Don’t worry about pushing your stroller uphill—the namesake incline here was leveled by the Brits during the Revolutionary War. These days the only turf battle is between the new wave of chain stores and the old-guard Italian shops, Middle Eastern eateries and other family-run businesses that know their customers by name. It’s this mix that makes the neighborhood so alluring. Streets here feel like Brooklyn at its most ideal. Local kids chase ice cream trucks, jump into spraying fire hydrants and play stickball in the street, just like they did in the land before Wii.
Check it out
Off the F train’s Bergen Street stop, Cobble Hill has two parallel arteries, Smith and Court. Among the restaurants and shops are enough kid-magnets to make a camp counselor giddy. Tots at the Salsa Salon dance studio (259 Smith St, 347-628-5883) prove the Mad Hot Ballroom craze is still on the upswing. Fledgling Mozarts find their muse at Arts Cetera(212 Smith St, 718-643-6817), where free trial music classes encourage children to sing and clap. For something calmer, Cobble Hill Cinemas(265 Court St, 718-596-9113) screens “Big Movies for Little Kids,” a series of children’s classics like Muppets from Space, as well as with blockbuster fare.
Despite a sophisticated air, kid-inclusiveness permeates the restaurant scene. Bocca Lupo(391 Henry St, 718-243-2522), on the more residential west side of Cobble Hill, shows off a chrome-and-wood urban refinement, but the children’s menu demonstrates its all-ages appeal. (The panini are a particularly easy sell to grilled-cheese gobblers.) Families that love Thai will be spoiled with choices; Joya(215 Court St, 718-222-3484) has a lovely back garden and spring rolls to match. When little ones clamor for the cookie jar, treat them to Sweet Melissa Pâtisserie(276 Court St, 718-855-3410). Scones and petits fours are served at on-site children’s tea parties, and a dress-up chest makes the shop a perfect choice for single-digit birthdays. Nearby, the classic neighborhood scoop (60 years running) is Court Pastry Shop (298 Court St, 718-875-4820). In summer, the stroller set crowds the front window for old-school Italian ices.
Despite the cheeky sign declaring that “unattended children will be given an espresso and a free puppy,” the artisanal food market Stinky Bklyn(261 Smith St, 718-522-7425) offers junior foodies samples of jamón serrano. Less adventurous palates will appreciate the Super Creamy Chocolate Milk from Hillcrest Dairy. A giant gum ball machine greets your brood at the entrance of Pizzazzz Toys(281 Court St, 718-596-4744). Pint-size browsers will rush to the Brio wooden train in the back, conveniently placed at knee height. For budding bibliophiles, two bookshops are a must. Afternoon haunt BookCourt(163 Court St, 718-875-3677) has a cozy kids’ section and a wall of “staff picks” recommending board books like Bread and Jam for Frances alongside Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. Then there’s comic book fortress Rocketship(208 Smith St, 718-797-1348), which acquaints Generation Z with a broader range of graphic novels than what’s at the cineplex. When you need to put down the bags and park the Peg Perego, swing by the newly expanded One Girl Cookies(68 Dean St, 212-675-4996), which sells Lilliputian confections in a powder blue, Parisian setting.
What local families do
Far less crowded than nearby Carroll Park, Cobble Hill Park(Clinton St between Congress St and Verandah Pl) lures tots with its yellow plastic slide. New mother Kristie Woll sees it as the ultimate parental meet-and-greet: “In the early months of my son’s life, I loved strolling through here, where I always came across other moms and dads and never failed to find a nice adult conversation.”