Seen all the sights in Manhattan? Discover Brooklyn. This TravelingMom moved to the borough in graduate school and never left. After raising three daughters here, she is a huge champion of Brooklyn. And she holds out hope that she can one day introduce grandchildren to its delights. Spend a weekend in Brooklyn. Or a lifetime.
Many tourists only see Brooklyn from its iconic bridge, walking over from Manhattan and then returning. But Brooklyn, larger than Manhattan and filled with museums, restaurants, parks and beaches, deserves its own visit during a family vacation in New York City.
Here are some highlights for a weekend in Brooklyn.
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- Coney Island
- Prospect Park
- Brooklyn Bridge Park & Dumbo
Coney Island, the original seaside resort, still has a beach with soft white sand. Yes, it’s often crowded, but it is also clean, with a wide boardwalk. And it’s reachable by the subway. But Coney Island is much more than the beach. The Cyclone, a historic wooden roller coaster from 1927, still excites and terrorizes thrill seekers. Deno’s Wonder Wheel and Luna Park amusement parks have tamer rides.
Nathan’s Famous has hot dogs and crinkle cut fries. Tontonno’s Pizza has been making pizza in a coal-fired oven since 1924.
The New York Aquarium has a sea cliffs exhibit with otters and penguins. An outdoor theater with trained sea lions offers shows throughout the day. There are also plenty of colorful fish, sharks and turtles.
The Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets baseball farm team, has low priced games right on the boardwalk. There are also lots of giveaways and most evening games end with fireworks displays.
Prospect Park has seven playgrounds, including the new Natural Exploration Area. But it also has many other worthy destinations., some free, some not.
Prospect Park Zoo: The all-children’s zoo is filled with small animals. The Discovery Center offers many hands-on animal interactions, and you can feed the alpaca and sheep. A Discovery Trail encourages kids to climb a spider web, pop out of a prairie dog hole, jump along lily pads and hatch from an ostrich egg.
Lakeside Prospect Park: This year-round attraction includes two ice skating rinks in winter, roller skating in warmer weather and a free splash pad for kids ages 12 and under in summer. You can rent 4 to 6 person surreys, regular bikes, with trailers or tag-a-longs for kids, or take out a pedal boat or kayak. The cafe has a lot of vegetarian and gluten free options.
Prospect Park Carousel: The historic 1912 carousel has 53 horses and several specialty animals. The ride length is a good value.
Leffert’s Historic House: The 18th century Dutch farmhouse has a working garden and period rooms to explore. You can play with traditional toys like tops and spinning wheels. At special events, help churn butter or watch sheep shearing. Admission is free.
Audubon Center: The free bird-focused center is housed in the historic landmark Boathouse. Borrow a Discovery Pack (free) with binoculars and magnifying glasses.
Near Prospect Park
Brooklyn Botanic Garden: The Brooklyn Botanic Garden, a true urban oasis, blooms year round. Visit the Conservatory in winter, the cherry blossoms and tulips in spring, the roses in summer and the foliage in autumn. The Discovery Garden has hands-on activities for children.
Brooklyn Museum: The comprehensive Brooklyn Museum has large permanent collections of ancient Egyptian art, decorative arts and American art. Don’t miss The Dinner Party in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. On the first Saturday of each month, the museum is free. Free concerts, movies and hands-on activities draw big crowds. There is a free drop-in creativity lab one Sunday a month
Brooklyn Bridge Park and Dumbo
Brooklyn Bridge Park is on reclaimed waterfront land from Fulton Ferry Landing (where you might want to stop at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory) to Cobble Hill. You can catch a ferry to Manhattan or Governors Island from here, learn about the park’s ecology and design at the free Environmental Education Center, or play at one of the many playgrounds. There is a seasonal water playground and two play areas devoted to swings and ropes.
Borrow a free kayak, dig your toes in the sand or bring a picnic to the park.
Jane’s Carousel anchors the Dumbo waterfront end of the park. The glass-enclosed 1922 carousel relocated to Brooklyn from Ohio a few years ago.
The cobblestone historic Dumbo neighborhood (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) has many family friendly restaurants and shops. SPARK by Brooklyn Children’s Museum, for ages six months to six years, has drop-in play, with a block lab and art activities.
Empire Stores, a converted warehouse, houses a branch of the Brooklyn Historical Society museum and several places to eat. Cecconi’s has plenty of outdoor tables and wood-fired pizzas.
Where to stay for a weekend in Brooklyn
The William Vale has a huge outdoor pool and rooms with floor to ceiling glass. Hang out in the outdoor plaza, where you can get burgers and ice cream; the farm to table Italian restaurant Leuca also has kid-friendly fare. For older guests, head to the rooftop bar.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge is right at Brooklyn Bridge Park, so you can roll out of bed and take your kids to the playgrounds, catch a ferry or kayak on the East River.