Queens is a crescent-shaped borough traversing the width of Long Island and including two of the major New York City area airports, LaGuardia (LGA) and John F. Kennedy International (JFK). It also carries the largest ethnic diversity in its area of any region in the world, divided into small enclaves. Jackson Heights, for example, includes a huge Indian area, followed by a Colombian area, and then a Mexican area. Each offers a wide array of authentic shops, native-style cuisine, and festivals modified only slightly by the generally colder New York City experience.
The geographical center of New York City is actually in Queens and the borough is home to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the site of the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs. The area around the park still includes an interesting museum and some architectural and artistic relics of the events (including the Unisphere, a 300 ton spherical grid of steel, the world's largest globe, as featured in "Men In Black"). The northern end of the old fair grounds includes Citi Field, home of the New York Mets professional baseball team, and the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home of the U.S. Open (tennis); further north one can walk along the edge of the marina along the Long Island Sound. The park also includes a science museum, a zoo, and pedal-boats, and hosts frequent special events.
Queens has many distinct neighborhoods. See the Eat section below for more information on Queens neighborhoods.
Astoria - Known for a large Greek population. This population is accompanied by Asians, Latin Americans, and Europeans. Many trendy restaurants and shops are located in Astoria, with Steinway Street being a primary shopping district. Get here by using the N and W trains.
Corona - Has a large Latino neighborhood with many ethnic restaurants. Corona is the former home of Louis Armstrong, whose house is now a museum, and Willie Mays. Get here by using either the 7 train to Junction Boulevard or the G, R, or V trains to Woodhaven Boulevard or 63rd Drive.
Elmhurst - Is known for its large Latino and Asian population. Very good restaurants such as the Georgia Diner are located here. Queens Center Mall is in Elmhurst as well. Get here by taking the G, R, or V trains to Elmhurst Avenue or Grand Avenue.
Flushing - At the end of the 7 line is a very large Chinese community; important Korean and Indian communities are also to be found, further from the subway stop.
Jackson Heights - A large South-Asian neighborhood with numerous Indian restaurants, groceries, and shops, including a Bollywood movie theater, is centered around 74th St. and Roosevelt Av. The rest of the neighborhood is an incredibly diverse Latino community, with nationalities all the way from Mexico to Chile and Argentina represented. Get to the South Asian area by taking the 7 or the E, F, G, R, or V to Jackson Heights/74th Street; take the 7 to 82nd Street or 90th St. to access the Latino community.
Jamaica - Transportation hub, primarily Black community, King Manor Museum, and unique cultural venues geared toward African American art. You can get here by taking the E, F, J, or Z trains, or the Long Island Railroad.
Long Island City - Traditionally industrial, LIC is now home to a rising arts community. Get here by taking the E, G, R, or V to Queens Plaza, the N, W, or 7 to Queensboro Plaza, the G to Court Square, the E or V to 23rd Street-Ely Avenue, or the 7 to 45th Road or Hunterspoint Avenue, or the Long Island Railroad to Hunterspoint Avenue or Long Island City.
For information on how to walk or bicycle to and from Queens, check out the Transportation Alternatives website . Except for the Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges, all the bridges can be crossed by pedestrians and bicycles. Be prepared, however, for long walks, and don't forget that Queens is very, very big, and not well-designed for a walking tour. A map is necessary.
Sadly, most Queens visitors spend their visit on a bus to or from LaGuardia Airport or JFK Airport. A proper tour of Queens is worthwhile. It can be conducted by a stalwart driver; others may find the roads tough to navigate. However, much of Queens (but unlike Manhattan, not all of it), including many of the most interesting parts, can be seen by subway. A trip on the 7 train, made nationally famous by the contempt of former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker, is a cultural experience in and of itself. The 7 runs elevated through most of Queens, so you'll be able to get a good sense of much of the borough through its windows. A good tour of Queens should include at least three meals in three different ethnic enclaves.
Other subways for getting around (and in and out of) Queens include the A, E, F, G, J, M, N, Q, R, and Z. The Long Island Rail Road makes several stops in Queens: the main line runs through central Queens and the Port Washington line runs along the north shore (including a stop in Flushing).
Express buses also stop in places in eastern Queens and the Rockaways, usually in places where the subway doesn't stop. Main arteries for express buses (that are closer to Manhattan) are Queens Boulevard and Woodhaven Boulevard.
