Out of the Way in New York City – D.U.M.B.O.

Yesterday a friend told me that, although he’d grown up in New Jersey very close to New York, he’d never heard of Dumbo. Located on the East River in Brooklyn, this is not one of New York’s most famous sights – and also no relation to the cartoon elephant by the same name. Still, Dumbo, which stands for Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass, is a quite cool area worthy of being known. This past weekend when I traveled to Brooklyn, although I’d been to Dumbo before it had been a few years, so I decided to check it out again.

Why such an odd name for an awesome place? Its moniker was born in 1978, a product of residents and property owners who purposefully gave it a silly name to make it unattractive to outsiders who might be interested in buying real estate there. Did the ploy work? Not in the long run. People got over the name, and its population has increased over to 220% since 2000. Still, there are only about 3,600 people today living in this area consisting of a few city blocks, giving it quite the spartan and private feel. It also holds an awesome view of the bridge under which it stands.

Manhattan Bridge as seen from Dumbo

Its streets are not only almost devoid of traffic, but many are embedded with old railroad tracks as well, showing off the area’s old transportation route.

Empty street with railroad tracks in DUMBO

From at least one vantage point on these streets you can see both the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge in one eyeful.

Brooklyn Bridge in the foreground with the Manhattan Bridge in the background

Immediately under the Manhattan Bridge I found a good-sized park which would have been peaceful, as parks should be, except for the traffic roaring on the bridge overhead, its metal framework creaking loudly with the burden of thousands of cars. It was interesting to see so many people sitting right under the very loud bridge, reading, napping, talking. They must be so accustomed to the noise that they don’t even hear it anymore.

A park under the Manhattan Bridge

Dumbo is a draw not only for people curious about its name or in search of peace in the city. The area has a few little shops and restaurants and the outside walls of some of these are decorated with some interesting, colorful artwork.

Colorfully painted wall in DUMBO

Vines painted on a wall down under manhanttan bridge overpass

Colorfull painted exterior of bar or restaurant in Dumbo, New York

In my opinion, Dumbo’s main draw is not its limited food or shopping but its unique look and personality. After all, there’s not that many places where you can get a peaceful, out-of-the-way feel right in the midst of one of the busiest cities on earth. Dumbo will definitely give it to you.

How to get to Dumbo:

By foot: Dumbo stands just a few blocks away from the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Crossing this bridge by foot takes about a half an hour (allowing for time to take photos of the Manhattan skyline along the way) and is an adventure in itself. I highly recommend walking into Brooklyn via this bridge.

By subway: The A and C lines will take you from Manhattan to High Street in Brooklyn, from which it is only a few-block walk to Dumbo.

By ferry: A $4 ticket will get you a ride on the East River ferry from East 34th Street or Wall Street, Pier 11 in Manhattan to the Brooklyn Bridge Park. Dumbo is only a few blocks away from the park.

14 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Steve says:

    I don’t know if I could read with all that noise going on all around me. I usually need quiet to really concentrate. But then again, I guess if you’re used to it, you could probably do it.

    This is an interesting area of New York. I’ve never heard of it, which is weird because it has a memorable name. Maybe it gets lost among all the other cool places New York has to offer. Whatever it is, this area looks like a great place to check out.
    Steve recently posted..Why Being Assertive and Disagreeable Pays Off (And Being Nice Doesn’t)My Profile

  2. Sabina says:

    Steve, I think you’re right, in that it gets lost amongst all the millions of other places to go in New York. I do recommend, though, if you ever walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, you stop by this area. As for the noise under the bridge, I wouldn’t be able to lie there and sunbathe and read either, with all of the traffic noise. But some people deflect noise better than others, apparently.

  3. It does sound like a unique and off-the-beaten path that would be interesting to visit. I’d like to photograph the street art too. Love that you can see both bridges at the same time, though my favorite bridge photo is the first one :)
    Ayelet – All Colores recently posted..Reaching (Almost) the Top of the Top of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National ParkMy Profile

  4. Kathryn says:

    Just returned from Brooklyn and loved it! Each neighborhood seems to have it’s own culture and flavor. The food was outstanding too! I noticed your grafitti photos and we saw a lot of the same and it was actually very good art work! I enjoyed your post!
    Kathryn
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  5. Sabina says:

    Hi Ayelet – it really is an interesting place, and so accessible if you go over the bridge. When you get to Brooklyn some day, you should check it out. :)

  6. Sabina says:

    Hi, Kathryn. I’m glad you enjoyed reading this and loved your trip to Brooklyn. :) Graffiti can be beautiful, can’t it?

  7. Great photos of a cool place!

  8. Margie says:

    Awesome photos of a very cool place!

  9. What a unique place to visit and a location you never see in a brochure or tourist websites. Looks like a great place for some photography and downtime from a busy sightseeing vacation.

  10. Sabina says:

    Hi Margie – thank you!

  11. Sabina says:

    True – this is not a well-publicized place but quite worth the visit if you walk over the bridge.

  12. Try to bike the Brooklyn bridge. The view of downtown Manhattan is amazing

  13. Greg Goodman says:

    LOVE DUMBO… especially a steak dinner at Peter Luger’s right next to it. Great post. Thanks for sharing :)
    Greg Goodman recently posted..1,000+ Lanterns Rising in Unison — The Yi Ping Festival in Chiang MaiMy Profile

  14. Ooh thanks for the tip! I’ll have a few days in NY next year, and this sounds like the kind of place I’ll be needing to check out: relentless crowds do not a happy me make. Great shot of the two bridges together, by the way!
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..Finding Peace in BuyeoMy Profile

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