Prospect Park is one of those neighborhoods in Brooklyn you just don’t hear that much about. Most people who want a little taste of Brooklyn flock to Dumbo or Williamsburg, never actually losing sight of Manhattan. It boggles me because there are a ton of fun things to do in Prospect Park. If you’re just brave enough to lose sight of the (East River) shore, you’ll find some pretty amazing neighborhoods.
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t spend a lot of time outside of Manhattan and Queens until I started dating my boyfriend Ryan. When our relationship became more serious I started spending more time in Prospect Heights than I did where I lived in Astoria. When we finally decided to move in together I caved on Brooklyn pretty quickly. I had already been spending so much time there and we just couldn’t take our dog Chewy away from his favorite park.
Ryan and I spent a year living in Crown Heights. During that time I did my best to explore area as much as I could. I fell in love with Prospect Park, enjoyed being just minutes from the Brooklyn Museum, and acquired an endless list of favorite restaurants. Most importantly thought, it was the place of mine and Ryan’s first apartment together. Even though it may seem just sentimental to me, there really are so many things to do in Prospect Park.
Read on for my complete list of things to do in Prospect Park.
1. Have Breakfast at Bagel Pub
One of the best bagel spots in the entire city is in Crown Heights, just a few blocks away from Prospect Park. Bagel Pub is just around the corner from my old apartment and a good reason to get up early to explore Prospect Park. It’s just one train stop passed the Brooklyn Museum and still within walking distance to everything you’d want to see in this neighborhood.
This place has everything. It even goes beyond the normal New York bagel scene by having a full fresh squeezed juice bar. Their breakfast sandwiches, fresh bagels and broad selection of cream cheese easily made it one of my favorite breakfast spots in Brooklyn.
The only real downside to Bagel Pub is that it can get VERY busy and there’s almost always a line. If you want to skip the line order ahead on Seamless or your favorite delivery app. Just be sure to give them plenty of time to prepare your order. You can always snag a seat inside once you get there.
2. Soak up the art at the Brooklyn Museum
There are so many amazing museums to check out in Manhattan. Because of that, the Brooklyn Museum will rarely make a visitor’s to do list, especially if it’s their first time to the city. Not that I would ever try to take away from some of the more popular museums in New York, but I do think it’s worth taking a break from those to spend some time at one of the oldest and largest museums in the United States.
I’m not a huge museumer. Is that a word? Probably not, but I’m using it anyway. I have tried so hard to be moved by art. It just happens very rarely and I find myself wandering museums overwhelmed and desperate to lock something into my memory. The only up side to that is that when it does happen for me, it’s pretty unforgettable. I can still remember how I felt when I saw Picasso’s Guernica in Madrid, or Monet’s Water Lillies in Paris.
The Dinner Party
I can also still remember the first time I saw The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago on display at the Brooklyn Museum. Set up like an actual dinner party in a private room are 39 place settings, all representing an important woman in history. In addition to the beautifully painted china plates and embroidered table runners, are the the names of 999 other notable women inscribed on the heritage floor below. The Dinner Party is the center piece of the Sackler Center for Feminist Art collection housed at the Brooklyn Museum. Today it has attracted over 1 million viewers.
If that alone isn’t enough to woo you, the Brooklyn Museum has had some very noteworthy temporary exhibits. In the past few years they’ve house popular exhibits including a Frida Kahlo and David Bowie exhibit. On top of the amazing art, you can get really lucky on your visit and possibly catch the much loved Mister Softee ice cream truck parked outside.
3. Walk through the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens
In a city like New York it’s so important to get in touch with nature every once in awhile. Being immersed in what is only ever referred to as a concrete jungle can leave you aching for a bench surrounded by a few trees and maybe even a peaceful waterfall to provide an afternoon soundtrack.
There are so many ways to get in touch with nature, especially through all the amazing parks scattered throughout the city. An even better way though is by taking a trip to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Since it’s adjacent to the Brooklyn Museum and a combo ticket to both can save you about $15, it would be crazy not to add this to your list of things to do in Prospect Park.
The 52 acre garden has been operating since 1911 and is essential to Brooklyn’s history. It offers a number of exhibits, tours and workshops to visitors no matter what you’re in the mood for. Even if tours and workshops aren’t your thing, you can just bring a book and a snack and have a picnic in the Japanese Garden or Cherry Esplanade – or just walk through the numerous gardens and greenhouses.
4. Hang out in Prospect Park
Prospect Park is one of my favorite places in Brooklyn. I remember the very first time I visited. I was with Ryan on a walk with Chewy during the brand new dating phase of our relationship. It was right at the beginning of Fall and the leaves were just turning colors and I had the wrong shoes on. I guess you can say I fell in love with Brooklyn and Ryan at the same time.
