Long Island City and Astoria encompass a very large and increasingly diverse section of Queens that stretches along the East River.
Long Island City was traditionally an industrial area and often still feels like Manhattan's unkempt broom closet, with its train depots, factory buildings, school bus parking lots and the like. But since the early 2000s, a burgeoning art community has grown like a weed through the cracks in a sidewalk and is now quite strong, with multiple art galleries, performance spaces, a formal museum that acts as a branch of MoMA. This, in turn, has attracted a stretch of quality restaurants and bars along Vernon Boulevard north of the bridge, which has in turn brought new housing development and a growing community of young families along the river.
Astoria is named after fur magnate John Jacob Astor, who acted as front-man investor for development of a village here in the early nineteenth century. In the 1910s Astoria became home to the first American silent film studios -- a heritage celebrated at the Museum of the Moving Image -- but today the neighborhood is more locally famous for the large Greek community that began its migration here in the 1960s and has bestowed it with a wide range of excellent Greek food in its tavernas and ethnic grocers. Astoria's plethora of reasonably priced rental housing has today attracted a new migration of young artists and hipsters, and there is also an increase in migration of people from around the world here. Most notable in that respect is the large Middle Eastern community that is centered on Steinway Street just south of the RFK Bridge Expressway.
Get to the heart of Long Island City by taking theor trains to Queens Plaza, the or to Queensboro Plaza, the or to Court Square, or the to Hunters Point Avenue.
Get to the busiest parts of Astoria by taking theor train to Broadway, 30th Avenue or Ditmars Boulevard, or the or train to Steinway Street.
There is a lonely LIRR terminal at Long Island City (officially, it's not even a station, but rather a "passenger yard"), as well as a somewhat busier station at Hunterspoint Ave. They are only served by a handful of trains during rush hours, and not accessible from Manhattan, but can be handy if you are traveling to/from those areas at that time. The Long Island City station is worth a visit if only to see how laughably huge it is given how little traffic goes through it (it was the main LIRR terminal before Penn Station).
- 1 Fisher Landau Center for Art, 38-27 30th St (between 38th and 39th Aves), ☏ . Th-M noon-5PM. Free.
- 2 Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35th Ave (at 37th St; Subway: trains to Steinway St or trains to 36th Ave), ☏ . Tu-Th 10:30AM-5PM, F 10:30AM-8PM, Sa-Su 10:30AM-7PM. A museum devoted to, literally, moving images, so visitors will find exhibits on zoetropes and video games in addition to film and television. They also put on a terrific screening program, with films showing continuously throughout the day. $15 adults, $11 seniors/college students, $7 children 3-18, free children under 3. All admission free after 4 PM on Fridays.
- 3 The Noguchi Museum, 9-01 33rd Rd (at Vernon Blvd), ☏ . W-F 10AM-5PM, Sa-Su 11AM-6PM. $10 adults, $5 seniors/students, free for children under 12. Pay what you wish on the first Friday of the month.
- P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center (MoMA PS1), 22-25 Jackson Ave, ☏ . Th-M noon-6PM. Supported by the Museum of Modern Art, this innovative (and cheap) contemporary art museum is in a former public school building. The conversion left most of the original features of the school - the large ex-classrooms are perfect for installations - and the bathrooms are a blast from the past. P.S.1 is a few blocks south on Jackson Avenue from the Citibank tower; the entrance is a concrete slab (how fitting) which occludes view of the school itself. P.S.1 also has a nice cafe and outdoor seats. Suggested admission $10 adults, $5 students and seniors.
- 4 SculptureCenter, 44-19 Purves St (at Jackson Ave), ☏ . Th-M 11AM-6PM. Suggested donation $5 adults, $3 students.
- 5 Socrates Sculpture Park, 32-01 Vernon Blvd (at Broadway), ☏ . 10AM-sunset daily. Free.
- Steinway & Sons Pianos, 1 Steinway Pl, ☏ . They offer free guided tours during fall and spring to see the skilled craftsmen at work. Phone ahead, a month in advance is recommended, to reserve a place on these popular tours, and to check the days and times. Otherwise, take the online factory tour on their website.
