When it comes to tourism, Queens is not Manhattan. It's not even Brooklyn. But more and more people are visiting our borough and realizing what a great destination it is. There's history, culture, views, and food without the crowds or prices of Manhattan. Here are my top favorite places in Queens to bring visitors.
The symbol of Queens, the Unisphere is a giant globe in Flushing Meadows Park. It's a great spot to hang out and catch Queens at play: walking, biking, skating, running, barbecuing, and playing soccer. Next door is the Queens Museum of Art with its Panorama of New York City, an incredibly detailed scale model of the entire city. It is so well composed that you can pinpoint specific houses, even find your own home. The Panorama has been delighting visitors since the World's Fair in 1964.
The Bohemian Hall is a wonderful beer garden in Astoria, Queens. Turn off a crazy urban street--the subway overhead--and escape into this huge beer garden with its shady trees, picnic tables, pitchers of icy beer, and platters of hearty Czech food and barbecue. This place is a must on summer weekends. Many an afternoon there's stein-thumping folk music. You just have to love the Bohemia Beer Garden: a true urban oasis that's fun for families, visitors, and a cast of NYC neighborhood regulars.
The Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, celebrates the history, technology, and art of movies. It is a great museum with a balance of hands-on activities and information that will interest youngsters and adults. Dub your voice in the Wizard of Oz, see how short Robert De Niro is, and create your own animations. On the weekends, enjoy a screening of a classic or foreign movie in the Rilkis Theater. This museum will delight anyone who loves movies.
The streets of Jackson Heights are lined with gold! Well, not exactly. A row of 22k gold jewelry shops light up 74th Street. It's the main drag of an Indian/South Asian enclave, and has some of the best eating in all of NYC (delicious curries, tandoori, nan, dosas, kebabs, Indian sweets, and more). There's lots of cool shopping -- saris, bhangra music, Bollywood DVDs -- and even a Bollywood movie theater. This fascinating Little India is a great place to experience Queens' famed diversity.
In Long Island City, P.S. 1 is an internationally renowned museum devoted to contemporary art. Housed in a former public high school, P.S. 1 has managed to keep cutting the cutting edge even as it has matured as an institution. This is one of the best major art spaces in NYC.
Downtown Flushing is New York's second largest Chinatown. It is worth a visit for an afternoon of strolling, peeking into herbalist shops, sipping up boba tea, and munching on great Chinese and other Asian eats. Don't miss the celebration of Lunar or Chinese New Year in Flushing every winter. You won't see the tourist crowds who go to New Year in Manhattan, but you will get an earful of firecrackers and an eyeful of dragon dancers.
Long Island City has emerged as a major cultural destination with the second highest concentration of museums and galleries in NYC. Come over for P.S. 1 and stay the day touring Noguchi's modern sculpture, contemporary African art, and even a landmark to graffiti art called 5 Pointz.
The Lemon Ice King of Corona is hands down a summer classic for fruit-flavored and chocolate ices. The ambience is strictly NYC "take it or leave it" (only a few years ago did they start offering napkins), which is part of its charm. It is close to Shea Stadium and the Louis Armstrong Museum. The Lemon Ice King is at 52-02 108th St. (at the corner of Corona Ave.). Take the 7 subway to 111th Street and walk south 1/2 mile. By car, take the LIE to the 108th Street Exit and go north eight blocks.
What's better than an afternoon at the ball game, eating peanuts, and watching the Mets pull off a miracle? No doubt, there will be another miracle, if not this year, then next. Seats at Shea are less expensive than at Yankee Stadium. Plus, there's plenty of parking and plenty of tailgating to get you ready for the ball game.