If you could bottle cool and sell it you would end up with a product that looks deceptively similar to Brooklyn, New York.
But you can’t. And that’s why Brooklyn continues to grow in popularity year after year.
Where Manhattan gives the distinct feel of human engineering to make the city into the amazing product it is, Brooklyn remains largely resistant to that designed feeling touristy cities have. But you probably already knew that.
That’s why you’ve decided to plan a day trip to see Brooklyn! And we’re here to help you make the most of that trip.
In addition to showing you how to explore the coolest places in Brooklyn, we made sure this one day itinerary includes some of Brooklyn’s famous sights!
So if you’ve been to New York before, seen all the sights and shopped all the shops, then follow our suggestions for your one day Brooklyn itinerary.
Morning: Start your day trip with a wow!
● Brooklyn Bridge
Start your Brooklyn day trip with the Manhattan skyline behind you and the cool borough of Brooklyn ahead, as you walk the famous Brooklyn Bridge to enter the borough.
Walking across the East River (which separates Brooklyn from Manhattan) isn’t the only way to get here, but it’s the most dramatic! You can also take the subway, the bus or a taxi.
Start early as the bridge gets crowded no matter what the season. When you’re half way across, stop and turn around so you’re facing Manhattan. Both you and your Instagram account will be grateful for this tip! (The pic below shows you what we mean).
When you exit the bridge you’ll be steps away from Dumbo, an historic neighborhood of cool architecture and the best views in all of New York City (this is not hyperbole and we’ll prove it later!)
Dumbo, like the Brooklyn Bridge, has been officially named an historic place by the national registry of historic places.
Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass you’ll find red brick factory buildings from its past as a major manufacturing hub still lining the streets. And in many parts of the neighborhood, the train tracks used to transport goods between the warehouses and the docks still cross the Belgian block streets (often mistakenly called cobblestone by non-locals).
Grab the iconic photo (above) on the intersection of Washington Street and Water Street.
But the industrial looking buildings are historic only on the exterior. Luxury interiors would surprise you if you went inside.
This mixture of the modern and historic is what makes the area one of the coolest places you can see in Brooklyn. Head straight to Plymouth Street to see the best examples of Dumbo’s historic Belgian Block streets.
Then walk to the more crowded Water Street for more of the same cool architecture but with some of Dumbo’s best attractions inside the buildings.
Stop at Jacques Torres (yes that same one from Nailed It, the popular Netflix series) for chocolate, and Empire Stores for modern shopping in an ancient building!
If you take your day trip to Brooklyn on a spring or summer weekend, the famous Brooklyn Flea market happens under the closeby Dumbo archway. And try to see at least one of the art galleries and showings.
If you’re a fan of flea markets, I have a full list of New York’s best flea markets in this post over on my big travel blog.
Dumbo is also home to the best views of New York City. If you think that’s an exaggeration, Google famous Brooklyn photo spot. We bet you found it, and it was in Dumbo!
To find the spot, walk a few minutes to the intersection of Water And Washington Streets. Speaking of views, right next to Dumbo is the Brooklyn Bridge Park where more unbelievable views can be had.
● Brooklyn Bridge Park
Brooklyn Bridge Park is acres of green space on the edge of the East River. Head to any spot on the walkway that goes through the park and you are guaranteed to see sweeping views of Manhattan’s skyline. The Empire State Building, close up views of both the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, the One World Trade Center, and the Statue of Liberty are some of the sights you can expect.
On your walk you’ll pass the historic Jane’s carousel where you’ll want to stop if kids are with you, and the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory for the best strawberry ice cream we’ve ever had – and a pebbled beach.
Uncover Brooklyn’s foodie scene with this 3-hour foodie, history and culture walking tour.
The excellent River Cafe is steps away from Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory if you’re in the mood for fancy fare.
If you visit Brooklyn when it’s warm, check out any of the excellent rooftop options at 1 Hotel nearby.
We also strongly recommend trying a piece of New York’s famous pizza at historic Grimaldi’s or the local favorite for affordable pizza by the slice, Front Street Pizza.
● Coney Island – if you visit in spring or summer
If you’re into your amusement parks and you visit in the warmer months, grab an Uber or the F train (York St. station) to an area less explored by visitors but well worth a trip if you prefer quirky, surprising places.