- Museum for African Art, 36-01 43rd Ave, ☏ .
- 6 Gantry Plaza State Park.
- The Chocolate Factory, 5-49 49th Ave (at Vernon Blvd; Subway: train to Vernon Blvd-Jackson Ave or train to 21st St-Van Alst; LIRR: Long Island City), ☏ .
- Euromarket Astoria, 30-42 31st St (between 30th Ave and 30th Dr; Subway: trains to 30th Ave), ☏ . 7AM-midnight daily. Grocery market serving many specialty European foods that are difficult to find in the US. Outstanding collections of international meats, cheeses, wines, and beers.
To the north, Astoria is notable mostly for the bevy of outstanding Greek restaurants which draw crowds from all boroughs. Further south in Long Island City there are two major restaurant strips of note, the trendy stretch of Vernon Boulevard just north of the Midtown Tunnel entrance with its many delicious, multi-ethnic food offerings, and the four-block section of Steinway Street just south of the Grand Central Parkway that's host to dozens of Middle Eastern restaurants and hookah lounges.
- Agnanti, 19-06 Ditmars Blvd ( train to Ditmars Blvd), ☏ . Delicious traditional Greek fare with outdoor seating along Astoria Park and a cozy indoor dining room that seems a million miles away from New York City. Don't miss the grilled saganaki or the Greek salad, and for the main course focus on the many amazing seafood offerings.
- Bare Burger, 33-21 31st Ave ( train to Ditmars Blvd), ☏ . Innovative burger joint that offers organic burgers made from a choice of beef, ostrich, elk, and lamb. Very good milkshakes.
- Casa Enrique, 5-48 49th Ave ( train to Vernon Blvd-Jackson Av), ☏ . Snazzy little nuevo Mexican joint just off the main strip of LIC eateries on Vernon Blvd. A lot of great options here: braised lamb shank, chicken enchiladas with salsa verde, stuffed chiles in a cream sauce and more.
- Kabab Cafe, 25-12 Steinway St, ☏ . This tiny, unpretentious gourmet Egyptian restaurant run by renowned Alexandrian chef Ali El Sayed is a major pilgrimage site for foodies everywhere. Recommended are the sauteed artichokes and sauteed beet, apple & garlic starters, along with a variety of excellent traditional north Egyptian entrees like braised lamb cheeks and calamari with eggplant & grilled vegetables.
- Koliba Restaurant, 31-11 23rd Ave ( train to Astoria Blvd.), ☏ . Czech and Slovak restaurant serving traditional cuisine along with a variety of fine Czech and Slovak beers and a full bar to accompany your meal. They lean slightly towards Slovak, but their Czech cuisine is very good also. Try their bryndzové halušky.
- La Guli, 29-15 Ditmars Blvd ( or train to Ditmars Blvd). Old school Italian bakery with the best cakes in Queens, a variety of fresh cookies, cannolis and gelatos, and Italian ice the consistency of fresh snow. A few tables available in the back if you'd like to hang out and sip an espresso.
- [dead link] Loukoumi Taverna, 45-07 Ditmars Blvd ( or train to Ditmars Blvd), ☏ . Out of the way but worth the trip, this always-buzzing Greek taverna has remarkable seafood entrees like butterfly shrimp or salmon doused in lemon and traditional spices and provides free thick Greek yogurt and honey for dessert. Don't miss the Cypriot salad, a delicious mix of savory (grilled halloumi cheese & olives) and sweet (cranberries and figs).
- Mombar, 25-22 Steinway St ( or train to Astoria Blvd), ☏ . Artsy dining room filled with Joseph Cornell-like tables and paintings by chef/artist/owner Moustafa El Sayed (brother to the owner of nearby Kabab Cafe). Mombar focuses on southern Egyptian cuisine, notably a number of delicious clay pot dishes, and a mezze plate with the smokiest, most delicious baba ganoush you're ever likely to taste. Don't miss the milky bread pudding for dessert. Popular with hipsters in the early evening; fills up with Egyptian locals later at night.
