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Best free thing in NYC: Walking the Brooklyn Bridge


There’s nothing like a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge. Just don’t take up any offers to buy it.

I may have a fear of driving across the Brooklyn Bridge, but when it comes to walking across it, count me in. It’s fun, good exercise, offers great views, and for this cheap Yankee, most importantly, it’s FREE.

In fact, walking the Brooklyn Bridge and riding the Staten Island Ferry are the best free attractions in the Big Apple. When I was a New York Destination Expert on TripAdvisor.com, they were the two sightseeing things I recommended most to visitors. (Skip the tour bus and spend your money on Broadway tickets and great food.)

My husband Jerry and I recently took a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge on an overcast day. It rained towards the end, but was a non-issue. We brought rain jackets, what more do you need.

Walking the bridge you can start in either Brooklyn or Manhattan. Both sides offer public transportation back to the other if you need it. What I especially like is you aren’t walking right next to cars, the traffic is underneath. As a pedestrian, all you have to contend with are bikers, who have their own designated path. Do yourself a favor, do not walk in the bike lane, the riders will be vocal about it.

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The bridge crosses the East River and on one side you can see the Statue of Liberty. It was really cloudy on this trip but I could make her out, fog and all. On the other side, there’s the Manhattan Bridge, which is… a bridge.

The view of the Manhattan skyline as you approach is spectacular, especially with the addition of One World Trade Center (The Freedom Tower), which fills an important gap. But the Brooklyn side has some little gems too, including the Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Watchtower Building with its famous sign. The Watchtower building is one of 34 in Brooklyn owned by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are selling the properties to move to upstate New York.

Overcast weather, I could barely make out the Statue Liberty, but she's there.

Overcast weather, I could barely make out the Statue Liberty, but she’s there.

After walking the bridge, it’s worth a stop on the Brooklyn side to visit the DUMBO neighborhood (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). About a five-minute walk from the pedestrian entrance, DUMBO has some good food and bars.

There’s a pizza war going on in DUMBO right now. There used to be (and still is) a famous pizza spot there called Grimaldi’s, with lines of visitors (I hate the word tourists). Grimaldi’s was sold by owner Patsy Grimaldi. The new owner, Frank Ciolli, didn’t pay his rent and he moved Grimaldi’s to the building next door. Patsy Grimaldi then came out of retirement in 2011 to open a pizza spot in the old Grimaldi’s location, which he named Juliana’s. Read the whole convulted story HERE.

On our recent trip, Grimaldi’s had a long line of visitors waiting to get in so we popped into Juliana’s. No wait and it was good pizza! Not earth-shattering or mind blowing, but good indeed with a nicely charred crust from the coal-fired oven. Worth a visit.

So have some fun and walk that bridge. Even if you are afraid of heights or bridges, trust me, this one is easy.

Extra Tip: For an amazing viewing experience, dress up and snag a dinner reservation at The River Cafe in Brooklyn. Make it early enough so it is still light out. As it gets dark and you are enjoying your fine meal, watch as the lights on the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline slowly turn on. This is a very special glimpse of urban beauty.

Pizza at Juliana's, a five-minute walk from the Brooklyn Bridge. Don't wait in line at Grimaldi's. You'll get Patsy Grimaldi's good coal-fired oven pizza with nice char at Juliana's.

Pizza at Juliana’s, a five-minute walk from the Brooklyn Bridge. Don’t wait in line at Grimaldi’s. You’ll get good coal-fired oven pizza with nice char at Juliana’s.

All photos by Patricia Gay, all rights reserved.

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