There are many amazing things to do in Brooklyn. You can admire art in Brooklyn Museum or street art on Troutman Street. You can dine at a Michelin restaurant or an outdoor food market. Brooklyn has an answer for every tourist request making it perfect for entertaining all types of vacationers.
Sure, you should still visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and you must make your way to The Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building, but once you’ve seen New York City’s classic attractions, make sure to head over the Brooklyn Bridge and explore all the best things to do in Brooklyn as well.
Top Things to do in Brooklyn, New York
Brooklyn may be a borough of New York City, but with a population of 2.6 million, it is the fourth largest city in the United States making it its own destination unto itself. This travel guide will give you plenty of ideas of things to do in Brooklyn.
When visiting New York, we highly recommend The New York Go City Explorer Pass. It includes many attractions around New York and Brooklyn including Brooklyn Bridge Full-Day Bike Rental, Brooklyn Museum and Botanic Garden Combo, Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO Walking Tour, Brooklyn Bridge Bike Tour, plus choices include the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Ferry. See details here.
1. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
Walking along the Brooklyn Bridge is a bucket list item of things to do in New York City and not only that, it lets you see some great views of the NYC skyline. Read: 30 Best New York Views – Where to See the Manhattan Skyline
Take your time to stop and enjoy the views of the East River, and the iconic buildings of New York City: The Empire State Building, Crysler Building, One World Trade Centre, the Statue of Liberty, and the other two famous bridges of New York City – The Williamsburg Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge.
The bridge is popular with cyclists and commuters walking into Lower Manhattan, so if you want to avoid the crowds, walk early in the morning or later in the evening. If you to take a guided tour, this highly-rated Brooklyn Tour is a 2-hour walking tour of the Brooklyn Bridge and through the trendy Brooklyn neighborhood of Dumbo. (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass)
2. Take a Stroll in Brooklyn Bridge Park
Brooklyn Bridge Park is not only a great destination in New York, but it is also one of the best places to see the Manhattan Skyline. The best place to see the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges is also at Brooklyn Bridge Park. The park stretches along New York Harbor, with 85 acres of waterfront green space to explore.
Swim in the pop-up swimming pool, take snapshots from DUMBO or soak up the New York Skyline Lookout views. If you want to relax with bridge and city skyline views, Brooklyn Bridge Park is the best place to go in Brooklyn.
We’d advise walking the full length of the park. It may sound like a lot of walking, but it is well worthwhile as you’ll pass Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge, Empire Fulton Ferry Park and Jane’s Carousel, which are fun stop-offs along the way. For a shopping break, don’t miss Empire Stores either – it is one of Brooklyn’s biggest shopping centers.
3. Empire Fulton Ferry Park
Remember Empire Fulton Ferry Park from Brooklyn Bridge Park? Well, we have a special reason to return for or after sunset.
Sunsets from Empire Fulton are gorgeous, and you can relax in the park while you watch the sun sink over the New York skyline. With a bit of luck, you’ll catch a colorful sunset. Then, Brooklyn Bridge and the skyscrapers light up after dark, giving you a different experience of the cityscape again.
Pack a blanket to keep warm and a hot drink in colder months. You can even bring a picnic to make it an extra memorable experience.
4. Walk the Brooklyn Heights Promenade
If Brooklyn Bridge Park sounds beautiful but too long a walk, consider the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. The promenade is less than 600 meters long and has incredible views of New York City across the water.
It is well paved so it is suitable for wheelchair access. Brooklyn Heights Promenade is also free to enter – providing you with free and impressive views. The esplanade is beautifully lined with trees and can easily be walked in half an hour. To squeeze some scenic views into your itinerary, Brooklyn Heights Promenade is one of Brooklyn’s best things to do.
5. Spend a day on Coney Island
Coney Island is hardly a hidden gem in New York. However, the neighborhood is a perfect day out in Brooklyn, with plenty of things to do. Visitors can relax and soak up the sun on Coney Island Beach, a vintage-style strip of the seaside.
Grab a hot dog at Nathan’s Famous and walk the Coney Island Boardwalk to Brighton Beach. Brighton Beach is located on the east end of the coast, closer to Manhattan Beach and more residential areas.
