The Best Things to Do in Queens, NY

The 15 Best Things to Do in Queens, NY

Queens has been lauded as the most diverse county in the nation. It’s not hard to see why when you consider the dozens of unique neighborhoods that make up the borough, each one with its own distinct character, cuisine, and history.

Much of Queens, especially along the Hudson waterfront, was once prime industrial space. Factories, unloading docks, and warehouses made up the bulk of the business, though the borough also hosted two World’s Fairs. Over the years, old industrial buildings were decommissioned and repurposed and began housing art galleries, boutique hotels, and other creative local businesses.

These days, Queens is going through a renaissance, not unlike Brooklyn to the south. Set along the East River, Long Island City is a vibrant arts district, while Astoria retains the charm of its boutique businesses, and Flushing is home to one of the most famous Chinatowns in the world and is undergoing major investment.

With so many things to see and do, you might not know where to begin. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Queens for you. Stick to these fun and unique Queens bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring this up-and-coming part of NYC!

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15 Fun and Unique Things to Do in Queens, NY

1. Eat the best dim sum in NYC

Unique Things to do in Queens: Dim Sum

It’s a bold statement, we know, but there’s a reason Asian Jewels always has a line out the door. Located in the heart of Flushing’s historic Chinatown, this restaurant is a must-visit for its authentic Cantonese dim sum!

Dim sum originated in Guangzhou, China, in the 10th century. As travel became more widespread, teahouses began serving small sweet and savory dishes meant to accompany tea drinking. The result was a culinary explosion that’s since spread around the world.

This massive banquet-style restaurant in Flushing does things the old-fashioned way: waiters shuttle steam-heated carts stacked with piping-hot dishes around the restaurant. If you want something, just grab it. This brings a new meaning to first come, first serve.

The steamed shrimp dumplings are a standout dish and are served fresh, with a thin and well-formed skin. Siu mai is a classic choice, and we’d also recommend the perfectly flaky egg tarts. For the adventurous, the chicken feet in black bean sauce is a Cantonese classic.

We’d recommend sticking mainly to the dim sum or specialty seafood options if you want to order a la carte. If you don’t want to wait in line, there are so many top-notch restaurants in Flushing for noodle and rice dishes that you don’t necessarily need to put all your buns in one steamer!

2. Sample local wines at Keuka Kafe Wine Bar & Kitchen

Cool Things to do in Queens: Keuka Kafe Wine Bar & Kitchen

Upstate New York is famous for the New World wine-producing region around the Finger Lakes. If you’re looking for fun things to do in Queens, you can easily get a taste of it without ever leaving NYC at Keuka Kafe Wine Bar & Kitchen.

The vibe is cozy and unpretentious. This is a family-run neighborhood spot with tons of charm and great service. Locals and tourists alike mingle here because of the ambiance and friendliness – that and the inspired wine menu.

If you’re after the classics, look no further than the Riesling, Chardonnay, and Cab Franc options, which are all local. Keuka also specifically highlights unusual varietals and blends on its menu. These selections make for unique sips, so check them out!

For the full wine tasting experience, you can choose from a variety of cheese and meats to create your own custom charcuterie board. Selections include specialty New York produce alongside carefully chosen imports from across North America and Europe.

In case you get peckish, the sandwiches and burgers are standouts, but you really can’t go wrong. Finish everything off with a dessert wine, then get ready to come back the next day for everything you couldn’t try on your first visit!

3. Catch the waves at NYC’s only surfing beach

Queens Bucket List: Rockaway Beach

Queens is home to the only legal surfing beach in NYC: The Rockaways. Well-known to NYC natives, this beach is usually less crowded in comparison to hotspots like Coney Island and Orchard Beach. Plus, you’ll have over 120 acres of sandy shoreline to stretch out on here!

Getting to Rockaway Beach is easy. You can catch the NYC ferry or take the subway, but there are also dedicated coaches you can jump on that will take you directly to the shore, complete with AC and cold drinks – essentials during a New York summer.

The best surfing beaches are Beach 92nd Street, Beach 67th Street, and Beach 69th Street. Of the three, Beach 92nd gets bigger waves, but it’s also the busiest. You’ll get consistent waves up to three feet high usually.

As one of the top Queens attractions, this is a great place to pick up some lessons and check something off your Queens bucket list. Locals Surf School offers them all year long.

Sip on a seasonal sour beer after working hard out on the water. Rockaway Brewery has a location just a short skip and hop from the beach. It’s the first brewery to open right in Queens, and you’ll love the cool beachy vibes of the taproom.

