Why venture out to Brooklyn when there are so many sites to see in Manhattan?  Because Brooklyn, the most populous New York City borough with 2.5 million residents, has its own distinct culture with many ethnic enclaves living in its numerous 2015-06-08 02.43.26neighborhoods. Because Americans have always had a fascination with Brooklyn: Coney Island with its famous wooden roller coaster “The Cyclone,” which was built in 1927 and Nathan’s Famous, which is still located on its original 1916 site serving the hot dogs that made it “famous”; the Brooklyn Bridge, which was completed in 1883 and was the first steel-wire suspension bridge ever constructed; and the Brooklyn Dodgers, who played baseball in Brooklyn from 1884-1957, signing Jackie Robinson in 1947.  Because each neighborhood has its own architecture, foods, landmarks and movies locations.

My husband Jeff and I decided to familiarize ourselves with Brooklyn by joining A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours for several of its bus tours.  A Slice of Brooklyn (operating for 10 years) is the only company offering guided bus tours of Brooklyn’s favorite foods, neighborhoods, landmarks and famous movie locations.  The company has been featured on the Today Show, the Food Network and the Travel Channel and came highly recommended to us.2015-06-07 23.49.08

Recently we took the 4 ½ hour Pizza Tour.  Our guide, Paula (a native Brooklynite – immediately evident by her greeting of “How ya doin’?) was fabulous.  Her love of Brooklyn became contagious.  She was funny and entertaining and provided stories of the different Brooklyn neighborhoods and their interesting residents – both famous and infamous.  Besides learning about Brooklyn history, Paula pointed out to us the exact locations of famous films featuring Brooklyn neighborhoods as clips from the actual movies were played simultaneously on video screens.

Providing lots of photo ops, stops were made at Brooklyn Bridge Park for awesome views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Skyline, and at Coney Island, where we walked the boardwalk admiring the famous amusement park on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.

2015-06-08 01.37.02Of course, what would a trip to Brooklyn be like without pizza?  The two stops made on this tour were both iconic pizzerias.  Our first stop, Grimaldi’s under the Brooklyn Bridge, served Neopolitan thin crust “margarita” style pizza from their coal-burning ovens. Later on the tour we stopped at L&B Spumoni Gardens in Bensonhurst for thick Sicilian style pizza.  Both pizza styles (representing both northern and southern Brooklyn) were “delizioso.”  You are given 2 slices of pizza at each stop – more than enough to fill you up for lunch!  There is no problem if there is leftover pizza- take away boxes are provided for extras.  I recommend that you skip breakfast to fully enjoy the pizza experiences on this tour. The 4 ½ hours flew by, and we came away with a richer understanding of Brooklyn and its people.

The other tour we took with A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours was their famous Christmas Lights and Cannoli Tour.  This was a 3 ½ hour tour offered during the Christmas season. I have always found the Christmas season magical and this tour was especially captivating.

Our tour guide, Joe, was excellent.  He provided wonderful narration and showed us numerous video clips throughout the tour – T.V. coverage of the Christmas Lights Tour, footage of decorated homes that we would be seeing in person, and clips from old Christmas T.V. specials. Christmas Carols were played while we were riding as well.  Already I was engulfed with the Christmas spirit, and we hadn’t even seen the lighted homes yet!

Two stops were made in Brooklyn so we could walk around and view the decorated homes.  Forty-five minutes was provided in 20141221_195948Dyker Heights, and 15 minutes was provided in Bay Ridge.  Tour Hosts were located on all street corners to help guide participants through the streets and answer questions.

We were so impressed with the professionalism and service provided during the walking portions of this tour.  The streets were heavily crowded and A Slice of Brooklyn Tours took every measure to make sure its clients were accounted for and that they were fully experiencing the unbelievable light show!  Manhattan may have its Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and lavish store window displays, but Brooklyn’s Christmas lights rival anything that Manhattan has to offer.

A Slice of Brooklyn tour is not complete without a food component, and the Christmas Lights Tour did not disappoint.  A stop at Bella Luna for a cannoli and hot chocolate hit the spot before we headed back into Manhattan.

We look forward to experiencing the third tour that A Slice of Brooklyn offers which is the Neighborhood Tour.  This tour is 4 ½ hours long and visits Brooklyn neighborhoods, landmarks and movie locations not covered in the other tours.  A lunch at famous Junior’s is provided which includes a pastrami sandwich, cheesecake, which they are famous for, and an egg cream (a Brooklyn original).

20141221_202452All of A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours start and end near Union Square in Manhattan, a very convenient meeting spot.  Personable and knowledgeable tour guides, entertaining multimedia components, neighborhood walks, and native foods all combine to make A Slice of Brooklyn Tours one of the best companies we have traveled with.   We feel that you will agree with their company slogan after you take one of their tours – “Manhattan? FUHGETTABOUTIT!”

Contact Information: Call 212 913-9917 or visit www.asliceofbrooklyn.com.

Photos by Jeff Sylva