Local buses that go into Midtown Manhattan include the Q32, Q60, and Q101. The M60 goes to upper Manhattan from LaGuardia Airport.
The Q48 is a great bus for going to eastern Queens from LaGuardia Airport. It leaves you at the Flushing-Main Street station. Other buses from LaGuardia Airport include the Q33 and Q47 to the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue subway station, the and the Q72 to the Rego Park and Junction Boulevard subway stations.
The Q10 and Q3 go from JFK Airport. The Q10 goes to Lefferts Boulevard and serves the A train, J/Z trains, and E/F train subway stations. The Q3 goes out towards eastern Queens and goes into Nothern Jamaica to the 179th Street F station.
Queens is quite diverse in density and character. While western Queens (closer to Manhattan) is urban, much of eastern Queens is relatively suburban. As in every borough, the closer you get to Manhattan, the more rare it is to find a stand-alone house. The more urban clusters are in the northwest: Astoria and Long Island City (LIC). LIC also contains Queens' most prominent skyscrapers, including the "other" Citibank building, located directly across the East River from the more prominent angled-roof skyscraper in Manhattan. Rising 50 stories, the building, the result of Citibank's attempt to create a new business district in LIC, is the tallest building in New York State located outside of Manhattan.
P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, ☎ +1 718 784-2084, . Th-M noon-6pm. Supported by the Museum of Modern, this innovative (and cheap) contemporary art museum is in a former public school building. The conversion left most of the original features of the school - the large ex-classrooms are perfect for installations - and the bathrooms are a blast from the past. P.S.1 is a few blocks south on Jackson Avenue from the Citibank tower; the entrance is a concrete slab (how fitting) which occludes view of the school itself. P.S.1 also has a nice cafe and outdoor seats where every able-bodied New Yorker can enjoy a smoke.
Steinway & Sons Pianos, 1 Steinway Place, Long Island City, ☎ +1 718 721-2600, . They offer free guided tours during fall and spring to see the skilled craftsmen at work. Phone ahead, a month in advance is recommended, to reserve a place on these popular tours, and to check the days and times. Otherwise take the online factory tour on their website.
A number of museums are located in Long Island City, including the Isamu Noguchi Sculpture Museum in Noguchi's former sculpture studio, the Museum of African Art, Sculpture Center, and the Museum of the Moving Image which includes interactive exhibits on the history of video games. The area also includes two free places to view art, Socrates Sculpture Park which overlooks the East River (next to Price Costco on Vernon Blvd.), and the Fisher Landau Center showing a private collection of contemporary art.
(A general tip on NYC Museums: if you work for a large company such as IBM, GE, or Citigroup, check to see if your company is a member --this goes for all museums in NYC; different museums have different sponsors of course.)
Across the street (Jackson Avenue) from PS.1 is a fascinating site as well: 5 Points which is one of the few "legal graffiti zones" in New York City. Visit the website for an advance taste. The entire building is decorated (including the inside if you can, ahem, find a way in). 5 Ptz is underground New York at its finest, although artists must apply for permits from a shadowy figure with e-mail addresses posted on-site (which perhaps ensures the high standards for the spray painted art). Few taggers have defaced the site with their idiotic scrawls; rather, the art is better, fresher, and more colorful than many PS.1 exhibits. Be sure to walk around the entire length of the building. Just under the 7 train, which runs overhead on 5 Ptz's north face, you'll find a large enclosure for truck loading, which features some of the best artwork of all. A fire escape runs up to the roof, and of course, every space within arms' reach is decorated as well. If you're into this stuff, you'll want to bring a camera.
In Flushing Meadows Corona Park (also on the 7 line; exit at Shea Stadium), the Queens Museum offers visual art, cultural events, Worlds' Fair Memorabilia, and a sprawling scaled-down Panorama of the entire city. It's incredibly accurate, except they've yet to remove the World Trade Center.
Just off Northern Blvd in the area between Astoria and L.I.C, at 35th Avenue and 36th street, you'll find the Museum of the Moving Image, which showcases movies and the televisual arts, including video games, with revolving exhibitions. Kaufman-Astoria Studios (home of the Sesame Street, among others) stands next door; there's also a gigantic movie theater, and a nice new 24 hour diner/bar (which serves pitchers of beer) known as Cup. Take the R/V/G or the N/W line.
