There are lots of fun things to do in Queens, which is one of the five boroughs of New York City. When we first read that Queens was named the top US travel destination in 2015 by Lonely Planet, we were a little skeptical. However, after personally visiting this colorful and heterogeneous district, we were convinced.
Queens boasts one of the most diverse demographics in the world. Over here, we saw ethnic enclaves of Indians, Chinese, Latin Americans, and more!
With such a diverse population, it is no surprise that Queens has an amazing food scene. Whatever your preference, there is bound to be something that will satisfy your taste buds. Visitors can expect to indulge in exotic Indian biryani, authentic Chinese “Ma La Xiang Guo”, Tibetan dumplings, Mediterranean/ Greek fare, and much more.
There are so many attractions in Queens! We strolled in scenic waterfront parks, walked through a vibrant Indian enclave, visited a public green park with majestic structures, ate authentic Chinese food at a bustling Chinatown, and did many other things. It was an awesome day filled with amazing cultural experiences.
I have listed down 9 awesome things to do in Queens below, categorized by their respective neighbourhoods: Long Island City, Astoria, Jackson Heights, and Flushing. Each of these neighbourhoods has unique characteristics and offers distinct attractions.
Long Island City
Long Island City is a neighbourhood situated in the western part of Queens. This area is known for its beautiful waterfront parks, prime residential estates, and flourishing arts scene.
1. Hunter’s Point South Park
Our first stop in Long Island City was the scenic Hunter’s Point South Park. This is a beautiful waterfront park that includes a waterfront promenade, a green space for activities, a playground, and an outdoor cafe. We had breakfast at the cafe which was named LIC Landing. The food was decent, but what we enjoyed most was eating on the waterfront while admiring the Manhattan skyline in the cool morning breeze. And in the background, the cafe was playing nice soothing music. We couldn’t have asked for a better start to our adventure in Queens.
To reach here, we took the 7 train to Vernon Blvd – Jackson Av station and walked for about 7 minutes to reach Hunter’s Point South Park. Click here to see the directions.
2. Gantry Plaza State Park
Gantry Plaza State Park is another waterfront park located right beside Hunter’s Point South Park. The park is so named of the large restored gantries here. It offers picnic tables, reclining benches, basketball courts, playgrounds, green fields, and even a fishing pier. We enjoyed walking here while admiring the Manhattan skyline.
We stumbled upon the iconic neon Pepsi-Cola sign, which was originally fixed on top of a bottling plant before being located here in 2009. This is definitely a nice landmark to take some pretty Instagram pictures.
3. Visit a Microbrewery
Long Island City is known for its numerous microbreweries, where unique beers are independently produced in-house. Rockaway Brewing Company is a popular microbrewery that invites you to “jam out to reggae” while drinking one of their unique brews. It has a cool-looking facade and will appeal to people looking for a hipster hangout. Sadly we didn’t manage to check out the beers here because the joint was still not open when we visited. Rockaway Brewing Company is a few minutes’ walk from the Pepsi Cola Sign. Click here to see the directions.
Address: 46-01 5th St, Long Island City, NY 11101, USA
Opening Hours: | Mon to Wed: 5pm to 9pm | Thur: 3pm to 9pm | Fri: 3pm to 10pm | Sat: 12pm to 10pm | Sun: 12pm to 9pm |
4. MoMA PS1
MoMA PS1 is a popular contemporary art museum that attracts about 200,000 visitors a year. It is known for its exhibition of innovative and experimental artworks. The museum is a ten-minute walk from Gantry Plaza State Park.
Address: 22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101, USA
Opening Hours: | Thur to Mon: 12pm to 6pm | Tue to Wed: Closed |
After a good start to the day at Long Island City, we made our way to Astoria. This is a middle class neighbourhood with a diverse demographics, and is known for its high Greek population.
5. Museum of the Moving Image
Museum of the Moving Image is an institution that holds exhibitions related to film, television, and digital media. According to what I read online, this is an extremely interesting museum and many people enjoyed their time here.
Directions: The museum is a five-minute walk from Steinway Street Station. However, we took a Lyft ride to get here as it was a lot more convenient.
Address: 36-01 35th Ave, Queens, NY 11106, USA
Opening Hours: | Mon to Tue: Closed | Wed to Thur: 10.30am to 5pm | Fri: 10.30am to 8pm | Sat to Sun: 10.30am to 6pm |
6. Steinway & Sons Piano Factory Tour
If you are a piano enthusiast, you can visit the Steinway & Sons Piano Factory, where you can take a free factory tour to learn how the pianos are handcrafted by professional artisans. However, the tours are extremely limited. There is only one factory tour a week on Tuesday from 9.30am until 12pm for a group of 15 people. Tours are available from September to June and must be booked in advance. These details are subject to change and you can email or call to make your tour reservation.
