Rosheda Stephenson calls NYC and the Caribbean home. Her travel articles are meant to inspire passion, adventure and curiosity.
More than two million people come to walk across the historic Brooklyn Bridge each year. The unsurpassed views of New York City looming in the very near distance and the magnificence of the steel structure keep inspiring visitors to make the 30-minute trek.
As one of the first suspension bridges ever built, this iconic bridge traversing the East River to connect Brooklyn and Manhattan is certainly interesting. But just as interesting is the world beneath the bridge.
Those wanting to explore the area will find that there are many things to do near the Brooklyn Bridge. On the Brooklyn side, a mixture of tiny art galleries, small eateries, coffee shops, and apartment homes occupy red brick repurposed factory buildings and modern glass structures.
Sandwiched between these buildings and the river is the recreation-rich Brooklyn Bridge Park where both action and relaxing grassy areas abound. The sum total of all this is a slice of Brooklyn that charms those who take the time to uncover its treasures. Here are 11 of the best things to do under the Brooklyn Bridge. The list also includes a section dedicated to eateries in the area.
What to Eat Near The Brooklyn Bridge
1. Eat Fresh Seafood Rolls From Luke's Lobster
Luke’s Lobster isn’t so much restaurant as it is a small shack by the water. But don't be fooled by the size, the tiny eatery serves some of the best seafood rolls in NYC and locals gladly join lines to enjoy some of the fresh sandwiches.
That seafood is Luke's only specialty is obvious in the rolls. The lobster, crab, or shrimp is plentiful and slightly accentuated with just the right amount of herbs so that the seafood shines. The buttery, soft-on-the-inside, but crusty-on-the-outside rolls are the perfect accompaniment to the delicious seafood.
Proof of Luke's sublime rolls is the long lines of people always outside the building. Beginning before noon, long lines form every summer day as employees on lunch break and hungry tourists hope to grab one of the eatery's famous rolls.
All the rolls are good, but crab lovers who visit the area must try the crab rolls which in this writer's opinion are the best in New York City.
Luke's Lobster is located at 11 Water Street, ten minute's walk from the Brooklyn Bridge's exit on the Brooklyn side.
2. Dine in the Fancy River Café Restaurant
For those who prefer more upscale dining to a seafood shack, this eatery may be the best place to eat near the Brooklyn Bridge. River Cafe is right across from Luke's Lobster in a garden-enclosed space that is a breath of fresh air for many. There is no other restaurant in River Cafe's class near the Brooklyn Bridge. River Café sets the atmosphere with white tablecloths, excellent food, and amazing views of the East River and New York City. Many locals propose in the romantic restaurant, and some even get married there.
The pricey menu includes such fare as foie gras duet and roasted rabbit. The seafood offerings are also quite extensive. Those wishing to score one of the much sought-after window seats must make a reservation. The restaurant opens in the morning for breakfast, then again in the evening for dinner. After eating, head out into the restaurant's pretty garden for close-up views of the Brooklyn Bridge or head to the close-by Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (below) for creamy, homemade ice cream.
3. Have Strawberry Ice Cream at Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory
This very popular ice cream store sits in the middle of all the dining options under the Brooklyn Bridge. Head here for dessert after eating in any of the restaurants in the area.
Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory is known for homemade ice cream and shakes that strike the perfect balance between sweet and creamy. While all the flavors are good, the strawberry ice cream stands out for its pure, natural slightly tart flavor.
Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory is about an eight-minute walk away from Brooklyn Bridge at 1 Water Street.
4. Have Pizza at Grimaldi's or Front Street Pizza
Eating pizza in New York sounds cliché, but the fact is that eating pizza is on the to-do lists of many visitors to New York City. For the best pizza this side of Brooklyn, take the 5-minute walk from the bridge to local hangout spot, Front Street Pizza (corner of Washington and Front Street).
Being a small eatery and well-loved by locals, the wait for a seat may be long. However, the wait is well worth it for the fresh, delicious pizza served in a lively atmosphere. An added bonus is that unlike the more popular pizzerias, Front Street Pizza will serve pizza by the slice.
For those who want to visit the more popular, touristy pizzerias, Grimaldi's and Ignazio's are good choices for pizza pies and fresh pasta served in a nice dining room and close to the river. Be warned though that, unlike Front street Pizza, Grimaldi's and Ignazio's will only serve whole pies so if you are traveling solo you may want to go to Front Street instead.
5. Eat Organic Salads at Sweetgreen
Without a doubt, Sweetgreen is the healthiest place to eat under the Brooklyn Bridge. The chain, popular for its delicious, organic salads and soup opened in 2017 and has a dedicated clientele who frequent the airy dining room for their locally sourced fare. In addition to the good salads, there are also inventive warm bowls that come with feel-good ingredients like quinoa, wild rice and sweet potatoes.
After eating, be sure to take advantage of the photo op that the restaurant’s location presents. Immediately outside the door is the one spot where a perfect view of the bridge and Manhattan can be had.
