New York City draws millions of visitors a year for good reason: You’ll never run out of things to do.
From the favorite sites like Times Square and Central Park to Chinatown shopping to the restaurants on every block, many travelers have little reason to leave Manhattan. But just across the Brooklyn Bridge in a neighborhood called DUMBO (short for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”), a cobblestone street utopia with no bright lights or crowds to be found.
Get to know New York’s softer side by spending a day in DUMBO. Here’s what you need to know to maximize your time.
Getting to DUMBO, Brooklyn
The fastest and cheapest way to get to DUMBO from Manhattan is by subway. A single ride costs $3 and you can also purchase a subway pass if you plan to use the subway system consistently over the course of a few days. For those coming from Midtown Manhattan, DUMBO is a short, 15-minute subway ride from Penn Station near. Simply hop on the A or C line downtown train and get off at the High Street-Brooklyn Bridge Station stop.
Or, take a stroll across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. It's a 1.1-mile walk, and a great opportunity to take some photos from the top of the bridge.
What To Do
DUMBO has some of the best views of Manhattan you'll find. Head to Brooklyn Bridge Park for sweeping views of the city and the bridge itself. There are a number of piers, a beach, and green space for days. You can even catch an excellent sightline of the Statue of Liberty from the piers. Unlike Liberty State Park and Staten Island, the Statue of Liberty faces Brooklyn Bridge Park.
As you make your way around the park and past the Brooklyn Bridge, plan to stop at Jane’s Carousel. This 1922 vintage carousel has amazing views of the city and tickets to ride are just $2. I prefer it over the Central Park Carousel.
After you’ve stretched your legs and strolled through the park, hit the cobblestone streets for some shopping. DUMBO is known for its collection of unique shops that can’t be found elsewhere. Empire Stores is the most well-known shopping complex located in an old warehouse and also offers a variety of places to grab a bite to eat with waterfront views. Shibui Japanese Antiques sells imported treasures and the owner is friendly and very knowledgeable about all of the pieces. Readers should head under the Manhattan bridge and over to Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop for rare poetry books.
Where to Eat
There’s no shortage of good food in DUMBO, with a number of trendy restaurants start-ups making their way in. But there are also a few longstanding, must-eat staples in the neighborhood.
Local pizza favorites Grimaldi’s and Juliana’s are located next to each other at the intersection of Fulton and Front Streets, but beware long lines at lunchtime. For sustainably sourced seafood, head down to Luke’s Lobster shack for an out-of-this-world lobster roll served on a buttery bun.
There are also plentiful waterfront dining spots including Miami-style Sugarcane Raw Bar. You’ll pay for the waterfront views at any of the restaurants in the area, but a splurge is well worth it for the experience. For dessert, head over to One Girl Cookies for some affordable sweet treats.
For a swanky rooftop vibe, head to Harriet’s above 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge for a cocktail. The drinks are pricey so I only stayed for one, but the bar has comfortable lounge-style seating and completely unobstructed views.
Thrifty Tip #1: Harriet’s website states they charge a $20 cover for non-hotel guests, but it seems this policy isn’t consistently enforced on weekends before noon and on weekdays before 4 p.m. I visited on a Monday about 11:30 a.m. and was not charged a cover.
Where to Snag Photos
Both hobby and professional photographers alike flock to DUMBO, Brookyln for the quality photo opportunities.
Main Street Park is a small park beginning after Plymouth Street near the Manhattan Bridge. Head down to Pebble Beach to snap some perfect panoramic photographs that include both the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge and the Manhattan skyline. Accessing the small beach requires climbing over some large rocks, but with good shoes, it’s a fairly easy and short climb.
Next, make a stop at the intersection of Washington and Water Street for the iconic shots of the Empire State Building peeking through the Manhattan Bridge that DUMBO is famous for. Get there as early in the morning as possible before swarms of Instagrammers descend upon the intersection.
For a different perspective, walk a few blocks over and through the Archway Under the Manhattan Bridge. You won’t be able to see the city from the other side, but there are industrial warehouse backdrops and a quiet area to set up for some great shots.
Thrifty Tip #2: After getting the photos you want, stop in the archway under the bridge for a beer at Archway Lighthouse. Catch this seasonal beer and wine stand Wednesday-Sunday during April through October from noon until 10 p.m.
Just a mile from the heart of the City that Never Sleeps, DUMBO, Brookyln still has that old-world charm. Thanks to its compact size, it's easy to explore in just a day.
Be sure to cross the Brooklyn Bridge next time you're in New York City and check out this neighborhood.