It would be a little silly to have a list of things to do in Prospect Park and not have actual Prospect Park on the list right? It’s not hard to spend an entire day in this massive 585 acre plot of land, but even a quick stroll through is a nice way to spend an hour or two. It has every activity you could want in a public park. Including: skating rinks, horseback riding, every sport you can think of, BBQing and picnic spots, and endless other activities.
Prospect Park also hosts Smorgasburg on Sundays from April through October. This massive outdoor food hall is one of the best ways to enjoy the greatest food in New York City all in one place. There are only two other locations for Smorgasburg; one at World Trade Center on Fridays and one in Williamsburg on Saturdays.
5. Have lunch near Prospect Park
Prospect Park and the surrounding neighborhoods have some of the most incredible restaurants in the city. From new and hip fine dining to been-there-forever local favorites, it’s almost impossible to narrow down just one or two places to eat. I could, and probably should, devote an entire blog post to the long list of essential restaurants to eat at near Prospect Park.
I used to live at the intersection of Franklin Ave and Eastern Parkway just off the 4,5,2 & 3 train stop. That strip of Franklin Avenue has some of the most incredible restaurants in Brooklyn. I know it’s easy to throw around ‘best of’ lists. It’s especially easy when it comes to restaurants because there are just so many good ones in New York City. But when I say Franklin Ave has some of the BEST in the city, I am not exaggerating. I’ll definitely compile my list into a blog post at some point but here’s a short list in the meantime.
Notable places to eat lunch near Prospect Park are:
- Lowerline (794 Washington Avenue) – New Orleans style place with delicious Po Boy sandwiches and some authentic seafood Gumbo.
- Lincoln Station (409 Lincoln Place) – Great place for fancy sandwiches and delicious coffee!
- Chavela’s (736 Franklin Avenue) – The absolute best Mexican food in the neighborhood and you should probably stay for a pitcher of their Campachena (I prefer the red one).
- Tom’s Diner (782 Washington Avenue) – Insanely popular diner style food that normally has a line around the block for breakfast.
- Franklin Park (618 St. Johns Place) – A great beer hall with delicious burgers, including plenty of Vegetarian and Vegan options.
- Morgan’s BBQ (267 Flatbush Avenue) – This was my favorite BBQ place in the city before I turned into a vegetarian. For the carnivore’s out there, this is for you!
6. See a movie at Nitehawk
It takes a lot to get me away from the Alamo Drafthouse in Downtown Brooklyn. Once I saw my first movie there, I practically signed a blood oath of loyalty to the theater. On the west side of Prospect Park is an old movie theater that was restored and reopened by Nitehawk Cinemas. This place weakens my dedication to the Alamo Drafthouse just a teeny tiny bit.
Formerly the Pavillion theater, the old building was run down and had a pretty bad reputation in the neighborhood before it went dark in 2016. Instead of tearing the building down completely, it was restored and reopened as a beautiful, hip and still historic theater. The place is now a true neighborhood gem, holding on to some of the buildings treasures including a balcony from the 1920s.
The movie lineup here will range from major Hollywood hits, to indie films to random fun showings of old movies. My boyfriend and I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the movie) here for brunch and I was so impressed with the theater. The food was incredible and it also didn’t hurt that they had cans of Westbrook Key Lime Gose for me to sip on during the film.
I think I almost love watching old movies on the big screen more than I do new releases, is that weird?
7. Shop at the Saturday Farmer’s Market
GrowNYC has a bunch of farmers markets all over the city, the most well known being the massive Union Square market. But there are a TON of others all over the city in various sizes. You can find a GrowNYC farmers market happening on almost every day of the week at one New York City neighborhood or another.
I used to spend every Saturday morning in Prospect Park when I lived nearby and always loved shopping at the Greenmarket in Grand Army Plaza. It’s the second largest in the GrowNYC program and is Brooklyn’s flagship farmers market. Every Saturday from 8am-4pm the northwest corner is overrun by local produce, fresh eggs, dairy, baked goods, and prepared foods to try while you’re shopping. You can find a list of year-round vendors, as well as as additional information about the market here.
8. Explore nearby neighborhoods
This part of Brooklyn has some of my favorite areas to visit, including Park Slope and Downtown Brooklyn. Walking through some of the beautiful brownstone lined streets of Park Slope and spending time in the bustling atmosphere of Downtown Brooklyn are two things I did regularly when living in Crown Heights.
Park Slope is considered to be one of New York’s most desirable neighborhoods. It’s filled with historic brownstones, hip indie boutiques and enough amazing restaurants to satisfy whatever you’re craving. Downtown Brooklyn is most known for being a massive business hub but has seen a drastic increase in luxury high rise apartment buildings in recent years.
Nearby you have the Fulton Mall which is a huge shopping destination filled with outlet shops and department stores. You’ll also find the new City Point Shopping Center growing quickly with hip shops, the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater and the underground Dekalb Market. Oh, and don’t forget to visit the original Junior’s Cheesecake location on the corner of Dekalb and Flatbush Avenue.