18 Things to Do in Brooklyn

By Janet Benoir – December 21, 2023

Brooklyn, once a standalone urban enclave, now stands as New York City’s most vibrant borough, globally renowned for its incredible tapestry of music, art, and culture. The area hums with historical resonance and bursts with creative flair, evident in every corner of its bustling streets. It’s a place where authenticity thrives, shaped by the mosaic of people who have made it their home through the ages.

With a unique variety of neighborhoods, Brooklyn also ensures a ‘green’ experience, thanks to its outstanding public parks and commitment to sustainability. It entices visitors with a delicious array of markets, intimate coffee shops, and a superb assortment of free activities and concerts, and there’s also the legendary Coney Island, for the young or the young at heart!

Brooklyn Bridge

Venturing across this historic bridge offers a quintessential and unforgettable Brooklyn experience. Constructed in 1883, this enduring monument spans the East River to link Brooklyn with Manhattan. One of the first suspension bridges in the United States, it reserves its upper deck for those on foot. Your excursion ideally starts in Brooklyn where you’ll be greeted by the wondrous Manhattan skyline. The entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade appears at Tillary Street and Boerum Place.

Suiseiseki, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Every year, countless millions, including many well-known figures – and even a caravan of elephants for an 1884 publicity event – cross this bridge. Walking from one side to the other takes about an hour, and it offers you innumerable iconic options for photos. The journey across stretches to nearly 1.6 miles, so ensure you take drinks and are prepared for brisk winds and minimal shade.

Prospect Park

Nestled next to the affluent Park Slope neighborhood, Prospect Park serves as Brooklyn’s answer to New York’s famed Central Park, sharing the same designers. Spanning over 500 majestic acres, the park is a hub of activity and features including the Prospect Park Zoo, an enchanting carousel, and an excellent ice skating rink. During summer, the park’s open-air bandstand is the venue for the the terrific and highly popular ‘Celebrate Brooklyn!’ concert series.

King of Hearts, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

At the heart of Prospect Park lies the nation’s inaugural urban Audubon Center, a testament to nature preservation and environmental education. If romance beckons, the historic Boathouse awaits, offering a picturesque lakeside backdrop. With such a range of diverse activities – and pet-friendly zones – your visit can be as tranquil or adventurous as you wish.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden offers an incredible array of botanical wonders. Within its confines, a beautiful herbarium houses an extensive collection of approximately 300,000 preserved plant specimens available for scholarly study. Regardless of the season, the garden provides an ever-changing tapestry of stunning flora to explore. The spring season is particularly special, as visitors flock to witness the sublime spectacle of cherry blossoms in full bloom.

Ryan Somma, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In addition to its natural beauty, the garden also showcases a superb collection of artworks, boasts modern conservatories, and hosts a plethora of activities geared towards families. You can enjoy hours simply meandering through its expansive lush landscapes, or if you want to learn about its collections and history, its guided tours are a brilliant way to do so.

The Brooklyn Museum

With five floors of exceptional works, your exploration of the Brooklyn Museum presents a rich tapestry of the arts, ranging from textiles and tribal masks to contemporary photography and eclectic objects. Not confined to a singular geographic region, the museum’s famous American collections shine light on feminist art, explore African American narratives surrounding abolition and racial identity, and connect you with Brooklyn’s indigenous roots through Lenape artifacts. It’s a very special place.

ajay_suresh, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Align your visit with the Brooklyn Museum’s free First Saturdays and you’ll also enjoy an evening filled with unique events. Additionally, combination tickets with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden are available, allowing for a comprehensive cultural excursion covering both iconic Brooklyn attractions.

The Brooklyn Academy of Music

At the heart of Brooklyn’s cultural district, the Brooklyn Academy of Music stands as a beacon for groundbreaking artists and arts connoisseurs. Over 150 years old, this famed institution is revered for presenting an eclectic mix of theatrical, musical, and dance works. With a special emphasis on progressive performances, it offers a stage for both classical and contemporary works.

Ajay Suresh, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Every spring and autumn, revel in the vibrant series of complimentary performances known as BAMcafé Live. Situated in the Adam Space, part of the Peter Jay Sharp building, this event has been stirring audiences with dynamic and eclectic musical acts since 1999. Enjoy an array of brilliant music, from smooth jazz to rhythmic R&B, including seasoned artists like Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio.

New York Transit Museum

Your exploration of Brooklyn’s fascinating urban public transport’s evolution starts in a unique setting: a decommissioned subway station a short walk from Fort Greene Park. This destination isn’t just an ordinary museum; it stands out as the United States’ most extensive institution dedicated to exploring metropolitan transit’s development throughout American history.