4. Go behind the scenes at the Museum of the Moving Image

Fun Things to do in Queens: Museum of the Moving Image

The Museum of the Moving Image is one of the best museums in Queens. To start with, the building architecture is a perfect backdrop for your own moving images. The exhibits cover the craft, history, and techniques of filmmaking from its humble beginnings till now.

The MoMI goes deep into the tech of filmmaking alongside the art of it. We love the unique collection of vintage cinematography equipment on display in a detailed timeline that makes up the museum’s core exhibition. You won’t be able to think of movies the same way once you see how far the form has come!

Queens Bucket List: Museum of the Moving Image

Special exhibits here cover seminal films and series or important figures in the history of film. We love the range on display – everything from a deep dive into practical effects in Jim Henson’s work to the making of educational science films to the production of The Walking Dead!

If you want to make a day of it, you can catch special showings of movies here every weekend. Consider it a taste of film school. Think Golden Age, experimental animation, classics (and cult classics), and foreign cinema – all incredibly curated to a new theme every month.

5. Get contemporary at MoMA PS1

Unique Things to do in Queens: MoMA PS1

You know MoMA, but do you know MoMA PS1? This alternative museum is a cultural landmark, and it’s located right in Long Island City, Queens. Plus, it’s the best gallery space in the area for local, contemporary art and easily one of the coolest things to do in Queens.

This art institute had a past life as a public school. The school closed in the ‘60s but was reopened by a local non-profit as a studio and exhibition space. It’s now part of the MoMA family, but those original countercultural roots still remain in the museum’s curatorial focus on emerging artists and public engagement.

Keep an eye out for special events. Weekly programs like Sunday Sessions feature NYC art collectives, DIY spaces, and community organizations. The Courtyard Commission features interactive, year-round installations and frequently hosts outdoor shows.

Admission is always free for NYC residents and is affordable for everyone else passing through. Plus, if you buy a ticket to MoMA, you’ll also get admission to MoMA PS1. Expect to spend about an hour on the exhibits indoors, but do linger a while in the courtyard with a cup of tea and catch up on your reading.

Once you’ve gotten your art fix, just head down the street to check out some of Queens’ best restaurants and lounges.

6. Picnic in the Queens Botanical Garden

Queens Things to do: Queens Botanical Garden

The Queens Botanical Garden is a welcome break from the bustling concrete jungle that is NYC. You might never want to leave this 39-acre urban oasis. It’s one of the most beautiful outdoor spaces in the area and one of the top Queens activities if you’re looking for a reprieve from the city.

This amazing garden started as an exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair. Local residents lobbied to keep and expand it, and we’re so glad they did! The current garden still features historic plantings from the original exhibit, which, incredibly, moved from the old site to the current one on Main Street in Flushing. 

The garden features several areas inspired by the diverse communities in Queens. The Circle Garden contains plants significant in Korean cultures, an orchard of cherry blossoms erupts with color in the spring, and the Herb Garden features Native American and Asian flora.

We love the Fragrance Walk, which smells like the most floral of essential oils and is just divine. You can’t go wrong when choosing where to picnic, but we love the shade under the trees in the Arboretum. 

The Rose Garden is also picturesque and peaceful. Just pack some brie and seltzer and settle in! There’s a Children’s Garden for the little ones and a Bee Garden if you’re looking for some hands-on ecological exploration.

7. Question everything at the New York Hall of Science

What to do in Queens: New York Hall of Science

A visit to The New York Hall of Science is one of the most fun things to do in Queens for those of all ages. It’s perfect for families, but you’ll also enjoy the respite from the city as a solo visitor or a couple. It’s located right by the Queens Botanical Garden, so you have a whole day’s agenda ready to go.

This delightful space in Queens was founded as part of the 1964 World’s Fair, and it has since grown into New York’s foremost science center. Over 500,000 people visit every year, making this a world-class attraction.

NYSCI features over 450 interactive art and science exhibits. There’s an awesome immersive experience called Connected World that’s a must-see, VR activities, a hands-on Design Lab, Maker Space, and live demos of scientific experiments.

Catch an animated feature film at the 3D Theater, or bring the kiddos (or your inner child) to the preschool section. Clamber around on a massive outdoor playground or go par for par in Rocket Minigolf. There’s enough to do that your trip could fill up the entire afternoon.

8. Try authentic Asian street food at New World Mall

Queens Things to do: New World Mall

Flushing’s historic Chinatown has so many restaurants it’s hard to choose just one. Instead, you can try a bunch of Asian street food at New World Mall. Trust us – this is not your typical food court.

