When we planned our first family trip to New York City last year, we wanted to see the Statue of Liberty, Broadway, Central Park and all the other iconic attractions. However, we felt serious sticker shock when we started checking summer rates for Manhattan hotels and decided to do more research in the boroughs. We struck gold in Queens, where you can save at least $100 per night on a comparable hotel, enjoy skyline views, and stay just two subway stops from midtown Manhattan.
The other thing we discovered about Queens is how many cool things there are to do there. It's entertaining, diverse and real. If you want to take a break from the touristy side of NYC and do fun things that most visitors miss, Queens is a great place to do it.
Here is my list of 10 fun things to do in Queens with your family.
Museum of the Moving Image
We spent a lot of time in the most famous museums in New York City, and the Museum of the Moving Image was my kids' favorite. This is a serious museum about the history and art behind movies, television and video games. The Museum of the Moving Image is loaded with hands-on, interactive exhibits that my whole family enjoyed. It is located next door to Kaufman Studios where Sesame Street and other popular movies and television shows are filmed.
Read my full post about the Museum of the Moving Image here.
Official website: www.movingimage.us
Louis Armstrong House Museum
When Louis Armstrong sang, What a Wonderful World, he said he was thinking of the neighborhood in Queens where he lived with his wife for more than 40 years. After both of them passed away, his home became a museum. The Louis Armstrong House Museum may not be at the top of your kids' list, but families are welcome, and tour groups are small. The Armstrongs had a colorful sense of style, so kids may appreciate the gold bathroom, bright blue kitchen or silver foil closet while they learn about one of our nation's great musicians.
Read my full post about the Louis Armstrong House Museum here.
Official website: www.louisarmstronghouse.org/
The Noguchi Museum was founded by the renowned Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi near his studio in Long Island City, Queens. He used natural materials and integrated them with nature in innovative ways. Families are welcome at this small museum, but I recommend that you do a little homework in advance to make the most of your visit. Plan your visit around one of the museum's family programs, bring sketchbooks or print scavenger hunt cards from the museum's website.
Read my post about the Noguchi Museum and Socrates Scuplture Park here.
Official website: www.noguchi.org
Socrates Sculpture Park
Finally, an art “museum” where kids can touch anything they want! Socrates Sculpture Park is located across the street from the Noguchi Museum, and it is filled with sculpture so large it won't fit indoors. Admission is FREE and children are welcome to run, touch, use outdoor voices and even climb inside some sculptures. Exhibits change regularly. Check the official website to learn about family programs and special events.
Read my post about the Noguchi Museum and Socrates Scuplture Park here.
Official website: www.socratessculpturepark.org
Hunters Point Park
Hunter's Point Park was our first stop on our first day in New York City, and it was a great way to start our trip on the right foot. We ordered breakfast, ate on the patio and let the kids run on the lawn and try out the new playground. The East River Ferry stops here too. However, the real reason to come to this park is the inspiring view of Manhattan on the other side of the river.
Official website: www.hunterspointparks.org
Citi Field is home to New York Mets baseball. We don't have a Major League Baseball team close to home, so we enjoy seeing a game on the road whenever we have the chance. It's a family-friendly, classic American experience. Citi Field opened in 2009, after Shea Stadium was retired. It's sad to see a famous piece of baseball history go, but I rarely complain about improved comfort and convenience.
Official website: newyork.mets.mlb.com
USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center
My husband's dream is to attend the U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, which is located in… Queens! The 2015 U.S. Open starts on August 31 and Arthur Ashe Kids' Day, where you can get tickets for as little as $10, is on August 29. If you'll be visiting at a different time, you can play a game of tennis on the same courts as the pros, or sign up for a tennis clinic.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Flushing Meadows Corona Park hosted two twentieth century World's Fairs, and continues to be a great destination for families. Citi Field, the National Tennis Center and the Queens Night Market (all on this list) are located here, along with the Queens Zoo, the New York Hall of Science, Queens Theater in the Park and the Queens Wildlife Center. You could just about spend your entire vacation at this family-friendly destination.
Official Website: www.nycgovparks.org/parks/flushing-meadows-corona-park
New York City's largest Chinatown is located in Queens. This is where Chinese tourists stay when they come to New York City because local hotels and businesses do their best to make these international visitors feel at home. You'll find the best authentic Chinese restaurants, with ingredients and dishes that don't have English names. There is a lot of good shopping to be found here, but come prepared. It can be intense.
Queens Night Market
Chinatown isn't the only international neighborhood in Queens. More than 170 languages are spoken in the borough, and you'll have no trouble finding restaurants, shops and people from every corner of the globe. You can find many of them at the Queens Night Market every Saturday night at the New York Hall of Science at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The Queens Night Market opened in Spring 2015, and has been very popular. Here's hoping for its continued success!
Official website: www.queensnightmarket.com
If you're looking for something more familiar in Queens, you can find that too. It has plenty of suburban neighborhoods with well-known chains and discount stores. While I was excited to try some of the exotic dishes in New York City, my kids' favorite meal was the one we ate at Applebee's, just a few doors down from the Museum of the Moving Image.
Need a place to stay?
We found that it was a lot less expensive to stay in Queens than in Manhattan, and we were still just minutes away from all of the iconic NYC attractions on our list. Long Island City in Queens has many new hotels and it's only about 15 minutes by subway to Midtown Manhattan. Both major airports – Kennedy and LaGuardia – are located in Queens too. Here are three Queens hotels we recommend:
- Courtyard Marriott LaGuardia Airport – LaGuardia Airport
- Wyndham Garden Long Island City – Long Island City
- Holiday Inn Manhattan View – Long Island City
Disclosure: We received complimentary and discounted hotel stays, meals and admission to attractions during our stay in Queens for the purpose of review. I received no additional compensation and all opinions are my own.