Marcin Wichary, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Summertime visitors are in for a particular treat with the “Nostalgia Rides,” a seasonal offering that transports you through time on the very trains that carried New Yorkers a century ago. Each visit presents opportunities for serendipitous events and also some educational activities, so that every type of interest is satisfied. A true one-off destination!

Industry City

This fascinating urban complex encompasses 16 buildings, offering a blend of lush greenery and industrial charm. If you’re seeking a melting pot of creativity and commerce, this is your haven. Artists, entrepreneurs, and chefs coexist, creating a hive of activity in studios, offices, and culinary spaces. For those simply visiting, a treasure trove of local goods, crafted beverages, and distinctive dining experiences awaits.

Epicgenius, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

You’ll encounter a diverse array of vendors serving up specialties, ranging from wholesome avocado delights to rich Korean dishes and fresh Mediterranean fare. Drink connoisseurs will relish the dedicated courtyard, spotlighting homegrown brewing under Brooklyn’s sky, proudly featuring New York’s inaugural sake brewery. Visitors often describe Industry City as a vibrant hub perfect for an enjoyable evening with friends or a memorable family outing.

Bushwick Collective

In the heart of Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, an unmatched urban canvas unfolds along nearly 100 city blocks. Artists from around the globe have transformed the streets, especially around Troutman Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, into an exceptional outdoor art exhibit. Bushwick Collective grants you access to this vibrant showcase without the confines of traditional museum walls, and it makes for a spectacular experience.

thebushwickcollective Instagram

Tour the dynamic streetscape with Free Tours on Foot offering a “pay-what-you-wish” experience, and then stay in the area post-tour, because the surrounding streets are a true taste of Brooklyn, boasting stylish bars and eateries, with one highlight being ‘Roberta’s’, a local favorite serving acclaimed pizza. This enclave combines amazing urban culture and dining and is an enriching part of any Brooklyn visit.

Brooklyn Heights Walkway

Nestled in a lovely historic district, the Brooklyn Heights Walkway offers a quintessential New York experience, with its lush pathways and beautiful views. This elevated scenic stroll affords you unrivaled vistas of Manhattan’s skyline. Known locally as the Esplanade, the walkway overhangs the busy thoroughfare below and is flanked by distinguished townhouses that evoke the borough’s rich history.

Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

As an urban sanctuary, you’ll appreciate the esplanade’s peaceful ambiance, heightened by the absence of bicycles. It’s an invitation to relax on a bench, immerse yourself in the area’s delights, and enjoy the metropolitan sunset. The iconic cinematic moments of “Moonstruck” may come to life before you, and as you wander you might discover the historical marker that commemorates a pivotal moment from the famed 1776 Battle of Brooklyn.

Domino Park

Nestled just north of the Williamsburg Bridge, this fantastic six-acre riverside oasis, created in 2018, sits amidst the historical remnants of a once-thriving sugar refinery. As you stroll through the park, the blue-hued cranes towering above serve as noble monuments to the site’s industrial heritage. The Artifact Walk, stretching over five blocks above the park, provides a stunning panoramic glimpse of the New York City skyline.

MusikAnimal, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The park caters to visitors of all ages, featuring an inventive playground influenced by the site’s factory origins. During warmer months, water installations offer a refreshing retreat for children. For sports enthusiasts, facilities like bocce and volleyball courts are available for friendly matches. This is a place of health and vitality at the heart of Brooklyn.

Coney Island

The journey from Manhattan’s elite Upper East Side on the Q train culminates in the renowned seaside location of Coney Island, a legendary strip in Brooklyn where thrills and laughter echo from across its historic past. Once the pinnacle of amusement destinations in the early 1900s, the area still boasts a dazzling landscape brimming with innovative rides and eccentric attractions.

MusikAnimal, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re looking for seasonal flair, the summertime offers baseball excitement at Maimonides Park with the Brooklyn Cyclones, while winter invites you to glide across the ice at the local rink. No matter the time of year, Coney Island serves as an evergreen fount of leisure and wonder, captivating visitors with an enduring spirit and energy that mirrors the undying lights of its amusement arcades and rides.

Jane’s Carousel

Within Brooklyn Bridge Park you’ll encounter a special vintage ride, Jane’s Carousel. Crafted by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1922, this classic wooden merry-go-round, complete with 48 meticulously carved horses and two chariots, offers a unique blend of nostalgia and scenic beauty. As you take a seat on one of these time-honored steeds, you can enjoy a ride accompanied by views of the riverfront, encased in a remarkable glass structure that safeguards its historic integrity.

