We were recently fortunate enough to visit Queens, New York, for a full 3 weeks! We went as a family, so I was on a mission to make sure we found as many things to do with kids in Queens as possible. I wanted Jack to have a good time, too, not just be dragged around from one tourist attraction to the next. Besides, I’d already done the must sees on a previous trip to NYC, so didn’t need to revisit the big city sights again.
Speaking of (throwback alert!)… when I first visited New York City in my early 20s, I thought I could easily live there for a while. But, boy, how things have changed in the 20 years since! Back in my childless days, I was enchanted by the Broadway shows, trendy neighborhoods that never slept, and all the different (mostly late-night) things to do. Fast forward to today… a 40-something with a toddler… and all I want now is a leisurely and quiet existence. NYC no longer fits the bill!
Queens, though not NYC proper, also has its share of hustle and bustle. Still too much for me (#lame!). With a toddler in tow, I struggled with having to be hyper-alert due to all the traffic and the crowds. I typically give Jack a bit of a wide berth, but I definitely kept him glued to my side these 3 weeks. That said, all the hustle and bustle meant that there were plenty of things to do in Queens, NY – after all, those crowds need somewhere to go!
On a side note, we were able to have the extended trip thanks to Steev. He was sent to Queens for work, which meant the accommodation was paid for – otherwise, it would have been a too-expensive trip to take! It also meant that I was on my own with Jack during the week. After taking him into NYC the first day – alone – to go to the American Museum of Natural History (exhausting AF… more on that later!), I decided we’d exclusively be exploring Queens on weekdays. What can I say… #lazymom right here!
But as it turns out, there is nothing lazy about exploring Queens with a toddler. There are so many awesome things to do in Queens with kids, we were go-go-GO the entire trip! Without further ado (finally, right?!), below is everything we were able to squeeze in, sorted by neighborhood…
Table of Contents
- 1 Things To Do With Kids in Queens, NY
- 2 Fun Things To Do in Astoria, Queens
- 3 Things To Do in Long Island City, Queens
- 4 Things To Do in Jackson Heights, Queens
- 5 Things To Do in Flushing, Queens NY
- 6 Things To Do in Glen Oaks, Queens
- 7 Where To Stay in (Astoria) Queens
- 8 Where To Eat in (Astoria) Queens
- 9 Pin and Share
Things To Do With Kids in Queens, NY
Ride the Subway!
What kid doesn’t love a train? As uncomfortable as the metro was for me — lugging Jack and his stroller up and down the stairs (less than half the stations have elevators), holding onto him for dear life on the platform, keeping him seated and safe during all those bumpy starts and stops — he had a ball!
The subway will certainly get you to all the places to go in Queens I highlight throughout this post. And I’d take the subway any day over driving in Queens. Also over cabbing or Ubering – at $3 per ride or $32 for a week of unlimited rides, it was far less expensive than hailing a ride.
Jack squealed every time he saw the train approaching, got a kick out of waving to the drivers, and loved watching the buildings go by out the window (most of the tracks in Queens are built above-ground). Every day of our trip he asked to “ride the train.” If you have kids, young ones especially, incorporate subway rides into your sightseeing outings/daily activities… it’ll entertain the crap outta them!
Ride the Ferry!
Okay, if we’re exclusively talking Queens, riding the ferry really only consists of traveling between the riverfront neighborhoods of Long Island City and Astoria. In reality, the ferry is typically used by folks traveling from riverfront Queens to lower Manhattan, so a more apt title here would be “Getting from Queens to New York City.” Especially because, after riding it only once, it immediately became my preferred transportation to the city over the subway!
The subway works fine and is very efficient, but the ferry was so much cleaner, less crowded, and easier to access with a kid in a stroller. Oh, how I wish I’d tried it sooner! They even have an app that makes things super easy by allowing you to purchase rides, see real-time ferry locations and get service advisories. It was so user-friendly and made riding a breeze! If you’re trying to get from Long Island City to Manhattan for some lower NYC attractions, do yourself a favor – skip the subway and take the ferry.
