Prospect Park: Your guide to Brooklyn’s largest park

Find the best things to do in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, plus free concerts, walking tours and nearby date spots.

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Geese in Prospect Park

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Photograph: Wendy Connett
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Grand Army Plaza

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Photograph: Wendy Connett
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Photograph: Wendy Connett
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Photograph: Wendy Connett
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Photograph: Noah Fecks

Long Meadow Dog Beach in Prospect Park

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Photograph: Pat Young

Yoga in Prospect Park

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Photograph: Prospect Park Alliance

Prospect Park

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Twilight Tours

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Lefferts Historic House Museum

After Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux unveiled Central Park in 1859, they turned their attention south to create the bucolic 585-acre Prospect Park in Brooklyn. There's plenty of room on the Long Meadow and Nethermead to bliss out on a patch of grass, while the Ravine, a towering indigenous forest, offers a woodland respite that's unparalleled in the borough. City planner Robert Moses was behind 20th-century additions like the Prospect Park Zoo and the bandshell, where Celebrate Brooklyn! hosts free top-notch concerts all summer long. The Lakeside complex, due in December 2013, looks to be the cherry on top of one of the world's greatest urban oases.

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Things to do in Prospect Park

Things to do

Eight things to do in Prospect Park

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Things to do

Prospect Park 101: Essential information

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Things to do

Behind the scenes at Lakeside

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Celebrate Brooklyn! at the Prospect Park Bandshell events

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Museums and attractions near Prospect Park

Museums

Brooklyn Museum

RECOMMENDED: 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. On the fifth floor, American paintings and sculptures include native son Thomas Cole’s The Pic-Nic and Louis Rémy Mignot’s Niagara. Don’t miss the renowned Pacific Island and African galleries (this was the first American museum to display African objects as art). RECOMMENDED: 50 best New York attractions

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Attractions

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

RECOMMENDED: 50 best New York attractions 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 thousands of types of flora, laid out over 52 acres. Each spring, crowds descend on the space for the Sakura Matsuri Festival, during which more than 70 trees bloom along the Cherry Esplanade. But equally impressive are serene spots like the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, the first Japanese-inspired garden built in the U.S., and the Shakespeare Garden, brimming with plants (such as primrose and crocuses) mentioned in the Bard’s works. Start your journey at the Visitor’s Center, an eco-friendly portal (it has a green roof filled with 45,000 plants) that opened in May 2012.

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Attractions

Prospect Park Audubon Center

Located in Prospect Park's early-20th-century Boathouse, the Audubon Center is devoted to wildlife preservation and education and contains the park's visitor's center, a café and an exhibition area. It is the first urban Audubon center in the United States.

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Museums

Lefferts Historic House Museum

Built by a family of Dutch settlers, this small abode now functions as an educational center. Though many of its activities are kid-focused, you can take a tour of the space on weekends to see how Brooklynites lived in the 19th century.

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Places to go near Prospect Park

Bars

Bars near Prospect Park: Where to drink outdoors

We would never condone brown-bagging it in Prospect Park. Show some self-control and enjoy a summer drink before or after at these Brooklyn bars. Whether you’ve seen a Celebrate Brooklyn! show at the Prospect Park Bandshell, picnicked in the Long Meadow or hit up the food trucks at Grand Army Plaza, you’ll want to end on a refreshing summer drink. Try these Brooklyn bars in the immediate vicinity of the park for craft brews in outdoor spaces. Brook-vin If you’ve spent the day hanging outdoors with a few friends, you’ll want to start your evening at this intimate bar. Owned by Aaron Hans (who also runs Big Nose Full Body just across the avenue), the spot features a selection of international and domestic wines by the glass. Choose from six varieties on tap, such as the Gotham Project rose ($10)—as well as a menu of shareable small plates, which, if you're a party of four, you can taste from a table in the small backyard. 6-minute walk Greenwood Park Park Slope brew hounds can kick back at this massive 13,000-square-foot beer garden. Sixty taps dispense more than 20 different craft brews, including Sixpoint, Captain Lawrence and Brooklyn Brewery. In the warmer months, order yours with a burger or hot dog at outdoor picnic tables, or rally a group of friends for a free game of bocce on one of three courts. When the temperatures drop, settle by the fireplace and watch the game on a flatscreen TV. The former mechanic-lot space conjures its roots with recycled furnishings, like an

