Best Things to do in Brooklyn, New York

The 15 Must-Do Things in Brooklyn, New York

It doesn’t get much better than Brooklyn! From vintage flea markets to forward-thinking food halls to pop-up music and art events, there’s always something exciting going on. Plus, this dynamic part of New York City is brimming with funky museums, buzzing rooftop bars, and seriously cool shops, restaurants, and cafes.

Do as the Brooklynites do and hop on a bike to see what you can find. Head down to Bushwick, where you can glimpse seriously impressive street art murals. After that, cruise around the scenic trails in Prospect Park before going brewery hopping in Williamsburg in the evening.

Once you work up an appetite, you’ll be spoiled for choice with all of the food and drink options Brooklyn has to offer. It’s no secret that Brooklyn is a mecca for foodies. From gourmet food markets serving up innovative eats to hole-in-the-wall restaurants dishing out some of the best pizzas in New York, you won’t go hungry in this part of town!

With so many cool things to see, do, and eat, you might not know where to begin. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Brooklyn for you. Stick to these fun and unique Brooklyn bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring New York City’s coolest borough!

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1. Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge

Cool Things to do in Brooklyn, New York: Brooklyn Bridge

Straddling the East River and connecting Brooklyn with Manhattan, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is a must on your Brooklyn itinerary. If photography is your thing, be sure to bring your camera because this iconic bridge offers plenty of photo ops!

The Brooklyn Bridge took a whopping 24 years to complete and finally opened in 1883. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world!

Walking, rollerblading, or biking across the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most popular things to do in all of New York City. To beat the crowds (and the summer heat), it’s best to head here early in the morning or in the evening. In addition to marveling at the stunning bridge, you’ll also be rewarded with beautiful views of the Manhattan skyline.

If you’re staying in Manhattan, strolling across the Brooklyn Bridge is the best way to reach Brooklyn. The bridge will lead you to the 85-acre Brooklyn Bridge Park, as well as a range of excellent rooftop bars and restaurants in the revitalized DUMBO neighborhood.

2. Spend Some Time in Prospect Park

Fun Things to do in Brooklyn, New York: Prospect Park

No matter what time of year you’re visiting Brooklyn, there’s a lot going on in Prospect Park. You’ll want to allot at least a few hours, if not an entire day, to explore this lush 526-acre park.

Families will definitely want to check out the 900 animals at Prospect Park Zoo and the 18,000 plants at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Or, if art is your thing, Prospect Park is also home to incredible collections of art in the Brooklyn Museum.

If you’re looking for shots to add to your Instagram feed, don’t miss out on photographing the iconic entrance to the Grand Army Plaza, the quirky Camperdown Elm Tree, and the historic Prospect Park Boathouse.

In the summer months, be sure to check out the free concerts and performances at Prospect Park Bandshell. On Wednesdays and Saturday’s you can even pick up farm-fresh goods at one of the park’s Greenmarket farmers’ markets and enjoy a leisurely picnic in Prospect Park’s Long Meadow.

3. Ride a Roller Coaster at Coney Island

Cool Things to do in Brooklyn, New York: Roller Coaster at Coney Island

Located in southwest Brooklyn, Coney Island is a must on your Brooklyn bucket list – especially if you’re traveling with little ones. Fun for the whole family, Coney Island boasts everything from iconic rides and roller coasters to vibrant bars and restaurants. Plus, it’s set on a beautiful beach!

If you’re looking for a thrill, be sure to take a ride on the iconic The Cyclone roller coaster and Wonder Wheel Ferris wheel. After that, you can work on your tan at the beach, take a stroll along the boardwalk, or entertain yourself with the Coney Island Circus Sideshow.

Foodies won’t be disappointed. You can stuff your face with Neapolitan-style pizzas at Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano, enjoy a burger and a brew at Ruby’s Bar & Grill, or sink your teeth into New York’s most famous hot dog at Nathan’s Famous. For dessert, definitely pay a visit to Williams Candy for their famous caramel apples!

