Queens is blooming with the warm weather. It's a great time to get out of the house and over to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, between Flushing and Corona, New York.
Flushing Meadows was once a swamp and an ash dump, but now it's the largest park in Queens and a great place to stretch your legs or ride a bike. There are also museums, sports, history, a zoo, and more to check out. The biggest draws are the Mets at Citi Field and tennis at the US Open, but the park can satisfy your need for an outing almost any day of the year.
Overview and Highlights
At 1,255 acres, Flushing Meadows Corona Park is one and a half times the size of Manhattan's Central Park. The park is so big that it plays host to the New York Mets at Citi Field and US Open Tennis, as well as to hundreds, even thousands, of visitors who come for weekend picnics, strolls, festivals, soccer games, and other activities. There are two lakes, a pitch-and-putt golf course (miniature golf), playing fields, picnic areas, and bicycle rental stands (more on park activities).
The Park is home to the Queens Museum of Art (and its amazing diorama of NYC's five boroughs), the New York Hall of Science (an interactive science learning center), the Queens Zoo, the Queens Theatre in the Park, and the Queens Botanical Garden. The park hosts several annual festivals, including the Colombian Independence Day Celebration (one of the largest Latino events in NYC) and the Dragon Boat Festival.
The World's Fair Site
The World's Fair was held in Flushing Meadows Park twice: in 1939-40 and again in 1964-65. Two towers from the 1964-65 World's Fair—also featured in Men in Black—still dominate the area's skyline, though they are in a sorry state. Other facilities from the fairs include the NYC Building (housing the museum and an ice rink), the Unisphere, and numerous statues and monuments.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park is ringed by highways and is easily accessible by car, subway, train, or foot. There are four main sections:
- Corona Side: West of the Grand Central Parkway in Corona, the park consists of grass lawns, the New York Hall of Science, and the Queens Zoo, which includes a wonderful outdoor aviary in a geodesic dome that is open year-round.
- Central: Overpasses connect the western section to the central part of the park, which is home to the Unisphere, the Queens Museum of Art, the main sports fields, and the Queens Theatre in the Park. Citi Field and its parking lots dominate the northern rim of this section, along with the US Tennis Association's Arthur Ashe Stadium, where tennis greats meet every August for the US Open.
- Southern: The central part of the Park connects to the southern via an underpass and an overpass. Meadow Lake is in the southern section, and is ringed by a trail for biking, running, inline skating, and walking. There are cricket fields and fields for baseball, softball, and soccer. Two large playgrounds (one on each side of the lake) are near picnic grills and tables. The boathouse rents out paddle boats and row boats, and a lakeside promenade gives folks a chance to catch a breeze at the northern tip of the lake.
- Continue further south, across Jewel Avenue, and you'll find Willow Lake, which is currently inaccessible.
- Eastern: Separated from the rest of the park by College Point Boulevard, the Queens Botanical Gardens is more readily accessible from Main Street, south of downtown Flushing.
Please note that the Park is normally a safe place, but violent crime has happened here. It would not be wise to stay after dark or after the Park's official close at 9 p.m. The Park is quite large, and it pays to keep aware when in isolated areas or alone.
What We Like
The Unisphere is simply an inspiring sight. The soccer teams and cricket bowlers, the strollers and joggers, the families and skate boarders, they are all what make the park great.
What We Don't Like
Flushing Meadows was built on a swamp. Drainage is still poor, especially around Meadow Lake, and after even a light rain, you should expect mud and puddles in the southern part of the Park.
Vandalism and littering are common eyesores. During a busy summer weekend, trash receptacles at Flushing Meadows can get overwhelmed. For a place beloved by many, more personal responsibility for garbage would go a long way to making it a cleaner park.
Sports at Flushing Meadows
- Soccer: Whether it's a Saturday morning or a Monday afternoon, no doubt there will be a soccer game in progress at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The nearby Latino community in Corona often fields futbol teams. East of the Unisphere there are a number of soccer fields ready for pickup games or more serious affairs.
- Tennis: The US Tennis Association (USTA) holds the US Open every August at the Arthur Ashe Stadium and USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The tennis courts are open to the public throughout the year. There are indoor and outdoor courts, and programs for adults, youths, and seniors.
- Pitch-and-Putt Golf and Mini-Golf: Try your hand at miniature golf or on the par-3 pitch and putt course in the northwest part of Flushing Meadows Park. To get there, just turn left after coming down the ramp from the subway. (More on golfing in Queens)
- Cricket: The cricket pitches or fields are at are at the north end of Meadow Lake, near the lakeside pavilion. They get real busy on weekend afternoons.
- Sailing and Boating: Check the American Small Craft Association website for regular instruction in sailing on Meadow Lake. You can also rent rowboats for outings on Meadow Lake at the boathouse on the lake's east side.
- Other Sports: Players and spectators also enjoy baseball, softball, Ultimate Frisbee, handball, and other sports in the Park. Softball and baseball fields are on either side of Meadow Lake.
Spectator Sports at Flushing Meadows
- Citi Field: Home to the National League Mets, Citi Field is below the flight path of nearby LaGuardia Airport, but that doesn't distract many from the game. The stadium is north of the Unisphere. Check the Mets official website for schedules and tickets.
