118 Best Sights in Brooklyn, New York City

North 6th St. Pier

NYC Ferry's East River route stops in North Williamsburg at this clean, modern pier, but even if you're not taking the ferry, it's a nice place for a walk, with benches and excellent views of the Manhattan skyline. On summer days, you're likely to see teens skateboarding and people eating ice cream from OddFellows, just two blocks away.

Northside Festival

Williamsburg
North Brooklyn’s largest festival for music, film, and innovation comes alive for one week every June. Organized by Northside Media (the people behind Brooklyn Magazine and The L Magazine), the festival brings thousands together for an epic series of live performances by up-and-coming bands and indie rock stars, art, film screenings, and talks by Brooklyn’s influencers---in venues across Williamsburg and Greenpoint. McCarren Park is Northside’s heart, and several free events take place there. Check the website for the full schedule and to purchase tickets.

Old Stone House & Washington Park

Park Slope

This reconstructed Dutch farmhouse dating to 1699 played a central role in the Battle of Brooklyn, one of the largest battles of the Revolutionary War, and survived through the early 1900s. This small, family-friendly museum looks at the history of the site from the Lenape through the Revolutionary eras in Brooklyn from the 1640s until 1783. Art exhibits, concerts, plays, and other community events take place year-round, including a focus on the Brooklyn Baseball Club, which started here in 1883 and gave rise to the Brooklyn Dodgers.

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Owl's Head Park

With gently rolling hills and awe-inspiring views of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and Manhattan’s skyline, as well as stately old trees, this 24-plus-acre park is a popular retreat for local families, dog walkers, and loungers basking in the view of ships entering and leaving New York Harbor. In addition, there are basketball courts, a playground, a dog run, a skate park, and a spray pool. In winter, kids launch themselves down the park’s sledding hill.

Park Slope Historic District

Park Slope
Stretching over 33 beautiful residential blocks, Park Slope's historic district, the largest in Brooklyn, is mostly between St. John’s Place and 15th Street, and between 7th Avenue and Prospect Park West. Prospect Park West, Carroll Street, and Montgomery Place have some of the neighborhood's most elegant homes, representing the area's architectural styles: Queen Anne, Romanesque Revival, Italianate, French Second Empire, Neo-Grec. Notable buildings that stand out from the row houses are the Montauk Club (built in 1899), at the corner of 8th Avenue and Lincoln Place, designed by Francis Kimball to resemble a famous Gothic palace in Venice; and the three 19th-century churches on the corners of 7th Avenue and St. John's Place. Take an hour or so and stroll around. The Park Slope House Tour (see Best Brooklyn Events in Chapter 1), held every May, is a chance to see inside some of the gorgeous homes in the area.
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Pete's Candy Store Reading Series

Williamsburg’s premier reading series takes place year-round at a narrow bar in a converted train car; it's free to the public, has been patronized by Jonathan Ames and Dani Shapiro, and is held every other Thursday evening. There's also a poetry series, the second Friday of every month.

Plymouth Church

Brooklyn Heights
Built in 1849, this barnlike neoclassical Congregational church was a stop on the Underground Railroad. The famous abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher was the first pastor; a sculpture of him stands in the colonnaded courtyard visible from Orange Street. The brick building's open, theaterlike interior inspired many subsequent American Protestant churches. Three Louis C. Tiffany stained-glass windows were added in the 1930s. A fragment of Plymouth Rock is in an adjoining arcade.
75 Hicks St., Brooklyn, NY, 11201, USA
718-624–4743
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Tours available Mon. and Tues. by appointment only, or Sun. after services, Sun. services at 11 (at 10 in summer); tours by appt

Prospect Park Audubon Center

Prospect Park
Built in 1904 and styled after the grand 16th-century National Library of St. Mark's, in Venice, the center sits opposite the Lullwater Bridge, making it an idyllic spot for watching swans, ducks, and wedding photo sessions. Interactive exhibits, park tours, and programs for kids revolve around nature education. Sign up for a bird-watching tour to see some of the 200 species spotted here.
101 East Dr., Brooklyn, NY, 11225, USA
718-287–3400
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon.–Wed.; Jan.–Mar., hrs vary (call ahead), Apr.–June and Sept.–Oct., Thurs. and Fri. noon–5, weekends 10--1; July and Aug., Thurs. and Fri. noon–6, weekends 10--1; Nov.–mid-Dec., Thurs. and Fri. noon–4, weekends 10--1; Jan.–Mar., hrs vary (call ahead)

Prospect Park South Historic District

Designed in 1899 as a park within the city, the Victorian blocks of this iconic historic district feature stately gateposts that mark the entrances of handsome streets lined with palatial Colonial Revival, Queen Anne, and Tudor Revival homes, each with striking architectural details. The Ditmas Park Historic District, which also has homes built in the early 1900s, is a few blocks southeast. (To step inside the houses, see Best Brooklyn Events in Chapter 1 for details about the Victorian Flatbush House Tour.)

