Spectacular skyline views, avant-garde performances, intriguing museum collections and art exhibits, endless events, and abundant green space (well, for New York City) – there are always cool and unique things to do in Brooklyn. Whether they’re a 15-minute cab ride or an hour by subway from Manhattan (to the far reaches of Coney Island, for instance), trust us, each of these activities is totally worth the trek.

Things to do in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)

Brooklyn’s foremost cultural and artistic institution, and one of the city’s most favored venues, hosts some of the best acts around, from the traditional to the envelope-pushing avant-garde (like renowned concerts, film programs, and the occasional bodybuilding competition). Lovingly referred to by its appropo acronym, BAM, the venue houses a four-screen theater featuring independent and (some) mainstream films, an art gallery, bookstore, opera house, and a popular, self-named cafe that offers cocktails, reasonably priced fare, and free live shows nearly every weekend. Conveniently located two blocks from the bustling Atlantic Avenue subway nexus, BAM also provides an inexpensive ($7), post-show shuttle bus available for Manhattanites most nights.

30 Lafayette Ave., NY, 718-636-4100,
Tags: arts and culture | editor pick | historic | local favorite | landmark | things to do

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Brooklyn’s beloved 52-acre retreat features no less than 10,000 plant species from around the world. This botanical wealth is exhibited in a string of specialty gardens, a handful of themed greenhouses – from tropical to desert – and a maze of paths lined with towering trees and fragrant flowers. The tranquil Japanese Garden, with its pond and a Shinto shrine, is a great place to contemplate the meaning of life. In early April, even Manhattanites cross the East River in throngs to catch the 200 cherry trees in full bloom and celebrate all things Japanese during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival.

1000 Washington Ave., NY, 718-623-7200,
Tags: family | things to do | outdoors | park

Brooklyn Bridge

Crossing the late 19th-century, Gothic-inspired bridge (one of the most famous and oldest suspension bridges in the United States) affords phenomenal views of the Manhattan skyline’s most famous sites (including the Statue of Liberty). It’s best enjoyed if you start your walk on the Brooklyn side (just hop the subway one stop over the river), but those who choose to start in Manhattan can benefit from ending their walk with a celebratory slice at Grimaldi’s pizzeria, just a few blocks away from the bridge’s Brooklyn base.

Brooklyn/Lower Manhattan, NY,
Tags: family | views | things to do | outdoors | architecture

Brooklyn Heights Promenade

There are many ways to soak in Manhattan’s iconic skyline, but this third-of-a-mile walkway a few minutes by foot from the Brooklyn Bridge along the banks of the East River is one of the best and most famous promenades, featured in dozens of films, including Annie Hall and Moonstruck. Rimmed with flowerbeds and bordered by the Height’s grand historic homes, the promenade makes for a perfect romantic stroll or a spot for pensive architecture buffs to gaze at the skyline.

Columbia Heights at Orange St., NY,
Tags: romance | family | views | things to do | outdoors | park

Brooklyn Museum

The borough’s pride and glory, Brooklyn Museum is one of the country’s oldest and largest art institutions. Home to 1.5 million objects, the colossal Beaux-Arts building showcases a striking permanent collection of ancient Egyptian art. The frequently changing contemporary exhibits range from photography to sculpture. Hit up the popular First Saturdays (5pm to 11pm every first Saturday of the month), which draws in a sundry crowd for a free evening of fun, with live music, film screenings, and lectures.

200 Eastern Pkwy., NY, 718-638-5000,
Tags: family | art | things to do | culture | museum

Coney Island

This oceanfront Brooklyn enclave is a veritable slice of Americana well worth the one-hour subway ride from Midtown Manhattan. Although the once iconic Astroland amusement park has now shut its doors, main attractions like the rickety Cyclone (one of the world’s most famous roller coasters) and Deno’s Wonder Wheel are still in operation and comprise must-see sights for snapping a few fun photos. Highlights also include seaside strolls along the boardwalk; a visit to the quirky Coney Island Museum and the New York Aquarium; and chomping on a famous hot dog at the original Nathan’s.

Surf Ave., NY, 718-372-5159,
Tags: family | things to do | outdoors | amusement park

DUMBO First Thursday Gallery Walk

DUMBO (an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) is New York City’s latest artistic enclave, home to a gaggle of spacious galleries showcasing a variety of eye-opening works. The Brooklyn -based Two Trees sponsors free gallery walking tours on the first Thursday of every month, as well as occasional musical performances, wine-fueled receptions, and artists/curator talks (which takes place for 3-5 hours in the evening). Many galleries feature breathtaking views of downtown Manhattan, and most of the art displayed is for sale. Attendees can choose their own routes and, afterwards, take advantage of special drink discounts at select local bars. No RSVP required.

Various locations, NY, 718-222-2500 x49
Tags: arts and culture | things to do | free | walking tour

Prospect Park

Brooklyn’s own version of Central Park features 585 acres full of lush landscaping, biking trails, BBQ pits, the Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Museum, and even a small zoo. Free concerts can be caught in the band shell during the summer, while the blankets of snowfall in winter make for exceptional Kodak moments (and sledding). Grand Army Plaza’s year round Green Market operates every Saturday from 8am to 4pm, and there are a number of subway stations on each side of the park for convenient access to any corner.

1 Grand Army Plaza, NY, 718-965-8900,
Tags: family | things to do | outdoors | park

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