Ah, New York. Home of the Statue of Liberty and out-of-shape superheroes roaming Times Square hoping to snap a picture with the tourists. New York: home to millions and a dream to so many more (and perhaps a nightmare to some). Regardless, the city is an adventure that offers so many diverse experiences in surprisingly small yet wonderful spaces.
If you’re looking for that one-of-a-kind New York City experience without being in the heart of the hustle and the bustle, you’re not alone. You want to be close enough to travel into the city chaos, but far enough from the 60 million tourists that come every year. Sounds like a good deal, right?
I welcome you to explore one beautiful borough of New York City: Queens.
Queens neighborhoods can be intimidating to navigate if you know nothing about them. To make your search a little easier, I’ve mapped out a few routes through Queens’ best neighborhoods. Now all you have to do is pick the one you want to go down. This is your starting point — a place where you can start to get a feel for some of the best Queens neighborhoods and what they can offer you.
The Best Queens Neighborhood For Your Personality
Everyone has a different list of requirements when it comes to looking for their new home. We’re all in different stages in life, so our wish lists are not going to be the same. For example, a backyard pool may be essential, or a lack of storage space might be a deal-breaker. Maybe a great nightlife tops your list of necessities.
To help you out, I’ve broken up this post based on your top priorities in a neighborhood hunt, including:
Let’s get started!
1. Best Queens Neighborhood for ‘The Reasonable Spender’: Sunnyside
You are the person who sprints to the clearance rack the moment you walk through the door. You’re not afraid to spend the dough, but you want to make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck. Unfortunately, life in New York isn’t the ideal for you Reasonable Spender types, especially with rent in the city reaching upwards of $10,000 a month. You want to be able to feed and clothe yourself after paying the bills. I feel you.
Let me introduce you to the beautiful Queens neighborhood of Sunnyside. A quick ride on the 7 train and you’re in a totally different land — a land that won’t attack your bank account in a matter of minutes.
Why Sunnyside, Queens is Right for You
This part of Queens is known for its tight community. Filled with small local businesses, you’ll be able to find a diverse set of food and attractions.
The real estate may be cheaper compared to other areas, but that doesn’t mean that prices still aren’t rising. Currently apartment listings range from $1,600 – $2,290. With an improvement in crime rates, cheap eats and a short commute, the competition for these listings is fierce. The word is getting out about this charming secret of Queens. The faster you act, the better chance you have of scooping up this deal of a neighborhood.
Things to do in Sunnyside, Queens:
If you’re looking to grab a quick bite to eat, The Alcove is your spot. The truffle fries are a favorite must-try. And with breakfast, brunch and dinner service, you’ll never miss a chance to stop in for a bite.
Thalia Hispanic Theatre
This gem exemplifies the diversity that can be found in Queens, NY. Thalia Theatre has made big waves by winning over 170 awards for their shows. Year round you can watch plays, musicals, dancing, comedy shows and they even offer dance workshops to help your two left feet.
Sunnyside Green Market
At 42nd and 43rd, Sunnyside hosts the weekly Green Market. Every Saturday morning a group of local farmers brings their goodies to the city. Pick up all your daily groceries or just stop by for an afternoon snack, all at an affordable price.
Established in 1848, this cemetery is home to over 3 million residents that have since moved on. Cemeteries may not be the most exciting attraction, but with people like Annie Moore, Mickey Welch and Joe Spinell, it may be worth the quick drop by.
Sunnyside Gardens Historic District
Known as the first planned community in America, this National Historic District is a landmark in New York. You’ll be able to travel back in time to walk among classic English architecture, surrounded by the city skyline.
This is New York’s largest private park. But what about Central Park? Read that first line again: New York’s largest private park. That’s right, it’s a members-only park within Sunnyside Gardens that has everything from a bike track to ping pong tables, playgrounds, baseball fields, tennis courts, and more. Membership is only available to residents of Sunnyside Gardens, giving you perhaps even more incentive to sniff out that section of the neighborhood (or at the very least find yourself a friend that lives there).
