A Great Deal on the Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge at night

New Year’s Eve in The Big Apple and your GypsyNesters were seriously contemplating a Times Square, ball-dropping extravaganza. After a bit of research and chatting up of locals, we felt that wading into a crowd of a million people, getting frisked and herded into little fenced-in safety areas, then standing for hours with no restrooms, food or libation is no way to ring in a new year.

Even an article entitled “Fear Conquering & Ball Dropping,” as hilarious as that would be, could not entice us to spend that much time needing to pee.

So, what to do? There are numerous clubs with parties and bands all over town, fancy restaurants with special dinners and enormous price tags, hotels with rot-gut champagne packages, cruises on the rivers and even a lung-busting midnight fun run through Central Park.

We chose a fast growing new tradition for our New York New Year revelry – walking across The Brooklyn Bridge. Both free of charge AND priceless.

Scenes from the Brooklyn Bridge at night

Guided tours are available for this unique annual trek, but thousands of people each year bundle up and set out across the bridge on their own.

We began our crossing at about a quarter past eleven, had plenty of time for a leisurely stroll, as leisurely as possible among throngs of revelers on a December night above The East River, across the bridge and then get back to the middle in time for the countdown to midnight.

The views of the Manhattan skyline, the river, other bridges and The Statue of Liberty make for a fantastic walk on any day or night of the year, but since we had the chance, why not on the eve of a new year?

Scenes from the Brooklyn Bridge at night

With ten minutes left until the big moment, we crowded our way to the center of the bridge. It was packed with revelers. Not a bad thing as the wind had picked up and the temperature dropped down, we gladly shared our body heat and excited smiles.

We, along with throngs of others, kept a close eye on the nearby Watchtower Clock in eager anticipation. We were not the only non-locals, it was like a mini U.N. meeting up there. Joyful noise in many languages floated around us as we gazed upon New York City dressed up in her holiday splendor.

Fireworks fired from Governer's Island

Just before midnight an exuberant Japanese group began a chant and the countdown began. The finale of the count was easily understood in any language, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Hugs and greetings were exchanged between strangers and loved ones alike while fireworks brightly exploded in several locations around the city. Champagne corks popped and toasts were offered as each group celebrated according to their tradition. Awesome!

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States with construction beginning in 1869 and completed in 1883. At the time it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, 1,595.5 feet. There was some tragedy involved with the building of the bridge, designer John Augustus Roebling crushed a foot during the surveys for the project, contracted tetanus and died.

Before passing away he appointed his son, Washington Roebling, to carry on the project, but Washington was stricken with decompression sickness while diving below the river to work on the pilings. He was left paralyzed but communicated his wishes through his wife Emily, who supervised the project for eleven years. All told twenty seven people lost their lives during the construction.

Despite the tragedy, the bridge became an immediate icon with poems and songs written about it. Later, it became a movie star appearing in dozens of films including Deep Impact, Godzilla, I Am Legend, Cloverfield, Zombi 2, and Kate & Leopold.

The Manhattan Bridge viewed from the Brooklyn Bridge at night

Though we most likely stood out as visitors to the big city, no one tried to sell us the bridge like George C. Parker and William McCloundy are famously said to have done to gullible tourists back in the early 1900s. They must have been fairly successful salesmen since the phrase “I’ve got a bridge to sell you” became a part of the American lexicon. By 1949 even Bugs Bunny was trying to sell the Brooklyn Bridge to a naive tourists.

Wallets intact, we walked into Manhattan to find a spot to warm up, have a nightcap and relieve ourselves. That’s right, we managed to refrain from peeing off the bridge. We found a little place but, man, had the celebrations taken a toll on this bunch! Of the seven people left in the bar, two were asleep and four were incoherently drunk.

The other one was the bartender. He seemed OK. We ordered and sat back to watch a little bit of the show. After a bit of babbling and barfing from the characters, we decided it might be time to call it a night.

Grimaldi's Pizzeria under the Brooklyn Bridge

We didn’t try it on New Years for fear of the crowds, but right at the base of The Brooklyn Bridge, on the Brooklyn side, is Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, with arguably New York’s best pizza.

Now that’s a bold statement, New York is known for it’s pies and the joints that serve them, so we we happily delved into our latest chapter of the “New York Pizza War.”

Legend has it that the first pizza ever was served by Gennaro Lombardi at Lombardi’s in Little Italy way back in 1905.

Lombardi’s still serves up a mean pie, we know from experience, but hundreds of other places have sprung up to compete, forty six of which have Ray’s in the name one way or another. Ray’s Original Pizza, Famous Ray’s Pizza, World-Famous Original Ray’s Pizza, it seems like there’s one on every corner.

