Most people that visit NYC never leave Manhattan but we're here to tell you that it is well worthy of your time to venture out into some of the other neighborhood's that are considered part of New York City. And we strongly suggest adding a trip to Brooklyn to your itinerary!
I get it, Manhattan has a ridiculous amount of things to see and do that you could probably spend an entire year here and still not cover everything. And then add to that, you're on a tight schedule to see New York City's many highlights into only a few days.
However a visit to Brooklyn, which is just on the other side of the East River, should be considered as one of NYC's best destinations to visit, and not seeing it means you are missing out on such a big part of what this city has to offer.
Brooklyn on a Budget
So in this post, we have included 10 insanely awesome things you can do in Brooklyn for FREE! Yes, even those of you who are visiting NYC on a budget can enjoy our highly recommended things to see and do in Brooklyn entries below.
In fact, if you are on a budget in NYC you might even like to consider booking a hotel in Brooklyn because you will find much cheaper options than in Manhattan. I'm not saying you will save loads of money by staying in Brooklyn, but nightly prices are definitely not as high as the skyscrapers as they are in Manhattan.
Just a quick tip before we get to our top 10 list... if you insist on staying in Manhattan and you are looking for accommodation on a budget we suggest The Bowery House in Nolita where we spent a few nights. They even had a rooftop terrace and their nightly rate was $120.
10 Awesome Things You Can Do In Brooklyn For Free!
1. Walk across Brooklyn Bridge
Is there a more quintessential thing to do in New York City than walking across the Brooklyn Bridge? Next to riding bicycles in Central Park I think not! It's not only one of the most instagrammable spots in NYC, but another of this citys' architectural gems that you can admire up close without having to pay an entrance fee! Not only that, but you gain another new perspective on the city with unparalleled views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines.
You can start the 1.3 mile walk from either side of the East River allowing yourself about 30 minutes to cross the bridge at a leisurely pace. Starting from the Brooklyn side you will have excellent views walking towards Manhattan. However, walking across Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan is a great way to start your day exploring the Brooklyn area. If you can, begin you walk before 10am when the bridge is least busiest.
Where: From Brooklyn the pedestrian walkway begins at the Tillary Street & Boreum Place intersection. Access from Manhattan is across from City Hall Park on Center Street.
2. Take a stroll or go for a bicycle ride along the Brooklyn waterfront
One of the nicest (and free) area's to explore in Brooklyn is Brooklyn Bridge Park. As its name suggests, the park is located below the historic Bridge. The park itself is 85 acres and runs along the waterfront. There is so much to see and explore here you could spend an entire day doing so.
The southern section of the park has 6 piers offering outdoor activities and attractions such as roller skating, a fitness center, beautiful green spaces and a pop up swimming pool to name a few. You can explore Brooklyn Bridge Park on foot but walking the entire length of it can be exhausting. Another option that is less strenuous on feet is to wander the park on a bicycle. You can rent bicycles through Citi Bike which is New York City's bike system. Bicycles with Citi Bike are available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. They cost $3 for 30 minutes.
Where: Along Furman and Water Streets.
3. Kayak on the East River
Go for a paddle on the East River where you can enjoy some unique views of New York City. While there are a variety of options to explore the Big Apple's many different waterways such as ferries, water taxis and cruises, none are as much fun as kayaking on the river yourself! And guess what? You can experience it for free!
The Brooklyn Bridge Boathouse offers free 30 minute kayaking sessions to the public on weekends and Thursday evenings. All levels of experience are welcome and of course life jackets are provided. No need to make a reservation, just walk up and wait for a kayak to become available.
Where: Pier 2 at Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse.
4. See the Manhattan skyline from the Green Space at Pier 3
One thing that surprised us the most on our trip to NYC was the amount of numerous green spaces available for public enjoyment. One of our favorite green spaces besides Central Park was the aptly named Green Space at Pier 3. From this location you can see unobstructed views of the Lower Manhattan skyline. Strolling through these 5 acres, you would not think you were in a city of over 10 million people. The day we visited during the height of summer we were the only ones here.