Other Queens neighborhoods to check out if you’re ‘The Reasonable Spender’:
- Forrest Hill
- Kew Gardens
2. Best Queens Neighborhood for ‘The Foodie’: Flushing
Food is your middle name. You know all the hot spots that the locals love. Your Yelp account is bursting with ratings of every restaurant under the sun. And your dream is to travel to even more bars and cafes since your taste buds are the definitive authorities on what’s good and what’s not. I get it. You love food!
All Foodies Love Flushing
Good thing the Queens borough of Flushing understands your obsession. It’s the foodie capital of New York. You’ll feel right at home here.
With a predominantly Asian influence in this neighborhood, you won’t find anything more authentic unless you traveled to Asia itself. Around every corner is a bustling supermarket full of delicious pastries and savory dumplings. From sunrise to sunset, your stomach and Yelp account will be happier than ever. Plus it won’t empty your wallet. This is the new and improved Chinatown — Chinatown 2.0.
Things to Do in Flushing, Queens:
Sealion feedings, ropes course adventures and summer camps… oh my! Visit all your favorite animals at the Queens Zoo while maybe even learning a thing or two. From pumas to alligators and parrots, I’m sure you’ll find a new friend in the city. Bonus: This zoo is much smaller and more manageable to tackle in one day compared to the behemoth Bronx Zoo, making it a great pick for families with little kids (and even smaller attention spans).
Louis Armstrong House Museum
This one-of-a-kind attraction showcases where Louis Armstrong lived until his death in 1971. The house has remained very much the same since then. Tour through the kitchen, living room and private den of one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. Where else can you do that?!
Take a break from the brick wall jungle and take a stroll through the gardens of Queens. Originally founded in 1939, this landmark of Flushing is still thriving today. Stay up to date with their full calendar of activities and programs, and check out their farmers market which is open every Friday.
Some argue that Flushing is home to the true Chinatown. Sorry, Manhattan. Better luck next time. For all the food lovers out there, this should take a spot on your foodie bucket list. Be sure to check out their shopping, bakeries and bubble tea.
U.S. Open and National Tennis Center
Calling all supreme tennis fans. Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer are in the building. Take a summer weekend or week to watch the champions take over the court in the home of the U.S. Open. With the National Tennis Center in your backyard, it may just become your new favorite sport.
Home of the New York Mets, Citi Field was built in 2009 as a replacement to Shea Stadium, the Mets’ former home. There’s not a bad seat in the house, unlike other Major League Baseball stadiums that can block views with walls (looking at you, Fenway). Even if you’re not a huge baseball fan, you’ll be entertained for hours with mascot Mr. Met on top of testing out all of the amazing food vendors from Shake Shack to Queens sandwich staple Mama’s of Corona in addition to the many craft beer stands (but don’t worry, there’s Bud Lite aplenty there too!). With tickets often being cheaper than ones to Yankees stadium depending on the game, this is a fun way to spend a date night or day out on the town.
Other Queens Neighborhoods to check out if you’re ‘The Foodie’:
- Jackson Heights
3. Best Queens Neighborhood for ‘The Commuter’: Long Island City
The worst thing in the world to you? Being late. Wasting time. Spending half your day just trying to get to your destination. The thought of it keeps you up at night. Spending an hour in traffic is in no way appealing to you. Even if you get to spend it singing along to Taylor Swift.
Long Island City (referred to by the locals as LIC; make sure you know the lingo before you settle in there) is that perfect distance you’ve been dreaming of. It’s so close that you can reach out and touch the city skyline. It seriously is the best seat in the house. The 7 and NQR trains give you quick and easy access to Manhattan and the other boroughs of NYC. You can get to the hustle and bustle in minutes.
Some people say the journey is what matters. And The Commuter says those people speak nonsense. Get to and from work quicker so you can spend your time enjoying the many other amenities that LIC has to offer you.
