Tour Review: The New York Times Journeys and Urban Adventures – Dumbo, the New Brooklyn

Disclaimer: In exchange for my review of the New York Times Journeys – Dumbo, the New Brooklyn tour, I received one VIP ticket for the soft launch.

When I go to Brooklyn, it’s generally for making a beeline to the Russosphere – in other words, Brighton Beach/Sheepshead Bay, dominated by immigrants from the former Soviet Union.  I’d buy a few things at one of the numerous supermarkets, snack along the Coney Island Boardwalk, and then…buy more food, for the fridge.

But this time, the nice folks at the New York City-based tour company Urban Adventures unexpectedly invited me to participate in their newest tour, that being focused on the youthful Brooklyn neighborhood of Dumbo.  This tour was created in collaboration with The New York Times Journeys, known for their small group educational tours.

Brian was the affable tour guide for the day; you can tell he took pride in his job of chatting with the group about various points of interest, food, and trivia.

Although the acronym Dumbo stands for”down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass,” the story behind its revitalization is an interesting one.  But first, let’s hear it for the two routes connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn that add the superlative picturesque qualities to the area.

Ah, yes, the iconic Brooklyn Bridge and the…other one, the Manhattan Bridges.  These photos were taken from the roof of the Empire Stores mixed-used museum, mall, and office space.  The building which houses Empire Stores was built in the 1870s for the Arbuckle brothers roasted coffee processing facility, and overlooks a waterfront promenade that formerly saw boats mooring daily.  Not to mention, the first of the two bridges – the Brooklyn – was only completed in 1883, with one major reason being that when the river froze, commerce nearly ground to a halt.

Empire Stores

Throughout the tour, we stopped at a few different places for a bite.  The first was a place called Smile to Go, with branches in Manhattan, too.  The Dumbo location has a bakery en situ, and they adopt some seasonal flavors and ingredients to keep the menu fresh.

Banana Quinoa and Banana Buckwheat were among the options

Along with the Arbuckle brothers, Robert Gair was another prominent name in Dumbo in the late 1800s.  He is best known for patenting the cardboard box.  Yeah.  In other words, something that pretty much every business relies on at some point in their supply chain, be it Brooklyn Roasters (another one of our stops), the Powerhouse Arena bookstore and event space, and even…

Randolph Beer, a microbrewery specializing in brews from the Tri-State area.  “Beer Yourself” refers to the beer buffet; you get a stored-value card, hold it up against the computer terminal, and pour away.  Though I don’t agree with their communal glass rinsing space, you might want to check them out for their own brews and foosball.

Overall, the tour was fun, it introduced me to some fascinating tidbits about historic New York, and the eats were good.  Check out Urban Adventures to see what else they have in store.

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