- US Open: Every August and September the US Open brings the world's best tennis to Flushing Meadows. Often lost in the hubbub are the free (and excellent) Qualifying Tournament, the Arthur Ashe Kids Day, and the juniors championship held at the same time.
Culture and Arts
- Queens Theatre in the Park: The Queens Theatre in the Park stages drama, comedy, dance, children's entertainment, and a film series in its Main State Theatre (formerly a World's Fair pavilion) and its small cabaret Studio Theatre. The Theatre also hosts the annual Latino Cultural Festival. The Theatre is at the base of the two dilapidated towers and just south of the Unisphere.
- The Queens Museum of Art: The Queens Museum of Art features work by contemporary and local artists, and houses a gorgeous, detailed scale model of New York City in its entirety called The Panorama of New York City. The building was once part of the 1939-40 World's Fair and is next to the Unisphere, a highlight of the 1964-65 World's Fair. The museum's permanent exhibit on the World's Fair is interesting, and the souvenirs still available for sale at the gift shop should not be missed. The building was also the first home of the United Nations.
- New York Hall of Science: The New York Hall of Science is one of the country's top science museums. It is New York City's only "hands-on" science and technology museum and a true treat for children. The museum is in the western side of the Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and easily accessible from Corona or the LIE. Kids love this place, a great spot for a rainy or wintery day. 47-01 111th St.
- The Queens Zoo (the Queens Wildlife Center): The Queens Zoo (on the western side of the Park) focuses on the wildlife of North and South America. It's a good afternoon visit for families with small kids. 53-51 111th St.
- Queens Botanical Garden: Located at the far eastern end of the Park, the Queens Botanical Garden is a 39-acre showcase of herbs, trees, and flowers. The Garden hosts educational programs, especially on gardening. 43-50 Main St.
- Playground for All Children: Built for the World's Fair, the playground on the Corona side of the park is a well-used, well-loved neighborhood spot. Kids and their parents come for the playground, and teens for the basketball and handball courts. 111-01 Corona Ave.
Getting to the Park: By Subway and Train
The easiest way to Flushing Meadows is by the #7 subway and the LIRR train. The #7 subway line stops at Willets Point/Shea Stadium, above Roosevelt Avenue in the northern part of the Park. The station is surrounded by Shea Stadium parking. Walk down pedestrian ramps to the main Park or Shea.
It's just a short walk to the US Open's East Gate entrance. Walk further south to the Unisphere and Queens Museum of Art (10 minutes).
Before and after performances only, a free trolley runs from the station to the Queens Theatre in the Park.
The Long Island Railroad (LIRR) has a stop at Shea Stadium along its Port Washington line (right at #7 subway station). Check the LIRR site for schedules. The LIRR only stops at Flushing Meadows when the Mets are playing or the US Open is in session.
For the Queens Zoo and NY Hall of Science take the #7 stop at 111th Street. Walk south on 111th Street to the Park entrance at 49th Avenue.
Take the Q48 to Roosevelt Avenue at Shea Stadium, and walk south into the Park. For the Queens Zoo and NY Hall of Science, take the Q23 or Q58 to Corona and 51st Avenues and 108th st, and walk east into the Park.
Grand Central Parkway
- Grand Central West (toward Triboro) - Exit 9P (Flushing Meadows Corona Park) - Turn left for tennis/Shea or right for the QMA and Unisphere parking. Else take exit 9E for Shea Stadium.
- Grand Central East - Exit 9E (Northern Blvd-east) - Follow access road signs to Shea Stadium. Right on Stadium Rd. Follow road counter-clockwise around Shea Stadium and under Roosevelt Avenue to USTA and main park. (Not the easiest way to the park.)
Van Wyck Expressway
- Van Wyck South - Exit 11 (Jewel Ave) - Leads to an access road, from which an exit leads directly to Meadow Lake parking in the southern part of the park (and a popular BBQ spot).
- Van Wyck North - Exit 12A (College Point Blvd/LIE) - A bit tricky but follow College Point Boulevard (north) and look for park entrance under expressway on left. Parking for Shea Stadium.
- Van Wyck North - Exit 13W (Northern Blvd/Shea Stadium) - Leads readily to Shea Stadium and the marina. There is limited parking adjacent to the marina.
Long Island Expressway (LIE)
- LIE Exit 22 to Grand Central Parkway (west, Triboro Bridge) - Then exit almost immediately at 9E (see above).
- LIE Exit 22 to College Point Boulevard (tricky) - Head north on College Point and look for park entrance under expressway on left. Parking available for Shea Stadium.
To Queens Zoo and NY Hall of Science by Car: On the Corona side of the Park, both are on 111th St, the zoo has parking at 55th/54th Avenues, and the science museum at 49th Avenue.
- Long Island Expressway (LIE) West - Exit 22 - Right on 108th Street, right on 52nd Avenue, and right on 111th Street for the zoo, or a left on 111th for the museum.
- From Grand Central Parkway west take exit 10W to LIE (west) access road and immediately exit at 108th St.
- Long Island Expressway (LIE) East - Exit 21 (108th St) - Left turn onto 108th Street, right on 52nd Avenue, and right on 111th Street for the zoo, or a left on 111th for the museum.