How to Experience Brooklyn for the First Time
It is perhaps my first time walking down the cobblestone streets of DUMBO (an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) and each turn seems to reveal a picturesque view of the Manhattan Skyline.
The Jacques Torres shop sends sweet smells of chocolate wafting over Water Street while the famous intersection of Water and Washington St. reveals the perfect New York snapshot: the Brooklyn Bridge towering at the end of the street, framing the Empire State Building and skyline beyond.
Just a short stroll from this popular photo stop and I’m standing in front of Jane’s Carousel–an antique carousel dating back to the 1920s that stands right on the water’s edge of Brooklyn.
As I board the nearby East River Ferry, one thing becomes abundantly clear: there is so much of New York I have yet to explore.
If heading to Brooklyn, this itinerary will give you a taste of the flavour, beauty and disarming charm of this vibrant borough:
Start by Taking the East River Ferry to DUMBO
Sure, you can take the subway or order an Uber but for just $4 one way, you can sail down the East River and take in the Manhattan skyline too. The East River Ferry goes from Midtown (34th Street) to Downtown (Wall St.) with stops along Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. I recommend taking the quick East River Ferry ride to the Brooklyn Bridge Park/DUMBO stop first.
Indulge Your Sweet Tooth
Once off the ferry, you’ll want to head down Water Street towards the ultimate photo spot. On your way, you’ll pass Jacques Torres–a chocolate shop that is definitely worth a visit. Try the Wicked Hot Chocolate (a spicy hot cocoa that gives a nod to Mexican hot chocolates) and have it topped with their homemade whipped cream. If you can handle a bit more sugar, snag one of the famous Jacques Torres chocolate chip cookies.
Head to Washington Street & Water Street for the Perfect Photo
After your sugar fix, continue to the intersection of Washington St. and Water St. for the perfect Brooklyn photo. Here, you’ll find a street lined by red-brick buildings that frame the Brooklyn Bridge towering in the background; beyond that (on a clear day) you’ll notice the Empire State Building framed by the Brooklyn Bridge with the Manhattan skyline and East River extending beyond. All in all, it is the ultimate New York photo to take. Be warned though, this is a popular place for pictures so plan to spend at least 10-15 minutes there waiting for the cars and people to clear the street and give you the perfect snapshot.
Skyline Views at Brooklyn Bridge Park
Once you’ve snagged your perfect photo, walk straight down that street towards Brooklyn Bridge Park. If you walk up the steps there (trust me, you can’t miss it) you’ll get a perfect view of downtown Manhattan with the playful, yellow “YO” or “OY” statue on the lawn.
Step Back in Time at Jane’s Carousel
Walk up the park (back toward the direction of the ferry) and you’ll come across Jane’s Carousel–an antique carousel dating back to the 1920s and encased in a glass, with a view of the skyline. Open or closed, the carousel is beautiful to look at and looks fantastic against the modern day Manhattan backdrop.
Visit the Heart of Williamsburg on Bedford Avenue
While there is much to see in Dumbo, if you have only one day in Brooklyn then consider heading over to Williamsburg next. Hop back on the East River Ferry heading uptown towards the N. 6th/ N. Williamsburg stop. From here, head on over to the main street of Williamsburg: Bedford Avenue. Bedford Avenue is the pulse of Williamsburg and is lined with vintage shops, hipster boutiques, charming cafes, artisan stores and ample street art.
Take a stroll down Bedford Avenue and visit some of these highlights:
Catbird (219 Bedford Avenue): Catbird is a mecca for jewellery lovers and anyone who swoons over sparkly, charming knick-knacks. Right across from Catbird is a string of vintage shops you can check out as well to bargain hunt for discounted designer threads.
Maison Premiere (298 Bedford Avenue): Stop by Maison Premiere for a decadent snack of oysters and absinthe cocktails. The new backyard is a haven of hanging plants and antiques; lending the place a New Orleans’ French Quarter feel.
Bedford Cheese Shop (229 Bedford Avenue): If you adore cheese as much as I do, then you’ll want to make sure to visit the Bedford Cheese Shop, an artisan store that is a haven for all things cheese.
Blue Bottle Coffee Shop (160 Berry St.): Okay, this coffee shop is one block over from Bedford Avenue but is worth a stop! Don’t even think about going to Dunkin’ Donuts on Bedford Avenue when there are plenty of fantastic coffee shops in Williamsburg to enjoy. Blue Bottle Coffee Shop is a trendy cafe serving great pastries and better coffee.
Have Your Fill of Wine at Brooklyn Winery
After exploring Bedford Avenue, head on over to the Brooklyn Winery where you can take winery tours or simply stop in for a drink at the winery’s wine bar. Happy hour is from 5pm to 8pm, so consider stopping by at this time for discounted wine and snacks.
Finish Your Brooklyn Day with the Ultimate View
For the perfect ending to a day in Brooklyn, head to the Ides Bar on top of the Wythe Hotel for an unbeatable view of the Manhattan skyline at dusk. There is much to see in Brooklyn–from the street art to the diverse food scene–and one day is hardly enough to hit all the highlights! There’s Bushwick, Park Slope, Coney Island, Sunset Park and so many other neighbourhoods in the borough that offer views, bites and sights that will steal your heart; but for your first day, this quick tour of DUMBO and Williamsburg will give you a taste of Brooklyn that will leave you wanting so much more.