Ahhh. The Bronx. Easily one of the most culturally rich and entertaining boroughs of New York City with a history that doesn’t always get the credit it deserves. Sure, it’s home to Yankee Stadium and the Bronx Zoo, but tucked between the nooks and crannies are some truly special gems. Through museums, national landmarks, and community experiences, these are my favorite things to do in the Bronx.
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Fun Facts About the Bronx
But first. Let’s contextualize the BX. Here is a quick summary of the interesting history and cultural facts about the Bronx.
- The Bronx is the Birthplace of Hip Hop: Yep–hip hop roots are deep in the Bronx, believed to have been born on 1520 Sedgwick Ave in 1973. The mastermind behind the style was DJ Kool Herc, a teenager who would spin records at parties between sets that his father played. His ability to engage the crowd with his beats and style of talking over Jamaican-style songs resulted in the beginning of hip-hop six years before it was named.
- Home of the New York Yankees: The world-famous New York Yankees have been calling the Bronx home since 1923. The Yankees used to play their games at the Polo Grounds, which is now home to the New York Giants but had to move to a bigger stadium when Babe Ruth started drawing millions of fans. In 1923, Yankee Stadium finally came to life when the team bought a lumber yard across from the Hudson River that soon became one of the most visited attractions in the city.
- Diverse Cultural Scene: The Bronx is like the Boyle Heights of Los Angeles– but instead of Mexican heritage, there is a rich Puerto Rican and Dominican influence. Nearly 35% of the population in the Bronx was born in other countries, which can easily be seen in the diversity of shops, restaurants, and events held across the borough. The largest concentration of cultures is from the Dominican Republic, China, and Jamaica, but there really are people from all around the world in this area.
- Native American Heritage: Many don’t know this, but the Bronx has a rich Native American heritage beginning long before the skyscrapers and busy streets. Originally, the Bronx was inhabited by several Native American tribes, including the Lenape and Siwanoy. For centuries, these tribes lived within the modern-day Bronx boundary and along the Bronx River before the European invasion forced thousands from their homelands.
- Notable Figures: Many famous people and celebrities grew up and called the Bronx home. Some of the most notable celebrities who proudly connect their roots to this borough are Jennifer Lopez, Sonya Sotomayor, Cardi B, Billy Joel, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, and Mary J. Blige.
Special Things to Do in the Bronx
1. Wave Hill Garden & Cultural Center ★
Wave Hill is one of the most famous public gardens in the Bronx, set on the northwest side of the borough with stunning views of the Hudson River. The property has some of the most alluring flower gardens, greenhouses, an alpine house, and a cultural center for visitors to explore. You can purchase food at the onsite cafe or bring your own to enjoy at one of two designated picnic areas. Free admission is available on Thursdays and a shuttle that runs from Thursday to Sunday each week to help visitors get to this magical place.
2. Bronx Museum of Art
The Bronx Museum of Art is one of our favorite free museums in NYC and a popular cultural destination for lovers of contemporary art. Their vibrant exhibitions focus on the true urban experience of the Bronx and reflect the dynamic and rich communities of the borough. Visitors can view more than 2,000 pieces with special exhibitions centering on local artists. The museum offers a ton of events from Wednesday to Sunday, including movie screenings, family nights, artist’s talks, and workshops for the public.
3. Paddle the Bronx River ★
Kayaking in the Bronx River is the perfect activity for NYC travelers searching for a taste of outdoor adventure without having to leave the city. But even better? You’re supporting such an important cause. Once considered one of the worst waterways in the country, the Bronx River has undergone a massive transformation thanks to the Bronx River Alliance. Today, they also provide opportunities to boat along the river’s southern parts through the Bronx Zoo and the Botanical Gardens.
If you visit NYC in the summer, the weather is perfect for kayaking ad navigating the waters without getting too hot or cold. You can use several launch sites and a map to navigate your trip. Or, go with the Bronx River Alliance to support an important cause.