The Green Space is surrounded by tree's and small shrubs providing shade and shelter from the wind. You can sit and enjoy the views on the grassy lawn or from the many available bench seats. There is also an 'exploratory labrynth' which includes elements such as things to climb and a series of mirrors reflecting the landscape that children will enjoy. The park is conveniently located next to Pier 2, another pier that contains 5 acres of sports and play areas including a basketball court, rollerskating rink and an area to play Bocci (all free of course).
Where: Pier 3 at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
5. See an outdoor movie at 'Movies With A View'
This was one of our favorite activities on our trip to Brooklyn and New York City along with a similar experience watching an outdoor film screening at Bryant Park in Manhattan. The Movies With A View
event is held every summer and organized by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservatory. Movie screenings take place every Thursday evening throughout the months of July and August. You can visit their website here to see the movie line up.
Seriously, there is no better place to be on a warm NYC summer's night than lying on the lawn with a picnic spread and enjoying the cool breeze from the East River! Bring a picnic rug and your own food and beverages. If you forget to pack some snacks, there will be food vendors catering for the event. The views of the dazzling Lower Manhattan skyline will compete for your attention.
Where: Pier 1 at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
6. Take a selfie at DUMBO
I think taking a selfie at DUMBO would have to be the most popular instagramming selfie spot in NYC! I seriously could not believe how many people were taking selfies here!! People were almost getting run over trying to get their perfect shot. Admittedly, I did want to come here too but my reasons were so I could say hi to Dan Humphrey... any Gossip Girl fans out there?
DUMBO, (which incase you don't know stands for Down Under The Manhattan Bridge Overpass), is actually a very beautiful and photogenic location. The streets are cobblestone and as you gaze up you will notice that the Manhattan Bridge perfectly frames the Empire State Building beneath its arches.
Where: Washington Street, Brooklyn.
7. Smorgasburg in Williamsburg
If you are a foodie in NYC, there are countless places to eat and food to try, but no other place has as many delicious, unusual, photogenic options all at the same location as Smorgasburg! Located on the Williamsburg waterfront, this open-air food market has around 100 vendors offering a variety of the best food, drinks and dessert in New York.
Smorgasburg is a free weekly event held every Saturday in Williamsburg and every Sunday in Prospect Park from May to October. With seemingly endless options, we recommend doing a lap around the market before making any decisions... especially if you want to keep your spending under $10. Most food items are between $5-10.
Where: East River State Park, 90 Kent Avenue, Brooklyn.
8. Watch ice cream being made at -321 Ice Creamery
The -321 Ice Cream Shop in Williamsburg is a one of a kind! No, you won't find the staff reaching in to an ice cream tub to scoop out your choice of flavor. Instead what you will see is the ice cream making process from start to finish. And let me tell you, it is a really cool process to watch. Don't even get me started on the nitrogen cheese balls!
Okay, so this entry is only sort-of free... It's free to watch the ice cream being made right in front of you but obviously if you want to eat their nitrogen infused concoctions it will cost you. But I just had to include this place in this post because it was one of the best places we visited in Brooklyn! And even if you don't buy ice cream it is still worth checking out!
Where: 288 Grand Street, Brooklyn.
9. Take a stroll on the Coney Island boardwalk
One of New York City's most well known beaches, Coney Island, is well worth the subway trip to get there. Grab a Nathans Famous Hot Dog and explore the historical boardwalk. This is the birthplace of the amusement park and between 1880 to 1945, this was the largest amusement park in the U.S.
It will cost you nothing to wander the historical boardwalk, sunbathe at the beach, or take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean. However, if you decide you would like to partake in some roller coaster riding it will cost you $10 a thrill on the Cyclone at Luna Park or you purchase a Luna Park Pass for unlimited rides all day and night long.
Where: 1208 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn.
10. Wander the Russian communities in Brighton Beach
Have you ever wanted to visit Russia? If so, you can enjoy a much cheaper option by taking the Q train to Brighton Beach and wander around the Russian communities that migrated here from era's gone by. You will instantly feel as though you have been transported to another country as you stroll colorful shop fronts and restaurants selling authentic Russian pastries, sweets and candies.
If you've had enough of food and store gawking you can walk just one block down to the beach and cruise the boardwalk or relax on the beach. This section of the beach north of Coney Island is a lot more calmer and quieter than its theme park cousin.
Where: Brighton Beach Avenue, Brighton Beach.
Prefer a guided tour? See our top picks below!
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