The 8 best winter walks in Brooklyn
When snowflakes start swirling, thoughts of Tom Selleck’s “Blue Bloods” house come to mind.
The 1920s brick Colonial home where his character, New York City Police Commissioner Frank Reagan, lives has a big lawn that looks like a winter wonderland when it’s frosted with snow. The house exterior appears on almost every episode of the long-running CBS TV series — and there it is, right on 82nd Street in Bay Ridge.
Brooklyn’s got a bunch of great places to take cold-weather strolls — where the built environment is beautiful and the scenery is stunning, whether or not it’s snowing. I’ll show you several of them — and what better place to start than with the “Blue Bloods” house?
1. A Bay Ridge stroll with some TV history
In each episode of “Blue Bloods,” Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winner Selleck’s character hosts Sunday dinner for his kids, their spouses, their kids and his dad. The exterior of Commissioner Reagan’s house on the corner of 82nd Street and Harbor View Terrace is usually shown in an establishing shot for these dining-room scenes. (In real life, the house belongs to the Diocese of Saint Maron-USA, city Finance Department records indicate.)
Tom Selleck’s fictional house is near the starting point of 82nd Street, which is Shore Road. Once you’ve seen the house and start strolling down 82nd Street, you’ll find the Gingerbread House on the very next corner, at the intersection of Narrows Avenue.
James Sarsfield Kennedy was the architect of the century-old Gingerbread House. The Arts and Crafts-style individual city landmark is made of natural rocks and boulders. Its roof, which is covered with multi-colored asphalt shingles, was designed to look like a thatched roof on an English rural cottage. Its lawn is as big as a pocket park.
When you continue walking past the Narrows Avenue intersection, you’ll see block after block of lovely mansions and stand-alone houses. On the north side of 82nd Street, many of the homes are situated on miniature hilltops.
One especially lovely home is stucco-covered 96 82nd St., which has a fountain with statues on its front lawn. The Victorian shingle house with a curved front porch at 149 82nd St. is another standout.
If you need to warm up with a cup of coffee and a bite to eat, you can detour onto Third Avenue or Fifth Avenue.
2. Shore Road Promenade
Bay Ridge has other excellent options for winter walks. One is Shore Road Promenade, a pedestrian and cycling path that runs along the edge of New York Harbor. There are always plenty of passing ships to scrutinize, and you catch glimpses of homes and apartment houses up in the neighborhood above the Belt Parkway.
The air smells salty. The scene is serene despite the highway’s proximity.
And at the end of your trek, you arrive at the 69th Street Pier, where you can see the World Trade Center and Lower Manhattan — and get an eyeful of New Jersey’s skyscrapers too.
The shoreline along the promenade is utterly beautiful, whether there’s a snow squall or fog on an unseasonably warm day.
If you’re lucky, you’ll be in the neighborhood when fog horns start sounding on the water. (They can be heard several blocks inland.) You should drop what you’re doing, grab your camera and photograph the meteorological drama.
3. The Bay Ridge step streets
Another excellent Bay Ridge winter walk takes you to step streets that would do the Joker proud.
With Oscar season gearing up, movie lovers are thinking about Joaquin Phoenix and his bravura performance in “Joker.” In the film’s pivotal scene, he dances with sinister jubilation down the stairs of a Bronx step street — which has turned into a tourist attraction.
If you want a less crowded spot to practice your stair moves, Bay Ridge’s two step streets can be found just off Colonial Road. One’s on 74th Street and the other’s on 76th Street.
Colonial Road has other very cool things to see, most notably Owl’s Head Park, which was the estate of industrialist Eliphalet W. Bliss, who lived from 1836 to 1903.
4. The Brooklyn Bridge in winter fog
Bay Ridge isn’t the only place with splendid scenery when winter fog arrives. If you’re very, very lucky, someday you’ll be in Brooklyn Bridge Park when the fog rolls up the East River and envelops the Brooklyn Bridge. It will wow you.
Even when fog’s not in the forecast, you can take a terrific winter walk in Brooklyn Bridge Park and nearby DUMBO streets.
Steps away from the park, you’ll find the intersection of Washington Street and Water Street — Selfie Central — where visitors from all over the world stand on the cobblestones and snap photos of themselves and loved ones with the Manhattan Bridge in the background.
Also, you must get a good look at Empire Stores, John and Charles Arbuckle’s coffee warehouse complex in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Nesmith & Sons constructed it in 1869; additions were made in 1885. Midtown Equities has restored and adaptively reused it as an office, retail, restaurant and cultural venue.
