Brooklyn Bridge Park: 35 Top Things to Do with Kids

This massive green space offers tons of family activities—and unbeatable city views. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Bridge Park
This massive green space offers tons of family activities—and unbeatable city views. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Bridge Park

There is no shortage of warm weather family activities in Brooklyn, but I find myself continuously making the trip to Brooklyn Bridge Park throughout the spring and summer months. Spanning 1.3 miles along the East River, Brooklyn Bridge Park is an 85-acre waterfront space promising recreation, sustainability, and environmental exploration. Where else can you fish, roller skatekayak, barbecue, hit some of the city's most innovative playzones, catch the ferry to Governors Island, see FREE outdoor movies, explore a sensory labyrinth , or visit an environmental education center? Plus, the Lower Manhattan skyline views never fail to impress.

We've rounded up our favorite things to do to help you and your little ones explore one of the city's most fascinating parks.

The southern half of the park contains six refurbished piers, each offering something special. Pier 1 has lawns and extraordinary views of Manhattan. Pier 2 offers basketball and handball courts, a fitness center, roller skating, play areas, and kayaking. Pier 3 features a labyrinth and peaceful, gorgeous green spaces. Pier 4 has a lovely sandy beach. Pier 5 boasts sports fields, fishing, a playground, hibachi-style barbecue and bike paths. Pier 6 is where you'll find expansive playground areas featuring sand, water, swings, and climbing. The ferry to Governors Island is here too, as well as volleyball courts and a dog run. 

Remember, these are just the highlights—check the park's website for all its offerings, including upcoming events, as well as closures, and new openings. 

Check out the super long and fast slides at Slide Mountain. Photo by Julienne Schaer for the park

1. Play on Pier 6

Take in the skyline from the top of Slide Mountain at Pier 6 and zoom down together—it’s worth it for you too, Mom or Dad. The entire playground is phenomenal.

2. Ride a Bike

 The Greenway, a designated bike path, travels from Pier 1 to Pier 6. The views are gorgeous and the terrain is excellent for new riders. Rent them here.

3. Go Fishing

Reel in a big one at one of the new fishing clinics for kids and adults this summer at Pier 5.

It's easy to jump on the ferry to Governors Island from Pier 6. Photo by Etienne Frossard for the park

4. Hop on the Ferry

Catch the ferry (check the schedule here) from Pier 6 to spend the day on Governors Island, which is now open year-round. The car-less island has playgrounds, a 57-foot slide, and a tree house. Must-sees include glamping accommodations, a zip line, kayaking dock, and more.

5. Go Butterfly Watching

Grab a pair of binoculars and go butterfly watching. Butterflies are so abundant in the park (thanks to pollinator-friendly planting strategies) that a guide is available for download.

6. See a FREE Event

Leave your wallet at home to enjoy the year-round FREE family events and programming. Events include kiddie concerts, outdoor summer movies, walking tours, free kayaking, and plenty of sports and exercise sessions.

7. Discover Your Inner Botonist

Download the park's plant guide and plan a colorful family scavenger hunt for the best blooms!

This little gem of a beach is a nice place to relax after a bike ride or stroll. Photo by Etienne Frossard

8. Lounge on an Urban Beach

Slip off your shoes and bury your toes in the sandy beach at Pier 4. Swimming and wading are not permitted, but you can launch non-motorized boats.

9. Scale a Wall

Scale the mega outdoor climbing wall at Dumbo Boulders

10. Visit the Children's Museum

Spend a rainy day at the Brooklyn Children's Museum's Dumbo outpost, Spark, which is accessible from the park at John Street.

11. Catch a Concert

It took us months of exploring Brooklyn Bridge Park before realizing there was often live music happening right under our noses at Bargemusic. Check out the FREE Saturday concerts during warmer months.

12. Go Dancing

Hit the dance floor at the Big Summer Get Down, an all-ages dance party on Pier 3 plaza

13. View the Public Art

There is lots of cool public art projects scattered throughout the park. Make a game of it and try to find them all.

14. Go Shopping

Support 80 vendors and score vintage items, unique gifts, and snacks at the Brooklyn Flea. The Flea is now in Dumbo, right off the park's northern end on Saturdays and Sundays, April through December.

