Where to Run in Brooklyn: A Local's Guide
By Marnie Kunz
I’ve lived in Brooklyn for most of my NYC life, and I have to say it’s my favorite place to live and run. So if you’re looking for where to run in Brooklyn, I got you covered. Brooklyn running is so inspiring because of all the colorful street art, brownstones, water views, bridges, and people watching. Brooklyn, NYC’s most populous borough and home to entertainment icons like Biggie Smalls and Larry David, is NYC’s most populous borough, home to over 2.5 million people. If it were it’s own city, Brooklyn would be the third most populous city in the U.S (after LA and Chicago). Brooklyn stretches from Coney Island to Dumbo, home of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, with neighborhoods of residents and visitors from all over the world.
With its diversity in people and neighborhoods, and beautiful views, Brooklyn is a must-see place to run in NYC. Here’s my list of some of the best Brooklyn running routes, categorized by neighborhood:
Dumbo, short for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, is a tourist favorite and for good reason: the best waterfront and skyline views in NYC. Brooklyn Bridge Park is a picturesque, 85-acre park along the East River that offers stunning views of Manhattan’s skyline as well as of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge. The park includes a breathtaking waterfront running path that’s perfect to take in the views and run along the 6 waterfront piers. There are also newly renovated restrooms (hard to find in NYC!) and several drinking fountains to help stay hydrated on your run.
Bushwick serves up the best street art and murals in Brooklyn, with expansive projects such as the Bushwick Collective and JMZ Walls. So if you love street art, Bushwick is your perfect Brooklyn run destination. The Bushwick Collective, which includes hundreds of murals painted by street artists from around the world, begins at 427 Troutman Street in Brooklyn. From Troutman, you can run along Jefferson Avenue and Saint Nicholas Avenue to take in the artistic murals with everything from tributes to Brooklyn to lifelike massive portraits and whimsical imaginative creatures. For even more street art, head over to Broadway Avenue and Union, and run southeast along Broadway, parallel to the JMZ subway line, to see the JMZ Walls. JMZ Walls is a local Bushwick art initiative created to “not only beautify our neighborhood, but to provide imaginative works of art the residents of Bushwick would not otherwise have access to,” according to the website. JMZ Walls includes many beautiful murals by prominent NYC artists such as BK Foxx as well as talented new artists in the community, and offers wall spaces for local street artists to paint and express themselves.
Red Hook is a unique seaside community that sits away from the hustle and bustle of NYC, due to its location (there is no subway line there but you can take a bus from downtown Brooklyn, bike or run to get there). If you want to extend your run from Dumbdo, Red Hook is a perfect addition to get in some extra miles, and it is easy to follow the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway path South from Dumbo into Carrol Gardens and Red Hook. The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway is a scenic bike path connecting 26 miles of Brooklyn’s waterfront neighborhoods, and currently 18 of the miles are completed, with 2021 set as the final completion date. Follow the path into Red Hook, and then you can run a few blocks over to Louis Valentino Park and Pier for stunning views along the water, including the Statue of Liberty. You’ll also see massive colorful murals on your Red Hook run, and if you’re hungry post-run, Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies, adjacent to Louis Valentino Park and Pier, serves up fresh pies daily, weather permitting.
Prospect Heights borders Brooklyn’s most popular park, 585-acre Prospect Park. Prospect Park features beautiful architecture, Brooklyn’s only lake, meadows, arched bridges, a boathouse, and a 3.36-mile running path loop along Park Drive. You can also venture off the official running path onto dirt running trails in the woods and fields in Prospect Park. The park is adjacent to the Brooklyn Museum, where you can take in world renowned art exhibits after your run.
Williamsburg and Greenpoint form Brooklyn’s northern section, and serve up hipster shops and eateries, waterfront running, street art, McCarren Park Track, the funky Williamsburg Bridge, and the scenic Pulaski Bridge connecting Brooklyn and Queens. Williamsburg running is very scenic, and a great place to begin is at the iconic Williamsburg Bridge. For the Williamsburg Bridge running path, enter at Berry Street between South 5th and South 6th streets. (Do not enter on the bridge’s bicycle path in Brooklyn as it is separate and you’ll get run over). The bridge offers a scenic view of the NYC skyline, lots of graffiti on the run, and about 1.38 miles (one way) of a great hill workout and people watching. If you run from Brooklyn, you’ll end up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, or you can begin in Manhattan and end in Brooklyn. Extend your Williamsburg run by continuing to run West down S. 5th Street once you exit the bridge, and this will take you to Kent Avenue and the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway path, with awesome views of Manhattan from across the water. Run through the new Domino Park at 300 Kent Avenue for incredible waterfront views as well as a slice of local history, at the site of the historic Domino Sugar Factory, and a tribute mural to the neighborhood. You can stay on Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway into Greenpoint, or head northeast from the greenway to get to McCarren Park, which offers a newly redone track, outdoor workout equipment, a pool, dog parks and sports fields. In Greenpoint, hop on McGuinnes Boulevard to run over the Pulaski Bridge, which offers beautiful views of the Manhattan skyline, set against the water. The Pulaski Bridge is also part of the NYC Marathon course, and is a smaller bridge, at just over a half mile, so if you’ve already conquered the Williamsburg Bridge, this one is no sweat to run over.
Coney Island, at the southern tip of Brooklyn, offers a uniquely Brooklyn mix of people watching, carnival games and rides, murals, beach and boardwalk. Luna Park is the amusement park that drives visitors and locals alike to the area, with rides like the Coney Island Cyclone and retro carnival games like skeeball at Luna Arcade. One of the best ways to take in the sights and sounds of Coney Island is to run along the boardwalk, but beware of peak hours in the summer, when it may be hard to run through the crowd. A morning summer run on the boardwalk or an afternoon run in the other seasons is a perfect way to see the sights and enjoy the calming crashing of the ocean waves. Bonus: You’ll have plenty of eating options on the boardwalk after your run, and if you’re hot, you can take off your running shoes for a quick dip in the water. The Riegelmann Boardwalk in Coney Island stretches for 2.7 miles, from West 37th Street at the border of Coney Island and Sea Gate, to Brighton 15th Street in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. If you want to extend your run, you can run on Surf Avenue from the boardwalk, adjacent to the New York Aquarium, and turn onto Ocean Parkway for a running and biking path that continues north up Ocean Parkway all the way to Prospect Park.
Where are your favorite Brooklyn running places? Comment below.
Marnie Kunz is a RRCA-certified running coach and the creator of Runstreet Art Runs, which bring together communities through running and street art. She is a Brooklyn resident, running coach and writer. She enjoys traveling, art, and eating messily. You can follow her running and events at @Runstreet Instagram and Runstreet Facebook.
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