Prospect Park Southwest

A stroll along tree-lined Prospect Park Southwest, across from Prospect Park, is one of the highlights of visiting Windsor Terrace. The gracious limestone town houses, many of which were built in the late 19th century and are notable for their beaux arts facades, are an architectural complement to nearby Park Slope’s brownstones.

Prospect Park Zoo

Prospect Park
Of the 1,000 inhabitants and 170 species at the small, engaging zoo, playful sea lions and busy meerkats are the standout entertainers for kids. An outdoor discovery trail has a simulated prairie-dog burrow, a duck pond, and creatures such as red pandas and emus in habitat. A café serves lunch.
450 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn, NY, 11225, USA
718-399–7339
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $8, Apr.–Oct., weekdays 10–5, weekends 10–5:30; Nov.–Mar., daily 10–4:30; last entry 30 mins before closing

Red Hook Flicks

Red Hook
This weekly summer movie series runs through July and August at the Louis Valentino Jr. Park & Pier. Films are projected against a warehouse as the sun fades behind the Statue of Liberty. Bring a blanket and make a picnic out of it. There's usually food for sale, too.

Sideshow Gallery

The quality varies from show to show at this pioneering gallery that specializes in works by emerging and established Brooklyn-based artists, but it remains a good place to take the creative pulse of Williamsburg and the borough. In its current space since 2000, Sideshow hosts edgy (sometimes peculiar) local and traveling exhibits, along with occasional readings, concerts, and other events.
319 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, NY, 11211, USA
718-486–8180
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon.–Wed., Thurs.--Sun. noon--6

Smack Mellon

DUMBO
The transformation of an industrial boiler house into an edgy arts compound is quintessential DUMBO. This 12,000-square-foot structure now hosts large-scale avant-garde exhibitions and runs a prestigious residency program. Don't be surprised if you pass a smartphone-clutching event planner on your way in: the 5,000-square-foot gallery here is also a popular wedding venue.

Smith Street

Carroll Gardens
While Court Street is home to some of the neighborhood’s oldest businesses, Smith is a street of transition—a result of booming real estate prices and the neighborhood’s changing tastes. These days, you can find trendy bars and restaurants alongside long-dormant storefronts and sleek new constructions awaiting new occupants. On weekends the street can be packed day and night. This is the best drag of all the nearby neighborhoods to hear live music on Sunday evenings.
Brooklyn, NY, USA

St. Mary Star of the Sea

Carroll Gardens
One of the oldest operating Catholic churches in Brooklyn, the neo-Gothic St. Mary Star of the Sea opened in 1855 and once had a clear view to the New York Harbor. Its well-known architect Patrick C. Keely was an Irish immigrant, the stained-glass windows were imported from Munich in 1897, and the altar rail—installed two years later—is made of marble from several Italian quarries. The church may be more interesting to some for the fact that Al Capone was married here back on December 18, 1918. Mass is held daily and open to the public.

Strong Place and Tompkins Place

Cobble Hill
These pretty redbrick- and brownstone-lined streets are quintessential parts of the neighborhood and well worth a stroll. Single-block streets, often designated as "places," emerged across the borough to fill in extra space when nearly parallel streets swerved too far apart. The Gothic Revival brownstone church at the corner of Strong and Degraw streets dates to 1849, but many homes on Tompkins Place were erected during the first decade of the 20th century. Two Christian churches (first a Dutch Reformed church, then Trinity German Lutheran Church) previously occupied what's now Kane Street Synagogue at the corner of Tompkins and Kane streets; the structure was built in the mid-1850s.

SummerScreen

Every summer, New York City’s parks become enormous outdoor movie theaters, and McCarren Park in Williamsburg is no exception. Presented by Northside Media, SummerScreen shows a different film every Wednesday. Past films include crowd-pleasers like Dirty Dancing, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and The Princess Bride. Though the film doesn't start until the sun sets, the lawn opens at 6 pm; it’s best to bring a blanket and arrive early to score a spot. There are food and drink vendors on-site.

