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Come to Brooklyn for some real New York flavor

Jean Paul Zapata explores the outer borough of Brooklyn for Latin food, botanical gardens and lesbian 'her-story'
A highway sign leading into the New York City's Brooklyn claims the borough is like no other place in the world!

When I think of Brooklyn, I think of my favorite 24-hour Puerto Rican food stand serving me a plate of steaming pork, rice and beans at 3am.

Brooklyn to me is hot, humid summer days when I race children and pit-bulls to the fire hydrants spraying water into the streets.

When I think of Brooklyn I see the different neighborhoods you can get to on your your bike, from Williamsburg to Greenpoint to Bushwick, each with their own history and hidden gems.

Brooklyn means taxi drivers give you a history lesson about what neighborhood you've been in and where you're going.

To me, there's nothing like walking down a street and learning who lives there by the music blasting outside their living room windows.

Whether Brooklyn to you means pizza and cheesecake, the birthplace of hip-hop legends Jay-Z and Notorious B.I.G., or the new home of gentrifying gay-borhoods and hipster-kids, Brooklyn has something to offer for everyone.

After all, just like the highway sign says, Brooklyn is like no other place in the world.

The biggest complaint I hear about Brooklyn is that it's too far (for Manhattanites).

The biggest complaint I have about Brooklyn is that by the time my rice and beans get to London, they'll be cold.

Between lesbian-centric enclaves and gay-owned establishments, here are my top picks for what to eat, see and do in Brooklyn.

Bogota Latin Bistro

Located in the trendy neighborhood of Park Slope, the colorful Bogota Latin Bistro brings a taste of Latin America to Brooklyn. The couple who owns Bogota, George Constantinou and Farid Ali Lancheros, celebrated the restaurant's seventh anniversary earlier this month on 5 July. Don your eating frock to sample all the delicious Colombian dishes from empanadas to the bandeja paisa. The owners have done a great job with some of the most helpful (and good-looking) staff around.

Sugarland

This Brooklyn club hosts a different theme every night of the week. From Tini Tuesdays to 'It's Thursday Bitch', Sugarland is a split-level club with a dedicated DJ and outdoor space, great drink specials and occasionally free pizza

Lesbian Herstory Archives

One of the world's largest collection of materials by and about lesbians. Visit the archives to browse through photographs, read a book or watch a video. Keep your eyes peeled throughout the archives for 'lesbiana' including pasties worn by a lesbian stripper and boots worn by a lesbian who marshaled the New York City Dyke March.

Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

Mention the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens to any New Yorker and the first comment out of their mouth is how beautiful the grounds are. Over 50 acres of meadows and greenhouses set in the area of Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens feature planting workshops, site-specific performances and some of the loveliest green houses (perfect for weddings).

First Thursdays Dumbo Gallery Walk

The newly revamped neighborhood of Dumbo is also home to one of New York's thriving art scenes. First Thursdays is an art gallery crawl that includes art for sale, music performances, drinks specials and an amazing view of the Manhattan skyline.

Brooklyn Flea Market

From Fort Greene to Williamsburg, a weekend in Brooklyn means a day at the flea markets. Check out the website for days, times and locations of the various markets that range from housewares to vintage clothing. Some markets on the waterfront even give some of the best views of New York's skyline. The Smorgasburg, a giant all-food market, is not to be missed.

Brooklyn Bridge

This architectural gem and New York icon one of three bridges connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan. The typically-congested vehicle underpass rivals the bike and pedestrian path above. Running or biking the bridge in either direction is quite the workout, but well worth the effort once you get to the middle. On a beautiful day the city seems to shine brighter than the water.
 

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