But this post is about Queens, so… if you happen to be looking for some novel transportation between Astoria and Long Island City, spring for the $2.75 ride. If your kids are anything like Jack, they’ll love it! Spend the morning exploring the Wellington Murals and the Socrates Sculpture Park in Astoria, then ride down to Long Island City’s Gantry State Park for some afternoon playtime and photo ops in front of the Pepsi-Cola sign (more on these activities below). Or vice versa. It’ll make for a fun day for the kiddos.
Queens Neighborhood Map
To make things easier, I’ve broken down this post by neighborhood. Needless to say, we weren’t able to hit up all the neighborhoods in Queens – there are 60 plus! But we were able to see some really good stuff in Northwestern and Northeastern Queens, in these neighborhoods: Astoria, Long Island City, Jackson Heights, Flushing and Glen Oaks. So it’d probably be helpful to get an idea of where those are. Viola!:
Fun Things To Do in Astoria, Queens
I’ll start with things to do in Astoria, which is where we stayed during our trip, and move east from there. First up, the Socrates Sculpture Park:
Socrates Sculpture Park
This waterfront sculpture garden has enough green space for the kids to run around and expend some energy while you enjoy an immersive art experience. There’s also likely to be actual kid-friendly exhibits, too. During our visit, there was an interactive exhibit that featured a sandbox, so Jack was all set for literally hours while Steev and I looked around.
Exhibits rotate seasonally (check their website for more info), so be ready for anything. You’re welcome to touch, explore, sometimes even climb on (sometimes) the art, to try and get an idea of the statement each piece is intended to achieve. If you’re less than in touch with your intuitive side (like me!), and have trouble “getting it,” download the handy app called OtoCast. You’ll get a self-guided tour of the gardens via your phone, complete with each sculpture’s creator telling you the meaning behind their piece.
Also in Astoria, the Wellington Mural Project is set among several blocks intersecting Main Avenue and Astoria Blvd. Being right on the street, you’ll have to keep a close eye on the kiddos. And without a place to run around, this spot may not keep their attention for long… but the pretty colors of the graffiti might distract them just enough for you to take a few minutes to check out these cool murals.
Statements against current divisive policies, inequality, and other social injustices can be found woven throughout the art that lines the streets. We passed by the project accidentally our first weekend there, and were stoked that we stumbled upon it! I think it’s one of the coolest things to see in Astoria.
Start at the corner of Main Ave and Wellington Court, and work your way east. You’ll need to make a complete loop around some blocks to see everything – check their website here for a map of all the mural locations.
Also in Astoria (duh) this park is pretty damn big. While the kids play on one of eight playgrounds, you can enjoy views of the East River and Manhattan (side note: don’t get close enough to the edge of the river that you can see the banks below… your views may well be ruined by the sight of a lot of garbage… *tear*).
If you’re visiting in summer, note this fun fact: the largest urban swimming pool in the country is located at Astoria Park! The park also hosts activities and events throughout the year. Check out the schedule on their website.
Athens Square Park
We stayed at an Airbnb in Astoria near the 30th Avenue Subway Station during our visit. Conveniently located a block away from the subway station was Athens Square Park. It was a great spot to decompress after a day on the train and all those long walks between activities in Queens (if nothing else, a trip to NY will get you those 10,000 daily steps in a heartbeat!).
There’s something for kids of all ages at this park. A small play structure for toddlers and preschoolers, plus larger ones for older kids. There are also basketball courts that cater to tweens and teens… and kids at heart! There’s even an open amphitheater-like space that hosts live music and cultural events. Check their website for the event schedule.
We stopped at this park at least a dozen times during our trip, especially on days when we did more adult-centric activities that Jack had less interest in. It was a great way to give him his fix!
Things To Do in Long Island City, Queens
Museum of the Moving Image
To be honest, this wasn’t very high on my list when we arrived, because I (stupidly) didn’t think the history of movies and TV would be that cool. Well, as usual, I was severely mistaken. The Museum of the Moving Image was so much freaking fun… for all of us! There were so many interactive exhibits to keep Jack entertained when I was looking at the less kid-interesting stuff.
While I viewed the static exhibits, Jack stayed busy making his own stop-motion movie, adding sound to film clips, and playing at several other interactive displays. For me, the antique video cameras, old televisions, and costume and prop exhibits from some of my favorite childhood movies (Start Wars, baby!) were awesome in and of themselves. But then, the pièce de résistance… the Jim Henson exhibit.
