This post covers the best things to do in Brooklyn, including free, nighttime, as well as family-friendly activities.
Below is our list of the top 10 things to do in Brooklyn.
Find out what specifically in Brooklyn is included in these passes and other discount opportunities.
1. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge is great to walk over day or night.
You’ll get a 360-degree skyline view of the New York Harbor, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and way off in the distance you can even see the Statue of Liberty.
Read our guide to walking the bridge, with tips on how to get here and what you will see.
We also have a GPS-enabled audio tour to enhance your visit.
We offer 2 Brooklyn Bridge pay-what-you-wish walking tours of the Brooklyn Bridge, which you can see in the next listing.
2. Take a Sightseeing Tour
The best way to explore Brooklyn is on a guided tour. There are dozens of tours, including walking, biking, and bus tours in the day and night!
Here is a 50-minute video tour, a condensed version of our live tour of DUMBO.
Click here to find out what’s available.
We have several pay-what-you-wish walking tours and perfect for any budget.
Our tours include:
- Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights, and DUMBO Tour
- Brooklyn Heights Walking Tour
- Bushwick Graffiti and Street Art Tour
- Dyker Heights Holiday Lights Tour (December only)
TIP: If you’re looking for a tour that will take you all over town, consider a Brooklyn Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour instead.
3. Go to a Concert
The most famous musicians in the world are drawn to perform in Brooklyn, which is why there are often hundreds of great concerts to see in the area throughout the year.
There are also several great venues in Brooklyn which typically host at least a few big performances each month.
Here is Jay-Z at the Barclays Center singling about his hometown, Brooklyn.
Here are a few other popular places to see a concert:
For more information about which musical performances will be held during your trip to Brooklyn, check this list of concerts in Brooklyn.
4. See Great Street Art + Graffiti
Brooklyn is one of the world’s best neighborhoods in the world to see street art and murals by renowned artists.
A visit to the Bushwick Collective Street Art Gallery will give you a great feel for the street art scene in Brooklyn.
Guided tours take you straight to the best and latest works and you will learn about this form of art as well from an actual street artist.
5. Attend a Sports Event
There are a few professional sports teams whose home is in Brooklyn. At any time of the year, you can one or more major sports events going on here.
Also based in Barclays Center are the ice-hockey team, the Islanders. They play from the Fall into early Spring.
6. See a Popular Musical or Theatrical Performance
Although Broadway is in Manhattan, Brooklyn has a lot to offer when it comes to high-quality theater and musical performances.
The Brooklyn Academy of Music opened in 1908 and has been putting on top-notch theatrical performances, musicals, operas, and more with A-list actors and production companies.
Far from being the only venue in town, you can find plenty of other entertainment.
Here are just a few of the best venues:
- St. Ann's Warehouse
- Mark Morris Dance Group
- Kings Theatre
- Kumble Theatre
- Gallery Players
- Brick Theater
7. Head out to Coney Island
In the warm weather months, head to the famous Coney Island. This is a great place to bring the kids.
Stroll the boardwalk, enjoy the beach, or ride the famous Cyclone roller coaster at Luna Park.
Be sure to grab a hot dog and fries at world-famous Nathan's. See the Coney Island Walls murals.
See our post on things to do in Coney Island for all the information you need to plan your visit.
8. See the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
This gorgeous quiet oasis in NYC, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is closer for most to get to than the New York Botanical Garden (in the Bronx).
Every April, they have their very popular Cherry Blossom Festival.
For those on a budget, the gardens are free before noon on Fridays. If you are traveling with children, it is always free for kids under 12.
Also, it is free for everyone on weekdays from December to February.
Find out more from their website.
9. Visit the Brooklyn Museum
With a world-class collection of roughly 1.5 million works from almost every global culture dating back millennia, the Brooklyn Museum rivals the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The museum is also known for its collection of paintings from the American colonial period and a small but impressive collection of works by modern American artists.
TIP: Though the ticket booth has the cost of admission, this is actually a “suggested donations”, meaning you can give whatever you like to gain entry.
10. Use a Tourist Pass to Save Money
Most of the major New York tourist passes include several great activities you can enjoy in Brooklyn.
While some of these services give you access to dozens of attractions for a short period of time, others allow you to pick only the activities you want, giving you up to a month to enjoy them.
