Dumbo, Brooklyn – How to Spend the Day With Kids
Dumbo – Funny name, Great place.
The name Dumbo is actually an acronym that stands for, “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.” It is located right at the most northern part of Brooklyn, right across the water from Manhattan. If you’re visiting NYC, I highly recommend you take a whole day and spend it in Dumbo.
There is a lot to see, eat, and do in Dumbo, and I’ve got all the details laid out right here for you in this Dumbo travel guide. If you’re traveling with kids, I’ve got you covered, with kid-friendly activities to help the little ones have a great time too. But even if you don’t have kids, this Dumbo travel guide is for you as well, with coffee shops, and art galleries – it really works for all ages. I have laid everything out in a step-by-step fashion, in an order that makes sense, starting off on the east side of Dumbo and gradually working my way over to the west side. I hope you love Dumbo as much as I do!
Brooklyn Roasting Company
I am a new coffee drinker. I had my first sip of coffee only about two and a half years ago. Even though I couldn’t even get myself to finish that first mocha, since then I have become a total coffee snob. I have drank some of the best coffee that there is, and a lot of it. I would even say I am becoming a coffee connoisseur.
The coffee at Brooklyn Roasting Company is some of the best coffee in New York City. That’s a bold statement to make, but I am ready to declare it loud and clear. I order the Maple Shay – espresso with pure maple syrup and steamed milk. I get mine with oat milk. Trust me on this one. It’s good. There is something about their coffee that is just really different in a really good way.
There are two locations in Dumbo, one on Jay St. and one on Washington St. Definitely take the time to walk a bit more out of your way and go to the Jay St. location. That is the original location, the bigger location, and it is the best. The space is cozier, more unique, with great seating options on quirky looking couches and chairs. It’s a fun place to chill and check emails. The baristas there are passionate about what they do and it shows in their drinks. I was a bit disappointed in the Washington St. location and won’t be going back. It seemed so unlike the original location, and I felt like it could use some huge improvements. Stick to the Jay St. location, order the Maple Shay, and enjoy! It’s the best way to start your day in Dumbo.
25 Jay St.
Depending on what time you arrive in Dumbo, this could be a great time to check out one of the cutest bookstores in the city. Powerhouse Books is a modern, quirky, and inviting bookstore that you’ll want to pop into while you’re in Dumbo. I was really impressed with the children’s section. Being a teacher, I know children’s books, and hoard, I mean own, way too many. Powerhouse Books has so many great new titles that I had never heard of before. There were some adorable ones. We couldn’t help but take one home with us. I like the style and theme of the books that they choose to fill their shelves with. It’s worth a look.
32 Adams St.
Main St. Playground
If you’ve read a travel post of mine in the past, you probably know that when we travel with Jimmy, or are out and about in NYC, that we go to a lot of playgrounds. In fact, one of my most popular posts is this one from Seville. Jimmy is 3 and full of energy, so inevitably we spend a lot of time playing at playgrounds. Main St. Playground is a really great play space in Dumbo with a cute boat theme. It is completely enclosed, so you know that your child isn’t going to escape when they aren’t in your sight line. There is a tire swing and benches for snack breaks. But my favorite thing about this playground is the view of the Manhattan bridge almost directly above it. Jimmy loves watching the cars and subway go back and forth on the bridge.
Boat Watching and Views
One of the reasons I love Dumbo so much is because of all the fantastic views. You can’t find a prettier place in the city in my opinion. After you’re done at Main St. Playground, walk west along the water and just take it all in. You can see the Manhattan Bridge as well as the Brooklyn Bridge. You can see the Manhattan skyline with the Freedom Tower, the Empire State Building, and many more iconic NYC buildings. You can see the water and all the different kinds of boats going by. Jimmy loves the water taxis. It’s a gorgeous place and the perfect picture spot.
