With a relatively funny name, Dumbo is one of the most well-known neighborhoods in Brooklyn. The name Dumbo is actually an acronym, standing for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.” This is because much of the neighborhood is located between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. The neighborhood is relatively small – it covers only a few blocks and is home to only about 1100 people. However, there is quite a lot to do and see in this tiny little area! Read on for some more information about this hidden gem in New York City.
A Brief History
In the early 20th century, the area that is now Dumbo was mostly industrial. There were many manufacturing plants, specializing mostly in machinery and paper goods. The ubiquitous cardboard box was accidentally invented in this region by a man named Robert Gair. Gair was a printer and bag maker in 1870s when his metal ruler accidentally cut one of his bags. He discovered that he could use the same technique to cut and crease paperboard, putting together prefabricated cartons that soon became what we know as the cardboard box. For a short while after this revolutionary discovery, Robert Gair was looked at as a New York icon and the area was known to locals as Gairsville.
By the middle of the century, the area became more and more residential, with many factories moving out. As early residents of the area wanted to prevent it from becoming too crowded, they gave it the name Dumbo, hoping that the ugly name would keep developers out. That worked for a while, but the neighborhood eventually became gentrified, and by the 2000s it became a trendy, upscale area with many hot new restaurants and sites to see. Dumbo became legitimized in 2007 when it was officially designated as New York’s 90th historic district.
The Robert Gair Building is still a centerpiece of the Dumbo neighborhood, and is home to many luxury condos and offices. In fact, the popular internet marketplace Etsy currently calls the Robert Gair building home.
Best Restaurants for Families
Despite its small stature, Dumbo is home to some of New York’s best restaurants. If you are traveling with children, consider visiting any of these three.
o Grimaldi’s Pizza – Grimaldi’s is one of the most highly-rated pizzerias in New York, and once you take a bite of their delectable pies, you’ll see why. Fortunately, it is a great place for kids because it is crowded and full of noise, so they won’t have to worry about being on their absolute best behavior. They don’t take reservations, however, so make sure to get there early.
o Superfine – This is a casual diner offering a diverse, high-quality menu. The staff members here are fun-loving and great with kids, always willing to tweak the menu items to cater to their tastes.
o Front Street Pizza – While Grimaldi’s offers up delicious brick-oven pizza, Front Street is a classic New York slice shop that pumps out pizza fast! If your family needs a meal quickly, this is the place to go. You won’t be disappointed by their offerings, and your kids will enjoy the authentic New York experience.
Local Tips and Tricks
Although Dumbo isn’t all that large, there are still many secrets hidden therein. Check out some of these sites and attractions if you have the time and want to stay away from crowded tourist areas.
o Visit the Brooklyn Flea – This is a flea market that is hosted every Sunday under the bridge’s arches. You can find many arts and crafts here at a fraction of the price you might spend in a fancy studio!
o Fireboat House – here you can get a delicious scoop of ice cream and enjoy a relaxing view of the bridge and the Manhattan skyline.
o Brooklyn Bridge Park – while this is much smaller than Central Park, it is also far less crowded. It has wonderful views of the city and provides a great open space for your kids to play while you stop for a breather.
o Janes Carousel – this old school wooden carousel contains 48 hand-carved horses and was built in 1922. It was originally constructed for an amusement park in Ohio, but it was sold to a Brooklyn couple at an auction in 1984 after the park closed. The residents who bought it – David and Jane Walenta – made it known that they wanted the carousel to be permanently placed in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The carousel is an exciting, fun ride for children, and tickets are only $2 per child. Children under 3 can ride for free if accompanied by an adult.
Best Place to Stay
If this information about Dumbo is enticing you enough to want to stay there, we recommend the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. It is walking distance from all of the best Dumbo attractions and offers breathtaking views of the Brooklyn Bridge, the river, and the Manhattan Skyline. With four different restaurants inside the hotel, you have plenty of dining options, although we recommend getting out and exploring the neighborhood!
Have you been to Dumbo ? Do you have any more tips? Please comment and share below to spread the traveler butterfly love!