Luna Park in Coney Island has thrill rides for children and adults alike – so everyone can join in all the fun. This section of Coney Island is also next to Maimonides Park, the home turf of the Brooklyn Cyclones, a minor league baseball team. If you are looking for a bit of non-sporting history, you can stop by at Coney Island Museum.
6. Take the Slice of Brooklyn tour
If you want to get a sense of the Brooklyn pizza scene, some insider stories about movies filmed in Brooklyn, and to indulge in this is a great tour. We hopped on a bus and enjoyed sightseeing through Brooklyn while stopping at iconic pizza shops like Grimaldi’s in DUMBO and L&B Spumoni Gardens in Bensonhurst. You can book this highly rated tour for a walk through Brooklyn while sampling, different styles of pizzas at 3 pizzerias.
We took the Slice of Brooklyn Tour tour where we sampled Neapolitan and Sicilian-style pizzas. Plus, we saw movie locations from some of the most iconic New York movie settings like Saturday Night Fever and Goodfellas. Tours leave from Manhattan so you can tick off a lot of things to see in Brooklyn in one convenient bus tour. Check it out here.
7. Visit New York Transit Museum
Transportation is an excellent way to measure how New York has changed over the last century, and the New York Transit Museum is a fun place to do so. The museum displays vintage subway cars, buses, and exhibitions on transit workers’ lives in a 1936 subway station. Visitors head downstairs from street level into the decommissioned station, an atmospheric way to enter the museum.
8. Tour Brooklyn Brewery
Are you a fan of American craft beer? If so, the Brooklyn Brewery is for you. The microbrewery ships craft beer to more than thirty countries and five continents, making it a well-established brewery to experience in New York.
From lagers to pilsners to IPAs, you can sample a range of beers on tours and tasting sessions at Brooklyn Brewery. You can contact the brewery directly to enquire about availability and get booked in for an experience before it sells out.
Brooklyn Brewery is right next to East River State Park. We’d recommend stopping by the park after your tour to appreciate the river and cityscape views. The nearby Artists & Flea market is also worth a visit on weekends.
This beer tasting bike tour is the ultimate beer tour through Queens and Brooklyn. You’ll visit the Brooklyn Brewery and other specialty brewpubs to enjoy the best brewing curated by experts. You’ll also visit Williamsburg, Lock Island City, Bushwic and its street art scene. It’s a fun way to explore Brooklyn while enjoying fine brews.
9. Visit the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center
Visiting an industrial site may sound like a strange thing to do in Brooklyn. However, Brooklyn Navy Yard is a trendy addition to your New York itinerary.
Brooklyn Navy Yard is the home of urban manufacturing in Brooklyn. You’ll find a rich selection of creative and industrial businesses in the yard, from LED technology to high-end furniture. The atmosphere is full go mode, with all enterprises creating products to sell. However, the Navy Yard is also open to the public.
You can explore one of the exhibitions, join a program, or take a tour. Visiting the yard is fantastic to learn more about design, innovation, and entrepreneurialism.
10. Visit Brooklyn Museum
Art enthusiasts, this New York attraction is for you. Brooklyn Museum is a dedicated art space showcasing an impressive range of ancient and contemporary art.
You’ll find artwork by the likes of Judy Chicago – a renowned feminist artist. You’ll also find ancient Egyptian, Asian, and Islamic artwork, with sculptures and masks to admire.
Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop. The Brooklyn Museum gift shop is somewhat of an attraction in itself. You can shop for prints, unique home décor, and specialist literature.
Brooklyn Museum is the best cultural thing to do in Brooklyn for anyone interested in art. It is cheap to enter and can easily keep you entertained for an afternoon.
11. Take the East River ferry
So, we’ve covered seeing skyline views from Brooklyn Bridge Park and Brooklyn Heights Promenade. However, the East River ferry is another great way to get incredible skyline views of New York from the water.
Forget an expensive boat tour and hop on the ferry. One-way tickets only cost a few dollars, and you still get to see the downtown Manhattan skyline and some of New York city’s most famous landmarks. You pass under Brooklyn Bridge, past the Statue of Liberty, and get views of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. If you can combine transport and sightseeing, why not?
