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Don't Fughedabout Brooklyn's Best

manhattan brooklyn bridge dumboLike Manhattan's SoHo or NoLiTa, Brooklyn has its "cool acronym" neighborhood: DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). For years DUMBO, in the shadow of the bridges and warehouses, was an industrial, concrete jungle. But as these things go, the warehouses attracted artists, and then the next layers of arrivistes, and so on -- and now DUMBO has joined the growing list of Brooklyn's hot neighborhoods.

Go To: Brooklyn Bridge Park/Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park, at the edge of the East River. Why? These adjoining parks offer an amazing vista. Kids can ride the newly restored Jane's Carousel while the Q Train rumbles over the Manhattan Bridge to the right, the glorious Brooklyn Bridge is on the left, and the East River and Manhattan skyline is straight ahead. Perhaps no playground can boast such fantastic real estate -- and such incredible views.

Eat At: Across from the park is Bubby's, a sibling to the Manhattan restaurant of the same name. The din here nearly matches the volume of the trains on the Manhattan Bridge, but don't let that dissuade you. It's a fun place that feels much older than its 20 or so years. Enormous brunches, lively chatter -- and homemade pie.

Getting There: About a half-hour or more to/from Midtown Manhattan. Subway: F to York Street, the first stop in Brooklyn.

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Downtown Brooklyn
While much of downtown Brooklyn is relatively uninteresting and unfashionable -- the shopping streets lean toward 99-cent housewares, $9.99 clothing or $299 divorces -- there are a few things worth seeing and doing here.

Go To: Atlantic Avenue. It actually extends from water's edge in Brooklyn all the way through the borough, but the downtown section, roughly between Court Street and Flatbush Avenue, is a prime example of Brooklyn's seemingly unlikely but surprisingly harmonious commercial melange. Here antique stores mix it up with the Avenue's large number of Middle Eastern shops and latest crop of trendy design boutiques -- with an unlikely assortment of other establishments, including a curious herb shop that advertises "A cure for everything except death."

Shop Op: Sahadi's, a landmark establishment on Atlantic Avenue, has been selling olives, spices, dried fruits and nuts, and international foods since 1948. Even if you don't buy anything, it's a visual feast.

Eat At: Junior's has been victorious in cheesecake wars for more than 60 years. And if even the greatest cheesecake doesn't curry much favor with you, Junior's is still worth a visit for the enormous breakfasts, extensive diner menu and friendly service.

Culture Stop: The Brooklyn Academy of Music (commonly known as BAM) is a landmark institution for concerts, plays, musicals, film screenings, ballet performances and other cultural offerings. It's Brooklyn's answer to the Lincoln Center.

Getting There: About a half-hour to/from Midtown Manhattan. There are many subway options with stops in and around downtown Brooklyn.

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Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill
Brooklyn Heights gives way to Cobble Hill and Cobble Hill gives way to Carroll Gardens (and Carroll Gardens gives way to Red Hook, though the boundaries seem to be continually shifting as Red Hook becomes more hip). This is the Brooklyn of "Moonstruck" (alas, the bakery featured in the movie has now closed), and though much is changing, there is still plenty of evidence of the Italian community here amid the quiet residential streets. Both Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens are less gentrified than the Heights, but the Manhattan migration across the river is clearly making its mark here too. Carroll Gardens' Smith Street has become Brooklyn's "restaurant row" (and you might want to venture to the parallel street of Court as well) as fashionable bars and eateries have replaced the neighborhood's worn bodegas, botanicas, and mom-and-pop bakeries -- you can decide whether that's for better or for worse.

Eat At: There are lots of good options along Smith Street. For a trendy French bistro vibe, try Bar Tabac. Or head over to Court Street to sate your sugar craving at Sweet Melissa, the finest patisserie in Brooklyn if not in all the boroughs.

Shop Op: Stick around Smith Street and don't miss Refinery for chic, handmade purses and pillows -- and dash into other hip boutiques that catch your eye.

Getting There: Maybe half an hour to/from Midtown Manhattan. Subway stops: F to Bergen Street or Carroll Street.


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