the history of the subway, enter preserved railcars and see artifacts used in old times. A visit to the museum is a jump back in time, that focuses on something that might be taken for granted, but has so much impact on the life of NYC’s residents.

How to get here?

Address: 99 Schermerhorn St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
2, 3 (red) lines to Hoyt St.
4, 5 (green) lines to Borough Hall
N, R, W (yellow) lines to Jay St – MetroTech
A, C (blue), G (light green) to Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sta

Tip: If you want to grab something to eat after or before your visit to the museum, check out Dekalb Market Hall. It’s less than 10 minutes walk, and you can choose from a large variety of vendors.

Enjoy Bushwick Street Art

New York City was one of the pioneers of the graffiti movements back in the 1970s. What started then as a need of teenagers from low socio-economic neighborhoods to stand out, turned into an act of protest against the establishment, and later developed into a real art movement all over the world.

Bushwick, Brooklyn was an industrial neighborhood and turned into one of the most dangerous parts of New York in the second half of the last century. Only in the early 2000s, the neighborhood started a gentrification process, attracting new populations of artists and workshops, and galleries started to open up in the abandoned warehouses. The street art, led by the Bushwick Collective, started appearing on the walls to beautify the neighborhood. It then attracted more artists from all around the world who come to present their work here.

From tagging to full-size murals, the views keep changing and every visit to this place will show you new works of art.

Tip: I first joined a tour with a guide that happened to be one of the first taggers in the 70s. It was very interesting to hear the stories from a person who was part of how it all started. However, you can always skip the tour, just wander in the streets and enjoy it for free.

How to get here?

L (gray) line to Jefferson Street.
The whole area between Jefferson Street and Morgan street is worth exploring.

Street Art in Bushwick - one of my favorite brooklyn activities. brooklyn things to do
Street Art in Bushwick

Walk on The Streets of Dumbo

Dumbo is a small and quiet neighborhood on the waterfront of Brooklyn. It is a famous picture spot of the Manhattan bridge and the Empire State Building is seen through it in the distance. It has an open park right on the water, where local New Yorkers come to picnic and enjoy the sun, with kids running around or riding the famous carousel. A further walk south along the water will take you to the Brooklyn Bridge Park, with more trails and green outdoor lawns, and beautiful views of downtown Manhattan.

If you make it to Dumbo in the summertime, you will also find the Brooklyn flea market on Saturdays right under Manhatten Bridge.

In 2019 Timeout Market opened in Dumbo, offering a variety of food stands and a cool rooftop bar with amazing views of Manhattan’s downtown and the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a great place for lunch or just a late afternoon drink with a view of the New York Harbor.

How to get here?

F (orange) line to York Street
A, C (blue) lines to High Street – Brooklyn Bridge

Manhattan Bridge from Dumbo. It is a Brooklyn must see and one of the Instagram places in Brooklyn
Manhattan Bridge from Dumbo

Take a Ride in Coney Island

What used to be one of the country’s most known seaside resorts at the beginning of the last century, is now offering a going-back-in-time experience. It is old-fashioned and you might see some weird characters walking around, but this is the magic of this place.

The main attraction here is the amusement park. It offers activities for all ages with some great rides, including the famous Cyclone and the grand wheel. Some rides are for kids, and some for all ages – each person can find something to be excited about.

The beach of Coney Island is wide and gets pretty packed in the summer. Other attractions and events here are the New York Aquarium for the sea life fans; The hotdog eating contest event at Nathan’s on the 4th of July every year (there’s a huge countdown timer until the next event); and the annual colorful Mermaid parade.

No doubt that visiting Coney Island is one of the most fun things to do in Brooklyn.

How to get here?

D, F (orange), N, Q (yellow) to Coney Island – Stillwell Av

Coney Island beach and Luna Park. things to do brooklyn ny. what to do brooklyn? places to visit in brooklyn
Coney Island beach and Luna Park

General Tips

If you are in Brooklyn around the end of the year, make your way to see the Dyker Heights Christmas houses. The houses of Dyker Heights are decorated massively with beautiful presentations of Christmas figures and lights. The ride there is long, including around 20 minutes walk from the nearest subway stations, but it’s absolutely worth it!

The Clubbing scene of Brooklyn is one of its kind, with mega-size parties, special themes, and world-famous DJs. Two to mention are the House of Yes and The Brooklyn Mirage at Avant Gardener. Check their websites for more info, but prepare yourself for a long and crazy night!

Brooklyn is very vegan friendly (probably more than Manhattan) and some of my most favorite vegan restaurants in the city are in Brooklyn. From all American diners to delicious Ice cream – check out more in my Top 10 vegan restaurants in New York City.

If you are keen to know more and learn about the history of Brooklyn, visit the Brooklyn Historical Society. This museum in Brooklyn Heights presents the 400 years of history of Brooklyn.

Final Thoughts

Brooklyn is huge and has so many things to do. Some visitors to New York tend to forget it, or easily give up on it just because it’s on the other side of the river. However, now you know that you can easily spend more than a few days in Brooklyn, moving between the different neighborhoods, and enjoying all it has to offer.

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Want to find a cheap flight to Brooklyn (NY)? Check out Kayak
Looking for hotels in Brooklyn? Check out Hotels.com
Searching for activities in Brooklyn? Check out Get your Guide

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Photo credit: Botanical Garden –  Chromium Photography (under CC BY 2.0)

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