The top attractions in Brooklyn

Check out Brooklyn’s coolest sights and top attractions, including the Brooklyn Bridge and other NYC landmarks

Photograph: Pawel Gaul / iStockphoto
Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn is home to many of New York’s top attractions, museums and flea markets. Our favorite Kings County sights also include tons of free attractions, like Coney Island and some of the best parks.

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BLDG 92

Located in a former military residence on the grounds of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, this small museum chronicles the mighty history of the former shipbuilding center—which, at its peak during World War II, employed close to 70,000 people. Permanent exhibits examine the yard’s origins and significance throughout history; for example, a number of massive vessels, including the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor and the Pearl Harbor casualty USS Arizona, were built at the Navy Yard.

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Fort Greene

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Those searching for a little peace and quiet would do well to spend a few hours at this verdant oasis. The garden—which abuts two other neighborhood gems: the Brooklyn Museum and Prospect Park—was founded in 1910 and features hundreds of types of flora, laid out over 52 acres. Each spring, crowds descend on the space for the Sakura Matsuri Festival, during which hundreds of trees bloom along the Cherry Esplanade.

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Crown Heights

Brooklyn Bridge

No mere river crossing, this span is an elegant reminder of New York’s history of architectural innovation. When it opened in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was a feat of engineering: It was the first structure to cross the East River and, at the time, the longest suspension bridge in the world. (It also made use of steel-wire cables, invented by the bridge’s original designer, John A. Roebling.) Now it attracts thousands of tourists and locals, who enjoy spectacular views of lower Manhattan and other city landmarks (such as the Statue of Liberty and Governors Island) as they stroll its more-than-mile-long expanse.

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Dumbo

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Some city parks—Central and Prospect, most obviously—were built to replicate rustic fields and preserve serene woodland. Brooklyn Bridge Park, however, was not—and that's precisely why it has become so popular. The park transformed a chunk of the Brooklyn waterfront into a nearly 85-acre expanse; several sections house unique attractions such as Jane's Carousel, a restored 1920s merry-go-round, and riverside esplanades with gorgeous Manhattan views.

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Dumbo

Brooklyn Children’s Museum

When it was founded in 1899, the BCM was the country’s first museum specifically made for children. Today it’s one of the most comprehensive, with a permanent collection of 30,000 objects, including musical instruments, masks, dolls and fossils. Kids have fun while learning (sneaky!) at interactive exhibits like “World Brooklyn,” a pint-size cityscape lined by faux stores where young’uns can weigh ingredients and knead pretend dough at the Mexican Bakery, or shop for cans of Indian ghee and Turkish candy at the International Grocery.

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Crown Heights

Brooklyn Flea

Don’t worry—you’ll probably be spared from endless sock vendors at this Fort Greene bazaar. The space outside of Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School on Lafayette Avenue between Clermont and Vanderbilt Avenues offers a quirky roster of items, including a slew of antiques, vintage clothes, records, art and jewelry.

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Fort Greene

Brooklyn Heights and Brooklyn Promenade

It’s easy to forget that you’re standing atop the hectic Brooklyn-Queens Expressway while strolling along this esplanade, which opened in 1950. But the thoroughfare is inextricably linked to the Promenade’s existence: Community opposition to the BQE—which was originally intended to cut through Brooklyn Heights—led city planner Robert Moses to reroute the highway along the waterfront. Stroll, run or make out along its ⅓-mile length, pausing to appreciate postcard-ready views of lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.

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Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Historical Society

Critics' pick

Founded in 1863, the society is located in a landmark four-story Queen Anne–style building and houses numerous permanent and ongoing exhibits, including "It Happened in Brooklyn," highlighting local links to crucial moments in American history. A major photo and research library—featuring historic maps and newspapers, notable family histories and archives from the area’s prominent abolitionist movement—is accessible by appointment. The institution offers weekend and after-school programs for children.

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Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Museum

Brooklyn’s premier institution is a less-crowded alternative to Manhattan’s bigger-name spaces. Among the museum’s many assets is a 4,000-piece Egyptian collection, which includes a gilded-ebony statue of Amenhotep III and, on the ceiling, a large-scale rendering of an ancient map of the cosmos, as well as a mummy preserved in its original coffin. Masterworks by Cézanne, Monet and Degas, part of an impressive European collection, are displayed in the museum’s Beaux-Arts Court.

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Prospect Heights

Coney Island Cyclone

Nothing offers a thrilling jolt of Brooklyn nostalgia quite like a ride on the Cyclone. The roller coaster dates to 1927, when Coney Island was a booming seaside resort, but shuttered for six years starting in 1969, marking one of many troubled economic periods for the ’hood. Aside from grabbing a beer and hot dog at Nathan’s Famous, riding the Cyclone is the thing to do at Coney Island on a lovely summer day.

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Coney Island

Green-Wood Cemetery

Critics' pick

A century ago, this site vied with Niagara Falls as New York State’s greatest tourist attraction. Filled with Victorian mausoleums, cherubs and gargoyles, Green-Wood is the resting place of some half-million New Yorkers, among them Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leonard Bernstein and Boss Tweed. But there’s more to do here than grave-spot: Check out the massive Gothic arch at the main entrance or climb to the top of Battle Hill, one of the highest points in Kings County and a pivotal spot during the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776.

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Sunset Park
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