Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to the one day in Brooklyn itinerary. Quick, what’s the most greater monument in the world? Some might say that it’s the Taj Mahal. Others might vote for the Eiffel Tower. But while those places certainly dazzle the eye and mind, can you walk across them any time of the day or night?
Certainly not, which is why almost any New Yorker will say that the Brooklyn Bridge is tops, monument-wise. No one day in Brooklyn itinerary is complete without a stroll across the Roebling family’s greatest achievement.
Join me for a one day in Brooklyn itinerary and we will not only take a Brooklyn Bridge tour, we will dine among brownstones, and see the finest Christmas lights that mob money can buy! Let’s go!
One Day in Brooklyn Itinerary
Where to Stay?
I always laugh hysterically when people ask me this question. I have lived in the same apartment in New York City my entire life. That means I have never stayed in a New York City hotel. If I had unlimited funds, I’d spend my one day in Brooklyn itinerary over the Brooklyn Bridge in Manhattan at the Hotel Carlyle for the glamour and the bar with the Madeline drawings on them.
Or I’d stay at the Plaza, so I could pretend that I was Eloise from the adorable children’s books. I’m basically a Very Fancy Eight Year Old Girl who refused to grow up.
If you’d like to explore great deals on over 1400 other hotels in New York City, click here.
One Day in Brooklyn Itinerary
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
If the weather is rainy or snowy, which happens quite often in NYC, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out without feeling like some gauche tourist with gross feet.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
One Day in Brooklyn Itinerary
Morning: Meet the Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge is surely one of New York’s most iconic landmarks. I’ve lived in New York my entire life (saving the 3.5 years I spent in college) and I’ve experienced old Brookie here at all possible times of the day or night. The first time I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge on foot was at the tender age of four with my father. We were going to visit his girlfriend, who was a waitress in the South Street Seaport. (I had a strange childhood.)
My favorite times to traverse the majestic span of the Brooklyn Bridge are either early in the morning so you can see the sun rise or at night, so you can experience the city all lit up at night! But for the purposes of this one day in Brooklyn itinerary, you’ll probably end up walking over around 10 in the morning. Either it will be crowded or the weather will be bad…so win/win!
24 Hour Treat: Fancy Breakfast at Lafayette
Before we walk all the way to Brooklyn, we will need to fuel up on the Manhattan side of the bridge. We have a food tour later this afternoon, so I suggest beginning our one day in Brooklyn itinerary with my favorite meal: Fancy Breakfast. I live in Manhattan, and I can confidently say that my favorite Fancy Breakfast place in my neighborhood is French-esque Lafayette Grand Cafe and Bakery.
There are only two rules for Fancy Breakfast. First, it needs to be before 10 AM. Otherwise it is brunch, which is totally different. Also, the restaurant should be so nice that you look at the prices on the menu and feel very guilty for paying so much for breakfast. (Strangely, no one feels guilty for paying too much for brunch. Humans are odd.)
My favorite fancy breakfast dish at Lafayette are the scrambled eggs with truffle vinaigrette and chevre. The whole point of Fancy Breakfast is decadence, and nothing says decadence like truffles. In fact, I may add a third rule that you need to eat at least one truffle dish at Fancy Breakfast. Perhaps caviar would also be acceptable.
Lafayette is known for its pastries, and my favorite is the chocolate, coconut, and banana croissant. It’s like a magical trip to a tropical island colonized by the French! But take my advice and don’t finish the croissant. Ask for it to go because we will be finishing it for dinner tonight.
Now that we’re all full up, it’s time for our grand walk across the Brooklyn Bridge! Let me entertain you as we go with….
Three Fun Facts About the Brooklyn Bridge
1) why is the brooklyn bridge?
Back in the 1800s, Brooklyn and Manhattan were separate cities. Also, there was no bridge connecting them. When people wanted to cross from one city to the other, they needed to take a ferry. Unfortunately, one winter the East River got so cold that it froze over and the ferries couldn’t work. There are actual pictures of people walking over the ice-laden East River just to get to their jobs.
It kind of makes all my complaining about the MTA seem petty! Anyway, it was at this point that New Yorkers realized that ferries are picturesque but stupid. We needed a man with a plan. We needed a bridge.
2) who built the brooklyn bridge?
New York City engaged a German engineer named John Roebling to build our Brooklyn Bridge beauty. Roebling had already successfully built a suspension bridge connecting Cincinnati, Ohio with Covington, Kentucky.
Unfortunately, Roebling had his foot crushed by a passing ferry. (See! Ferries are dumb!) He tried to cure his foot by…pouring water on it. I don’t see the connection here, but maybe I’m not a genius like Roebling. Anyway, the water therapy didn’t work, and Roebling died.