This carousel is fun for kids and for adults. It’s one of my favorite carousels to ride because of the view that you get to enjoy while you’re riding it. Jimmy doesn’t know how lucky he is that he gets to ride a carousel while gazing at the NYC skyline at the same time. Most kids don’t get to ride a carousel with that kind of a view, unless you’re a NYC kid of course.
This carousel was originally made for an Ohio amusement part in 1922. When the park closed, it was sold at an auction and purchased by Jane and David Walentas who moved it to Brooklyn to be restored. The carvings and details are one of a kind. It costs $2 to ride. Kids 3 and under are free when accompanied by a paying adult. It is open Thursday-Sunday only.
Old Dock St.
Dumbo Lunch Options
Hungry for lunch? Westville Dumbo is one of my favorite restaurants in the area. They have a cute outdoor seating area that is fun in the summertime. Their food is really well done and on the healthier side, which I appreciate. Their buttermilk fried chicken sandwich with avocado and arugula and their breaded avocado tacos were both so tasty. And it’s always a win for me when I can sub regular fries for sweet potato fries or a salad. I love anything with sweet potato! I was impressed with their kid’s menu because everything was made from scratch. Jimmy got the chicken nuggets with fries and both were homemade and delicious. Nothing frozen and reheated at Westville. It’s a great lunch choice and very reasonably priced.
81 Washington St.
Time Out Market New York
If you’re with a group of people that can’t agree on where to eat, Time Out Market is a good choice for lunch. They have a little of everything here to please everyone. Some of my favorites are Jacob’s Pickles, Clinton St. Baking Company, and DŌ. I’d argue that it is one of the best food markets in the city. The problem with this place is that it can get very crowded which leads to lots of noise and difficulty in finding seating. So take it for what it’s worth. Time Out Market might not offer you a peaceful place to sit and catch up with an old friend, but it does offer you the perfect place with a lot of variety to grab something quick.
55 Water St.
Archway Under Manhattan Bridge Picture Spot
I’m always up for a good picture spot. This spot is very popular for that perfect Instagram photo. I’ve seen it with nobody there, but I’ve also seen it with a line of people fighting for their moment in the camera. The reason why this is such a great spot is not only because of the view of the Manhattan bridge, but through the bottom oval peep hole you can see the Empire State Building poking through, if you get the shot just right.
Last time I was there, I was completely entertained. There was a man with his giant pet snake and lizard. Both were as big as I had ever seen. He was trying to get tourists to take pictures with his reptiles in this famous picture spot, for a charge of course. Pretty good idea to make a few extra bucks! The deal was that you stand there holding the lizard and/or the snake, and he will take your picture for you. When I was there, there was a man with the snake wrapped around his neck and the lizard laying across the top of his head. It was hilarious and very entertaining to watch.
80 Pearl St.
Another thing I love about Dumbo are all of the art galleries sprinkled throughout the streets. Fortunately, most are found in clusters so when you go to one, you can easily see a couple more close by. In general, Dumbo is pretty small, so walking back and forth to see the different art galleries is very doable. Here are some of my favorites:
A.I.R., Usagi, Art in General, Agency
(Located on the Corner of Plymouth St. and Jay St.)
Klompching, Janet Borden, Minus Space, United Photo Industries
(Located on the Corner of Water St. and Main St.)
(Located on the Corner of Plymouth St. and Washington St.)
Brooklyn Bridge Lookout
Dumbo is known for its views. The Brooklyn Bridge Lookout is the perfect spot for a beautiful view. This is great place to walk around and relax a bit on one of the many benches while enjoying the view and taking pictures. If it’s hot out (or even if it’s not) go grab yourself an ice cream cone at one of my favorite ice cream shops and enjoy it while you sit at Brooklyn Bridge Lookout. (Details below) It’s the perfect setting for an ice cream cone in hand. You don’t have to tell me twice!
