Originally built as a planned community in the years between the World Wars, Jackson Heights today is a multi-ethnic community of well-maintained apartment buildings and single-family houses. To an increasing number of travelers and curious New York natives, the area offers a diversity of mostly reasonably-priced restaurants representing many of the world's cuisines, including Indian, Thai, Korean, Mexican, Peruvian, Italian, and Argentine, just to name a few.
The original tract of land that became Jackson Heights extended approximately from Roosevelt Avenue on the south to Northern Boulevard on the north, and from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway / 69th Street on the west to Junction Boulevard on the east, an area of about a square mile. These are still the boundaries recognized by many residents, although sometimes the larger, low-rise area stretching north of Northern Blvd. to LaGuardia Airport is also considered part of Jackson Heights.
South Asian businesses cluster around the block of 74th Street between Roosevelt Ave. and 37th Ave. Restaurants and other businesses catering to the growing Mexican community cluster on Roosevelt Ave., which runs under the elevated #7 Flushing Line of the New York subway. 37th Avenue has many local shops. 82nd Street and Junction Boulevard are mostly discount shopping streets with a Latin flavor. Most of the other streets are primarily residential.
Abutting Jackson Heights to the south, across Roosevelt Ave., is Elmhurst, a very ethnically diverse neighborhood that supports Latino, Chinese, Korean, and South Asian communities. But perhaps above all, Southeast Asians - from the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand - are a striking presence among the purveyors and clientele of its various shops and restaurants. Only about a 35-minute subway ride from Manhattan and a short walk from all the Indian and Latino clubs, shops, and restaurants in Jackson Heights, it is a neighborhood very much worth visiting for some excellent, inexpensive food. Very good restaurants such as the Georgia Diner are located in the district, as well as the Queens Center Mall. Get here by taking the R or M trains to Elmhurst Avenue or Grand Avenue.
Corona borders Jackson Heights to the east, across Junction Boulevard. It is a largely Latino neighborhood with many Latino restaurants. Corona also has a rich African American heritage, and is the former home of Louis Armstrong, whose house is now a museum, and Willie Mays. Get there by taking the 7 train to Junction Boulevard or 103rd Street, or the R or M trains to Woodhaven Boulevard or 63rd Drive.
The area is easily reached by subway from midtown Manhattan (in as little as 15 minutes, via the E or F) and other parts of New York City. The busiest station is known as 74th Street on the #7, and as Jackson Heights / Roosevelt Ave. on the E, F, R, and M trains. A free transfer is provided there between the lines, and there are also free transfers to the various bus lines that serve Jackson Heights, including the Q49, Q32, and Q33. Further east along Roosevelt Ave., the area is also served by the 82nd St., 90th St., and Junction Blvd. stations of the #7 train.
The Q70 bus goes directly from LaGuardia Airport to Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Avenue, before continuing on to Woodside. It is useful if you are staying in a hostel in the area.
Jackson Heights can be reached from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (or "BQE", also known as I-278), via the Roosevelt Ave. or Northern Blvd. exits. This road connects to the RFK (formerly Triborough) Bridge and to Brooklyn. Northern Blvd. leads west to the Queensborough Bridge and east to the Grand Central Parkway, the Van Wyck Expressway, and Flushing.
Much of Jackson Heights is designated by the city as a landmark district, which provides a measure of protection to the area's distinctive architecture. Though many of the buildings are distinctive, the area is primarily known for its gardens. Some of these are visible from the street, but others are in enclosed courtyards, and they are mostly private spaces that can only be visited by invitation or during the annual "open house" day (see the website of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group - http://www.jhbg.org - for details). Architecturally notable apartment complexes with extensive gardens include the Towers and the Chateau, which face each other across 34th Avenue between 80th and 81st streets, and Dunolly Gardens, on the block bounded by 78th and 79th streets and 34th and 35th avenues.
The single block of 74th Street between Roosevelt and 37th Avenue is the nucleus of a bustling South Asian shopping district, with stores selling traditional garments (such as saris), gold jewelry (especially for use in wedding ceremonies), Bollywood DVDs, religious goods, and of course, food. The community has diversified somewhat in recent years, as Indian and Pakistani immigrants have been joined by people from Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, and other countries. 73rd Street is home to several Bengali businesses.
A cultural highlight of the neighboring community of Corona is the Louis Armstrong House Museum (3456 107th Street, Corona, NY 11368, 718-478-8274, http://www.louisarmstronghouse.org), where the jazz legend lived from 1943 to his death in 1971. Armstrong and his wife Lucille chose to live in a modest single family house in an area that was once home to a number of African American performers and other luminaries. The museum preserves the furnishings and artwork pretty much just as Louis and Lucille left them, and also has a collection of Armstrong's recordings and other memorabilia. The adjacent garden - Louis' pride and joy and the only thing that distinguishes the house from its neighbors on the street - is occasionally used for concerts, notably on July 4 (Louis' stated birthday) and August 4 (determined after his death to be his actual birthday).
Little India- Traditional Indian shops and cuisine along 73rd and 74th street, Patel Brothers supermarket on 74th street carries a large variety of traditional Indian food and products.