Jamaica Bay is a destination with a past as lively as its current activities and events. Culture hounds should head to Fort Tilden, a 1917 harbor defense outpost named after Samuel Tilden, New York's governor from 1875 to 1876. Decommissioned in 1974, the fort now houses the Rockaway Artists Alliance and the Rockaway Theatre Company, but visitors can still explore the landmark's batteries and bunkers and get a feel for its rich history.
Another must-see: Floyd Bennett Field, home of aviation history and the newly reopened William Fitts Ryan Visitor Center. The field was named for Brooklynite Floyd Bennett, a naval aviator who was the first to fly over the North Pole, in 1926. The site's impressive history goes on from there: record breakers Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes both took off from Floyd Bennett, and during World War II, it served as the country's most-used airport. Recently restored, the 1930s terminal building takes guests back to its days as the City's first municipal airport. Inside, you'll find exhibitions, touch-screen newsreels, watercolor panels of the era's transportation methods and aircraft replicas built to scale by skilled volunteers.