The Great Brooklyn Staycation at Brooklyn Bridge Park
Are we there yet?
Thousands of vacationing tourists travel countless miles to visit Brooklyn’s own little Riveria – Brooklyn Bridge Park and vicinity.
If the idea of packing up the household, planning long drives or going through annoying airport security on your way to a vacation destination makes you tired, why not spend a relaxing few days on a staycation right here, enjoying the many facilities and activities at the park?
For those with kids and those without, there’s enough going on at the park to keep you busy – or relaxed. We spoke to Nancy Webster, executive director of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, who was full of suggestions for planning your break. Here are a few ideas for four days starting Saturday, Aug. 16. You can plot out a similar plan for any period through August by visiting the park’s website, brooklynbridgepark.org.
Bring a beach towel and some sun block, and you’re ready to go.
Saturday, August 15
Weekends are packed with activities in Brooklyn Bridge Park. You might start your day with a glide in a kayak, launching from the Boathouse at the Pier 2 floating dock. (Wear a bathing suit or clothing you don’t mind getting wet.) On Saturdays, the kayaks are available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., but the park advises you to arrive before 2 p.m.
If you feel like a splash after your ride, head over to the family-friendly Pop-Up Pool, a little piece of heaven on a hot day, open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Swim sessions last 45 minutes.
After your swim, relax under an umbrella at the beach next door to the pool, sipping ice-cold lemonade and nibbling snacks from Lizzmonade. (After six at night, come back for sangria, wine and craft beers.)
Feel like exploring? Take a walk south and enjoy the park views, nooks and crannies, the public art and the photo display on The Fence lining the walkway. Maybe you’ll want to settle in by Brooklyn Public Library’s little book cart at the Pier 3 Greenway Terrace and relax with a cozy book.
If you’re looking for more action, head to the sand volleyball courts on Pier 6 and check out Saturday’s coed beach volleyball tournament. (Grownups who want to play can begin team registration at 10 a.m.)
Or come aboard the Baylander IX-514, the ex U.S. NAVY Helicopter Landing Ship located in the marina between Piers 4 and 5. Free tours are held Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Getting hungry? Fornino Pizza, with a counter downstairs and a bar and rooftop seating upstairs, is right next to the courts. The pizza gets raves, and the view from the roof is picture-perfect. (Public bathrooms are downstairs.)
After the pizza, it’s time for some culture: Head north to Bargemusic, the floating concert hall just past Pier 1. One-hour, family-friendly concerts take place Saturdays at 4 p.m. though August.
Or maybe you’re in the mood for the Bard. Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” will transform Brooklyn Bridge Park into Vienna during the Shakespeare at Sunset performance on Saturday (and Sunday) at 7 p.m.
After the performance, grownups can visit Brooklyn Bridge Garden Bar at Pier 1. Or head out of the park to one of the many nearby eateries in DUMBO (including Shake Shack at 1 Fulton St.; Superfine at 126 Front St.; Almar, at 111 Front St., Pedro’s at 73 Jay St.; and the upscale River Café, at 1 Water St.)
Nearby restaurants in Brooklyn Heights include Noodle Pudding (38 Henry St.), Henry’s End (44 Henry St.), The Brooklyn Heights Wine Bar (50 Henry St.), Bevacco (60 Henry St.), Sociale (72 Henry St.), and Jack the Horse Tavern (66 Hicks St.). The Park Plaza Diner, at 220 Cadman Plaza West, has plenty of space for large families.
Sunday, August 16
The big food event of the week is Smorgasburg, featuring 100-plus vendors every Sunday through Aug. 30, serving everything from fresh donuts to giant turkey legs to Korean street food. Head to the Pier 5 uplands starting at 11 a.m. through August. (The earlier the better, as the event gets crowded with food lovers.)
