Visiting Brooklyn is one of the best things to do on a weekend getaway in New York City. Not only is it easily accessible, but it offers a multitude of tourist attractions and activities. From world-class art museums, flea markets, and lively nightlife, there are so many things to do in Brooklyn. In addition, there are also several family-friendly parks and destinations perfect for tourists with children. And while most tourists tend to visit places like The Hamptons and Manhattan, Brooklyn is a city that shouldn’t be missed.
So if you find yourself in the Big Apple, look no further and plan a trip to Brooklyn! Whether it’s a day tour or a weekend trip, the city has so many things in store for you. Here are the must-visit sights, must-try food experiences, and other fun activities in Brooklyn.
Things to Do in Brooklyn for Sightseeing
Sightseeing is one of the top things to do when visiting Brooklyn. The city offers plenty of parks, gardens, and other public spaces for all kinds of tourists. Best of all, some of these places are free and can be visited on a single trip. On your visit, make sure to add these places to your itinerary.
1. Cross the Brooklyn Bridge
Like the London Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, and the Harbour Bridge in Sydney, Brooklyn Bridge is one of the world’s most famous bridges. And although it sounds touristy, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the best free things to do in Brooklyn, especially for first-time visitors. It may take more than 30 minutes depending on your pace, but you can always bike or drive your way through the bridge. From the bridge, catch scenic views of New York, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. If you’re lucky, you even get a chance to see the Statue of Liberty from afar. Additionally, there are GPS-enabled audio tours of the bridge for those who want to gain a deeper appreciation of this iconic landmark.
2. Stop and Smell the Flowers at Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens teems with an abundance of flora across its 52 acres. Its massive space boasts a Japanese-style garden, rose garden, and a garden that features plants mentioned in William Shakespeare’s works. Walk around the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and admire its lush greenery, well-manicured flower bushes, and romantic arches. No matter what season you visit, the garden also offers plenty of photo spots and breathtaking sights. Overall, if you’re looking for a more relaxing activity, visiting the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is one of the best things to do in Brooklyn.
3. Relax at Prospect Park
Prospect Park is Brooklyn’s alternative to Manhattan’s iconic Central Park, located near the charming neighborhood of Park Slope. After all, both parks were designed by the same landscape architects. Prospect Park also serves as a natural space providing a change of scenery in the middle of the bustling city. At 526 acres, there are plenty of sightseeing opportunities and things to do in Prospect Park. Enjoy a picnic lunch at Prospect Park, bike your way through its trails, or simply relax as you explore its different areas. Visitors can also go on a boat tour, go horseback riding, cruise on a pedal boat, or go ice skating in winter. At Prospect Park Zoo, find more than a hundred species of animals, ranging from alpacas and sheep to red pandas and river otters.
4. View the Manhattan Skyline From Brooklyn Heights Promenade
The Brooklyn Promenade provides unobstructed views of Manhattan’s skyline and the East River. Additionally, the thousand-foot-long platform is also perfect for going on a leisurely stroll or watching the sunset. Sit at one of the many benches along the promenade and take in the panoramic views of Lower Manhattan. In addition, you can also see the emblematic Statue of Liberty. Aside from taking pictures and soaking up the views, Brooklyn Heights Promenade is also a great place to go for a post-meal jog or run.
5. Discover Sunset Park
Sunset Park is a neighborhood boasting diverse culture and unparalleled views of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. It is also home to Latinos, Asians, and other minority groups, forming a unique food culture. Although watching the sunset is one of the top things to do in this serene waterfront neighborhood, there are other must-see sights here. Explore Industry City, a man-made creative hub housing anything and everything: food courts, vintage shops, furniture showrooms, and more. Catch a movie under the stars, see its timeless brownstone houses, and sit at one of the benches and enjoy riverside views of Manhattan.