Dumbo Ice Cream
Ample Hills Creamery Fire Boathouse
I’ve always been a huge Ample Hills fan. I remember trying it years ago when they first opened. Back then, I would have confidently said it was the best ice cream of my life without question. I was so impressed with the creativity of the flavors and the amount of mix-ins in each ice cream. They brag in their cookbook (yes, I own it) that they want their customers to complain that there are too many cookies in their Cookies n’ Cream ice cream. Now, things have changed, how sometimes they tend to do when a business becomes too successful. Ample Hills is still really good, but it isn’t as good as it used to be. I’ve been underwhelmed many times. They have so many locations now that the quality of the product has gone downhill. But, with that being said, their ice cream is still one that you should try when you’re in the city, especially when visiting Dumbo.
The location of this Ample Hills shop really can’t be beat. It’s the best setting to eat an ice cream cone – right by the water as you sit on a bench and enjoy the view. This type of setting screams ice cream cone. It’s perfect. I love the Salted Caramel Crack (but beware, it melts so quickly because of all the salt in it, making for a very messy situation) and the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake. The Peppermint Patty is also delicious as well as the Baked/Unbaked.
1 Water St.
Odd Fellows Ice Cream Co.
Another great choice for ice cream in the area is Odd Fellows. I never even knew about Odd Fellows and its deliciousness until a few months ago. Jimmy had to pee one night while we were in Dumbo, and I was looking for a place with a bathroom. We hurried into Odd Fellows frantically to use their bathroom before an accident happened. While I was helping Jimmy, my mother-in-law ordered some ice cream. Everyone in the group tried her ice cream and we were amazed at how good it was. We all ended up ordering our own. (We weren’t hungry at all and had JUST eaten pizza and dessert at Juliana’s.) I don’t even like pistachio ice cream, but their pistachio ice cream is so so good, one that I would seek after again. It made me see pistachio ice cream in a new light. Thanks Odd Fellows!
60 Water St.
Pier 1 Playground
On to playground #2! Just close by the Brooklyn Bridge Lookout is a small but really cute playground that is perfect for younger aged kids. It is nice and shaded with big trees, and it is completely gated in. The playground equipment is old but classic and perfect for kids with an imagination.
102 Furman St.
The Granite Prospect
Ready for another great lookout vista point? The Granite Prospect won’t disappoint. After you’ve played at the Pier 1 Playground, keep heading west and walk along the water. The path is nice and paved, perfect for an afternoon walk. I love this view because you can see The Statue of Liberty in the distance. Don’t forget your camera!
Dumbo Dinner Options
There are a lot of good eats in Dumbo. It’s going to take me a few more trips there to eat everywhere that I want to eat. There is only so much time in a day you know? The places that I have eaten at are great, and I’m excited to go back and try out more menu items. Dumbo is definitely becoming a very foodie friendly place. All of the suggestions below are close together, practically on the same street.
Budget – Shake Shack
You can’t go wrong with Shake Shack. I’d say it’s the best fast food burger and fries that there is. I also love how they have so many other options besides beef, like their Shroom Burger or their Veggie Burger. Both are great. You can’t go wrong here.
1 Old Fulton St.
Mid-Range – Juliana’s
Juliana’s is my favorite pizza place in New York City that I’ve found so far. They know how to make pizza. Ignore Grimaldi’s next door and stick with Juliana’s. Trust me. The history of this place is kind of interesting – Patsy Grimaldi first opened Grimaldi’s years ago, but after selling his business and retiring, recipes were changed by the new owners, and the pizza just wasn’t the same. He was embarrassed that his name was attached to a restaurant with mediocre food, so years later, he decided to un-retire, and open a pizza shop right next door and call it, Juliana’s, after his mother. Juliana’s is almost identical to the original Grimaldi’s. Its classic New York style pizza with simple high quality toppings is some of the best pizza that has ever entered my mouth. If you want the real deal, stick with Juliana’s, and yes, it’s worth waiting in line for. They don’t take reservations. If you’re lucky, you’ll see Patsy Grimaldi himself at the restaurant. He makes appearances often and helps when he can. It’s hard to keep him away, even in his 80’s! And, make sure you order a vanilla egg cream to go with your pizza.
