Insider tips: Planning a trip to Brooklyn
Megan Indoe is a Brooklyn based travel enthusiast who shares her adventures with her husband and photographer Scott Herder across their travel channels on social media and their blog, Bobo & Chichi as well as their local adventures and tips in New York at Your Brooklyn Guide.
What should I do on my first trip to Brooklyn?
While DUMBO and Williamsburg are among what most visitors think of when they hear Brooklyn, there is so much more. One not to be missed place near DUMBO is the Brooklyn Heights Promenade which offers panoramic views of the New York Harbor, Statue of Liberty, World Trade Center and Lower Manhattan skyline, as well as the Brooklyn Bridge along the mansion and tree lined pathway with ample seating and views!
What are some hidden gems to see in Brooklyn?
A neighborhood that’s an absolute hidden gem to visitors to the city is the neighborhood of Red Hook. This neighborhood sits on the waterfront of the New York Harbor and has at least a dozen independent art galleries, incredible Statue of Liberty and sunset views at Louis Valentino Jr. Park and Pier, wine tasting at the Red Hook Winery, a great food and drinking scene, and awesome photography spots that many people are unaware of. Red Hook is a bit isolated in terms of public transportation since the subway doesn’t service this neighborhood, so you either walk the 15-20 minutes from Carroll Gardens and the nearest subway, take the NYC water taxi directly to Red Hook, or use Citi Bike rentals.
How much time should I spend in Brooklyn?
On a trip to New York City you need to spend at least a full weekend around Brooklyn as there really is so much this borough has to offer. For a first timer, you should spend one morning in and around DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights then head to Williamsburg in the afternoon and evening for some of the best thrift shopping in the city, great dining, bars, and nightlife plus additional waterfront views of the skyline from the parks dotted along the East River.
Day two could easily be spent at Coney Island or if historic amusement parks aren't your thing we recommend spending the morning in Park Slope by grabbing bagels and enjoying breakfast on a bench in Prospect Park, walking around visiting the Old Stone House historic landmark and shopping along 5th and 7th Avenues. After lunch, walk or Citibike through Gowanus to Carroll Gardens all the way to Red Hook and visit a brewery or go wine tasting, check out the views of the waterfront, and enjoy dinner at upper deck of Brooklyn Crab and grab dessert at Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie.
What food is Brooklyn known for?
While in Brooklyn you can try just about any cuisine from around the world but if I had to pick two iconic meals to eat it would be bagels and pizza.
The secret ingredient to the city’s famous bagels and pizza is the New York City water which is some of the best quality drinking water in the country.
Our personal favorite bagel spots includes Bagel Pub which has a few locations around Brooklyn. Get an everything bagel and pick your favorite flavor of cream cheese or two! Another great bagel spot is Shelsky’s Brooklyn Bagel, which has two locations and they offer really great bagel, egg, cheese, and meat of your choice breakfast sandwiches on their bagels.
Brooklyn does pizza well and there are so many incredible pizza spots that you could spend a lifetime tasting them all. Juliana’s in DUMBO is where you can find one of the best pizzas in the city brought to you by someone who has been generationally in the NYC pizza business since the earliest days. Another great spot is Table 87 who does coal fired oven pizzas which are hard to come by in the city since being outlawed.
What is the best way to get around Brooklyn?
Getting around Brooklyn couldn’t be easier. You have many transportation options including the subway which connects the entire city and all you need is a credit card to tap or you can buy a MetroCard and pre-load it with money so you can get around the city for less than $3 a ride.
Depending on where you're wandering to in Brooklyn you can actually walk between some of the most popular neighborhoods - which is one of my favorite things to do since you typically walk through gorgeous brownstone filled streets and neighborhoods that really let you take in the beauty Brooklyn is known for.
Citi Bike rentals are easy and available in most parts of Brooklyn. Download the app and set up an account or link your Lyft account and when you need a bike you can check the app for the closest docking stations as well as find where you can dock the bike when you're done using it again. There are now electric Citi Bikes available too which are great if you don't want to work up a sweat but are a bit more expensive.
Taxis are not as common in Brooklyn but they do exist, you're better off using a rideshare app in this area so you're not searching for a cab.
What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Brooklyn?
There are a few great neighborhoods to stay in Brooklyn. If this is your first visit then you will want to pick one of the beautiful hotels with views in Williamsburg or DUMBO.
DUMBO is a bit closer to the rest of exploring Brooklyn and you have waterfront views of Lower Manhattan with easy access to iconic landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge. You can access the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian pathway in DUMBO to take you to Manhattan too.
