Other local businesses to check out are the indie bookshop and wine bar The Lit Bar (thelitbar.com); Bronx Natives (bronxnative.com), a clothing line that pays homage to the designers’ homeland; Colorful kitchen (motleykitchen.com), a café with rooftop yoga and fresh juices; and the Port Morris Distillery (portmorrisdistillery.com), which draws hundreds of visitors every weekend for its pitorro, also known as Puerto Rican moonshine.
Take the 1, 2, 5, B, or D subway lines north to reach the Bronx, or take the Metro-North commuter train from Grand Central Station
Where to sleep
Wingate from Wyndham (001.929.526.5900; www.wyndhamhotels.com) offers double rooms from £133 per night
Some of the best views of the Manhattan skyline are from Gantry Plaza State Park (parks.ny.gov) in Long Island City. But it would be a disservice to this district just to use it as a vantage point for its glittering neighbors. Queens is one of the most ethnically diverse counties in the United States, speaking more languages than anywhere else in the world. This diversity produces a wildly rich food culture with 6,000 restaurants representing 120 nationalities. If nothing else, come here to eat your way around the world.
Corona is famous for its Latin American cuisines; Elmhurst turns away more pan-Asian; and Jackson Heights is the go-to destination for Indians, Mexicans, Nepalese and more. Queen’s own Chinatown, Flushing, is the largest outside of Asia. The food court of the New World Mall (newworldmallny.com), on the other hand, is the go-to place for affordable and varied Chinese cuisine.
If navigating between Momos and Chivitos is overwhelming, Culinary Backstreets (culinary backstreets.com) offers a foodie tour of Queens to help you find that hole-in-the-wall Thai eatery you might otherwise miss. Another way to sample everything is to visit Queens Night Market (queensnightmarket.com) at Corona Park in Flushing Meadows on a Saturday, with live music and food capped at $5 (£4).
Down in leafy residential Ridgewood, gentrification has begun to cross the line from Brooklyn’s Bushwick. Nowadays multi-purpose art site (nowadays.nyc) with its huge outdoor spaces and dance parties has a lot to do with the changes. Recent restaurant openings such as Rolo’s (rolosnyc.com) and Pizzeria Panina (infatuation.com), both run by an impressive hospitality talent, aim to create tried-and-true neighborhood restaurants, not ephemera.
But Queens is more than just food (or at least there’s plenty to entertain in between). The contemporary art institution MoMA PS1 (moma.org) has certainly played a part in heralding a new era in Long Island City, such was its impact. In Astoria, the Museum of the Moving Image (Movingimage.us) with its permanent Jim Henson exhibition is an immersive audiovisual experience all too often overlooked. And Corona’s Louis Armstrong House (louisarmstronghouse.org) is currently being expanded to create a new cultural center expected to open later this year.
Queens stretches all the way down to the Rockaways, a 10-mile peninsula of sandy beaches just a subway ride from the city. Devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the Rockaways have had a creative revival with cute beachfront boutiques like Swellife (theswelllife.com), which sells cover-ups and global textiles, stylish bistros like Bar Maseille (barmarseilles.com) and cool community hubs like Locals Collective (localcollectivenyc.com), a surf school, cafe and shop – the headquarters for a disheveled beach folk.