The borough of Queens doesn’t have the celebrity presence of Brooklyn or the majesty of New York City. Yet, this area on the western edge of Long Island was the place to go before the other boroughs got famous. Thus, there are plenty of things to see in this area’s 73,000 acres. Here are 34 suggestions of things to do in Queens.
Start with some history. Fort Totten is a Civil War-era bastion built to protect the East Coast from Confederate ships. In the 20th century, it was used to store anti-aircraft guns and Nike missiles.
Today, most of the area is available to visitors. The rest is still fenced in and used for training by the city’s police and fire departments.
A half-century the construction of Fort Totten, Fort Tilden was built. The purpose was to protect New York City from the German submarines of World War I.
As the Cold War set in, the fortress was a launch point for the Ajax and Hercules missile program.
Today, nature has taken over. Still, Fort Tilden is an interesting look at the past.
Harry Houdini’s Grave
Before the magicians and illusionists of television and Las Vegas, there was Harry Houdini. The master of escapes, Houdini didn’t die during one of his famous feats. He passed away after a university student punched him in the stomach to see if he indeed had a steel abdomen. Combined with appendicitis, he died quickly.
Houdini was buried in his family plot at a Queens Jewish cemetery. Among the items to see are his headstone, a granite bench with a figure of a mourning woman, and a bust of Houdini himself.
People visit the area each Halloween to perform seances and the traditional Broken Wand ceremony. They hope to communicate with the magician.
Cemetery visits aren’t only for mourners. They’re also for people who want to experience the history of an area.
With Calvary Cemetery, you can examine a wide swath of individuals. It contains the most burial sites of any cemetery in the U.S.
There are more than just former residents of Queens buried in this space. Famous people, like composers, Hollywood stars, and members of the mafia are also interred at this cemetery established in the mid-19th century.
Another famous individual whose resting place is Calvary is the first immigrant to cross into America through Ellis Island.
There are four areas to explore and find the burial sites for the individual you’re looking for.
Home To The World’s Fair
There is one part of Queens that contains a good deal of attractions, both active and historic. This is the area known as Flushing Meadows & Corona Park. A space that is easily accessed by taking the number 7 subway or the Long Island Railroad (LIRR).
Among the items to explore is the grounds of the World’s Fair. Flushing Meadows had the honor of hosting both the 1939 and 1964 events. What remains of the latter are the 12-story Unisphere and the New York State Pavilion with its three-tier observation tower.
On the grounds of Flushing Meadows is the Queens Museum. This is home to several visual art displays and educational programs for those who reside in the borough and New York City.
What to see in Queens? By visiting this museum, you can see it all! Among the most famous pieces hosted by the museum is the Panorama of the City of New York. Created for the 1964 World’s Fair, it is meticulous in the way it displays the famous city in miniature as of 1992. It features all of the area’s 895,000 buildings and 100 bridges.
New York Hall Of Science
Originally part of the complex of buildings from the 1964 World’s Fair, New York Hall of Science is a family-friendly museum that features well over 400 exhibits. Many of them are hands-on for both adults and children to try out.
Among the spaces are a Design Lab, where children can create their own experiments, and a 3D theater that shows films on nature and the environment.
USTA National Tennis Center
Another famous part of Flushing Meadows is the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. It’s here, within Arthur Ashe Stadium, that the U.S. Open is held each year. Tens of thousands of visitors make the trek at the end of August and early September. Here you can catch famous and not-so-famous players make a move for the championship.
The National Tennis Center isn’t simply for professionals. One of the oldest tennis facilities in the city, it has served residents of Queens and the other boroughs since the late 19th century.
Clay courts are available for anyone to come by. Furthermore, classes are available for those interested in learning more about the sport.
The New York Mets didn’t have to go far when their decades-long home, Shea Stadium, closed. They walked over to 41 Seaver Way and their new space, Citi Field.
Opened in 2009, it has been the regular home for the Mets and the 2013 MLB All-Star Game.
