The 15 Best Things to Do, Eat, Drink, and Buy in Queens
This piece originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.
Named the number one travel destination in 2015 by Lonely Planet, Queens is fast catching up to New York’s more famous boroughs. Home to myriad cultural institutions, thriving artist communities, and a vast array of ethnic restaurants (not to mention more reasonable hotel prices), Queens makes an ideal home base for a New York City visit. And with the U.S. Open kicking off this week at Arthur Ashe Stadium, more people than ever will be flocking to the borough. If you’re crossing the East River to watch a match, here are some very worthwhile detours:
What to Do
Check out the Panorama of NYC at the Queens Museum
New York City Building Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Perimeter Road
Kick off your visit by getting the lay of the land at the Queens Museum, set in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park within walking distance of Arthur Ashe Stadium. Visitors can head right for the panorama of New York City, an incredible recreation of all five boroughs that was built in 1964 for the World’s Fair. (Look for tiny Coney Island, complete with the Cyclone roller coaster, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the miniature Statue of Liberty.)
Hall of Science
47-01 111 Street, Corona
Your kid’s not into tennis? Walk over to the nearby Hall of Science, a hands-on museum where children and science-nerd adults can find out how physics affects sports while pitching baseballs, explore optical illusions, and learn about rockets while playing mini-golf (really!). There’s a design lab where visitors can put what they’ve learned into practice, an IMAX theater, and a special, multi-sensory playroom just for toddlers.
See a Mets Game at Citi Field
123-01 Roosevelt Avenue, Corona
While you’re in town, catch a game at Citi Field—the Mets are having a great season, their fans are one-of-a-kind, and the stadium’s concessions, ahem, hit it out of the park. Seriously, forget about peanuts and Cracker Jacks; instead, try a Shake Shack burger, a chicken mole taco, David Pasternack’s shrimp po’boy, or a Pat LaFrieda Steak Sandwich. Or just get a hot dog and a beer and watch the game, old school.
Wander Around Socrates Sculpture Park
32-01 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City
Built on an abandoned landfill, this outdoor museum displays large-scale sculpture and multi-media installations. The park is set alongside the East River, and the sweeping views of Manhattan are a vivid backdrop to the exhibitions. Visitors are encouraged to explore the park on their own, but artist-led tours can also be arranged. The park is open 365 days a year from 10 a.m. to sunset.
Catch a Wave at Rockaway Beach
Beach 67 Street, Rockaway Beach
Decimated by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Rockaway Beach has come back stronger than ever with a restored beachfront and boardwalk and an influx of new shops and food vendors. The coastal community remains, as always, one of the best places to surf in the New York area. Head to Locals Surf School for a lesson—surfboard and wetsuit are provided and the lessons are taught year-round.
What to Eat
Soup Dumplings at Nan Xiang Dumpling House
38-12 Prince Street, Flushing
Flushing is home to some of the best Chinese and Korean food in the city—nay, the country. Dedicated food lovers could easily spend a week eating their way through this bustling neighborhood, stopping for dim sum at Jade Asian, Szechuan specialties at Spicy & Tasty, or wandering one of the subterranean food courts, like Golden Shopping Mall, the birthplace of Xi’an Famous Foods. But if there’s one food not to miss on a Flushing eating tour, it’s the soup dumplings at Nan Xiang Dumpling House. These meat- and stock-filled steamed buns are served in bamboo baskets and accompanied by piquant black vinegar. To eat them, scoop one up with your spoon and take a small bite, releasing a stream of the rich, fragrant broth. Sip the broth and sprinkle a few drops of vinegar on the dumpling before finishing. After you’re sated, wander down Prince and Main Streets and order a bubble tea for dessert.
