EARTH’S BEST PLACE - Bklyn tops tourist list

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The lush rainforests of Brazil, the scenic landscapes and exotic cities of Morocco...and the hot dog- eating contest in Brooklyn?

Brooklyn is not out of place in that trio. Really.

In fact, the borough has won a hard-earned spot among some of the hottest cities in the world, a world-respected travel guidebook is asserting.

Brooklyn, according to Lonely Planet's "Bluelist: The Best in Travel 2007" is "booming," and visitors from around the world, well, best recognize it.

"Any New Yorker worth their street cred knows the new downtown lies just across the East River, over the stately 19th century bridge sharing its name with its home borough, Brooklyn, the USA's biggest city-within-a-city," the 260-page book notes.

The "Go List" of top destinations includes Brazil, India, Morocco, Mexico, Greece, Spain, Cuba, Nicaragua, Argentina and Turkey. The top destination was China. Brooklyn, along with Hawaii and New Orleans, was included in the entry about the United States.

The hot list was compiled by Lonely Planet editors, according to spokesperson Frank Ruiz. This is Brooklyn's first time on the list, but the borough is always included in the company's city guides, Ruiz said.

Here's how Lonely Planet editors account for the borough's surging popularity: "As Manhattan real-estate prices in the 1990s skyrocketed beyond normal budgets, artists, hipsters, yuppies, workers, families, students and emigrants seeking space and rent looked east to the borough that made John Travolta famous."

"By fate or fortune, a cultural movement emerged, and now Brooklyn stands proud as the hippest part of New York City," Blue Planet asserts.

Borough President Marty Markowitz hailed the inclusion of Brooklyn in the book as confirmation of the borough's "rise to the upper echelons of global tourist destinations."

"I commend Lonely Planet for recognizing what Brooklynites have always known: our borough is not just the best place to live, work, and raise a family-it's also a world class place to visit," the borough's top boss said.

Presaging the honor, Markowitz opened the Brooklyn Tourism and Visitors Center in 2004.

Brice Gosnell, Lonely Planet's regional publisher, said Brooklyn "is the new downtown-with urban hipsters, diverse communities still intact, its own parades and festivals, and its own unique blend of small businesses and restaurants that make it must-see for any visit to New York."

The book, $19.99 and widely available, refers to Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project as the "Hot Topic of the Day." On the plus side, the book says, "is pro sports' return to the borough...on the minus, it's a land grab scam that'll boot out tenants and further Wal-Martify NYC," the book warns.

Notable attractions the book cites include the Brooklyn Museum, Prospect Park, Williamsburg nightlife, Coney Island and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Festivals and events of note include Coney Island's Mermaid Parade, the Atlantic Antic and the hot dog eating contest held annually at Nathan's Famous in Coney Island.

Travelers will have a "defining experience" if they mostly stay well north of the all-beef wiener munching set, the book advises.

First, according to the book, bike across the Brooklyn Bridge, explore DUMBO's art galleries, check out the views form Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park, indulge at Jacques Torres Chocolate on Water Street, and "model [Williamsburg-based] Triple Five Soul streetwear and knock back some Brooklyn Lagers while blasting Asteroids at Barcade in Williamsburg."

The "most bizarre sight" in Brooklyn, the book claims, is Takeru Kobayashi of Japan, reigning hot dog eating champion, "outchomping challengers and hoisting trophies at Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest."

The Bronx, oddly, is listed under the entry "What's Hot" in the book's two-page spread on Brooklyn. New Jersey is deemed not hot.

"Life changing experiences" can be found two ways, according to Lonely Planet.

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and imagining how the Manhattan skyline looked pre-September 11, 2001, or by "passing out on the BDF train after a big night out, then waking in Coney Island to see the sun rise over the Atlantic."

Times sure have changed: Nary a mention is made about the possibility of having one's pockets slashed (and wallet stolen) while unconscious on the Stillwell Avenue-bound train.

Updated 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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