While Manhattan has the majority of New York's tourist attractions, we urge you to visit some of the many highlights Brooklyn has to offer. This tour showcases both cultural attractions and a walking tour to get a feel for Brooklyn's tremendous diversity. Most of the tour is handicapped accessible, and depending on the weather you can modify the amount of time you spend at the various destinations. Get started in the mid-morning or early afternoon, and stop for lunch and/or dinner.
The best place to start any tour of Brooklyn—especially for the uninitiated—is a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
. Since the A, C, J, M, R, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 trains all come within a few blocks' walk of the bridge, you should have no problem finding your way there. The Brooklyn Bridge, by the way, is old enough that it predates the consolidation of the boroughs into what we now know as New York City in 1898. At the time, Brooklyn was the second largest city in the country, just behind Manhattan. The views from between the steel suspension wires are breathtaking and reach far along the East River in both directions, as well as stunning vistas of lower Manhattan and DUMBO
At the base of the bridge, you can head north to Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park
, where during the summer you can check out the sculpture show that turns the park into an open-air art gallery. During all seasons, though, the park is a prime spot for great photography. You can also catch a New York Water Taxi at Fulton Landing for a hop-on/hop-off jaunt around the waterways of the Hudson and East Rivers.
Down Cadman Plaza, you'll find the High Street A/C subway station, which you can take to Jay Street/Borough Hall for a transfer to the 2 and 3 trains. Or you can enjoy the day and walk down Brooklyn Bridge Boulevard to Borough Hall itself, and if you continue south, you'll come to the New York Transit Museum
at Boerum Place & Schermerhorn Street, where visitors can learn about the development and history of the world's most extensive public transportation system. You'll have to buck that system when you leave, though, and either walk southeast down Atlantic Avenue or catch a cab. The stretch of avenue there is peppered with antique shops, restaurants, and bars, and it's well-worth the walk. A stop at Jolie
is highly recommended, as the French bistro has become the go-to location for wine and fine cuisine.
At last, you'll come to Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal and the future home of the Atlantic Yards, which will house the New Jersey Nets
when they become the Brooklyn Nets. Atlantic Terminal is a great place for shopping and between its two main buildings houses Marshalls, Burlington Coat Factory, Target, DSW
, Old Navy
, Guitar Center, Gamestop, and Bath & Body Works. There's plenty to choose from if you're hungry as well; there's a Cold Stone Creamery for your sweet tooth, a Belmont Steaks for a big, hearty meal, and, of course, a Starbucks.
If none of that piques your interest, you can skip ahead to Grand Army Plaza by either talking the 2 or 3 train from Atlantic Terminal or, if you're interested in more dining options and shopping, take the eight or so block walk down Flatbush Avenue. Either way, once you're at Grand Army Plaza, you're at the northernmost corner of Prospect Park
. Grand Army Plaza itself is a spectacular sight, with the Soldiers' And Sailors' Arch looming over the traffic circle, evoking Paris's Arc de Triomphe. It's a far cry from the lackluster Grand Army Plaza at the southeast corner of Central Park; that lost chance for statue-esque spectacle must've inspired Central Park designers Olmsted and Vaux when they began to dream up plans for Prospect Park.
Now, Prospect Park is by no means the Brooklyn stepchild of Central Park
. In fact, some of the design elements—like Prospect Park's Grand Army Plaza—give one the sense that maybe Olmsted and Vaux considered their design of Prospect Park superior to that of Central Park. Unlike Central Park, which was constructed before the Civil War, Prospect Park's construction was delayed because of the war, allowing the designers more time to plan more elaborate design. The first structure completed was the Endale Arch, in 1867. Points of interest that are not to be missed in Prospect Park are the Rose Garden and the Vale of Cashmere, as well as the Boathouse and the curious Croquet House.
Just around the corner from Grand Army Plaza is the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library
, one of the largest library branches in the entire city. The massive library even has a restaurant on the third floor and is home to the world-renowned Brooklyn Collection of manuscripts, books, maps, and other historical documents regarding the borough. If that appeals to you, you should follow the library with a quick walk down Eastern Parkway to the Brooklyn Museum
, a Beaux-Arts building that houses a vast collection of various disciplines of art, including several awe-inspiring permanent collections. Adjacent to the Brooklyn Museum—situated on Flatbush Avenue—is the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
, a spectacular horticultural experience that contains beautiful displays like the Japanese Hill-And-Pond Garden, the Cherry Esplanade, the Cranford Rose Garden, and the Bonsai museum. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden, best of all, is free on Saturdays from 10am to noon and all day on Tuesdays.
Before moving along to Coney Island, you might want to explore 7th and 5th Avenues in the adjacent Park Slope neighborhood
, which is a sort of high-rent, post-graduate version of Williamsburg
and, necessarily, hosts a wealth of trendy shops and restaurants, including high-end bakeries/patisseries like Ladybird
and Colson Patisserie
. The neighborhood is also home to delicious Italian restaurants like Sotto Voce
, Latin food superstars Bogota
, the seafood-rich Blue Ribbon
, and more than a few local drinking institutions, like Commonwealth
, The Dram Shop
, and 12th Street Bar
. Novelist Dave Eggers even has an outpost of his 826 non-profit in Park Slope, hidden from villainous eyes by its Brooklyn Superhero Supply
When you're done exploring, make your way to the F train at 9th Street and 7th & 8th Avenues or at 15th Street and Prospect Park West (insider tip: the Pavillion Theater at 15th Street is a great place to cool off for a few hours if you're taking this tour during the summer) and take the train all the way out to Coney Island.
Coney Island remains one of the spectacular ruins of modern civilization. In its heyday, countless New Yorkers enjoyed the recreational facilities on warm summer days. The nearby beach and boardwalk have a timeless quality to them, although all the facilities have seen better days. The place itself is historic enough in the eyes of New Yorkers to warrant the Coney Island Museum
, which is a block away from the final stop (Stillwell Ave) on the train.
When you get off the subway train, by the way, you might think you arrived in Europe; the new 34,000-square foot Portal Building at the Coney Island subway station hardly resembles New York! There is a gorgeous 370-foot-long mural depicting Coney Island's famous images, including the Wonder Wheel and the legendary hot dog. New stores in this beautiful subway station aided significantly in the continuous rebirth of Coney Island, as does ongoing development. The new Keyspan Park is just a few blocks west and boasts Brooklyn's minor league team, the Cyclones
Two annual summer events, the Mermaid Parade
and the hot dog eating contest are uniquely Coney Island, and are highly recommended, in addition to the legendary roller coaster, the Cyclone. Riding this old wooden roller coaster is more thrilling than even Universal Orlando's coasters, not least because every time you ride, you still get the illusion this rickety old contraption will derail and send you flying off the tracks. It never fails to delight! Despite Astroland closing in 2008, the Cyclone—now a bona fide New York City Historic Landmark—remains in operation. While it is hardly a gourmet's Mecca, do stop for a Nathan's Famous
for one of their historic hot dogs.
If you're not utterly exhausted at this point, you could either follow the coastline or take the subway (the Q from the Stillwell Ave station) to Brighton Beach, New York's largest Russian immigrant community. Enjoy a meal and possibly a floor show at Primorski Restaurant
, or perhaps a specialty of the Republic of Georgia, hot cheese bread. Either way, you will be among the few intrepid tourists to enjoy just a few of Brooklyn's hidden treasures.
Hot tip: If you'll be visiting a number of attractions in Brooklyn, consider purchasing the Brooklyn Pass
, which grants admission to a number of attractions as well as discounts to other venues. It's only $25 for adults and $15 for children.