When planning our spotlight on Dumbo this month, we knew we would have to include a post about the fantastic Brooklyn Bridge Park, even though it extends beyond the neighborhood. Formerly a massive freight terminal, the 1.3-mile East River waterfront green space stretches from historic Vinegar Hill to genteel Brooklyn Heights.
While some of the 85-acre park is still under construction, there are already lots of things to do here. Strolling through the park is a transporting experience: The marshes, rocky outcrops and grassy lawns make you feel like you've left NYC even though the cars on the BQE rumble along just yards away. There are also wonderful playgrounds, including the super-popular one at Pier 6, the magnificent Jane's Carousel, boating, biking, swimming, roller-skating and fantastic family programming courtesy of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy.
Getting to Brooklyn Bridge Park, especially the Dumbo section, is a big part of the fun. Instead of taking the subway, try walking or biking across the Brooklyn Bridge or the Manhattan Bridge. Taking New York Waterway's East River Ferry to the Fulton Ferry Landing is another picturesque way to go.
Empire-Fulton Ferry – Dumbo
Formerly an independent state park, this 4.5-acre green space became part of Brooklyn Bridge Park in 2010. There are great grassy lawns for picnicking, fantastic views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, and the historic Jane’s Carousel housed in a gorgeous glass pavilion right on the water. Don't miss the cool Civil-War era warehouses bordering the park.
The Cove – Dumbo
Located between Empire-Fulton Ferry and the Main Street Lot, this beautiful rocky cove gives you direct access to the water. It's a great place to catch a glimpse of birds, waterfowl and aquatic creatures. Explore the area on your own or participate in one of the conservancy's weekend seining programs for kids.
Main Street – Dumbo
Here you'll find an adorable nautical-themed playground and lovely paths for walking. This is currently the eastern border of the park. The John Street section in Vinegar Hill is currently being developed.
Fulton Ferry Landing – Dumbo
This pier was one of the first areas developed in the park, and what it lacks green space it makes up for in amenities. Grab a Water Taxi or the East River Ferry, enjoy a delicious scoop from the renown Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory or take in a free family classical concert at Barge Music.
Pier 1 – Brooklyn Heights
In addition to sprawling lawns, Pier I has a small waterside playground perfect for tots, a salt marsh, a tidal basin and gardens that are accessible via the beautifully landscaped promenades. There are also a handful of casual dining options and you can rent a cycle from Bike and Roll. In March 2013, a bouncy pedestrian bridge linking Pier 1 to Squibb Park and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade opened to the public. Update: As of October 2014 the bridge is closed for necessary maintenance.
Pier 2 – Brooklyn Heights
Enjoy basketball, bocce, handball and shuffleboard courts; swings, fitness equipment and play turf every day, and walk-up kayaking courtesy of the Brooklyn Bridge Boathouse on Thursdays and Saturdays. There's also a seasonal roller rink and a kid-friendly Pop-Up Pool.
Piers 3 & 4 – Brooklyn Heights
Both of these piers are still in transition. As of now, Pier 3 is home to the Greenway Terrace and is a nice peaceful pit stop if you're cycling, while Pier 4 features the Beach, a sandy shoreline that gives visitors East River access.
Pier 5 – Brooklyn Heights
Like Pier 2, this is an active destination with sports fields, bike paths and play equipment. You can also go catch-and-release fishing here (ages 16 and up need a license) and it's a great place to eat thanks to two picnic areas with seating, umbrellas and grills.
Pier 6 – Brooklyn Heights
As you can see from our map at right, Pier 6 is much further south than the Dumbo part of Brooklyn Bridge Park. During the summer, this busy pier hosts beach volleyball, fishing, a ferry to Governors Island and high-end concession stands. But even if all of those are closed for the season, Pier 6's fantastic 1.6-acre playground is worth the trip. Comprised of several themed play areas, the playground includes Swing Valley with baby and big-kid swings, and awesome Tarzan-style ropes; and Slide Mountain featuring several long slides built into a hill, large colorful climbing structures and a giant twisty tube slide that pops out of a large wooden pyramid. In the summer, kids can frolic in Sandbox Village and get wet in the Waterlab.
Things to Know Before You Go
Wear comfortable shoes You're going to be doing a lot of walking, running and playing.
Pack food Yes there are concession stands but the lawns are perfect for picnicking.
Don’t forget your camera The park is famous for its fantastic photo ops, with landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge, Jane's Carousel and the downtown Manhattan skyline in the background.
Bring your bicycle It's a fantastic place to cycle car-free. The bike path between Piers 1 and 6 is ready to go! You can bike to the park via the Brooklyn Bridge or bring your ride with you on the East River Ferry. You can also rent a cycle from Bike and Roll on Pier 1 in season.
Bring your binoculars Talk about a hot spot for bird watching: More than 50 different species have been spotted here! The Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy also hosts weekend educational nature programs for kids during late spring, summer and early fall.
Read all of our posts about Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights.
Top photo by Shutterstock
This post was originally published in April 2012.