Out of the five New York boroughs, Queens is slowly revealing itself to be a contender in tourism. Over 2012-2013, Queens showed a 12 percent increase in visitors compared to an eight percent increase in Brooklyn. And while the borough knows it can't compete head on with the likes of Manhattan, they're happy to be shown a little attention. Queens is just being itself, and people are taking notice.
The travel guide book and popular tourism website Lonely Planet named Queens the number one travel destination for 2015. This means the borough beat out the Grand Canyon, Washington, D.C., Walt Disney World, and even Manhattan for the top spot. NYC & Company, the city's official marketing and tourism board, estimated that out of the 54.3 million people who visited New York City in 2013, 12.4 million spent at least some time in Queens. That's certainly saying a whole lot, considering the depth and breadth of Manhattan's tourist reach.
The talk is buzzing around the country, and even around the world, that Queens is brewing something special. Even if people who live in Queens don't necessarily understand the appeal, they are glad of the attention. Surveys show that one of the biggest selling points in Queens tourism is its ethnic diversity. Under its new mayor, Queens has been re-branded as "The World's Borough," as over half of its population is considered foreign born, either immigrants or expats. Quickly becoming very hip and trendy in a low key sort of way, Queens is gradually edging its way up to Brooklyn's newly gentrified level of attractiveness while retaining its cultural appeal. The borough is showing itself to be a fabulous side trip away from Manhattan's busy noise, if not a great one-stop destination alone, especially for student and Millennial travelers.
If asked what sort of attractions and landmarks there are in Queens, you might be hard pressed to answer right away. But believe me, you'll recognize some of these sites as popular stops, fabulous museums, and iconic parks and sports fields shown on TV and in film. Flushing Meadows Corona Park, for one, was the location of two World's Fairs and is home to the memorable giant globe which towers over the park, otherwise known as the Unisphere. Here you'll not only find amazing recreational opportunities but also the Queens Zoo, Citi Field as the home of the Mets, the Queens Museum of Art, and the official current venue for the U.S. Open in tennis at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. That giant globe was also featured in the 1997 sci-fi movie Men in Black and the park was mentioned in Iron Man 2 (2010) as being the location for the Stark Expo.
Flushing Meadows Park isn't the only popular spot in the borough, though. The various neighborhoods of the borough are diverse and chock full of spectacular scenes. Astoria is closest to Manhattan and attracts a lot of island hoppers on day trips. Not only are the views of the big island absolutely sublime, but the restaurant scene has been building for years. It's also home to the Museum of the Moving Image, one of the top museums in NYC. After Astoria you have neighborhoods like Jamaica and Southeast Queens, Long Island City, Flushing, and several others, all with their own flair and exciting opportunities. Jamaica has been rising for years and owns its reputation for being the "birthplace of hip-hop" while Long Island City is growing into a major commercial centerpiece as one of the most vibrant areas of the borough.
Many people might be under the impression that Queens doesn't have nearly enough attractions to fill a full travel itinerary, but they'd be wrong. Do you want educational attractions? If so, try the Queens Museum, the amazing and top notch New York Hall of Science, a hands on learning experience at the Queens County Farm Museum, or a history tour of the Old Quaker Meetinghouse. Are you on a celebratory trip after your graduation? Have some fun at Rockaway Beach, relax at the stunning Queens Botanical Garden, or go on a food tour through highly recommended restaurants like Dutch Kills Centraal and Crescent Grill. The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and Fort Trotten are out of the way recreational learning facilities whereas Citi Field, the Noguchi Museum, and the Louis Armstrong House put you right in the action. Whatever you're wanting to do in New York City, you can most certainly find it in Queens.
The attention paid to Queens is owed in full to its fabulous and loyal citizens. Their dedication to making Queens a brilliant place to live has shown the world that they are worth visiting, even if that wasn't what they intended. There are no frills about this beloved borough, but that's how people seem to like it. The borough is going its own way, and travelers are loving it.
Think about a trip to Queens on your next NYC student trip. Give us a call and get planning.