Brooklyn is no longer up and coming; it’s arrived. Buzzing with pioneering artisans, it is a dynamic hub of culinary innovation (Smorgasburg) and cutting-edge culture (Brooklyn Museum, DUMBO art galleries) that remains true to its roots with its historic districts (Brooklyn Heights) and landmarks (Green-Wood Cemetery). Consider these stops mandatory on any tour of the borough.
Yes, you need to visit a cemetery. This 478-acre National Historical Landmark nestled between Prospect and Sunset Parks was founded in 1838 and is New York City's answer to Paris' Père Lachaise. Legends such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leonard Bernstein, Horace Greeley and William "Boss" Tweed are buried there. The Green-Wood Historic Fund hosts an array of walking tours, concerts, book lectures, exhibits and other educational activities, but you can do a self-guided stroll or hop on a trolley to learn about the cemetery's history and get a good view of the green monk parakeets that have been nesting there since the '60s. With its hills, valleys, glacial ponds and paths, and one of the largest collections of 19th and 20th century statuary and mausoleums, it feels unexpectedly celebratory.
INFO 718-210-3080, green-wood.com
Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg
Imagine a place where you could sample dozens of homemade foods by local artisans -- doughnuts, bagels, granola, mustards, pickles, pulled pork sandwiches, sliders, sausages, grilled cheese, and chocolates -- all while shopping for antiques, furniture, vintage clothing, handcrafted jewelry, art and more. You've arrived at Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg, where, since 2008, hundreds of intrepid vendors and food makers gather every week. Held in several locations in Brooklyn (Williamsburg, Fort Greene, Prospect Park and Industry City), indoors in winter and out in the sunshine in summer (with bars serving cocktails and craft beers), it's a destination with a simple formula: shop, eat, drink.
The Brooklyn Museum is the second-largest art museum in New York after the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is reason enough to visit. But it also houses one of the most impressive collections of ancient Egyptian art as well as works by Georgia O'Keeffe, John Singer Sargent and George Bellows. Special exhibitions explore the world far and near, including "Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008" (through March 13), and "This Place," which explores the complexity of Israel and the West Bank through the eyes of 12 internationally acclaimed artists (Feb. 12-June 5). The first Saturday of every month, in partnership with Target, the museum throws open its doors for free entry and hosts a party featuring art, music, dancing, food and drinks. But one of the best things about this museum actually does not even involve going inside: The Jane and David Walentas Fountain flanks its palatial outdoor staircases, spouting water in a rhythmic display.
INFO Closed Mondays and Tuesdays, admission $16, ages 19 and under free, 718-638-5000, brooklynmuseum.org
Brooklyn Bridge Park
This stretch of revitalized industrial waterfront running from the Manhattan Bridge to the Brooklyn Bridge appeals to kids and grown-ups alike. Dotted with playgrounds, meadows for picnicking and frolicking, concessions from local businesses such as Ample Hills Creamery, Blue Marble, and Fornino, the Park also boasts sand volleyball, full court basketball, kayaking, swimming in the pop-up pool (equipped with locker rooms, sandy beach and tiki bar and grill) and roller skating. Not to mention Jane's Carousel, an impeccably restored merry-go-round that dates to 1922, overlooking the water and housed in a clear glass pavilion designed by Pritzker-Prize winning French architect Jean Nouvel. BBP's spring 2016 highlights include free performances by the contemporary circus Bianco; the installation of the DUMBO Boulders climbing wall at Main Street; and a permanent satellite branch of the Brooklyn Children's Museum at John Street.
Eat in Williamsburg
The Brooklyn restaurant scene has mushroomed all over the borough, but Williamsburg may have more terrific restaurants, block by block, than any other neighborhood. An ideal day of eating would begin with breakfast at Egg (try Eggs Rothko -- easy-cooked egg in a slice of Amy's brioche and topped with Grafton cheddar) followed by a coffee at Blue Bottle; lunch at Andrew Tarlow's iconic hyperlocal American spot, Diner, or the festive Israeli hummus and falafel joint, Zizi Limona; a handmade cocktail on the roof at the Wythe Hotel followed by a bottle of bubbly and an icy tray of oysters from the expansive raw bar at Maison Premiere; steaks at St. Anselm, or the regional American tasting menu by chef Patti Jackson at Delaware and Hudson.