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Things to do

Park Slope neighborhood guide

Park Slope, Brooklyn, has an ever-growing collection of bars, restaurants and shops, but which stand out from the rest? Bustling with hip, young families, Park Slope, Brooklyn, has long been a bastion of the intelligentsia. Fine Romanesque Revival and Queen Anne residences grace the landmarked Park Slope Historic District on the western edge of Prospect Park, which some argue is a more successful green space than Olmsted and Vaux’s earlier collaboration, Central Park. Meanwhile, Gotham’s “other Fifth Avenue” is packed with popular restaurants and interesting shops, and the neighborhood’s laid-back nightlife scene caters to straight and gay crowds alike.RECOMMENDED: Full coverage of things to do in Brooklyn You might also like New York neighborhoods: Photo tours of New York See another side of the city with TONY’s photo tours of six New York neighborhoods, including the West Village, Bushwick and the Upper East Side. TONY equipped photographers with Lomography cameras for these photo tours of six New York neighborhoods, and asked them to capture the coolest people, places and landmarks in each one. Check out their shots and learn more about these fascinating hoods. Plus, find out where to buy the Lomography cameras used for each photo tour.—Edited by Amy Plitt and Sharon Steel Photo tour of the West Village Photo tour of Bushwick Photo tour of the Upper East Side Photo tour of Times Square Photo tour of Long Island City Photo tour of City Island You might also like

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Sex and dating

Date spots: Park Slope

RECOMMENDED: More best date spots by neighborhood al di là Be prepared to queue up for a table at this popular spot on Park Slope’s restaurant-packed Fifth Avenue. But the wait is well worth it: Chef Anna Klinger—who opened the place with her husband, Emiliano Coppa, in 1998—offers a fresh, seasonal take on Northern Italian fare. The close quarters and moody lighting all but ensure a romantic evening. Barbès Since it opened in 2002, this small French bar’s back room hosts one of the city’s most diverse music scenes. Turn up before 7pm to take advantage of the cocktail hour—with $1 off beers and $3 off cocktails, you can afford to pick up your date’s tab—then settle in for one of the evening’s performances. On a given night, you might encounter indie rock, progressive jazz, classical chamber music, West African funk, French musette…you name it. Blueprint Co-owner Regina Christiansen can often be found behind the bar at this Park Slope drinkery, which opened in the former Long Tan space in 2011. Sip from Blueprint’s rotating selection of house and classic cocktails, such as the Smoky Mary’s (chipotle tequila, lime, agave and a smoked-salt rim). Snag a seat at the wood-topped bar to watch the bartenders in action, or abscond to one of the smaller tables along the wall for a quiet conversation. Prospect Park There are plenty of quiet nooks within this bucolic green space that are perfect for an afternoon stroll. During warmer months, a picnic on the Long Meadow can’t be bea

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Sex and dating

Date spots: Prospect Heights

RECOMMENDED: More best date spots by neighborhood Brooklyn Botanic Garden The peaceful grounds of this Brooklyn oasis make it an ideal spot for a romantic midafternoon stroll. The Cranford Rose Garden and the gorgeous cherry trees flourish during the warmer months; you also can explore the serene Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, centered on a torii gateway and surrounded by maple and pine. The Steinhardt Conservatory includes a tropical orchid collection and an indoor desert. James Design touches like a modern chandelier and a distressed concrete wall speak to the seriousness of purpose at this stylish corner restaurant. The New American menu of small and large plates changes seasonally. If you just want a drink, this upscale neighborhood spot is as fine a setting for a meal as it is for a cocktail (try the James’ Revenge—rye, Cointreau, vermouth, bitters and blood orange). Target First Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum Skip a standard dinner-and-drinks date in favor of this monthly late-night soiree at Kings County’s premier institution. The evening includes lectures, live music, performances, discussions and a cash bar. Each party takes inspiration from the exhibits on view or, on occasion, neighborhood events. Weather Up Stop by this intimate cocktail bar for a postprandial tipple. The interior—kitted out with white subway tiles, a copper-topped bar and dusky lighting—sets an appropriately romantic mood. The stylish leather banquettes are prime spots for you and your da

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Prospect Park in photos

Music

Live music: The Great GoogaMooga 2013

The Prospect Park festival, before rain stopped play

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Music

Dirty Projectors at Celebrate Brooklyn!

