Travel + Leisure is exploring America one three-day weekend at a time. Here’s what to do during a short trip to New York's hippest borough.

By Melanie Lieberman
August 26, 2016
Barry Winiker/Getty Images

We know what you’re thinking: you could spend years of your life in just one Brooklyn neighborhood and never experience all of the attractions (i.e. impossibly hip bars and cozy coffee shops). But that doesn’t mean you should confine yourself to just one block of New York's coolest borough. In fact, we dare you to take a vacation in Brooklyn that lasts only three days—and explores the community’s highlights from industrial Williamsburg all the way to Coney Island on the edge of the Atlantic.

Day One

Public transportation connects John F. Kennedy International Airport to a few of Brooklyn’s main subway lines, but the fastest way is certainly via cab. Check into the Tillary Hotel, which is conveniently located in Downtown Brooklyn. It’s shockingly affordable, a quick drive to the Manhattan Bridge (not that you’re going to that side of the city on this trip), and filled with design-driven details like handwoven rugs and stenciled headboards. Around the corner is the Barclays Center, where you can catch a show (think: Cirque de Soleil) or a basketball game pretty much any night of the week. Head downtown on the A or C train (or hail a cab) for dinner at Saraghina, a craft-pizza spot in the booming brownstone neighborhood of Bed-Stuy. Order the Naples-style pies and, though we love the typical-Brooklyn dining room (whitewashed walls, reclaimed furniture), make use of the backyard patio. For a late-night drink, it’s just a ten-minute walk to Casablanca Cocktail Lounge (cash only) where weekend funk dance parties are not uncommon.

Day Two

Rise early and take an easy walk to Brooklyn Bridge Park. The attractive promenade is lined with waterfront bars and ice cream parlors. If you need a jolt, order an Uber or rent a bike from Brooklyn Bridge Bike Rental and pedal to Williamsburg. Here, you can sip a latte from quiet Black Brick Coffee or settle down for a full brunch at Café Mogador. Request a seat in the greenhouse and order a Moroccan-style dish from the brunch menu (Middle Eastern eggs with tabouli and zahatar pita) or skip straight to lunch with a lamb tagine. Walk off the feast at the weekend market Artists & Fleas—you may find you just can’t live without the retro glasses from Brooklyn Optics or the upcycled jewelry by HaKNiK.

It’s a lengthy trip, but the hour-long subway ride to Coney Island is a worthwhile way to spend the evening. Crowds of kids will have thinned out by the time the sun starts to set, and you can enjoy the rides (and the hot dogs) while Luna Park is all lit up. Even in the winter, it’s fun to walk along the slightly creepy, deserted boardwalk—especially when it’s dusted with snow. 

Day Three

Start your day at the Vinegar Hill House in DUMBO, which serves a peach sourdough pancake so good it easily lures people out of Manhattan. Linger there all morning with a pitcher of white wine sangria in their garden on a balmy summer morning. Whether you’re visiting in the frigid winter or during cherry blossom season in late spring, there’s really never a bad time to visit the borough’s Botanic Gardens. Outside, visitors can take note of all the blooms in the Cranford Rose Garden, built in 1928. Inside highlights include the Aquatic House, which houses hundreds of orchids, as well as waterfalls, mangroves, and carnivorous plants. When it’s time for dinner, take a ten-minute train ride (or enjoy an easy 20-minute walk across Grand Army Plaza) to Flatbush Farm. Dishes change regularly with the seasons, but the crispy bread you’ll tear through while eyeing the menu is always delicious and addictive. 

For more long-weekend itineraries in America's best vacation destinations, click here.