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Visit Queens, NYC, and enjoy the world
Queens is the most ethnically diverse county in the United States. More than half of its residents were born outside the U.S.
Not hungry enough for a sit-down breakfast, I munched on momos (Tibetan dumplings) purchased from a snack truck decorated with a sign that touted “Himalayan Fresh Food.” Lunch was a hurried affair at a five-table eatery where the menu special is yak meat washed down by salty yak milk tea.
For dinner, I chose a small restaurant which gives new meaning to the word “eclectic.” The Ecuadorian-born chef transformed basic South American fare with hints of Spanish, Chinese and other cuisines from around the world.
Around the world in Queens, New York.
This dining experience provided a perfect introduction to a virtual global tour without boarding an airplane or ship. New York City’s borough of Queens didn’t use to be high on many people’s “bucket list,” but now it’s earning praise from respected sources.
The Microsoft Money website has named it one of the “hottest” cities in America, and Lonely Planet travel guides crowned Queens the “Number one U.S. travel destination..” It praised the often-overlooked borough for its “global food culture,” exciting museum and art scene, and seaside attractions.
For many visitors, the greatest appeal is that Queens is the most ethnically diverse county in the United States. More than half of its residents were born outside the U.S., immigrated from over 120 counties, and speak some 135 languages. The Tower of Babel had nothing on this enclave.
More than 50 neighborhoods to explore in Queens, New York.
A good introduction to this cultural conglomeration comes during walks through some of the 50-plus neighborhoods that are adjacent in geography yet worlds apart in ambiance and atmosphere. A stretch of Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights would be at home in Central and South America.
The feeling and food are very different in Flushing, the site of a Chinese community that is bigger than Chinatown in Manhattan. Astoria provides an introduction to authentic Greek culture, including tavernas that serve up traditional meze appetizers and magnificent Greek Orthodox churches.
Astoria also is dotted by mini-neighborhoods occupied by immigrants from India, Korea, Romania, the Dominican Republic, and other far-flung countries. Given the name, it’s no surprise that the Jamaica area has strong roots in the Caribbean. Then there are sections known as Little Egypt, Little India, Little Guyana, Little Colombia, and Little Manila.
A delicious blend of cuisines in Queens, New York.
In places, the cultural blend becomes apparent in the span of a single block. I spotted Cuban, Chinese and Italian restaurants that are next-door neighbors, and one block where diners have a choice of Cypriot, Philippine, Czech, and Peruvian cuisine.
Food aside, the selection of things to see and do in Queens is equally varied. For example, fans of baseball and tennis have a rare opportunity for a behind-the-scenes look at landmarks of those games. Guided tours of the New York Mets’ Citi Field include the dugout, playing field, and Mets Hall of Fame and Museum, which offers exhibits, videos, and interactive kiosks.
The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home of the US Open, provides an even more interactive experience. In addition to tours of its facilities, people may reserve time to play on the 12 indoor and 23 outdoor courts.
Queens, New York boasts some beautiful beaches.
After several spirited games of tennis, what could be more inviting than a dip in the Atlantic Ocean? One of Queens’ biggest surprises is that several miles of inviting beaches line its coast.
Rockaway Beach has a seven-mile boardwalk that includes eateries, entertainment venues and more. The lengthily named People’s Beach at Jacob Rils Park offers shorter stretches of landscaped walkways. While swimming is officially prohibited at the isolated Breezy Point Tip of Rockaway Beach, broad stretches of sand, dunes and marshes provide an inviting setting.
The museums are amazing as well.
Those who prefer indoor pursuits have a welcome choice of more than 30 museums. Queens Museum is the logical place to begin. The building was erected to house the New York City Pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair, and its permanent collection includes memorabilia from both that and the 1964 exposition.
The most dramatic exhibit is the Panorama of New York City, a 9,335-square-foot model which encompasses some 900,000 tiny structures built in intricate detail to exact scale. In this mini-metropolis, the Statue of Liberty is less than two inches high while the Empire State Building is a towering 15 inches.
Visitors to the Museum of the Moving Image are immersed in the history, technology and art of movies, television and video games. Set designs, costumes and other exhibits are enhanced by unique experiences like recording voice-over dialogue for a film and choosing sound effects for sequences from well-known movies and TV shows.
Queens definitely warrants a visit on a trip to the Big Apple.
If you’re still not convinced that Queens warrants a visit, or at least a day trip from Manhattan, add in Resorts World New York, the only casino in the city; a pre-Revolutionary house and working farm, one of the major bird-watching sanctuaries in the Northeast and a 24-square-block arts district.
A sightseeing itinerary also can include homes in which a virtual alphabet of celebrities once lived. Among them were Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, the Marx Brothers, Mae West, Jackie Robinson, and Malcolm X. I left Queens convinced that if it was good enough for them, it’s great for me.
For more information about all that Queens has to offer visitors, log onto itsinqueens.com.
After gallivanting throughout the United States and to more than 75 other countries worldwide and writing about what he sees, does, and learns, Victor Block retains the travel bug. He firmly believes that travel is the best possible education and claims he still has a lot to learn. He loves to explore new destinations and cultures, and his stories about them have won many writing awards.