Empire Stores has a rooftop recreation area that’s open to the public. Time Out Market operates this landmark’s rooftop bar — and has set up igloos so you can comfortably drink outdoors and enjoy the scenic views.
5. Coney Island to Sheepshead Bay
Brooklyn’s East River shoreline deserves a whole lot of love. So does the Atlantic Ocean.
The Coney Island Boardwalk is a wonderful place to stroll and gaze upon the wintry sea.
If the sky’s blue, the Wonder Wheel and other rides alongside the boardwalk look surprisingly cheerful although they’re closed. On a gray day, the melancholy that settles over the amusement zone has its charms.
One of the rewarding aspects of walking the full length of the landmarked 2.7-mile boardwalk is the borscht that awaits you at the Brighton Beach end of it in waterside Russian restaurants like Cafe Volna and Tatiana.
If you plan your day right, you can eat lunch early, then resume your walk. By zigzagging through a few inland streets, you can reach the shoreline of Sheepshead Bay (the body of water) in Sheepshead Bay (the neighborhood). Your destination is Emmons Avenue.
A stroll along the avenue allows you to commune with swans and other shore birds that flock to the bay. There are lots of cafes and restaurants (Randazzo’s Clam Bar is one of the possibilities) where you can do a little noshing or have a spectacular meal.
6. The Red Hook waterfront
Red Hook is another Brooklyn shoreline neighborhood where you can take epic winter walks. You should check out the icicles that grow in dazzling profusion beneath the pier at Louis Valentino Jr. Park when it’s really, really cold outside.
The waterfront recreation area, which has a good view of the Statue of Liberty, is named after a firefighter who grew up in Red Hook and graduated from St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights. He died in the line of duty in 1996.
Beyond the park, Civil War-era warehouses, old-fashioned rowhouses and classic cobblestone streets will charm your eye. Lehigh Valley Barge #79, which is now the Waterfront Museum, is tied up on the shoreline near the Red Hook Stores Building. Fairway is located in this 1870s warehouse.
When you need to warm up, there are excellent restaurant options on Van Brunt Street.
7. Green-Wood Cemetery
I’m obsessed with Brooklyn’s shoreline — but I also want to show you a couple more wonderful inland winter walks. First and foremost, you must go to Green-Wood Cemetery.
In this 478-acre graveyard founded in 1838, countless generations of New Yorkers, Civil War soldiers and famous people including composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein and artist Basquiat are buried. The cemetery’s especially lovely when it’s covered with a fresh blanket of snow.
Green-Wood closes its gates while snow is falling to ensure visitors’ safety. Once storms end and the roads are cleared, you’re welcome to stroll the grounds.
I’ve got a long list of favorite spots to visit — like Battle Hill, where a statue of Minerva raises her hand in salute to the Statue of Liberty, who’s visible in the harbor. A key spot on this list is a Gothic Revival-style white marble monument you might not be familiar with, where Charlotte Canda, who died on her 17th birthday in 1845, rests in eternal peace.
The tragic teen lies buried alone. She was a Catholic, and her grave is consecrated ground.
Her grief-stricken fiancé, Charles Albert Jarrett de la Marie, committed suicide a year after her death. His desperate act barred him from being interred by her side.
He is buried in unconsecrated ground outside the boundaries of sweet Charlotte’s gravesite.
8. Victorian Flatbush mansions
Second, you must go to Victorian Flatbush. In every season of the year, the historic houses are as pretty as picture-book illustrations. They look spectacular when there’s snow on the ground, and spectacular when there isn’t.
There are a dozen different routes for scenic strolls in this area.
If you’re having trouble deciding where to go, start at Albemarle Road in the Prospect Park South Historic District. When you get to Coney Island Avenue, weave your way up and down the north- and south-running roads of this landmarked area.
You’ll find mansions with porches lined with columns that are two stories tall. You’ll see homes with circular turrets topped with pointy roofs like witches’ hats.
As an alternative, if you’d like to see a sampling of the historic houses in several different Victorian Flatbush neighborhoods, start on the corner of Westminster Road and Avenue H. Walk up Westminster Road, turn on Caton Avenue and then head down East 18th Street to Avenue H once again.
Along the way, you’ll see terrific homes and a smattering of classic apartment houses — and pass a street whose name is Tennis Court.
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