4. Check Out the Street Art in Bushwick

Best Things to do in Brooklyn, New York: Street Art in Bushwick

Perusing the colorful murals in Bushwick is easily one of the coolest things to do in Brooklyn for street art lovers. Once a rundown, crime-riddled part of NYC, Bushwick is now a mecca for street artists and is brimming with all sorts of truly incredible murals.

In an effort to beautify the streets of Bushwick, Joseph Ficalora started The Bushwick Collective in 2012. Since then, local and international artists started gathering here every June for the Bushwick Collective Block Party. Famous artists like Banksy, Blek le Rat, and ROA have all visited this colorful corner of Brooklyn!

If you time your visit right, you can watch as these seriously talented artists revamp the neighborhood’s streets. In addition to street art, the event has live music, funky food trucks, and all sorts of pop-up performances.

You can explore the area on a self-guided tour, but if you’re short on time, you’ll find most of the murals along Troutman Street between Irving Avenue and Cypress Avenue.

5. Stuff Your Face at the Smorgasburg Food Market

Must do things in Brooklyn, New York: Smorgasburg Food Market

It’s no secret that Brooklynites take their food very seriously. If you want to sample some of the best bites on offer in Brooklyn, be sure to pay a visit to the original Smorgasburg Food Market in Marsha P. Johnson State Park in Williamsburg.

This seasonal open-air food market is open on Saturdays from April to November and attracts over 100 vendors and thousands of visitors each week. It can get crowded, but it’s well worth a visit to savor all of the creative concoctions!

Be sure to try some pork dumplings and Impossible Burger buns at Mao’s Bao, artisan wood-fired pizzas at Wood Fired Edibles, and vegan ice cream at Bona Bona Ice Cream. From the Korean fried rice hot-dog-on-a-stick to the brisket birri tacos to the Japanese-style fried chicken sandwiches, there’s something to suit all tastes.

Smorgasburg has proven to be such a hit among New Yorkers that there are now multiple locations. In addition to the original Williamsburg location, you can also find this trendy open-air food hall in Prospect Park and at the World Trade Center. There’s even one in Jersey City!

6. Hunt for Vintage Finds at Brooklyn Flea

Brooklyn, New York Things to do: Brooklyn Flea

If you love hunting for vintage treasures, you’ll love Brooklyn Flea! You’ll find these popular flea markets in multiple locations all around New York City. The flea markets are seasonal and open on the weekends through October.

Tons of publications, including Travel + Leisure and Fodor’s, have ranked Brooklyn Flea as one of the best markets in the US – so you know it’s something special. If you’re in Brooklyn, you’ll find Brooklyn Flea in Williamsburg on Saturdays and in DUMBO on Sundays.

Either way, you’ll have the chance to peruse goods from hundreds of vendors. Take your time, and you might just come across excellent pieces of furniture, unique vintage clothes, and one-of-a-kind antiques.

You’ll also find plenty of artwork, jewelry, and handicrafts scattered around the market. Plus, once you work up an appetite, you’ll be spoiled for choice with all of the fun food stalls.

7. Catch a Nets Game at Barclays Center

Fun Things to do in Brooklyn, New York: Barclays Center

Sports fans will definitely want to check to see what’s going on at Barclays Center. Tucked away near Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights neighborhood, Barclays Center is the home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and the NHL’s New York Islanders.

If you’re a basketball fan and are planning a winter trip to Brooklyn, be sure to grab tickets to a game. If you want to go all out, you can get the VIP experience at Barclays Calvin Klein Courtside Club! Plus, you can dine on all sorts of local foods like pastrami or corned beef sandwiches at David’s Deli, fish tacos at Calexico, foot-long hot dogs at Nathan’s, and veggie burgers at Brooklyn Burger.

But don’t worry if sports aren’t your thing. Barclays Center hosts all sorts of world-class concerts. Over the years, Jay-Z, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Madonna, and Bruce Springsteen have all performed here!

