Brooklyn Bridge
Guides and Itineraries,  USA

11 UNMISSABLE Things to Do in Brooklyn for First-Timers

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A trip to New York City isn’t complete until you’ve visited all the boroughs, aside from Manhattan – including Brooklyn! Brooklyn is a fantastic place with historic neighborhoods and great architecture, a vast array of restaurants and bars, and spots that offer amazing views of the Manhattan skyline. It’s also home to classic tourist attractions, such as Coney Island.

There is much to do in Brooklyn that a day isn’t enough. It’s best to spread out your visit over a few days to really get a feel of what this place has to offer. To help you plan your itinerary, here we’ve compiled a list of best things to do in Brooklyn, NY.

Woman in Brooklyn, NY

Travel Tips:

  • Plan your itinerary depending on how long you’ll be staying at in Brooklyn! If it’s just 1-2 days, the best way to go about it is to plan your schedule around where you’re staying at. There’s a good mix of budget and luxury hotels in Brooklyn (such as the Williamsburg Hotel) and it’s often cheaper than those in Manhattan.
  • For the best deals, compare rates for accommodations using sites such as cozycozy.
  • The best way to get around New York is by subway, bus, and walking. But if you want to explore more out-of-the-way places, it’s easy to find rental car services that are budget-friendly.

1. Visit Coney Island

Nathan's in Coney Island

Approximately 5 million people visit Coney Island each year to hit the beach and its boardwalk, take a bite of hotdog and fries at the famous Nathan’s, or pay for a ticket to the Luna Park – New York City’s only amusement park, with classic rides such as the Wonder Wheel, rollercoaster, and more.

Aside from these, another place to see here is the New York Aquarium, the oldest operating aquarium in the city, which features various exhibits and more than 300 marine species.

Coney Island is a great place to visit especially during summer. Make sure to get here early to get the nice shade spots and expect crowds, particularly on holidays such as the 4th of July where you can witness a grand fireworks display.

2. Walk on the Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Take a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge for a view of the skyline in Manhattan. Proceed to one of the spots that offer the best views: Brooklyn Bridge Park, Dumbo, or the Promenade which is located in Brooklyn Heights.

3. Enjoy the view at Dumbo

By Adventure of Chels

DUMBO in Brooklyn
DUMBO in Brooklyn.

For a fun thing to do in Brooklyn, head over to DUMBO. DUMBO is an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.  The best and most iconic view of the Manhattan Bridge can be found at the intersection of Washington and Water St.  Head to “Park view of Brooklyn Bridge,” which is a great place to view the Brooklyn Bridge.

While strolling through DUMBO be sure to check out the iconic Jane’s Carousel which was built in 1922 and has been restored.  Walk to Brooklyn Bridge Park and enjoy the gorgeous views of the New York skyline along the way.

4. Take a nature trip at Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a 52-acre estate with 15 gardens and a conservatory, featuring over 14,000 taxa of plants.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden can be visited all year round, though each season also has its special highlights. In spring, you can explore the Cherry Esplanade where you can see cherry blossoms from more than 40 Asian species. It’s a great opportunity especially for those who’d like to see these pink blooms outside of Japan, Korea, or Taiwan. Another exhibit during this season is the Japanese Hill and Pond Garden, which offers a zen experience to guests.

If you visit in the summer, you can catch the floral blooms at the Crawford Rose Garden. In winter, the Desert Pavilion offers a glimpse of plant life on warmer climates.

Aside from the seasonal exhibits, the garden also holds annual events such as the Sakura Matsuri in April and Chili Peper Festival in September.

5. Visit Brooklyn Museum

Display at Brooklyn Museum
(Photo by Brooklyn Museum)

If you’re a fan of the culture and arts, then you should definitely see the Brooklyn Museum. It’s often said to rival that of Met’s in Manhattan. This art establishment spans 560,000 square foot – the third largest museum in New York City – and is most known for its huge collection of Egyptian and African art, as well as 17th to 20th century paintings, sculptures, and other artifacts.

The Brooklyn Museum can be visited anytime of the year. It’s also a good activity to include in your itinerary on a rainy day.