Depending on which tourist pass you choose, you could save anywhere from 15% - 50% or more off general admission prices.
Here are a few of the more notable Brooklyn attractions included with various discount passes in New York:
- Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour
- Luna Park at Coney Island
- Brooklyn Bridge Bike Tour
- Brooklyn Bridge Bike Rental
- Deno’s Wonder Wheel at Coney Island
- Brooklyn Historical Society
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden
- Brooklyn Museum
- And more!
Some of these passes may provide skip-the-line privileges at certain Brooklyn locations, allowing you to avoid waiting in the ticket line.
For more information about these opportunities, make sure to read our full post covering New York tourist passes.
Many of the activities included above in our top 10 section are great to do at night including taking our evening Brooklyn Bridge tour, visiting Coney Island, attending a concert, or sports event at the Barclays Center.
Below are some more ideas for things to do in Brooklyn at night. Many of them are free or inexpensive.
For ideas about things do to all over NYC at night, see our post on what to do at night in NYC.
The Brooklyn Heights Promenade promenade is located in Brooklyn Heights and runs along the East River just across from Lower Manhattan, offering a spectacular view of Manhattan's skyline.
The Promenade has benches, is never very crowded, and is a perfect place to relax and take in the beautiful views.
Make sure your camera or smartphone is fully charged. This is one location where you will want to take a lot of pictures.
Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) is the oldest performing arts center in America, founded in 1891. It's located in the lively area of Fort Greene and is easy to get to.
They routinely draw some of the best productions, actors, and actresses and BAM also hosts the Mark Morris Dance Group.
St. Ann's Warehouse - Located in DUMBO in a 25,000 square foot pre-Civil War structure, St. Ann's is known for its innovative and cutting-edge productions such as an all-female Shakespeare troupe from London and avant-garde fare from Poland. Some productions are suitable for children as well.
Museums and Art Galleries
The Brooklyn Museum is open late on Thursdays until 10 p.m. Though they do list an admission price, it is actually a suggested price so you can pay what you like.
You can also see cutting-edge art galleries in DUMBO, where over twenty galleries are spread throughout this hip, historic neighborhood.
If you do head to DUMBO, you might find our post, Things to do in DUMBO, helpful.
Some of the best places to go dancing are located in Brooklyn. Many are in Williamsburg, a fun neighborhood to spend a night out in.
If you have only one night to spend in Brooklyn, Williamsburg is the place to go!
Find out about other nightlife from our post on things to do in Williamsburg.
They even have a family day on Sundays from noon to 6 pm!
Check out First Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum, which takes place on the first Saturday of each month and is free from 5 pm-11 pm. It’s part-art and part-party.
Live bands, eclectic entertainment, and a cash bar make First Saturdays one of the most popular night events in Brooklyn.
Other dance clubs that we recommend are Bembe and Baby's All Right, both in Williamsburg. Bushwick also has a lively dance and music scene.
Grab a Drink with a Skyline View
Buzz Bar is right on the Fulton Ferry Landing which means the views of Lower Manhattan are unsurpassed.
You can enjoy fantastic live music, great food, and drinks. It's also a good place to grab food during the day. They are open daily from 12 pm-10 pm. Note that it is CASH ONLY.
See a Free Outdoor Movie (Summer)
A favorite summer activity of New Yorkers is watching movies outdoors for free in select parks throughout the city.
Brooklyn has some of the best series, and some come with incredible views of Manhattan. Check these out:
- Red Hook Flicks in Red Hook with an amazing view of the Statue of Liberty
- Movies with a View at Brooklyn Bridge Park with outstanding views of Lower Manhattan
- Summerscreen in Williamsburg with live music before the movie, and food & drink from local vendors
Luna Park and Coney Island (Summer)
We really love Coney Island, especially in the summer. At night, Luna Park's rides are lit up and colorful.
There are plenty of bars open, some with live music. You can also catch a concert at the Amphitheater.
Friday nights are Firework nights! From late June until the Friday before Labor Day at 9:30 pm a free fireworks display is set off on the beach. A memorable summer night in NYC.
Our post, Things to do in Coney Island, can help you plan your visit.
Live Music Outdoors (Summer)
Brooklyn is THE place to catch live music all summer long, and most of it is free!
Most concerts are free and the line-ups are outstanding, with performers who could easily sell out a paid venue.