12. Stop by Brooklyn Children’s Museum
The museum aims to inspire and educate little minds, bringing big concepts down to an age-appropriate and engaging level. From kid-sized shops in modeled streets of Brooklyn to animal encounters, there are many activities and exhibitions to keep kids busy.
Founded in 1899, it is quite the beloved attraction amongst locals and tourists alike – so be prepared for your child to befriend lots of other children on a visit. This museum is ideal if you want a laidback, sociable, yet educational thing to do with your children in Brooklyn.
13. Visit Brooklyn Historical Society (aka Center for Brooklyn History)
If you are interested in history, visiting the Center for Brooklyn History is one of the best things to do in Brooklyn. The red brick building is quite historic itself and was built in 1881. And, inside the center, you’ll find information on everything related to Brooklyn’s history – from social history to artwork.
You can browse regularly updated exhibitions covering trending issues and topics. There are also regular displays, exhibitions, and collections to discover. Whether you want to skim through books, admire artifacts, read old newspapers, or look at old maps, you’ll have a vast amount of history at your fingertips.
Some historical materials are around 160 years old and form precious parts of Brooklyn’s story. The Brooklyn Historical Society continues to collect and preserve historical documents and artifacts, making it an important ongoing preservation project.
14. Spend a morning in the Williamsburg neighborhood
Williamsburg is a great neighborhood to visit any time of the day. The neighborhood is full of bars and clubs where you can let your hair down Brooklyn-style. However, Williamsburg is also the neighborhood to choose from if you want to spend a morning somewhere fun. It has a refreshing and trendy atmosphere associated with artists, college graduates, and hipsters.
Bedford Avenue runs through the neighborhood and is one of the best places in Brooklyn for retail therapy, with vintage clothing on sale at independent stores along the street. You’ll also find many cute cafes to try a ‘real’ New York coffee.
If you visit Williamsburg on a Saturday, you should also shop at the Brooklyn flea market in Williamsburg. From potted succulents to heavily discounted vintage fashion. Another Brooklyn flea market is located in Dumbo and both are fun to browse alone or with some company.
15. Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Display
If you are visiting Brooklyn in winter, one of our favorite activities is to take in everything Christmas. Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Display has some of the best festive decorations that you’ll see across New York. Who needs to go to the North Pole when you can meet a life-sized Santa on Dyker Heights Boulevard?
The residents of Dyker Heights go all out every December, and you can walk the streets admiring and posing for pictures in front of each house’s illuminated decorations. Read more about Christmas in New York – What to do in NYC for the Holidays
You can visit Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Display for free independently. However, if you want a more informative experience, there are guided tours that you can book. This tour on GetYourGuide leaves from Upper Manhattan, which is ideal if you are staying outside of Brooklyn.
16. Watch a play at BAM Harvey Theater
You don’t need to be a live theater enthusiast to enjoy a play at Bam Harvey Theater. The theater was built in 1904 and is a stunning, classy venue to watch a show.
Bam Harvey was originally a playhouse, shifting to a cinema in 1942, then renovated to a theater in 1987. Today, you can watch films, theater, opera, concerts, talks, and dance performances. Just check the official website to see what scheduled events coincide with your trip to New York.
The Harvey Theater is a great reason to get dressed up in New York, and you should pack a formal outfit to channel your inner luxury-loving diva. While dress codes aren’t commonly enforced at theaters now, you should still dress to the occasion.
For the full luxury experience, arrive a little early and treat yourself to a glass of champagne at the theater bar beforehand.
17. Spend a day on Brighton Beach
Fancy a beach break? Escape from Brooklyn’s inner suburbs and head down to Brighton Beach.
The beach stretches for approximately three miles and has a fun but more residential atmosphere than its neighboring Luna Park. Brighton Beach also caters more to adults than family-friendly Luna Park, and the beachfront is lined with restaurants and nightclubs. You can easily spend a day on Brighton Beach, then enjoy an evening in the suburb’s pubs and clubs.
The neighborhood has a large population of emigres from soviet countries, so it has lots of tasty food and drinks to sample. We’d recommend stopping by Georgian House to sample the melted cheese in a bread bowl.
18. Visit Green-Wood Cemetery
Visiting a cemetery might sound slightly morbid. However, Green-Wood Cemetery is one of Brooklyn’s best attractions.