Fortunately Roebling’s son Washington was left to carry on the job of finishing the Brooklyn Bridge. Unfortunately, Washington also became sick, in a surprisingly non-ferry related incident. (He contracted something called caisson disease, which sounds kind of glamorous, but is actually something very unpleasant that can happen to people who build bridges.)
Fortunately, Washington’s wife Emily was also a capable engineer, and she and Washington were able to work together to finish the Brooklyn Bridge. There’s no unfortunately here! Emily became an organizer for women’s rights, and Washington lived to the ripe old age of 89. But it’s New York City that came out best of all because we get to look at this masterful Brooklyn Bridge every day.
3) can you Fool All of the Elephants Some of the Time?
Unfortunately, New Yorkers were skeptical that this newfangled invention called a “bridge” could work. And like New Yorkers through the ages, they insisted that the Roebling family prove this bridge wasn’t a racket. Naturally, the forces behind the bridge engaged the most trustworthy man alive at the time for the job: PT Barnum.
Barnum decided to prove that the bridge would not collapse by marching 21 elephants across the Brooklyn Bridge. Apparently this proved persuasive, as thousands of people cross the Brooklyn Bridge by foot every single day. If I had access to a time machine, I think I might pick the day May 17, 1884 first. The chance to see 21 pachyderms migrate from one borough to another is too good to pass up.
24 Hours: Brooklyn Bridge Tour
Afternoon: Brownstone Brooklyn Food Tour
Once you’ve crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, the only logical step is to find something to actually do in Brooklyn for our one day in Brooklyn itinerary . Fortunately, Brooklyn is full of fascinating history, architecture, and filming locations from the various Law and Orders. (Chung! Chung!) I went to elementary school in Brooklyn Heights, which is one of the loveliest neighborhoods in the second greatest borough.
So I strongly suggest that you take the Urban Adventures Brownstone Brooklyn Food Tour. This way you’ll get to see three gorgeous parts of Brooklyn (Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, and Cobble Hill) for the price of one. Of course, we’ll eat extremely well while doing it. I hope to convince you further with the…
Approximately Top 5: Brownstone Brooklyn one day in Brooklyn itinerary
1) Stinky Brooklyn
The tour begins at the appropriately named Stinky Brooklyn. No, this is not a shop run by a snooty Manhattanite looking to dunk on the home of the Nets. Stinky Brooklyn is a cheese shop that also specializes in selling Brooklyn-only products. They even have gift baskets available with Kings County only goods.
But we weren’t here to go shopping for artisanal spicy peanut butter. We were here for the cheese! Our group got to nom on two different types of cheesy goodness. One was more sweet and nutty, but the other was as stinky as advertised.
It’s smart for the store to give you both choices because not everyone is adventurous enough for the smelly stuff. Me personally, I like a cheese that smells like a dead foot. And now with that appetizing image, let’s continue on our gastronomic adventure!
2) One Girl Cookies
If you say “Brooklyn Bakery”, One Girl Cookies is the first place to come to mind. I used to teach at a school in Brooklyn, and the two most popular teacher gifts from Brooklyn parents are cookies from One Girl Cookies and chocolate from Jacques Torres. Now if you ever need to go undercover as a well-to-do Brooklyn Heights parent, you are prepared!
One Girl Cookies is the literal love child of adorable couple Dawn Casale and David Crofton. Their family tree is even painted on the wall of the bakery.
Isn’t that cute? But as I always say, “Screw Romance! ME WANT COOKIE!” This is probably why I’m still single.
The tour continued the sensible practice of allowing us to sample many different items. We had three cookies: a seasonable brown sugar, an anything-but-basic chocolate chip, and a powerful mint sandwich cookie. Most of us agreed that the mint cookie was the best. It was like an after dinner mint and an Oreo had a gorgeous and sophisticated baby. And then I ate the baby. #sorrynotsorry
3) 61 Local
In Brooklyn, it is traditional to chase cookies with some beer. That’s why our next stop on our one day in Brooklyn itinerary had to be another local business supporter: 61 Local. We were given the choice between many interesting sounding beverages, both alkie and non. But I wanted to stick with the “support your local Brooklyn business” theme, so I got a rich Brooklyn-made brown ale.
How many craft breweries even are there in Brooklyn? I think there’s probably one craft brewery per Trader Joe’s at this point. Brooklynites love Trader Joe’s so much that they even store their money there. Don’t believe me?
See! Would I lie to you, Internet Stranger?
