Queens was once the home of the Ramones, Cyndi Lauper, Christopher Walken and many other notable celebs who still haven’t dropped the charming and kind of iconic accent. Queens has had its ups and downs over the years, with neighborhoods like Forest Hills making a comeback (read: the resurgence of Forest Hills Stadium) and Astoria becoming the go-to destination in New York for good Greek cuisine.
In late 2018, Amazon announced that their newest headquarters would be built in Long Island City, creating a buzz around the industrial Queens neighborhood. Since then, Amazon has decided to “reassess” the location choice, leaving New Yorkers very curious about what LIC really has to offer. From the open-air sculpture gardens to the chic and sophisticated boutique hotels, there is a lot to see and do in LIC. We’ve rounded up our top coffee shops, hotels, breweries and parks that you should visit while exploring this undiscovered gem.
Where to Stay:
In 2012 The Paper Factory Hotel underwent a $27 million production overhaul to go from a blue-collar working space to an eclectic hotel property. Today, the hotel pays homage to its history as an actual paper factory in the form of repurposed original elements sprinkled throughout (vintage hammered metal doors, typewriters, etc.). Each of the 125 guest rooms feature industrial accents and bright personality traits. Located in the heart of LIC, this property boasts a vibrant attitude in a central location for exploring Queens or Manhattan.
If you are looking for something more tranquil and streamlined, book a stay at the Boro Hotel. Featuring a Scandinavian-inspired design, the hotel is bright and airy with a minimalist point of view. The lobby features a library of Strand Bookstore books and various newspaper publications and you’ll be located around the corner from Birch Coffee.
Where to Eat:
No matter where you stay in LIC, you must visit Birch Coffee’s Roast House. There are several locations in NYC including Upper East Side, Financial District, Flatiron and, one special outpost in LIC. Birch is an experience like no other, where you can savor a tasty cup of java and salivate over a gluten-free pastry but also take an hour long class on home brewing, French press brewing, the art of grinding coffee and you’ll take home a brewing kit of your own. We suggest starting any morning with a visit to Birch.
For an elevated dining experience, make a reservation at Maiella, a rustic Italian eatery overlooking the Queens waterfront. Set just behind the iconic neon Pepsi-Cola sign, you can indulge in homemade pappardelle, fresh charcuterie and oven-roasted Cornish hen before taking an after-dinner stroll along the East River and savor the views of Manhattan.
What to Do:
So, after you’ve savored the culinary masterpieces of Queens, you’ll want to continue your cultural exploration. The home of the previously mentioned Pepsi-Cola sign is Gantry Plaza State Park. Walk along the promenade for a few great Instagram shots and really inspiring views of Manhattan. The rest of the 12-acre park features gardens, playgrounds, basketball courts, picnic tables and a unique mist fountain.
For another breath of fresh air, check out Socrates Sculpture Park, an open-air large-scale park featuring multimedia installations and artist exhibitions. The five-acre public park is dedicated to supporting artists and encouraging a sense of community in LIC. Check out what exhibits are open during your visit here.
Where to Drink:
Brewery culture is alive and well in Queens, with both upscale local breweries and quainter, living room-esque outposts. One of our favorites is Big Alice Brewing Co. located on a quiet block near Brooklyn Studios and The Foundry event space. Big Alice distributes throughout New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island but at the LIC brewery you can taste some of the more eclectic small-batch beers.
For a more historic experience, head to Dutch Kills, a speakeasy-style cocktail lounge serving innovative concoctions in vintage digs. Dutch Kills boasts hand-cut ice in their cocktails, house-made orgeat (almond syrup) and clever recipes. Perfect for an after-dinner drink or a happy hour sesh with friends.
Main image credit: Instagram