The cemetery covers a vast 478 acres. It has been a film set for major productions like The Girl on the Train, The Departed, and A Walk Among the Tombstones. Many celebrities are also buried at Green-Wood, including the late artist Pop Smoke and the renowned politician Robert Roosevelt.
You can take cemetery tours to hear about the lives of those buried there and the graveyard’s history. You can combine Green-Wood with a visit to nearby Sunset Park, which has a pool, playground, and recreation center for some light-hearted entertainment.
19. Watch a basketball game at Barclays Center
The United States is renowned for its basketball, and we’d recommend watching a game if you can. The Barclays Center is the home ground of the Brooklyn Nets, a professional basketball team in the NBA. However, it also hosts college basketball games, which still have a fantastic atmosphere but also slightly cheaper tickets.
It is best to purchase tickets to basketball games as far ahead as possible, as they sell out quickly. There are plenty of other events if you miss out, though. The Barclays Center holds regular boxing matches and concerts by artists like Kendrick Lamar and Justin Bieber.
The center is impressive in its own right too, and took two years and $1 billion to build, formally opening its doors in 2012. If you miss out on a basketball game, you will definitely find another event at Barclays to make up for it.
20. Watch a film or show at the Brooklyn Academy of Music
Speaking of films, the Brooklyn Academy of Music is also part of BAM, the community arts initiative that runs the Harvey Theater. The Academy of Music runs film screenings, plays, and concerts just four minutes down the road, so keep an eye out on both schedules to see which events you prefer.
The Academy has a wide selection of movies screening and is one of the best things to do in Brooklyn on an evening. Perfect for solo travelers, couples, or families, the Academy of Music is an excellent Brooklyn attraction.
21. Visit Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a must for any botany enthusiasts and nature lovers. It is easily accessible in Central Brooklyn, located on Washington Street near Crown Heights.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden spans 52 acres, including a Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, Cranford Rose Garden, Cherry Esplanade, Shakespeare Garden, and Lily Pool Terrace. There are diverse themed gardens throughout the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, making it fascinating to wander.
You can learn about the plants on the many informative billboards or join a program or special event. There are also plenty of staff on-site if you want to pick up some helpful gardening tips. Otherwise, relax, breathe deeply, and appreciate the fresh air and pretty views.
22. Escape to Marine Park
Marine Park is another place to escape from Downtown Brooklyn. The 530-acre protected reserve has plenty of outdoor activities.
The neighborhood is home to Salt Marsh Nature Trail, two golf courses, and Gateway National Recreation Area. It’s a great place to enjoy the outdoors – whether you fish, golf, hike, swim, or kayak.
We’d recommend allowing a whole day to visit Marine Park. You won’t be able to fit all the activities in, but pick your favorites and break up the day with a delicious seafood lunch at Nick’s Lobster House.
23. Spend a day at Prospect Park
Prospect Park is Brooklyn’s answer to Manhattan’s Central Park. As we said, the park covers 526 acres and has Prospect Park Zoo on-site.
There are woodland tracks, lakes, and even a Quaker Cemetery to visit. You should prioritize visiting Grand Army Plaza, Ravine Forest, and LeFrak Center (where you can try ice skating). Ravine Forest is especially famous as it is the only forest in Brooklyn – making it very popular amongst residents.
The best thing about Prospect Park is the diversity and quality of things to do. If you want a green space to keep you entertained for a whole day, Prospect Park is a great option.
The Prospect Park Zoo is a popular attraction centrally located in Prospect Park. The zoo is 12 acres and houses over 125 species of animals. You can spot baboons, dingoes, alpacas, and more. The zoo is a fun attraction in Brooklyn to learn more about conservation and get up close to animals.
24. Visit Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club
Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club is a good place to learn the ropes if you haven’t tried playing shuffleboard.
Shuffleboard is a game that dates back to the 15th century and involves strategically pushing disks into a marked scoring area. At Royal Palms, shuffleboard is played on the floor with long sticks to move the disks.
You can grab a drink at the bar, a meal from the food trucks, dance to the DJ’s music, or head to the shuffleboard courts for a game. Visiting Royal Palms is a fun date activity or a group activity before a night out.