It doesn’t matter if the National League East team is playing or not. You can visit Citi Field throughout the year. While there, you have an opportunity to stroll through the Mets Hall of Fame & Museum. Why not pick up a souvenir at the in-stadium shop?
The Home Of Louis Armstrong
The Louis Armstrong House Museum & Archives isn’t the home the jazz legend stayed in during his years singing and playing trumpet. The residence at 34-45 107th street was Armstrong’s place once he retired in the late 1960s. Still, it’s definitely worth a visit.
Visitors can tour the home’s interior, which was restored to the way it looked when he and his wife lived there.
On top of this, Louis Armstrong’s home is a museum that contains displays of his life and achievements during that time. As more items are collected the amount of material changes. This means returning visitors might see something different on display.
Queens Jazz Trail
Louis Armstrong is one of the jazz luminaries that graces the city’s Jazz Trail. The self-guided tour provides visitors with an opportunity to visit the homes of other famous performers of this musical genre. Some you can see from the outside. Others have available tours.
Among the homes on the Queens Jazz Trail are those of Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, and Lena Horne.
In fact, Basie lived in the neighborhood of St. Albans, which had the largest concentration of jazz performers. On top of these individuals, the tour also stops at the home of soul singer James Brown.
The Birthplace Of Scrabble
The famous word game Scrabble wasn’t created in a university or other educational environment. It was born on 35th Avenue in Queens. To be more precise, it originated in the basement of Community United Methodist Church.
It’s here in 1938 that Alfred Butts introduced a new word game called Lexiko. It combined his love of crossword puzzles and anagrams into one environment.
Today, a plaque in front of the church commemorates the event. Overall, the location isn’t hard to find thanks to the uniqueness of its Scrabble-based street sign.
The Greaser Clock
The origins of this clock, situated on the outside of an office building in the Queen’s neighborhood of Ozone Park, vary. Some say the leather jacket-clad individual on top of the now-armless clock represents the gangs that used to make Ozone Park their home in the 1950s.
Others relate it to a likeness of James Dean or Marlon Brando in The Wild Ones.
Then there are neighborhood folks who say it’s a memorial to On The Road author Jack Kerouac, who lived in Ozone Park.
No matter if it’s any of those or others like Elvis Presley or The Fonz, the Greaser Clock is a unique piece of history to see.
While The Beatles had Liverpool and The Beach Boys had Southern California, The Ramones had Queens.
The Ramp, located in the neighborhood of Forest Hills, is where the four original members of the band hung out to do nothing and plan their musical careers at the same time.
Once The Ramones became a success, their legacy was cemented on this parking garage ramp by mural artist Ori Carino. Declaring the spot as the birthplace of punk, the mural displays the four original members sitting atop the ramp’s railings.
TWA Flight Center
There’s a scene in the Tom Hanks film Catch Me If You Can where Leonardo Di Caprio races down a red-carpeted hallway that resembles something from a science fiction movie. That space is part of the TWA Flight Center at JFK Airport.
The terminal followed the futuristic specifications in the 1960s to usher in the Jet Age of flight. It remained in operation well into the 21st century. Then, it was abandoned. However, because it’s listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, it still had life.
In 2015, the terminal became a new airport hotel and is actually one of the most popular hotels in Queens.
Museum Of The Moving Image
Located in Astoria, the Museum of the Moving Image is housed in the space that was once the famous Astoria Studios. Thus, it’s a treasure trove of film, television, and digital media.
Among its regular items is the Jim Henson Exhibit. Here, visitors get a close-up look at the many Muppets created by Henson over the decades.
Moving Image is also home to displays of film equipment from the 1800s and video games from the late 20th century.
It presents regular movie screenings. There are approximately 400 movies in various genres that are played annually in the museum’s in-house theater.
MoMA is one of our top picks. A wonderful place to discover in Queens!
Queens Botanical Garden
Manhattan doesn’t hold sole claim to a top garden oasis in the midst of a city. The Queens Botanical Garden has the same offerings within its 39 acres.
