If New York City is a melting pot, Queens is at the center of that pot. Over 138 languages are spoken in this borough and there are restaurants of every ethnic variety and layers of history and culture. There’s so much more to Queens than LaGuardia and JFK. Here are a few highlights and surprises you’ll find in this multi-cultural borough.
Gantry Park and the Neon Pepsi Sign
Along the banks of the East River, a former industrial zone has been transformed into Gantry Park. Considered the best spot anywhere for unobstructed views of Manhattan’s iconic skyscrapers, the park welcomes you at Gantry Plaza with four massive gantries reminding you of the area’s industrial past. Beyond the gantries are four piers, sidewalks, picnic tables, benches, chairs and even summer hammocks.
Gantry Park is also the place to view Queens’ most iconic structure—the Pepsi sign. Neon meets history on this beloved piece of pop art. The sign originally topped Pepsi’s bottling plant. When the plant was demolished, Pepsi kept a little strip of land and that’s where the sign found its permanent home. When the 24-story apartment building located behind the sign was designed, the architect recessed a portion of the building to accommodate the iconic sign.
Art and Architecture in Long Island City
Long Island City sits on the edge of Queens just across the river from Midtown Manhattan. Formerly an industrial hub, LIC is now a flourishing neighborhood of elegant apartment towers, artist studios, trendy eateries and parks with astounding views of Manhattan.
LIC is home to a delightful mixture of architectural styles. A courthouse in Beaux Arts style contrasts with industrial warehouses. Contemporary apartment towers claim real estate along the East River while brownstones offer a quiet refuge along tree-lined streets. What I love most are the unexpected finds – like the artist studios tucked away in non-descript buildings. One example is the studio of Eduardo Anievas, an artist whose paintings center on cityscape, landscape, still life and portraits. Eduardo’s paintings have been exhibited in shows in the United States, Spain, Germany, Bulgaria and Portugal.
Another is the studio of sculptor Glen Marlowe. Modeling the structural elements after the Renaissance artists Donatello, Michelangelo and Bernini, Glen’s sculptures capture the human form in dramatic fashion. The size of his sculptures range from miniatures to over-life size. I never expected to find such magnificent sculptures inside a warehouse. There are several walking tours available in Queen, to get acquainted with LIC, I joined BQE Tours which is known as the anti-tourist tour.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
With 898 acres, Flushing Meadows Corona Park is New York City’s fourth largest park and 55 acres larger than Central Park in Manhattan. At its center stands the iconic Unisphere which was erected for the 1964 World’s Fair.
Multiple walking and bicycle paths meander through a lovely mix of waterways, flora and fauna. An abundance of fields and playground invite soccer, volleyball and cricket games. Meadow Lake—New York City’s largest body of fresh water—offers rowboats and paddleboats for rent in the warmer months. The lake is also the site of the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival, an international event held annually in August during which more than 150 teams compete in about 80 rowing races.
At the Corona Aquatic Center within the park, you’ll find an Olympic-size indoor pool and an ice rink. If baseball is your thing, you can catch a New York Mets game at Citi Field or attend the U. S. Open Championships.
Located at the edge of the park, the Queens Museum’s main attraction is the Panorama of the City of New York. This scaled model gives visitors a feel for the immense scale of the city’s five boroughs.
Queens County Farm Museum
Believe it or not, there’s a farm museum in this urban borough. The Queens County Farm Museum's history dates back to 1697; it occupies New York City's largest remaining tract of undisturbed farmland. The farm encompasses a 47-acre parcel that is the longest continuously farmed site in New York State. The site includes historic farm buildings, a greenhouse complex, livestock, farm vehicles and implements, planting fields, an orchard and herb garden. Bet you didn’t think you could get in touch with your inner farmer in New York City!
Have you explored the borough of Queens?
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