As much as I liked the beer, I like 61 Local’s bar nuts even better. Our group noshed on pretty much unlimited smoked almonds and sweet and spicy peanuts. Between this and the artisanal spicy peanut butter at Stinky Brooklyn, hot nuts are obviously a trend now. You heard it on this blog first!
4) Shelsky’s of Brooklyn
Of course, no one day in Brooklyn itinerary would be complete without a discussion of the people who truly made the borough great: the Jewish people! (Full disclosure, I am half-Jewish. So that makes me only half-biased.) The most famous Jewish contribution to New York cuisine is the delicious marriage of bagels and lox, aka cured salmon. I definitely prefer the term lox to cured salmon because I always wonder how the salmon got sick in the first place.
Our guide explained to us that there were two main kinds of Jewish food stores: delicatessens and appetizing shops. Delis served meat products, not including pork. Appetizing shops served Kosher seafood products, so no shellfish, and dairy. According to Jewish food laws, meat and dairy products should not be served together. As you can see from my gorgeous lox and bagel bite above, Shelsky’s is an appetizing shop.
5) Damascus Bakery
On to the next immigrant group to make Brooklyn more delicious: the Middle East! Damascus Bakery has been in Brooklyn since 1930. It was founded by Hassan Halaby, an immigrant from Syria. Greg told us that Damascus Bakery is largely credited with popularizing the pita bread in the United States.
Now their products get shipped all over the world. They even provide chains like Starbucks and Olive Garden with bread products. But you won’t be having any mass-produced bread substances on this tour. We’re not even going to have the famous pita.
Our snack here was the biggest portion on the tour: a spinach and lemon pocket. Everything tasted as fresh as a daisy made of bread. The best part for me was the pungent lemon permeating every bite. Try to get that experience at Olive Garden!
6) D’Amico Coffee
Though, as you can see, many immigrant groups have shaped Brooklyn into the gastronomic powerhouse it is today, probably the group most associated with Brooklyn and its history is the Italians. There’s so much food on this one day in Brooklyn itinerary that there was absolutely no room in our bellies for a slice of pizza. However, on this chilly winter day, a cup of freshly roasted coffee from D’Amico Coffee Roasters was most welcome.
D’Amico was founded in 1948 by Emanuel D’Amico, a Sicilian immigrant. It is located in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood, which has historically been Italian. He was one of the first people to bring small batch coffee to Brooklyn. So basically you can thank Mr. D’Amico for the popularity of Starbucks.
D’Amico is probably the best place in the borough to get a sense of what Carroll Gardens used to be like when it was a neighborhood of Sicilian immigrants. Nowadays the area is populated mostly by well-to-do families attracted by the excellent private schools in the area. Also, history aside, the coffee is amazing. I paid it my highest compliment by drinking it black.
7) Brooklyn Farmacy
Brooklyn Farmacy is a bit deceitful because it looks like an old fashioned soda shop, but it only dates back to 2010. In fact, this business has one of the best backstories of any place in Brooklyn. The owners had a dream to build a classic soda fountain. Unfortunately, they tried to start their business during the recession and loans were hard to come by. They just had enough money to start construction, but they weren’t able to take out an additional loan that they needed.
All hope seemed lost until a woman looking for directions stopped at the construction site. As fate would have it, she was the casting director for a show called Construction Intervention. They needed a final place for their first season finale and it turned out that Brooklyn Farmacy was the perfect fit.
The soda fountain got the money it needed to finish the renovation, Construction Intervention got its first season finale, and the denizens of Brooklyn got their ice cream sundaes. Everybody wins. (Except for Construction Intervention, which did not get a second season.)
Our final treat of the tour was the beloved egg cream. An egg cream is a classic New York soda fountain treat. You make it by mixing milk, seltzer, and Fox’s U Bet Chocolate syrup. The first time I had an egg cream was at the now-defunct Triplets Romanian Steakhouse.
The waiter fixed the egg cream at the table and poured the chocolate syrup in the drink while standing on a chair. (The Triplets who owned the steakhouse are now the subjects of a recent documentary called Three Identical Strangers. But I remember them best for their egg cream.)
One day in Brooklyn itinerary
Evening: Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Tour
30 percent of all tourists who come to New York City visit during the month of December. After all, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. And if you’re one of the lucky folk to visit NYC at this time, you can’t miss the chance to take the Slice of Brooklyn company’s Christmas Lights of Dyker Heights tour. (If you’re not enjoying your one day in Brooklyn itinerary in December, try taking in a show at the Brooklyn Academy of Music or seeing a Brooklyn Nets game if it’s basketball season.)