Permits are required to launch both kayaks and canoes into the river.
4. The Lit Bar ★
The Lit Bar is a unique brick-and-mortar bookstore and wine bar that inspires book lovers to gather, read, and share. Owner and Bronx native Noëlle Santos opened the store on National Indie Bookstore Day back in 2019, intending to create a community center mimicking the eclectic style of the Bronx with her lifelong love for literature. Serving as the only bookshop in the borough, The Lit Bar has a carefully curated selection of books, gifts, and programs for visitors to participate in. Hours here a slightly limited, only open from Tuesday to Sunday, 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
5. Starlight Park
Located along the tranquil banks of the Bronx River, this park’s scenic oasis is part of the Bronx River Greenway, offering a picturesque escape from the city hustle. Here, you can bike, walk, and paddle along the gentle river currents or try your hand at fishing in designated areas.
For athletes, the park boasts well-maintained basketball courts and soccer fields, providing ample space for games with your friends. Children can delight in the Starlight Playground.
Nearby, is also Concrete Park, but it’s currently closed for renovations.
6. Bronx Brewery ★
The Bronx Brewery is more than just your average stop to grab a beer–it’s a hub for building community. The mission of the brewery is to create a diverse, vibrant culture that celebrates and unites the many cultures of the borough over handcrafted beers and good food. The original Brewery, Taproom, and Backyard (one of the best outdoor spaces in NYC) is located on 136th Street, where majority of beer production takes place. The brewery also partners with Empanology across the street that serve empanadas, artisanal pizzas, and other Puerto Rican-inspired dishes.
7. Bronx Night Market ★
From April to November, vendors from over 40 countries gather together to sell a variety of cuisine and treats at the Bronx Night Market. The streets come alive with music, events, and fun merchandise to celebrate and support local vendors showing off their creations. While the prices here can be a little high, you can find a ton of one-of-a-kind dishes from Bronx vendors, all in one place. This event is only held on the last Saturday of every month, so be sure to plan ahead if you want to attend.
8. La Morada Oaxacan Restaurant ★
From the outside, La Morado looks like a regular Mexican restaurant in the city, but there is a reason this spot is considered one of the best restaurants in NYC. The owners, Natalia Mendez and Antonio Saavedra, hail from the village of San Miguel Ahuehuetilán Oaxaca, coming to New York in 1993 after crossing the Sonoran Desert. They excel in their ability to create authentic Oaxaca meals, offering five types of moles and meatballs that are so popular you have to order in advance to get them! Family members help run the restaurant, so between the warm staff and rich dishes, you really feel as if you’re being welcomed into someone’s home.
9. Pelham Bay Park
In the northeast corner of the Bronx, Pelham Bay Park is the largest public park in the city and has a ton for outdoor visitors to do. There are miles of hiking trails and bridle paths, two golf courses, and 13 miles of saltwater shoreline along the Long Island Sound. Orchard Beach is a popular attraction in the park and one of the best beaches in NYC, perfect for swimming in the summer, with a view of City Island. There’s a ton of bike paths, but if you don’t have a bike, you can rent from several shops nearby or schedule a tour of the area, such as the ones offered through NYC Adventure Ebike Tours.
10. Admire Villa Charlotte Bronte
Set along the Hudson River with a view of the Palisades, there stands a set of breathtaking Italian villas named the Villa Charlotte Bronte. Designed by Robert W. Gardner–the designer of the Staten Island Museum–the property features stone archways, a courtyard, and beautiful architecture that makes you feel like you jumped from NYC to Italy! You can’t just enter the property, as people still live here, and it’s extremely private. But the villas are one of the things in the Bronx you have to pass through to on your way to other cool attractions nearby.
