Hear about travel to the borough of Queens in New York City as the Amateur Traveler talks to Brian Cicioni from imayroam.com about this less-visited part of the city.
Brian tells us about Queens where “almost half of the 2 million residents are said to be foreign-born”. We talk about sites and museums and a lot about the ethnic food scene of various neighborhoods. Queens is more than just the home to the Mets and the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
We talk about the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria as well as nearby Kaufman Astoria Studios which produces tv shows like Sesame Street and Orange is the New Black.
For a great way to save money on a trip to New York City, check out the New York Pass which can get you into 100+ different attractions.
Jackson Heights Info
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
The New York Mets
Long Island Rail Road
Long Island City Info
Socrates Sculpture Park Info
The Living Pyramid
Astoria Park Info
Hell’s Gate Bridge Info
Elias Corner For Fish
Museum Of The Moving Image
Kaufman Astoria Studios
A Bronx Tale
The Louis Armstrong House
Dulce de Leche
The Lemon Ice King Of Corona
New York Hall Of Science
Meadow Lake Info
Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival
Forest Hills High School
Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival
Queens International Night Market
Rock Away Beach Info
Astoria Park Info
Roosevelt Park Info
Four Freedoms Park
St Johns Cemetery
Chris: Amateur Traveler, episode 487. Today, the Amateur Traveler talks about ethnic neighborhoods and food, some museums and food, a former World’s Fair and more food as we go to the Borough of Queens in New York City.
Welcome to The Amateur Traveler. I’m your host, Chris Christensen. With no further ado, let’s talk about Queens. I’d like to welcome to the show Brian Cicioni. Brian, welcome to the show.
Brian: Thank you, Chris.
Chris: We’re going to talk about Queens today and when I say Queens, not the ladies but the Borough of New York. Brian, why are we talking about Queens?
Brian: Well, New York City’s known as our most international city, maybe even the world’s most international city but Queens is the most international borough. Almost half of the over two million residents are said to be foreign born. Personally, for me, I was introduced to four different types of cuisine there and at least a couple of those, you would have a difficult time finding in Manhattan or at least I would.
Chris: And you say, four different types of cuisines. So you’re not talking about tacos and spaghetti here. You’re talking about what kind of cuisine, what kind of diversity are we talking about?
Brian: Okay. My first Uruguayan food into this day, my only Uruguayan food in the country came from Jackson Heights, Queens. Also, my first Tibetan food was in Queens around the 74th Street Broadway stop, the Jackson Heights, Roosevelt Ave area. And also my first Taiwanese was in Flushing and my first Indonesian was around Elmhurst, Queens with an Indonesian friend.
Chris: Excellent, excellent. And I…sorry, I interrupted you as you were on a roll there.
Brian: Other things I’d like to say about Queens is everybody talks about the Chinatown in Manhattan which is near Little Italy. And I find that area to have terrible air quality and also extremely congested and great shopping, amazing shopping there but almost impossible to drive into and it’s hard to carry when you’re walking. The Chinatown in Flushing which I have to distinguish…the Chinatown in Flushing is known the Mandarin Chinatown and the Chinatown in Manhattan is more Cantonese people from Hong Kong. But in the Chinatown in Flushing, you can pull into a parking garage with your car and do shopping. You can also talking the Long Island Rail Road, the seven train ends in Flushing.
So there’s just a lot of great things to see there. Also, supposedly the largest Greek population outside of Europe is in an area called Astoria and then there’s the museums, from children to adults, jazz fans, movie fans and then there’s also Corona Park which is I believe the fourth largest park in New York city. Doesn’t get nearly the recognition that Central Park does but I prefer it. Then there’s the less famous New York Mets which play…I don’t know, if you want to call that Corona or Flushing but it’s just north of the park.
Chris: Flushing is usually what I hear that call. Now you mentioned, you can get the Long Island Rail Road. We haven’t said, for those people who don’t know their New York geography, when you’re in Queens, you are and you aren’t on Long Island depending on who you talk to. Physically, you’re on the island that is Long Island and yet, when people say they’re from Long Island, it usually means they’re from outside of the Boroughs and the Suffolk or Nassau County. So you are and aren’t on Long Island at the same time.
