Things To Do In Brooklyn – First Time In New York

Introduction – Things to do in Brooklyn 

Planning your first visit to New York City can be both exciting and overwhelming.  From the Met to the Statue of Liberty, the list of things to do in New York is endless. However, no matter what else you plan, think about spending at least one day in Brooklyn. In Brooklyn, you’ll find unique museums, trendy restaurants, and brilliant city views. To help you coordinate the ultimate Brooklyn day, I put together a complete one-day itinerary.  If you follow this itinerary, you will visit many major points of interest. Additionally, at the bottom of this article, you’ll find a comprehensive list of all Brooklyn attractions.

Travel Tip

New York City is one of the most expensive cities in the world. If you’d like to save money during your New York visit, check out the New York Pass. With this deal, you will pay one fixed price and get free admission to almost every major New York attraction. Over a period of 3 days, a family of four will save about a thousand dollars. Additionally, the pass gives you fast track entry to many major attractions. And in New York, times is money 🙂

Morning

To start your day you’ll walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.  Next, you’ll enjoy breakfast with a view of the Manhattan skyline in Brooklyn Bridge Park.  Then, make your way over to the world-famous Brooklyn Museum (with a stop at the Bowe Exhibit). Afterward, grab an authentic Brooklyn lunch.  Finish your day in the beautiful Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.

Brooklyn Bridge

things to do in brooklyn - cross the brooklyn bridge
The best time to cross the Brooklyn Bridge is early in the morning.

Start your day in the best borough in NYC with a walk over the famous Brooklyn Bridge.  Constructed in 1883, this world-famous bridge is known as one of the oldest suspension bridges in the world.  It took 14 years to build this landmark.  Because of poor construction safety in the 19th century, at least 27 people died during the construction.  Still, the fact that this miracle of modern engineering is used by millions of people more than a century later is a testament to the genius of its design.  If you’d like, read up on the history of the Brooklyn Bridge.  

Also Read: Downtown Brooklyn20 Amazing Things To Do

Although the history is fascinating, for now, let’s focus on the practical aspects of crossing the bridge.  The very best piece of advice anyone can give you here is “show up early.”  I suggest starting your day at 8 am. At this time, you are unlikely to encounter many tourists and you will mostly have the bridge to yourself.  Starting early also means you’ll get the best pictures – and maybe even a view of the sunrise (depending on the time of year).  

It takes about an hour to walk the length of the bridge (with a time allowance to stop and take pictures).  Be sure to account for temperature differences if you are traveling to New York in the winter.  With the windchill, a walk on the bridge can feel 20 degrees colder than in downtown Manhattan.  Don’t let that stop you – just be sure to bundle up.  Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge is definitely worth the effort.  

Travel Tip:

Not sure where to stay? Check out my favorite hotel in NYC – The Beekman, conveniently located just a short walk from the Brooklyn Bridge.

Brooklyn Bridge Park 

things to do in brooklyn - brooklyn bridge park
Ironically, you can only get this view of Manhattan from Brooklyn.

Once you have made it over the bridge, set your GPS to Jane’s Carousel.  These coordinates will take you to the center of the Brooklyn Bridge Park.  The center of the park is actually about a ten-minute walk from where you will exit the bridge.  The expansive Brooklyn Bridge Park is a fairly new project.  This area had served as warehouse central for much of the twentieth century.    

Travel Tip:

Prefer to bike instead of walk? Free bike rental is included with the New York Pass.

You are now in DUMBO – Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass.  Brooklyn Bridge Park has helped to transform Dumbo from industrial neighborhood to a tourist attraction. However, if you walk around you can still find some old warehouse facilities. Stand at the carousel and face the water.  If you are so inclined, walk to your left, past the bridge and towards the piers.  Here you’ll find many more parts of the park and other attractions – including art installations and beautiful views. Piers 1 through 6 are now open to visitors.  Many tourists miss the far-flung portions of the park, which are definitely worth seeing.

Also Read: A complete guide to Brookly’s Dead Horse Bay

things to do in Brooklyn - shopping in empire stores
An old waterfront warehouse converted to a fashionable shopping center in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

But for now, let’s stay near the Carousel, in the central portion of the park. If you skipped breakfast, now is a great time to enjoy some.  Stop in the large red building by the water –  the Empire Stores building.  This old factory is recently converted to a fashionable shopping center and there are several breakfast options here.  My own favorite is just a cup of coffee and a treat from the downstairs cafe.  Take it to go and watch the city waking up from across the water.  

