Must-See Flushing

Michael Hsu

(Updated 02/04/2015)
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The Chinese-immigrant population of Flushing, Queens, surpassed that of Manhattan's Chinatown years ago. Roughly two-thirds of the residents in this bustling Queens neighborhood are foreign born—the vast majority of them coming from Asia. Whether you're looking for the most authentic Asian cuisine, an ancient herbal remedy or an impossible-to-find Japanese comic book, Flushing is the place to go. The neighborhood also happens to be home to some of the City's best attractions, including world-class sports venues, lush gardens and performance spaces. So hop on the 7 subway train to the Flushing/Main St. stop for dinner or make a day trip out of touring the various museums; you'll find that Flushing's offerings are as diverse as its residents. Read on for more.

USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Citi Field
Roosevelt Avenue and 126th Street, 718-507-TIXX
USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center
Flushing Meadows Corona Park, 718-760-6200
Citi Field has been the home of the New York Mets since the spring of 2009. In addition to the action on the field (2.5 acres of 100% Kentucky bluegrass), there's plenty to see and eat here. Open on game days, the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum, located next to the rotunda, has an extensive collection of team memorabilia on display, including Tom Seaver's 1967 Rookie of the Year award. During baseball season, the stadium is also known for its stellar food from top-notch chefs, who serve burgers and hot dogs with gourmet fixings at Shake Shack, slow-cooked pork tacos at El Verano Taqueria and lobster rolls at Catch of the Day. The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, a haven for tennis lovers, is a short walk away. Although the center is most famous for hosting the US Open, its indoor and outdoor courts are open to the public every day of the week, 11 months a year, for private and group lessons, open court time and heart-pumping Cardio Tennis classes.

Photo: Dominick Totino

Flushing Town Hall
137-35 Northern Blvd., 718-463-7700
This stately 1862 building in the Romanesque Revival style—one of the few still standing in the area—is home to the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts. Its art gallery, classroom and 308-seat theater host classical, jazz and world music concerts, theater and dance performances, art exhibitions and educational events throughout the year. Originally a civic building, it briefly became a performance venue in the late 1800s (P.T. Barnum presented sideshows there; Tom Thumb was a star performer) before serving as a courthouse, jail and bank during the first half of the 1900s. Today, it is a strong supporter of local artists and offers extensive programs for children and families, including puppetry performances and music workshops. Find upcoming events by checking out flushingtownhall.org.

Mulan. Photo: Julienne Schaer

Downtown Dining
One of Flushing's main draws is its vast selection of authentic cuisine from all parts of China and beyond. To experience the taste of ma la—the uniquely spicy, numbing flavor that comes from Sichuan peppercorns—stop by Hunan House or Spicy & Tasty and order the mapo tofu (completely different from the Chinese-takeout variety) or fuqi feipian (a dish that renders the oft-neglected parts of the cow superspicy). Jade Asian is a great dim sum spot, while New Imperial Palace is known for stellar Cantonese seafood dishes (its Dungeness crab with sticky rice is the stuff of legend). For Korean fare, try San Soo Kap San, whose hot kimchi stew comes, in typical Korean fashion, flanked by an array of side dishes. For a one-stop solution, head over to the Queens Crossing Mall. On the ground-level food court, you can sample Japanese fare at Ajisen Ramen, a range of Chinese dumplings and fresh noodles at Special Soup Buns and bubble-milk tea at Kung Fu Tea. The top floor of the mall has one of the most upscale eateries in the neighborhood—Mulan—which puts modern twists on traditional Chinese fare; dishes include soft-shell crab with spicy mango dressing and wok-fried duck gizzards.

 

New York Hall of Science. Photo: Julienne Schaer

Flushing Meadows Corona Park
111th Street, 44th Avenue and the Van Wyck Expressway, 718-760-6565
At 897 acres, Flushing Meadows Corona Park provides plenty of room for games and one-of-a-kind attractions. A great starting place is the Unisphere; the 12-story globe was the icon of the 1964–65 World's Fair and has since become an icon for the entire borough. Nearby, the Queens Museum features a diverse collection of art as well as the Panorama of the City of New York, Robert Moses' scale model of the five boroughs, which includes every building and street as of 1992. (A few changes have been made since then, such as the addition of a miniature Brooklyn Bridge Park and the replacement of a Shea Stadium replica with one of Citi Field.) Adjacent to the museum, the Queens Theatre presents festivals of Latino, black and Asian cultural arts, as well as other performances. And visits to the Queens Zoo (home to alligators, bald eagles and pumas) and the New York Hall of Science (with more than 450 hands-on exhibitions and a pair of real NASA rockets) make great day trips for families.