8. Enjoy a Scenic Picnic in Brooklyn Bridge Park

Must do things in Brooklyn, New York: Brooklyn Bridge Park

If you only have time for a quick visit to Brooklyn, you have to pay a visit to Brooklyn Bridge Park. A short stroll across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge will lead you directly into the trendy DUMBO neighborhood and into Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The park is set right on the East River and offers incredible views of the Manhattan skyline. It also happens to be one of the best picnic spots in all of NYC!

Once you arrive in DUMBO, take a short stroll to Foragers Market. Peruse the shop, and you’ll find all sorts of gourmet cheeses, locally sourced meats, and made-to-order sandwiches perfect for a quintessential Brooklyn picnic.

Head over to the park, and you’ll have 85 waterfront acres to choose from. Bring a blanket and enjoy your spread on the lawn or set up shop at one of the many waterfront picnic tables. There are plenty of grills, too, if you plan on having a scenic barbeque with your crew!

9. Admire Iconic Works of Art at Brooklyn Museum

Best Things to do in Brooklyn, New York: Brooklyn Museum

Located in Prospect Park, Brooklyn Museum is a must for art lovers. The 560,000-square-foot space was initially designed to be the largest art museum in the world. While things didn’t exactly pan out, the museum is now home to over 1.5 million works of art, including a range of famous pieces.

Stroll the halls and galleries, and you’ll find works by famous artists like Cézanne, Monet, O’Keeffe, and Rothko. Brooklyn Museum also houses the famous installation, The Dinner Party, by feminist artist Judy Chicago. If that’s not enough, you’ll also find an impressive collection of Egyptian antiquities, as well as collections of European, African, Oceanic, and Japanese art.

You’ll also want to check out the museum’s special exhibitions like “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” and “Andy Warhol: Revelation.” The exhibitions and events are always changing, so be sure to take a look at the website to see what’s on before you go!

10. Sip Wine From Brooklyn’s Only Rooftop Vineyard

Best Things to do in Brooklyn. New York: Rooftop Reds

If you’re looking for cool things to do in Brooklyn, head over to Rooftop Reds. Located in the trendy Brooklyn Navy Yard, Rooftop Reds is the first commercial rooftop vineyard in the world and the only one in Brooklyn!

This innovative team of viticulturists and wine enthusiasts came up with a custom urban planter system. You’ll find 42 of these planters covering the 14,800-square-foot rooftop. Using these rooftop-grown grapes, the winery is able to produce 20 to 25 cases of wine each year.

You can sample Rooftop Reds’ different varietals while taking in sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline. If you’re feeling peckish, they have partnered with IL Porto, so you won’t go hungry!

Just call the restaurant, say you’re at Rooftop Reds, and they’ll deliver their excellent wood-fired pizzas to the rooftop. Rooftop Reds also regularly hosts fun food pop-ups and other popular events.

11. Cruise Around Brooklyn on Two Wheels

Fun Things to do in Brooklyn, New York: Brooklyn on Two Wheels

One of the most popular (and convenient) ways to get around town is on two wheels. If you don’t have your own bike, don’t worry. You can rent one from one of the many traditional bike shops (like Unlimited Biking at the Brooklyn Bridge) or pick up a Citi Bike.

City Bike is super popular among locals, and you can rent one for a quick one-way trip for $3.50, get a single day pass for $15, or get unlimited 45-minute trips for one month for $14.92.

If this is your first visit to the city, you definitely need to bike across the Brooklyn Bridge. You can also go brewery hopping in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Or, if street art is your thing, pedal down to Bushwick and check out the neighborhood’s incredible murals.

There are also plenty of biking paths in Brooklyn Bridge Park and Prospect Park. And, for ocean views, you can also pedal along the promenade at Coney Island!

12. Explore the Industrial DUMBO District

What to do in Brooklyn, New York: DUMBO District

If you only have a few hours in Brooklyn, spend them in DUMBO. Located at the base of the Manhattan Bridge, this is the first neighborhood you’ll come across if you’re visiting Brooklyn via the bridge. Plus, you can easily explore this industrial-turned-chic part of town on foot.

