By Kymberlie Adams Matthews
Once upon a time there was a little girl who moved
into a ramshackle three bedroom apartment (a bargain at $1,400 a month)
in Brooklyn with
her three cats, three dogs and sister, and she never wanted to leave.
I love it here. And who wouldn’t? A land where corner bodegas
carry soymilk, bagel stores offer three types of tofu cream cheese,
and licking soy ice cream cones while walking through a lush dog-friendly
park is not just a dream. A place where neighbors keep holiday lights
up year-round and Coney Island is just a hop, skip and subway ride
away. We have sandy beaches and sidewalk cafes serving soymilk lattes.
We have riverside bike paths allowing for the best views of the Manhattan
skyline. I am hooked, I am captivated, and I am in love. Here are a
few of my favorite reasons to whistle in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Founded in 1910 on a reclaimed waste dump, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
represents the very best in urban gardening and horticulture. One can
easily forget you are in Brooklyn while in the midst of a Japanese
rock garden, cherry tree lined lawn, and conservatory where various
ecosystems thrive in greenhouses. While following meandering pathways
one can catch glimpses of amusing animal antics—ponds teeming
with fish and turtles, bunnies peering out through lush garden beds
and bird flocks roosting in trees. For three dollars (children under
16 are free), a visit to the garden makes for a wonderful break or
all-day get away. 1000 Washington Avenue, www.bbg.org.
Ultimate frisbee, fetch with the pooch and passionate games of kickball
can all be played in this green paradise. Thanks to 19th century designers,
Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, Brooklynites have a 526-acre
playground in their backyard. Although it could very well do without
housing a zoo, the park is home to woodlands, streams, ponds, picnic
areas, playing fields and a bandshell, which harmoniously blends live
music with summer evenings. Charms also include the Long Meadow, a
90-acre field, Brooklyn’s only lake, a carousel, an ice-skating
rink and the only urban Audubon Center in the U.S. Bounded by Flatbush
Avenue, Prospect Park West and Prospect Park South, www.prospectpark.org.
From pro-dog legislation and pooch parades to countless dog-friendly
establishments, Brooklyn is a canine paradise. Prospect Park offers
off-leash hours and a beach designed especially for them. Brooklyn
welcomes dogs to such an extent that many local businesses put out
water bowls in the summer, and jars of colorful canine cookies adorn
counters year-round. Numerous bars and coffee houses are not only places
for people to meet and mingle, but for dogs to sniff nose to nose.
Plus, doggie daycare, pet spas, and pooch play-dates abound. There
is even an ever-popular singles group called Leashes and Lovers, for
people who love dogs to connect. Brooklyn is also home to groups such
as the Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition (BARC) whose mission is to
provide safe haven for homeless animals. I should also mention Brooklyn’s
love for cats with many stores adopting shelter cats, who can often
be seen nestling in sunny storefront window displays.
Brooklynites can have soy cheese pizza, vegan banana splits, burritos
filled with seitan and tofu sour cream, and bagels with scallion tofu
cream cheese delivered to their door. The amount of vegan goodies Brooklyn
offers is staggering. With restaurants like Vegetarian Palate, Veggie
Castle, The Greens, Imhotep’s and Foodswings, is it any wonder
I don’t cook? We can also head over to Scoops for vegan ice cream
cones or to Cocoa Bar for a slice of the most delicious vegan cakes.
Bars such as Park Slope’s Lucky 13 also offer killer vegan White
Russians. Now, that’s what I call happy hour!
Park Slope Food Coop
Started in a Brooklyn living room in 1973, the Park Slope Food Coop
has grown into a full-service food cooperative owned and operated by
over 10,000 members. A grocery store like no other, the Park Slope
Food Coop is the largest member-owned and operated food coop in the
U.S. The Coop provides—in exchange for a little under three hours
of work every four weeks—a unique, healthy array of foods. It’s
a sure way to save a bundle on your grocery bill. 782 Union Street,
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