Williamsburg has great hotel options, many of which have rooftop bars and/or pools with skyline views. This is a great neighborhood to stay in if you want easy access to Midtown and are looking for a fun area for nightlife in Brooklyn.
What is the best thing to do in Brooklyn for couples?
Couples should definitely take advantage of a gorgeous Brooklyn sunset from either a waterfront picnic in Brooklyn Bridge Park or from one of the many incredible rooftop restaurants like Harriet’s Rooftop Lounge in DUMBO.
What are the best annual events in Brooklyn?
In the summer you have to check out Smorgasburg which takes place on Saturdays in Williamsburg and Sundays in Prospect Park. Smorgasburg is best enjoyed with friends so you can sample and taste many different dishes available from the different food vendors and some of the most popular food trucks in the city.
What are the best areas for outdoor activities around Brooklyn?
Brooklyn has so many amazing parks to enjoy. Be sure to check out Prospect Park, Central Park’s Brooklyn sister designed by the same architects. If you’re familiar with Central Park you’ll notice the similarities but they are still very different parks. In Prospect Park you want to check out the picturesque boathouse, walk through the different arches including the newly refurbished Endale Arch near Grand Army Plaza, and if you’re visiting in the winter check out the ice skating at LeFrak at Lakeside for one of the largest ice skating rinks for a fraction of the price.
Another park that’s great for outdoor activities is Brooklyn Bridge Park. Continue on the waterfront pathway towards Brooklyn Heights to find all the piers that have different playing fields, picnic areas, and outdoor activities to enjoy plus designated grilling areas all with some of the best skyline views in the city.
What are the best beaches around Brooklyn?
Coney Island Beach is the best in terms of having multiple offerings in addition to having a beach you can lounge around at all day or swim. Hang out at the beach, or if its a weekend summer day and this stretch of sand is a little crowded you can walk 10 minutes and enjoy the quieter shores of Brighton Beach, home to a large Russian community. Be sure to walk along the iconic Riegelmann Boardwalk and witness century old rides like the classic Wonder Wheel and Cyclone roller coaster at one of America's oldest and most famous amusement parks.
Which neighborhood has the best nightlife?
There are a few great spots for nightlife in Brooklyn but the two most popular for nightlife include the nightclubs in Bushwick and bars in Williamsburg.
Which neighborhoods are best for families?
Park Slope is a very family-friendly neighborhood, which is why it's one of the most desirable neighborhoods to live in the entire city for families as well as DUMBO. You can find plenty of playgrounds and kid-friendly activities in both of these neighborhoods.
Which neighborhoods are the most budget-friendly?
If you're looking to save money consider staying and or dining in Bushwick which has the nightlife and great food options! Check out some of this neighborhoods tortilla shops like Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos for a delicious meal that won't break the bank as well as places that sell pizza by the slice, Joe's in Williamsburg is one of the best slice shops in the city and a great meal to save money.
Which neighborhoods should you visit if you'd like to splurge?
If you're looking to splurge you will want to book a room with skyline views at either 1 Hotel in DUMBO or the William Vale in Williamsburg. For dinner you can enjoy dinner at the River Cafe under the Brooklyn Bridge in DUMBO, just keep in mind there's a dress code here or if you really want to go all out secure a reservation in advance for Peter Luger's Steakhouse and enjoy one of the best steakhouses in the city. Typically you need to make a reservation months in advance and you will need to have cash on hand to pay.
Which neighborhood should couples add to their list?
DUMBO is full of romantic eateries with views, sunset spots perfect for an evening picnic like at Brooklyn Bridge Park or sit on the bench together watching the sun go down at Brooklyn Heights Promenade, and charming cafes.
What are some fun facts/history behind DUMBO neighborhood?
DUMBO is no doubt one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the city as well as packed with fascinating history and remnants from the past. This neighborhood is full of large brick buildings from the American industrious boom. Many of the luxe apartments and venues in this neighborhood are in transformed, historic warehouse buildings and you can still spot the historic Belgian blocks under the streets in certain areas. Underneath the Brooklyn Bridge is Fulton Ferry Landing which served as a ferry service between Manhattan and Brooklyn since the 1600s when Brooklyn was nothing but farmland. Next to Fulton Ferry Landing you can grab a scoop of award-winning ice cream from Ample Hills named after and paying homage one of the most famous Brooklynites and figures in American Literature, Walt Whitman who worked as the Editor of the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper in the Eagle Warehouse Building across the street.