With a thriving arts and culture scene and unique industrial history, Long Island City, Queens, New York is a hidden gem that doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves.
Some people visit New York, rarely leave the Manhattan city limits and repeatedly visit the same tourist hot spots. I admit, I too am a culprit of the usual suspects: Times Square, Central Park, High Line, etc. On a recent trip to New York City, however, I was determined to spend time outside the Manhattan core and focus on one of the easily-accessible boroughs. This time I had my sights set right across the East River, on Queens’ largest neighborhood, Long Island City (LIC).
You’ll find all the perks of a contemporary city in a neighborhood with a rich history, giving this pocket a character all its own. Read on for 14 reasons to include ever-changing Long Island City on your next NYC jaunt.
Long Island City (LIC), Queens
Bordering the East River with its impressive skyline views, Long Island City is one subway stop into Manhattan and easily accessible via multiple subway lines. As its name indicates, Long Island City once operated as an independent city, until Queens was annexed to New York City in 1898.
It has a colorful and stark history, once being nearly bankrupted in the late 1800s, before rising into a bustling, industrial region.
With strong, working-class, industrial roots, the neighborhood is currently amid significant transformation. Many warehouses and former factories have been converted into new residential and commercial spaces: lofts, restaurants, art galleries or offices. Long Island City has a unique vibe, where gritty, timeworn industrial buildings nestle beside modern boutique hotels and upscale condo developments.
East to West Boundaries: 39th Street to the East River
North to South Boundaries: 36th Avenue to Borden Avenue
Nearby Neighborhoods: Astoria, Sunnyside, and Blissville
Nearest Subways: 7, E, F, G, N, Q, R, and M
1. Long Island City: Great Value, Accessibility, and Views
Many Long Island City hotels overlook the Queensboro Bridge offering stunning views of the Manhattan skyline for a fraction of the cost across the river. The neighborhood’s sprawling waterfront parks, proximity to Manhattan, local boutique hotels with breathtaking views and reasonable rates make it a desirable option on this side of the East River. A bustling and diverse restaurant scene, paired with many arts and cultural resources, only adds to the charm.
There’s a reason Lonely Planet once named Queens the number one tourist destination in the United States, while Jet Blue has long chosen Long Island City as its home base, also recognizing the value in the country’s fastest-growing neighborhood.
2. Walk or Bike the Queensboro Bridge
A walk across the Brooklyn Bridge is usually top of most NYC visitor’s to-do list, but most don’t realize it isn’t the only pedestrian-friendly bridge connecting Manhattan to the boroughs.
The Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, also known as the 59th Street Bridge, connects Long Island City to Manhattan (between 59th and 60th streets) and is just as accessible and pedestrian-friendly.
To get a feel for Long Island City, I recommend foregoing the subway ride and walking into Long Island City along the Queensboro Bridge pedestrian path.
I’ll admit, walking the Queensboro Bridge may not be as climatic as the Brooklyn Bridge, but still offers stunning views of Long Island City, the East River, and the Manhattan skyline. Look out for the Roosevelt Island Tram as it zips by.
Note: Citibike stations can also be found throughout the city for those who prefer to bike across the bridge and maneuver through LIC via bike instead.
Long Island City Side: Crescent Street and Queensboro Plaza
Manhattan Side: 60th Street and First Avenue
3. Brooklyn Grange (Long Island City) Rooftop Farm
New York City is known for its over-the-top rooftop bars, but what about a rooftop farm in the middle of the city? First: how cool! And secondly: I had no idea such a thing existed either!
With two New York City locations, the commercial urban rooftop farm located above the Standard Motor Products building (in LIC) is the Brooklyn Grange and serves as its flagship agricultural farm.
The organization produces organic vegetables, herbs and natural honey-yielding beehives, selling the harvested crops to restaurants, the local community via farmstand and other distribution channels within New York City.
The farm above the city is open to the public (free of charge!) during open house hours (on Saturdays throughout the summers, similar to a farmer’s market).
You can walk freely around the farm, interact with the farmers, purchase fresh seasonal produce and other goods, pack a picnic to eat at the wooden tables or go to catch a glimpse of the farm on a rooftop.
Seeing such greenery and massive undertaking above the bustling city below was a unique experience and a highlight. You’re in for quite a treat with this Long Island City gem, hidden in plain sight.