Established as the “Gardens on Parade” for the 1939 World’s Fair, the Flushing-based space continued to grow over the decades.
Today, visitors can walk to the gardens from the National Tennis Center to watch flowers and trees bloom in the warmer months. Among the spaces are an arboretum, bee garden, and herb garden.
Couples can book the gazebo at the Wedding Garden for pictures and marital ceremonies.
Originally, MoMA PS1 was used to only organize art shows. However, as the decades progressed, a permanent gallery was opened.
At the start of the 21st century, Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) collaborated with PS1 to create space for contemporary art, music, and performances.
Among its many events are the summer live music series. The annual performance venue, which has been active for over two decades, has featured both local musicians and famous headliners.
Alley Pond Park
When one thinks of Queens, they don’t conjure up images of wetlands. Nonetheless, the borough is on the tip of an island. Thus, there are patches of nature among the buildings. One of these is Queens’ second largest park – Alley Pond.
It’s home to the city’s oldest and biggest tree, the Queens Giant. At 133 feet, the poplar’s age is estimated around 450 years old.
Among the other areas in Alley Pond are walking trails that meander through meadows, forests, and wetlands. A trip to the park is a journey back in time to the origins of the city.
Though the locals were already aware of this Queens-based beach, The Ramones made it famous with their 1970s song of the same name. It has remained a go-to location for both locals and visitors. It is one of our favorite places to visit in Queens on a warm weekend afternoon.
Situated on the Rockaway Peninsula, the beach itself is a wide swath of sand that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. People can get a tan, swim, or try to surf the waves. When done, the boardwalk area contains sundry shops as well as venues that serve local food favorites.
Jacob Riis Park
A few minutes’ drive from Rockaway Beach, Jacob Riis Park is less crowded and can feel more family friendly. Designated a Gateway National Recreation Area, the park was opened in 1912. It features many structures that were constructed during the Art Deco days of the 1930s.
In addition to the sand and surf, Jacob Riis also features The Bazaar. This area hosts a variety of local food vendors along with games and live shows.
Socrates Sculpture Park
This space is a testament to repurposing lands for better use. Once used as a landfill, the five-acre space was cleaned up and made an outdoor museum in 1986. Since then, the sculpture park has displayed pieces from local and international artists.
The best part of the park is that it’s an active outdoor studio. All of the pieces are created within the area. Visitors can linger at one spot and ask the sculptors questions about their creations.
Noguchi Museum is one block from the sculpture park. It is dedicated to the works of Japanese American artist Isamu Noguchi. Among those are paintings, busts, and sculptures. This museum also has its own outdoor garden of statues and other displays.
Steinway & Sons Factory
Steinway has been making quality pianos for decades, and their main factory is based in Queens. In fact, pianos have been made there for nearly 150 years.
They aren’t put together by robots. Each of the 1,000 pianos completed each year is created and inspected by hand.
The factory is the last-remaining active building that was part of Steinway Village. The company town once had its own schools and amusement park.
Today, visitors can tour the factory from September to June. While there, they can watch 200-year-old steam-machines help bend wood for these pianos.
If you play or love piano, Steinway & Sons Factory should definitely be on your list of things to do in Queens.
Welling Court Mural Project
Queens is home to several art museums and outdoor displays. Many of them feature the works of local artists. One such place is at 11-98 Welling Court.
This is the home of the Welling Court Mural Project. In 2009, the residents of the area wanted to give it a fresh look. So, they worked with members of a Bushwick gallery to reform the space.
The result was a display of contemporary art murals that stretch from the court out to the neighborhood’s streets. It’s a good place for visitors to take time to explore each piece.
Queens is also home to past and present film & television studios. One of those is the five-decade-old Troma Entertainment. It’s not hard to locate their studio on 11th street. The entryway features a king-size image of Toxie from The Toxic Avenger.
