Ahhh...Brooklyn. It's a place that conjures images of kids named Vinnie playing stickball 'til sundown, of greasy pizza and neighborhoods filled with people yacking away with the most recognizable accent. Nowadays, this oh-so-New-York borough is coming up like the new Manhattan. It's artsy and culturally rich, hip and sassy, and home to both young and old. There are dozens of neighborhoods within this borough, from pretty, family-oriented to bohemian-centric. The main neighborhoods in Brooklyn are described below.
Main Drags: Fulton Street, Atlantic and Bedford Avenues.
Lowdown: Known by locals as Bed-Stuy (stuy is pronounced like sty), Bedford-Stuyvesant is an oddly diverse, yet beautiful, neighborhood in Brooklyn. In the early 90s, the crime stats were frighteningly high, but the last 15 years have been kind to the residents, dropping the rates drastically. Now, the streets are lined with pretty brownstones and examples of other unique architecture, and summer nights conjure images of old-school New York with neighbors hanging out on their front stoops playing cards or dominos, drinking beers and chatting away while kids are playing ball in the street. Though this neighborhood is primarily African- and Caribbean-American in population, recent years have seen a growing amount of yuppies flocking in to reap the benefits of affordable, pretty housing and a variety of cultural flavors.
Cool Happenings: International African Arts Festival every July 4th weekend.
Get Here: The A train from 14th street.
Epicenter: Montague Street, Atlantic Avenue, Court Street and Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
Lowdown: Some historians call Brooklyn Heights the first suburb in the United States, yet one would be hard pressed to find another suburb anywhere that possesses the charm and history of this idyllic burg, located in the shadow of the towering Brooklyn Bridge. Walt Whitman is said to have printed out many pages from Leaves of Grass here with a friend's press on Lower Fulton Street while the tree lined Willow Street has been home to such notable scribblers as Truman Capote, Arthur Miller, Anais Nin and Norman Mailer. The Brooklyn Heights promenade offers spectacular views of lower Manhattan and after taking it all in, you can settle into one of the many cafes and restaurants that can be found on the bustling Montague Street.
Get Here: 2/3/4/5 trains run here in no time, or you can catch a $10 taxi ride from Union Square.
Coney Island-Brighton Beach
Epicenter: The Boardwalk
Lowdown: Coney Island hosts one of the oldest amusement parks in existence, having survived since its construction in the late 1800s. The park contains several historic Brooklyn institutions, including Nathan's famous hotdog stand and the Cyclone roller coaster, a terrifying ride, if only because the rattling wheels on the ancient structure remind you that the thing has been propelling thrill-seekers at dangerously high speeds since 1927. Those who find the Cyclone exhilarating will love a trip on the Wonder Wheel, the world's tallest Ferris wheel. Riders can have a spectacular view atop the 150-foot steel structure, but beware, the cars on the inner circle of the ride are made to travel back and forth on their hinges, rocking the cars as they dangle high above the din below. Coney Island's boardwalk provides an excellent opportunity to gaze at the Atlantic Ocean from a beachside bench, or to people-watch while strolling along the busy thoroughfare. If you walk far enough east, you'll hit Brighton Beach, home to many of the city's Russian immigrants. Here you can relax at one of the many boardwalk cafes while enjoying a cold beer or some authentic Russian food.
Get Here: Take the F, D, N or Q train—it's about a 45-minute ride from downtown Manhattan.
Main Drags: Washington Street, Old Fulton Street.
Lowdown: DUMBO = Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. Both beautiful and industrial, DUMBO is one of Brooklyn's most cherished little neighborhoods. Cobblestone streets snake past old warehouses and ancient businesses, many of which are being revitalized and turned into hip little shops or galleries; there's even a 24-hour organic grocery store. Many of the warehouses are being (or have been) converted into big artists lofts and design studios, adding a flashy edge to this funky nook of Brooklyn. Because of the affordability of many of the homes, the influx of new luxury apartments and several nice parks, DUMBO has also become a magnet for families who want to raise kids in something bigger than a Manhattan studio. There are multiple famous shops and eateries in DUMBO, including celebrity chef Jacques Torres' chocolate factory, the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory and Grimaldi's Pizza.
Get Here: Take the F train to York Street or the A/C to High Street.
Main Drags: Seventh and Fifth Avenues.
Lowdown: A New York neighborhood nestled in the blocks that extend from busy Flatbush Avenue to the Gowanus Canal, Park Slope is one of Brooklyn's prettiest and most interesting neighborhoods. It is home to the recently remodeled Brooklyn Museum of Art, which hosts a world class permanent collection of ancient and contemporary treasures as well as several traveling exhibitions. Prospect Park, an urban oasis designed by the same talented duo responsible for Manhattan's Central Park, offers a myriad of outdoor activities from bird watching in the Audubon center to pedal boating in the park's 60-acre lake. As more and more Manhattanites have traded their tiny studios for roomier digs on these tree-lined streets, the prices have increased like Park Slope is popping steroids, but the options for gourmet dining have correspondingly multiplied. Notable favorites include Italian Al Di La, The Minnow and Blue Ribbon Sushi, cousin to the restaurant of the same name in Manhattan. If a cheaper, more traditionally Brooklyn treat is on your list, Jamaican eatery Christie's serves up deliciously spicy meat patties for less than two bucks a pop.
Get Here: The F train to 7th Avenue drops you smack-dab in the middle, or take the M/R to Union Street or the Q/B to 7th Avenue.
Main Drags: Fifth and Eighth Avenues.
Lowdown: Visiting Sunset Park is like traveling without the obnoxious task of stopping into customs to get your passport stamped. Along 20 blocks of Eighth Avenue, people will find their own corner of the Far East; Chinese, Vietnamese and Malaysian restaurants and markets provide everything from exotic goods to delicious meals that few can pronounce the names of correctly. Fifth Avenue, on the other hand, is like a journey into Latin America, complete with street-corner serenades, sizzling taquerias and vibrant markets.
Cool Spots: Any of the restaurants lining the main drags; they are all like culinary treasure chests.
Get Here: Take the N/R train or the M/D train to 36th street or the N train to Eighth Avenue.
Main Drags: Bedford Avenue and North 7th St. (L Train stop).
Lowdown: A New York neighborhood whose popularity has catapulted past up-and-coming status to be considered by some the new apex of New York's art and music scene, Williamsburg is a bastion of Brooklyn hip. Although longtime residents still claim the majority of streets, the influx of artists, musicians and students has caused this once Hispanic and Hasidic New York enclave to change from an industrial riverside burg to a burgeoning metropolis. Most of the action can be found on the streets bordering Bedford Avenue, offering a myriad of options for dining, drinking and shopping, ranging from opulent to down-home. Stunners include the Thai eatery S.E.A. and the stylish Relish. For laid back evenings, Teddy's and the Abbey boast friendly service and inexpensive drinks, and the latter features a current Billburg obsession, Big Buck Hunter, complete with an orange plastic rifle.
Get Here: Take the L train to Bedford Avenue or Lorimer Street, or the G train to Greenpoint, Nassau or Metropolitan Avenues.
—Brooklyn Neighborhood reviews by Jennifer Jespersen & Emily Sogn