First things first: Brooklyn is not a neighborhood—it’s a metropolis. More than 2.5 million Brooklynites, transplants from every wave of immigration going back to the Dutch settlement of New York, spread out across seventy-square-miles of land and twenty-five of waterways, including the East River (which separates Brooklyn located at the western tip of Long Island, from Manhattan), the former industrial powerhouse of the Gowanus Canal, and that large body of water otherwise known as the Atlantic Ocean.
Prospect Park is Brooklyn’s geographic center, and in many ways its spiritual center too. Most of the fields, meadows, sporting grounds, decorative arches, and elegant buildings were designed by Olmsted and Vaux (also of Central Park fame) in the mid-nineteenth century, during a progressive period when city planners saw green space as a right for the general public. It makes sense that the neighborhoods surrounding the polygonal park are still special locations for families and immigrant communities as well as for artists and independent thinkers.
In Park Slope to the northwest of the park, charismatic brownstones started luring up and comers from Manhattan en masse in the 90s, and the neighborhood has been known for its stroller-pushing coffee drinkers ever since. Further east is Prospect Heights, the name real estate brokers use to describe the streets around Grand Army Plaza and the Brooklyn Museum. A nudge further from here is Downtown Brooklyn, a once utilitarian location now in the midst of a property-development boom. Prospect Lefferts Gardens is an epicenter of New York’s Caribbean and Caribbean-heritage community. Prospect Park South at the bottom (not to be confused with South Slope, really just a continuation of Park Slope) was a rough neighborhood in recent years but lifelong locals and recent transplants have a new appreciation for this parkside spot’s incredible views and resources. Windsor Terrace on the park’s western border is a chapter in the Italian American history of New York.
Now let’s draw another concentric circle further out from here. Above Park Slope are Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill, now more likely to be known for the restaurants and boutiques on Court and Smith Streets than for their Italian-American social clubs. You’re not far from Red Hook here: Brooklyn’s port neighborhood is now home to many artists, a few ironic seafood restaurants, and a massive Ikea, but no subway line. Fort Greene and Clinton Hill are known for the grandeur of their old houses. To understand Bedford Stuyvesant (Bed Stuy) and Crown Heights is to understand the history of race, religion, and class in New York City—you might start by visiting the townhouse from Spike Lee’s Crooklyn, which sold a few years ago for millions or watching Anne Deavere Smith’s Fires in the Mirror, a one woman performance about the 1991 riot. Ditmas Park (also called Victorian Flatbush) and Kensington have some even grander houses. Sunset Park is a home to heavy industry also known for its thriving Chinatown and the arty regeneration project taking place in and around Industry City.
Bay Ridge to Brooklyn’s far west side doesn’t get much attention from tourists, nor does East New York on the eastern edge (though it should—it was home to Susannah Mushatt Jones, who was the oldest person in the world and the last remaining American to have been born in the 19th century, until she died in May of 2016). But the southern tip of the borough is famous for the Ferris wheels and roller coasters of Coney Island. I’m sure you’ve heard this before—it’s not actually an island!
Brooklyn is an oddly shaped blob with two northern tips. The first is where you’ll find Brooklyn Heights, the original tony neighborhood with its tree-lined streets, elegant row houses, and the occasional doorman building. The new Brooklyn Bridge Park, one of the most inventive and expensive public park projects in recent history, leads from here to DUMBO. An acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, this tangled neighborhood is another industrial-turned-art zone and home to the Etsy headquarters.
Williamsburg and Greenpoint occupy the north, north tip of Brooklyn, which can surprisingly be easier to get to from Manhattan than from other Brooklyn nabes. These stomping grounds of the Girls main characters are paved with a gritty youthful yearning, though increasing popularity is accompanied by increasing rents, which has sent some of the real artists toward the Brooklyn-Queens border town of Bushwick.
You should investigate what’s on while you’re here rather than worrying about getting the timing right. In summer, Brooklyn hosts endless free concerts and street-food festivals. Thanksgiving and the December holidays are wonderful times to be house guests. And spring and fall are the secret answer to lovely days.
