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What to do, eat in Brooklyn's DUMBO and Vinegar Hill neighborhoods

Post-industrial, chic, weird, kind of loud — the area along the East River where Vinegar Hill and DUMBO sprawl is often slapped with these descriptors. And though side by side, they're two distinct neighborhoods with separate charms.

DUMBO (which stands for “down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”) got its name in the late 1970s when early residents to the once-desolate factory area thought a silly name would keep developers away. In fact, the opposite occurred. Today DUMBO is home to pricey lofts and corporate office spaces.

Vinegar Hill, however, seems to have retained its historical charm. Originally settled by Irish immigrants, the area gets its name from the Battle of Vinegar Hill (between Britain and Ireland in 1798). Cobblestone streets and a border of just three blocks on each side means that Vinegar Hill is small and quaint.

Walking between these neighborhoods is easy and gives a peek into New York’s early past and future development — not to mention some great views of lower Manhattan.

Drink responsibly at Brooklyn Roasting Company

After you've walked across the Brooklyn or Manhattan
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

After you've walked across the Brooklyn or Manhattan Bridge or taken the A/C train to High Street or the 2/3 to Clark Street, grab a hot cup of coffee brewed right here in Brooklyn. At Brooklyn Roasting Company (25 Jay St.), all the beans for the house blends are roasted freshly each day after being ethically sourced from around the globe. Start your day with a coffee drink from anywhere with beans from Peru to Rwanda.

Peruse books at Powerhouse Arena

Looking to get your creativity flowing? The Powerhouse
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Looking to get your creativity flowing? The Powerhouse Arena (28 Adams St.) is the spot. Launched in 2006 by publisher powerHouse Books, the airy space -- the ground floor sports 24-foot ceilings -- is a conglomeration of rotating exhibitions, installations, readings, performances and, of course, a bookshop. Step in and see what you might find.

Take a spin on Jane's Carousel

Head to the Empire Fulton Ferry section of
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Head to the Empire Fulton Ferry section of Brooklyn Bridge Park for some downtime. Nestled between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, the well-kept lawn offers unrivaled views of the downtown Manhattan skyline. Here you'll also find Jane's Carousel, an old-time, 48-horse, two-chariot carousel built in 1922 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. Rides are offered year-round, though the hours differ depending on the season you visit. Tickets are just $2.

Hit up the Brooklyn Flea (Sundays)

Every Sunday, the Brooklyn Flea pops up at
Photo Credit: Brooklyn Flea & Food

Every Sunday, the Brooklyn Flea pops up at DUMBO's Manhattan Bridge Archway with about 80 vendors, April through October. Pick up vintage outfits, antique doodads, locally made home goods and flowers, and grab a snack from any one of its food vendors. If you make it to the Archway on any other day, it's likely something will be going on there. The DUMBO BID regularly hosts events, from live music to screenings and more. Just check its schedule at https://dumbo.is/happening.

Brunch at Westville DUMBO

By now you've certainly worked up an appetite,
Photo Credit: Westville

By now you've certainly worked up an appetite, so head to Westville (81 Washington St.) for a hearty brunch. We recommend the challah French toast with fresh strawberries, a quinoa bowl, or the smoked salmon bagel. And don't miss out on the fresh veggies. Westville's vibe is casual and could be described as an upscale diner. (It also caters to vegan and vegetarian diets.)

Lean about the waterfront's long history

History buffs know that DUMBO was mainly an
Photo Credit: Jordan Rathkopf

History buffs know that DUMBO was mainly an industrial area during the late 19th and early 20th centuries before becoming an upscale neighborhood with remnants of its old factories and railroad tracks still visible on its streets. If you want to learn more about its waterfront, head to the Brooklyn Historical Society's DUMBO location (55 Water St.). BHS is showing the area's evolution through individuals' stories, related objects and the waterfront's history in "Waterfront," which is on through Dec. 1, 2022. Using new technology, the museum virtually drops you into 10 historic paintings and photographs and lets you record yourself interacting with historical figures and objects in minute-long movies.

Take your selfie in front of the Manhattan Bridge

If you want an impressive selfie or a
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

If you want an impressive selfie or a photo that encompasses the beauty of Brooklyn, head to the intersection of Washington and Walter streets. Here, you'll find prime photography real estate, where in one frame, you can capture the Manhattan Bridge, the Clocktower Building, and the cobblestone streets. It's likely there will be others with the same idea with their cellphones and cameras out -- it is often used as a backdrop for wedding and engagement photos, too.

Stroll the Vinegar Hill historic district

Much of the architecture in Vinegar Hill dates
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Much of the architecture in Vinegar Hill dates to the 1800s and derives from both the Greek Revival and Federal styles, most of which you'll find on Gold, Front and Water streets. (Pictured is Front, between Bridge and Gold.) One of the more unexpected sights in Quarters A, in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which is home to the Commander's House, a showy mansion that was home to the commander of the Navy Yard during its years of operation.

Shed your urban angst at DUMBO Boulders

Whether you're a rock climbing pro or adventure-averse,
Photo Credit: Julienne Schaer

Whether you're a rock climbing pro or adventure-averse, there is an option for you at DUMBO Boulders - The Cliffs (99 Plymouth St.). An offshoot of Long Island City's The Cliffs, DUMBO Boulders is North America's largest outdoor bouldering space. Choose your terrain and don't forget to look up, as you'll be directly under the Manhattan Bridge at Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Grab a cone at OddFellows Ice Cream

Treat yourself to one of about 20 ice
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Treat yourself to one of about 20 ice cream flavors at OddFellows Ice Cream Co. at 60 Water St. The family-owned shop makes its ice cream from scratch with a chef-driven approach -- at last count, it has created 509 flavors, from chorizo caramel swirl to miso cherry to peanut butter & jelly. It's been such a hit with New Yorkers that over the years, OddFellows has expanded with locations in the East Village, Nolita and DUMBO. It also has a factory in Bushwick and the shop's owners plan to soon open a soda fountain there. The owners just opened their first location outside of New York, in Boston, they told us.

Get dinner at Celestine

If you want a special night out or
Photo Credit: Liz Clayman

If you want a special night out or a memorable dinner with your friends, head to Celestine at 1 John St. This Eastern Mediterranean restaurant is on the DUMBO waterfront, offering views of the Manhattan Bridge, the city skyline, and an inventive menu by executive chef Garett McMahan. Start with the hummus and pistachio feta spread with pita bread, and we suggest going with the generously portioned chermoula branzino (with gold nugget potatoes and radishes), the chicken or grilled asparagus. Make sure to get a reservation so you don't miss out on the sunset from a tableful of goodness.

Catch a show in a former tobacco warehouse

St. Ann's Warehouse is a multifaceted avant-garde performing
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

St. Ann's Warehouse is a multifaceted avant-garde performing arts space that's been housed in its current (former tobacco inspection) building at 45 Water St. since 2015. Located right in Brooklyn Bridge Park, St. Ann's Warehouse offers theatrical productions and concerts -- artists including Lou Reed, Rufus Wainwright and David Bowie have all played here -- studio space and a public garden.

Cap your night at 68 Jay Street Bar

A neighborhood hangout, 68 Jay Street Bar makes
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

A neighborhood hangout, 68 Jay Street Bar makes for a laid-back option to wrap up a night. Expect an artful crowd at this corner bar, where draft beer, house wines and classic cocktails are the name of the game.

Take in the view

Before you head home, get the full DUMBO
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Spencer Platt

Before you head home, get the full DUMBO experience at Brooklyn Bridge Park, where you'll take in an incredible view of the Manhattan skyline that twinkles like stars at night.

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