24 Hours in Brooklyn: An Outsider's Guide to a Day of Urban Adventure

A day in Brooklyn is a day to remember (especially if you follow this itinerary).
A day in Brooklyn is a day to remember (especially if you follow this itinerary). Jake Wheeler
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Brooklyn is big—like really, really big. So big, in fact, that if you were to separate each of NYC’s five boroughs into individual cities, Brooklyn by itself would be the third most populous city in the country, only behind L.A. and Chicago. What does this mean for visitors? Well, for one, it basically means that when you have 2.5 million people swarming about the place on any given day, you essentially have 2.5 million different examples of ways you could spend a day in the city. Listed below is just one way to do it—a way that my traveling companion and I, a couple of outsiders keen on finding urban adventure, found particularly enjoyable. Happy Brooklyn-ing!

8:00am: Explore Prospect Park

Prospect Park is basically Brooklyn’s version of Central Park; so it’s kind of a big deal, and you really shouldn’t miss it. A morning run here is the perfect way to start the day. Take to the outer loop road with hundreds of other like-minded joggers, walkers, and cyclists, or get lost among the expansive open spaces and myriad mixed-trails that spiderweb throughout the park. Don’t be surprised to encounter yoga festivals, pick-up soccer games, ultimate frisbee matches, free music concerts, plenty of attractive and active people, and puppies. So many puppies!

10:00am: Climb at Brooklyn Boulders

Bouldering at Brooklyn Boulders, arguably the best indoor climbing gym in NYC.
Bouldering at Brooklyn Boulders, arguably the best indoor climbing gym in NYC. Jake Wheeler

Keep the calories burning and the endorphins flowing with a mid-morning bouldering session at Brooklyn Boulders, arguably New York City’s best indoor climbing gym. The 22,000 square foot space is home to a dynamic mix of problems suitable for anyone from beginners to experts like Sasha DiGiulian, who’s been seen in days gone by scaling the walls at this gym. Day passes run for $32, which isn’t the cheapest option you’ll find, but feeling pumped for the rest of the day is priceless, right?

11:30am: Brunch at Building on Bond

The author's "E.T. Phone Home" fingers reaching for a fry.
The author's "E.T. Phone Home" fingers reaching for a fry. Jake Wheeler

Ahhhh, brunch in Brooklyn. You could write a book about it, if you really wanted to. There are so many world-class options to choose from, you really can’t go wrong. One excellent choice (out of the hundreds) is Building on Bond, a cozy neighborhood spot that isn’t too crowded, has indoor and outdoor seating, a friendly waitstaff, and some super delicious eats. The huevos rancheros is always a solid option, as is the cobb salad with perfectly charred and tender grilled chicken, but it’s experimenting with the daily specials where things get really fun. We’re talking dishes like roasted butternut squash paired with two fried eggs and a kale salad sprinkled with pomegranate seeds for a fruity burst here and there. Throw in a side of chicken apple sausage and maybe even some french fries, and you’re in for a gluttonous gastronomic experience worth writing home about.

2:30pm: Visit Coney Island

Exploring the strange, spectacular land of Coney Island.
Exploring the strange, spectacular land of Coney Island. Jake Wheeler

If you have a car, the drive to Coney Island alone is worth experiencing. Wrapping around the Belt Parkway, you’re met with killer views of the Statue of Liberty, the East River, and the great sweeping skyscrapers of Manhattan across the way. Eventually, you’ll arrive in Coney Island itself, a strange, spectacular land of hot dogs, boardwalks, ferris wheels, beaches, piers, and fascinating (and freaky) people from all walks of life. Stroll down the boardwalk. Journey down to the end of the pier. People watch. Dip your toes in the sand and in the icy Atlantic. Ride a roller coaster, then eat a Nathan’s original hotdog (not the other way around). Drink a beer. People watch some more. And then probably call it good on your time at Coney Island….

5:00pm: Hang Out in Williamsburg

Sunset views from the Williamsburg waterfront.
Sunset views from the Williamsburg waterfront. Jake Wheeler

Williamsburg is considered by many to be the epicenter of Brooklyn’s hipster culture scene. Home to rooftop bars, waterfront walkways, boutique shops, award-winning restaurants, and plenty of micro-events and mini-festivals that take place almost daily, this neighborhood always offers up a good time. Check out McCaren Park, where you can spectate one of the many intramural sports games that happen here and witness firsthand how seriously some city folks take their kickball matches. Pop into Brooklyn Brewery for a late afternoon pint, or head next door to Whiskey Brooklyn to catch a Giants game and play a game or two of skee ball. Afterwards, enjoy a Golden Hour walk along the scenic waterfront at East River State Park. Then get ready to take to the water!

7:15pm: Take a Sunset Ferry Ride on the East River

A short ferry ride from Williamsburg to Dumbo is a great way to see the city from a different perspective.
A short ferry ride from Williamsburg to Dumbo is a great way to see the city from a different perspective. Jake Wheeler

To get a totally different view of the city, it doesn’t get much better than a short ferry ride from Williamsburg down to the Dumbo neighborhood and Brooklyn Bridge Park. Single ride, one-way trip tickets range from $4-6 depending on the day of the week, and even if you’re not a fan of boat rides or colorful, swirling sunsets or cityscape views, you can’t deny that watching a bunch of tourists simultaneously oooh-ing and ogling with outstretched iPhones and selfie sticks isn’t always a good time. Even for a fellow touristy out-of-towner, this is a spectacle that never gets old.

8:15pm: Grab Some Grub at Spritzenhaus

A hearty meal at Williamsburg's Spritzenhaus.
A hearty meal at Williamsburg's Spritzenhaus. Jake Wheeler

When it comes to hearty grub after a long day of urban adventure, German-inspired fare is always a solid choice, and Williamsburg’s Spritzenhaus delivers the goods. Located in a 6,000 square foot space, this behemoth of a beer hall features long communal tables, garage doors that are opened when the weather is nice, a 100-foot snaking bar, and a giant brick-oven that spits out sizzling sausages cooked to perfection. With over 50 craft beers on tap and a wide selection of snitzles, sauces, and soft pretzels, it’s a fantastic place to unwind with a liter of beer, a hearty meal that’s heavy on the protein (and the carbs), and a game of Jenga.

10:00pm: Bike Across the Brooklyn Bridge

Renting a Citi Bike and cycling across the Brooklyn Bridge is one of those iconic, can’t-miss experiences if you’re in the area. But it can truthfully be a bit of a nightmare if you attempt it in the middle of the day when the throngs of tourists are inching along the bike paths and the handful of aggressive local commuters are zipping by you way with total disregard for anyone’s well-being but their own. At night, however, it’s a totally different vibe. With the great big city swelling in front of you as you climb the bridge, illuminated in all its nighttime majesty, and with the cool evening breezes rising off of the East River and the (mostly) clear bike lanes stretching out in front of you, biking across the Brooklyn Bridge is the perfect nightcap after a long, eventful day in the City that Never Sleeps.

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