Forest Hills Queens may be a hike from the city, it’s closer to Long Island than Manhattan, but families flock there for the good public schools and quiet suburban neighborhood vibe. It has a small-city feel (like Boston) lots of small, clean parks, and is a shopping mecca. Austin Street, a side street that runs parallel to Queens Boulevard, has many shops and restaurants, all in a row, so you can knock out every store you need to see in just a few hours. Read on to discover why you should visit this small town spot in the big city. Here, our favorite places to eat, play and shop with kids in Forest Hills.
Eats & Sweets
Yes, it’s a small chain, but there’s a reason why Bareburger, an organic and all-natural foods eatery known for its healthier burgers, has really taken off in NYC and it practically screams, “We Love Kids!” Bareburger is open, airy, and has an inviting farm-themed, casual vibe. The wait staff is quite patient with the plethora of children of all ages who eat here and, of course, the “Cubby Meals” of Grizzly, Panda, Koala, and Polar includes sides of sweet potato fries, French fries, apple slices and a juice or milk. Tasty milkshakes top off the taste buds experience. 71-49 Austin St.
If you’re a sucker for thin-crust pizza with loads of toppings (or plain, if you’re a simpleton), you’ve got to check out Nick’s. Some pizza toppings options include broccoli rabe, hot cherry peppers, and capers. They also have a lengthy beverage menu, which includes apple juice and unsweetened ice tea. A neighborhood jewel for pizza lovers located just off shopping mecca Austin Street, Nick’s menu also includes salads and sweet desserts. The restaurant can get crowded in the early evening, but it’s friendly, the comfort food is tasty, and it’s got a diner-like feel inside. What’s not to love? 108-26 Ascan Ave.
A super-whimsy place for kids, Cheeburger Cheeburger is all about fun. This chain restaurant has a vintage diner theme, dance music streaming in, and an eclectic menu of healthy choices such as “Invent Your Own Salad” for mama and a Grilled Chicken Breast Sandwich for kids. It’s mostly the all-natural angus beef burgers and awesome malts that draw kids in, but you can’t deny the menu doesn’t have something for every picky eater in the family. Take a seat at the old fashioned soda fountain for a real taste of the 1950s and 60’s. 108-50 Queens Blvd.
photo: Boris Miller
Eddie’s Sweet Shop
Eddie’s is famous in Queens, so of course it’s a must-visit whenever you’re in Forest Hills. Located next to an independent vintage movie theatre, Eddie’s is an ice cream parlor that’s been around since the 1960s. Everything is made fresh, right there, on site. The 1960’s seats, tables and counters are still there, enhancing the time-warp feel, and traditional ice cream flavors as well as special ones such as Maple Walnut. It’s a real neighborhood gem and a special place. If you visit Forest Hills for just one thing – you need to try an Eddie’s Ice Cream Sundae – it’s so worth it. They also sell old-school candies, but remember this spot is cash only.105-29 Metropolitan Ave.
Martha’s Country Bakery
If you have a craving for something sweet, whether it’s cake or ice cream or a slice of apple pie, Martha’s is your go-to venue. With a long counter of sweets on one side and a seating area for patrons on the other, Martha’s is the perfect place to indulge your sweet tooth. After an afternoon walking through Forest Park or shopping on Austin Street, it’s a fantastic place to end your exciting day in Queens. 70-28 Austin St.
photo: Ariena Thomsen
Shops We Love
This cute children’s boutique sells fashionable and trendy clothes for newborns to young children. Inside this small but charming boutique, you can find a variety of seasonable outfits from appliqued tank tops, to pretty summer party dresses, to oh-so-adorable sailor outfits. Thank Heaven also tells a variety of toys, comfy moccasins, and hair bows; really making it a perfect place to find a baby gift. (They’ll even it wrap it nicely for you.) New brands include Biscotti by Kate Mack and Eliane et Lena. It’s also, at present time, the only local place that sells T-shirts, hats, and onesies for boys and girls adorned with the words Forest Hills on it, for those kids who want to sport their favorite area of the Q-Borough. 72-18 Austin St.