6. Explore DUMBO
DUMBO is a neighborhood in Brooklyn that is short for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”. Once a landing area for ferries, it became a tech hub in the later years, then a trendy neighborhood with both high-end and independent shops. The unique red brick buildings and cobblestoned paths are not only rich in history but also add distinct character to the streets. Make sure to snap photos of the Empire State Building peeking through the Manhattan Bridge’s arches at the corners of Washington and Water Streets. Aside from the intriguing scenery, it also offers parks and establishments that are sure to delight tourists. Take a fun trip back in time at the historic Jane’s Carousel and spot famous authors and artists at PowerHouse ARENA. From the area, you can also enjoy gorgeous views of East River and Manhattan.
7. Visit Green-Wood Cemetery
Visiting Green-Wood Cemetery may be one of the more unconventional places to see in Brooklyn, but it is still worth the visit. In fact, it was the second most popular attraction in New York in the 1860s, the first one being Niagara Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the US. But despite its somber reputation as a burial site, Green-Wood Cemetery has some of the city’s hidden gems. Find lavish mausoleums, dramatic arches, and tranquil gardens as you explore the cemetery grounds. Further into your visit, go grave-spotting and try to find the tombstones of public figures like Jean-Michel Basquiat and other prominent people of New York.
8. Take a Hop-on Hop-off Tour of Brooklyn
Hop-on hop-off tours are one of the easiest ways to explore a city. These double-decker buses have designated stops near Brooklyn’s top sights, allowing tourists to hop on one stop and get off at another at their convenience as long as their ticket is valid. Go on a hop-on hop-off tour of downtown Brooklyn and enjoy the panoramic city views from the double-decker bus. Learn more about the city and its landmarks through the pre-recorded audio commentary. In addition, tickets can also come with added perks like free or discounted entry to museums, shopping vouchers, and free bike rental.
Food-Related Things to Do in Brooklyn
Food is one of the best ways to learn about the city, whether it’s through its five-star restaurants, street food, or local recommendations. Don’t miss these food-related activities and must-try places to eat in Brooklyn.
9. Go on a Food Trip to Smorgasburg
If you want a one-stop place for the best food, a trip to Smorgasburg is one of the best things to do in Brooklyn. Named after a witty portmanteau of “Smörgåsbord” and “Williamsburg”, the open-air weekly market features hundreds of local vendors and is a melting pot of cuisines from all around the world. Discover the best (and cheap!) local delights on a food trip at Smorgasburg and feast on burgers, nachos, egg rolls, and deep-fried pork wontons. If you’re not sure where to start, ask one of the locals what their best recommendations are in Smorgasburg.
10. Have Ice Cream at Ample Hills Creamery
Satisfy your sweet tooth and enjoy a delicious serving of ice cream at Ample Hills Creamery, known for its generous serving of toppings, ranging from cakes, pies, and candies. Try their Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, a vanilla ice cream mixed with homemade butter cake or Meet Me on the Long Meadow, a sweet tea ice cream swirled with blackcurrant jam and lemonade-iced cookies. Meanwhile, their King of Mangoes is a vegan-friendly treat made with Alphonso mangoes. For a deeper insight into how these frozen desserts are made, visit the Red Hook Factory, New York City’s largest ice cream production facility for an in-depth tour.
11. Take a Tour of Brooklyn Brewery
Founded in 1988, Brooklyn Brewery is one of the country’s premier microbreweries, famed for its ale and lager. For those who want to go behind the scenes of how these famous beers are made, the brewery offers guided tours. Get a deeper insight into the process of beer making on a 45-minute small-group tour of the brewery. Visit the brewhouse and packaging hall and learn more about the brewery’s history as you sample some of its beers. Meanwhile, free group tours are shorter in duration and don’t offer tastings, but you can still learn about its history and see the production behind one of Brooklyn’s best beers.
12. Eat Like a Local at Time Out Market New York
While Smorgasburg is an open-air food market, Time Out Market New York is housed in a 21,000-square foot indoor venue overlooking the East River. Located in the trendy DUMBO district, this is one of the most fun things to do in Brooklyn for food lovers. Its hundreds of eateries offer Mexican, Japanese, Italian, French, and classic American food. From delicious pancakes for breakfast to handcrafted cocktails after a day out sightseeing, you’ll never run out of food options here. Head to the outdoor dining areas and enjoy panoramic views of Manhattan, best seen at night as city lights illuminate the skyline.
