It’s no secret that Brooklyn tourism is booming – if you’re looking to incorporate a visit to NYC’s hippest borough on your next visit to the Big Apple, first plan on bunking down at one of BK's recently debuted hotels, then sign up for these two unique tour offerings, each affording bragging rights-worthy glimpses of the city that even most native New Yorkers are in the dark about. Whether you’re a film or history buff, each of these expertly executed tours are guaranteed to deliver a little of both, not to mention dole out some Brooklyn-savvy street cred.
Tour the Brooklyn Navy Yard as New Museum Debuts
Timed to coincide with Veterans Day, the $25 million Brooklyn Navy Yard Center and visitors center (free admission) opens to the public today, marking the first time in more than two centuries that the long-restricted area has welcomed the general public. The modern-day industrial park (counting Steiner Studios amongst its most high-profile tenants), set along the East River across from Downtown Manhattan, claims a history as a major naval shipbuilding site, dating back to 1801. The new museum and adjoining visitors center, set in Building 92 (the restored house of the former Marine commandant dating to 1857), serves to explore the history of the navy yard through to the current day. Some three floors and six galleries feature artifacts and exhibits showcasing the navy ships built on the site, historic photos, oral histories, contemporary yard-manufactured items, and more.
If you’re looking to enrich your visit with further exploration of the massive 300-acre navy yard complex, we recommend heading out on a tour with Urban Oyster, a top-notch outfit that has been offering exclusive Brooklyn Navy Yard tours (in conjunction with the Brooklyn Historical Society) since the spring of 2009 (they provided the only accesss to the yard, period, prior to today's museum opening). Urban Oyster’s bus tour takes in a dry dock that predates the Civil War, a frozen-in-time former Navy hospital campus (pictured above), and Building 92. Tours last 2 to 2.5 hours and are offered on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from March through November (note they may extend the season, based on demand); cost is $30 per person.
Or, looking ahead to spring, the company’s bike tours (participants must supply their own bikes and helmets, though Urban Oyster can help secure discounted rental rates) last two hours and focus on the industrial park’s sustainable efforts, with highlights like the nation’s first multistory LEED Gold-certified industrial building, first solar- and wind-powered street lights, NYC's first building-mounted wind turbines, and more. The 2-hour bike tours cost $24, and will resume in April 2012.
Look to the New York-based tour company for other extremely thorough, carefully researched, and pleasantly executed niche Brooklyn (and other borough) neighborhood tours led by enthusiastic guides – some of their most popular theme tours focus on food carts, beer brewing, immigration history, and more. Visit their site to peruse the full calendar of offerings.
Scope Out Brooklyn Film and TV Sites on New Bus Tour
If spotting Steiner Studios over at the Brooklyn Navy Yard has you intrigued on what other kind of filming might be going on in the borough, On Location Tours’ May-debuted Brooklyn TV and Movie Sites Tour has just the ticket. Their comprehensive, 4-hour bus tours depart from the Lower East Side, hightailing it across the Brooklyn Bridge to take in the best filmed-on-location spots of BK, featuring a nice mix of hits from both the big and small screens. Plush buses outfitted with TVs allow the energetic and informative guides to play real-time clips corresponding to the sites you’re visiting, and several guide-led walks help to get a hands-on feel for the borough's diverse neighborhoods, including charming Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, and Fort Greene (the latter includes a stop at Junior’s – you’ll get to sample some of New York's finest cheesecake). Of the some 40 referenced film and TV locations, highlights include shoot locations from The Departed, Moonstruck, Gossip Girl, I am Legend, Sex and the City, and more, though note that itineraries are regularly updated as new releases unfold. Tours depart Saturdays at 11am and cost $44 for adults and $24 for kids ages 6 to 9.