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March 13, 2008 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Brooklyn would be America’s fourth largest city if it hadn’t been consolidated into New York City in 1898.
It has such distinct characteristics, more than 2.5 million residents call themselves Brooklynites. Known for its abundant historic resources, Brooklyn is now enjoying a rapid bloom. A three-day trip is a good way to start your adventure here.
Cate Conmy, a Brooklynite by birth, recommends the contemporary boutiques on Fifth and Seventh avenues in Park Slope. Make sure to stop by trendy Cog & Pearl for drool-worthy works from local artists, 3R Living for self-proclaimed eco- and future-friendly lifestyle products, and Bird for vintage-inspired and subtly funky clothes.
Browse through old comics and costume jewelry at the P.S. 321 weekend-only Flea Market, or drop in La Bagel Delight to get a huge bagel before heading northeast to the increasingly upscale and popular neighborhood of Prospect Heights.
Visit Grand Army Plaza and its Saturday Greenmarket. From there, head to Prospect Park, an urban oasis designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the same duo behind Central Park. Take a look at the botanical garden’s Celebrity Path, where the sidewalk is inscribed with the names of famous Brooklyn natives.
Next, move to the Brooklyn Museum, New York City’s second largest museum. Its monthly First Saturdays party provides live music, dance parties and art exhibits until 11 p.m. Enjoy a homemade cherry-lime rickey from Tom’s Restaurant or cheesecake and an egg cream from Junior’s. Close the day with a show at the avant-garde Brooklyn Academy of Music.
A walk across the 125-year-old Brooklyn Bridge, once the world’s largest suspension bridge, is a must. Take a moment to admire the dazzling view of Manhattan’s skyscrapers while reading about Brooklyn’s then-and-now attractions from its arches’ plaques.
Walt Whitman recalled his visit to the Brooklyn Bridge as “the best, most effective medicine my soul has yet partaken.”
Head back down the bridge, and get off at Brooklyn Heights to find out why the Ice Cream Factory’s cones have Brooklynites lining up.
At the Brooklyn Historical Society on Pierrepont Street, pick up a tour map, and start exploring the brownstones, Brooklyn’s famed sandstone town houses. The Brooklyn Heights Promenade on the East River boasts a romantic vista of the lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty at sunset.
Ride the train to Williamsburg and experience Brooklyn’s ethnic diversity on Bedford Avenue.
Join a free Saturday tour of Brooklyn Brewery, savor Sea’s exquisite Thai fusion food and stay for a drink in this nightlife-loving neighborhood.
Conmy describes a trip to Coney Island as “a trip back in time to the days of freak shows and cotton candy and clinkety, rickety old-school rides like the Coney Island Cyclone,” one of the world’s oldest wooden roller coasters. Also, ride the 150-foot-high Wonder Wheel, the world’s tallest Ferris wheel, reopening in April. Coney Island is open to the public approximately from Easter to Labor Day.
Coney Island has more to offer than just amusement, though, such as an incredible range of aquatic wildlife in the New York Aquarium, for starters. Or partake in the island’s famous pizza from Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano and hot dogs at Nathan’s, where the infamous hot dog eating contest attracts tens of thousands each Fourth of July. Finally, take the boardwalk eastward into Brighton Beach — also known as Little Odessa — one of the largest Russian communities outside Moscow.
Tramping across Brooklyn for three days can be a short journey, but it’s enough for this placid yet prosperous borough to give a view of life away from the fast-paced grind of Manhattan.