19 Old Fulton St.
Mid-Range – Gran Elêctrica
I haven’t actually eaten here, but I plan to next time I am in Dumbo. This place looks like a stellar, slightly classy, Mexican restaurant. Their dishes look modern and sharp, with fantastic knife skills. I’ve never seen avocado cut so beautifully as I have in their pictures online. I can’t wait to try Gran Eléctrica, but honestly, when in Dumbo, it’s going to be hard to pull me away from eating at my favorite, Juliana’s.
5 Front St.
Splurge – The River Café
I also haven’t actually eaten at The River Café, but it’s on my list! The American style menu looks amazing, and you can’t beat the view. It is located right on the edge of the water, so you can enjoy the spectacular view while you dine. By the Google reviews and pictures, I can tell it is a place that I am going to love. They make a chocolate Brooklyn Bridge dessert that looks so adorable as well as delicious. Now I just need a fancy occasion to eat there… 2nd birthday celebration anyone?!?
1 Water St.
The Brooklyn Bridge Promenade
And now to save the best for last….. time to walk The Brooklyn Bridge! I’m embarrassed that it took me so long to do this. I had lived in NYC the summer of 2017 and had visited a couple times before that, and I had never walked The Brooklyn Bridge. What?? My friends from Spain were visiting in March, and they told me it was their favorite thing to do in New York City. I thought it was odd that walking a bridge would be their favorite thing, but now it has turned into one of my favorite things to do in the city as well. Funny how I had to have my Spanish friends introduce me to something in my own hometown.
I would recommend starting in Dumbo and walking towards Manhattan. I think the views are best this direction as well as the sunset, if you do it in the evening. The views while walking The Brooklyn Bridge are incredible. It’s so breathtaking. You can see The Statue of Liberty, the NYC skyline, a bird’s eye view of Dumbo, all the boats and cars underneath you…. it’s a really surreal experience. I’ve done it three times now and I’m still not tired of it. The only thing that is slightly off putting is the number of tourists there during the summer months. It gets really crowded which makes it a little less enjoyable but definitely still fun. Once you are up there, make sure to keep to the left in the walkers lane. The first time I walked The Brooklyn Bridge I didn’t realize there were two lanes and I almost got hit by an intense cyclist coming straight at me in the bike lane. Ooops!
Where to Enter The Brooklyn Bridge?
The entrance to start walking the bridge is a little hard to find, but don’t give up! It’s worth it. Look at the bridge and keep walking until you are nearing towards the end of it. Enter on the corner of Prospect St. and Washington St. You cross the busy intersection and there is a little hidden staircase that you climb up to enter the top of the bridge. If you have any trouble, ask a local. They will be able to help you.
*Brooklyn Flea Market
If you happen to visit Dumbo on a Sunday, check out the Brooklyn Flea Market. I have never been on a Sunday so unfortunately I keep on missing it, but it’s on my list of to do’s. I’ll get there soon enough. I’ve heard it’s a fun thing to check out for an hour or so if you are in the area. It’s small so you can get through it quickly. They sell all the traditional flea market items like clothing, household goods, and jewelry. There are a lot of vintage and handmade goods. Might be worth a look!
80 Pearl St.
*Harbor View Lawn – Movies With a View
If you are visiting in July or August on a Thursday night, it might be worth checking out the outdoor movie on Pier 1’s Harbor View Lawn. I walked around this area on a Thursday night last week, and it looked like a fun place to be. Harbor View Lawn was full of excited people sitting on blankets, ready to watch a movie on the giant screen. And the best part was that The Smorgasburg was set up right next to the movie area. It’s a smaller version of The Smorgasburg, with maybe ten stalls in total. The food stalls open at 6 PM and the movie starts when it gets dark. I think pairing the movie and the food together would make for a fantastic summer night!
40 73rd St.
Have you been to Dumbo? What’s your favorite thing to do and eat there? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!