From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
It wouldn’t be fair to call Brooklyn New York’s little sister — after all, it’s part of greater NYC, and if it were a city of its own, it would be the third most populous in the U.S. Known for its thin-crust pizza, longstanding community of artists, and, these days, its population of hipsters, Brooklyn is a one-of-a-kind community… and one well worth exploring.
Whether you’ve called Brooklyn home for decades and have seen first-hand its many changes and evolutions, or if you’re a relative newcomer, here are some of our absolute can’t-miss Brooklyn to-dos and adventures.
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Obviously, Brooklyn is first and foremost an urban space. But there are plenty of wonderful outdoor spaces in the area to get into, too!
Here are some of the state and national parks and preserved areas in the greater Brooklyn, NY area.
Tucked into the southeastern quadrant of Brooklyn along Jamaica Bay, Shirley Chisholm State Park is a great getaway for a quick afternoon jaunt or a leisurely sunset stroll with the whole family. The park also contains a unique “bike library,” operated by Bike New York — you can borrow refurbished bikes to explore the park for free!
Located in Long Island City along the Brooklyn side of the East River, Gantry Plaza State Park measures 12 acres and is comprised of four piers offering stunning views of the Manhattan skyline. The park includes recreational facilities such as playgrounds, sport courts, a fishing pier and more.
Sprawling and diverse, the Gateway National Recreation Area actually consists of multiple locations in the greater NY metro, including New Jersey’s Sandy Hook as well as portions of New York State along Jamaica Bay and Staten Island. It’s prized for its recreational opportunities that are hard to find in other contexts in this area, such as ocean swimming, bird watching, boating, hiking, and camping.
A seven-acre park in the Williamsburg neighborhood, Marsha P. Johnson State Park lines the East River — and, in fact, is often simply referred to as “East River” by locals for short. Offering one-of-a-kind views of Midtown Manhattan as well as the Williamsburg Bridge, it’s a great spot for a picnic.
Encompassing 97 acres of western Long Island, Valley Stream State Park is about an hour’s worth of public transit away from Brooklyn — but many find it well worth the time and effort. A day-use facility equipped with a nature trail, playground, playing fields, and horseshoe, volleyball, basketball and bocce ball courts, it’s a great option for just about any kind of adventure. (Be warned, however — pets are not welcome!)
Built onto the land that once hosted the mansion and estate of banker Louis A. Heinsheimer, Bayswater Point State Park is composed of 12 beautiful acres at the tip of a peninsula which juts out into Mott Basin, along the eastern shore of Jamaica Bay. Set aside specifically for the purpose of conserving local flora and fauna, it’s best for “passive” recreational opportunities such as hiking, bird watching, and picnicking.
You might not think New York is the primo place to strap on your boots… but think again. Here are some of the best hiking trails and walkable pathways in Brooklyn.
Prospect Park is already one of our favorite suggestions for folks looking for cheap things to do in Brooklyn (see below). But it’s a great option for those looking to amble outdoors, as well; the Prospect Park Loop is comprised of 3.7 miles of trail that sees about 130 feet in elevation gain, putting it firmly in the “easy” category — but still making for a great place to get out and stretch your legs!
Running just over a mile and seeing about 50 feet in elevation gain, Astoria Park Loop Trail is, as its name suggests, tucked into Astoria Park — and is an incredible way to get familiar with this landscape. Locals love to walk (or run!) along the river under neatly-manicured trees and beside well-kept lawns, especially with the beautiful bridges towering overhead.
Another beloved Brooklyn green space, Forest Park is a surprisingly wild wilderness tucked into all the hustle and bustle. Forest Park Loop is a great way to get acquainted with the area on your own two feet; running 2.3 miles all told and known for its beautiful wildflowers, this is a doable but worthwhile adventure.
A 1.1-mile, moderately-trafficked loop running through Brooklyn Marine Park, Salt Marsh Nature Trail is a great place to spot some beautiful wildflowers and incredible examples of local birds. Marshy views offer a unique look at this one-of-a-kind New York ecosystem — but do beware, as you should on all hiking trails in the northeast, of ticks!
Yes, it may require taking the train or ferry over to Manhattan — but High Line Park is an iconic venture that shouldn’t be missed by a single visitor or local. What was once an elevated rail track has been converted to a beautiful and scenic trail, combining the great outdoors with the majesty of urbanity. The whole walk is only about one and a half miles, and the level, boardwalk surface makes it ideal for those using strollers and wheel chairs.
