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The 20 Best Things to Do in Queens, NY for First Timers

Gantry Plaza State Park

If you are thinking of visiting New York City and you are wondering where you should base yourself for your vacation, then a good option is Queens. This is a borough of the city that is located on Long Island, just across from East Manhattan. The reason that this is a good borough in which to stay is that you will have so many activities and attractions to enjoy right on the doorstep of your accommodation. It is also a good base for accessing other parts of the city as there are excellent transport links. If you choose to stay in this area, here are the 20 best things to do in Queens, NY for first-timers.

Food Markets

20. Try as Much Food as You Can at the Food Markets

Fodors recommends visiting the food markets and trying as many different foods as possible. New York City has a diverse culinary scene that has been influenced by the melting pot of cultures living in the city. One of the best food markets takes place in the flushing Meadows corona Park every Saturday evening. There are 60 stalls selling a vast array of cuisine. Other markets to visit include the Riis Park Beach Bazaar and the LIC Flea & Food. Some of the cuisines you can sample at these markets include American, Italian, Greek, Peruvian, Bolivian, and Korean.

Astoria Park

19. Go to Astoria Park

This park covers 59-acres, and it is known for its views of the city and the Triborough and Hell Gate bridges. There are plenty of amenities to enjoy within the park, including trails, tennis and basketball courts, playground, and picnic spots. The park is also home to the biggest and oldest pool in New York City.

Park Side Restaurant

18. Enjoy a Meal at Park Side Restaurant

There is no shortage of fantastic restaurants in Queens, so you will find something to suit all tastes and budgets. In this district, there is a large community of Italian Americans, so you will find many Italian restaurants. One of the most popular restaurants amongst the locals is Park Side Restaurant, which was established in 1980. It is a great place to visit for a treat, as the waiters are dressed in Tuxedos and the restaurant is rather formal with white tablecloths on the table. The menu consists of traditional Italian dishes, and seafood is a highlight of the menu.

Alley Pond Environmental Center

17. Learn About the Environment at Alley Pond Environmental Center

Alley Pond Park is the second-largest park in Queens, as it covers 650 acres of land. It consists of salt marsh and wetlands that are a wildlife refuge for various animals, and it is home to more than 300 species of birds and animals. Within the park is the Alley Pond Environmental Center, which was created in 1976. This center is dedicated to teaching people about the environment and about the preservation, protection, and restoration of Alley Pond Park. The facility is run by groups of volunteers who work hard to care for the wetlands.

Brooklyn Boulders Queensbridge

16. Have Fun at Brooklyn Boulders Queensbridge

If you like to enjoy getting active during your vacations, then a top attraction to visit is Brooklyn Boulders Queensbridge. This huge facility is in a basement, and it is a top attraction for climbing activities. You can try auto-belay, bouldering, lead climbing, and top-roping. There is also a cardio and weight room for visitors to use.

Socrates Sculpture Park

15. Stroll Around Socrates Sculpture Park

Until 1986, the location of Socrates Sculpture Park was a landfill. Now, it is an outdoor museum and public park covering four-and-a-half-acres. There is a rotating display at this waterside park, and many of the sculptures are specifically designed for display at this outdoor museum. There are free yoga and tai chi sessions that take place in the park, and there is the Greenmarket from June to November.

Fifth Hammer Brewing Co.

14. Have a Beer at Fifth Hammer Brewing Co.

Although there are many places to enjoy a drink in Queens, Time Out says that the best place to have a beer is at the Fifth Hammer Brewing Co. There is an extensive range of tap beers at this brewery, including kettle sours that are flavored with fruit flavors, pale ales aged in rye barrels, and farmhouse ales. This brewery has a quirky interior, including more than 300 vintage hammers that have been turned into tap handles and a central bar made from a former school sidewalk.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

13. Explore Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

As its name suggests, this wildlife refuge is located on the Broad Channel in Jamaica Bay. It is a wonderful place for nature lovers to explore. The refuge consists of open water and salt marshes, and it is home to both terrestrial and aquatic animals. It is a popular location for birdwatchers, and people also come to see the turtle egg-laying and horseshoe crab mating. Some of the mammals that call this refuge home include raccoons and Eastern Gray Squirrels.

Lewis Howard Latimer House Museum

12. Visit the Lewis Howard Latimer House Museum

This property was formerly the home of Lewis H. Latimer, who was an African-American inventor and electrical pioneer. He worked alongside famous inventors, including Hiram S. Maxim, Thomas Alva Edison, and Alexander Graham Bell. This Queen Anne property is now open to the public, and there is a focus on learning about the contributions of African Americans in the fields of technology and science. One of the highlights of this attraction is the ‘tinker lab’, which is an interactive feature for learning about electrical experiments.