Directions: The factory is located in a secluded area of Astoria. I would recommend taking Uber or Lyft to get here.
Address: Steinway Pl, Queens, NY 11105, USA
Phone: 718 721 2600
Jackson Heights is a colorful neighbourhood in Queens that boasts one of the most diverse demographics in the world. It was an amazing experience to see so many different ethnic enclaves located in one small area!
7. Explore the Diverse Neighborhoods!
It was quite the cultural experience to walk around Jackson Heights! This heterogeneous neighborhood offers plenty of surprises. One moment, we were in a vibrant area with Indian sari shops, gold shops, and Indian restaurants. But after turning a corner, we immediately found ourselves in a middle class estate with elegant garden apartments. After turning another corner, we were in a street lined with Latin American and Mexican businesses.
Foodwise, we found Korean food, Mexican taco trucks, Indian restaurants, Tibetan restaurants, and more. This is a food heaven for anyone who loves trying diverse cuisines! We explored Jackson Heights using the route below:
Walk along Roosevelt Avenue to 74th Street
We took the 7 train to 69 St-Fisk Av Station. From the station, we walked along Roosevelt Avenue to 74th Street, crossing over the highway along the way. We saw many Filipino businesses between 69th and 71st Streets. We had a quick meal at Unidentified Flying Chicken just before 72nd Street; this joint sells delicious Korean fried chicken. If you are interested, there is also a Tibetan restaurant Himalayan Yak just slightly further down the street.
Turn left into 74th Street and walk to 37th Avenue
We turned left into 74th Street, going directly into the famous Little India section of Jackson Heights. As we walked towards 37th Avenue, we saw lots of Indian sari shops, gold shops, Indian businesses, Indian grocery shops, and Indian restaurants. We didn’t have time to check out the food here, but from what we read online, Indian Taj is a good choice for authentic and delicious Indian food. Jackson Diner is also a famous Indian restaurant but it has become a bit of a tourist trap. Both these restaurants are located along 74th Street. We also passed by Patel Brothers, an interesting Indian supermarket. You will also find two popular Tibetan restaurants along 74th Street: Lhasa Fast Food and Phayul.
Turn right into 37th Avenue and walk to 77th Street. Turn left into 77th Street.
We took a right at 37th Avenue and walked to 77th Street. We turned left into 77th Street, and this was where amazingly the landscape changed completely. We found ourselves in a upper middle class estate with neat rows of brick buildings lining the streets. We had a refreshing cold drink at Espresso 77, a cozy coffeehouse that is very popular with the locals here.
After that, we strolled down 77th Street, admiring the pretty Hawthorne Court residential complex on our left. Designed in 1922, these historic garden blocks are amazingly well-preserved. They have many pre-war architectural features such as wood burning fireplaces and private garden courtyards, though we couldn’t really see these from the outside. This area of Jackson Heights is famous for many of such beautiful historic garden blocks.
Walk up 77th Street to 34th Avenue
We continued walking up 77th Street to 34th Avenue, where we saw Travers Park. This is a community park and playground, and we saw many young locals playing sports and games here. On the left of Travers Park, we saw a castle-like building with pointed turrets, which was pretty cool.
Turn right into 34th Avenue and walk to 80th Street
From Travers Park, we walked down 34th Avenue to 80th Street. At the junction of 34th Avenue and 80th Street, we saw The Towers on our left, which is another prewar garden apartment. It has elements of Italian Romanesque traditional architectural style, such as the red tile roofs and belvederes.
Turn right into 80th Street and walk to Roosevelt Avenue
We turned right to walk down 80th Street. On our left was The Chateau, which reflected influences of the French Renaissance style with its mansard roofs and intricate chimneys. Both The Towers and The Chateau were planned by designer Andrew Thomas in 1924.
We continued walking down 80th Street to Roosevelt Avenue and saw other historic garden blocks along the way. It was pleasant to walk down the street lined with pretty trees.
Turn right into Roosevelt Avenue and walk to 74th Street
After reaching Roosevelt Avenue, we took a right and walked towards 74th street. Again, the landscape changed suddenly. This street is home to many Mexican and Latin American businesses, and you can check out the taco and arepa trucks here. The famous Arepa Lady is located near 77th Street. Finally, we reached the 74 St-Broadway subway station where we caught the 7 train to visit Flushing, our final destination in Queens.
If you are interested, you can check out the Colombian/Peruvian neighborhood between 82nd and 90th Streets to experience the culture and food. We didn’t have time to do this as we were running behind schedule.