If you or your child is a chocoholic, visit to Aigner’s. Formerly called Krause’s Candy Kitchen, Aigner’s Chocolate is both a café and a shop to purchase the ultimate in cocoa goodness. Everything at Aigner’s is handmade and it’s home to both milk and dark chocolate. Just some of the many treats available include mini chocolate truffles, pistachio marzipan bites, peppermint patties, and much more. Heart-shaped lollipops are a huge hit for kids, naturally, and other chocolate pop shapes on offer include a guitar, horse and keyboard. 103-08 Metropolitan Ave.
photo: Daniel Avila/NYC Parks
Parks and Attractions
Home to 500 plus acres of natural land, besides the horses at Lynn’s Riding School, kids will cherish the cool carousel, tennis courts, live music at the The George Seuffert, Sr. Bandshell, and sporting sections for baseball, soccer and other sports. Park Rangers can tell you all about the park’s rich history and the Jackson Pond Playground features a sprinkler area, climbing gym, and game tables. Myrtle Ave., Union Turnpike, Park Lane South bet. Brooklyn-Queens County Line and Park Lane; Forest Hills/Kew Gardens/Richmond Hill
Yellowstone Municipal Park/Katzman Playground
There are a few smaller parks in Forest Hills, and a personal fave is Katzman Playground. A great place for moms to mingle and babies to play, Katzman Playground has monkey bars, a jungle gym with slides, a seal statue kids like to climb, a basketball court (where the teens gravitate) and a full swingset with bucket swings where you can almost always find the babies being pushed by their parents. In the summer, the sprinklers are on, and you can catch a family or two (or 5!) enjoying a picnic at the park. A small path behind the basketball courts leads to a quieter seating area. Little game tables, where kids like to do their homework before sunset, and a small dog run help enhance the park’s charm. Yellowstone Blvd./68th Rd.
photo: Vik Photography
Activities for Family Fun
The young artists in your life will absolutely adore Olilolli, which is a mecca for creativity. Working with wet clay is new at this arts space this season, and kids can also paint their own pottery – ceramics include figurines, banks, mugs, plates, platters – and more than 65 colors are available to paint with. (Paint is non-toxic, lead-free) There’s also pottery silkscreening and stamping; but do keep in mind once the pottery is glazed upon completion, pick-up is about two weeks later, so you’ll have to return to pick up your masterpiece. There’s no studio fee to paint during Open Paint times, you just pay for the pottery. 103-23 Metropolitan Ave.
A yoga studio located in the heart of Forest Hills, Bamboo Moves houses a variety of mommy-and-me yoga classes and family-friendly events. The web site is updated frequently with classes that cater to expectant moms and moms with babies. Private yoga sessions are available for children with special needs. On Feb. 8, there will be a special class called Raga Bye Baby. Music therapist Eric Fraser, creator of the album Raga Baby Baby will perform soothing lullabies infused with Indian Melody for children. Registration information is online. 107-40 Queens Blvd.
It’s nice for local parents to know there’s a Gymboree Play & Music in Forest Hills and classes for kiddies include sports, music, arts, play and learn, school skills and more. There’s open play times, and if you’d like to check out a class before becoming a Gymboree member, you can find a Free Class Pass online. 108-21 72nd Ave, 2nd and 5th floors
photo: courtesy of Hug Music
Hug Music is a unique music school founded by music therapist Kana Kamitsubo-Markovic and composer Sasha Markovic who share a strong belief that music can lead us to self-actualization. The Hug Me music group is for 6 to 20 months old (with parent or caretaker); Hug Melody is for toddlers 20 to 36 months (with parent or caretaker) and Hug Melody II is for kids 3 to 4 years of age. Classes are small; usually 4 to 5 kids per class with two teachers, and mother-child bonding is encouraged while music is used to enhance each child’s innate musical ability. Real instruments are always used in the class, and kids even have an opportunity to play a real guitar, congas, and a piano. Groups meet weekly, but there will be open sessions and trail weeks offered this spring and summer; check Web site for details. Music Therapy for special needs children also available. 112-01 75th Ave., Lower level
What’s your favorite family-friendly spot in Forest Hills? Tell us in a comment!