Vernon Blvd/Jackson Av: Gantry Plaza State Park
Spread out over 12 acres and offering some of the best views in the five boroughs, Gantry Plaza State Park is easily accessible by LIRR, the 7 train as well as the East River Ferry. If you head west on 50th Ave (from the 7 train), you’ll run right into the park, where putting your camera down will be a real challenge. Amazing shots of Roosevelt Island, Midtown Manhattan, as well as the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge will have you snapping in every direction. The iconic “Pepsi-Cola” and “Long Island” signs, which you can see from Manhattan (especially Roosevelt Island), are there too. If you continue north, you’ll reach the 11th Street Basin. Just east of there is the Long Island City Flea & Food, which operates from 11-6 on weekends (April to October).
46 St: I Love Paraguay
Paraguay is landlocked between Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil and the food at I Love Paraguay reflects this: a lot of meat and no fish or seafood. Most dishes are baked. The head chef (and owner) is from Asuncion and most of the staff are Paraguayan as well.
While some of the dishes will be recognizable to Italians (there’s pasta and fresh mozzarella on the menu) and other Latin Americans, there are some items that the staff swear are relatively unknown outside of the motherland. Sopa Paraguaya is a salty corn based cake. There’s a post on their blog about its possible origins. Marinera (no relation to the tomato sauce) is a thin steak covered in a Paraguayan tortilla and deep fried. The Pollo I Love Paraguay is a chef’s special: grilled chicken strips and curry (a term generally associated with Southeast Asian cooking). For dessert, try the dulce de mammon casero!
Fun fact: Paraguay has two official languages: Spanish and Guariani.
82 St-Jackson Heights: La Gran Uruguaya
While Brazil and Agentina are the largest and arguably most carnivorous nations in South America, tiny Uruguay is tucked in between. They eat a lot of meat too. Remember Anthony Bourdain’s trip there, where he explored this little known country where some of his ancestors emigrated to? Well in addition to meat, La Gran Uruguaya has excellent seafood as well as an Uruguayan bakery (in the same building). Dulce de Leche is Argentina and Uruguay’s sweetest export and there’s plenty of it in their desserts. The bakery has interesting takes on traditional European desserts, many including dulce de leche of course.
Their staff is mostly made of people from the motherland, who are happy to offer suggestions. For the most authentic Uruguayan experience, try Parrillada Para or Bandeja Charrua (Uruguayan Platter) for your entree and chajá for dessert. Chajá is made up of peaches and cream, caramel and merengue, and from the outside looks like a cross between a popcorn ball and a pile of whipped cream.
103 St – Corona Plaza: Louis Armstrong House Museum
While many jazz musicians died in debt after making millions of dollars, Louis Armstrong was not among them. He could have lived anywhere, but chose the working class neighborhood of Corona (where his wife was from). Armstrong and his wife bought the house after getting married in 1943 and lived there until he died in 1971. Fortunately, you could still see his house which is more than 100 years old and now a museum. The only thing he did to make his house stand out was demolish the one next door so he could have a yard.
Bummer alert: no photography inside the house.
111 St: The Lemon Ice King of Corona
This is the place from the opening segment of The King of Queens. The Lemon Ice King of Corona is open all year round and has more than 30 flavors. They don’t mix, so get small cups if you want to sample the different flavors. While you’re eating your Italian ice, you can watch the bocce ball games going on at William F. Moore Park in much the same way they’ve been going on since The Lemon Ice King of Corona opened its doors more than 60 years ago.
Mets-Willets Point: Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is the fourth largest park in New York City. Museums, nature, sports and the Queens Zoo are all packed into this nearly 900-acre park. Both the New York State Pavilion and Unisphere can be seen from the Grand Central Parkway. Anyone remember Men in Black? The big globe is the Unisphere! Also inside this massive park are The New York Hall of Science, Queens Museum and Queens Theatre. For sports fans, there’s the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and the New York Mets play at Citi Field (formerly Shea Stadium). Nature lovers can rent kayaks or paddleboats by the hour at Meadow Lake. There are also different types of bicycles for rent at the same location.
In the warmer months, there’s the Queens International Night Market which opens at 6PM on Saturday nights. Can’t find a Chilean restaurant in NYC? You can always eat some of their street food at the night market! If you’re bored with the Chinese restaurants that seem to be on every other block and all look the same, head to the night market for some Taiwanese fast food!
Flushing-Main St: New World Mall
There’s a plethora of Asian restaurants in Flushing, but if you want to see the different types of Asian food that Flushing has to offer on one floor, head to the New World Mall. Although the Chinatown in Flushing is not as crowded as the one in Manhattan, the food court as the New World Mall is. While there are some standard Korean and Japanese options, most of the vendors specialize in food from different regions of China. There are excellent dessert options as well.
Fun fact: “The New World” is an X song that Pearl Jam sometimes plays live!