Watch a New York Mets game at Citi Field - Flushing
Go to the U.S. Open tennis tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing.
You can also visit the beach without leaving Queens, as the Ramones put it, "we can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach." Rockaway Beach (on the Atlantic Ocean) is actually a fine stretch of relatively unpolluted sand on a narrow peninsula linked by bridge (bicycle accessible) and the subway (A train) to the rest of Queens (it can also be reached by road from Nassau County, Long Island, and by bridge from Brooklyn). Aside from the still-visible Empire State Building, and the frequent planes landing at nearby John F. Kennedy Airport, it is perhaps the most pastoral experience in New York City. The cleanest beach on Rockaway can be found at Jacob Riis Park, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. Note that women CAN go topless at any public New York beach, although not very many do. Note: Jacob Riis is a federal beach and subject to different laws than the rest of the Rockaways.
Visit farmers' markets at:
New York Hall of Science Farmers' Market 111th St and 48th Ave off Corona Ave . Wednesday, 10AM-3:00PM, June to November.
Queens Botanical Garden Farmers' Market at Queens Botanical Garden off of College Point Blvd. and Blossom St - Flushing. Friday, 8:30AM-4:00PM, June to November.
Jamaica Farmers' Market 160th St. off Jamaica Ave . Friday and Saturday, 8:30AM-4PM, June to November.
There are many sari stores in Jackson Heights, centering on 74 St. north of the subway stop.
There are large numbers of excellent Chinese supermarkets and smaller food markets in Flushing.
You can find lots of good shopping for discounted clothes along Steinway in Astoria (R train) and along Jamaica Avenue in Jamaica (E train).
As New York City is the birth place of hip-hop culture, there are hundreds of records stores scattered around the boroughs, and some are in Queens. Also, though vinyl has disappeared from the shelves of regular record stores, many stores still sell used and new vinyl.
Snobbish Manhattanites never come to Queens, which is one of its great appeals for those who live there. There are a few top-notch bars in Queens, but it's the restaurants that really shine, for a simple reason: If Manhattan food is Yuppie food, Queens food is created by and aimed towards genuine ethnic inhabitants. To put it another way, come here if you like spicy food. If you want a real taste of Hong Kong--or Tibet, Indonesia, Colombia, Peru, India, Argentina, or just about anyplace (including France)--you'll find it in Queens.
Suggested general areas for culinary roving:
Flushing for Taiwanese, Chinese and Korean (Fay Da on Main St., among others, offers reliably good Dim Sum). (The 7 line ends in Flushing - Main St., and you'll think you've gone all the way to Hong Kong). If you're driving, you'll notice an endless selection of Korean restaurants along Northern Blvd as you move in the direction of Nassau County. For more recommendations, see Flushing's own WikiTravel page.
Woodside near 61st St is home to the Thai restaurant widely considered the best in New York, Sripraphai, 6413 39th Av. near Roosevelt Av. and 65 St, (718) 899-9599. You can access it via the 7 local or express at 61 St. or the Long Island Railroad's Woodside station in the same location. Also in Woodside is the Filipino barbecue restaurant Ihawan, 40-98 70th St near Roosevelt Av., (718) 205-1480. Quite popular with Filipinos & non-Filipinos alike for pork BBQ. Can be especially busy during holiday weekends.
Jackson Heights near 74th street for Indian and Afghan. Try the Jackson Diner a few feet north on 74th from Roosevelt Ave. (E and F express trains as well as concurrent lines stop there, as does the 7 local).
Jackson Heights near 82nd and 90th Sts. (take the 7 local to either of those stops) for Colombian, Peruvian, Ecuadorian, and Mexican. Pollos A La Brasa Mario has branches in many Queens locations, and two here (one is at 83rd and 37th Ave; there's also a flagship closer to 81st street on Roosevelt).
Elmhurst offers great Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Thai, and Indonesian food. Try Pho Bang if you like Vietnamese (there are also other Queens branches, including one in Flushing on Kissena Blvd). Penang (Malaysian), which has branches in many U.S. cities, is located in the same complex on Broadway, just beside the LIRR bridge.