Montreal-Inspired Food at M. Wells Steakhouse in LIC
43-15 Crescent St, Long Island City
Don’t be fooled by the unassuming painted-brick storefront: M. Wells Steakhouse might give off a casual vibe, but its food is seriously good. Run by husband-and-wife team Hugh Dufour and Sarah Obraitis, the restaurant reflects the eclectic, nose-to-tail cuisine that Dufour cooked during his stint at Montreal’s famous Au Pied du Cochon, along with a touch of personalized whimsy. Come hungry—the food is hearty and the portions are large (witness the menu’s prehistoric-looking tomahawk chop or the tower of pork chops). Prices are similarly lofty. Bonus for those heading to the Open over a weekend: the Queens iteration of the food market Smorgasburg is held right next door on Saturdays between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Grilled Octopus and Mezze at Taverna Kyclades
33-07 Ditmars, Boulevard, Astoria
The streets of Astoria are lined with Greek restaurants, but none is more popular or renowned than Taverna Kyclades, which serves plates of some of the best grilled seafood you’ll eat this far from the Aegean. The smoky, tender grilled octopus is a must, as are the plates of crisp fried calamari and smelts. Round out the meal with other mezze—dips liketzatziki, skordalia, and taramosalata, or gigantes (large white beans in tomato sauce)—and an entrée of whole grilled sea bass or red snapper served with lemon potatoes. Insider tip: Taverna Kyclades doesn’t take reservations and the wait for a table can be long, so go on a weekday or for an early dinner.
Barbecued Pork Belly at Han Joo Chik Naeng Myun & BBQ
41-06 149 Place, Flushing
There are many good places to get Korean barbecue in Queens, but if you’re looking for tender, rich, barbecued pork belly, the place to go is Han Joo Chik Naeng Myun & BBQ. Set on a corner of a quiet part of Flushing near the Murray Hill Long Island Railroad stop, Han Joo serves a full menu of traditional Korean dishes, but those in the know order thesamgyeopsal, or pork belly. The thinly sliced meat is delivered to diners raw and cooked over a quartz stone set atop a grill in the center of the table. Traditional accompaniments like kimchi, scallions, spicy bean paste, and lettuce leaves are served alongside.
Ices at the Lemon Ice King of Corona
52-02 108 Street, Corona
This Queens institution puts all other Italian ices to shame. Run by the same family for over 60 years, the Corona storefront offers flavors that extend well beyond the usual offerings—think cantaloupe studded with pieces of melon, coffee, mint, and piña colada, as well as standbys like cherry, coconut, and “rainbow.” On hot days, customers line up down the block for a scoop or two of this nostalgic frozen treat.
What to Drink
Cactus, Orange, and Pineapple Juice at Elmhurst Deli & Juice Bar
80-03 Broadway, Elmhurst
On your way to the Open, stop by this unassuming grocery and juice bar, where you can treat yourself to a glass of the best juice you’ve ever had. The store proprietors use fresh fruit and vegetables along with traditional Mexican ingredients to create juice combinations like aloe vera, apple, and carrot, or mint, parsley, and cucumber. The cactus, orange, and pineapple juice might sound strange, but it’s exactly the type of refreshing, not-too-sweet drink you need to kick off a hot day in the stands.
Schofferhofer at Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden
29-19 24 Avenue, Astoria
Come here with a group of friends to unwind over a draft pitcher after a tense match. Dating back over a century, this beer hall is a beloved Queens institution, particularly in the summer when seating is open in the expansive, twinkly light–framed outdoor garden. The hall’s Czech roots are reflected in its beer selection (don’t miss the Schofferhofer, a grapefruit beer) as well as the menu of Central European dishes like knockwurst, pierogis, and chicken or pork schnitzel.
Whatever the Bartender Makes You at Dutch Kills
27-24 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City
Named after the section of Long Island City in which it sits, Dutch Kills brought the craft cocktail scene to Queens when it opened in 2009. The dark, sexy space is lined with booths in the front, but head to the bar in the back to watch the bartenders work their magic. You can ask for any cocktail you want, but the most fun way to order is simply to tell the bartenders what sorts of spirits and flavors you like and see what they come back with. They nail it every time.
What to Buy
Knickknacks at LIC Flea
5-25 46 Avenue, Long Island City
This year-round flea market offers a snapshot of the borough’s many charms, from its varied ethnic cuisines to its established art scene. Open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., the one-stop shop houses a multitude of vendors hawking antiques, furniture, jewelry, clothing, and vintage eyewear in addition to foods ranging from empanadas and Japanese vegetable pancakes to lobster rolls and fried ice-cream.
Spices at Patel Brothers
37-27 74 Street, Jackson Heights
Chefs all over the city head to this enormous grocery store in Jackson Heights—just a block off the 7 train—to stock up on South Asian ingredients like ghee, spices, dals, and otherwise hard-to-find produce. The store also sells an interesting selection of pre-prepared frozen and boxed foods as well as sweets and savory snacks. Give yourself time to wander the aisles before exploring the neighborhood’s many sari shops and Indian bakeries.