15. Skip rocks at Pebble Beach

We like to get a box of treats at One Girl Cookies and stand between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, testing our abilities and taking in the views. 

Cool off in the WaterLab, one of the city's top FREE splash pads. Photo by Julienne Schaer for the park

16. Splash and Climb

Perhaps the best sprinkler in the city, the WaterLab sprinkler playground at Pier 6 is a great place to cool off.

17. Get an Education

Learn about local ecology and sustainability at the awesome Environmental Education Center. Kids will love the touch tank, where they can handle local starfish, shells, plants, and rocks.

18. Listen to a Read-Aloud

Join children's librarians from the Brooklyn Heights Library for Summer Reading Storytime each Wednesday in the park.

Rent some skates and skate to the music at the Pier 2 rink. Photo by Julienne Schaer for the park

19. Strap on Your Skates

Roller skate at Pier 2 while gazing at the Manhattan skyline. Skate rental is available on-site. Check the schedule for free admission times.

20. Build a Castle

Hit Sandbox Village at Pier 6, a massive destination sandbox for the preschooler crowd, to build sand castles and play hide-and-seek in the faux log cabins.

21. Fire up the Grill

Barbecue on one of Pier 5's hibachi-style grills and feast at one of the picnic tables. Get there early to grab a spot. Toddlers will love the adjacent tot playground.

Take a ride on Jane's Carousel. Photo by Shinya Suzuki via Flickr

22. Ride a Historic Carousel

 Join in our tradition: a ride on Jane's Carousel followed by a pizza picnic, a la Juliana’s Pizza.

23. See Spot Run

Satisfy your pet envy by watching the dogs romp at the Pier 6 Flatbush Avenue-adjacent dog run, or the more scenic Main Street run

24. Chill Out with a Book

 Climb the granite terrace at Pier 3 for a better view, or borrow a book from the nearby book cart while you lounge in the grass. Let the kids enjoy the new garden labyrinth. 

25. Paddle a Kayak

Kayak on the East River from Pier 2 for FREE in the summer months. Little kids can ride with a parent.

Keep the park beautiful and clean by volunteering with the Green Team. Photo courtesy of the park

26. Beautify the Park

Volunteer with the Green Team to learn about gardening and give back to the park that gives so much to all of us. 

27. Know Your History

Brush up on your borough history with a stop into the Brooklyn Historical Society's Dumbo outpost right off of the park. Students are FREE.

28. Take a Boat Ride

Hop on the NYC Ferry from Pier 1 to visit lower Manhattan.

Climb to new heights and enjoy the view of Manhattan from the Pier 5 playground. Photo courtesy of the park

29. Pick a Playground, any Playground

Main Street Playground was our go-to spot until my daughter discovered the magic of Swing Valley.

30. Get Fit

Pump some iron at the Pier 2 fitness area (yes, they have a section for kids!) before stuffing yourselves with the best salted caramel ice cream this side of the East River at Ample Hills. It’s all about balance, right?

31. Look Up

 The Green Roofs at Piers 1, 5, and 6 are a great way to learn about sustainability. They keep buildings cool in summer, warm in winter, and add a much-needed element of Mother Nature to our concrete jungle.

Take a break from all the activities and refuel with a homemade ice cream sandwich at Melt. Photo courtesy of Melt.

32. Eat More Ice Cream

Grab a cone at Odd Fellows Ice Cream. They specialize in wacky flavors that are decadent and delicious.

33. Eat Lobster

What is summer without a lobster roll? Introduce kids to the taste of the sea at Luke's Lobster shack in the park.

34. Take a Selfie

Capture your fun day at the park with a family selfie in front of the traveling DUMBO reflector sign

35. Watch a Movie

Pull up a blanket and picnic to catch one of the park's FREE summer movies.

Bathrooms can be found from one end of Brooklyn Bridge Park to the other (a major bonus for little ones). We like the ones at Fornino at Pier 6, the new bathrooms at the boathouse, and those at the other end of the park in the Environmental Education Building. 

Hungry? Concession stands abound in warm weather and family-friendly restaurants are never far. Also worth noting: shade can be found everywhere. For more to see and explore in the neighborhood, check out our Dumbo Neighborhood Guide.

A version of this post was published in 2018; it is updated annually. Additional reporting by Margaret Kelly.

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