Located in Queens, Alley Pond Park is a great place to while away an afternoon — and Alley Pond Park Loop provides a slightly more challenging hiking option for those looking to get sweaty without leaving the city. Running a little more than three miles all told and seeing about 200 feet in elevation gain, it’s certainly no mountain climb… but it’ll still get your blood flowing!
Yes, Central Park may be the single best-known green space in our entire country — and no, it’s not actually in Brooklyn. But if you’re headed to Manhattan for the day anyhow, there’s never a bad time to wander around this iconic inner-city wilderness, and East and West Drive Loop actually make for a nice, long adventure. Running about 6 miles altogether and seeing a little more than 200 feet in elevation gain, this can be a leisurely stroll or a more cardio-heavy endeavor, depending on how you do it!
If you’re willing to take a longer trip out of town, and want to get into something strenuous, Buttermilk Falls and Crater Lake Loop Trail might just be the perfect day trip for you. Running just shy of seven miles and seeing a little more than 1,400 feet in elevation gain along the way, this is certainly a challenging venture… but one that’s well worth the effort and drive time from Brooklyn. Along with the namesake falls and lake, you’ll also pass through beautifully wooded New York countryside — and it’s an especially great place to take a peep at the fall foliage!
In New York, food isn’t just fuel — it’s a passtime. If you’re looking for the very best restaurants in Brooklyn, strap in. We’ve got you covered!
A beloved Brooklyn institution since 1998, al di Trattoria is run by a powerhouse duo: married couple Emiliano Coppa and Chef Anna Klinger, who serve up beloved Tuscan favorites alongside an extensive wine list and full bar. This joint has been featured in a variety of worldwide publications and is consistently recommended by the Michelin Guide, which is to say, get there!
Italian is already some of the best cuisine available — so when you find a place reviewers call the “best Italian I’ve ever had, hands down,” you know you’re in for a serious treat. Bamonte’s is situated in the Williamsburg neighborhood and its known for its classic dishes served up in authentic, down-to-earth style. In short, this is the kind of place that doesn’t have a website, but does have a feature review in Eater. Need we say more?
When it comes to great Mexican eats, simple doesn’t have to mean boring — as Boca Santa’s straightforward, yet delicious, fare shows. Prominently featuring vegetables and offering a variety of plant-based versions of old favorites, this place is sure to become a favorite if it’s not already. Just remember it’s cash only!
That’s right, folks — it’s not just a column in the Times. Modern Love is also a Brooklyn-based cafe serving vegan comfort food in a welcoming, laid-back atmosphere. With a menu populated by indulgent faves like buffalo wings and fried mozzarella, you won’t miss the meat and dairy… even if you’re normally a carnivore.
Some spots are trendy for a reason, and we count Bozu among them. A Japanese restaurant taking on the Spanish tradition of serving tapas-sized dishes, this is the place to enjoy sushi bombs, spicy deep-fried chicken, and even a range of burgers. (In other words, it’s way more than just another of the many Asian restaurants in Brooklyn!)
At Celestine, the fresh and authentic Eastern Mediterranean food isn’t the only draw — there’s also the riverfront view and stylish dining room to contend with. Whether you keep it light with a plate of hummus or go all in for the braised short rib shawarma, you won’t be disappointed.
Nestled into a baroque-yet-approachable dining room, you’ll find yourself awash with delicious options: from elevated classics like nopales tacos to brunch fare with a spicy spin, Chavela’s is right to have earned its reputation as some of the best Mexican food in Brooklyn. Along with the option of dining in, you can also order takeout or delivery, and catering is available for special events, too.
New York City is known for its incredible wealth of Asian eats, so if you’re looking for the very best in town, you’re going to have a lot of sifting to do. That said, you certainly can’t go wrong with Buntopia, a creative Asian fusion restaurant that borrows flavors and techniques from all sorts of traditions… and serves up some of the most satisfying and healthy food available this side of the river.
If you’re in the mood for something warm, spicy, and satisfying, nothing hits the spot as well as Indian food — and in Brooklyn, Indika House is the place to head for delicious, authentic, piping hot dishes ranging from tikka to samosas to tandoori delights. This spot is also serviced by a wide range of delivery companies like GrubHub and Seamless, making it a perfect option for those nights where you just don’t want to do anything except unpack your food when it arrives.
This is one of the coolest food halls, located in downtown Brooklyn at the large and in charge City Point Mall. Sitting below ground level, you get a truly underground feeling from the moment you enter. From sit-down Chinese restaurants to pop-up versions of some of Brooklyn’s best-known eateries, you can visit again and again and never repeat a meal. Top off your savory bites with Hennessy donuts at Cuzin’s Duzin or unique ice cream flavors at Ample Hills Creamery.
