Long Island City is the first neighborhood you reach in Queens coming from Midtown Manhattan. The best area for exploring, Hunters Point, is a historic waterfront with rich cultural attractions and fun things to do for a visitor to New York City. So convenient to Midtown Manhattan, there's no excuse for not exploring the rich art and history of this dynamic outer-borough neighborhood on the East River waterfront.
The biggest draw in Long Island City is PS 1 Contemporary Art Center, the Museum of Modern Art affiliate. Its exhibits and events -- like Warm Up, the best NYC outdoor summer party -- are an art fan's dream. But don't get back on the subway until you've seen more of this changing neighborhood and its spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline.
Long Island City is in the midst of a radical transformation from a land of industry to an extension of Midtown Manhattan. Multiple residential apartment towers are rising on its East River waterfront, replacing light industry. Yuppies and hipsters have moved in, and restaurants and shops are rushing to open and cater to the new market. Bistros have opened next to old-school pizzerias.
Long Island City Views of Manhattan
The best place to see that mix of old and new Queens is literally at the same street address: Watertaxi Beach and the Waterfront Crabhouse (2-03 Borden Ave, at 2nd St, Long Island City). Watertaxi Beach is a man-made beach on the East River (run the folks who pilot the water taxi boats between Manhattan and Queens). The beach affords beautiful, up-close views of Midtown Manhattan. They look even better when you're chomping on an award-winning burger and downing a cold beer with your toes in the sand.
Next door you can find a bit of Long Island City's boxing history at Waterfront Crabhouse (718-729-4862), a saloon and oyster bar that's been there seemingly forever.
The Water Taxi Beach is only open in the summer, but luckily there's a waterfront park that shares its postcard-worthy views of the skyline: Gantry Plaza State Park (48th Ave, at Center Blvd), named after the hulking 19th-century railroad gantries that transferred cargo from ships to trains. Both these watery outposts are directly across the East River from the United Nations, making them superb perches for the Fourth of July fireworks show.
Long Island City Art and Museums
Cross the street for a close-up on the graffiti-covered building that is 5 Pointz (Crane Street and Jackson Avenue). Inside this former warehouse, there are art studios, but the outdoor canvas is what you'll want to inspect.
More art attractions like the Noguchi Museum and Socrates Sculpture Park are much farther to the north, accessible by subway/walk, bicycle, or car. The best small museum in New York City is also close, but not close enough to walk. Take the subway or drive to the Museum of the Moving Image.
Long Island City Architecture
Close by, a well-preserved block of late 1800s row houses in an array of styles constitutes the Hunters Point Historic District (45th Ave, between 21st & 23rd Sts). Fans of Third Watch might recognize the local police station and Firehouse. The TV show was filmed in the neighborhood with many actual local NYPD and FDNY appearing as extras.
Events in Long Island City
- Fourth of July Fireworks - Wow, what can we say, it's the best place to see the annual Macy's fireworks show - July 4
- Warm Up - Outdoor Summer Dance Party at PS 1 - July and August
- NYC Marathon - Runners stride down Vernon Boulevard on their way from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Vernon's bars and restraurants are prime for toasting the valiant - November
Where to Eat Long Island City
Vernon Boulevard is the strip for the neighborhood's best restaurants and bars. Highly recommend is the tapas-inspired, yet homey, menu at Lounge 47 (47-10 Vernon Blvd). LIC Bar is a beautiful old bar serving great draft beer and a slection of single malt scotch. Water's Edge has the luxe-de-luxe view, but maybe not the best food or service (East River at 44th Dr, 718-482-0033). Wait for the discounts available during Restaurant Week and Winter Restaurant Week.
Getting Around in Long Island City
The subway, especially the 7 train, is darn convenient for LIC. The E, V, and G are pretty good too.
Walking is a fine way to get around, but if you expect to see everything in the Hunters Point area, your feet may get a little sore.
Consider renting a bicycle. Spokesman Cycle is a full-service bike shop on Vernon Boulevard that rents bikes. It's too long to walk to Socrates Sculpture Park, but biking is a good ride up Vernon.
Hunters Point does have an LIRR station, but it's in limited use, only operating during peak commutes to and from Long Island.