Did you know that if Brooklyn was its own city, it would be the fourth largest in the United States? The incredible size of this New York City borough is just astonishing, and the number of things to see and do is equally vast. You could easily spend a week here — maybe even a month — and not think about Manhattan once. In particular, Brooklyn’s green spaces, arts venues, and historical experiences are second to none.
Here’s what to put on your travel list for your next Brooklyn adventure.
1. The Brooklyn Museum
Who says you have to go to Manhattan for all the great museums? The Brooklyn Museum is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States, sharing everything from European masters to cutting-edge exhibitions. During the first Saturday of the month, the museum is open until 11:00 p.m., perfect for night owls and folks with jet lag. Visitors this summer will want to take in the acclaimed exhibit It’s Pablo-matic: Picasso According to Hannah Gadsby.
2. Prospect Park
It’s tempting to say that Prospect Park is Brooklyn’s answer to Central Park, but this gorgeous greenscape needs no comparisons. It’s home to a green market, a carousel, nature programs, 250 species of birds, catch-and-release fishing, and the Smorgasburg food festival, which runs every Sunday from early April to late October. But perhaps the best way to enjoy the park is to assemble some picnic fare and watch the world stroll by.
3. Kings Theatre
Dating back to 1929, the Kings Theatre is much more than a performance space. As they like to say, “It’s a community gathering place where people from all walks of life can come together to enjoy the art of live performance.” The lineup might include symphony performances, acclaimed rock artists, ballet, or a comedy show at any given moment. The gorgeous building is a bit of a star in and of itself, and tours are periodically offered.
4. The Brooklyn Heights Promenade Garden
Strolling along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade Garden is a lovely way to kill time, but here’s a little secret: You can become an honorary local here on Tuesday mornings. From April to December, neighborhood volunteers come together on Tuesday mornings to do garden maintenance. In fact, they’re one of the largest volunteer garden groups in the city. Everyone is welcome to help, you don’t have to be an experienced gardener, and you will walk away with new friends and great tips on where to eat and what to see in the city.
5. DUMBO Neighborhood
Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, or DUMBO, is one of Brooklyn’s hippest neighborhoods. It boasts impressive views of the Manhattan skyline. Stroll on cobblestone streets and pop into world-class art galleries, trendy boutiques, and funky little shops. For a hit of nostalgia, take a moment to visit Jane’s Carousel, a gorgeously restored vintage carousel.
6. Brooklyn Flea
If you can visit DUMBO on a Saturday or Sunday, do so. That’s when the renowned Brooklyn Flea takes place, from April to December. This flea market is jam-packed with vendors, artists, and the best people-watching in the city. It’s consistently ranked as one of America’s best outdoor markets and Time Out NY once named it one of New York’s “Essential Pick-Up Spots” (so you might just walk away with a date and a vintage jacket). Well-behaved pets are welcome and there’s no admission fee.
7. Brooklyn Winery
Williamsburg is famous for its craft breweries, but this hip neighborhood’s wine scene is incredible. At Brooklyn Winery, winemaker Conor McCormack sources grapes from boutique vineyards across the United States. Visitors can enjoy a guided tour and tasting of five different wines or simply pop into Rosette, their onsite restaurant and bar, for a glass with dinner.
8. Williamsburg Bookstores
Before or after your Williamsburg wine, stroll around the neighborhood and check out all the art venues, specialty food stores, and funky shops — especially the bookshops. Williamsburg has an excellent selection of new and used bookstores, and they’re the perfect spots to soak up the area’s artsy atmosphere.
Check out books on current affairs, race, LGBTQ+ interests, New York City, and more. There’s even a punk section at Quimby’s!
Spoonbill & Sugartown Books
This cozy independent bookstore sells new and used titles focusing on art, architecture, and design titles, along with a good selection of cookbooks, food writing, and even a children’s section.
Why, yes, Canadian readers, there is a family connection to Western Canada’s McNally Robinson books, and here in Williamsburg, you’ll find the same great selection and service.
9. Coney Island
This classic beachfront destination has been attracting visitors for decades. Stroll along the iconic boardwalk, snack on a famous Nathan’s hot dog, and ride on the Cyclone, Coney Island’s historic wooden roller coaster. (Okay, maybe ride the coaster first, then eat the hot dogs!) You can relax on 3 miles of sandy beach and dip in the ocean. The New York Aquarium is nearby if you want to escape the heat and the crowds.
10. Green-Wood Cemetery
A cemetery stroll might not be for every visitor, but you will want to step out of your comfort zone at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery. Dating to 1838, this peaceful green space is the final resting place of many notable figures, including Leonard Bernstein, Boss Tweed, Charles Ebbets, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and Horace Greeley. Visitors are welcome to stroll the grounds independently, but for a truly unique travel experience, you can participate in the cemetery’s Death Education tours. These community-focused tours are meant to talk about life, death, grief, and remembrance positively to demystify the subject.
11. Industry City
Industry City is a modern urban playground, a vast complex that includes everything from retail space to public events to makers’ studios. There’s a robust lineup of cultural activities, art exhibitions, and performances throughout the year, and the shopping is excellent. Come lunchtime, head to the food hall, where vendors offer diverse cuisines.
12. Brooklyn Bridge
No trip to Brooklyn is complete without a pilgrimage across the Brooklyn Bridge. Completed in 1883, the bridge was the first in the city to connect Manhattan and Brooklyn, and at the time, it set a record as the longest suspension bridge in the world. The Brooklyn Bridge Park’s website lists information on how to start your walk, the history you should know, and other attractions to check out in the area. Depending on your pace, the 1.1-mile walk will take anywhere from 30–60 minutes one way. Several tour companies offer walking tours of the bridge and surrounding area if you want to dive deeper into its history and architecture.
13. Food Tours
At the risk of courting controversy, Brooklyn may have the best food scene in New York. But don’t take our word for it; go out and do your own research! Secret Eats offers a Brooklyn food tour in the Bensonhurst neighborhood that includes everything from dumplings to bubble tea. The Original Brooklyn Pizza Tour is a 4.5-hour bus tour of the city with stops at two famous pizzerias (including this writer’s personal favorite, Grimaldi’s in DUMBO, which makes a killer Neapolitan-style pizza). Finally, Foods Of New York offers a half-day tour of six foodie spots.