You can also participate in a flurry of other Brooklyn Grange’s farm happenings including educational tours, workshops, farm dinners, or your best rooftop yoga moves (activities vary by location). For more information check out the Brooklyn Grange Farm website.
Location: 37-18 Northern Blvd, Long Island City, NY
Open House Hours: Saturdays 11 am – 4 pm, May through October
Getting there: Brooklyn Grange can be accessed by multiple subway lines (M, R, N, Q, 7, F, and G). If arriving by train, try to exit on the northern side of the 36th Street train station (accessible by the M and R trains). It will position you about a block away, approximately a three minutes walk from the building’s entrance. Limited metered street parking is also available.
4. MoMA PS1 World-Class Art Scene
Housed in a former public school, MoMA PS1 is an affiliate of The Museum of Modern Art and devoted exclusively to contemporary art. Without a permanent collection it consists of rotating exhibitions, so there’s always something fresh and exciting to see.
If you’re in LIC for the summer, be sure to check out the renowned and beloved Warm Up Saturdays, a summer concert series featuring performers from all over the world.
And if you’re feeling a little adventurous, check out the onsite classroom-themed cafeteria, M. Wells Dinette, and its ever-changing menu, featuring unusual combinations such as foie gras and oatmeal. The Dinette brings art to the plate, only adding to PS1’s charm.
Location: 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, NY, 11101
5. Take in the Views at Gantry Plaza State Park
Gantry Plaza State Park is an urban outdoor haven located along the East River with unconstrained views of the Manhattan skyline. You can see the United Nations, Chrysler Building and Empire State Building, as well as Roosevelt Island and both the Queensboro and Williamsburg bridges.
A former industrial railroad yard, Gantry Plaza State Park is now a contemporary recreational space with a serene atmosphere, removed from the Manhattan crowds. You can easily spend a few hours indulging in the park’s splendor as you:
Walk or bike the boardwalk along the four distinct piers: overlooking, café, sunning and fishing
See the iconic Pepsi-Cola sign, one of Long Island City’s iconic landmarks, up close
Lounge or sunbathe on the artistic chaise lounges and benches scattered throughout the park
Utilize the sports areas including a basketball court, soccer field, and an innovative children’s playground
Watch the spectacular sunset over the river!
Tip: If headed here in the evening, be sure to make it before sunset. The skyline views overlooking Manhattan are even more impressive at night. Watching the sunset here is an absolute treat and not to be missed!
Location: 4-09 47th Road, Long Island City, NY, 11101
Getting there: Gantry Plaza State Park can be accessed by subway, train, bus or ferry. Street parking is limited so parking can be a challenge. If arriving via the 7 train, it’s about a ten-minute walk to the riverfront.
6. King of Falafel and Shawarma
While in Long Island City, make a slight detour into nearby Astoria for a meal at King of Falafel and Shawarma. You’ll thank me later!
My sister introduced me to King of Falafel and Shawarma on a previous Queens visit and I’ve been hooked since. This was a non-negotiable stop on my Queen’s itinerary.
King of Falafel and Shawarma began as a food cart in 2002 and have since obtained a cozy brick-and-mortar location to accompany the cart (on 53 and Park Avenue in Midtown) and truck (on 31st and Ditmars, Astoria).
This Middle Eastern neighborhood favorite offers a comprehensive menu with classic staples such as falafel, shawarma, kefta, kebabs and appetizers including tabouleh, labneh and kibbeh. My go-to meal here is the chicken platter—always more than I can consume in one sitting—and the falafel platter with tahini sauce is truly something special.
Location: 30-15 Broadway, Astoria, NY 11106
Getting there: The storefront is located in Astoria on Broadway near the N or W station. As you approach, look for the green food truck façade in the front window.
7. Museum of the Moving Image
As the country’s only museum dedicated to the art, history, and technology of film, this is a particularly unique venue that’s worth a stop for film buffs and curious tourists alike.
You’ll find a rotating selection of exhibitions, screenings, and lectures, as well as a unique collection of artifacts, ranging from costumes to theatre props to ancient technology. Admission to the museum is FREE on Friday from 4 pm to 8 pm.
