While tourists flock to Manhattan in droves, locals know that the best Brooklyn attractions rank among New York City’s most essential destinations. There are plenty of things to do in Kings County, including hitting up some of the best flea markets or grabbing a bite at one of the best brunch spots in Brooklyn. From Gowanus to the best things to do in Greenpoint, make sure to add these stops to your itinerary.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best New York attractions
Best Brooklyn attractions
Unlike the sprawling meadows of Prospect Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park wasn’t built to replicate the area’s serene natural environment. Instead, the park transformed a defunct shipping and storage complex into an urban playground complete with terraces, picnic areas and athletic fields. Don’t leave without a ride on Jane’s Carousel, the park’s beautifully restored 1920’s merry-go-round.
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.
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.
Founded in 1838 as a rural cemetery in Greenwood Heights, this site was inspired by the Pére Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Having vied with Niagara Falls as New York State’s greatest tourist attraction, it gained landmark status in 1966. Filled with Victorian mausoleums, cherubs and gargoyles, Green-Wood is the resting place of some half-million New Yorkers, including 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, a pivotal spot during the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776.
At this interactive wildlife center, kids can walk along the Discovery Trail and come face to face with Oggie and his new pal Dixie, two North American river otters. Keep hopping down the path to find the Australian Walkabout's kangaroo and the new rock wallabies, whose grooved hind paws easily grip the boulders in their steep habitat. A pair of native South African owls—recognizable by their bright white faces—roost in the aviary along the trail. On spring days, you might also find a commotion at the sea lion court: the graceful swimmers like to entertain onlookers by diving, high-fiving their keepers and chowing down on fishy food.