Sorry in advance for yelling, but… THIS EXHIBIT WAS AH-MAZING!!! It literally made me squeal out loud with excitement. I relived my childhood like nobody’s business. The Labrtynth, the Muppets… Fraggle Rock, y’all! My excitement was audible (much to the annoyance of other museums-goers) and couldn’t be concealed. I mean… I saw a Dozer in real life!!! Not to mention Jack’s excitement at seeing all the life-sized Sesame Street exhibits. So. Much. FUN!
Okay, so definitely don’t pass on Tut’s Theater while you’re there. They play a different Muppet Show each week, and there’s also a half hour segment on how the shows were filmed, complete with a behind the scenes look at the puppeteers working their magic. All in all, it’s about an hour… But don’t skip it. If the Muppet Show doesn’t entertain the kids enough to keep them sitting still, maybe it’ll put them to sleep – like it did Jack! – so you can enjoy the show. It really was fascinating to find out how they made the magic happen.
I can’t say enough good things about this place. We loved it so much, we went twice – I mean, I couldn’t let Steev leave Queens without seeing it. If you’re looking for Long Island City museums to visit, put Museum of the Moving Image at the top of your list!
Gantry Plaza State Park
Also in Long Island City, another waterfront park with awesome views… that I liked even better than Astoria Park! Jack ran around all 12 acres of Gantry Plaza State Park while I strolled behind, enjoying a latte while taking in views of the city across the river. We stopped at one of the playgrounds so Jack could let off some steam while I snapped pics of lower Manhattan. (Bonus: the playground also had free WiFi, so I could easily post said pictures while he played!)
Families were picnicking on the grass, couples were snuggling in the hammocks, folks were reclining on Adirondack chairs built into the riverwalk, people were taking selfies in front of the Pepsi sign… oh wait, that was just me!
Again… avoid looking down at the shore, or the magic might be ruined. The Long Island City waterfront was slightly less trash-filled than Astoria Park, but certainly not trash-free. It’s kinda sad to see signs posted asking the public to respect the environment, right next to floating garbage… *sigh*… (Not trying to be a Debbie Downer, just want to give you an accurate picture of what we experienced – which was mostly good!)
Another great park for the kids to get their play fix, and a beautiful commemoration to the late police officer it’s named for. This colorful, garden-themed Long Island City park is a happy place that has something for 1-year-olds to 100-year-olds. Tunnels for babies to crawl through, a playground for young kids, basketball courts, game tables, and a splash pad!
We happened upon this park after leaving the Museum of the Moving Image – it’s just a couple blocks away. We were there in early April, but it was relatively warm on the day we went. So, of course, Jack couldn’t resist getting a little (a lot) wet on the splash pad. Fun in the moment, but he whined about being cold the rest of the walk home!
Things To Do in Jackson Heights, Queens
Kid-Friendly Food Tour
It’s probably not surprising that New York has food tours out the wazoo, and Queens is no exception. But as I searched for one for me and my toddler, I found most didn’t cater to kids. As in, there were explicit age limits (6 and older for some, tweens and older for most). But then I found Laura with Eat Your World. Her tour listed an explicit age limit, too: all ages welcome. Bingo! Off we went.
We toured the Jackson Heights neighborhood, lovingly known to locals as “Himalayan Heights” because of influence from the Nepalese, Tibetan and Indian communities there. Jack came along in his stroller as we sampled momos, patra (my favorite dish of the tour), and several other dishes, and heard about some of the history and culture of the area.
I’ll admit, hauling Jack along was a bit of a hassle for me. The crowded sidewalks and small venues made it difficult for me to keep up sometimes or hear all that was being discussed. But I soooooo appreciated being able to bring him, and having such a friendly guide introduce us both to some food I would never have tried on my own! If you’re up for a food adventure only a local could give you, check out Laura’s tours.
Things To Do in Flushing, Queens NY
New York Hall of Science
I hate to admit, but I was indifferent about this place going in. I knew it had a preschool section that would keep jack entertained, and I knew I’d love the rest of it, but I didn’t think I’d get to really enjoy the non-kid sections. Again, I was mistaken – the New York Hall of Science kicked ass!