In the Middle Village/Ridgewood/Maspeth region (near the end of the M line) you'll find Rosa's Pizza (one is at Fresh Pond Rd. and Metropolitan Ave.; another is down Metropolitan Ave. at the end of the Middle Village strip). This is one of the great undiscovered pizza parlors of Queens. It also has branches in several locations.
Fancier food can be found in Forest Hills, including Nick's Pizza on Austin St, which is fine brick oven-style chow. In the basement of the hotel at station square (right in front of a LIRR stop) you'll find Bartini's, a small lounge offering 1000 different martinis (although I suggest stopping at two). Take the E or F express trains to 71st-Continental Av.
Astoria offers great Greek and Czech food, as well as some of the hipper bars and diners in Queens, (you're right next to the movie studios). Kabab Cafe at 25-12 Steinway St is a great spot to go for Egyptian food. Mombar Egyptian Restaurant is an Astorian institution. Remember the address 25-22 Steinway St as there is no sign. Then again, a sign isn't necessary when you can recognize a stunning and ornate tile work framing the door. It was completed by Mombassa himself. His brother owns Kabab Cafe. Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden is somewhere to definitely check out during the summer. This Czech beer garden and cultural center is swarmed over the summer with crowds enjoying the huge back patio filled with picnic tables. There is food served until about midnight. During the year, the center also holds various cultural events.Tokyo 1 located at 3105 24th Avenue (near 31st street) is a Japanese Restaurant that has good and cheap sushi. Los Amigos is a Mexican Restaurant just beneath the Ditmars Avenue stop on the N train. It's on 31st street. They have very good food and drinks.
If you just want a hamburger, you'll find the Jackson Hole Diner along Astoria Blvd between Jackson Heights and Astoria, just west of LaGuardia airport. This is a real diner (formerly the Airport Diner as seen in "GoodFellas") converted to suit Jackson Hole (another NYC-only chain). Jackson Hole burgers are good, although they need salt. Imagine a half-pound hockey-puck-shaped meatloaf and you're pretty close. But it tastes good.
There's some fine dining to be had in Hunters Point, or so it's said, just southwest of Long Island City. Spacious riverfront restaurants appear here and there in the warehouse zone. It would be wise to drive or take a taxi.
Along Cross Bay Blvd in Howard Beach you'll find Captain Mike's, what appears to be a converted yacht now selling crabs, shrimp, and beer (dine at the bar or take it home; summertime only).
Corona is home to an Italian and Hispanic community and the famous "Lemon Ice King of Corona". A favorite place for Mets fans to stop after the game, the corner shop offers over 20 flavors of ices including cantaloupe, watermelon, rum raisin, licorice, pistachio, pina colada and my favorite peanut butter.
If you like bubble tea with sago and tapioca, there are several good spots within a few blocks of the Flushing - Main St stop on the 7 train. One of the best is on the corner of Main St. and 39th Av.
Queens is home to one of the most entertaining and pleasant places to sip a brew, the Bohemian Hall (known citywide simply as "The Beer Garden"). Drink Czech ales by the pitcher at wooden picnic tables under leafy canopy, surrounded by hundreds. 29-19 24th Avenue, just west of 31st Street. N/W to Astoria Blvd.
Woodside is home to an Irish population and is loaded with bars and cheap happy hours. Check out the burger at Donovan's.
There are a number of hotels in Flushing that serve LaGuardia Airport, including a Sheraton. There are also many hotels near Kennedy Airport in Jamaica, but the location is generally considered undesirable for visitors, except for its proximity to the airport. Some hotels in Jamaica are listed as three stars but are nevertheless poorly kept. Other hotels are scattered through Kew Gardens, Forest Hills, Elmhurst, Long Island City, and various other neighborhoods.
New York LaGuardia Airport Marriott Hotel, 102-05 Ditmars Boulevard, East Elmhurst, ☎ +1 718 565-8900, . checkin: 4:00 pm; checkout: Noon. Offers a fitness center, swimming pool, flexible meeting space and complimentary hotel shuttle to and from LaGuardia Airport.
Ravel Hotel, 8-08 Queens Plaza South, Long Island City, . A luxury boutique hotel offering 63 lodging accommodations overlooking Manhattan with 9ft ceilings, private balcony, and spa-like bathrooms.