Sunday is also a great day to take the ferry from Pier 6 to Governors Island, just a 10-minute boat ride from Brooklyn Bridge Park. This weekend features a roaring twenties family-friendly garden party with live jazz orchestras, dance lessons, performances and more, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Grownups and older kids can work off Smorgasburg with a total body conditioning class, provided by the Dodge YMCA, on Pier 2 at 3:30 p.m. Or you can take a Zumba class at 4:30 p.m., also provided by the Y.
If you have kids, make sure you plan on spending at least an hour in the Water Lab, the park’s most popular playground (near Pier 6), which features a water-jet field surrounded by greenery and smooth stones.
The park has a number of other playgrounds at the southern end as well, including areas with slides, swings and a shady Marsh Garden to wander through. When you need refreshment, dig into the frosty ice-cream deliciousness at Ample Hills Creamery, located nearby at Pier 5.
After a long day in the sun, head up the hill to Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights for a relaxing dinner. Numerous eateries line both sides of the street. Some favorites include the Heights Café, at 84 Montague St., Armando Italian restaurant at 143 Montague St., and the family-friendly Teresa’s at 80 Montague St., Hanco’s Vietnamese sandwich and noodle shop at 184 Montague St., Five Guys Burgers at 138 Montague St. and Monte Q’s Pizza at 158 Montague St.
Monday, August 17
Weekdays are quieter at the park, so now’s the time to enjoy activities without the hassle of large crowds.
In the morning, have fun with the Jeppe Hein artwork scavenger hunt, where you’ll seek out all 18 pieces of the Please Touch the Art exhibit and tour the park at the same time. (You can download the hunt here.)
For a more active day, head for Pier 2 and its basketball and handball courts, bocce, shuffleboard, roller skating rink and exercise equipment. The shiny new roller rink is open all day on Monday, with brief breaks, and admission ranges from free to $6, depending on the time. Skate rental is $6.
After your workout, head to the Fulton Ferry area near Pier 1 to have some lunch. Luke’s Lobster, No. 7 Subs, Ignazio’s Pizza (4 Water St.) and Shake Shack are right there, and just up Fulton Street you’ll find 7 Old Fulton, Juliana’s and Grimaldi’s.
If the weather holds, don’t miss the Empire Fulton Ferry section of the park. Relax on the Empire Fulton Ferry lawn and enjoy the rocky beach and its oft-photographed views of New York Harbor.
From there, you could head up Main Street to Powerhouse Arena and P.S. Bookshop to browse the books and get out of the sun. Then pop over to One Girl Cookies for a snack, or you can bring it back to the park’s Picnic Grove.
You don’t need to be a kid to enjoy a ride on Jane’s Carousel, with its lovingly restored dancing horses enclosed in a glass pavilion on the waterfront. (Tickets $2, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.) If you do have kids, you can bring them to the playground at Main Street after the ride.
Make sure to save your evening: Jazzmobile presents the Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band at 7 p.m. at Pier 1’s Harbor View Lawn.
Tuesday, August 18
You can enjoy all of the park’s facilities, including the pool, during the quiet midweek hours. Afterwards, head north and pop in to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory at the end of Old Fulton Street for some delicious homemade ice cream.
Consider renting a bike at the Bike and Roll stand, where a half-day rental costs $39, compared to Citi Bike’s $83. (Bike and Roll also supplies free helmets and locks.) The rental stand is at Pier 1, at the end of Old Fulton Street. You can follow the Greenway to Red Hook or tour nearby Brooklyn neighborhoods.
During your ride, stop by a store for some charcoal, burgers and other grillables, drinks and marshmallows. When you get back to the park, head to Pier 5’s Picnic Peninsula, the park’s BBQ headquarters. Fire up the grill and feast, and rub shoulders with other savvy Brooklynites enjoying waterfront dining.
Relax under the stars, or, if you’re very ambitious, work it off with Pilates with the Fitness Guru in the park at Empire Fulton Ferry at 7 p.m.
Brooklyn Bridge Park has numerous activities, performances, movies and other events scheduled every day throughout the summer. Plan you own days off by visiting brooklynbridgepark.org.
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