If you're visiting New York City and want to escape the normal tourist crowds and destinations, consider traveling just across the East River to Astoria and Long Island City (LIC), Queens, which both offer a variety of uniquely NYC experiences.
From dancing at the Thalia Theater or grabbing a pizza slice in Astoria to getting off the 7 subway at Queens Plaza and drinking at the Bohemian Hall's beer garden in Long Island City, these two neighborhoods in western Queens have a ton to offer visitors and residents alike.
Just because you're not in Manhattan doesn't mean you can't have a truly New York City experience—after all, Queens is a borough of the city and houses over two million residents of the city!
Outdoor Activities in Astoria and LIC
While there's plenty to do indoors in the winter months, Queens residents and visitors alike will enjoy the outdoor adventures this beautiful part of the borough contains, starting with a bike ride along Vernon Boulevard (where the NYC marathon runs) from the LIE tunnel to Socrates Sculpture Park or making your way to Roosevelt Island via the bridge in LIC.
With several great parks, there's plenty of activities that are completely free, too. See how much of Calvary Cemetery you can cover in a day or head to Astoria Park or Rainey Park to catch a great view of the Manhattan skyline in an open-air setting. You can also go fishing at Gantry Plaza State Park, but remember to catch and release, please.
For the outdoor adventurer, you can kayak the East River from the LIC Boathouse or you can rent bikes in LIC and visit art up and down the East River—or just enjoy the views of the great outdoors on one of the many nature trails in the area.
Indoor Activities in Astoria and LIC
Bring a first-timer to PS 1 and nonchalantly "discover" the art in the basement's old furnace room or get Avante Garde at the Chocolate Factory Theater; alternatively, you can warm up and dance your heart out at WarmUp or dance at a Greek nightclub in Astoria.
Get a little culture and forget about Broadway by catching a performance at the Secret Theatre or the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center or find your way behind the scenes at the Museum of the Moving Image, one of the best museums in NYC. Other museums include the serene Noguchi Museum and the contemporary art at the free and little-known Fisher Landau Center for Art.
Get Turkish or Greek food or iced coffee with ice made from coffee in Sunnyside or challenge your family to compare cannoli from Italian bakeries throughout Astoria. For a special adventure, go find out what Anthony Bourdain of "No Reservations" found in Little Cairo at the Kabab Cafe.
If you're super bored and stuck inside, quiz yourself on how many neighborhoods of Long Island City can you name—but don't click that link till you've made your guess—or you can follow a local blogger to catch a true sense of what living in the city is like.