Location: 36-01 35th Ave, Astoria, NY 11106
8. Queens Craft Breweries
The Long Island City craft beer industry continues to flourish with new neighborhood microbreweries bursting onto the scene. Walk down almost any LIC street and you’re bound to run into a former warehouse space with the garage door open to the street, while locals congregate around barrels and beer.
The LIC craft beer scene has such a chill vibe that many locals – and visitors! – choose to hang out at brewery tasting rooms, instead of traditional bars. The area’s craft beer scene is so robust you’ll find an entire zone devoted to showcasing local Queen’s brews at the neighborhood’s local Flea and Food markets.
LIC Beer Project, Big aLICe Brewing, Transmitter Brewing, and Fifth Hammer Brewing are just a few local favorites.
9. LIC (and Astoria) Flea & Food
If you find yourself in the city during the summer, check out Queens’ largest outdoor market and growing neighborhood hangout, the seasonal LIC (or Astoria) Flea & Food. The two-location market, still relatively young and evolving, brings together vendors selling items from apparel, jewelry, and handcrafted pieces, to artists selling paintings and photographs.
You’ll also find booths run by local eateries, showcasing multicultural cuisine, and the enormously popular beer garden where you can sample the local Queen’s craft brews.
Drop by and try some international delights, treat yourself to a one-of-a-kind artisan craft, sample a local brew and mingle with locals. The markets take place on varying weekends and times during the summer months, typically May through October. Check out the LIC Flea & Food website for complete seasonal schedule.
LIC Flea: 5-25 46th Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11101
Astoria Flea: 34-12 36th Street, Astoria, NY 11106
Getting there: Accessible from the 7, E, M, G and R trains, and the NYC Ferry with stops between East 34th Street and Roosevelt Island
10. The Noguchi Museum
This multi-medium space was designed by Isamu Noguchi, a Japanese American sculptor. The sprawling building contains many of his original sculptures, as well as architectural models, drawings and even furniture designs, in an airy, contemporary space. Gallery talks take place daily at 2 pm and are free with museum admission, so try and plan your visit around that if you’re interested in taking part.
Location: 9-01 33rd Road, Long Island City, NY 11106
11. Socrates Sculpture Garden
Just a block from the Noguchi Museum, you’ll find this whimsical sculptural garden, which caters to a rotating cast of contemporary pieces. From audio installations to 3-D labyrinths to textile exhibits that beg to be touched, this is a delight for the senses. Admission is free and the garden is open all year-round.
Location: 32-01 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City, NY 11106
12. Dinner at Blend LIC
If I lived in New York, Blend could easily become a regular spot. With two locations, I dined at the Vernon Boulevard location out of convenience, but the Latin-inspired concept is available at both spots. That being said, their waterfront location has an added treat with breathtaking views of the river.
If you’re in the area, make it a point to grab a bite and enjoy some mouthwatering Latin fusion dishes. Try the sampler appetizer plate and top it off with a Sangrita (sangria + margarita mix). You’ll be delighted you did.
Blend LIC: 47-04 Vernon Blvd, Long Island City, NY 11101
Blend on the Water: 4540 Center Blvd., Long Island City NY 11101
13. After Dinner Drinks at Penthouse 808
After a day of exploring, head to Penthouse 808, the ultimate Long Island City selfie spot. Located inside the Ravel Hotel, Penthouse 808 is an upscale rooftop restaurant and bar offering unparalleled views of the East River, Queensboro Bridge, and Manhattan skyline.
It’s a little on the pricey side, and you’re paying for the view and ambiance. But overall, a great place to grab a drink, unwind, enjoy some live music and take in one of the best skyline views on this side of the River.
Location: 8-08 Queens Plaza South, Long Island City, NY 11101
14. NYC Ferry
Not sure you want to commit to an entire weekend out of the city? Why not make a day trip? Long Island City can easily be accessed with the NYC Ferry.
Ferries generally run every 25 minutes, and there are several routes from New York City proper. It’s a short and picturesque ride to Long Island City and tickets are (the same as a subway ride) $2.75 for a one-way trip.
I was pleasantly surprised by this revitalizing neighborhood’s artistic, culturally rich appeal and diverse contributions. From the robust art scene, top-notch museums, unconventional farming, microbreweries, trendy restaurants – not to mention the entertainment options with some of the best riverfront views – Long Island City is proving there’s plenty to discover beyond the Manhattan concrete jungle.