13. Grab a Bite at DeKalb Market
With over 30 stalls, DeKalb Market features a range of cuisines. Visiting this downtown Brooklyn establishment feels like going around the world through its food: Japanese food like ramen and musubi, Chinese hand-pulled noodles, Neapolitan pizza, and American burgers. The market also has a wide selection of wines and hundreds of craft beers. What also makes DeKalb Market a must-visit for foodies is that it offers vegan dishes and freshly-pressed juices for those who prefer to eat clean and healthy.
Art, History, and Culture-Related Things to Do in Brooklyn
Brooklyn offers dozens of museums, lively street art, and is home to the prestigious Brooklyn Academy of Music. For museum lovers, art junkies, and those who want to learn about the city’s history, here are fun activities and experiences for you.
14. Shop at the Brooklyn Flea
Hunt for bargains and rare finds at the Brooklyn Flea, one of the largest and most famous flea markets on the East Coast. The market was founded in 2008 and has since been a popular tourist destination, showcasing the best of Brooklyn’s local products. During the weekend, don’t miss this lively shopping center in Williamsburg, DUMBO, and other locations around Brooklyn. Browse through the stalls and find an array of goods: from vintage clothing, vinyl records, and handmade jewelry to ceramics and other rare collectibles.
15. See Different Art Pieces at Brooklyn Museum
With over a million art pieces, Brooklyn Museum is among the largest museums in New York City. It is housed in a gorgeous Beaux-Arts building, initially built to be the world’s largest art museum. Marvel at the variety of artworks that showcase the heritage of different cultures through live-guided, audio-guided, or self-guided tours of the museum. Additionally, find Egyptian antiquities, religious artifacts from Africa, Renaissance paintings, and other works of art from the American colonial period. For budget travelers, watch out for free admission days to the museum to save money.
16. Admire the Street Art at Bushwick
Exploring Bushwick is a cheap yet fun way to discover Brooklyn’s art scene. This working-class neighborhood boasts several blocks of colorful graffiti collectively known as The Bushwick Collective. You may explore the area on your own or with a guide for a better and more organized trip. Start your walking tour of Bushwick’s street art at Troutman Street, admiring the murals and street art by local and international artists. Also, don’t forget to bring out your cameras and pose for that picture-perfect shot.
17. Catch a Show at Brooklyn Academy of Music
Since its first show in 1861, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) has been at the forefront of avant-garde performances in New York. From performance arts, theater, and opera, many world-class artists and performers have graced its halls. That said, watching a show here is one of the best things to do in Brooklyn. With five gorgeous venues to watch a show in, whether it be the magnificent Opera House or the historically significant Harvey Theater, you’ll enjoy the different experiences each brings to you. Also, make sure to drop by the BAMcafé for a pre-show dinner accompanied by free live music and readings
18. Tour the New York Transit Museum
Travel back in time and get a chance to see vintage subway cars at the New York Transit Museum. Housed in an actual subway station, the museum showcases the history of public transportation in New York through its collections and exhibitions. Check out the museum’s well-restored train cars and buses, some of which date back to the early 1900s. Visitors can also find permanently retired and historic trains on display. Before ending your tour, stop by the gift shop for cool transit-themed souvenirs, gifts, and collectibles.
19. Visit the Center for Brooklyn History
The Center for Brooklyn History is a museum, library, and educational center centered on Brooklyn’s history. It was formed through a collaboration between the Brooklyn Historical Society and Brooklyn Public Library, housing the largest collection of historical documents of the city. Aside from photos, maps, and recordings, the establishment also conducts weekend programs for students and tourists that bring Brooklyn’s history to life. If you’re looking for an all-in-one destination to learn more about this fascinating city, plan a trip to the Center for Brooklyn History.