Things to Do in Long Island City, Queens:
Gantry Plaza State Park
Sure, Central Park is the first thing people think of when New York City parks come to mind. But Gantry Plaza is where you go to have a picnic with a view. After all, the people with the best views of the Manhattan skyline are those that live outside of the city in the first place. Walk your dog along the boardwalk, read your favorite book on a bench and take a timeout in this 12-acre beauty complete with the largest populated city in the U.S. as a backdrop. Don’t forget to check out the other Instagram-worthy parks in LIC, such as Hunter’s Point South Park which is a post-industrial area transformed into a waterfront green space and Queensbridge Park, which lies right under the formerly named Queensboro Bridge (now known as the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge).
Self Storage Facility Access
Living in the city can mean squeezing your whole life into a studio apartment, which can be impossible. I mean, there are some things you cannot throw away. Like all your beautiful third grade artwork and old boy band posters. Those are necessary items in life. With easy access to our storage units in LIC, all of your artwork and posters will be safe. You’ll be able to breathe a little easier in that one-room home.
Roosevelt Island Tram
A true bucket list item, this tram exemplifies the beauty that is the New York skyline, and it costs less than $5 a person. Take in the beautiful city views you thought you could only dream of. Right next to Long Island City, the Roosevelt Island tram can become a fun trip any day of the week.
For the artist at heart, this Museum of Modern Art affiliate serves as one of the largest in the U.S. With new exhibitions constantly cycling through the museum, you’ll always find something fresh to appreciate.
Cliffs at Long Island City
Unless you’re Spider-Man, you won’t be climbing the side of buildings anytime soon to make up for the lack of mountainous ranges in the city. Cliffs has you covered with a full indoor facility filled with all kinds of rock climbing goodness for adults and kids alike!
Other Queens Neighborhoods to check out if you’re ‘The Commuter’:
- Jackson Heights
4. Best Queens Neighborhood for ‘The Hipster’: Astoria
You are constantly ahead of the game. You know trends before they become a trend. You’re always on the lookout for those hidden gems. You want to be surrounded by original, unique and authentic experiences. You’ve discovered everything there is to discover in the city and you want to expand your horizons. You want to live outside the box.
Say hello to Astoria — the answer to your constant searching. This Queens neighborhood comes with the views, short commute and lower prices. (Oh, and we offer self storage in Astoria, too!) It’s no surprise this area is slowly being infiltrated by the younger crowd, but it’s still family-friendly. In Astoria, you’ll find a bigger selection of roomy apartments that fit your budget more than Manhattan or some of the surrounding boroughs.
This borough has recently gone through a revival. Arts, all types of cuisine and a new crowd have made their way through this gem. You really should hurry up and move here if you want to be a part of one of the most in-the-know neighborhoods before all the good listings get sucked up.
Things to Do in Astoria, Queens:
Museum of the Moving Image
For the movie lover at heart, this is an Oscar-winning attraction. The filming industry is no stranger to this Queens neighborhood. Formerly a part of the Astoria Studio Complex, this facility was home to many early 1920s films. Today, Astoria Studios has helped film “Orange is the New Black,” “The Bourne Legacy” and even “Sesame Street,” among others.
Opened in 1936, Astoria is home to the largest public pool in the city. With free admission, enjoy a break from the summer heat under the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. I mean, where else are you going to be able to chill underneath a bridge? In New York City?! Nowhere.
Views, views, views and even more views. A one-of-a-kind lookout into the great concrete jungle. A place where you can see the sprawling buildings of Manhattan in all their glory. Year-round, this lookout never gets old. Fully equipped with playgrounds, tennis courts, trails and of course the famous Astoria pool, you’ll be entertained for hours.
The Greek Capital
Here you’ll find the best Greek restaurants known to the city. This Mediterranean paradise is filled with family-owned businesses that have survived for generations. That’s generations of time to perfect their technique and boy is it delicious!
The Beer Garden at Bohemian Hall
Happy hour, live music, festivals… a drinking experience like no other. Dating all the way back to the late 1800s, this attraction celebrates the heritage of its Czech and Slovak roots. The Beer Garden even survived the prohibition era to bring you delectable pierogis, 18 beers on tap and 20 types of wine today. Bring on the happy hour!
