Brooklyn, New York is More Than Just Coney Island

by Maureen C. Bruschi

I have nothing against Coney Island.  A bite of a Nathan’s hot dog at the original Nathan’s hot dog stand at the corner of Surf and Stillwell on Coney Island alone is worth the trip. Toss in roller-coaster rides, go-karts, boardwalk games and the beach and you’ve accomplished a full day of pure fun.  But when my husband and I planned a one day trip to New York City’s most populous borough we initially focused on Brooklyn Botanic Garden, New York Transit Museum and Brooklyn Bridge Park.  We’d leave Coney Island for July and the hot dog eating contest.

As it turned out the garden and the museum were also put on hold for another visit. Brooklyn Bridge Park’s 85-acre playground and the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges were more than we could handle in one day.

We waited for a warm 77° day in spring and headed for Brooklyn.  Parking was convenient by Pier 6, south of the Brooklyn Bridge.  The Brooklyn Bridge Park stretches over a mile from Pier 6 in the south past the Brooklyn Bridge to the Manhattan Bridge in the north.  Our hike through the park along the East River afforded us spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline.  We knew immediately that’s where we’d be spending the entire day.

The early summer-like Friday brought out the crowds.  Maybe the Northeast coast had one too many Nor’easters this past winter.  Jammed packed playgrounds, beach volleyball courts, basketball and handball courts and an open roller rink along the piers were filled with adults and kids.  Who could blame them for playing hooky from work and school.

As we strolled closer to Pier 1, we veered a block from the waterfront under the Brooklyn Bridge for lunch at one of Brooklyn’s best pizza places, Juliana’s Pizza, founded by Patsy Grimaldi.  After tasting their famous mouthwatering Margherita pizza, cooked in coal fired ovens, we agreed that their reputation is well deserved.  If you stop for lunch at Juliana’s and there’s a line to get in, don’t be discouraged. The line moves fast and it’s well worth the short wait.

After lunch we continued through the park, passing bicycle paths, water gardens and kayak and canoe launches.  We discovered Jane’s Carousel, a hit with kids and adults, located by the water between the two bridges.  The antique active carousel, sheltered in a glass pavilion, is home to rows of decorated horses, mixed in with a few carriages.

If you enjoy exercise, grab a bottle of water and keep walking to the Manhattan Bridge.  The bridge is a little over a mile long and the walkway takes you into New York City’s Chinatown.  Although not quite as elegant as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge offers two bonuses.  First, you’ll enjoy magnificent views of lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge, and second, you’ll savor Chinatown’s famous food smells that float up to the bridge’s walkway.

A two mile walk south in Chinatown took us to the New York City side of the Brooklyn Bridge with a mile walk over the bridge back to Brooklyn. When the bridge and its gothic granite and limestone towers first opened in 1883, it was the world’s largest suspension bridge.

When we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, the pedestrian walkway was filled with walkers, joggers, and bicyclists traveling in both directions.  If you walk over the bridge during a busy time, keep a lookout for bikers and stay clear of their bike lane.  Many bikers peddle fast and don’t slow down.

Back in Brooklyn we headed to Sociale in Brooklyn Heights for dinner.  Historic Brooklyn Heights is a quiet residential neighborhood filled with prestigious brownstones and leaf-filled streets.  Although it has a small town charm, Brooklyn Heights is one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Brooklyn because of its waterfront real estate and views of Manhattan’s skyline.

I’m not sure how many miles we walked, but at dinner I was more tired than hungry.  A full day for sure. At Sociale’s, my husband and I shared a crispy salad and homemade Tagliatelle con Vendure.  A mouthwatering pasta, filled with tagliatelle, shallots, asparagus, green peas, celery root and carrots, was just what we needed before the trek back to our car.

So much to see and so little time.  On the way home we began planning our next Brooklyn adventure.  And what better way to start that next journey than polishing off a Nathans hog dog at the original stand on the corner of Surf and Stillwell, Coney Island, Brooklyn.

If You Go: Juliana’s Pizza, 19 Old Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY  11201; (718) 596-6700;; Sociale, 72 Henry Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201; (718) 576-3588;