The Brooklyn indie-rock outfit thrills crowds with its most accessible album yet. Last night, all the stars and the weather seemed to align for Dirty Projectors, as the Brooklyn band played Celebrate Brooklyn! at the Prospect Park Bandshell on the day of its album release—read our interview with frontman David Longstreth here. The group made the day's significance very clear, playing the new disc, Swing Lo Magellan, in its entirety (minus "Irresponsible Tune") during a quickly paced, 16-song set that showcased song man David Longstreth's characteristic smooth-to-quavering vocals, along with a newfound acoustic congruity. Leaving no room for nostalgia, Dirty Projectors rattled off new hits-in-the-making, opening with "Swing Lo Magellan" and the mesmerizing "About to Die." But the crowd really found its groove when the group whipped out "Gun Has No Trigger," the band's punchy latest single, on which the soulful vocals of backup singers Amber Coffman and Haley Dekle combined perfectly with Longstreth's distinctive crooning. The song steadily crescendoed, finally reaching the chorus: "You hold a gun to your head / But the gun has no trigger." A glistening, sweat-soaked Longstreth cut loose, the lights flashed in time, and the crowd went berserk. Another highlight was "Offspring Are Blank," which reenergized the audience midway through the show with hand claps (always a crowd-pleaser) and melodious hums, which swelled to anthemic proportions and had everyone yellin

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Music

Wild Flag at Celebrate Brooklyn!

Wild Flag, Mission of Burma and Ted Leo brought the punk-pop party to Prospect Park. Celebrate Brooklyn! at the Prospect Park Bandshell is a lovely venue, and one of our favorites for seeing an outdoor show during the summer. Still, the concert space felt like an odd choice for last week’s triple bill of Ted Leo, Mission of Burma and Wild Flag—which is not to say the show was a disappointment, but it’s definitely weird to see veteran punk-rockers like Leo or MoB in a space where the crowd is genteel and seated the entire time. In any case, all three were in fine form that evening. Leo, who typically plays at least one outdoor show per summer, kicked things off with a solo set that included well-known tunes (“Me and Mia,” “Bottled in Cork”) as well as a few new numbers. (This Park Slope resident also appreciated his goofy shout-out to Arecibo, a local car service, as he explained the ease with which he got to the venue that night.) His performance was followed by a blistering set from Boston rockers Mission of Burma, which is touring behind its excellent new album, Unsound. The crowd finally got to its feet for Wild Flag, which put on a characteristically great show (I’ve now seen them six times, and the band never disappoints). The outfit's tight set included every song from its debut album, as well as a few covers; in a nod to the New York audience, the band played Television’s “See No Evil” and Patti Smith’s “Ask the Angels” during the encore.

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Things to do

Celebrate Brooklyn! catches Saturday Night Fever

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Related Prospect Park coverage

The New York Phil plays a free gig in Prospect Park

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Say hello to the Prospect Park Zoo's adorable new lambs

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Coming to Prospect Park: Tropfest New York

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The Great GoogaMooga

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Big Boi, They Might Be Giants and more playing Celebrate Brooklyn! this summer

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Things to do

Sneak peek: Prospect Park's new Lakeside complex

Get a preview of Prospect Park’s ice-skating rink, Lakeside, which reopens in 2013. Since 2010, the Kate Wollman Rink has been closed to the public as the southeastern corner of Prospect Park undergoes a transformation—the first major upgrade to the park in more than 50 years. When it finally reopens in the fall of 2013 (nearly a year behind schedule), the renamed Lakeside complex will feature a number of new amenities: two new ice-skating rinks (one of which will be covered), a roller-skating rink, and buildings and classroom spaces. Additionally, the new center will help restore this particular corner of Prospect Park to its former glory. Several of the Olmsted and Vaux–designed elements, such as Music Island, were destroyed when urban planner Robert Moses built the Wollman Rink was built by urban planner Robert Moses in 1961; these will be restored, and the area will gain more than three acres of parkland. And even more Brooklynites will be able to enjoy the space: The Prospect Park Alliance estimates that capacity will triple once the complex is completed. The Prospect Park Alliance has compiled a video that further explains the area’s development, and if you’d like to donate to the project, you can do so through the Alliance’s website.

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