What To Do In Brooklyn

This post covers the best things to do in Brooklyn, including a top 10 list, free things to do, nighttime activities, things to do with kids as well as showing you the best neighborhoods and foods. Be sure to consider one of our pay-what-you-wish tours to explore these neighborhoods.

 

 


TOP 10 THINGS TO DO 

Below is our list of the top 10 things to do in Brooklyn.  You’ll see that we have included many links to other posts so that you can get in-depth information on topics that you are interested in.

For more ideas on top popular attractions, check out our post comparing tourist discount passes, which can help you save money on entry fees.  Find out what specifically in Brooklyn is included in these passes and other discount opportunities here. 


(1) Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn-Bridge-pedestrian-view
This is one activity that should be on first time visitor’s ‘must-do’ list.

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 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!

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:

We also have GPS audio tours and free printable self-guided tours of several neighborhoods in Brooklyn. 


(3) Head out to Coney Island

In the warm weather months, head to famous Coney Island. Stroll the boardwalk, enjoy the beach, or ride the famous Cyclone roller coaster at Luna Park. This is a great place to bring the kids.

Be sure to grab a hot dog and fries at world-famous Nathan’s.

In the summer, catch a concert at the Amphitheater.

See our post, Things to do in Coney Island, for all the information you need to plan your visit. 


(4) See great Street Art

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. We offer a  pay-what-you-like Bushwick Graffiti and Street Art Tour and Williamsburg Street Art Tour.

For other street art tour options, click here


(5) Go to Sports Event or Concert at the Barclays Center

New Orleans Sports Teams

In 2012, Brooklyn got its first arena, the Barclays Center, funded in part by New York native, Jay-Z. It’s a spectacular space to see a sporting event as the views and facilities are top-notch.

Barclays is home to the basketball team, the Brooklyn Nets, and the ice hockey team, the New York Islanders.

Barclays also rivals Madison Square Garden when it comes to its concerts. Find out what will be playing at Barclays Center when you are here. 


(6) Take a Bus Tour 

Bus tours are a great way to see a lot of Brooklyn in one afternoon or as an evening excursion.

CitySightseeing is currently the only choice for a double-decker, hop-on-hop-off Brooklyn Bus tour, though several companies have Brooklyn routes. Among the stops are the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, listed just below.

The bus also has stops at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, the Prospect Zoo, listed in our family-friendly section, and Junior’s Restaurant for the best cheesecake in New York City.

Find out more about other Brooklyn Bus tours, as well as other tours of Brooklyn, here


(7) 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 lists prices, these prices are, in fact, a “suggested donations”, meaning you can give whatever you like to gain entry.

Find out more below in our Free Things to Do section. 


(8) See the Brooklyn Botanic Garden 

Cherry Blossom Brooklyn

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). 

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. 

In the spring they have their annual Cherry Blossom Festival. 


(9) Hear the famed Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

While everyone is rushing up to Harlem to hear gospel music, you should head straight to Brooklyn to hear this amazing choir.

In 2013 they were invited to sing to the Nation at the Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C.

The Tabernacle is located in easily-reachable Downtown Brooklyn. Sunday services are at 9 am, 11 am and 1 pm. Find more information here.

The Tabernacle is located near many of the places we’ve mentioned above. It is also a stop on our Brooklyn Heights audio walking tour


(10) Explore some of Brooklyn’s historic neighborhoods

What better way to get to know Brooklyn than meandering its streets, stopping at local shops and interacting with the natives.

There are dozens of distinct neighborhoods in Brooklyn with unique characteristics, a variety of ethnic populations and always plenty to see and do.

Below we’ve listed some of the neighborhoods we think you will enjoy, and include links to our self-guided tours, pay-what-you-like guided walking tours, and GPS-enabled audio tours.

 


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THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT

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 What to Do at Night in New York City


Stroll the Brooklyn Heights Promenade

This pedestrian 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.

The Promenade is included in our daytime Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO Tour as well as our Brooklyn Heights Walking Tour.

The promenade is also a stop on our Brooklyn Heights audio walking tour


Theater

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. 


Dancing

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, check out Brooklyn Bowl. It’s a bowling alley- music hall-dance club-bar. It’s got it all and it’s very fun! They even have a family day on Sundays from noon to 6 pm!

Check out First Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum, which takes place the first Saturday of each month and is free from 5pm-11pm. 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.

Here’s a list of Brooklyn dance clubs and bars we recommend. Also, take a look at this list of dance clubs in Williamsburg


Grab a drink with a skyline view  

Dozens of rooftop bars are open in the summer, some with incredible views. One favorite of ours is in DUMBO, called Buzz Bar and it is run by the same folks who own the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.

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.

For a list of places to get great views in Brooklyn and all around the city, see our posts 10 Rooftop Bars with Great Views and Best New York Skyline Views


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: 

For a complete schedule of all city movie locations, see this Free Outdoor Summer Movie Guide as well as our New York City Summer Guide.


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!  The stand-out is Celebrate Brooklyn! at the Prospect Park Bandshell near Park Slope. 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. 

 


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FREE THINGS TO DO

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, Free Things to Do in NYC.  

Be sure to also check out our Guide to New York City on a Budget


Brooklyn Bridge Park (kid-friendly)

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: the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. 

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 1pm-5pm on Saturdays and from 1pm-4pm 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. Ferries leave from Lower Manhattan and  Midtown Manhattan.

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, but you cannot reboard (without buying another ticket) as it is not a hop-on-hop-off ferry.

See our neighborhoods section below to see which are on the ferry route. For sure you should consider getting off at the DUMBO stop or the Williamsburg stop.

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.

Brooklyn Museum

This beautiful Beaux-Arts structure, designed by McKim, Mead, and White, in 1895, is 560,000 square feet (170688 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 is 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. 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 4-8pm and Saturday 1-5pm. 


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. Always free. Open Friday 3-6 pm, Saturday & Sunday, 11 am to 4 pm.


BLDG 92 

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. Always free and open Wednesday through Sunday from 12 pm to 6 pm.

 


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FAMILY-FRIENDLY 

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.

You can find even more information about visiting Brooklyn and all of NYC with kids at Top 10 Things to Do with Kids in New York City as well as our 3-day itinerary for families

TIP:  Some of these attractions are included for free in tourist passes, such as the New York Pass, New York Sightseeing Pass, and the New York City Explorer Pass.  Learn more by reading our post comparing New York City tourist discount passes


New York Transit Museum

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. It is definitely a ride into the past.

here 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.


Brooklyn Children’s Museum

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 with a mini-Mexican bakery, kosher market, and 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 2pm-6pm, so be sure to take advantage and save some money! 


Jane’s Carousel

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. 


Luna Park at Coney Island

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. 


New York Aquarium

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. 


Prospect Park Zoo 

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. 


The Museum of Food and Drink (MoFAD)

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!

 


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Written by Courtney Shapiro

 

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