Brian: Exactly. Queens is Queens County and Brooklyn is Kings County, which you could also consider part of Long Island.
Chris: So what kind of itinerary would you recommend if we’re going to tackle Queens during our trip to New York or even on its own trip?
Brian: I would recommend starting in an area called Long Island City and I would recommend, if you’re going to stay, you can stay there because it has easy access to, again, the Long Island Rail Road. You’ve got, I believe a total of eight different subway stations that you can access from there. And it’s pretty much the westernmost point in Queens so it’s a good jumping off point to all the different areas which I’m going to talk about on this show.
Chris: Okay, any particular place you’re recommending we stay?
Brian: I don’t typically stay there because I live only a couple hours away. So generally, I don’t stay there. There’s some boutique hotels popping up around Long Island City which is more of an artsy area. What a lot of people don’t think about is the Vernon Boulevard – Jackson Avenue stop on the seven train is just five minutes from Grand Central Station. But a lot of people from Grand Central, they’re either going north or south. On your first day, I would recommend seeing something called Socrates Sculpture Park which overlooks the East River and when you’re there, you’re looking at the northernmost tip of Roosevelt Island which is considered part of Manhattan and there’s sculptures outside. There’s also free tai chi and yoga in Socrates Sculpture Park on the weekends and in the summer months, July and August, you can watch films outside. I believe they call it International Film Festival or something to that effect. But there’s some domestic and international films as well.
And right near there, there’s a museum by a gentleman, Isamu Noguchi, who was a Japanese American sculptor. That’s something a lot of people go to see. I’m personally not into the art so much so I’ve walked past it; I’ve never been in there. But that’s something else that a lot of people do. It’s 2 stories, 10 galleries and it’s around 27,000 square feet. That’s something to see if you’re interested in that, if you’re going to Socrates Sculpture Park anyway. And they do have changing exhibitions at the park.
Chris: You say, the Sculpture Park, I assume that then is part of the park, there are also public art which are sculptures? Otherwise it’s a very poorly named park.
Brian: Yes, I visited with some friends. Their current exhibition, if you go to their website, it’s called The Living Pyramid by Agnes Denes but that’ll change. I think this one’s kind of impressive looking but those things there are always changing and just as impressive. Yeah, just as impressive as the sculptures are is kind of the location along the East River.
Chris: The view.
Brian: Now, when you’re in Long Island City, you’re south of an area called Astoria which…probably my favorite neighborhood in Queens. I come from an Italian background but I like Greek food almost as much. In Astoria, the NQ line, which comes in from Manhattan, that runs along 31st Street which has Titan Foods, which is supposed to be a largest Greek specialty store in the United States. There’s also Greek restaurants and bakeries and when you’re walking on 31st Street, you’re actually under the NQ line, the elevated train. So that’s something to consider and if you’re really feeling ambitious and you feel like walking, from Astoria Park, you can walk up 21st Street and end up in another park called Astoria Park where there’s something called Hell’s Gate Bridge which connects Manhattan to Queens and there’s also, you would under the RFK Bridge, not necessarily under it but it’ll be off in the distance. So you can walk around Astoria Park. There’s some great photo opportunities there. There’s a pool there in the summer. I’ve never used the pool; I’m not much of a swimmer but I did take some excellent photos there back in June.
Chris: Before we go on from there, in terms of Astoria, you mentioned Greek food. Is there some place that you recommend for stopping besides going for our olives and our feta cheese at the store you mentioned?
Brian: My most memorable meal in Astoria was actually in a place called Aliada. I hope I’m saying that correctly. I don’t speak Greek. Particularly the Tahini sauce was amazing with the bread. That’s a good place to go. That is near the 36th Avenue station. If you walk actually from Socrates Sculpture Park, if you walk east, you would be there. Now from Astoria Park, you can walk back to 31st Street. There’s a bus that can actually take you there. The Q69. There’s a place…this is kind of rare. Elias Fish Corner where they actually don’t have a menu. It’s called fish corner. They serve fish but that’s a place that I definitely recommend checking out.