Line-ups include bands like The National, Wilco, Beck, and lots of Latino, African and even classical music from around the world. Get more information here.
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights (December)
Most people don't know that the best holiday decorations and Christmas lights are in the neighborhood of Dyker Heights in Brooklyn.
For over 3 decades, residents in the neighborhood put up lavish, outlandish, and sometimes blinding holiday lights.
You will also find huge lawn ornaments and motorized displays. Dyker Heights has truly become a “must-see” for many people during the holidays.
One can visit on their own but the neighborhood is big and it is best to go with a guide who knows which are the best streets to visit.
Take a look at our guided Dyker Heights Lights Tour which can take you straight to the best displays.
In addition to walking the Brooklyn Bridge, seeing fantastic street art, or just strolling along the Coney Island Boardwalk (all listed in our Top 10 section above), Brooklyn has an endless number of really fun things to do for free.
From world-class museums to boat rides offering stunning skyline views, you could keep yourself occupied for several days without busting your budget.
Below are some additional ideas. For hundreds of other free things to do in the city, check out our post on free things to do in NYC.
Be sure to also check out our guide to NYC on a budget.
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Located near Brooklyn Heights, the massive Brooklyn Bridge Park offers activities from rock climbing, roller skating, kayaking, and more.
There are multiple playgrounds and in the summer, there is even a pop-up pool.
Bring a blanket and some food for a picnic or enjoy food from the food vendors. Save the best for last: ice cream at Ample Hills Creamery.
TIP: Our pay-what-you-like Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO Tour ends just by the park.
You can also use our self-guided tour of DUMBO which includes the Park (and the ice cream!)
Take a Free Tour of Brooklyn Brewery
Brooklyn was at the forefront of the nation-wide development of craft beers. The Brooklyn Brewery was ahead of the pack when they opened in 1988.
Their unique beers can be found in at least 25 states and in 20 different countries!
They offer a free tour of the brewery every half hour from 1 pm-5 pm on Saturdays and from 1 pm-4 pm on Sundays.
The tours are first-come, first-serve- no reservations necessary. Click here for more information.
See Brooklyn from the Water
While this activity isn’t totally free, it’s pretty darn close.
The East River Ferry service, a commuter ferry line is a lot like the subway. You board the ferry for the same price as the subway ($2.75) and get off at your destination.
You can stay on for the whole ride and you’ll see some of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods as the ferry makes its Brooklyn stops.
You can also get off the ferry in any of those neighborhoods and go exploring. However, you cannot reboard (without buying another ticket) as it is not a hop-on-hop-off ferry.
TIP: For amazing views of the Southern Brooklyn waterfront from the Verrazano Bridge up to the Brooklyn Bridge, take the free Staten Island ferry.
Take an Iconic Photo of Brooklyn
If this view looks familiar, that is because it is one of Brooklyn's most photographed locations.
This is the Manhattan Bridge, located in DUMBO and this view of the bridge has appeared in such movies as The Naked City (1948), The French Connection (1971), Serpico (1973), Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Scent of a Woman (1992), American Gangster (2007), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), The Amazing Spider-Man (both 2012).
We visit the spot on our Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights, and DUMBO Tour.
The spot is also walking distance from the end location of our Brooklyn Heights Tour.
Also, our self-guided tour of DUMBO explains how to get there and some tips on getting a great shot.
Visit a Museum
Below are museums that are either always free or sell tickets but also allow entry if you give a suggested donation.
This beautiful Beaux-Arts structure, designed by McKim, Mead, and White, in 1895, is 560,000 square feet (170,688 m) making it the city's second-largest museum.
With a world-class collection of roughly 1.5 million works from almost every global culture dating back millennia, the Brooklyn museum rivals the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Their Egyptian, Asian and African antiquities are exquisite as are their holdings of American paintings dating to Colonial times.
Their modern art collection contains works by American artists Edward Hopper, Jackson Pollack, Mark Rothko, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Norman Rockwell.
Though the ticket booth lists prices, the museum is technically free, as the ticket price is by suggested donation, meaning give whatever you would like to gain entry.
Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS)
Founded in 1863, BHS is a museum, library, and educational center that preserves and encourages the study of Brooklyn's 400-year long history and it houses the largest collection of Brooklyn historical documents in the United States.