Taste Talks

With so many exciting developments in the United States within the fields of food and drink, the annual Taste Talks festival program has grown to include events in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami, but the main event still takes place over a fall weekend in Brooklyn. Panel discussions by influential chefs and representatives from various food publications, as well as parties and supper clubs are just some of the tasty experiences to look forward to.

The Cyclone

Coney Island
Cyclone Roller Coaster, Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York City, New York
Zhukovsky | Dreamstime.com

This historic wooden roller coaster first thrilled riders in 1927, and it'll still make you scream. Anticipation builds as the cars slowly clack up to the first unforgettable 85-foot plunge—and the look on your face is captured in photos that you can purchase at the end of the ride. The Cyclone might not have the speed or the twists and turns of more modern rides, but that's all part of its rickety charm. It's one of two New York City landmarks in Coney Island, and deservingly in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Stable Building

DUMBO

Formerly the home of the Galapagos Art Space that has since moved to Detroit, this historic building continues to showcase art with four first-floor galleries that were previously part of the 111 Front Street gallery collective. Minus Space shows artists specializing in "reductive abstract art" (simple materials, precise craftsmanship, limited color, repetition of shapes). Higher Pictures Generation offers playful photography. The Klompching Gallery focuses on fine-art photography. Gallery hours vary, but weekdays and Saturday afternoon are your best bet to visit; most are closed Monday.

Victorian Flatbush House Tour

This biannual self-guided tour happens on even-numbered years and gives design and architecture buffs a look inside turn-of-the-century masterpieces. The event takes place, rain or shine, from 1 to 6 pm on the Sunday before Father's Day. You can go at your own pace and walk the entire route or use the shuttle bus. The tour starts at Temple Beth Emeth of Flatbush, where you can purchase or pick up tickets and collect the detailed guidebook and map.

Vinegar Hill

DUMBO
An architectural anomaly between a ConEdison substation and the 300-acre Brooklyn Navy Yard industrial park, this small DUMBO neighborhood, originally settled by Irish immigrants, has pre–Civil War brick and frame houses, Greek Revival buildings, and Federal town houses on its streets. Don't miss the Commandant's House, a 19th-century, Federal-style landmark whose artfully obscured gate lies at Evans Street near Hudson Avenue: now a (rather impressive) private residence, the house is the Navy Yard's oldest surviving structure.
Between Bridge St. and the Navy Yard, Brooklyn, NY, 11201, USA

Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge

Red Hook
Back before the age of giant shipping containers, barges owned by the railroad companies plied the New York Harbor, transporting cargo. The restored all-wooden Lehigh Valley Railroad Barge Number 79 dates back to the beginning of the 20th century and currently operates as a small museum (Saturday 1--5 and Thursday 4--8) dedicated to Brooklyn's maritime heritage. Check out the 1938 Mary A. Whalen (weekdays 10--6, and second Sunday of the month May--September; Pier 11, next to the NYC ferry stop) nearby, too.

West Indian Day Parade

Crown Heights
Each year on Labor Day, millions of spectators and participants attend the West Indian Day Parade, which celebrates Carnival and West Indian Caribbean culture with dozens of floats, city dignitaries, marching bands, live music, and food vendors. The parade route typically heads from Crown Heights to Prospect Heights, along Eastern Parkway, from Utica Avenue to Grand Army Plaza. Celebrations actually begin early the morning before the parade with j'ouvert (French for "daybreak") but this isn't officially part of the parade.

Weylin

An icon of the Williamsburg cityscape, the original headquarters of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank has been lavishly restored and renamed Weylin. Completed in 1875, the beaux arts building with its granite exterior and gold-tipped dome is a landmarked site. It's also a private event space, so don't be surprised to see a bride and groom posing on the steps. If you're lucky, you can peek inside. Be sure to look up: the ornately painted great dome is incredible.

Williamsburg Art & Historical Center

WAH, as it's known locally, occupies one of New York City's earliest landmarked structures—a mansionlike 1867 former bank building designed in the French Second Empire style—but you have to enter through a side door to reach the high-ceiling, light-filled gallery. The exhibits showcase the works of contemporary artists in many media.
135 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY, 11211, USA
718-486–7372
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $7 suggested donation, Closed Mon.–Thurs., Fri.–Sun. noon–6

Williamsburg Bridge

The distinctive and quite beautiful steel bridge that links Williamsburg to Manhattan's Lower East Side was the world's longest suspension bridge when it was completed in 1903. More than 200,000 people cross it every day by car, train, bike, and on foot. A small plaza at the corner of Bedford Avenue and Broadway, on the Brooklyn side, provides a great vantage point from which to admire the bridge.
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