Chris: So they don’t have a menu. This is one of those places where you go in and they tell you what they have today?
Brian: Absolutely. You can read about it in the New York Times as well. The place, the Aliada that I mentioned, that one there, you will get a menu. That was the one that seemed the most memorable to me. But the Elias Fish Corner, from a cultural standpoint, is really something worth trying.
Chris: Okay. Excellent.
Brian: From there, I don’t personally think that one day is necessarily enough in Astoria/Long Island City because of the museums. So I think you can use another day there and I have…there’s some museums you can go to from there. And also there’s some movie sites that not a lot of people are aware of that are from that area. So I’d like to talk about that next.
Brian: Okay. So on your second day, Pauline Frommer was on the podcast recently. She recommended the Museum of the Moving Image which I thought was really cool. I’m not a movie buff from a technical standpoint but I’ve seen a lot of movies. So you can go there, you can take the EMR line to Steinway Street or the NQ to 36th Avenue which I mentioned previously. They offer screenings and events and they say they have around 130,000 artifacts with over 1,400 on display. So I’ve spent a few hours there and I’m not a movie buff from a technical stand point so I’m sure other people can spend more time there, especially if they want to watch a movie. When I was there, they were actually screening…it was a Greek Film Festival and they happened to send the movie over with no subtitles. So I didn’t stay very long. But that’s something that you can definitely look into.
So this museum was open in 1988 and between 2008 and 2011, there was a $65 million expansion. So if you were there before 2008, it’s now double the size and it’s definitely something worth checking out. When I was there, there was Freddy Krueger’s costume. There was Regan from the Exorcist. There was a lot of interesting stuff that. As Pauline Frommer mentioned, you can play the old video games. I overdubbed “When you think of garbage, think of Akeem,” from Coming to America with Eddie Murphy where they were staying in Queens oddly enough.
Another thing to remember about Astoria is Kaufman Astoria Studios is nearby. Sesame Street, Orange is the New Black, Nurse Jackie, they’re all filmed there. That’s something you can look at. Now as far as I’m aware, they do not allow people in. So you just have to walk to it but keep in mind, from the Museum of the Moving Image, it’s very close and I also wanted to mention another thing about Astoria. Most people have seen a Robert De Niro movie called A Bronx Tale. A lot of that was actually filmed in Astoria. For example, the funeral home is in real life R P Drago Funeral Home on 30th Avenue. And the high school is a real high school, William Cullen Bryant High School. So a lot of that was filmed…it was set in the Fordham section of the Bronx, but a lot of it was filmed in Astoria and this is an odd fact but there was a British band in “the 80s” that had a song called Your Love and that was filmed at what’s now Strand Pharmacy and even Serpico, there was a scene by the Hell’s Gate Bridge and parts of Serpico were filmed in Astoria. And another thing that’s located there, Steinway & Sons, the piano company. I believe they’re still operating there.
Brian: Now, that would pretty much take up another day, especially if you spend as much time at the Museum of the Moving Images as I suggested. Assuming you would be staying somewhere around Long Island City, I have a suggestion now to start heading east and exploring the areas more east. Getting away from the more artsy areas and the more, let’s say European areas. On the third day, I would recommend getting the seven train and heading to 103rd Street Corona Plaza and check out something that very few people talk about which is The Louis Armstrong house. He was a very wealthy man. A lot of musicians were not good with business; they died poor. He was considered a wealthy man. Could’ve lived anywhere he wanted and he chose to live in Corona which was, to this day is a working class area. It was mostly Italian.
It’s now, a lot of South American and some Asian people there. But Louis Armstrong, the only thing he did to sort of stand out was, I believe he demolished the house next to him so he could have a yard. But you can go there. They’re open from 12 to 5 on weekends. You get a 40 minute tour. Mr. Armstrong recorded a lot of his conversations and on the tour, they’ll play those for you. They’ll show you his bathroom; they’ll show you his kitchen. It’s extremely interesting and I’m not a jazz fan. I took jazz when I was going to Penn State. I didn’t get a very high grade but at least, I really appreciated it and don’t own a single Louis Armstrong CD.