When you arrive at Egg, expect a bit of a wait at this farm-to-table, Southern-accented brunch abode. But the food and experience are totally worth it. Upon being seated, you’ll be provided with crayons to color in your coloring book of a tablecloth. And when it comes to food, Egg makes the freshest – you guessed it – egg dishes, but also so much more. The true gem of the menu is the pancakes, with a perfectly fluffy texture that will melt in your mouth.
Located in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn within walking distance of the Barclays Center is a well frequented Caribbean establishment with global influence called Sugarcane. Sugarcane is the complete vibe, with amazing cocktails, a delectable menu, the latest Caribbean music playing, and chic design. It’s perfect for a date night or catch-up with friends. Favorite things on the menu include spiced mango-infused honey-drizzled shrimp, braised oxtail, snapper, and West Indian fried chicken. Be sure to make a reservation, as everyone wants to be a part of the action here.
Dining and discovering the great outdoors are just the tip of the iceberg in Brooklyn, which is, after all, neighbor one of the biggest cities in America. Here are some of the best things to get into in Brooklyn this weekend… or whenever your adventuring heart desires.
There are plenty of ways to keep younger adventurers smiling in Brooklyn and the surrounding areas! Here are some of our best ideas for those experiencing Brooklyn with kids.
If there’s one thing New York is renowned for, it’s its sprawling and usually-efficient transit system. From the subway to the Long Island Railroad to the busses that criss-cross the city, you and your family can get a true insider’s look at the history of these modes of locomotion at the New York Transit Museum.
If you’ve got a family member who’s fascinated by what there is to see under the sea, New York Aquarium will have them agog for hours — and honestly, even skeptics will soon find themselves totally mesmerized. Along with being one of the best ways to experience underwater life short of acquiring a SCUBA certification, this aquarium is also committed to environmental preservation and conservation efforts, so you can feel good about your visit.
No matter how little your little ones may be, they’ll love the opportunity to explore and play inside the many interactive exhibits in the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, which is easily one of the best such museums in the country. Along with their permanent installations, the museum also hosts rotating exhibits and events, so it really is something new every time you go!
Everyone knows New York is the city that never sleeps — but what exactly is there to get into at night, particularly if you want to do something aside from hopping bars? Here are some suggestions.
Sure, you’ve been to the movies before — but if you haven’t been to Nighthawk Cinema, you’re missing out on a whole other thing. With locations in both Williamsburg and Prospect Park, these unique, industrial-chic cinemas screen some of the hottest films as well as indie stand-outs, and serve some truly out of this world popcorn. (Get the one with citric salt and truffle butter. Thank us later.)
We’ve covered some cool things to do during the daytime with your family… but here’s one of our favorite after-hours options! Laser Bounce offers a variety of family-friendly fun including, but certainly not limited to, laser tag. There’s also a bounce arena, bowling alley, and a good old fashioned arcade — yes, the type where you get tickets to trade for giant stuffed animals.
If you enjoy some smooth suds as part of a relaxing evening, we recommend heading to Brooklyn Brewery, a local, homegrown operation that’s now known for its unique concoctions. Have a sip in its airy tasting room or get up close and personal with the process during one of its brewery tours. A great place to gather!
New York is known for a lot of things… but being a cheap place to explore isn’t exactly one of them. That said, there are still some super-affordable options for those looking to get the best of Brooklyn on a budget.
The largest weekly open-air food market in America, Smorgasburg is a great place to wander around if you’re looking for a bite of something, but you’re not quite sure what. With more than 100 vendors to choose from and a stunning riverside view all the while, you won’t want to rush. (This place has also spawned the start of many Instagram fad foods, for the record — so snap a pic before you dig in!)
It can be hard to come across bounteous botanicals in such an urban landscape, but the Brooklyn Botanic Garden offers a full 52 acres of them right in the city’s center. Founded in 1910 and adjacent to Prospect Park, this garden makes a perfect day trip for anyone, but is especially high on our list of things for couples to do in Brooklyn. Plus, admission is less than $20 a head!
Bibliophiles, take note: the Strand Bookstore is a beloved independent spot known for its sprawling 18 miles’ worth of browseable books. Along with its vast array of wares, this spot also hosts a variety of literary events throughout the year — and while it’s totally free to enter, odds are you’re going to find something you want to take home with you!
Brooklyn Transit Museum gives you the opportunity to get an insider peek at the history of this well-oiled machine. Learn about subway construction as well as the mechanics of the trains that run through them and so much more, all at entry costs starting at just $10 for adults and $5 for children.
