One of my “day jobs” is a New York City Tour Guide. I was asked to learn the Brooklyn Bridge tour so I can lead in it two weeks. In other words, I needed to cram my brain with as much information about the Brooklyn Bridge as possible AND maybe pay it a visit, since I had only crossed it once eight years ago! So I asked my very talented opera friend Susan to cross the bridge with me, listen to me drone about random Brooklyn Bridge Facts, and get a little exercise while we were at it.
Let me tell you – walking is fabulous exercise and what better way to do it than walking over a picturesque landmark on a warm (albeit slightly cloudy) spring day? It’s free, it’s laid back, it’s beautiful, and it burns calories!
So – how do you walk the Brooklyn Bridge? Take the 6 train to City Hall/Brooklyn Bridge. When you exit the station, you’ll see the bridge if you look East! You’ll have to cross the street and then you’ll follow the multitudes onto the bridge. I must warn you, STAY TO YOUR RIGHT! The left “lane” is for bikers and they show NO MERCY! (But if you want to BIKE across the bridge, that would also be great exercise. If you do – STAY TO THE LEFT!)
The bridge is 1,595 feet long, which means from the date it opened (May 24th, 1883) to 1903 it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, and the first to use steel cables! If you want to learn more about the bridge you can always wikipedia it here OR read the David McCullough book THE GREAT BRIDGE or watch the Ken Burns documentary. It has a ridiculously fascinating history, especially where the Roebling family is concerned. Before you walk across, I suggest you do a little research so you can fully appreciate the historical significance of the bridge! You can also learn about it’s history on your walk! Which gets us back to our original post here – walking across the bridge for exercise!
You’ll soon reach the Manhattan tower! On it is a plaque commemorating John Roebling, the bridge’s designer and his son Washington Roebling, who oversaw construction after his father died in a freak accident before the first stone of the bridge was put into place! There is also a plaque explaining a little of the bridge’s history.
Around the periphery of BOTH towers is a series of engraved plaques by Keith Goddard which in explain, in great detail, how the bridge was built. It was suggested to me that it would be a fun activity to bring paper and a pencil to make rubbings of these plaques.
After you’ve gotten your fill of the Manhattan Tower, you can continue walking towards Brooklyn. When you reach the middle of the bridge, if you look left you will be able to see three buildings which each held the title “tallest in the world” at one point in history. The Met Life Building, the Chrysler Building, and of course the Empire State Building.
To your right you’ll be able to see The Statue of Liberty herself! (Officially titled Liberty Enlightening the World.) (She’s really really tiny on the right hand side of this photo!)
Continue towards the Brooklyn Tower!
My brave companion Susan!
When you reach the Brooklyn Tower you will see more of Keith Goddard’s beautiful engravings. (They are identical to those Manhattan side!) You will also see a plaque commemorating Emily Roebling, America’s first female engineer! She is one of the interesting unsung figures in history. After her husband, Washington Roebling, came down is a bad case of Caisson disease, Emily basically took a crash course in engineering and became his right hand “man.” It was Emily that travelled to the bridge and gave the orders and reported back to her husband. If this wasn’t enough, she also got a law degree from NYU! In the late 19th century, this was quite an unusual accomplishment! You can read more about her here or in her American Society of Civil Engineers biography here!
After you leave the Brooklyn Tower, you will continue along the bridge path. I highly suggest you take the stairs as a way down! If you follow the bridge path all the way to the end, you will end up very far from the water and Brooklyn Bridge Park (though very close the A train!) However, if you take the stairs down then head towards the water, you will reach a lovely park. There is a carousel that cost $2 to ride.
Me riding the Carousel
Susan getting into character on the carousel.
There is also a DELICIOUS ice cream shop called the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. I’m an ice cream snob and this met my expectations. The world famous Grimaldi’s Pizza is a block away. Of course, these counteract the entire reason you walked across the bridge in the first place, to get exercise! So you can just sit and enjoy the STUNNING view!
To get home you can take the A or 2/3 train, but if you have a little time to spare, I suggest you take the East River Ferry! It’s $4, and you get a beautiful little tour of Manhattan and Williamsburg!
Susan on the Ferry
And that is a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge! You can walk across any of the main bridges to Brooklyn, but I recommend the Brooklyn Bridge above the others. It has a beautiful history, but also it has a pedestrian promenade ABOVE the traffic, so you aren’t walking along side speeding traffic. It also afford the best view!
I hope this inspires you to explore one of New York’s Landmarks! A bit of a shameless plug, if you would like a walking tour with a live tour guide of the Brooklyn Bridge, you can always contact New York City Walking Tours!