From the world-famous Grimaldi’s pizza to the ultra-trendy Time Out Market food hall, foodies will be spoiled for choice. DUMBO is also brimming with cool rooftop bars boasting sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline. So take your pick!

You also find plenty of cool pop-up events around this part of town. If you’re visiting in the summer, The Archway (literally an archway beneath the Manhattan Bridge) hosts everything from parties to art workshops. Shopaholics can peruse vintage gems at Brooklyn Flea, buy books at POWERHOUSE Arena, or go clothes shopping at Trunk.

From funky galleries to international eateries and buzzing cafes, you’ll never want to leave DUMBO!

13. Step Back in Time at the New York Transit Museum

Cool Things to do in Brooklyn, New York: New York Transit Museum

If you’re looking for unique things to do in Brooklyn, the New York Transit Museum is the perfect pick! Set right in the heart of Brooklyn, the main part of the museum is housed in the decommissioned Court Street subway station. This station was built in 1936, so you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time!

Explore the museum, and you’ll also find a series of well-preserved vintage subway cars that date back to 1907. Plus, exhibitions will teach you all about the history of mass transportation in New York City. Expect to also find all sorts of retro artifacts and vintage signage and ads adorning the museum.

Be sure to pay a visit to the gift shop before you leave. It’s the perfect place to pick up cute transportation-themed games, clothing, and more for your friends and family back home!

14. See a Movie at Brooklyn’s Coolest Movie Theater

Brooklyn, New York Bucket List: Coolest Movie Theater

Catching a movie at Nitehawk Cinema is a must on your Brooklyn bucket list for movie buffs. Located in Williamsburg, this independent dine-in theater is a truly one-of-a-kind experience! Plus, they have a liquor license, so you can sip stiff cocktails or boozy frozen beverages while you watch.  

Nitehawk shows a mix of new-release, classic, art house, and cult films. Depending on when you stop by, they may even host special screenings of rare 35-millimeter films or midnight grindhouse films.

As a dine-in theater, Nitehawk is all about the food. Time your visit right, and you can catch one of their “Film Feast” nights, where they serve a multi-course meal based on the film being screened.

Speaking of food, the gourmet menu boasts everything from five-spice duck confit tacos to vegan “pulled pork” sandwiches. They also serve boozy brunches on the weekends and have a long list of creative cocktails.

There’s also a second branch in Park Slope near Prospect Park.

15. Eat Your Way Through Time Out Market

Best Things to do in Brooklyn, New York: Time Out Market

If you’re short on time but want to sample the best food Brooklyn has to offer, the trendy Time Out Market food hall is a no-brainer. Located in Empire Stores, the food hall is spread across two floors and features 21 one-of-a-kind food concepts. Plus, it’s nestled on the banks of the East River between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, so the views can’t be beat!

Meat eaters will want to grab a cheesesteak sandwich at Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors and a crispy fried chicken sandwich from Tiki Chick. From Indian food at Chote Miya to expertly tossed pizzas at Fornino, vegetarians will have plenty to choose from, too. If you’re in the mood to imbibe, you can sample local craft beers or sip creative cocktails in one of the three bars.

But there’s way more to this place than just food and drink. Time Out Market also hosts a range of cultural events, live music shows, and much more!

There you have it—the 15 best things to do in Brooklyn. What’s your favorite thing to do in Brooklyn? Drop us a note and let us know!

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About the Author

  • Justine Lopez

    Justine is a writer and editor who always seems to take the unconventional route in life. She also suffers from a serious case of wanderlust! In 2013, she left her hometown in California and set off on a yearlong round-the-world journey with her now-husband – they never looked back. Since then, she’s lived the expat life in Indonesia, Cambodia, China, Vietnam, Mexico, and now Dubai. Along the way, she’s written and edited for magazines, newspapers, and websites in Asia and beyond. When she’s not stoking her wanderlust by working on travel articles for Wandering Wheatleys, Justine is busy caring for her many foster cats in Dubai, seeking out all the delicious vegetarian food, and taking every chance she gets to explore a new corner of the world!

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