A gracefully gentrified neighborhood in South Brooklyn, Carroll Gardens was originally considered part of more working-class Red Hook, just a few blocks to the south across the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. First settled by Dutch farmers, then Irish, Italian and Norwegian merchants, and now a combination of French immigrants, American yuppies and aging couples, this evolving area retains traces of all its past inhabitants. Most renowned for what it has preserved, Carroll Gardens today is increasingly full of independent-owned cafes, boutiques and antique stores, most set along Smith Street.
Named for Charles Carroll, a Revolutionary War hero and senator from Maryland and the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, the neighborhood is centered on tree-lined Carroll Park. Around and near the park is the Carroll Gardens Historic District, comprised of 19th-century brownstones with elaborate gardens out front.
Head south for two blocks to reach Van Brunt Street, a major thoroughfare dotted with cafes, galleries and shops, and head left on Van Brunt for about a quarter mile. Turn right onto 1st Place, cross carefully over the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (which appears at this stretch as a major residential street rather than a highway) and head up four blocks to Smith Street.
Another fun way to get here is via the IKEA Express Shuttle. Running seven days a week from Pier 11 at South Street Seaport, this $5 boat ride across the East River passes Grosvenor Island and the Statue of Liberty before depositing you at the IKEA Superstore in Red Hook.