11. Little Italy (Arthur Avenue)
You can’t visit the Bronx without taking a stroll down Arthur Avenue and sampling the delicious comfort foods of Little Italy. This is the place to go for pasta, bread, meats, pastries, and delectable espressos that taste like they came straight from the cafes of Europe. Arthur Avenue is the result of decades of Italian immigrants settling and growing their families in the area. Some of the most notable places to stop are Mike’s Deli market, Full Moon Pizzeria, and Emillia’s if you’re looking for a sit-down dining experience. Top it all off with coffee and pastries at DeLillo Pastry Shop!
12. Chocobar Cortes
Cholocate is the star of this gastronomic hot spot serving a full menu of chocolate-infused creations. Chocobar Cortes has been manufacturing premier chocolate from bean to bar since 1929 as a 4th generation, family-owned brand. They use chocolate in unique ways to make some of the most delicious treats: grilled cheese with chocolate butter, grated chocolate guacamole, Blood Marys with chocolate bitters, and more. They also serve specialty cocktails with hints of chocolate and craft beers from the Bronx Brewery.
13. City Island (Boats & Food)
When the weather is warm, City Island is one of the best Bronx attractions to explore for its small community vibe, fresh seafood, and fun activities. You’re only a short bridge away from the mainland, but you feel like you’re in an ocean town hours outside the city, where only local restaurants and shops (aside from a Dunkin Donuts) reign. Most of the shops, eateries and galleries are located on City Island Avenue. If you find yourself visiting NYC in July around Independence Day, you can see all the different fireworks shows going off in each borough from across the water!
14. Universal Hip Hop Museum
This museum doesn’t officially open until 2024, but in the meantime, curators have been putting on rotating exhibitions at the temporary location in Bronx Terminal Market to hype up the city for this future attraction. These exciting exhibits give a sneak peek into the storytelling techniques, artifacts, and different types of materials the museum will use to educate others about the importance of hip-hop in our society. The Univeral Hip Hop Museum will be located in the birthplace of hip hop in the South Bronx. It will be the only institution that celebrates the history, evolution, and artistic expression behind this culture.
15. New York Botanical Garden + Thain Family Forest
The New York Botanical Garden is a living museum and cultural institute that is gorgeous to walk through during the warmer months. This is the largest city garden in the country, spreading over 250 acres with over 50 collections and 1 million plants to view! If you’re visiting NYC in Spring, the Orchid Show is a spectacular event from February to April where visitors can view thousands of orchids in a relaxing meditative space. Also in spring is the Daffodil Walk, where Daffodil Hill looks like a sea of yellow as these seasonal flowers bloom.
The Thain Family Forest takes up 50 acres along the Bronx River, full of old-growth trees and un-cut foliage that make up part of the New York Botanical Gardens. It used to be known as the Hemlock Grove, with a heritage dating back to pre-colonial Lenapechoking and is the largest surviving wilderness of what used to cover NYC. The forest is open year-round, and they offer a 1-hour walking tour where you can learn about the geology, history, and ecology of the area. You will have to pay admission to the Botanical Gardens to access this attraction.
16. Van Cortlandt Park
Van Cortlandt Park is the third largest park in NYC, sprawling over more than 1,000 acres on top of valleys and ridges. You’d never think of hiking, bird watching, or traipsing through thick forests when visiting the Bronx, but this park is full of outdoor activities. The entire property used to be in possession of the Van Cortlandt family, who worked the land with enslaved Africans for three generations, starting in 1698. Here are some of the spots we recommend visiting while you’re there:
- Van Cortlandt House: A museum located in the park that serves as the centerpiece for what used to be the family plantation. The home was built between 1748 to 1749 and is open for self-guided tours, Tuesday to Sunday, with free admission on Wednesdays. They host of a variety of events on the lawn to celebrate the history of the slaves that used to work the land and their cultural traditions.
- Vault Hill Overlook: This is a scenic spot in Van Cortlandt Park and the official burial land of the family. The land around Valult Hill puts hikers about 169 feet above sea level with beautiful views. On a clear day, you can see the Manhattan skyline.