6. Have a Margarita at Pedro’s
The graffiti-covered Pedro's stands out for being the only Mexican eatery in the Dumbo area. The food is inconsistent, but the strong margaritas will hit the spot for those who are in the area at night.
This is the place for a group to just have late-night drinks and watch some TV in a quirky, laid-back dive bar. There is also a menu filled with burritos, tacos, and other Mexican fare. The restaurant is about a 15-minute walk from the Brooklyn Bridge (corner of Jay and Front Streets) and stays open until close to midnight.
Things to Do Near the Brooklyn Bridge
7. Kayak on the East River
Kayaking is the most exhilarating thing to do near the Brooklyn Bridge. The kayaks sail right under both the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges for an experience that is as New York as it gets.
Take in the rumble of the subway trains passing overhead on the Manhattan Bridge; see how many of New York City's famous buildings you can recognize as you kayak past Manhattan's skyscrapers; look out for the water birds that call the East River home, see how close to the Statue of Liberty you can get, or just relax and take it all in.
For those with kids, kayaking is a no-brainer for keeping everybody active and engaged. If you have kids and need ideas specific to the younger crowd, check out my list of things to do with kids in Brooklyn for even more unforgettable activities in the area.
Whatever you choose to do while kayaking, it is sure to be one of the most memorable things you did in Brooklyn.
To kayak, head to Pier 2 at the Brooklyn Bridge Park where free kayaking is offered on a first-come, first-serve basis in summer. Check out their website for more information.
8. See Pencil Art at Natchie
If you are an art lover, head to the tiny Natchie Gallery for the most eclectic, artsy thing to do near the Brooklyn Bridge. Natchie is a minute art gallery that specializes in pencil art. Each piece of art tells a story about, or features a place in New York City.
Because this is Brooklyn where everything is uber-creative, there is a small section dedicated to an artist (Natchie) who draws her songs. Each piece is the artist’s conception of how her music looks, and comes available with a free download of the song it depicts.
Natchie is a 5-minute walk from the Brooklyn Bridge exit, at the corner of Pearl and Front Street
9. Bike Around Brooklyn Bridge Park
Chock full of things to do right under the Brooklyn Bridge is the well-loved Brooklyn Bridge Park. The park, with its newly constructed boardwalk, is ideal for taking in the famous NYC skyline across the river, and for getting active on one of the many recreational grounds. Bike or stroll along the boardwalk for amazing views and great people watching. Watch as local families push their giggling (or crying) babies in strollers or jog down the boardwalk.
The views of the NYC skyline from this part of Brooklyn are absolutely amazing, so be sure to bring a camera. You can even get a clear shot of the Statue of Liberty if you walk to the very end of the boardwalk (pier 5 or 6).
The Brooklyn Bridge Park is also a dream for boating enthusiasts. Its location on the East River's shores make it the perfect place to take in the many boats that traverse this section of the river. Look out for long barges, bright yellow water taxis and ferries, and small colorful sailboats on any given day. To get closer to the river, there are a few sandy and rock-strewn areas on the bank of the river that are open to the public.
Sports lovers will want to head to piers 1, 2, 4, and 5 to get active with sports. The basketball, bocce, handball and volleyball courts are frequented by locals who either bring or borrow equipment and take turns using the courts.
10. See a Play at St. Ann's Warehouse
The homey St. Ann's Theater is the best thing to do near the Brooklyn Bridge for theater lovers. The small theater literally sits right below the Brooklyn Bridge. Time your walk to coincide with one of the plays for a Broadway experience at below Broadway prices.
From outside, St. Ann's does not seem like much. Housed in an old tobacco warehouse, the theater is small compared to Broadway standards. However, the quality of its plays is anything but substandard. For show and concert schedules, check out their website.
11. Go Rock Climbing at Dumbo Boulders
Dumbo Boulders has been gaining steam for its novel (to NYC) outdoor rock climbing courses. If bouldering or rock climbing is your thing, check out the space for challenging courses and amazing views of New York City.
Dumbo Boulders is located about ten minutes away from the Brooklyn Bridge at the Main Street entrance to the Boardwalk and costs $9 per visit.
How to Get to the Activities Near The Brooklyn Bridge
These restaurants and activities near the Brooklyn Bridge should make for an interesting way to spend the day after walking across the famous bridge. Happy travels!
© 2016 Rosheda Stephenson
Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on November 27, 2018:
What a lovely article! You're clearly a native or have been living there a while. Your description of the seafood rolls a Luke's Lobster made my mouth water.
I've visited the USA a couple of times and everyone has always been very friendly. I would love to visit again.
Leah Lefler from Western New York on November 27, 2018:
We visit NYC frequently and I will DEFINITELY check out Pedro's the next time we're in Brooklyn. I am a huge fan of Mexican food! I love walking back to Manhattan from Brooklyn across the bridge, because the view of the skyline is amazing!
Rosheda Stephenson (author) on September 01, 2016:
I hope you enjoy Brooklyn when you get there Janellegems. It truly is a great place to explore.
Ruth Aquila on August 29, 2016:
These are some wonderful, great things to do at Brooklyn Bridge. I would have to check it out when I am in that area. Thanks for sharing this.