25. Shop at Dekalb Market Hall
Dekalb Market Hall is one of the best places to eat in Downtown Brooklyn. The massive indoor market has over thirty vendor stalls, leaving you with lots of food choices.
Stop by Bobbi’s Italian, Dan & John’s Wings, or even Brooklyn Wine Cellar for a glass of vino. Dekalb Market Hall has a variety of international cuisines, all of which are served by specialist vendors. Regardless of your food preferences, you will find at least one meal that takes your fancy. Another bonus is that since Dekalb is covered, it runs all year round.
As lovely as outdoor food markets are, we suggest visiting Dekalb Market Hall for your taste of market dining. You can also stop by the street art in nearby Grove Alley on your way. Grove Alley is only a four-minute walk away, so a worthwhile detour.
Where to stay in Brooklyn
If you are looking for some more affordable hotel options when visiting New York, Brooklyn is a great choice. It’s not a bad commute to Lower Manhattan and with New York’s efficient transit system, you are almost always near a subway so getting around NYC won’t be a problem.
We’ve written a detailed guide on the best hotels in New York that you can read here. But these are some quick top picks for budget, mid-range, and luxury accommodation.
We recommend staying in the Williamsburg neighborhood. You are still close enough to the main sights (only a 20-minute subway ride away to Times Square) but it is a more residential neighborhood feel. There are great places to eat, cafes and pubs as well as great accommodations. This can be a nice reprieve, especially if you are not a first-time visitor to NYC.
Where to Stay in Williamsburg
What are some free things to do in Brooklyn, New York?
You might believe that New York is very expensive, and it is. But there are plenty of free things in in Brooklyn to help you enjoy yourself on a budget. Washington Street is the best place to view Brooklyn Bridge, and Brooklyn Heights Promenade has incredible cityscape views. While, for free art, Troutman Street has the Bushwick Collective Street Art display.
What is there to do in Brooklyn at night?
Looking for inspiration for Brooklyn at night? You’ll have lots of options. Skyline Drive-In is a good outdoor cinema choice and has views of the New York City skyline. There is also a great nightlife scene, which you can experience at Park Slope, Bushwick, and Williamsburg.
What are some cultural things to do in Brooklyn, New York?
Brooklyn is full of culture. Catch a play at Bam Harvey Theater, admire contemporary art at Brooklyn Museum, or stop by Jefferson Street Sound Museum. Whether you want music, art, performance, or history, you’ll be well entertained in Brooklyn.
Now you have an idea of the best things to do in Brooklyn, let’s get started on some quick FAQs. Here’s what you need to know before arriving.
How to Get to Brooklyn, NY
For international or far-traveling domestic visitors, the best way to get to Brooklyn is to fly into JFK Airport. From the airport, it is a quick 20-minute drive to the center of Brooklyn or an hour on public transport.
You can walk to Brooklyn via the Brooklyn Bridget from Lower Manhattan.
Getting Around Brooklyn, NY
The best way to get around Brooklyn is to purchase a MetroCard and use public transport. Taxis can be expensive, and traffic congestion can delay trips, so aim to catch the train or subway if you are in a rush.
There is a subway, bus, train, and ferry system in Brooklyn. Of course, you can also rent a bike or walk if you’d like the extra exercise. Uber, Lyft, and Kid Car are good emergency transport options and alternatives to taxis.
The Best Time to Visit Brooklyn, NY
There are benefits to visiting Brooklyn all through the year. It is typically cheapest to visit Brooklyn between January and March, while June is usually the perfect temperature – warm but not sweltering. In autumn, the Brooklyn parks and cityscape are beautiful, and in winter, you’ll have all of New York City’s Christmas festivities to enjoy.
It is a tough call, but our favorite time to visit Brooklyn is in June. The warm but moderate temperatures make it the best month to spend time outdoors in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn is a versatile and entertaining place to stay in New York City. Whether you love culture, sporting events, history, or wildlife, Brooklyn has an activity to suit you.
Be prepared for a packed itinerary when visiting Brooklyn. In fact, you might even need to book a return trip.
Plan more of your New York City Travels with these guides:
Some Brooklyn photos are courtesy of Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0,