Chris: You say Louis, I’ve always heard him Louie Armstrong. We are talking about the same guy, the jazz trumpeter?
Brian: Yeah, the jazz trumpeter.
Brian: For food, I recommend going to an area called Jackson Heights which is sort of next to Corona. If you’re feeling very ambitious, you can get on 37th Avenue and walk all the way to the restaurant that I recommend. But if you’re not, you can get back in the subway at 103rd and take it to 90 Street-Elmhurst Avenue. And all you have to do is walk one block north and I’d strongly recommend trying a place called La Gran Uruguaya. Personally, I like the skirt steak sandwich. I’ve had it multiple times. And I’ve never found Uruguayan food in Manhattan. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist there but this place is really amazing. It’s unique. Sometimes, I don’t hear a lot of English there which kind of takes me back to the time I visited Uruguay but this is a place worth going to. And it’s also unique in the fact that the building, the one side is a restaurant, it’s not an extremely large one. And the next to is a bakery which gets much more crowded. And for those who’ve been to South America, particularly Uruguay, Argentina, Dulce de Leche is their pride.
When I was in Uruguay, in Argentina, they did not like to let me leave their restaurant without trying it, even if we couldn’t communicate because my Spanish is okay but not fluent. I was given it for free and in this place, they have traditional Italian desserts, traditional French desserts. I’m referring to the bakery here. But they have things kind of with Dulce de Leche in it. Like they’ll have a roll with Dulce de Leche in it or they’ll have something that looks a bit like a French Macaron, not Macaroon with two o’s but macaron. And they’ll have something like that with a soft outside shell but with Dulce de Leche in the middle. And even if you don’t have a car, I recommend just trying a couple of things, save room for dessert. That’ll definitely be a cool experience for you. It’s also a good walking area so you can do that.
Chris: If people aren’t familiar with Dulce de Leche, the traditional Dulce de Leche is a cake with sweetened condensed milk dribbled over it. So it’s a very moist, very sweet, delicious cake in my opinion.
Brian: I absolutely…I agree. If I ever found Dulce de Leche ice cream, if I’m at an ice cream shop or something, I typically tend to try that one. So I have an idea for another day now which is also heading east and this time, you would take the…once again, you would take the seven train to Flushing. Get off at Main Street which is the last stop and in my opinion, you’re going there to eat. You’re south of an area called Astoria which…I would recommend the bottom floor of the New World Mall. I’ve been to Asia, almost a dozen times and I like the hawker stalls in Singapore. I like eating street food. But the bottom floor which is the food court of the New World Mall, which also has a parking garage has, my favorite place is called Tea Twitter which is Taiwanese snacks, Taiwanese fast food but you can find other things there. Let’s say, you could find bubble tea. You could find typical Asian food like Korean, Japanese. There’s a couple places down there that have a seating area inside. You may have to fight to get a seat but it’s worth it when you do. And this is the kind of place where you can keep going back to because there’s so many different options; you could eat there every day of the week. I know nobody’s going to do that but you can do that.
Even the French Macaron, Asian people really like those. I know most…it was actually an Asian friend that introduced me to them. The best ones, to be honest, are at Manhattan but bakeries are starting to offer them in Flushing. Now, Roosevelt Avenue and Main Street, that’s the intersection which I would called the heart of the Flushing Chinatown. So if you walk around there, you’ll find, in addition to bubble tea, you could find a couple of places with French Macarons. I know, a friend of mine found them recently when she was in the area for the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival.
Continuing on with the food theme, I would be very offended if anybody left Queens without going to the Lemon Ice King of Corona. This place is offering, let’s say about at least two dozen flavors and there’s a trick which not a lot of people are going to know. I learned it on my own last year. You could take the Q58 bus from Main Street in Flushing and that Q58 bus will drop you off about a block away from the Lemon Ice King of Corona. You will see the sign. So they don’t mix flavors which is important to remember; $1.50 will buy you a small. So I end up buying three or four different smalls. I have my favorite flavors but they have so many; you could try different ones. One particularly interesting one is an almond one. It has pieces of almonds. That’s going to be a more love or hate one. But I happen to like it and they mix some flavors, they’re pre-mixed. You can’t ask them for two different ones but they do have a lemon lime. They have a cherry vanilla. If you were to ask me one place that really just blows my mind in Queens, that’s it.