Travel Tip:

Prefer to do a Brooklyn walking tour? You can choose from a variety of options and many are free with the New York Pass:

Brooklyn Museum

things to do in brooklyn - brooklyn museum
The large atrium in the Brooklyn Museum.

Next, let’s make our way over to our next two attractions – both located in inner borough.  The best way to get here is with an Uber or a green taxi (yellow taxis are rarely available on this side of the Bridge). Alternatively, take the 5 train to the Brooklyn Museum stop. You will now find yourself in the tony and family-friendly neighborhood of Park Slope.  

The Brooklyn Museum, a premier art institution, is at the top of the list of things to do in Brooklyn. 

Travel Tip:

Entrance to the Brooklyn Museum is free with the New York Pass.

If you are visiting NYC before July 15th, 2018 be sure to indulge in the David Bowie special exhibit.   The Bowe exhibit is an immersive experience you should try not to miss (more on this later).  But whenever you visit New York, the five-floor museum is a worthy stop for any art or history lover.  

With a heavy focus on special exhibits, this museum also hosts a plethora of permanent collections.  The second-floor focuses and Asian and Middle Eastern art.  The third on Egyptian – including my own favorite – the mummy chamber.  The fourth floor is period rooms and decorative arts.  And the fifth is the must not miss American Life Experience.  There are is also plenty for the architecture buff here – including the newly reconstructed Great Hall.  

Also Read: How to walk over the Manhattan bridge, a Complete Guide.

David Bowie special exhibit at Brooklyn Museum (closed in 2018)

things to do in Brooklyn - Bowe exhibit
Brooklyn Museum’s Bowe exhibit is definitely worth a visit. Exhibit closes July 15th, 2018

A thoroughly produced study in a life extraordinary, the David Bowie special exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum introduces fans to the inner workings of David’s Bowie’s art.  No pictures are allowed in the exhibit.  It is unclear is this limitation is intended to control the media or to provide real breadth to your experience.  The freedom of being unable to document your experience allows the viewer to live it instead. 

Before you enter the exhibit, you will receive special headphones.  As you walk in, all five senses become submerged in the world of Bowie.  The music pursues you and changes depending on your location.  Costumes, photography, videos and other artifacts of Bowe’s life are all only supplements to the experience – the music is the real star.  The exhibit controls every aspect of your being, a fitting tribute to a man who controlled every aspect of his art. 

Lunch

There is no shortage of great places to eat near the Museum.  My own favorite in the area includes the delicious and inexpensive Lincoln Station

Here are a few more favorites to consider for lunch near the Brooklyn Museum.  

Afternoon

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

Only 3 minutes away from the Museum, the Botanical gardens are the perfect last stop on your list of things to do in Brooklyn. Established in 1897, this is one of the oldest Botanical Gardens in the United States.  Here you will find a wealth of activities and a visual paradise. At $15 per entry, the gardens also happen to be one of the greatest bargains in NYC.  If you are visiting the gardens in the spring, you’ll find Brooklyn’s very own version of Japan’s Cherry Blossom Festival. 

Travel Tip:

Entry to the gardens is free with the New York Pass.

As it warms up more plants begin to flower including a large rose garden, sporting dozens of varieties of flowers.  If you are here in the fall, the Botanical Gardens is a great place to view foliage and changing leaves.  The Japanese gardens with its reflective pool is especially beautiful in the fall.  And if you are here in winter there are plenty of indoor spaces.  A large conservatory offers 3 environments to explore – warm, tropical and desert.  In early spring, my own favorite season, you’ll see signs of nature waking up.  Be sure not to miss this gem whatever season you are visiting NYC. 

Dinner

For dinner make your way back to the Brooklyn Bridge Park.  There is no shortage of food here – but if you feel like braving a long line, check out Grimaldi’s pizza – a New York classic.  Afterward, watch the sunset over the bridge and make your way back over to the big town.  Here are some more great ideas in case you are visiting NYC with kids for the first time.

To explore more of the world’s great capital cities, check out 2 Days in Paris – the Perfect Itinerary

Brooklyn Points of Interest

Let’s take a quick look at all of Brooklyn’s prominent points of interest.

One last thing…

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Things to do in Brooklyn - how to spend one day in Brooklyn on your first trip to NYC. An itinerary for a visit to Brooklyn.
Things to do in Brooklyn – how to spend one day in Brooklyn on your first trip to NYC. An itinerary for a visit to Brooklyn.

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1 Comment

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    Dheeraj Kohli
    April 13, 2018 at 8:03 am

    This article perks me to take a tour of Brooklyn. If it’s so fascinating to read about, it will definitely be worth a visit. Thanks for the wonderful article.

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