There are millions of things to see in New York City. Hands down, the biggest tourist attraction in New York connects the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan. The Brooklyn Bridge is an architectural wonder that has served as a landmark of New York City since it first opened to the public in 1883. Today, more than 150,000 people cross the Brooklyn Bridge each day on foot, bike, and car. I’ve visited the Brooklyn Bridge a few times, but each time I’ve tried to walk over it, it’s started to torrential downpour.
The Brooklyn Bridge is a suspension bridge that uses a hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge design. Construction was a huge and expensive process, and the city helped fund the project by renting out some of the underground vaults to serve as wine storage. Crazy, huh?
Construction on the bridge is a big history story to tell, and you can find out more online with a simple Google search. What I found to be extraordinary is something I only first discovered during my walk over. This plaque honors Emily Warren Roebling, the wife of Chief Engineer Washington Roebling. Washington’s father, John, developed the idea for the Brooklyn Bridge. Unfortunately, he was one of many who died during the construction phase.
After taking over the project, Washington developed decompression sickness, which almost ended all dreams of the Bridge being completed. Emily stepped in, taking on the day-to-day role and serving as the first woman field engineer. She learned what she needed to about materials, cable construction, and stress analysis, and she worked closely with her husband to ensure the Bridge would be built. I never knew about this until I looked up what this plaque means, and it’s pretty amazing. Emily later became the first person to cross the completed Brooklyn Bridge by carriage, holding a rooster as a sign of victory.
If you’re walking over the Brooklyn Bridge, you have the option of walking from Brooklyn to Manhattan or Manhattan to Brooklyn. Since I had plans to go to the Transit Museum, I started in Manhattan (there are subways nearby with connections to the 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, R, and W trains) and walked over to DUMBO. DUMBO stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, something I also didn’t know until a little over a year ago.
Because it is such a popular spot, the Brooklyn Bridge can get very crowded. The earlier you can get there, the better your chances of being able to cross the bridge without dealing with mobs of people. While the bridge is open around the clock, I don’t really recommend crossing it in the middle of the night. I got there around 10:20 in the morning, and it was pretty empty. There are vendors selling typical tourist things and photos of the bridge.
Want to add your own love lock to the bridge? Don't.
The special pedestrian walkway and bike path on the Brooklyn Bridge sits above traffic. The pathway makes the bridge a very popular place for runners and cyclists, so make sure to pay attention and stay in the proper lane as you cross! This beautiful boardwalk gives way to sweeping views of the East River, Brooklyn, and Lower Manhattan.
There’s also a clear view of the Manhattan Bridge.
You can even see the Statue of Liberty!
I have to be honest here: walking across bridges scares the hell out of me. Driving is fine, and running is easy. But when I walk across a bridge, I can feel even the slightest swaying, and I get insanely paranoid that the structure is going to collapse. The Brooklyn Bridge design includes three support systems, and original designer John Roebling said that even if one support system failed, the bridge would only sag in response.
Walking across the bridge takes about 15 minutes, depending on how much you stop. If you’re walking from Manhattan to Brooklyn, I recommend turning around at some point to see the view of lower Manhattan. It makes for a beautiful photo.
Welcome to Brooklyn!
As you finish up your journey, you’ll start to see distance markers to some other Brooklyn neighborhoods.
The official Welcome to Brooklyn sign and map! Now that you’re in Brooklyn, you can go explore the borough, or walk back over to Manhattan.
Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge may seem like one of the most touristy, standard thing to do in New York City, but it really was fun. The Brooklyn Bridge is a National Historic Landmark, and it’s a breathtaking and unforgettable part of New York history. It’s easy to see why thousands of people visit the bridge each day, and it’s the perfect place to add to your own New York bucket list.
Interested in more bucket list adventures in New York City? Follow along on Instagram at @fiveboroughbucketlist!