On another day, I would recommend again, get back in the seven train and take it to a 111th Street or Mets-Willets Point, which is where you would also get off to go former Shea Stadium which is now Citi Field. And really, take a day and explore Flushing Meadows Corona Park. I’ve only ever been there as a solo traveler because I’m primarily a solo traveler. I consider myself an urban explorer first and foremost. But this area, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, I mentioned it’s considered the fourth largest park in New York City and they have museums that are part of the park. A highway runs through there. And it was also the site of the 1964 World’s Fair. So if you have children, there’s the New York Hall of Science; that’s something to see.
Chris: Or if you’ve seen the movie Men in Black, the final scene takes place in Flushing Meadows at the site of the former World’s Fair.
Brian: Okay, yeah. I’m glad you mentioned that. That’s definitely something to see. And then there’s also the Queens Museum. That’s another one I have not gone into because I’m not so much into art museums. But Chris, there’s the 12-story high stainless steel frame of the world. It’s called the Unisphere. That’s a great photo opportunity. There’s also the Queens Zoo. That was founded, I believe 1968 and that’s something else you can take your children to. Then there’s something which is very relaxing. It’s good for couples; it’s good for families. Not so much for solo travelers but there’s Meadow Lake and then south of that will be Willow Lake. And you can rent a paddle boat by the hour. You can rent a kayak by the hour or a kayak by the half-day or full day. And that’s something a lot of people do and then there’s also the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festivals held there around September every year. I have friends that go to that. I haven’t personally attended it but I’ve been hearing about it for a long time.
Chris: I’m not sure that everybody is familiar with Dragon boats but it’s almost the Hong Kong version of sculling in the sense that we’re talking about a boat with what is it…a dozen different people with paddles. Long skinny boats. Fun to watch them race.
Brian: Yeah, absolutely. Something else, this is only going to be of interest to a small percentage of your listeners but from Willow Lake, you can walk to Forest Hills High School. I’m not sure, if you’ve heard of that Chris.
Chris: It sounds familiar but I don’t know why. We’re back in movies again, aren’t we?
Brian: No, not necessarily. But Forest Hills High School is where Jerry Springer attended. Simon & Garfunkel attended Forest Hills High School. The Ramones attended Forest Hills High School. And you’re not going to go in the…
Chris: The Ramones is what I was thinking of.
Brian: Yeah, you’re not going to go in there and wander around. But some people just…I know Rolling Stone Magazine had a list of monuments to rock and roll and must-see sights for music fans and Forest Hills High School is one of them. So if you just want to look at Forest Hills High School, you can take the 67th Ave EMR train or if you’re already in the park, it’s quicker to just walk there. And I mentioned earlier that Flushing and Jackson Heights have too much good food to maybe just visit once. And if you have multiple days here, I recommend from here, you could back to Flushing. You can pick up the subway and it’s only one stop and also Mets-Willets Point is a Long Island Rail Road stop. So you can either take the seven or the Long Island Rail Road. It’s probably…would make more sense to get the seven train but that’s an option.
Chris: You mentioned the option there, the reason why you keep mentioning the LIR is, if for instance I were based in the city, in Manhattan and I wanted do a day trip out here to…you know, maybe I’m living in Manhattan now and I want to do this trip that we’re talking about over the course of several weekends. The quickest way into the city is the LIR is why you keep bringing it up, right?
Brian: Right, if you don’t want to make other stops in the Queens, you can save yourself about 9 minutes and about 10 or so less stops by just taking the Long Island Rail Road from either Mets-Willets Point to Penn Station and it only makes maybe one stop in between. I think, it’s Woodside. Now for food, I really recommend going back to Flushing. You can explore some of the restaurants on the street. You can get dim sum there or you can go back to Jackson Heights which is back heading west. There’s a Peruvian restaurant on the corner of 37th Avenue and 87th Street. Personally, my favorite American food from North or South America is Peruvian. There’s one called Urubamba which I recommend trying which is very close to La Gran Uruguaya. So that is another way to explore those areas a little better because Jackson Heights and Flushing don’t necessarily have the kind of cultural places that Long Island City, Astoria or Corona have. So if you’re a foodie, they’re possibly just as good if not better.
