Brooklyn 101 introductory tour
A quick visit to Park Slope, Prospect Park, Downtown Brooklyn, and Brooklyn Heights (+ Fulton Ferry/DUMBO) introduces the borough's history, architecture, landscape, and lore.
This is, by necessity, a sampling of some highlights in a huge borough. For a somewhat more extensive introduction, which expands on Brooklyn 101, see Brooklyn 202.
What is Brooklyn about? What neighborhoods are emblematic of the borough's revival (and decreasing affordability)? How do architecture and parks, retail and transportation, civic buildings and the arts fit into the borough? What are signs of Brooklyn's past, from a private club to the first black major league baseball player? Let's explore some classic "brownstone" neighborhoods.
We meet near Brooklyn's magnificent Grand Army Plaza, the psychic center of Brooklyn. We'll see some marvelous architecture and get a feel for Park Slope, the city's most livable neighborhood, according to New York magazine, an epicenter of the borough's gentrification yet also boasting the country's largest co-operative grocery, a sign of civic activism.
We'll visit Brooklyn's most famous park, Prospect Park, a cousin to and contrast with Olmsted & Vaux's earlier Central Park, and see the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch. On Saturdays, there's a Greenmarket outside the park, opposite the arch.
Brooklyn tour highlights
If it's open, we'll step into the Brooklyn Public Library's Central Library, which typically has local art or photography exhibits. We'll continue past the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and have a look at the Brooklyn Museum's imposing facade. Sometimes we even visit into the museum--for a fee--and see Judy Chicago's mesmerizing feminist work, The Dinner Party. (Here's more on Judy Chicago.)
We then travel by subway to the institutional heart of Brooklyn, home of Borough Hall, Brooklyn's old City Hall, and see part of Downtown Brooklyn: older skyscrapers, new developments, and an array of governmental buildings. We'll encounter Brooklyn's most famous clergyman and learn some of the 19th-century city's abolitionist history.
We'll stroll into Brooklyn Heights, the city's first historic district and still a vital residential neighborhood, with row houses, churches, former hotels, and a variety of apartment buildings. So, along with Park Slope, we'll have seen (parts of) two of the great--and, alas, increasingly pricey--Brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods.
At the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, we find glorious views of the Manhattan skyline, New York Harbor, and the Brooklyn Bridge. After a look at Brooklyn's most famous church, we descend to Fulton Ferry and adjacent DUMBO for a quick survey. There are numerous options to snack and eat. And you're near the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge.
Distance from Midtown Manhattan: 25-35 minutes by subway
Basic tour length: Up to 3 hours, and billed at 3 hours (see fees). This tour is pretty ambitious, so it needs 2:45-3 hours. It includes a bathroom stop and a subway ride.
Starting place: B/Q to Seventh Avenue, 2/3 to Grand Army Plaza; can also start at Brooklyn Museum/Botanic Garden
Ending place: Varies, but typically near Fulton Ferry
Highlights: History, architecture, waterfront views, parks, arts institutions, civic life
Before tour: Visit Brooklyn Museum or Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
After tour: Eat in Fulton Ferry/DUMBO: ice cream, pizza. Walk Brooklyn Bridge. Take NYC Ferry to Wall Street, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, LIC, 34th Street
Alternative route: If you want to walk the Brooklyn Bridge before the tour, I can meet you in DUMBO and we can do this tour "backwards," ending near Prospect Park.
Potential tour extensions with me: Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn 202, Atlantic Avenue, Prospect Heights neighborhood
Why I like leading this tour: Brooklyn is way too big to capture in a three-hour tour, but I think this offers breadth and variety in the best quick introduction.