Every day, 10,000 pedestrians cross Brooklyn’s iconic bridge, many without a plan for what to do when they arrive on the other side. You can’t blame them for making the pilgrimage—Dumbo ranks high among New York’s most alluring neighborhoods with its mix of cobblestoned streets, turn-of-the-century warehouses, jaw-dropping views of Manhattan, and creative cachet. Once an industrial wasteland, the area has not only cleaned up its act, but it’s also one of the most coveted—and most expensive—areas to live in. Now, a spate of new openings and attractions is giving Dumbo denizens and visitors even more things to explore.
1. Check Out NYC’s Most Exciting Hotel
Opened in February, eco-chic 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge marries industrial style with reclaimed wood, abundant greenery, and an ultra-sustainable ethos. The lobby lounge draws creative types working on laptops or sipping cocktails like the refreshing Leaves of Grass (tequila, pea shoot, barley grass, and lime) in the shadow of a massive living plant wall. Stop by the ground-floor café for coffee and light bites to take on a picnic in the park. The rooftop bar, which will have the ’hood’s best skyline views, is slated to open this summer.
2. Explore a Brand-New Shopping Complex
Follow the park’s curve northward and you’ll find Empire Stores in conjoined coffee and dry goods warehouses that had been abandoned since the 1960s, now reborn as a mixed-use retail and office complex. One of Dumbo’s most evocative structures situated on prime waterfront real estate, the shopping hub is opening in phases, with West Elm now open. Next up, Brooklyn’s first outpost of Detroit’s cult-favorite Shinola with a café by Manhattan mainstay the Smile, the first brick-and-mortar location of FEED, a café by the team behind Brooklyn’s beloved Vinegar Hill House, a food market featuring vendors from Brooklyn and beyond, and the newest location of Soho House’s breezy Italian restaurant Cecconi’s with outdoor seating abutting the park. Next door, you’ll find St. Ann’s Warehouse in its new location on Water Street. The theater inside a former tobacco warehouse produces plays by avant-garde, international, and emerging artists. Dumbo has long been known for its creative culture; on the other end of Empire Stores, you’ll find a cluster of contemporary art galleries, including Minus Space, Janet Borden, and Klompching Gallery.
3. Frolick in a Park
Meanwhile, Brooklyn Bridge Park continues to roll out its multi-million-dollar expansion plan and catalyze dynamic arts and cultural programming in Dumbo. This May, the Public Art Fund will bring “Descension” by Anish Kapoor to Pier 1 in the park. The installation—the artist’s first major outdoor sculpture in New York since 2006—will feature a sort of tidal pool of water constantly churning in contrast to the East River. Every summer, the park plays host to a popular series of events, including Shakespeare plays, outdoor film screenings, and fitness classes. Untapped Cities—an online magazine and tour company with urban discovery as its mission—will launch a tour highlighting the Secrets of the Brooklyn Bridge in May led by playwright/tour guide Justin Rivers. Sign up to learn about the famous bridge’s Cold War fallout shelter, love locks, Russian fur vaults, and more quirky facts and legends.
4. Grab a Bite
For drinks and dinner, local favorite Gran Eléctrica turns out excellent margaritas (try the margarita de pepino, made with cucumber and cilantro) and unfussy Mexican fare in a cool space with cheeky Mexico-meets-Dumbo illustrated wallpaper. Pro tip: Request a table in the hidden backyard patio and gorge on tacos and chiles rellenos under the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge—the perfect end to an awesome day in one of Brooklyn’s most emblematic neighborhoods.
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Laura Itzkowitz Laura Itzkowitz is a freelance journalist based in Rome with a passion for covering travel, arts and culture, lifestyle, design, food, and wine.