With over 30 vendors, you can find pretty much anything you might have a craving for and many things you might never have heard of. Chinese and Korean foods make up the majority of options, but you’ll also find Thai, Vietnamese, and Japanese selections too.

We’re talking hand-pulled noodles, dry hot pot, skewers, scallion pancakes, bao, and malatang, to name a few. The sheer variety will transport you from NYC to a Hong Kong market or Singaporean hawker center. Some of the menus are not translated, which is part of the experience that makes this food court a quintessential Queens bucket list activity!

Finding the food court can be tricky – just head to the basement level – but be warned as it can get very crowded.

There’s plenty to do in the mall and the area once you’ve packed in your fill of noodles, rolls, and dumplings. Belt tunes at a karaoke bar, do some shopping, or just stroll around Main Street and take in the sights, smells, and sounds of this unique part of Queens.

9. Get the perfect skyline view at Gantry Plaza State Park

Best Things to do in Queens: Gantry Plaza State Park

That is, skyline and riverside views. Gantry Plaza State Park is a Queens institution, and it is hands down one of the coolest things to do in Queens if you want to get a view of Manhattan. This park offers 12 acres of green space right on the eastern bank of the Hudson River.

The most distinctive features, and the park’s namesake, are the restored gantries that serve as a monument to the park’s industrial past as a barge unloading station. The gantries now serve as stages for outdoor concerts during warmer months.

You can easily glimpse the Empire State Building and the United Nations Headquarters along with the rest of midtown from across the water. Stroll around the manicured gardens and the piers, then have a seat by the mist fountain.

If you’re feeling more active, you’ll find basketball courts, playgrounds, handball courts, and a fishing pier here. Pick up some 3-on-3 with the locals, or just people-watch. The park is popular but rarely crowded, and there are plenty of places to lounge and take in the view.

10. Catch a baseball game at Citi Field

Fun Things to do in Queens: Citi Field

Citi Field is the home field of the New York Mets, and it’s lauded as a perfect stadium for the sport, with modern amenities and elevated concessions. Even if you’re not familiar with the sport, spending an afternoon here for a game is easily one of the coolest things to do in Queens.

This baseball stadium contains a rotunda named after Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson to honor his contributions to the sport. The Mets Hall of Fame & Museum is a must-see if you’re a fan. It houses plaques and trophies honoring the team.

You might settle into the stands here with a Fuku chicken sandwich, a salmon belly roll, and some vegan nachos to round things out. There are some seriously fun selections here: you can even order a whole steak! And don’t forget the drinks. From craft beer and rosé to fresh lemonade, there’s something for everyone.

The park contains fun additions like the Home Run Apple, a massive sculptural apple that rises whenever the Mets score a home run. You’ll also be able to do some batting of your own at a cage in the stadium or check out the arcade when not attending a game.

11. Birdwatch at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

What to do in Queens: Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Get a breath of fresh air away from the crowds and streets of the city. Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge sits in the middle of the marshy tidelands near JFK. It’s the most peaceful place in Queens, and it’s open from sunrise to sunset

 This 12,600-acre wildlife refuge lies fully within city limits. You might see Brooklyn to the west and Queens to the east, depending on where you go. The NYC skyline is visible across the bay, and catching sunsets here is definitely one of the best things to do in Queens.

Queens Things to do: Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

The refuge provides a habitat for the many birds, aquatic critters, and small mammals of the salt marshes. Keep an eye out for majestic falcons, herons, and osprey, among many others. During migration season, you could see hundreds, if not thousands, of birds! 

The West Pond is particularly gorgeous. You can hike around the pond’s loop trail, then head to the shorter trails on the east pond. Don’t forget the bug spray, and bring your binoculars if you have them.

12. Spice things up with authentic Szechuan hot pot

Best Things to do in Queens: Szechuan hot pot

Shoo Loong Kan is a famous hot pot chain that originated in Chengdu, China. The location at Tangram in Flushing is the first to come stateside. It held its grand opening in July of 2022, and this is one of the must-do things in Queens if you’re a serious foodie.

The international acclaim is well deserved. This restaurant serves inspired ambiance alongside mouthwatering flavors. For the uninitiated, Szechuanese cuisine features the infamous Szechuan pepper. This spice creates a tingling sensation that enhances the taste of other chilies and flavors.

The tomato broth is a standout with milder spice, but you’ll want to go with the mala soup if you want that classic Szechuan heat. You can order dishes of fresh bluefin tuna and Kobe beef to cook right at your table paired with handmade noodles.