You can’t miss the chance to see the craziest Christmas lights that the world has ever known or ever will know. It’s also a wonderful chance to see a part of Brooklyn that is really off the beaten tourist track.
24 Hour Tip
If you’re worried about the cold, don’t be. This tour is a bus tour that leaves from the Union Square area in Manhattan. So you’ll be comfy-cozy in your heated transportation watching Dean Martin Christmas specials as you scurry from one crazy Christmas light to another. I’ll point you in the right direction with the…
approximately top 5: Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
1) The Blue House
Technically the first house on this tour is in the Bay Ridge neighborhood, not Dyker Heights. (New Yorkers take neighborhood boundaries very seriously. If you want to start a fight among New Yorkers, just ask them to define the boundaries between Chelsea and the West Village.)
This house is rather fancifully known as the Blue House. The couple that lives here is interfaith. The husband is Christian and the wife is Jewish. The husband wanted to decorate the house with Christmas lights, and the wife said fine, on one condition. She wanted the lights to be blue and white in honor of the flag of Israel. So here we have the world’s only Jewish Christmas lights.
2) Lucy Spata’s House
This place, which looks like an explosion happened at Santa’s Workshop, is the actual residence of Mrs. Lucy Spata. Lucy Spata is really the one who started the trend for over-the-top Christmas lights in the Dyker Heights neighborhood. She moved to Dyker Heights in the 80s and was shocked to find that people in the area didn’t decorate their houses for Christmas.
She decided to cover her home in lights and angels, and of course the cranky neighbors complained. Naturally Lucy Spata responded like any good New Yorker by…covering her home with even more crazy lights and attracting lots of tourists. Now the whole neighborhood gets into the Christmas spirit and they try to outdo each other every single year.
I was disappointed to hear some of the other guests on my bus tour speculate that the electric bills for the Christmas lights in this heavily Italian-American neighborhood were paid for by Mafia money. How dare they play into such stereotypes. But then I read that the Spata family son was indeed convicted of racketeering a few years ago. I really don’t know what the lesson is here.
3) Al Polizzotto’s House
Here’s a heartwarming tale! Al Polizzotto, who lives across the street from Lucy Spata, was suffering from cancer when he started his Christmas lights. He wanted to contribute something cheerful and positive to the neighborhood, so he had this giant Santa commissioned and placed outside his door for all the children to enjoy. I found the massive Santa to be too far into the uncanny valley for my liking, but all the kids on the bus tour seemed to love him.
Also, I need to add that Mr. Polizzotto did unfortunately pass away from cancer, and his wife keeps the lights going in his honor. I’m just trying to tell heartwarming stories about Christmas lights! I don’t understand why they keep turning so depressing!
4) Michael’s Cause House
I feel a little better about introducing this place because I know going into it that this story is a tearjerker. The little tents outside this green and white wonderland are raising money for Michael’s Cause. Michael is the little boy of an NYPD sergeant and a nurse, and he has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. People who suffer from this disease generally don’t live past their early 20s. I made a small donation and was told that all the money goes to finding a cure for DMD. (As of now there is none.)
Well, that’s a third story in a row with a sad ending. Let’s see if I can do better with the next house…
5) Musical Christmas Lights
The next house had one of the coolest Christmas light concepts I had ever seen. The family had their own private radio channel set up outside the house constantly playing Christmas music. As you drove up to the house, you saw a sign instructing you to turn your car radio to this channel. Then the Christmas lights would move and change in time with the music. In a world filled with disease and racketeering, it’s nice to find something that is as adorable and frivolous as the Christmas lights on this house.
6) Sam the Greek
The final house on this one day in Brooklyn itinerary belongs to Sam the Greek. Sadly we’ve never gotten the chance to meet him, but his name makes him sound like a character in a Damon Runyan short story.
Sam is an immigrant, and he spells out Merry Christmas in many different languages in the lights on his house. Now many of the different immigrants in the neighborhood can see Merry Christmas in their first language. (Although I think the thousands of lights that cover the whole building get the message across just fine for anyone whose language is not included.)
That’s a One Day in Brooklyn Itinerary!
What would you do with a one day in Brooklyn itinerary? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in New York City right now? How can someone be smart enough to design the Brooklyn Bridge and still think pouring water on your foot can cure gangrene? And just how many depressing stories did I put in this article? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have a one day in Brooklyn itinerary. And there’s a million other things to do in New York City. Want to spend Christmas in New York? What about 24 hours in Manhattan? How about the Bronx? Or the best museums in Manhattan? In (gasp!) Staten Island? I’ve got you covered here!