Chris: You mentioned the Dragon boat races. Any other notable festivals in Queens that you would want to point out to us?
Brian: There’s something that just started. Actually it was near the New York Hall of Science. It’s the Queens International Night Market. Queens, being such an international borough, there’s something now they have that they just moved it to an area called Jamaica which a lot of people are probably familiar with, that’s where JFK airport is. Some famous rappers came from Jamaica.
Chris: It’s not quite where JFK is but it’s where the connection to JFK is on the mass transit.
Brian: Exactly, because the subway doesn’t necessarily go there but you can connect.
Chris: Right. I’ve got family from Jamaica but my wife’s family is from Jamaica but this Jamaica, the one we’re talking about in Queens, not the one where you get to say, “Hey man,” and have the cool accent.
Brian: Yeah. So there’s something else you can also do. This gets into something that is pretty famous but I didn’t enjoy so much, which is something called Rockaway Beach. We’re going to have to keep talking about the Ramones because Rockaway Beach is a Ramones song. And supposedly George Carlin was conceived at Rockaway Beach, at least he jokes about it. But the Ramones have the song Rockaway Beach and that finally got me to go there. So it’s pretty complicated to get there. It’s actually easier to get there from Brooklyn. But you could get to Rockaway Beach, a combination of subway and bus. Unfortunately, it was damaged pretty bad by Hurricane Sandy in late 2012. The last time, I was there, it was something to see but the restaurant choices were kind of disappointing. And I guess when you have this iconic place in your mind, I really felt like it was a letdown. So I’m sorry if I’m offending anyone but I didn’t enjoy Rockaway Beach.
Even if you stay in, let’s say Long Island City or if you choose to stay in Flushing, it can still take you almost a day to get there. So if it’s something you really need to see, then you can go do that. Something else, there’s an area, it’s actually a Long Island Rail Road stop and it’s called…there’s supposed to be a Koreatown. I have not done this yet but supposedly you get out of the station and there’s a ton of Korean restaurants there. Now, Flushing is known for Korean restaurants a little bit but not as much so as the Mandarin aspect of Flushing. Murray Hill is the name of the station. It’s only one stop beyond Flushing. I’ve not done that yet but anyone who really prefers Korean food…personally, Thai is my favorite Asian food. But that’s something else you could do.
Chris: What else should we do while we’re in Queens?
Brian: I think there’s things that the guide books miss. We already talked about the Queens International Night Market but anyone who’s a historian which I consider myself or if you’re interested in civil rights, everybody associates Malcolm X with Harlem. He actual lived near the LaGuardia Airport in East Elmhurst. The house is still standing; it’s the one that would have been firebombed in the movie Malcolm X. There has been talk for almost 10 years about putting a statue there. I don’t believe it’s there. There’s nothing to really see there but that’s just an interesting fact about Queens. I have driven past it before while going to LaGuardia Airport and there’s something else that I am going to mention for the serious, serious movie buff that doesn’t care about the production quality of the movie or doesn’t care if the violence looks extremely fake. Have you heard of a movie, Chris, called the Toxic Avenger?
Chris: I’ve heard of, I have not seen the Toxic Avenger.
Brian: Okay. Anyone who has not seen it is missing out and this is something a guide book is not going to mention. You can tour Troma Studios. They’ve been around since 1974. Their movie…if anybody knows a Troma movie, they’re going to know the Toxic Avenger. So you could actually tour their studios. The founder and I believe one of the co-owners, Lloyd Kaufman is an extremely eccentric man. I don’t know that you would get to meet him. Unfortunately the tours are only offered between 12 and 6, Monday through Friday. I’ve heard they’re rather short but I’m hoping we have some Troma fans listening and maybe one or two of them will just show up there. The information is on the Troma website. So that’s something that a guide book would never tell you about.
Chris: What’s going to surprise me about Queens? I mean, I’ve been to New York City. I know New York, don’t I?