It won’t be the ocean air that will surprise you, or the street names you’ll pass: Mermaid Avenue, Neptune Avenue, Surf Avenue. The thing that will tickle your fancy the most will be the delightful old time Americana amusement park you’ll find smack on the boardwalk in a city where everything is so modern!
Make like a local and head straight to the Cyclone to ride a rollercoaster that’s a yearly pilgrimage for many New York families.
Or head to Nathan’s Hot Dogs, home of NYC’s popular July 4th hot dog eating contest.
I have great tips for the best locations to see the 4th of July fireworks in New York in this post.
And because we promised you would get to see the coolest things on your Brooklyn day trip, be sure to head to the boardwalk for sights like snake wranglers, talking parrots, and… well we don’t know what else you’re likely to see as anything can happen in this very distinct part of Brooklyn.
The New York Aquarium is also located in Brooklyn. Get your admission tickets here.
● New York Transit Museum or Brooklyn Museum – if you visit in winter
If you visit in the colder months, after spending the morning outdoors, we recommend heading to one of Brooklyn’s world class museums for some indoor fun.
The Brooklyn Museum is the choice for art exhibitions. Get your Brooklyn Museum tickets here >
While specialty museums like the New York City Transit Museum will put you in a genuine underground train station where exhibits include antique trains from as early as the 1950’s, ancient looking train signage and visits to the insides of real vintage trains!
For the evening, you’ll be heading back up closer to Manhattan where you’ll have dinner before exploring artsy Williamsburg.
Dinner in Brooklyn
Williamsburg has artsy vibes and a food scene that’s hard to beat. Since you’ll only have an hour or two before your Brooklyn day trip ends we recommend focusing on either the art scene or the food scene.
If you’re opting for food, head to local favorite, Le Crocodile for dinner in an upscale dining room.
● Brooklyn beers and brews
Rooftop bars in the area are excellent with Bar Blondeau (just upstairs from Le Crocodile) being a great option for cocktails with stunning views of the Manhattan skyline from the 6th floor of the Wythe Hotel.
We also like Westlight Rooftop Cocktail Bar for the best views of Manhattan across the river from the 22nd floor of the William Vale, 111 N 12th Street.
One minute away is the popular Brooklyn Brewery where you can take a tasting tour to see how the beers are made and sip on some of the city’s best brews.
Talea Beer Co is also walking distance if you like your beer fruity! And do wander into any of the food trucks, pubs or restaurants that catch your fancy!
● Street Art Tour
If you prefer to see the area’s art instead of imbibing, we recommend booking this 2-hour Street Art Walking Tour with a local guide to see as many of the enormous and intricate street murals as possible. Did we mention street art is part of what makes Williamsburg so cool?
And that, dear reader, is enough to make you head back to your hotel for a relaxing evening.
Other great things to do in Brooklyn in a day
Visit Prospect Park Zoo and hang with some sloths. This small 12-acre zoo has been here for nearly 100 years and is great for little ones to fill in a few hours.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden. This 52-acre botanical garden is adjacent to Prospect Park. It has more than 200 cherry trees, so make sure you come for the month-long cherry blossom festival, Hanami, in spring if you want fabulous photos. The Cranford Rose Garden has 5000 rose bushes that are in full bloom around May/June. There is a Japanese Garden with a pond filled with koi that is over 100 years old too.
Pebble Beach is another great spot for awesome views across the East River to Manhattan. Crouch low and put your camera down near the pebbles and get one of the best pics of your visit!
Dyker Heights is most famous for its Christmas lights. In fact so famous is this neighborhood at Christmastime that you can even take walking tours. Or just wander about on your own and enjoy the season.
Brooklyn Flea. New Yorkers head to the famous Brooklyn Flea Market on Saturdays to browse the vintage clothing and handmade gifts. I wrote about the best flea markets in NYC in this post.
Excellent tours to take in Brooklyn
If you like a tasting tour, you’ll like this Made in Brooklyn tour.
Arty and photography fans will love this Brooklyn Street Art walking tour.
Because life’s too short to eat bad pizza, this Brooklyn Pizza Walk will ensure you taste only the best!
If you’d like a local guide to show you the best of Brooklyn this Best of Brooklyn Walking Tour will provide everything you need and all the photo ops too.
If you’re looking for the best hotels in New York City under $300, we’ve got you in this post.
Other cool things to do is this one day shopping trip in New York including a bit of sightseeing and some lovely places to eat.
Or go a bit further afield and see what we recommend you do a fun one day in Philadelphia.