Our personal favorite among the contenders comes from John’s of Bleeker Street, still, we’re always on the lookout for a better pie, so a trip to Grimaldi’s was undertaken. Their website claims “the coal-fired oven at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria delivers a unique flavor and consistency that is just not possible from wood or gas ovens.”

Both John’s and Lombardi’s also use coal ovens, so we are inclined to believe the boast, but trying is believing.

Grimaldi’s is a tiny place under the Brooklyn Bridge in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) and is famous for not only the pizza, but the line waiting to get in. Even on this Sunday afternoon the line was several dozen deep.

After about twenty minutes we were inside. Ordering didn’t take much thought, the menu is limited to basically salad and pizza. No pasta here and the listed appetizers looked to be pizza toppings served minus a crust.

No problem, it’s all about the pie. In fact the center point of the restaurant is the line where they make the pies. It’s dinner and a show, watching the dough get pounded, tossed, covered and popped into the oven.

Coal-fired goodness!

The finished product is one good pizza. Great cheese, excellent crust and sauce that would make a jaded New Yorker cry.

The Italian sausage is a favorite at Grimaldi’s, so we had to give it a try. They grind it fresh and toss it on raw to cook with the pie. Mama mia!

In general, our favorite pizza is the one we’re eating at the time, but with a little time to reflect we agreed that John’s is still our favorite. Their meatball is hard to beat. But Grimaldi’s is really close.

Maybe we should go back to each several times, just to make sure.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Did you enjoy what you just read? Then you'll LOVE our book!
Going Gypsy: One Couple's Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All Going Gypsy One Couple's Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All 

- See how it all began!
ORDER NOW - Wherever Books Are Sold!
Amazon - Barnes & Noble - IndieBound - Books-a-Million
Also available as an audiobook from Audible.com

17 thoughts on “A Great Deal on the Brooklyn Bridge”

  1. Very good post! We are linking to this great article on ouur website.

    Keep up the good writing.
    kurikulum manajemen

  2. I’ve heard horror stories about Times Square (adults voluntarily waring diapers due to the lack of bathrooms!)…this sounds like a much better (and more sane) way to ring in the new year in New York City. Consider it added to my list. Thanks for sharing!

    1. We did too. Sounds like Times Square has lost its charm. This struck us as something like how Times Square might have started out years and years ago. Just a spontaneous celebration. It was great.

  3. Happy New Year from Texas empty nesters — but not sad. We love our children but loved our quiet Christmas eating what we wanted, getting up when we wanted and watching what we wanted on tv! Thanks for sharing your life on the road with us!

  4. Sounds like a wild time in New York for New Year’s Eve. I don’t think I could handle Times Square either for the big day. Maybe they are all so happy at midnight because they have been caged up so long and finally go free? ha I would love to just do a pizza weekend in New York. There are so many great places to try.

  5. I am a native New Yorker. In all the years I lived in the city I never went to Times Square to celebrate the New Year. (usually went to house parties, it was warm and there was plenty to eat and drink). Like you say, it’s cold, it’s crowded, and no bathrooms in sight. The Brooklyn Bridge walk sounds pretty cool, though! And BTW New York has the best pizza in the world!

    1. Sounds like you’ve got the New York New Year’s Eve down nicely! We’re hoping that someday we’ll have access to Times Square in a more civilized way – maybe looking down from an adjacent building (with bathrooms, delicious pizza and central heating!). Until that day, we’ll have to pass. 😉

  6. Thanks for your report, interesting as usual. Good call not to enter the crazy Times Square ball dropping arena. We’ll be watching from the comfort of home . . if we can stay awake that long!

    I have to go have pizza now, thanks to the photo.

    Happy New Year to you both.

  7. Greetings and Happy New Year from the folks at Boomer Life Media. Great article as I will be actually working in Times Square tomorrow night. And I am happy to announce that I will be indoors working on MTV’s NYE festivities complete with a birds eye view of TSQ, food and a bathroom.

    Happy New Year Gypsy Nesters!!!

  8. Great article! I made the pilgrimage to Times Square on New Year's Eve in my early 20's. We lived just across the river so it wasn't so far to go as it is now! I was young and and the young don't need to pee quite as often as those of us on the other side of fifty!

    I always say everyone should do New Year's Eve in New York at least once in their lives. Of course, i it was a different experience in the early 70's than it probably is now. Your walk across Brooklyn Bridge seems equally thrilling to me now. Thanks for sharing the idea. I intend to pass it along to my kids who talk every year about making their journey to the Big Apple ~ though there's will be longer!

    I do think that this year was one of the warmer New Year's Eves on record. We required a bottle of Blackberry Brandy on our night and even then it was far from warm! Thanks for sharing your experiences ~ I felt like I was there!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.