Long before its current incarnation as one of New York City’s top destinations for family fun, Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens welcomed nearly 100 million visitors from all over the globe as the site of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs. That legacy endures in the form of the park’s most recognizable feature—the magnificent and extremely Instagrammable steel globe known as the Unisphere—and a slew of repurposed buildings that house some of the borough’s most cherished institutions.
Overlapping two of the City’s most diverse and vibrant neighborhoods, Flushing and Corona, and easily accessible from Manhattan via the 7 subway line, this 898-acre park, the fourth-largest in New York City, continues to draw people for all kinds of activities. The green space provides opportunities for skating, hiking, fishing and barbecuing, as well as enough cultural attractions to fill a day and then some. It is also a premier destination for spectator sports: Citi Field, home to the New York Mets, is located within the park, as is the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, site of the prestigious US Open.
New York Hall of Science
With some 450 exhibits that introduce children to a variety of scientific disciplines, the New York Hall of Science easily warrants a full day of exploration. Hands-on stations allow young visitors to blow giant bubbles, use their creativity to build structures out of basic materials and discover the neuroscience behind that feeling we call “happiness.” There’s also a 3-D theater that screens educational films. From April to November, patrons can learn about the laws of motion while playing mini golf and marveling at two authentic NASA rockets from the 1960s in the background.
Queens Night Market (Seasonal)
Foodies, take note: on Saturday nights from April to October, the park hosts Queens Night Market, a family-friendly open-air food and art market. More than 100 vendors from all over the City set up shop outside the New York Hall of Science, giving you a chance to sample dishes from around the globe for a just a few dollars each. Think: Korean tornado potatoes, Jamaican jerk chicken and Romanian chimney cakes. Enjoy live music and peruse the art for sale while you feast.
The must-see attraction at the Queens Museum is the Panorama of the City of New York, a 10,000-square-foot scaled architectural model of the City. Since its debut at the 1964 World’s Fair, it has since been updated to reflect changes to the City’s urban infrastructure and displays every building in the five boroughs built before 1992 (that’s 895,000 buildings)—plus a few constructed since. Also on long-term display is a stunning collection of Tiffany glass lamps and windows and some 900 objects from the two world’s fairs. Rotating exhibitions give you the perfect excuse to return.
The animals that reside at the Queens Zoo are native to the Americas. Start your visit by interacting with domesticated animals like sheep and alpacas before moving on to the zoo’s main exhibit, Wild Side, home to animals that range in size from Andean bears and American bison to the pudu, the world’s smallest deer. Trumpeter swans await at the Waterfowl Marsh, and you can walk among brightly colored parrots and macaws in the aviary, housed in one of the buildings constructed for the 1964 World’s Fair. Don’t miss the sea lion feedings, which take place three times a day.
Fantasy Forest Amusement Park
Let the kids loose at Fantasy Forest Amusement Park within Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which offers a number of rides, including the borough’s only roller coaster. The carousel here, the largest in all of Queens, is a historic treasure: it was built for—you guessed it—the 1964 World’s Fair, with parts of carousels from Coney Island in Brooklyn.
Queens Botanical Garden
Situated on 39 acres, the Queens Botanical Garden is a scenic spot for the whole family to relax and commune with the natural world. Indulge in the delectable scents of the Rose Garden and the Fragrance Walk, rest on a bench under the shade of majestic pin oaks or grab a meal to go from the QBG Store or one of the many restaurants on Main Street and picnic in the Arboretum. There’s also an herb garden, as well as a bee garden devoted to all things pollination and honey making.