Though they don’t offer public tours, you can ask for one if you call ahead or even knock on the door. While there, you can catch creators working over the next B-movie to add to Troma’s over 1,000 film library.
Gantry Plaza State Park
One of the best places to take in a sunset over the Manhattan skyline is Gantry Plaza State Park.
With easy access from the 7 train or the East River Ferry, the area allows you to take a picture with the famous Times Square Pepsi-Cola sign from the 1930s. You can also grab a drink and a bite to eat at the park’s outdoor cafe.
The sunset is only one show you can watch at Gantry Plaza. The other is the light show when structures like the Chrysler Building and the United Nations are illuminated for the evening.
Furthermore, Gantry Park is a less crowded spot to watch the annual Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks.
Gottscheer Beer Hall
The Gottschees, a German-speaking ethnic group, came to New York after decades of peril under Yugoslavian and Italian leaders. Some of these people came to Queens, and, in 1924, open a beer hall in the neighborhood of Ridgewood. The hall is an active bar and restaurant that serves food and drink from both America and Germany.
Manhattan’s McSorley’s states they’re the oldest operating tavern. However, the claim actually goes to Neir’s in the Woodhaven neighborhood. They opened their doors in 1929, making them the oldest in the five boroughs. On top of this, the bar and restaurant was featured in a scene from the movie Goodfellas.
Few public pools in the United States offer free admission. One of these is the Astoria Pool. Located in Astoria Park, it was built in the 1930s as part of the federal government’s Works Progress Administration (WPA). The size of four Olympic-sized pools, the area was actually the home of trials for the 1936 and 1964 games.
This area got its name from Dutch and European explorers who had trouble traversing the rough waters and rocky crags of the area.
In the mid 19th century, the Army Corps of Engineers began a 70-year project to clear the area. Nevertheless, hundreds of ships were sunk or damaged in the space. Today, it’s spanned by the Hell Gate Bridge.
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Queens has the distinction of housing the only wildlife refuge in the national park system. At one time of the year or another, the area is home to over 320 species of birds.
More permanent residents to the wildlife refuge are the Ospreys that make use of Jamaica Bay to find food. Hikes and sunset tours by boat are available for visitors to attend.
You don’t have to place a bet on a race at Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park. You can simply spend a few hours watching the races. There may be a chance you see a horse that eventually makes it to the Kentucky Derby. For those interested in other forms of gambling. a Resorts World Casino is open next door.
LaGuardia Landing Lights Park
This unique park, constructed in 1958, is right on the edge of one of LaGuardia Airport’s landing strips. Thus, in addition to trees and grass, visitors also encounter aviation guiding lights. For airplane aficionados, this space is a great place to park and watch jets come in for landings.
Summary – things to do in Queens, New York
Queens is a surprisingly versatile part of New York. Many visitors just stay here while spending their days and nights out in Manhattan.
But when you visit New York, think about it. There are plenty of things to see in Queens. Spending a day or two here puts an interesting and different twist to your New York visit.
Let’s sum things up.
Here is the bucket list – our top things to do in Queens, NY:
- Fort Totten
- Fort Tilden
- Harry Houdini’s Grave
- Calvary Cemetery
- Home To The World’s Fair
- Queens Museum
- New York Hall Of Science
- USTA National Tennis Center
- Citi Field
- The Home Of Louis Armstrong
- Queens Jazz Trail
- The Birthplace Of Scrabble
- The Greaser Clock
- The Ramp
- TWA Flight Center
- Museum Of The Moving Image
- Queens Botanical Garden
- MoMA PS1
- Alley Pond Park
- Rockaway Beach
- Jacob Riis Park
- Socrates Sculpture Park
- Noguchi Museum
- Steinway & Sons Factory
- Welling Court Mural Project
- Troma Entertainment
- Gantry Plaza State Park
- Gottscheer Beer Hall
- Neir’s Tavern
- Astoria Pool
- Hell’s Gate
- Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
- Aqueduct Racetrack
- LaGuardia Landing Lights Park
Enjoy your stay in Queens!