Do you remember the episode in Sex and the City, Season 6, when Miranda and Steve were considering moving from Manhattan to Brooklyn in order to have more space for their growing family, but Miranda was initially totally hesitant to do so?
The days of its bad reputation are long gone and Brooklyn is now THE PLACE TO BE for young, trendy hipsters… and whenever the locals discover something, the tourists usually won’t wait for long until they do so, too!
So here are some ideas on how you can explore Brooklyn – film fan style:
1. Take a bike tour on the Brooklyn Bridge
This quintessential New York landmark, constructed by German immigrant John Augustus Roebling in the 19th century, has been featured in so many films, it’s not surprising that New York visitors (film fans and others alike) are reguarlary flocking the pedestrian paths of the bridge in masses.
A good way to beat the crowds and see more of Brooklyn in a shorter amount of time is the two-hour guided Bicycle Tour offered by Brooklyn Bridge Sightseeing Bike Tours and Rentals. I took one for free as it was part of my New York Pass. You can ask the guide to point out some movie locations for you… or you can look them up on the Internet beforehand and then find them as you fly by on your bike. Roads are pretty safe to cycle, especially since you are in a group.
If you’re not so much of a bicycle fan, there are also plenty of walking tours that you can take in order to explore Brooklyn. Free Tours by Foot offers several such as the Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights or DUMBO Tours. To discover Williamsburg, Brooklyn – some say it’s the hipster capital of the nation – sign up for the Williamsburg Walking Tour. All tours are free to take as they operate on a tip-only-basis.
2. See those typical Brooklyn houses you’ve seen in the movies
In contrast to Manhattan, Brooklyn is a very residential area. It is also where most people live. According to the latest census in 2014 a bit more than two and a half million New Yorkers lived in what is being said was the very first suburb of the States. The grandeur of many of the houses built for rich businessman back in the day can still be felt here – especially in the area called Brooklyn Heights.
Because this is where New Yorkers actually live, many movies have used houses in Brooklyn as the residences for their characters. In New Year’s Eve, for example, the film producers chose 367 Henry Street and Congress Street in Brooklyn for the outside shots of the apartment where Jessica Sarah Parker lives with her film daughter. Most recently, in Brooklyn, Eilis lives here in a boarding house from the 1950s. And in Learning To Drive, Ben Kingsley picks up Patricia Clarkson for her driving lessons on the steps of one of those typical Brooklyn houses.
3. Explore Brooklyn’s diverse history
Originally founded as a Dutch settlement called “Breuckelen”, Brooklyn has first been developed as a sort of “country escape” for the rich people working on Wall Street. But as it became too crowded, the rich went further out and Brooklyn became known as a huge hub for immigrants from all over the world.
In almost any of New York’s museums, you can learn more about the varied history of the borough that used to be its own city up until the 1890s. In Brooklyn itself, worthwhile seeing are the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Historical Society and the Weeksville Heritage Center where you can walk through the former houses of the African-American community that lived here during the 19th Century.
4. Spend a beach day at Coney Island
For New Yorkers, especially those from Brooklyn, Coney Island has been a hugely popular weekend getaway destination for generations. In new feature film Brooklyn, Italo-American Tony takes his girlfriend Eilis there.
5. Walk along the Promenade
The Brooklyn side of New York is generally a bit slower paced than Manhattan – so Brooklyn is a great place to enjoy those million-dollar-movie views of the New York skyline. A great spot for strolls of all kinds (romantic, family, solo) is the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights as well as Brooklyn Bridge Park.
6. See the Bridges at night
For a great view of Brooklyn Bridge and the NYC skyline, take the subway to York St and pass several beautiful authentic Brooklyn houses on your way. Scenes from New York, I Love You (Natalie Portman taking a walk with her new Jewish husband) and Step Up 3D were filmed here at the waterfront park. In New Year’s Eve, Paul (Zac Efron) cruises from the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges to Brooklyn on his scooter in order to help Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) tick off some of her last minute New Year resolutions.
My favourite movie bridge scene was, however, not filmed in Brooklyn, but on the Manhattan side: When Violet and Kevin are starring at the stars in Coyote Ugly, they were somewhere near East River, looking at the Manhattan Bridge.
7. Get a taste of the real Brooklyn
Are you a foodie? Then you will love Brooklyn, too. Thanks to the many different immigrants that have settled in Brooklyn, you will find a varied selection of options to “eat your way around the globe” just like Julia Roberts did in Eat Pray Love. By the way, Brooklyn was a major film location for this movie.
You can either embark on the Flatbush Brooklyn Food Tour or the Williamsburg Food Tour offered by Free Tours on Foot or head straight to Junior’s Restaurant & Bakery. This typical All-American-Diner, established in Brooklyn in 1950, is said to be THE destination for the REAL New York Cheesecake.
Got thirsty now? Then head to the Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg for the world-famous Brooklyn Lager. Brewery tours are offered Saturdays from 1–4pm (every hour on the hour). You can also stop by on Friday and Saturday nights for the Brewery’s various happy hours and tasting events.
What are your favorite spots in Brooklyn or what would you like to try out if you go there? Let me know in the comments section!