20. Dance the Night Away at House of Yes
Let loose and enjoy a memorable night at House of Yes! This creative collective and nightclub quickly became a favorite weekend hangout for most locals because of its exuberant performances, cabaret and circus shows, and parties. Themed parties vary depending on the month but nonetheless you can expect to see elaborately dressed staff, wild parties, and a lively atmosphere. Partying at House of Yes is perfect for tourists who want to elevate their night out with more than just having drinks at the bar.
21. Explore the Brooklyn Navy Yard
The Brooklyn Navy Yard served as an important shipbuilding site and is now home to different industries and interesting places to visit. Start your Brookly Navy Yard exploration at BLDG 92, an exhibition and visitor center that lets you in on the history of the area. Then, visit the Kings County Distillery, the oldest whiskey distillery in NYC, or enjoy the rooftop views from Brooklyn Grange, an urban rooftop farm that grows vegetables and produce for restaurants and markets.
Things to Do in Brooklyn for Families
While Brooklyn is famous for its arts scene and lively nightlife, the city also has some family-friendly destinations filled with kid-friendly activities. These are some of the best places to visit and fun things to do with kids.
22. Spend the Day at Coney Island
Coney Island is a beautiful summer getaway reminiscent of the seaside amusement parks in Southern California. It is the perfect respite from the metropolitan lifestyle in the city, letting you bask under the sunlight and enjoy the ocean breeze. Luna Park in particular has been a favorite destination for families thanks to its fun amusement park rides, picturesque boardwalk, family activities, and nostalgic arcade games. On your Coney Island day tour, have hotdogs at Nathan’s Famous or brick-oven pizza at Totonno’s, two of the island’s most famous restaurants.
23. Visit Brooklyn Children’s Museum
At the time of its founding in 1899, Brooklyn Children’s Museum was the first museum of its kind in the country. It also features permanent and visiting exhibitions like Neighborhood Nature that features Brooklyn’s unique and quirky gardens. At ColorLab, kids can choose different materials and let their imagination run wild to create a unique art piece. The museum’s emphasis on inquiry-based learning and interactive exhibits, letting children satisfy their curiosity and explore makes it one of the must-visit places in Brooklyn for families.
24. Enjoy the Afternoon in Brooklyn Bridge Park
Soak up the sun and spend a warm afternoon of family fun in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The waterfront park offers wide and open spaces for picnicking, basketball, biking, and other fun outdoor activities. Brooklyn Bridge Park also has several hideaway-style playgrounds which have been a favorite among kids. Aside from land-based activities, the park is also a good location for boating and kayaking. In summer, the park also hosts outdoor film screenings, some of which the whole family can enjoy.
25. Learn About the History of Toys at The Toy Museum of NY
Get a deeper appreciation for dolls and toys at The Toy Museum of NY. Unlike most museums which have usual displays and exhibitions, this museum focuses on theater and performance-based museums showing the history of our favorite toys. Discover the popular toys during Lincoln’s time and watch interactive shows depicting the history of certain toys. Visitors can also learn about the origins of classic toys such as the frisbee and the well-loved teddy bear.
Seasonal Things to Do in Brooklyn
Aside from year-round events and places, there are also must-see places and must-attend events for every season. Depending on your time of visit, here are some of the best seasonal things to do in Brooklyn.
26. Admire the Christmas Lights in Dyker Heights
If you’re spending the Christmas holidays in Brooklyn, make sure to see the lovely winter illuminations in Dyker Heights. The residential area is famous in Brooklyn for its over-the-top Christmas decorations like life-size nutcrackers and even carousels. This tradition started in the 1980s and has since gained popularity during the Yuletide season, attracting more than 100,000 spectators. Tourists can go around Dyker Heights on their own, but it’s also ideal to go with a guide who knows their way around the neighborhood to show you the best streets and houses.