Below is an outline of the route we took in Jackson Heights:
Our last stop in Queens was Flushing. Over here, we visited a pretty public park, admired the venue of the US Open, and had an awesome dinner at the bustling Flushing Chinatown.
8. Flushing Meadows Corona Park
We took the 7 train to Mets-Willets Point Station and walked for about five minutes to reach Flushing Meadows Corona Park. This is a beautiful public park that serves as the backyard for the people living in Queens. We enjoyed strolling along the park path, which was lined with pretty trees on both sides. This park was created to host the 1939/1940 New York World’s Fair, and was also the site for the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair.
Yes I know this is a super touristy shot
We had been looking forward to see the iconic Unisphere, and we were not disappointed. Located in the heart of the park, this is a huge stainless steel globe of the Earth, constructed for the 1964/1965 World’s Fair. We were blown away by its colossal size – the pictures we saw online didn’t do justice to its actual size.
USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center
The world-famous USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is located near the Unisphere. Fans of tennis will know that this is the venue of the prestigious US Open. We took some photos outside the stadium, and also captured some aerial shots of the courts. Unfortunately, the stadium was not open for a tour when we visited in April (you can click here to see the National Tennis Center tour dates).
New York State Pavilion
Left: New York State Pavilion. Right: Unisphere
New York State Pavilion
We also saw the New York State Pavilion in the park. This iconic structure was built to host the 1964 New York World’s Fair, which had 140 pavilions and 110 restaurants from 80 nations. The fair attracted more than 51 million visitors! However, after the fair, the New York State Pavilion fell into disuse and has largely remained in a state of neglect. There have been many proposals to revamp the pavilion, though none has really been very successful.
Featured in Hollywood Movies!
Flushing Meadows Corona Park has also been featured in two blockbuster Hollywood movies! In Iron Man 2, the New York State Pavilion served as the centre stage for the extravagant Stark Expo. Later on, Tony Stark discovered that the Unisphere and its surrounding park structures were actually the blueprint for the new element “Vibranium”. And towards the end of the movie, Iron Man lured the Hammer Drones into the Unisphere, causing them to crash inside.
In Men in Black, the Observation Towers of the New York State Pavilion were actually alien spaceships in disguise. And of course, who can forget that dramatic scene when the alien spaceship crashed through the Unisphere in spectacular fashion after being shot down by Will Smith.
Other Attractions in Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Other attractions here include the Citi Field (home of the New York Mets baseball team), the Queens Theatre, the Queens Zoo, the New York Hall of Science and the Queens Museum of Art.
9. Flushing Chinatown
After an entire day of touring Queens, we were feeling famished. Luckily, we knew that there were lots of awesome Chinese food in Flushing Chinatown. Other than the great food, we also enjoyed reveling in the vibe of Flushing Chinatown. We have visited the more well-known Manhattan Chinatown before, but we definitely prefer the Flushing one because it exudes a charming bustling vibe. To get here, we simply took the 7 train to Main St Station.
One place that you must visit in Flushing Chinatown is Golden Mall. This hole in the world mall consists of two floors (street level and basement). It is quite the hidden gem as we almost walked past it without noticing the obscure entrance. Once inside, we discovered a tidy sprawl of food stalls selling delicious and authentic Chinese food.
As we walked through the cramp corridors between the stalls, we were spoiled for choice on what to eat. Finally, we settled on pork noodles from the renowned Xi’an Famous Foods, and luckily it did not disappoint! This gutsy dish had just the right amount of spiciness, and the chewy noodles went perfectly with the succulent pork chunks.
Directions: Golden Mall is a three-minute walk from Main St Station.
After dinner, we had some spicy dumplings at White Bear; these passed muster but were not spectacular. The restaurant is a two-minute walk from Main St Station.
Coco Bubble Tea
No visit to a overseas Chinatown would be complete without drinking bubble tea, and we got our bubble tea fix from Coco. We ordered the milk bubble tea which tasted delicious with its rich and creamy flavour. We were glad that it did not taste diluted, like those of some other inferior bubble tea chains. The pearls were chewy and tasty too. We slowly walked to the train station to take the subway back to Manhattan, while sipping our tasty bubble tea in the evening light. Coco is located directly opposite Main St Station.
Other good food in Flushing Chinatown includes the New Flushing Bakery (delicious Portuguese custard egg tart) and Fang Gourmet Tea (exquisite Chinese tea at an affordable price).
Map of Queens
An Amazing Cultural Experience in a Colorful District!
In our opinion, Queens is the most colorful and varied district in New York City. And it was gratifying to see that the people here are extremely accepting of each other, despite their different ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds. Our day trip to Queens was definitely a great cultural experience!