Fort Totten in Bayside, NY, is a former U.S. Army base that is now a public park. The almost 60-acre facility is also home to training grounds for the FDNY and the NYPD. The U.S. Army Reserve continues to work there as well.
The grounds of Fort Totten are north of Bayside, on the East River / Long Island Sound, adjacent to the Throgs Neck Bridge. It's a bulb of land that juts out into the water, separating Little Bay and Little Neck Bay.
What to See and Do
Fort Totten is a hodgepodge of a park. You'll find an old fort for exploring, a visitors center with historical exhibits, more local history at the Bayside Historical Society, playing fields, and great views and walks. Lots of buildings remain from the area's military past -- some used, some dilapidated. The "north park" project aims to replace some former housing with more park amenities.
The Old Fort
The old fort is accessible. This was a Civil War-era fort built as a counterpart to Fort Schuyler, which faces it across the Throgs Neck, in the Bronx.
The fort was never completed. Due to advances in artillery, the fort's granite walls were deemed too vulnerable to bombardment. Only a couple of levels were completed, but that's enough for 30 to 45 minutes of exploring.
The Urban Park Rangers often lead tours, starting from the visitors center. A couple times a year they also lead tours of the extensive tunnels under the fort's hill.
The visitors center holds several exhibits on the fort's history -- both Civil War era and more recently, the 1960s as the home to the 66th Anti-Aircraft Missile Battalion. It's also where you meet the rangers for tours or other events.
The "Castle" was the former officers club.
It has a neo-Gothic, castle-ish look. The building is home to the Bayside Historical Society, which often mounts exhibits about local history. The group also sponsors the annual Totten Trot, a 5k race in October.
Local teams compete in soccer, football, and more on the former parade grounds.
Walking, Swimming, and Canoeing
Walking around Fort Totten is great for the water views -- Little Bay, Little Neck Bay, Throgs Neck, and the Long Island Sound. The grounds are a bit hilly, making for tired legs. The Queens Greenway connects Fort Totten to the footpath between Little Neck Bay and the Cross Island Expressway. There's an outdoor swimming pool. For canoers, it's fun a trip to explore the waterfront side of the old fort.
Directions to Fort Totten Park
Fort Totten is at the northern end of Bell Boulevard. Turn north onto 212th St or Totten Ave. The fort entrance is straight ahead.
It's convenient to the Cross Island Expressway. Take the Bell Boulevard exit. From Cross Island north, turn right off the exit ramp onto Totten Ave.
Parking at Fort Totten
Park in the lot for Little Bay Park, immediately prior to the fort entrance. Parking is free, and a tram sometimes runs from the lot to the major destinations in the fort complex.
It is possible to drive into the Fort Totten complex, but it is not encouraged. There's limited parking. Access can be inconvenient if you have small children or health problems.