27. Watch a Movie Outdoors in Summer
Summer is perhaps one of the best seasons to enjoy an outdoor film screening. The weather is perfect in the day and at night, the stars and city lights make for a romantic setup. In Brooklyn, there are various venues where you can enjoy outdoor movie screenings in summer. Some of these venues also offer free admission. Catch a movie at places like Brooklyn Bridge Park, WNYC Transmitter Park, Commodore Barry Park, and the Brooklyn War Memorial. These venues also show family and kid-friendly movies so this is also one of the best things to do in Brooklyn for families.
28. Catch an NBA Game at Barclays Center
From late autumn to summer, watching an NBA game at Brooklyn is a must for sports aficionados. Get a chance to watch the Brooklyn Nets in action on a home game at Barclays Center, a multi-purpose indoor arena. You can feel the fans’ passion as they cheer for their home team and join the after-game parties during a win. If you can’t score tickets in Barclays Center, watching a game at one of the many sports bars around the city is a great alternative. Whether you’re an avid basketball fan or you just want to tick off an NBA game on your bucket list, this is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in America’s basketball culture.
29. Witness the Sakura Trees in Bloom at Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Experience one of the best festivals in Japan without actually going all the way to Japan! At the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, don’t miss their annual Sakura Matsuri, a multi-day event that celebrates Japanese culture. Walk through the Japanese Garden or the Cherry Esplanade and admire the pastel pink hues of the cherry blossom trees in full bloom. Additionally, taiko drum performances, kabuki dances, and other traditional performances add to the festive environment. Visitors can also get a taste of Japan by sampling Japanese delicacies, learning how to play Shogi (Japanese chess), and joining a tea ceremony.
30. See the Fall Foliage All Over the City
By autumn, Brooklyn turns into a picture-perfect destination with its tree-lined streets in wonderful shades of red, yellow, and gold. If you’re staying in the city in autumn, don’t miss the chance to admire the gorgeous foliage around the city. Join walking tours and bike tours that take you around some of Brooklyn’s best fall foliage spots. You may also explore the city at your leisure. In addition, stop by Prospect Park or Brooklyn Bridge Park, take in the views of the maple trees in warm hues, and don’t forget to take photos of this beautiful scenery. You can also head to the Japanese Garden in Brooklyn Botanic Gardens and feel as if you’re in one of the fall foliage spots in Kyoto.
Where to Stay in Brooklyn
(Take note that prices per night depend on the season and are subject to change without prior notice.)
- Best Boutique Hotel: 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge (Price starts at 387 USD) The hotel takes pride in its eco-friendly and sustainable materials: naturally sourced furnishings from Brooklyn, organic bedding, and cotton robes. In addition, guests are treated to incredible views of New York and the East River.
- Best Luxury Hotel: The William Vale (Price starts at 297 UD) This Brooklyn hotel boasts the longest outdoor hotel pool, measuring at 5,000 square feet. Its rooms also have a modern-luxe feel to them, with sliding glass doors and a mix of white and wooden elements.
- Best Mid-Range Hotel: Aloft New York Brooklyn (Price starts at 111 USD) Aloft is the perfect choice for tourists who want a hotel near Brooklyn’s top attractions like the New York Transit Museum and Brooklyn Historical Society. Make sure to use Marriott Bonvoy points for perks like room upgrades and mobile check-in.
- Best Budget Hotel: Pod Brooklyn (Price starts at 85 USD) Pod Brooklyn offers minimalist rooms with a central location in Williamsburg. It also offers ADA-accessible rooms with a roll-in shower with grab bars and raised toilets for guests with limited mobility.
Enjoy a Plethora of Activities in Brooklyn
Whether you’re a beer lover, museum junkie, or simply a curious traveler, there are plenty of things to do in Brooklyn. The New York City borough offers a diverse selection of activities perfect for individuals and families wanting a quick day trip or a weekend-long vacation. From beachside attractions in Coney Island and rare finds at the Brooklyn Flea to the quirky street art in Bushwick, Brooklyn is a multifaceted city waiting to be explored.