Located in Brooklyn Heights, the building itself is remarkable, designed by architect George B. Post, who also designed the New York Stock Exchange.
See Brooklyn Historical Society for information.
Our Brooklyn Heights Tour includes a stop at BHS. Ticket prices are posted but BHS is free as the ticket prices are a “ suggested donation”.
Water Front Museum
Located in Red Hook, this is a floating museum housed on the historic 1914 Lehigh Valley Barge #79, the last wooden barge of its kind.
It is so historic that it is even listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It also has great views of the Statue of Liberty. Free tours are given every Thursday 4-8 pm and Saturday 1-5 pm.
See their website here: Water Front Museum
The Old Stone House
Located in Park Slope, this historic house had a significant role in the American Revolutionary War.
In modern times, it was the Brooklyn Dodgers’ original clubhouse for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The Old Stone House is always free. Open Friday 3-6 pm, Saturday & Sunday, 11 am to 4 pm.
Located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard just east of DUMBO.
The museum showcases the history of the Brooklyn Navy Yard which opened in 1801 and was one of America's first naval shipyards.
BLDG 92 is always free and open Wednesday through Sunday from 12 pm to 6 pm.
Brooklyn is a borough of NYC that is filled with families and so there are plenty of activities for kids of all ages.
Here are a few stand-outs to keep you and your kids entertained. Please do look at the other sections of this post as any activities are kid-friendly.
A favorite with kids and adults, this museum is housed in a former subway station with real subway cars from different decades, ranging from 1904 up until today that you can walk into and explore.
There are family programs including one where your child can ‘operate’ a subway car and drive it over miles of virtual tracks.
The gift shop is also fantastic with every kind of New York memorabilia you could want.
Founded in 1899, this museum was the country’s first museum created just made for kids.
Over a hundred years later, kids still love this interactive play space that also celebrates Brooklyn’s ethnic diversity.
There is a mini-Mexican bakery, kosher market, and an old-school Italian pizzeria. This museum is best for younger children under 10.
The museum has a pay-what-you-wish policy on Thursday afternoons from 2 pm-6 pm, so be sure to take advantage and save some money!
Bring your kids to Brooklyn Bridge Park located along the waterfront across from Manhattan for a ride on this lovingly-restored carousel built in 1922.
It was brought here by private developers from an amusement park in Ohio when that park closed down.
Rides are $2 but the jaw-dropping views of Manhattan are priceless.
Click here for hours and directions to get there.
This fun-filled amusement park opened in 2010 and is named after the original amusement park that opened in 1903, but was destroyed in a fire in 1944.
For those seeking thrills, there is the Coney Island Cyclone, the Thunderbolt, and the Luna 360.
There are also classic arcade games like the Ring Toss, the Whac-a-Mole, and Extreme Basketball. Plus, there are plenty of food stalls.
The Aquarium first opened in 1896 at its original location in Castle Clinton in Lower Manhattan.
Today is it located in Coney Island. It’s the oldest continually operating aquarium in the United States!
The Aquarium is home to over 350 species of aquatic wildlife and over 8,000 specimens of sea creatures.
In the Aquatheater, sea lions perform while at the Sea Cliffs you will find the Sea Otters, Black-Footed Penguins, and Harbor Seals.
There is a 4D Theater showing 3D films with extrasensory effects for an immersive experience.
Glover’s Reef exhibit showcases a variety of fish and other wildlife such as the Moray Eel and the Cownose Ray.
Located in the beautiful Prospect Park near Park Slope, this small zoo houses more than 100 species of animals.
There are two buildings with indoor exhibits, a small farm/petting zoo, and an outdoor walk with other exhibits.
Children can get close-up views of some unusual animals or animals not seen often in other zoos, like dingos!
The zoo is interactive which makes it perfect for younger children and toddlers.
Located in Williamsburg, this 5,000-square-foot warehouse of tastes, smells, textures, history. There are even exhibits you can eat like the fortune-cookie machine.
Watch as the cookies are made and then take as many as you want, freshly baked, right off the conveyor belt. What more could a kid want!
You don’t have to have kids to visit MOFAD.
Right nearby MOFAD is the Brooklyn Brewery which has free tours on the weekends, and if you time it right, you can wash down those fortune cookies with free beer!