HiFi Records & Café
This place is half café, half vinyl record shop, selling both used and new items. Music lovers can get caffeinated while they spend hours perusing and listening to records on top of shopping for turntables, amps, and other gear that will have you replacing your Air Pods for a one-of-a-kind vintage record collection instead.
This woman-owned, indie art venue hosts over 100 events a month, including comedy shows, music events, open mic nights, poetry, writing workshops, and more. It’s the literal hub in Astoria for artistic types (and those who want to become one) to come and get their creative juices flowing. For those who have dreams of making in to “Saturday Night Live,” start here first and get involved in one of the city’s most dynamic locales.
Other Queens neighborhoods to check out if you’re “The Hipster”:
5. Best Queens Neighborhood for ‘The Family Man’: Bellerose
So you’ve found your soulmate. Bought a dog together, maybe had some kids, saved your money… Now you’re on the lookout for that perfect white picket fence scenario to tie it all together. Schools and safety have become your number one priority instead of a raging nightlife scene. You’re ready to settle down. Congratulations!
Sadly, the city is not always your best friend when it comes to family life. For some, the transition is a breeze. For others, leaving the city is a must. Fret not! There is a neighborhood for you in Queens.
Bellerose is the definition of a family town if there ever was one. Made up of mostly colonial homes from the 1900s, this suburb will fit your dream wish list.
Tree-lined streets, the best school districts, parks, kid-friendly activities in the surrounding areas and one of the safest neighborhoods in Queens is what Bellerose can offer you and your family. Bellerose is, without a doubt, a place to settle down and call home. Even if you start missing those city lights, Manhattan is just under an hour’s drive away.
Things to Do in Bellerose, Queens:
Home of the third crown, the Belmont Stakes, this thoroughbred horse racing track opened its course in 1905. And even with a remodel in 1964, the history embedded in this park is hard to find anywhere else. Maybe you’ll even be able to witness a future Triple Crown winner!
The total opposite of city life, I welcome you to the best beach life New York has to offer filled with boardwalks, shopping and restaurants galore. Take a break from the city streets and experience another side of Queens.
With a very family-oriented environment, Bellerose offers some of the best school districts in Queens. For instance, based on Schooldigger, Ps 188 Kingsbury School performed better than 99.4% of elementary schools in New York statewide! You can be confident that your family will be receiving an education you can be proud of.
Queens County Farm Museum
Even more opposite than the city life is the farm life. And even in somewhere like Queens, you can see what this farm is all about. Dating all the way back to 1697 this farm has been through the transformation of New York itself. Enjoy the history and year-round festivities offered for the whole family. Festivals, haunted houses, mazes and so much more are waiting for you!
Cold Spring Harbor
Take your family on a day trip down to this adorable little seaside town. Another historic landmark in New York that dates all the way back to the 1600s, Cold Spring Harbor has beautiful scenery, museums and the occasional local jazz festival. This town is a gold mine for any history nerd that passes through.
Other Queens neighborhoods to check out if you’re ‘The Family Man’:
- Howard Beach
- Middle Village
- Fresh Meadows
Choosing the Best Queens Neighborhood for You
I don’t blame you if you need to take a second to absorb all of the information that has just been thrown at you. But this overflow of information proves how diverse New York City truly is. Even a place like Queens can become home to so many different experiences. No matter what stage of life you’re in, a Queens neighborhood can be found to suit your needs.
Trust me, there’s even more to discover about this beautiful borough of New York City than what was mentioned here. There is always something going on, as proven by Eventbrite’s always updating NYC events page.
So call your realtor, start packing your boxes, change your Facebook profile and do whatever else you have to so you can begin the move to Queens. Hopefully this proves as a good starting point no matter where you are in life. From The Reasonable Spender to The Family Man, your perfect Queens neighborhood is just waiting to become your new home.
Update: This post originally published on August 4, 2017, and was revised on December 30, 2019, with new information from Queens expert, Colleen Travers.