If you haven’t visited Brooklyn Bridge Park, or plan to visit New York City sometime soon (or ever), you must find your way over to this magnificent waterfront park, located, naturally, near the Brooklyn Bridge. Covering 85 acres of land along the Brooklyn side of the East River, the 1.3 mile long park takes you from just north of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges in DUMBO, to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Heights.
Filled with green lawns, rolling hills, sports fields, gardens, secret pathways, hidden vistas, playgrounds, a beach, a marina, even a pop-up pool in the summer months, and home to the now iconic Jane’s Carousel, there is more to explore in this park than you could ever imagine. And the best part is – it has the most spectacular views of lower Manhattan. As my brother, who lives in Manhattan, once said upon his first visit, “It feels like you’re on vacation when you’re here.”
That’s how I felt, too, when the park was first being constructed my last few years of living in Brooklyn Heights, before moving to the burbs. Everyone in the neighborhood was so excited about this new brilliant park, which was being built in Brooklyn’s post-industrial waterfront district. It opened up, literally, a whole new space for us urban dwellers.
Construction began in 2008, with the first 6 acres opening in 2010, and it still continues. Though it can get crowded during the summertime, especially with the variety of events held, from concerts to family movie nights, it is still nonetheless a breath of fresh air from city life. With or without the kids, it is a place of great beauty and adventure, whether you’re going to one of its innovative playgrounds, or taking a run by yourself along the river and up onto Brooklyn Bridge.
On a recent school holiday, I took my girls to the park to catch up with old friends, and we spent the better half of the day there walking around and checking out the new developments. Below are some of the highlights of the park we enjoy, places we have been to many times before, and new places we visited for the first time this week.
One of my girls’ favorite things to do is to go for a ride on Jane’s Carousel, located in Empire Fulton Ferry (nestled between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges). A beautifully restored vintage carousel, what makes this a destination great for both for kids and adults alike is its location on the water inside a Jean Nouvel designed glass pavilion. Watching the carousel turn and the music go, with the architectural setting of the glass, the glistening river and the NYC skyline in the near distance, it’s a stunning site and not to be missed.
Nearby is Main Street, a 3.5-acre park with its own “Pebble Beach”, a nautical-themed playground, Dumbo Boulders (a rock-climbing wall), and rotating art exhibitions. Kids love this section! Sure to bring the hunger on, not far away as well is a section of the park called Fulton Ferry Landing, which is a good place to get food. The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory is located here for excellent home-made ice cream, as is Luke’s Lobster and other eateries, and, across the street is our favorite, Shake Shack.
An important part of Brooklyn Bridge Park is all the piers. There are 6 piers, named Pier 1 Pier 2, etc., that jet out from the park and into the river all the way from DUMBO to Brooklyn Heights. A path called the Greenway weaves in and throughout the park and connects each pier to the next. It runs along the water with views of the Manhattan skyline and is a great place to go biking, jogging and walking. Each pier has its own set of activities and flavor. For example, Pier 1, in DUMBO, is the largest of the piers and has huge lawns, water gardens, a waterfront promenade and a playground. It has big wide, open spaces, which are perfect for lazy summer days in the sun. Also located in Pier 1 is the New York City Water Taxi stop. If you haven’t done this hop on/hop off way of exploring the city, I highly recommend it!
Pier 2 has all the sports courts, including basketball, bocce and shuffleboard, play turf, fitness equipment, even a roller rink! Pier 3 is a terrace that is essentially sheltered from the rest of the park and feels more secret and private, while Pier 4 is known as the “Beach”. Pier 5 is where all the sports fields are located, as well as having its own picnic area equipped with bbq’s and tables with umbrellas. Also located here is the park’s own marina. Finally, Pier 6, in Brooklyn Heights, is where we used to spend a lot of time, as it was the closest to our home. There are 5 playgrounds in Pier 6, including Swing Valley, Slide Mountain, the Water Lab (a water park), Sandbox Village, and Marsh Garden. Truly innovative playspaces, people from all over the city bring their kids here to visit and play. The ferry to Governors Island is also located in Pier 6 – another must do I highly recommend. You can read more about it here.
Brooklyn Bridge Park is like its own little adventure land amidst the big city. On our most recent visit we started at Pier 6 and slowly made our way down to Pier 1, the kids racing through paths and climbing rocks, stopping at various playgrounds along the way. When we lived there, we used to meet our DUMBO friends at Pier 1’s wine bar (oh, Pier 1 has wine!), by taking the Greenway path all the way down, girls on scooters, us on feet. We’d race back right before dark, catching the most beautiful purplish cityscape sunsets, the river twinkling in the distance. There is a carefreeness to this park I’m not sure you quite get anywhere else in the city. And as my brother said, it’s like vacation. So when you next go to NYC on vacation, be sure to check it out.