Exploring the 19th Century Wonders of Prospect Heights and Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York

Break_Out_of_Bushwick's picture
12 years
2013-08-19 to 2013-08-24

When most families visit New York, they make a beeline for Manhattan. While Times Square, the Empire State Building, and Central Park should definitely be on a visitor’s travel itinerary, Brooklyn, known as Manhattan’s “Big Sister,” has countless notable and important destinations and is, I think, well worth exploring. As the biggest of five New York City boroughs, however, one might wonder where to begin! I believe that the area around Prospect Park, developed in the 19th century around the time of the Civil War, is particularly steeped in history, and boasts a museum, public museum and natural spaces on par with any found in Manhattan. I visit this area regularly with my daughter and friends on both sunny and rainy days, and am never left wanting. Prospect Heights and the bordering Prospect Park delight young and old family members alike while allowing teens to boast to their friends back home, “I went to Brooklyn!”

View at Brooklyn Botanical GardenWhere to Stay

While Brooklyn is certainly less expensive than Manhattan, it’s not cheap. Growing, gentrifying neighborhoods and a resurgence of cool destinations have, virtually overnight, made Brooklyn pricy. Deals are still to be had, however, and comfortable, convenient hotels can be found just a hop, skip and a jump away from Prospect Park. The Union Hotel, located just two blocks away from the subway, offers sufficient accommodations for just under $100 per night, while establishments such as the Best Western Plus Prospect Park Hotel, albeit a little pricier at around $200-$250 per night, offer spectacular views of downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Where to Eat

Prospect Heights, like most New York City neighborhoods, offers dining options from street cart fare and pizza to opulent, candle-lit bistros. I suggest trying Le Gamin for it’s French-fare, Geido for incredible sushi and, for lighter snacks, Christie’s, which, while not for veggie-lovers, serves authentic Jamaican beef patties. In fact, because Prospect Heights is so ethnically diverse, and offers food inspired by delicious meals around the world, I think you should ignore my suggestions and let your eyes and nose lead the way- you’ll be sure to find a restaurant that will appease the gastronomical beast living inside each of your family members!

Getting Around

New York has a fantastic public transportation system. With subway stations located in every neighborhood, easy-to-navigate signs, and at either $2.25 per ride or deals on three-day, weekly, and monthly passes, the subway offers an inexpensive alternative to taxis. As anyone will tell you, however, New York is primarily a walking town! Be prepared to stretch those legs by packing comfortable shoes and perhaps muscle cream to apply to aching calves at the end of a long day. Make sure to carry water, although, if you’re anything like me, you’ll need to either pick up extra bottles in a corner store or fill yours up at a water fountain. For little ones, keep in mind that trying to see all the places listed below will be much too ambitious to pack into just a couple of days, and that even for older kids and adults, to see all the destinations described in this article will- if done right- take at least four to five days. Don't try to rush it. You and your family will get much more out of the experience if you take your time.

Waterfall at Prospect ParkBackground about Prospect Heights and Prospect Park

Prospect Heights, with its rows of classic 1890s residential rowhouse brownstones and diverse ethnic and economic demographics, is a fascinating neighborhood to visit. A gorgeous neighborhood with tree-lined streets, its southern border, Eastern Parkway, contains stunning examples of 19th century architecture, including the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, and has countless shops and restaurants that welcome the entire family.

Prospect Park

After landscape architects Frederick Olmsted and Calvert Vaux completed Manhattan’s Central Park, they got to work designing Prospect Park. With 585 acres of lush green, forested spaces, and a man-made watercourse that includes a lake, pools, and even waterfalls, kids have plenty of space to run off steam and explore while parents can catch their breath and relax next to one of the many Neoclassical buildings throughout the park. A particular highlight while in the park is to take a pedal boat out onto the lake. Make sure to check out the Boathouse on the Lullwater of the Lake, which houses the Audubon Society’s only urban center in the United States.

Brooklyn Museum of Art

While New York tourists flock to the Met Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, which is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States, is a “not miss.” Founded in 1895, this Beaux-Art building houses over 1.5 million works of art, including works by New York greats, Mark Rothko and Edward Hopper.  The Egyptian collection of artifacts is spectacular, particularly interesting children with a few real mummies on display, and there’s plenty to see in the arts of the Africa, Pacific Island, Islamic, European, and feminist art wings. Also, if you’re not able to get to the Statue of Liberty on your New York trip, no worries, there’s a replica of this iconic statue in the back lot of the museum!

Prospect Park Zoo

Sea lion at Prospect ZooOriginally opened in 1890 as the Menagerie, Prospect Park Zoo underwent a five-year renovation in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and is now managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society. Housing over 140 species of animals, visitors can take the Discovery Trail through the southern quadrant of the zoo to see dingos, red pandas and other animals, while the youngest members of the family can crawl through underground tunnels and up into clear observation posts where they can hang out with a colony (or “town”) of prairie dogs. Don’t miss one of three sea lion feeding times at Sea Lion Court, where the antics of these sea mammals delight both young and old.

Brooklyn Botanical Garden

Adjacent to the Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden boasts 39 acres of lush forested areas, wide-open grassy lawns, and all manner of environments, including the Japanese Hill and Pond Garden that designed by famed landscape architect, Takeo Shiota, a terrace containing pools filled with giant lilies and koi fish, a glass conservatory containing carefully maintained ecosystems of plants from around the world, vast expanses of rose and lilac gardens, as well as an esplanade of cherry trees. Of particular delight for children is the Discovery Garden, with paths where kids can run and plenty of hands-on activities to spark their imaginations.

Brooklyn Public Library

Conceived in 1898, with construction beginning in 1912, the New York philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, donated large sums to complete the Brooklyn Public Library located next to Grand Army Plaza and Prospect Park.  The building, with cool, marble interiors, offers a great place to quietly wander while taking a respite from running around Prospect Heights.

Grand Army Plaza

Originally conceived of as a peaceful entrance to Prospect Park, Grand Army Plaza now also contains a loud, circular traffic circle just adjacent to both the park and the Brooklyn Public Library. The centerpiece of the plaza is a large arch with granite columns and bronze finials, and is covered in sculptures commemorating American war heroes, generals, presidents and other luminaries from the Civil War to the present. Every Saturday, the plaza holds a farmer’s market, which gives visitors to Brooklyn the opportunity to try new foods and just generally people watch.

Sea lion at Prospect Zoo
My daughter and a friend at Prospect Park
Big Field in Prospect Park
Cherry blossoms at Brooklyn Botanical Garden
Prospect Heights
We made a new friend in Prospect Heights!
View at Brooklyn Botanical Garden
Rodin sculpture at the Brooklyn Museum of Art
Koi at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden
Walking in Prospect Heights
A ceiling in one of the Neoclassical buildings in Prospect Park
My daughter looking into the koi pond at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden
Flowers in Prospect Heights
Mom and daughter time in Brooklyn!
Waterfall at Prospect Park
Article Type: 
In-Person Impressions


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