It’s true: there are fun things to do in Brooklyn that don’t require you to pay a single cent. Here are some of our favorites.
The flagship park of Brooklyn, Prospect Park encompasses more than 500 acres of the beautiful, natural New York landscape, and is within easy access of a variety of Brooklyn neighborhoods. Along with its range of facilities, such as playgrounds and sports courts, the park also hosts organized events and activities year round.
Want to get to Manhattan without taking a train or a ferry? You can, for free no less — on your own two feet! Even if you don’t spend any time in town once you get there, walking the Brooklyn Bridge is a popular activity for locals and tourists alike. At just over a mile long, it’ll take you at least half an hour one way, but possibly longer if you pause to take photos and enjoy the view… which we highly recommend.
For discounts and deals in NYC, check out CityPass!
Sometimes, you just need to retreat from the go-go-go of New York life to enjoy some time to yourself. Here are the best spas and salons in Brooklyn to help you feel pampered and primped.
Want your spa experience to be beautifying and healthy not just for you, but for Mother Earth, too? D’mai Urban Spa is known for its status as a clean beauty apothecary, offering massages, facials, and other classic spa services with clean, green ingredients. Spa packages are also available to help you indulge while saving some dough!
One of Brooklyn’s best-loved beauty studios, Venelle Salon & Spa offers a plethora of services and treatment options, from hair styling and coloring to professional makeup application, waxing, facials, massage and more. Microblading and microchanneling is also available for those looking for more in-depth treatments.
From relaxing Swedish massage to more intense and restorative treatments, Brooklyn Heights Day Spa is all about healing touch. Along with massage therapy in a wide range of modalities, this well-known oasis also provides facials, waxing, hot stone services and more.
Elan means “energy, style and enthusiasm” according to its dictionary definition — and at Elan Salon & Day Spa, you’ll find all three. This spot offers both beautifying services, such as haircuts and coloring, manicures and pedicures, hair removal and microblading, as well as more traditional spa options like facials, massages, body wraps and more. In short, whatever you’re looking for, you’re apt to find it here, so book an appointment today!
Whether you go for a run around the neighborhood or biking the Brooklyn Bridge, there are loads of ways to exercise in the city. But there are tons of great gyms and studios - here are some of our faves.
Open 24/7 to ensure you always have access to the equipment and space you need to meet your goals, Harbor Fitness Park Slope is the kind of no-frills gym where you go to get the job done. (Psst: even if you’re not a DIY fitness person, there’s personal training and group classes to help get you oriented!)
A high-intensity, total-body workout in a motivating and fun group environment, Tebata Ultimate Fitness serves up a workout you won’t want to miss — and which will fly by before you know it. There’s a reason this is one of the most popular fitness studios in all of Brooklyn!
Yoga can help things come together in far more ways than just the physical. At Align Brooklyn, you’ll have the chance to access the mindfulness and space this practice can add to your life.
Yoga is about getting centered and finding strength, both physically and mentally — and the Brooklyn Yoga Project helps its clients do just that. Offering a wide range of classes suited to many different fitness and interest levels, this spot will help you find your best practice.
Sometimes, you’ve just gotta get out of dodge. Here are some of the best options for those looking for a day trip or weekend getaway in the Brooklyn area.
Obviously, no Brooklyn experience is complete without spending an afternoon or weekend at Coney Island, noshing on hot dogs, walking the boardwalk, and going for a spin on the carnival rides. (If you’re seriously into those hot dogs, head on down on the Fourth of July to partake in the contest!)
About two and a half hours by car or slightly longer if you take public transit, Montauk — known as, simply, “the End” to locals — is a beachy getaway that will make you feel like you’re much further from home. Sandy beaches, surfing lessons, and quaint shops and eateries make this a great spot to spend an afternoon or three, especially in the summer.
As awesome as New York City is, it doesn’t have the distinction of being America’s very first capital — that honor’s left up to Philadelphia! At just over two hours away, this incredible American city makes for a great getaway, and is as rich with delicious food as it is with historical significance. (Yes, you have to have a cheesesteak while you’re there!)
Although it’s technically part of Gateway National Recreation Area, as mentioned above, we wanted to make sure you didn’t miss your chance to enjoy the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, which serves as an important home base for a variety of exotic coastal birds. See how many you can spot or simply kick back and enjoy being out in nature! It’s all less than an hour from downtown Brooklyn.
Our nation’s capital is always worth a visit, and for New Yorkers, it’s not much of a hassle. Grab the express train and enjoy a weekend meandering museums or picnicking under the cherry blossoms. It’s nice to get a change of skyline every now and then!
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Brooklyn that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Brooklyn? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.