- Van Cortlandt Golf Lake House: This is a beautiful venue for a gathering or event with lake views of Van Cortlandt Lake. It has the oldest golf course in the country and caters to both private and public golfers. The Lake House Cafe has a full bar and grill.
17. Walk the High Bridge
You can take a walk to Manhattan from the Bronx on the High Bridge, the oldest standing bridge in the city! This landmark connects the neighborhoods of Washington Heights to Highbridge in the Bronx. It was built in the 19th century as a part of the Croton Aqueduct system but closed in the 1970s until it was reopened to the public back in 2015. You can access the bridge from the Bronx side at Univeristy Avenue and 170th Street, but street parking is limited.
18. Bronx Documentary Center
This is a smaller cultural center, but full of amazing exhibits and friendly staff that are passionate about what they do. The Bronx Documentary Center is a gallery and educational space concentrating on promoting social change and exploring vital issues affecting communities in the Bronx. The institute displays photography, mixed media, and film to inspire creativity in underserved communities of the Bronx. It’s less than 1 mile from Yankee Stadium, making it a perfect stop to hit before a game.
19. Edgar Allan Poe’s Cottage
Edgar Allan Poe was one of the most notable horror writers and poets of his time, and you can visit his former cottage right here in the Bronx! The small home is nestled into the Fordham neighborhood on Kingsbridge Road, right on the northern tip of Poe Park. Poe lived in the cottage from 1846 to 1849, caring for his sick wife Virginia, who suffered from tuberculosis. You can take a self-guided tour of the residence for $5 or less, but you must make an appointment first.
20. Woodlawn Cemetery
Find peace away from the city by perusing the beautiful grounds of the Woodlawn Cemetery. Tours are available throughout the year, catering to the season, history, and cultural heritage of the individuals at rest in the cemetery. If you’re into photography, this is a beautiful place to take pictures. Some of the events offered include live music, trolley tours, and ceremonies honoring veterans. Out of respect for those at rest, the grounds have strict rules about the types of recreation that can go on here, so please be respectful.
21. Bronx Historical Tours
Historical tours can help you find all the hidden gems in the Bronx that you may not be able to discover on your own. Tours are offered on foot, by bus, trolley, bike–pretty much all modes of transportation! Bronx Historical Tours will take you by all the noteworthy landmarks and provide the history behind these spots and how they have shaped the culture of the borough today. Some tours will last all day, so be sure not to plan too many other activities if you opt for one of these tours.
22. Yankee Stadium
Being that the Bronx is home to the New York Yankees, why not try to catch a game on your visit to the borough? Yankee Stadium is part ballpark and part museum, with the option to dive deep into the stadium’s history at Monument Park. Baseball season in NYC starts in the spring, from late March to early April, and goes till September to early October. The best part is you don’t have to know a lot about baseball to enjoy the festivities and excitement surrounding the games– just have a great time!
23. Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum
The Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum is built on land that was originally occupied by the Lenape beginning in 1,000 AD! It’s the last remaining 19th-century estate in Pelham Bay Park that serves as a cultural institute for the public to explore. The museum makes a note to acknowledge the history and contributions of the Siwanoy-Lenape ancestors who are connected to this land and educates the public on the culture of these tribes in addition to the previous owners of the estate. Mansion tours show off a number of time-period artifacts and architecture on weekends and Wednesdays, while the grounds are open daily for visitors.
24. Port Morris Distillery
Port Morris Distillery is a fantastic distillery specializing in Pitrro–a specialty moonshine native to Puerto Rico. The owners, Rafael Barbosa and William Valentin, are simply amazing and use an old family recipe to craft their moonshine, unlike any other drink you’ll find in the Bronx. Pitorro is composed of apples, honey, and brown sugar, which give the drink a bold flavor at 92 proof. Port Morris was the first Pitorro Distillery in the United States and is open on Fridays and Saturdays for visitors.
Note: Both times I’ve tried to visit this spot, it’s been closed despite the hours on the website. So call ahead to be sure.