6. Spend a lazy day at Prospect Park

Prospect Park in Brooklyn

Situated close to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Brooklyn Museum, Prospect Park is a 585-acre green space where you can relax, hang out and read a book, or have a picnic. You can also visit the park’s main attractions.

The Prospect Park Zoo is operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society and is home to about 200 species of animals, both indoors and outdoors. The Prospect Park Lake is good place to rent a boat or kayak, especially during summers. There is also a number of historical buildings and sites you can visit, including the Prospect House BoatHouse, Lefferts Historic House, Lichfield Villa, The Well House, and the Grand Army Plaza.

In summer, the park also hosts free music festivals at the Prospect Park Bandshell.

7. Eat at Smorgasburg

By My Vintage Map

Spend an afternoon eating your way through Smorgasburg, a large, open-air market located at Marsha P. Johnson State Park in Williamsburg at 90 Kent Ave. Here you’ll find dozens of food vendors selling a variety of delicious cuisine. Choose from tacos, mango sticky rice, bao, fried chicken, ice cream, doughnuts, and so much more.

Smorgasburg is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Saturday from April through October. After satisfying your palate, take a walk along the seven-acre waterfront park for stunning views of the New York skyline and the Williamsburg Bridge.

8. Shop at Williamsburg

Shopping - one of the best activities in Williamsburg Brooklyn

By A World In Reach

Williamsburg is one of Brooklyn’s trendiest neighborhoods and is a great place to spend a day shopping.

Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg’s main thoroughfare, is one of the best shopping streets in all of NYC. The area is dotted with funky vintage shops, indie boutiques, record stores, local coffee shops, and great restaurants.

Spending a day shopping is one of the best activities in Williamsburg Brooklyn and is a must for your NYC itinerary. Start your day off with brunch (Sunday in Brooklyn is a popular spot) before beginning your shopping day. Stroll Bedford Avenue and its surrounding streets, searching for vintage treasures or finding the perfect outfit for a night out in the city.

9. Bushwick Collective

By Travel New York Now

Bushwick Collective - one of the best things to do in Brooklyn

If you’re looking for one of the best things to do in Brooklyn then you need to visit the Bushwick Collective. 

After all, this incredible outdoor art gallery is filled with hundreds of stunning street art murals that have been created by some of the best and most famous street artists in the entire world.  In fact, this amazing collection extends all the way from Jefferson Street to Troutman Street and toward Saint Nicholas Avenue and is easily one of the biggest collections of street art in the entire city. 

Plus, this place is free to visit and has been open to the public 365 days a year since it was originally started by Joe Ficalora in 2011.

So, feel free to stop by on a busy day and enjoy some amazing artwork. Then afterward, grab a slice of delicious artichoke pizza from nearby Artichoke Basille’s before checking out some of the best bars in Brooklyn.

10. Bouldering at Vital

By Eternal Arrival

Bouldering at Vital Brooklyn

Who needs to go to a pricy observation deck in NYC when you can get the one of the best views in Brooklyn — while bouldering on a rooftop, no less?

Few people know that one of the most fun ways to get a view of the Manhattan skyline is by buying a day pass to VITAL, a climbing gym in Williamsburg. They have lots of great bouldering walls where you can try your hand at bouldering (rock climbing without ropes)… but the coolest feature is their rooftop bouldering section!

They have a small rooftop bar where you can grab something to drink and a few places to sit, and you can either watch people climb bouldering routes or join in on the fun yourself.

Grab a pair of rental shoes and give it a go the next time you’re in Brooklyn!

11. Taste authentic key lime pie

By Make More Adventures

Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pie
(Photo by Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie)

Brooklyn has plenty of options for delicious treats, but if you are looking for something unique, head to the waterfront in Red Hook to try Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies.

The menu at Steve’s is pretty simple with key lime pie, both whole and individual-sized, as well as chocolate-covered key lime pie. Coffee and a few other treats are available. While you can’t sit down inside the bakery, it is located right next to a park with a view of the Statue of Liberty.

If you are looking to go off the beaten path in Brooklyn, explore Red Hook and stop for a treat at Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies.

With this list, we are just scratching the surface! There are tons more things to do and places to see in Brooklyn.

Did we miss anything? What are your recommended things to do in Brooklyn, NY?

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