Another secret: if you stay here long enough and feel like you fit in, you’re a New Yorker. But you could start with a single day.
It’s always high season in New York and that includes Brooklyn, though you get more day-to-day routine and fewer tourist swarms on these streets that you might in Manhattan. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year are an even higher season. Summer heats up, too, but in places where locals go out of town for the weekend the population balances out.
New York City is one of those intense places that is freezing in the winter and searing in the summer (think a slightly milder version of the Great Plains). Global warming has also made the shifting of the seasons a bit erratic even in this temperate zone (70 degrees on Christmas, 50 on Memorial Day) though we tend to reach a perfect balance in April, May, June, September, October, and into November.
Airbnb Brooklyn Half (spring)
Mermaid Parade (spring)
Sakura Matsubi, Brooklyn Botanic Garden (spring)
BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! (summer)
Northside Festival (summer)
Rooftop Film Festival (summer)
BAM Next Wave Festival (fall)
Brooklyn Book Fair (fall)
Rock’n’Roll Brooklyn Half (fall)
West Indian Day Parade (fall)
Williamsburg Film Festival (fall)
January (1st): New Year’s Day
January (third Monday): Martin Luther King Jr. Day
February (third Monday): Presidents Day
May (last Monday): Memorial Day
July (4th): Independence Day
September (first Monday): Labor Day
October (second Monday): Columbus Day
(not the same as Native American Day, which is only celebrated officially in two states, on September 25th)
November (11th): Veterans Day
November (fourth Thursday): Thanksgiving Day
December (25th): Christmas
We’re not that far away from the rest of New York. Brooklyn is still on Eastern time.
To check the local time in Brooklyn, click here.
And you might keep in mind: Daylight Savings Time (DST) happens in the spring (on the second Sunday morning of March at 2 a.m.). It’s when clocks are advanced one hour so there is more daylight later into the evening. In the fall (on the first Sunday morning in November at 2 a.m.), clocks shift back one hour to standard time. The entire U.S. (except Hawaii and most of Arizona) participates in this ritual of ‘springing forward’ and ‘falling back.’
Bring as much or as little as you need for an urban adventure.
The days when Brooklyn was a dive-y destination are over. You get a lot of artisan products here, some at a good value, but often at high-end prices. That ranges from under ten bucks for a Smorgasburg meal to half a grand for a poolside suite at the McCarren Hotel. And while restaurants in this borough have a slight edge on providing excellent quality for a fair price, the general cost of doing business for most activities is the same as it is in Manhattan. Expect to pay here what you would there.
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in $US.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person
$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $200 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $300 for a double
$ => $1-15 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$ => $16-40 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $41 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$ => Tickets $26 per person
Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.
But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.
Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.
That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings.
Let’s skip the rental car spiel because the chances of it being a good idea to a rent a car exclusively for a Brooklyn trip are significantly lower than 1%. And if you’re bringing wheels with you on your way from or to somewhere else, it makes sense for you to sort out the logistics there. If you are driving, scope out the parking situation in the neighborhood where you’ll be staying in advance (ask your hotel or your host). Street parking is free or metered but you have to move your vehicle at odd hours. Garages, where you can find them, cost up to $40 for 24 hours. Whenever possible, travel around Brooklyn by foot, bike, rail, taxi, car share, or ride share instead.
What if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?
Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.
Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:
Trip Cancellation: About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.
Medical: Health services in the U.S. are expensive for the uninsured. This is a major reason to consider purchasing insurance. Whether you break a leg or need a blood transfusion, you will likely incur costs far higher than you might pay in other nations. And what if you have an accident that requires transport to a major medical center? Air ambulances alone could set you back $15,000 to $30,000.
Trip Interruption: For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to get off the cruise ship or abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.
Travel Delay: Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.
Baggage: Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.
Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travelers.
Do I need travel insurance?
If your trip costs $4,000 to $6,000 (or more), it’s probably a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. So is your destination. If you’re traveling to a hurricane-prone area during hurricane season, for example, you’ll probably want some coverage “just in case” … no matter what.