- Rose & Joe's, 22-40 31st St ( or train to Ditmars Blvd), ☏ . Workaday local bakery notable for its truly outstanding fresh squares of Sicilian pizza available at the back of the shop.
- Taverna Kyclades, 33-07 Ditmars Blvd ( or train to Ditmars Blvd.), ☏ . One of Astoria's staples, this Greek seafood restaurant is very popular with locals and tourists alike. Expect long wait periods between 6 and 9PM any day of the week.
- Telly's, 28-13 23rd Ave ( or train to Ditmars Blvd), ☏ . Excellent seafood & Greek fare at this taverna, set on the hippest stretch of Astoria. Great grilled whole fish is what most people come for, and they also have a nice Greek wine list.
- Trattoria L'Incontro, 21-76 31st St ( or train to Ditmars Blvd), ☏ . Surprisingly high-end Italian fare for the neighborhood in terms of atmosphere, service and price, this Italian dinner spot focuses on Roman cuisine and has a wide range of truly delicious pasta and risotto dishes (risotto con pere e gorgonzola is especially nice) and seafood dishes like zuppa di pesce.
- Tournesol, 50-12 Vernon Blvd ( train to Vernon Blvd-Jackson Av), ☏ . Fun traditional French bistro in the heart of LIC's Vernon Boulevard restaurant strip with excellent versions of all the standards like steak frite and snails. Especially worth trying are the pan-seared skate with mustard sauce or the pastry of hake and clams with leeks.
- Martha's Country Bakery, 36-21 Ditmars Blvd ( or train to Ditmars Blvd.), ☏ . Rated as the one of the top bakeries in Queens, this place has some of the best desserts in Astoria. Expect long lines during the holiday season.
The Bohemian Beer Hall is the most notable bar in the area, a place to which many New Yorkers make a pilgrimage at one time or another. But LIC's heady mix of multi-ethnic immigrants and artsy hipsters means there is a range of other great nightlife options to check out, including swish retro speakeasies, underground comedy clubs and smokey Egyptian hookah lounges.
- The Astor Room, 34-12 36th St ( trains to Steinway St; to 36th Av), ☏ . Self-consciously genteel Roaring Twenties vibe in this former film studio cafeteria, with some delicious old-school cocktails like the Monkey Gland and the Valentino, and a retro menu full of bygone items like Oysters Rockefeller and Baked Alaska.
- Bohemian Hall Beer Garden, 29-19 24th Ave ( train to Astoria Blvd.), ☏ . The most famous Queens nightlife venue of them all, and a must-see for visitors. This large outdoor beer garden (the oldest in New York City), has a fine selection of German and Czech beers, the authentic vibe of a Bavarian beer hall, and frequent live music, often in lederhosen.
- [dead link] Brick Cafe, 30-95 33rd St ( to Broadway), ☏ . Laid back bar and eatery popular with the large indie theatre crowd that calls Astoria home. Good fun with a friendly & interesting crowd.
- Creek & Cave, 10-93 Jackson Ave ( to Vernon/Jackson, to 21 St/Van Alst, or to 23 St/Ely Ave), ☏ . The combination of great Mexican food on the patio and a steady stream of stand-up and long-form improv comedy on the stage inside make this one of the most entertaining hangouts in the area.
- [dead link] Dominie's Hoek, 48-17 Vernon Blvd ( to Vernon/Jackson, to 21 St/Van Alst, or to 23 St/Ely Ave), ☏ . The massive backyard patio makes this chilled local hangout an especially great place to be in the summer, with high quality live bluegrass and Americana music on weekend evenings.
- L.I.C. Bar, 45-58 Vernon Blvd ( to Vernon/Jackson, to 21 St/Van Alst), ☏ . Long Island City’s signature watering hole, an attractive spot that’s packed every evening, with a wide range of beers & cocktails and a great burger.
- Sultana Cafe, 25-03 Steinway St ( trains to Steinway St; to 36th Ave.), ☏ . Best and friendliest of the long strip of hookah bars in the festive Middle Eastern section of Steinway, with a chilled vibe, mixed crowd, great Moroccan decor, good food & drinks, and a dozen different premium flavored tobaccos on offer.