Take a walk
There are many great Brooklyn neighborhoods to explore on foot -- Williamsburg, Park Slope and Cobble Hill are all solid options. But perhaps the most inspiring neighborhood to walk through is its oldest: Brooklyn Heights. It's on these tree-lined streets that a Revolutionary War battle was waged, and where many of the city's most notable writers lived -- Truman Capote, Arthur Miller, Carson McCullers, Norman Mailer and W.E.B. DuBois, to name just a few. Walking here you'll find cobblestone streets, bona fide mansions, antebellum wooden-framed row houses and iconic brownstones. The Brooklyn Heights Association gives guided tours of the interiors of many of the neighborhood's landmark buildings, but you can take your own stroll, making sure to hit the Promenade, a mile-long path that will put you face to face with the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and a stunning view of the Manhattan skyline. Free walking maps are available online as well.
Founded by Steven Hindy (a former Mideast correspondent for The Associated Press) and Tom Potter (a former banker), Brooklyn Brewery not only makes some of the best beer in the nation, but also pays homage to its native borough with a stalwart dedication to the craft beer process brought to these shores by immigrants from Germany, Belgium and Ireland. Under the guidance of brewmaster Garrett Oliver, the team brews its signature Brooklyn Lager, along with roughly 50 different artisan beers, including Brooklyn Greenmarket Wheat, Brooklyn Best Bitter, Brooklyn Summer Ale and Brooklyn Local 1. Small Batch Tours of the brewery are offered ($15, Monday-Thursday at 5 p.m.), and the brewery also hosts cooking classes and tastings.
Get arty at the DUMBO galleries
DUMBO -- which stands for Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass -- is teeming with talent, and its galleries are lucky enough to capture much of it. Visit United Photo Industries, which presented "Photoville," an installation along a fence in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and has a permanent exhibition space featuring a range of photography; then check out the mixed media, street art and sculpture on display at Masters Projects, and all the contemporary reductive abstract art you like at Minus Space. A.I.R. (Artists in Residence) Gallery, which opened in 1972 as the first all-female cooperative gallery in the United States, hosts shows, talks and lectures. Aside from galleries, DUMBO is also home to many studios which host open studio weekends viewings each year; check out Sharp-Walentas and Smack Mellon
A stroll through Prospect Park is an easy way to spend a memorable day. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted after the completion of Central Park, it boasts 90 acres of wide, open fields for baseball and soccer, trails for running (the loop is 3.35 miles), bike riding, and horseback riding; summer concerts at the Prospect Park Bandshell; an all-season ice skating rink at the LeFrak Center; and several playgrounds. The park also has a zoo with a barn housing goats, chickens, horses, alpacas and sheep for feeding, a sea lion show, prairie dog burrows, cuddly meerkats, a duck pond and a huge aviary. Steps from the zoo is the magnificent 1912 Prospect Park Carousel, and one of the city's biggest greenmarkets sets up shop every Saturday at the north entrance at Grand Army Plaza.
Atlantic Avenue shopping spree
No tour of Brooklyn would be complete without shopping on Atlantic Avenue -- which runs through the heart of Brooklyn's most beloved neighborhoods. This is an avenue with something for everyone. Men in need of a new look can browse Goose Barnacle or Steven Alan, while women can poke around Kaight for eco-conscious clothing, Meg for great dresses, Malia Mills for bathing suits and Written by Forest for jewelry. Stock up on home accessories and more at Greenhouse & Co., Collier West, and Collyer's Mansion; stop at Acorn for handcrafted toys, and hunt for antiques at Holler & Squall, City Foundry, and Hunting with Jake. End at the Middle East market Sahadi's, which opened in 1948 and peddles a serious collection of spices, barrels of pickles, bins of dried fruits and nuts, hunks of halvah, and prepared foods from hummus to spinach pies and kofte.