Photo: Lynn Hanousek

Voelker Orth Museum
149-19 38th Ave., 718-359-6227
Unique in both scale and mission, the Voelker Orth Museum is a single-family home and property turned urban garden and bird sanctuary. The museum's meticulously maintained grounds are a living record of a Victorian-era garden. All of the plants and flowers on display were popular during the period and continue to be hand-pruned and fertilized naturally, as would have been done back in the day. The garden's berry bushes and trees attract butterflies (including monarchs and swallowtails) and local and migrating birds (such as hummingbirds, mockingbirds and orioles). The museum also offers workshops on a variety of horticultural and related topics, such as beekeeping and terrarium gardening.

Tai Pan Bakery. Photo: Alexander Thompson

Tai Pan Bakery
37-25 Main St., 718-888-1111
42-05B Main St. 718-460-8787 
Paris Baguette
156-24 Northern Blvd., 718-961-0404
136-17 39th Ave., 718-713-0404
One of Flushing's most popular mega-bakeries, Tai Pan feels like a cross between a café and a food court. Its two locations, about eight blocks apart on one of the neighborhood's busiest streets, can be packed during peak hours, so be prepared to squeeze in tight with the locals at one of the no-frills stainless-steel tables. In addition to a variety of classic Chinese sweets (egg custards and super-airy sponge cakes), Tai Pan serves savory fare, like pork buns and curry beef pies. The drinks menu is extensive and includes, of course, bubble milk teas in a range of flavors and blended fruit drinks. The Korean-owned Paris Baguette has a French theme (the staff wear black-and-white-striped shirts and berets) and classic patisserie offerings like croissants, fruit tarts and macarons, but its true specialty are East-meets-West sweets, like green-tea cakes topped with blueberries, black-sesame lattes and a creamy, panna-cotta-like royal milk pudding.

 

Photo: Julienne Schaer

Queens Historical Society
143-135 37th Ave., 718-939-0647
Housed in the storied Kingsland Homestead, the Queens Historical Society preserves the borough's 300-year history through photographs, historical documents and art. The museum's collection, which ranges from handwritten letters from the 1700s and daguerreotype photos from the 1850s to sculptures and paintings from the 20th century, paints a vivid portrait of the broad experiences of the borough's residents. The Wolcott family papers, for example, include letters written between a mother and her daughters that provide a glimpse into the daily lives of women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The diary of William King Murray, meanwhile, captures the life of a teenager in the 1850s. In addition to on-site tours, the society also offers walking tours of other historical sites in Queens, including the Flushing Cemetery.

Photo: Julienne Schaer

Louis Armstrong House Museum
34-56 107th St., 718-478-8274
In 1943 Louis Armstrong purchased this modest-size house in Corona with his wife, Lucille, and lived there until his death, in 1971. It now serves as a museum that honors and preserves the jazz legend's legacy. Among the largest public jazz archives in the world, the museum's collection includes homemade reel-to-reel recordings, rare photographs, letters and manuscripts, and Armstrong's own instruments (among them, five trumpets and 14 mouthpieces). Still furnished as it was when the Armstrongs lived there, the house also has the couple's paintings and artwork on view and, out back, a Japanese-inspired garden. Guided tours start every hour on the hour and are offered every day the house is open. Although the museum closes on Mondays and major holidays, it's always open on July 4, in honor of Armstrong's birthday.

Hong Kong Supermarket 
37-11 Main St., 718-539-6868
H Mart
29-02 Union St., 718-445-5656
141-40 Northern Blvd., 718-358-0700

There's no dearth of Asian supermarkets in Flushing, but the Hong Kong Supermarket, a Flushing institution, is worth a visit even if bok choy and ginger root aren't on your shopping list. It has a dizzying selection of Asian candy (including puckery dried plums, muscat-flavored fruit chews and more flavors of Pocky than you ever thought existed) and a drink case stocked with exotic concoctions (mango-flavored aloe beverage, anyone?). It's also a great source for specialty appliances, like fuzzy-logic rice cookers and electric hot-water dispensers that maintain the perfect temperatures for black and green teas. H Mart, a sprawling Korean grocery store, is another great spot to explore, as samples of a wide range of Asian foodstuffs are always on offer. At either Flushing location you can find green-tea-flavored popped-rice chips and dried kimchi to snack on, fresh taiyaki (fish-shaped cakes filled with sweet red-bean paste and even an in-house restaurant serving simple preparations of traditional Korean dishes, like bibimbap and japchae.  

 

Queens Botanical Garden
43-50 Main St., 718-886-3800
Originally created as an exhibition for the 1939–40 World's Fair, the Queens Botanical Garden's 39 acres of woodlands, wetlands, meadows and gardens make up an excellent escape from the bustle of city life. In the spring, visitors from far and wide come to see the blossoming dogwood, magnolia and cherry trees. The Rose Garden (in bloom from late May through October, though at its peak in June), Fragrance Walk (featuring aromatic shrubs, perennials and bulbs) and Perennial Garden are also popular attractions, and birding walks are offered throughout the year (everything from red-tailed hawks to yellow-rumped warblers stop by). The visitors' center has a 3,000-square-foot green roof and a geothermal heating and cooling system, making it one of the City's most eco-friendly buildings.


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