- Sweet Afton, 30-09 34th St ( to 30th Ave.), ☏ . Natty as any Manhattan cocktail lounge, but with a more relaxed vibe befitting an outer borough neighborhood bar, this is the most popular of the many bars along booming 34th Avenue. Don't leave without imbibing a few of their home-brew fruit-infused liquors.
- Elixir Lounge, 43-03 Broadway ( to Steinway St.), ☏ . Astoria's gay bar's already a very popular destination, especially on the weekends. 2-4-1 drink specials from 5-10PM every day of the week.
Long Island City and Astoria are not destinations for high-quality hotels, but there are some good budget options here within minutes of midtown Manhattan and easy reach of LaGuardia airport.
- [dead link] Fairfield Inn, 52-34 Van Dam St (Subway to Ditmars Blvd), toll-free: . Best run and cleanest of the hotels around LaGuardia airport. Efficiently run, the rooms are a bit small but well-kept, and they have a free hourly shuttle to the airport. $99-120.
- Ravel Hotel, 8-08 Queens Plaza S. A luxury boutique hotel offering 63 lodging accommodations overlooking Manhattan with 9-ft ceilings, private balcony, and spa-like bathrooms.
- Verve Hotel, 40-03 29th St (Subway to Queensboro Plaza), ☏ . Spacious, clean rooms with views of the New York skyline, and really nice, attentive staff. Strong Wi-Fi is a bonus. $170-220.
- [dead link] Z Hotel New York, 11-01 43rd Ave (Subway to Queensboro Plaza), ☏ . A nice boutique hotel in an unlikely corner of town -- comfortable king beds, stylish decor and a great Manhattan skyline view in many rooms. The neighborhood is a bit empty but it's a few yards away from the Queensboro Bridge entrance. $150.
- The Paper Factory Hotel, 37-06 36th St, ☏ .
- Queens Library (Astoria branch), 14-01 Astoria Blvd (at 14th St; Subway: trains to Astoria Blvd), ☏ . M 1PM-8PM, Tu 1PM-6PM, W-Th 10AM-6PM, F 1PM-6PM.
- Queens Library (Long Island City branch), 37-44 21st St (at 37th Ave; Subway: train to 21st St-Queensbridge or trains to 36th Ave), ☏ . M 1PM-8PM, Tu 1PM-6PM, W 10AM-6PM, Th 1PM-8PM, F 10AM-6PM, Sa 10AM-5:30PM.
- Queens Library (Maspeth branch), 69-70 Grand Ave (at 69th Ln), ☏ . M 1PM-8PM, Tu 1PM-6PM, W 10AM-6PM, Th 1PM-8PM, F 10AM-6PM, Sa 10AM-5:30PM.
- Queens Library (Steinway branch), 21-45 31st St (between 21st Ave and Ditmars; Subway: trains to Astoria-Ditmars Blvd), ☏ . M 10AM-8PM, Tu 1PM-6PM, W 10AM-6PM, Th 1PM-8PM, F 10AM-6PM, Sa 10AM-5:30PM.
- Queens Library (Sunnyside branch), 43-06 Greenpoint Ave (at 43rd St; Subway: train to 46th St-Bliss St), ☏ . M 1PM-8PM, Tu 1PM-6PM, W 10AM-6PM, Th 1PM-8PM, F 10AM-6PM, Sa 10AM-5:30PM.
|Routes through Long Island City and Astoria|
|Theater District ← Midtown Manhattan ←||W E||→ Jackson Heights → Flushing|
|Theater District ← Midtown Manhattan ←||W E||→ Jackson Heights → Jamaica|
|Midtown Manhattan ← Upper East Side (F) ←||W E||→ Jackson Heights → Jamaica|
|END ←||N S||→ Williamsburg, Brooklyn → Downtown Brooklyn|
|Theater District ← Upper East Side ←||W E||→ Jackson Heights (R)|
|END ← Jackson Heights ←||N S||→ Brooklyn → Staten Island|