A Visit to the Brooklyn Bridge, Done Differently

An NYC East River ferry sails in front of the Brooklyn Bridge
An NYC East River ferry sails in front of the Brooklyn Bridge | © Gary Hershorn / Crobis via Getty Images
Photo of Alex Wexelman
Staff Writer13 December 2019

Whichever end of the Brooklyn Bridge you choose to start with, loads of activities await you once you’ve taken in some lovely views of the city. Make the most of your day with our guide to this New York landmark.

Constructed over 14 years, the Brooklyn Bridge was the first steel-wire suspension bridge. Its opening ceremony in 1883 was a momentous enough occasion that US President Chester A Arthur and New York Governor (and future president) Grover Cleveland were in attendance. There, they witnessed Emily Warren Roebling, who oversaw the completion of construction, become the first person to cross the bridge, which she did in a horse-drawn carriage while carrying a rooster, a symbol of victory.

The bridge connected Manhattan and Brooklyn and was originally dubbed the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, but its name was shortened officially to the Brooklyn Bridge when the city government passed a law changing its title in 1915. Strolling over the bridge – the pedestrian walkway of which is only a little more than a mile long – is a great way to take in a view of the New York City skyline as well as the harbor, the Manhattan Bridge and the Statue of Liberty in the distance. It’s a must-visit attraction for anyone looking to get a sweeping view of New York while enjoying one of its greatest engineering marvels. You can enter in either borough, Manhattan or Brooklyn, and there is plenty to do once you cross over to your destination. So make a day of your visit with Culture Trip’s guide to what to do and see around this New York landmark.

Brooklyn War Memorial

Map View
Brooklyn War Memorial
The Brooklyn War Memorial was dedicated in 1951 | © AB Forces News Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

Dedicated in 1951 and commissioned by Robert Moses, the Brooklyn War Memorial was meant to be one of five World War II monuments the notorious city planner was to install in each borough. Brooklyn’s was the only one that was built. Located inside Cadman Plaza, the granite and limestone memorial featuring two large sculptures representing victory and family is dedicated to the more than 300,000 “heroic men and women of the borough of Brooklyn who fought for liberty in the second world war 1941-1945,” as the inscription reads.

Brooklyn Historical Society

Map View
The Brooklyn Historical Society hosts a range of exhibits
The Brooklyn Historical Society opened a second location, in Dumbo, in 2017 | © Ivan C / Shutterstock
Inside this grand, Romanesque Revival, terracotta building completed in 1881 is an institution devoted to educating the public about more than 400 years of Brooklyn history. Since 1863, the Brooklyn Historical Society has carried out this mission, and the collection contained within spans historic maps and atlases to microfilm collections of Brooklyn newspapers from the 19th and 20th centuries at the world-renowned special collections and archival Othmer Library. There are also more than two dozen oral-history collections that began in 1973 and catalog some 1,200 voices speaking on the effect of the AIDS crisis on Brooklynites in 1992, the experiences of Muslims and Puerto Ricans in the borough and more.

New York Transit Museum

Building, Museum
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The New York Transit Museum has its own vintage train
The New York Transit Museum features old subway cars that have been preserved for display | © Felix Lipov / Alamy Stock Photo
The trains are indispensable in shuttling New Yorkers (and visitors) around the five boroughs, but how much do you really know about them? The New York Transit Museum, which is housed underground in an original 1936 subway station, was founded in 1976 to preserve the stories of mass transportation. More than 100 years ago, the subway system was built using advanced technology that would change the lives of everyone in the city, and that history is logged within the walls of the museum. The collection features subway, bus, railway, bridge and tunnel memorabilia; preserved subway cars; and vintage signage and in-vehicle advertisements.

Mmuseumm, New York

Only three people can enter this tiny museum at a time. The space is only six feet (1.8 meters) by six feet and contained within a former freight elevator in Chinatown. But its size isn’t the only thing that sets Mmuseumm apart; it employs what it terms “object journalism,” a type of storytelling using unique artifacts from around the world, which are swapped out annually. Current showcases include ISIS currency, objects made by prisoners and last meal receipts, among others. The displays are accessible 24 hours a day through viewing windows.

New Museum

Museum, Store, Building, Cinema, Forest
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MOMA, the Met, the Guggenheim – these are the art museums people often talk about when they talk about New York’s cultural institutions. The Lower East Side’s New Museum, however, is a great antidote to the typical exhibits featured at most modern galleries. Instead of focusing on Monet, Manet, Modigliani and so on, the New Museum’s programming introduces new art by global artists who haven’t yet found significant exposure. Free on Thursday evenings, the museum is a great way to discover contemporary work that isn’t being shown anywhere else.

African Burial Ground National Historic Monument, Broadway

Memorial, Park
Map View

Just two blocks from New York City Hall, a building constructed using slave labor, is the African Burial Ground National Monument, a six-acre (2.5-hectare) former cemetery containing upwards of 15,000 intact skeletal remains of enslaved and free Africans who lived and worked in colonial New York. The site was discovered during the construction of a 34-story federal office building during which the bones were unearthed, which “altered the understanding and scholarship surrounding enslavement and its contribution to constructing New York City,” according to the National Park Service site. In 2006 the memorial, chosen from 60 proposals, was unveiled. The 25-foot (eight-meter) granite monument features a globe emphasizing the Atlantic area within the “Circle of Diaspora,” a reference to the Middle Passage journey slaves took from West Africa to the West Indies.

These recommendations were updated on December 13, 2019 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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