I had NO IDEA that there’d be something for Jack at each and every exhibit. I thought I’d spend most of my time running after him because nothing would capture his attention long enough for me to enjoy the exhibits. I was proven so wrong – we BOTH had a great time. He was entertained at every turn, and I’ve since told anyone who’d listen that it’s the best science museum I’ve ever visited!
Jack played with the bubble maker in the light exhibit for a good half an hour, ran around the space park and the science playground for another half an hour (each!), and interacted with the Connected Worlds exhibit in the Great Hall for a full hour while I played there, too! Hands-down, our favorite exhibit (as in, he sobbed when we left it).
We loved it so much, we spent the entire day there (even skipping his nap!) and then went back a second time.
This is a cute little zoo just south of the Hall of Science. It’s tiny, but a nice day out for the kids, and a nice escape from the city for you. If it weren’t for the traffic noise, you could almost pretend you weren’t in the city at all (haha… almost).
They’re part of the Wildlife Conservation Society and AZA accredited, so the Queens Zoo‘s exhibits meet ethical standards for captive animals. And the zoo contributes to several endangered species breeding programs, so you can feel good about supporting the facility with your entry fee.
The kids can purchase feed for the birds, get an up-close view of sea lion feedings, and take a break in between exhibits to play at the zoo’s playground. The place is small, so can be done quickly if you’ve only got a couple hours, or you can relax and spend a full day if you like (may want to bring some food, as the cafe’s offerings are limited). We made a half-day of it, then spent the second half of the day walking around the World’s Fair site just next door.
World’s Fair Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Nothing explicitly kid-specific here, but the site spans several acres in a large open area, safe for children to run around. If you’re already at one of the neighboring attractions, like the Hall of Science or the zoo, might as well take a walk through here, too.
The Flushing Meadows globe is pretty stinkin’ impressive, and who’d wanna pass up seeing the “flying saucers” from MIB?? Errrrr, I mean the observation towers from the 1964 World’s Fair?? The two attractions are right next to each other, in and among a ton of green space.
Flushing Meadow Park is a great place to have a picnic under the cherry trees, or bring along some scooters for the kids to zoom around (on that note, check out these ideas for kids’ travel items for your trip!). The park also hosts dozens, if not hundreds, of events all year round. Check their website for upcoming Flushing Meadow Park events.
Playground for All Children
While we had a great time at all the parks and playgrounds we hit up, this one took the cake. The name says it all… this ADA-accessible playground truly is for ALL children (fun fact: it claims to be the first playground in the country designed for children of all abilities). It is huge and has everything. Playhouses, playbuses, playtrains, music makers… not to mention the climbing structures typically found at most playgrounds.
The difference was that almost every single structure was accessible. I looooved the fact that there was a ramp that led over the swinging bridge and up to the highest platforms of the climbing assembly, as opposed to just stairs. Use a wheelchair, but want to go to the top? You can. And the slides were extra wide to allow space for kids who require assistance or need parents to slide with them. I was left wondering why all playgrounds don’t incorporate features like these.
Jack had a ball playing in the little houses, sliding down the large slides and running up and down the ramps. It’s large enough and has enough different play areas to keep a kid busy for hours.
Things To Do in Glen Oaks, Queens
Queens County Farm Museum
Hands-down, my favorite highlight of our trip! What can I say… guess I’m not cut out for the big city! Which is why I enjoyed our day at Queens Farm so much.
Our last weekend there, I’d had enough of trekking through the city, smelling exhaust and hearing horns honk all day long. I’d hit up every nearby museum, some twice (I’ll never stop raving about you, Museum of the Moving Image!), so didn’t want to do that anymore either. I was ready for some outdoor time that was slower, quieter and more peaceful.
I’d heard about the farm, so looked it up. We lucked out – their spring festival was that very weekend! So, we drove out. It’s the one time having a car was handy, since public transit would’ve taken 1.5 hours vs. our 20-minute drive. If you choose to do the farm, I’d recommend driving/Ubering rather than taking the subway/bus.
Y’all this place was so stinkin’ cute! I had a ball Jack had a ball seeing farm animals, feeding sheep, and taking a hayride. And the festival meant there were several added attractions, like rides, carnival vendors, and – my favorite – food trucks (deep fried oreos is where it’s at)!