Your English language skills are also an important factor. Insurance policies often include concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.
How do I choose an insurance provider?
Do your homework; check around.
The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregator sites like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.
Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).
If you have pre-existing health conditions: Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.
Credit card insurance: If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.
The travel insurance business is expanding and evolving rapidly. As “shared space” lodging options like VRBO, Airbnb and Homeaway become more popular in the travel and leisure market, so does the need for insurance for both property owners and travelers.
For more information, visit the US Travel Insurance Association.
U.S. dollars come in $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills. They are all the same size and color, so non-Americans have an understandably tricky time telling them apart. The $2 bill is in circulation but rarely seen. By the way, the US Mint is gearing up for an eagerly awaited currency redesign in 2020.
Coins in wide circulation include the penny (one cent), nickel (five cents), dime (ten cents) and quarter (25 cents). The 50-cent and one-dollar coins are seen occasionally.
Smaller businesses may not accept $50 or $100 bills, so have twenties or smaller bills in hand. ATMs usually dispense $20 bills.
New Yorkers are big tippers, and most of the time the servers on the receiving end really bank on that money (ask them what they pay in rent–you might be shocked).
The standard restaurant tip here is higher than the average American tip, at 15-20%. In higher-end restaurants, a tip of up to 25% is customary (really).
To complicate matters, many restaurants in the major metropolitan areas like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco are moving to a no-tipping model servers are compensated directly by the establishment. The verdict isn’t yet in on whether this new model will stick, so be sure you understand the tipping policy at each restaurant you visit.
Oh, and one more complication: Sometimes a tip is automatically included, usually for groups of six or more people. But at least it will be itemized in plain sight on the bill, if you look closely for it.
Leave a dollar per drink at casual bar, more at exclusive establishments and for excellent cocktails. (You could try bribing a host for a good table or entry into a club, but that often just doesn’t work.) At coffee shops and take-out places, it’s fine to leave your spare change or no more than a couple of bucks in the tip jar.
Most bell staff receive $1 to $2 per bag they assist with; if someone carts all of your bags up to your room, expect to tip $5 to $10.
Tips for housekeeping are also good form. The rule of thumb is $2 to $3 per day and about $5 per day in higher-end properties.
At properties with concierge services, consider tipping concierge staff who assist you in planning activities, making reservations or acquiring tickets around $10 to $20 per day. Concierge staff do not normally expect a tip for simply orienting you with driving directions or public transportation info. Car valet staff expect $2 when returning your car. Spa employees (massage therapists, aestheticians, etc.) usually see 20% tips on their services, whether performed at the spa or in your room.
Invariably, there are incidental costs associated with being on the road. Make sure to budget between $10 and $40 per day for batteries, lost phone chargers, bug repellent, headache medicine, sunburn relief and other personal items you might have forgotten. If you’re traveling with kids, consider the snack budget. Local grocery and drug stores will be cheaper than tourist shops for all of the above. (The Walgreens/Duane Reade chain isn’t a mom and pop shop any more, but they carry just about everything and they have convenient locations and hours.)
In New York City, a combined state and local sales tax of 8.875% is applied to nearly everything you buy, with the exception of items (somewhat arbitrarily) designated as necessities. Restaurant bills and most takeout items are taxed, though groceries are usually exempt. Taxes are not usually included in display prices, unless otherwise stated.
Hotel tax is about 6% although you don’t pay it for short-term rentals like Airbnb. Taxes are not usually stated up front in the advertised room rate.
Resort fees? That might be one step too far for Brooklyn.
I think I can best sum it up this way: there’s always a way to get there on public transportation.
John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in Queens is where you’re likely headed, though domestic or connection flights to LaGuardia Airport, elsewhere in Queens, are a good bet if your destination is Williamsburg, Greenpoint, or Bushwick. (Try to avoid Newark in New Jersey, unless fares more than $100 cheaper than those going into the other airports to justify the time and expense of making your way to Brooklyn.)