The stone walls and floors recall historic Chinese architecture, while the banquet tables take inspiration from designs dating back to the Han Dynasty. Colorful lanterns sway overhead, giving the restaurant a soft glow. 

The restaurant’s courtyard is designed in a traditional Sichuan style. All the custom architecture and furnishings were designed by a Flushing firm. The result is a fusion of the local style of Flushing with the deep history of Szechuanese cuisine and culture.

13. Shop unique boutiques in Astoria

Cool Things to do in Queens: Hellenic Aesthetic
Images courtesy of Hellenic Aesthetic

Astoria is a quiet neighborhood in Queens with a lot of personality brimming beneath the surface. This comes out in the many small boutiques that line the borough’s streets. Come here if you’re looking for unique jewelry, stationary, beauty products, or other handmade and craft wares.

Lockwood stocks a little bit of everything. There are three locations in Astoria, including the flagship Home & Gift store, Lockwood Paper for stationary, and Lockwood Style for apparel. This is a fantastic lifestyle boutique to shop for yourself or anyone in your life. The selection is excellently curated and many items are made right in NYC.

For one-of-a-kind furnishings, make an appointment at StandOut Spaces. This homegrown enterprise stocks amazing antiques – hello, Napoleon daybeds and Bergère armchairs.

We love the vibe of Hellenic Aesthetic. This shop offers Greek-made fine jewelry and lifestyle products, and the apparel is gorgeous. This place is perfect if you’re looking for prints that really pop.

Side B specifically supports small batch makers, women-owned companies, and POC and LGBTQ+ businesses. You’ll find beautiful prints, unique board games, and candle scents like Steamed Rice and Melona Honeydew here. It’s the most unique shop in Astoria!

14. Meditate on Zen artwork at The Noguchi Museum

Fun Things to do in Queens: The Noguchi Museum
Images courtesy of Nicholas Knight. © The Noguchi Museum / ARS

The beautiful Noguchi Museum is a must-see in Long Island City, Queens. It was designed by Isamu Noguchi himself to display his own work, and in that sense, it’s a building-scale installation featuring open-air and indoor galleries.

You won’t find blurbs on each piece in the collection. The space and artwork encourage individual connection and an experiential, rather than intellectual, connection to spaces and art objects.

Many of the works on display are large-scale sculptures, now arranged carefully within open-plan spaces that take advantage of the natural light and textures in their surroundings. Temporary exhibitions reflect on Noguchi’s body of work and his influence on contemporary artists.

The site itself is a repurposed 1920s factory building, and it also features an outdoor sculpture garden designed with Zen principles in mind. It’s a lovely place to relax and enjoy a quiet moment with your fellow travelers. If you’re looking for unique things to do in Queens, this place is a must!

15. Eat authentic Michelin-star Mexican cuisine

Best Things to do in Queens: Michelin-star Mexican cuisine

Start the day right with a seven Michelin-star brunch at Casa Enrique, a multiple award-winning restaurant in the heart of Long Island City. Casa Enrique’s menu honors the Mexican regions and cities of Chef Cosme Aguilar’s childhood. 

This is the most authentic Mexican food you’ll find in the city. Many of the recipes are traditional family recipes passed down through generations. These classics have made it all the way to Queens, where they’ve been given a refined twist.

Queens Things to do: Michelin-star Mexican cuisine

From the outside, you wouldn’t think that this little neighborhood spot is so decorated – save for the line out the door. The atmosphere of the restaurant is casual and unpretentious, and prices have remained reasonable over the years. This means that the focus is all on good food and good company.

The outdoor seating is lovely, especially in the daytime. Consider trying the Sopecitos de Chorizo and Rajas Con Crema to start before digging into the Pastor Tacos, Chicken Enchiladas with Mole, or Hominy and Pork Pozole. 

And don’t skip the drinks. From the Fresh Fruit Margaritas to the Mezcal-infused cocktails, they make for a great accompaniment.

There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Queens, NY. What’s your favorite thing to do in Queens?

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  • Valerie Wheatley

    Val grew up in Portland, Oregon but moved to Oahu on a whim back in 2013. She sold her house and all of her belongings and bought a one-way ticket. Since then she’s taken two around-the-world trips and has visited 60-ish countries while living out of a duffel bag.

    Val started documenting the Wandering Wheatleys travels back in 2013 as a way to update friends and family about her whereabouts and to relay humorous daily interactions. The only readers were her mom and her mother-in-law but that didn’t stop her!

    These days you’ll find Val dreaming up future trips, creating new travel content, managing a team of amazing travel enthusiasts, and chasing around her two adorable but naughty kids.

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