MusikAnimal, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Adjacent to the carousel, the Empire Fulton Ferry area of Dumbo invites further exploration. After enjoying the gentle turns of the carousel, consider unwinding with a leisurely picnic, or meander through a historic building turned shopping venue, or perhaps attend a performance at the nearby St. Ann’s Warehouse. The carousel serves as a delightful starting point to experience the area’s diverse attractions.

Brooklyn Flea

Embark on a fantastic weekend scavenger hunt for treasures at the Brooklyn Flea, nestled in Pearl Plaza, Dumbo. This bustling marketplace runs from April to December, showcasing over 40 vendors. Vintage clothing, vinyl records, heirloom furniture, and an array of whimsical trinkets are all options. Not only does this destination offer tangible wares, it also feeds your epicurean desires with Smorgasburg, its sister food market. No wonder it’s popular!

Evanscott7, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In the heart of Gowanus, merely 3 miles south of the Flea, Big Reuse adds to the local culture of sustainability. This unique establishment not only recycles and repurposes but also composts, emphasizing environmental responsibility. The store on 12th Street is a brilliant place to discover affordable, rare pieces, such as autographed art, collectibles, and vintage furniture, and adds a flourish to any personal collection.

The Royal Palms

At the heart of Brooklyn’s Gowanus area, you can find an unconventional yet lively spot for a brilliant night out. The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club turns the tide on the traditional view of shuffleboard, transforming it into a hip activity. The club is equipped with 10 shuffleboard courts and provides all the necessary equipment. You’ll be able to rent “biscuits” and “tangs”—the pucks and poles used in the game—by the hour.

joekonet Instagram

Accompanying the competitive thrills are the delectable offerings of food trucks, featuring flavors from around the world, from Moroccan specialties to classic Italian subs. Supplement your game night with their signature pina colada to complete this Brooklyn experience. The vast 17,000 square foot space is welcoming to both experienced players and newcomers.

House of Yes

In Brooklyn, an eclectic nightlife sanctuary serves as a beacon for the underground arts community, a haven known as House of Yes. Established in Bushwick in 2007, this venue has since transformed from a live-work space into one of the city’s premier clubs for boundary-pushing entertainment.

Raffi Asdourian, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Famed for its inclusive atmosphere, House of Yes is a celebration of LGBTQ artists and offers regular queer nights. The atmosphere is uniquely liberating, designed for those eager to shed their everyday personas. However, be mindful of your budget, as the drink selection, while enticing, comes with a premium price tag, including the luxury bottle service!

Brooklyn Children’s Museum

Brooklyn offers an engaging space tailored for children: the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. This venue brims with terrific activities for sensory engagement and hands-on play. Your young ones can scale a unique rooftop feature known as The NEST, constructed from locally sourced reclaimed water tower cedar. They can also delve into imaginative play in World Brooklyn, a miniaturized version of real-world businesses, perfectly tailored for kids.

ajay_suresh, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The museum’s excellent ColorLab studio invites budding artists to express their creativity. Workshops on print-making, collage, and sculpture are available, drawing inspiration from Black artists with a new figure highlighted each month. This is a place where diversity is richly celebrated and it has a special appeal to younger children.

Neighborhoods of BoCoCa

The three neighboring locales of Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, and Carroll Gardens—collectively known as BoCoCa—provide a fantastic and picturesque setting for a relaxed morning stroll. Lined with lush trees, these areas boast charming streets that invite you to meander with a fresh cup of coffee, exploring quaint boutiques and local BoCoCa dining options.

Jim.henderson, CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

In the heart of Cobble Hill lies Warren Place Mews, a block recognized for its unique historical significance. Originally erected as economical residences for workers in the 1800s, the Gothic-style homes here now represent some of the most sought-after properties in Brooklyn, despite the fact that they average less than 12 feet in width. While these homes are privately owned and their residents’ privacy must be honored, it’s certainly worthwhile to admire this slice of preserved Brooklyn history.

Dyker Heights

Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights neighborhood blossoms into a stunning spectacle as the winter season takes hold. You’ll find a visual symphony of festive lights that transform the area into a prime holiday attraction. As you wander through the neighborhood, luminescent displays greet you, including houses adorned in blue lights celebrating Hanukkah and others presenting greetings like “Merry Christmas” in Greek. Originating from neighborly competition in the 1980s, this extravaganza has evolved into a cherished local and family tradition.

Cjz208, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Additionally, digital guides often provide mapped-out routes to ensure you catch the season’s highlighted installations. While experiencing the amazing festive glow of Dyker Heights, remember to respect the residents’ privacy and property by staying clear of private spaces and preserving the integrity of the decorations. If you catch Brooklyn in winter, this really is a spectacle that will warm your heart.