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.
While other Big Apple ‘cool spots’ rapidly lose their hip currency the minute they are uncovered, Bushwick, so far, has managed to keep hold of its underground vibe. It’s true that the streets may look deserted and edgy at times but, come the weekend, there are often colourful, all-night warehouse parties in abundance. You might also catch local heroes the Vivian Girls gigging at the art/performance space Market Hotel (1142 Myrtle Avenue).
The borough is also home to the most exciting art scene in New York City. Sales of art for the graphic novel generation are brisk at Ad Hoc, while the sculpted cardboard pieces at the English Kills gallery capture some of the adventurous spirit of the Manhattan galleries of the 1980s.
Bushwick is fast developing its own quirky style: from the de facto café of choice, the Wycoff Starr to the meatloaf, rabbit bangers and basement DJ bar at Northeast Kingdom. Goodbye Blue Monday is also worth a visit. It’s a bar which offers low-key, live sets and £2 cups of wine, and has a second life as a junk shop.
Bushwick is just nine stops on the L train from Union Square, but it’s a 20-minute time warp to a golden age of New York cool.
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.
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.