Welcome to Flushing Meadows Corona Park!

Check Out the Park in the Heart of Queens, New York

World's Largest Globe
••• The Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Park. Photo (c) John Roleke

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.

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 (formerly Shea Stadium) 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 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:

  • 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.

    Park Safety

    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.
    • Update - In the winter of 2006 Flushing Meadows was the scene of a string of violent attacks and robberies, mostly at night and dusk. After police arrests of three men, crime in the park dropped rapidly. Again, the park is safe, but don't go at night.

    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 makes 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.

    Although many people come to Flushing Meadows Corona Park only for the Mets or the US Open, there's a lot more to be seen on foot. I like to start in the central area at the Unisphere, a giant steel globe installed during the 1964-65 World's Fair. The globe has stood the test of time (unlike the dilapidated towers and other leftover World's Fair architecture), and its base is a popular spot for strollers and a few skateboarders.

    It's due south of the South Gate entrance to the USTA.

    The Unisphere is next to the Queens Museum of Art (in the NYC Building built for the 1939-40 World's Fair and once the home of the U.N.) and a couple of small parking lots, just off the Grand Central Parkway, and south of Arthur Ashe Stadium. It sits on a major pedestrian crossroads, from which it's easy to explore the lakes, watch soccer games and other sports, or get a bite to eat from vendors.

    Continue east from the Unisphere on the path that leads away from the Queens Museum of Art, and you'll walk directly toward an Italian statue donated for the 1964-65 World's Fair. The metal statue of a man seems a bit out of place, but no more than the ancient Egyptian pillar that stands lonely in a nearby field.

    Walk the tree-lined path leading east and along the way you will, no doubt, see soccer games afoot--some more competitive than others, but all played with spirit.

    One field with bleachers is home to more serious league play.

    This is a good spot to get an ice cream cone from a Mister Softee truck or a BBQ treat from a vendor. Look for the Ecuadorian and Peruvian snack carts. Yes, no joke, some serve ceviche that's fresh and delicious. Nearby there are also picnic tables for family gatherings, but grilling isn't allowed in this section.

    On summer weekends this area tends to get noisy and crowded with folks enjoying themselves.

    Turn south (or right) at the large fountain, and you will come to the underpass (under LIE) that connects to the southern, less developed part of the Park. (Or else continue on the trail that loops back toward the Queens Theatre and the dilapidated towers left over from the World's Fair.)

    On the other side of the underpass you'll immediately come across cricket pitches that get pretty busy on weekend afternoons. Those playing fields are on the shores of Meadow Lake, the larger of the two lakes on the southern side of Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

    Walk to your right toward the nearest structure, a lakeside pallion area with benches, and take a seat to admire the view. (The nearby parking lot is a shuttle bus pick-up spot for Mets fans.)

    Continue to either side of the lake for open spaces, ample parking, and grills: prime lakeside real estate for summer BBQs. Join joggers, hikers, bikers, and roller-bladers on one of the paved trails that ring the two lakes. There's a boathouse on the east side where you can rent a boat or get a snack. And both sides sport playgrounds, swings, baseball/softball fields, and more.

    The smaller, more southern lake is Willow Lake. It is secluded, across busy Jewel Avenue, and currently all but inaccessible to vehicles or pedestrians. The NYC Parks Department sometimes announces guided hikes along its wild shores.

    One big complaint about Flushing Meadows Corona Park is the lack of clear signs and maps. If you plan to explore throughout, I recommend bringing a map.

    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. Call for permits to play soccer (718-760-6889).

    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. Find out more from the USTA website.

    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. Call 718-271-8182. (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. Call for permits to play cricket (718-760-6889).

    Sailing and Boating
    Check the American Small Craft Associationwebsite for regular instruction in sailing on Meadow Lake (718-699-1951). 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. Call for permits to play baseball (718-760-6889).

    Spectator Sports at Flushing Meadows

    Citi Field (formerly Shea Stadium)
    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 at Flushing Meadows

     

    Queens Theatre in the Park
    The Queens Theatre in the Park (718-760-0064) 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 (718-592-9700) 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.
    Flushing, NY 11368
    718-699-0005

    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.
    Corona, NY 11358
    718-271-2500

    Ice Skating
    Call for information about ice skating at the indoor rink in the New York City Building (718-271-1996), which it shares with the Queens Museum of Art. The season runs from October to April, but a new indoor ice skating rink is scheduled to open in the fall of 2007.

    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.
    Flushing, NY 11355
    718-886-3800

    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.
    Corona, NY 11368
    718-699-8283

    It's easy to reach Flushing Meadows Corona Park by foot, car, bus, subway, or train.

    Maps

    • Map to Flushing Meadows [Google Maps]
    • Tiny Interior Map [NYC Parks] - It's difficult to find a good interior map of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and signs at the Park can be confusing. Keep an eye out for one of the few maps at 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.

    By Car

    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 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.
        More Side Streets
        Coming from Flushing and Kew Gardens Hills, the easiest way to reach the park is via Jewel Avenue. Get on Jewel headed West and take the entrance to the Grand Central toward the Triborough Bridge. Before you reach the highway, there is an entrance to Meadow Lake. (However, you cannot enter the main part of the park from this area.)

        From Roosevelt Avenue you can follow signs to Shea Stadium parking. From College Point Boulevard at Avery Avenue, there's an entrance to the park underneath the Van Wyck.

        By Bus

        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.

        By Foot

        Though most reach the Park by vehicle, it's easy enough to walk from 111th Street in Corona. There are pedestrian overpasses to the central area at 49th Avenue and 54th Avenue. There is an entrance to the southern Park on Jewel Avenue. Other pedestrian bridges to Willow Lake have been closed.