As funny as it sounds, one of the most common questions we get at New York Simply is “what does DUMBO stand for?”
It’s a fair question, prior to visiting New York City many first time visitors are caught off guard when they hear someone say Dumbo, which is typically followed by … “as in the Disney elephant?”
Well, not quite.
DUMBO as in the acronym for a beloved New York City neighborhood. In fact, this is one of the most visited areas in NYC, but not without reason. Home to trendy shops, great eateries and an overall easy-going vibe, this is the only place you want to be on a warm spring night.
But look at me already getting ahead of myself. Without further ado, let’s cover everything you need to know about what DUMBO stands for and what you can do in the area.
What does DUMBO stand for?
Quite simply, DUMBO is an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. Aptly named, this neighborhood is sandwiched between two iconic NYC bridges: the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge. Don’t you just love it when the answer is uncomplicated and to the point? It’s the New York City way!
Did you know? The Brooklyn Bridge is older than London’s Tower Bridge, it’s true. Here’s 20+ Thought-Provoking Facts About New York City You Should Know.
Where is DUMBO?
DUMBO is located in Brooklyn, sandwiched between the bases of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge. The popular DUMBO neighborhood is bordered by the East River on the north, Brooklyn Bridge on the west, Brooklyn Heights on the south and Vinegar Hill on the east.
One of the most popular activities for first time visitors to NYC is to walk the length of the Brooklyn Bridge and explore DUMBO afterwards. The scenic one-mile walk usually takes 20-30 minutes and offers some of the best views of the city. Make sure you stop and take photos (an obnoxious amount if needed) because the experience it worth remembering.
How did DUMBO in NYC get its name?
This is a fair question and one that has puzzled me for a while until I did some proper research. At first glance it would be easy to assume that the meaning of DUMBO in New York City was coined by an avid Disney fan, but that’s not the case.
DUMBO was named by the residents that called this area home in the late 1970s. Their ambition was to keep the neighborhood under the radar from thirsty investors and developers, so they came up with what they assumed would be viewed as an odious name.
The problem? It didn’t work. It was pretty clear that a silly nickname wouldn’t be enough to keep this great neighborhood a secret for long.
What does DUMBO stand for in Brooklyn? What does NYC DUMBO mean?
Wait, what happened?
Like much of New York City, DUMBO was once a neglected area that was most attractive to poor artists. Landlords were having a wicked hard time renting out vacant office spaces on the top floors of buildings because it was difficult for business owners to get stuff upstairs.
To address the issue of these expensive vacancies the landlords started allowing up to three artists to dwell in the empty units. It was a win-win for all because the landlords got their units filled and the artists got cheap rent.
But as with all good things, it didn’t take long for landlords to realize they could charge higher rent prices — and so they did. Little by little the artists started to move out to make way for the bankers and subsequent developers.
The disgruntled residents came together and made an interesting decision — if the neighborhood was going to slip through their fingers the least they could do was name it. A committee was established and four men, brews in hand, narrowed it down to two options:
- DUMBO which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass
- DANYA: District Around the Name Yard Annex
The two options were brought forward to the neighborhood’s residents at a loft party and DUMBO won out by a landslide. The rest, as they say, is history. (If you’d like the actual play-by-play, check out this piece.)
The history of DUMBO in Brooklyn
As mentioned, DUMBO wasn’t always the trendy Brooklyn neighborhood we know today. It used to be an industrial mecca full of monolithic warehouses. Indeed, it was here where many notable inventions occurred, such as the cardboard box (admittedly this was an accidental invention), the first grocery chain, Brillo pads and tin cans.
The biggest name in town was Robert Gair, the man responsible for the invention of the cardboard box. His buildings peppered the skyline, giving the neighborhood a temporary moniker in his honor: Gairville.
Overtime this industrial neighborhood started to attract poor artists that couldn’t afford to live in Manhattan. That’s where the disgruntled folks mentioned in the section above come in. Brooklyn is truly a story of gentrification, like most of NYC.
Best things to do Dumbo, Brooklyn
Visit the Time Out Market
Visiting the Time Out Market is one of the best things to do in Dumbo, Brooklyn. I always make an effort to take out of town guests here and it never fails to impress. The market is filled to the brim with delicious food stalls run by some of the best restaurants in NYC. Grab a bite and head to the rooftop to take in some of the best views of NYC.
Take a stroll by the water
Dare I say, is there a more romantic thing to do in Dumbo than strolling by the water? It’s as lovely as you can imagine, especially with your special someone in hand.
Order a pie from Juliana’s
Juliana’s Pizza serves some of the best pizza in New York City. Considering how steep the competition is, it’s no easy feat. I’m partial to the delicious white pie (garlic and gooey mozzarella) and never miss an opportunity to order the egg cream.
Get a sweet treat at Ample Hills
Ample Hills makes knockout ice cream, some of the best in NYC! They have a charming location right on the water which typically boasts long lines. The wait is worthwhile, strolling the waterfront with an ice cream in tow will bring back memories of your childhood.
Ride the East River Ferry
Riding the NYC Ferry is absolutely one of the best things to do in New York City (no hyperbole!). The East River Ferry departs from the dock at DUMBO and can take you directly to Wall Street. When you’ve had your fill of the fun things to in Dumbo, Brooklyn pop on the ferry towards Wall Street and explore some more.
Ducking under bridges while the stunning NYC city-scape shines in the background is a unique NYC experience you won’t soon forget. Hop on during sunset or in the evening hours when the city lights are at their brightest. Plus, because the ferry is an extension of NYC’s public transportation system it only costs $2.75 per person. Effectively making this one of the cheapest things to do in Dumbo to boot.
What does DUMBO mean, again?
Don’t worry, we got you. Even some locals forget what DUMBO is an acronym for in NYC. Overpass? Overlook? So to recap, DUMBO stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.
What does DUMBO in New York City mean?
Great report I went there for the 1st time in March 2022. Will be back. I only wish I had gone when I lived in NYC 42 yes ago.