DUMBO, NYC Neighborhood Guide

DUMBO is one of Brooklyn’s premier destination neighborhoods, and plenty of discerning New Yorkers consider it squarely in the mix for the title of New York City’s so-called “coolest neighborhood”—though good luck to anyone hoping to win that argument! Regardless of whether you’re in the mood for a waterfront stroll, want to spend your afternoon shopping, or hope to catch a performance of that hot new theater production you’ve heard so much about, DUMBO is the place to go.

DUMBO Neighborhood History

DUMBO was once a major industrial district, a working-class neighborhood dominated by huge manufacturing companies operating out of enormous waterfront warehouses. For over a century, one of the more notable features of the area was that it was where the Fulton Ferry docked upon its arrival in Brooklyn from Manhattan. With the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 and the Manhattan Bridge in 1909, this ferry saw a major decrease in usage and the service was eventually discontinued. However, the neighborhood remained a hub of industry for several more decades of the twentieth century.

Near the end of the twentieth century, the real estate developer David Walentas purchased basically the entirety of the area we now know as DUMBO and commenced a series of intensive development projects. DUMBO has gentrified rapidly during the twenty-first century and today it is one of New York’s most expensive neighborhoods, as well as a major tourist attraction.

Exploring DUMBO

For many visitors, DUMBO’s biggest draws are its waterfront parks and scenic views. For such a small neighborhood, the area contains a remarkable array of public green spaces. Though now grouped together as part of the much-larger Brooklyn Bridge Park, Empire-Fulton Ferry and Main Street Park have long been local favorites. There you’ll encounter Jane’s Carousel, a charming, 100-year-old amusement park ride that’s been fully restored within the past decade, as well as numerous places to have a picnic, enjoy the weather, and soak up the atmosphere.

DUMBO has a terrific local arts scene headlined by St. Ann’s Warehouse, The Archway, and the Dumbo Walls. St. Ann’s Warehouse is a beloved performance space that routinely puts on critically acclaimed theater productions, concerts, and more. The Archway is found within a 45-foot-tall corridor underneath the Manhattan Bridge, and this unique space routinely hosts live music, food vendors, and other special events. The DUMBO Walls consist of an ongoing public art project that’s seen renowned artists like Shepard Fairey and Yuko Shimizu paint large murals on various metal and brick surfaces near local transportation hubs, with the results being colorful, kaleidoscopic works that weather and evolve as time passes.

DUMBO is an acronym that stands for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.” This Brooklyn neighborhood is bordered to the north by the East River, to the south by Brooklyn Heights, to the east by Vinegar Hill, and to the west by the Brooklyn Bridge.

DUMBO Dining

Though relatively compact in size, DUMBO features several notable food experiences. Time Out Market New York is a popular destination found here. At nearly 25,000 square feet, this trendy space presents a curated selection of some of the city’s hottest restaurants, providing you with approximately two-dozen dining options under one roof. And speaking of roofs, Time Out Market New York’s rooftop bar is worth your time, too.

Two beloved pizzerias vie for the affections of DUMBO locals and visitors alike. Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, located in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, is a DUMBO institution. When its founders retired, they sold their shares in the business. However, they eventually came out of retirement and triumphantly returned to the pizza game by opening up Juliana’s Pizza practically next door to Grimaldi’s. Now you can grab a slice at both joints and embrace your inner food judge!

The French pastry chef Jacques Torres is world-renowned for his skills in the kitchen, yet it’s not that easy to get your hands on one of his delicious treats, as Jacques Torres Chocolate only has one brick-and-mortar location anywhere on the planet (though he does have an ice cream-centric storefront at Grand Central). Lucky for you, it’s right here in DUMBO!

DUMBO Shopping

Empire Stores is a major DUMBO shopping destination. Occupying the renovated remains of a historic waterfront warehouse, Empire Stores is where you’ll find Time Out Market New York and retailers like West Elm and Feed.

The upscale flea-market organizer Brooklyn Flea has a location at 80 Pearl Street in DUMBO. Typically open between 10:00am and 5:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays from April through December, Brooklyn Flea sells an assortment of vintage clothes, stylish antiques, quirky accessories, and more.

Given DUMBO’s reputation as an artsy neighborhood, it’ll come as no surprise that a handful of prominent arts organizations and publishing houses have storefronts in the area. These include brands like Melville House, powerHouse Books, and Adanne Bookshop.

Explore DUMBO Like a Local

  • Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’ve probably seen DUMBO’s signature image before: a postcard-ready shot of one of the Manhattan Bridge’s towers framed perfectly between two brick buildings, with a picturesque cobblestone street running symmetrically toward the bridge. This iconic photograph is a DUMBO landmark—it’s taken from a stunning view down Washington Street—and while you’re in the neighborhood you’ll want to be sure and see it firsthand for yourself.
  • Consider going on a guided tour of the greater DUMBO area. There are numerous tours out there on the market today that explore the nearby Brooklyn Bridge, the borough’s street art history, and the lovely East River waterfront.