Rockaway Beach

11. Have Some Seaside Fun at Rockaway Beach

Visitors often forget that Queens is in a waterside location, so there are beaches to enjoy. One of the best areas to visit for some seaside fun is Rockaway Beach. This is a neighborhood on the Rockaway Peninsula of the South Shore of Long Island, and it has the largest urban beach in the United States. This is the only legal surfing beach in the city. The beach and the sea are not the only things to enjoy in this area. There are also outdoor activities, playgrounds, and various eateries.

Queens Zoo & Aquarium

10. See the Animals at Queens Zoo & Aquarium

An amazing day out for all the family is a visit to the Queens Zoo & Aquarium, as there are things that will appeal to adults and children alike. This 18-acre zoo sits with Flushing Meadows, and it consists of four zoos and an aquarium. The zoo is a cageless zoo that is home to 75 species of animals, all of which are native to the Americas. It is possible to take guided tours of the zoos and the aquarium, and there are opportunities for hands-on experiences with the animals.

Gantry Plaza State Park

9. Enjoy the Skyline from Gantry Plaza State Park

Although it is one of the smaller parks in Queens at just 10-acres, Gantry Plaza State Park is a popular place to visit. It is located on 47th Road and sits in the Hunters Point area of Long Island along the East River. It is popular because of the spectacular views of the Manhattan city skyline. There is also a great view of the United Nations Building. Other features include the riverside walk, the playgrounds, the playing fields, and the picnic tables.

Louis Armstrong House Museum

8. Go to the Louis Armstrong House Museum

The former home of jazz legend Louis Armstrong, the Louis Armstrong House is located on 107th Street in Corona. It is now an attraction that is devoted to his life after his wife donated the house to the city of New York following his death in 1971. In 1976, the house was designated as a National Historic Landmark. It was also designated as a New York City Landmark in 1988. Inside the museum, there is a massive collection of memorabilia, books, writings, photographs, and recordings. There are also musical performances hosted at this attraction.

Citi Field

7. Watch a Game at Citi Field

Sports events are popular in New York, and one of the best-known sports teams is the New York Mets baseball team. They are based at the Citi Field Stadium, which is in the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. If you can, try to catch a game at the stadium during your stay as the atmosphere is electric. You should check what is on before you embark on your trip. The stadium itself is noteworthy as it seats almost 42 thousand people and its impressive front entrance is called the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.

Museum of the Moving Image

6. Go to the Museum of the Moving Image

The Culture Trip recommends a visit to the Museum of the Moving Image. It is the only museum in the United States with a focus on the history, art, culture, and technology of video. The highlight of the permanent exhibition is the Jim Henson Exhibit. This showcases the work of Henson, who is famous for being the creator of Sesame Street and The Muppets. There are special events hosted at this venue throughout the year.

Noguchi Museum

5. Visit the Noguchi Museum

Isamu Noguchi was a Japanese-American sculptor. This museum is dedicated to his work. In the past, this location close to the Socrates Sculpture Park was a gas station. Now, visitors can see the furniture designs, architectural models, sculptures, and drawings of Noguchi. After a renovation in 2004, the attraction now has 12 galleries of the artist’s work.

Flushing Meadows Corona Park

4. Explore Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Created in 1939 for the New York World’s Fair, Flushing Meadows is the fourth largest park in New York City. The park covers 879 acres, and it is home to an array of attractions that you should try to visit during your stay in Queens. One of the most notable attractions is the Queens Museum, which you must include in your vacation itinerary. It is also home to the zoo and aquarium, the New York Hall of Science, the Queens Theater in the Park, and the New York State Pavilion. This park is also visited by sports fans as within its perimeters sits Citi Field, home of the New York Mets baseball team. Furthermore, it is home to the USTA National Tennis Center, which is used annually for the US Open along with many other large tennis tournaments.

Queens Botanical Garden

3. Stroll Around the Queens Botanical Garden

The top outdoor attraction in Queens is the Queens Botanical Garden. The gardens were founded in 1939 as part of the New York World’s Fair. The gardens relocated for the 1964 World’s Fair. This outdoor attraction is divided into sections, including a herb garden, a perennial garden, a bee garden, and a rose garden. There is also a visitor center, which has been open since 2007, and this is where visitors can learn more about the plants in the gardens.

New York Hall of Science

2. Enjoy Interactive Activities at the New York Hall of Science

A fantastic place for all the family to visit is the New York Hall of Science, which is in the Flushing Meadows Park. There are more than 400 exhibits at this attraction. Many of these are interactive, which is something that children love. The focus of the museum is chemistry, biology, physics, and technology. Some of the permanent exhibits include Rocket Park, the Realm of the Atom, The Nature of Networks, and Connections.


1. See the Art at MoMA PS1

According to Vacation Idea, the best thing to do in Queens, NY for first-timers is to see the art at the MoMA PS1. This art museum was established in 1971, and it is based in a Romanesque Revival public school building that was built in 1892. It is now one of the largest art museums in the United States, and one of the most popular attractions in New York City. Inside this art museum, there are eight exhibition spaces that are devoted to national and international project artists. The museum also has an outdoor gallery that you should visit.

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Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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