From JFK, you can hop on the A or E subway line (by transferring from the airport’s Airtrain), or take the LIRR commuter rail to Atlantic Terminal (adjacent to the Barclay’s Center) in just 20 minutes and then transfer to the subway line you’re after. Cab or Uber rides from either airport will set you back $25 at the very least and up to $100.
Brooklyn is impossible to miss on the map, so just use a GPS or your map-app’s instructions if you’re driving. If you’re already staying in another borough, or if you arrive in Midtown by bus or train, the only advice you need is to pick up a subway map. Remember that Brooklyn is big enough to be its own city–don’t just take any train (subway, that is) coming in this direction–figure out which line you need and the closest stop. The B, D, N, and Q trains travel between the boroughs by going over the Manhattan Bridge, providing one of the city’s best views of the Statue of Liberty.
To get around Brooklyn, you have to get underground. The subway (though, hm, in some Brooklyn neighborhoods the train is actually above ground) runs 24 hours and goes almost everywhere. The borough’s extensive bus network is part of the same MTA (Metropolitan Transport Authority) system.
Almost every neighborhood is invitingly walkable so a trusted pair of shoes can be the best transportation on a Brooklyn trip. These days, you also see a lot of locals walking around with bicycle helmets, the only piece of equipment you need to bring when borrowing a Citibike (out-of-towners can join, too, though frankly there aren’t enough locations in Brooklyn).
Like most cities, New York was built upon thriving waterways, and this century’s water transport revival has added some convenient links between Brooklyn’s waterfront neighborhoods and lower and midtown Manhattan. New York Water Taxi operates the Ikea Express between Wall Street’s Pier 11 and the home decor giant’s private dock in Red Hook–the service is five bucks on weekdays (with a rebate for shoppers) and free on weekends. The East River Ferry (operated by the New York Waterway company) connects the Wall Street and East 34th Street docks in Manhattan with Long Island City in Queens, Greenpoint, North Williamsburg, South Williamsburg, and DUMBO–tickets are as low as $4, day passes are available for curious seafaring types, and bikes are very welcome. East River Ferry also connects DUMBO with Governor’s Island on summer weekends, but the city’s own free ferry runs there from Pier 6 at the Atlantic Avenue entrance to Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn Heights. For weekday ferry service to Governor’s Island (also summer only), you have to catch the ferry in Manhattan, near the Staten Island Ferry terminal.
Brooklynites do drive but usually just to load up on groceries or to get to out-of-the-way places. Don’t rent a car here if you can avoid it. Instead, take advantage of Zipcar, or, better yet, the local Car2Go service that lets you pick up a Smart car parked nearby and then to leave it in an empty (legal) spot wherever you end up.
You could also hitch a ride with Uber or Lyft or a NYC cab–the green ones are just like the original yellow cabs but they’re designated for the outer boroughs (like Brooklyn!).
The Atlantic Ave/Barclay’s Center mega-station (the result of a 21st century project to link a handful of different local stations) connects the 2, 3, 4, 5, B, Q, D, N, and R trains. And you’re a short walking distance to C and G stations from there, too. Going further into Brooklyn, trains tend to fan out with fewer connection points. So plan to backtrack to transfer, or else rely on the bus, Citibike, Car2Go, or a cab or ride share to join disparate points on the map.
Very small kids ride on public transportation for free. Everyone else pays the same price except for senior citizens, who can present their ID to purchase half-price rides and passes.
New York City still has a flat rate for every single journey by subway, bus, or combination. It’s $2.75. Except that you can’t ever actually buy a single ride at that price. You can buy a single-entry Metrocard for $3, or a reloadable card that costs a dollar extra but is indefinitely reusable and gives you rebates every time you charge up with more money at a vending machine or at one of the more and more infrequent ticket booths.
Unlimited-ride cards make sense for any frequent traveler, and those are reloadable after they expire, too. The 7-day card is $31, and the 30-day is $116.50.
Most Uber, Lyft, and cab rides will be between $10 and $30. A Citibike 7-day pass is $25.