New York City has long been known as the melting pot of the world, but the Big Apple owes its legendary diversity to its geographically largest and second most populous borough: Queens. There are many places and ways throughout Queens where you can introduce your children—and yourself—to parts of the world, but a day spent in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is perhaps the most efficient and kid-focused method of all. Read on to learn how to make the most of it!
photo by Staci S. via Yelp
Queens International Night Market: Taste the World
For many years running, Queens has been billed as the most ethnically and linguistically diverse county in the world, with more than 100 nations represented and 138 languages spoken. It’s called an urban United Nations, and with good reason! That’s especially good news for NYC food fanatics looking to sample cuisine from all parts of the planet, thanks to the Queens International Night Market.
Since 2015, the market has hosted around 100 independent vendors who sell food, art, and merchandise from all corners of the world. Launched as a way to celebrate the rich cultural diversity of Queens and New York City at large, the market’s location in Flushing Meadows—home to the 1939 and 1964 Worlds Fairs—couldn’t be more appropriate. Those fairs were the largest international exhibits of their time in the United States, and Queens International Night Market is likely the largest weekly international food festival of its kind in the city. Last year, an average of 8,000 world food enthusiasts visited the market each night and throughout the summer, and some 200 vendors representing 80 countries were on hand to feed them.
photo via Facebook
Spice it up or tone it down for the kids
When we walked up to vendors with our children in tow, most reflexively asked whether we wanted dishes spicy, while also being happy to prepare items with lesser degrees of heat. Thus our children sampled Hong Kong and Chilean street food, Persian stew with crispy rice, Guatemalan hot dogs, curry-flavored Malaysian burgers, octopus balls, squid skewers, Sichuan naan-wiches, and pork belly okonomiyaki, which we learned means “grilled as you like.” Sound like a lot? It is, but the dishes are small, all costing around $5 apiece, and the adults in our group were more than willing to polish off whatever the kids didn’t.
The goal was for the kids to try a variety of things and settle on at least two small plates to finish. That earned dessert, of which there were no shortages, and no cajoling needed to get them to sample and finish. Twister cakes, fried ice cream, Japanese rice flour crepes, and bubble tea were among the winning selections we sampled.
Throughout the market the rows of stalls are widely spaced, which is good since lines at certain vendors can be long. Tables dot the vending area and in the back, there is a beer and wine garden with picnic tables. Bring your own picnic blanket and stake out a place as the tables can fill up quickly.
photo by Sharon M. via Yelp
The family-friendly scene is completed by live music and a DJ with a dance floor populated by children in the early hours, as well as Knockerballs—enormous blow-up balls that people over three feet tall can, with parental consent, climb into to roll around. The market is open 6 p.m. to midnight on Saturdays through August 19, and then again from September 30 through October 28.
photo: Cheryl and William de Jong-Lambert
Worlds Fair Iconography: Travel Through Time
Much as the market drew us out to Queens, we wanted to make a day of the journey, so we arrived early and headed deeper into Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The glorious remnants of the 1964 World’s Fair have been spruced up after years of neglect. The former New York State Pavilion with its Jetsons-like circular observation decks stacked atop willowy poles, as well as the round Tent of Tomorrow with its network of cables strung across the top, both had received a coat of paints—with more to come in a $14 million makeover.
The fountains surrounding the iconic Unisphere globe had also been repaired and were actually on! People of all ages were lured in to play various splash games, beach ball volleyball, or to slip and slide along the gentle slope that glides down from the Unisphere’s base. Families and friends of all nationalities were picnicking around the tree-studded lawns that surround the Unisphere and you couldn’t help but feel the the inspiration in the words inscribed at the fountain’s base: “Dedicated to man’s aspirations toward Peace through mutual understanding and symbolizing his achievements in an expanding universe.”
photo: Cheryl and William de Jong-Lambert
But Wait, There’s More!
Touring (and romping around in) the World’s Fair history was all we had on our agenda before dinner, but there is so much else to do in and around Queen’s largest park. It is home to six playgrounds, a massive recreational complex with an indoor pool, and Meadow Lake where you can rent paddle boats. The Queens Zoo, the Queens Botanical Garden, and the New York Hall of Science are all worth day trips of their own.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park?