7 Reasons Brooklyn Bridge Park is a Magical NYC Park to Visit

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When you think about where to find nature in New York City, your first thought is probably Central Park. It’s the obvious green space frontrunner. No wonder—it’s been on the scene for more than 150 years and takes up a relatively huge chunk of Manhattan. But perhaps just as much of a feat for warding off modern would-be developers, the very young Brooklyn Bridge Park and Greenway should be on your radar

While exploring the park nonstop for two days recently, I learned so many intriguing things about its history, design, and how beloved it has become for locals. I visited all the pier areas on my own while there and spent some time on a Waterfront Walk led by a Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy volunteer guide. 

Here are 7 interesting tidbits and reasons the Brooklyn Bridge Park is a must-visit for your NYC itinerary. 

You get spectacular views of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Brooklyn Bridge Park runs underneath the Brooklyn side of Brooklyn Bridge, extending a bit north and several blocks to the south, so you get beautiful NYC views from many angles. Watch the ferries passing by on the East River, check out the Statue of Liberty from Harbor View Lawn, get a straight on view of the Lower Manhattan skyline from Pier One, or capture that classic Brooklyn Bridge photo with the skyline in the background. 

It’s (surprisingly) less than 15 years old.

When I started exploring the park, I subconsciously assumed it was one of those NYC parks that had been around for 50+ years. Maybe it was another Frederick Law Olmsted design, like Central Park and Prospect Park. 

I was so surprised to learn that the first portions of it only opened in 2010, followed by additional sections over the next ten years. It’s hard to envision this space as the flat, cement shipping port-turned-storage-area that it was just 20-25 years ago. Now you’ll find mature trees, lively and full vegetation, and even some topography. 

There’s fascinating history to discover.

The history of the transformation of this place from industrial wasteland to beautiful park is a fascinating one to discover, and you can join one of the free Waterfront Walks if you’re curious. 

But beyond that, there’s history embedded in the very ground under your feet and benches you sit on at Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Old has become new and waste from all over New York City has been put to use. With sustainability in mind, many parts of the park were made from salvaged and repurposed materials. 

  • The fill from a subway line being dug out was used to add topography to the park.
  • Granite Overlook on Pier One (pictured below) was constructed from salvaged slabs of granite from the reconstructed Roosevelt Island Bridge. 
  • Pine from the deconstructed storage buildings on Pier One was salvaged and repurposed to build some park structures. 

Nature is springing back to life in a once-industrial waterfront.

As our tour group was meandering the paths around Pier 1, our guide referenced the Field of Dreams quote, “If you build it, they will come.” 

Over the (few) years since the park was built, it has attracted many birds and other animals. In fact, almost 200 species of birds have been tracked in the park! I’m not a birder, but that sounds pretty impressive. 

The fact that it serves as such an important habitat for wildlife isn’t an accident. All the vegetation in the park is native to the area, and volunteers work hard to manage invasives and keep everything healthy through ecological gardening. 

Our guide also pointed out the cormorants (those black duck-looking birds) perched on top of some of the old pier pilings. For a long time, there were no cormorants in the New York Harbor. They eat fish, so the fact that they’ve returned indicates that the health of the water is increasing.

Recommended: Check out this quick guide to Brooklyn Bridge Park for the best viewpoints, hidden gems, immersive photos, and the best things to do!

It feels like you could get lost in a labyrinth of paths.

While many people stick to the main pedestrian path, which used to be a railroad bed, I recommend following your curiosity to wander down some of the twisting and turning pathways through the woods and meadows. 

As I walked around the park, I kept thinking to myself, “I wonder where this leads”…“This seems interesting,”…“What’s around this corner?”

The thoughtful park design leads you to new discoveries each time you’re there. Honestly, you might even forget you’re in the city!

There’s something for everyone.

Brooklyn Bridge Park is a fun spot for all ages and many interests. One woman who lives nearby told me she loves coming to birdwatch, and she often brings her granddaughter to the park.

While I was exploring the park for a couple of days recently, I saw busy sports courts, locals relaxing in the shade with their dogs, people kayaking in the East River, kids cooling off on splash pads, a Juneteenth cookout, cyclists enjoying the bike path, and families relaxing on a lawn or granite stairs with a view of Manhattan. 

It’s a great place to relax before (or after) walking the Brooklyn Bridge.

The park is only about a 15-minute walk from the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge walking path, and I think it’s a great stop to add to an NYC itinerary. 

Enjoy the morning glow of sunrise at Pebble Beach for the classic Brooklyn Bridge and skyline view, then head to the bridge for this iconic walk with less crowds. Make sure to take a quick moment to read the plaque at Emily Roebling Plaza to fully appreciate this wonder of a bridge and the woman who was instrumental in seeing it through. While you’re walking across, take a minute to imagine Emily Roebling walking across the planks before the bridge was completed, or driving her carriage across with a rooster in tow to test it before the bridge opened. 

While I’ve only ever walked the bridge late at night when there were very few others around, everything I’ve read warns about how incredibly busy it gets with pedestrians taking this iconic walk every day. But if you can get up early enough, sunrise can be a great time to enjoy it. The viewpoint near Pebble Beach in Brooklyn Bridge Park had barely anyone around at this time of day when I visited in June (anyone that was out was clearly a local going for their morning jog before the tourists started to crowd the walkways). 

The Brooklyn Bridge Park is truly magical and I’m already thinking about when I can go back!

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