We spent all day there, even skipping Jack’s coveted nap, and were bummed when it came time to leave. I highly recommend the Queens County Farm for something a little unique from the city.
Where To Stay in (Astoria) Queens
Even though Steev was sent to Queens for work, it was on him to locate his preferred accommodation. But the per diem rate he was given was weirdly low for such an expensive location. For the life of me, I couldn’t find a hotel that was within his budget.
Airbnb to the rescue! After reaching out to some of my local blogging friends for advice on where to stay, I narrowed our search to the Astoria neighborhood, then further narrowed it to the area within a few blocks of the 30th Avenue station, so we could have easy access to the subway. It turned out to be a great location (though, I was so impressed with the Gantry Park area of the Long Island City neighborhood, I’ll def give that area a try if I go back)!
We felt like real locals in our 6-story WWII-era building, in all its quirky glory! Original hardwood floors that creaked with each step, old pipes that banged (only on occasion) when the heat kicked on, a fire escape that made me hella nervous, and the building’s rickety elevator, just to name a few! We had a lot of fun there.
The added bonus of going the Airbnb route was, of course, not having to eat out for every single meal. There were a couple well-stocked grocery stores within just a couple blocks of the place that had everything we needed for some easy at-home meals. That said, there were also several very reasonably-priced restaurants within a 2-block radius, mostly along 30th Avenue. So, our meals out didn’t break the bank by any means.
If you’re going to Queens for an extended stay – hell, even if you’re going for a short stay! – Airbnb is the way to go if you want a more authentic feel for the neighborhood you’re in.
Where To Eat in (Astoria) Queens
I am by no means “in the know” about the best Astoria restaurants, but since I mentioned we enjoyed some great neighborhood eateries around 30th Ave, I should probably tell you what they were! Our favorites during the trip – i.e. the ones we visited more than once – were:
• Sonbobs – This small, quirky coffee shop also does pastries and sammies. The bits and bobs Soni has for sale make the place so unique, and she and her staff were sooooooo friendly and kind to our (sometimes unruly) kiddo. Open mic night was a real treat – we were invited to come and made to feel like family!
• The Shady Lady – This trendy tapas bar has great small plates – their gnocchi with grilled octopus was legit! And don’t get me started on their nutella waffle sundae… Jack was in heaven. It’s a fun foodie spot and the dishes here were some of the more “elevated” food we had during our stay.
• Pochana – This is your standard Thai restaurant, and everything we ate was good. We’re trying to eat more plant-based, and this place has great veggie options (I know, I know… you’ve just seen a pic of a cold cut sandwich and some octopus. I am nothing if not a work in progress!). But, to me, their stand-out menu item is their mocktails! Insanely refreshing and delicious, I absolutely did not miss the alcohol.
• Burger Club – For a burger place, it has some surprising(ly good) veggie options. Their veggie burger is fantastic (as are their meat burgers, of course), but we were so impressed by their veggie apps that we returned just for those. If you go, definitely try their Brussels sprouts and roasted cauliflower starters. And Jack says to have a milkshake while you’re there.
• Mochiron Izakaya – This Japanese place has awesome small plates – we loved their tempura acorn squash and pan-fried gyoza dishes. As in, we ordered seconds of both. The restaurant is cozy, staff is friendly and service is super quick. It was a great choice after a long day of sightseeing.
• Jujube Tree – This place strictly serves Asian vegan dishes that are frikkin’ awesome. Their pumpkin soup is the best I’ve ever eaten (ever), and their raw summer rolls were to die for. If you’re on your own plant-based journey – and even if you’re not – this place is a must try.
And there you have it! Have you been to Queens? What would you add to the “must do” list? If you haven’t been, have I convinced you to go? Or scared you off with tales of crowds and dirty subway cars (hehe…)?? Well, if you’re on the fence, I say go!
Overall, I really enjoyed our stay, even if it did reveal that NYC life isn’t for me. The museums especially were a real treat, I really enjoyed the farm, and I was stoked that there was so much for Jack – more than I originally thought! I’m definitely happy we took advantage of Steev’s work trip and tagged along!