Brian: I think it’s a shame that nobody is going there even though they have some things which I think are better than in other parts of New York City. First of all, subway access is pretty good and when there’s no subway access, there’s a Long Island Rail Road. But if I had to pick one thing, I would say food. I mean, just the kind of food you can get there, just how international it is.
Chris: I was getting that theme there.
Brian: Yeah, like there’s Astoria for the Greek food, Flushing for the Asian food. Even though, there’s I’d say three Chinatowns, Brooklyn has Sunset Park now which is possibly, some people say, it’s the biggest Chinatown now. But Flushing is my favorite Chinatown and even Jackson Heights. I didn’t get to mention this yet but they have Ecuadorian food there in addition to Uruguayan food. At the Queens Night Market, they have a Bolivian stand which supposedly the restaurant is somewhere around Jackson Heights…and the Tibetan food, I mean, I’ve had Tibetan food in Manhattan but I don’t believe there’s as much as there is in Queens. So I would have to say what makes it the most unique is the food and maybe also the movie history there that you don’t necessarily associate with Queens.
Chris: If I say I’m standing in a prettiest spot in Queens and I know a lot of people don’t picture Queens necessarily as a pretty spot, the most photogenic spot in Queens, where am I standing and what am I looking at?
Brian: I would say you’re probably…you could be in Astoria Park. I kind of have two answers to this. You could be in Astoria Park looking out at the RFK Bridge or the Hell’s Gate Bridge. Or you could be in Socrates Sculpture Park. That’s another one where you’re looking out at Roosevelt Island which we didn’t really cover Roosevelt Island. It’s in Manhattan but if it’s okay with you, we can cover Roosevelt Island.
Brian: The F train, Roosevelt Island has one subway stop. So you could either access it by car from Queens only. You could access it by tram from Manhattan only or you could take the F train from either Queens or Manhattan. If that F train’s not running or under construction, you’re out of luck but walking around Roosevelt Island I think and looking out at Queens, looking out at Long Island City or looking out at Manhattan. I think that’s pretty amazing. I never tried to eat there. It’s not that kind of place but there’s something in Roosevelt Island, FDR Four Freedoms Park because before it was Roosevelt Island, I believe it was Lepers Island. So it was since named Roosevelt Island and FDR Four Freedoms Park. That’s something else that you can get some amazing photos of Manhattan. I’ve done it myself.
Chris: Excellent and I’m sure that the name change Four Lepers Park has really improved the tourism there as well.
Brian: I believe it was Leper Island but then they changed it to Roosevelt Island. I’m not sure the year. But it’s FDR Four Freedoms Park. It’s relatively new.
Chris: Oh, sorry. I got my fours mixed up there. Before we get to my last three questions, anything else we should know before we hop on the subway and head to Queens?
Brian: As you get further into Queens, you might actually be able to put your backpack next to you or you know, a mother may not have to put a baby on her lap. You actually may be able to stretch out a little bit in the subway cars once you get into Queens. And also there’s an area of Queens called Middle Village. There’s not much else to do there but there’s a cemetery called St. John’s Cemetery and listeners can look it up themselves. But a lot of criminals and undesirables are buried there in addition to some other people. But a lot of people…I was in Middle Village once and a lot of people were going there specifically to see where gangsters were buried and people like that.
Chris: Food is your thing here, Brian, I’m detecting. What kind of resources would you use to keep track of what I’m sure is an ever-changing food scene in Queens?
Brian: The first thing, ideally you keep going there and just hitting up your favorite neighborhoods. If that doesn’t work, I would say Yelp, like if there’s something in particular. There’s a woman who does tours in the Bronx, her name’s Alexandra and she mentioned to me, “You know, Brian, you love Argentina, you love Uruguay, there’s Uruguayan food in Queens.” I went onto Yelp, I typed in Uruguayan and that’s how I found the place. She never gave me the name of it. And the Tibetan, I believe I discovered that on my own. The Indonesian, I had a friend take me to but I prefer Yelp. So that’s how I usually find things out.
Chris: Okay. Finish this sentence. You really know you’re in Queens when, what?
Brian: So you really know you’re in Queens if you’re walking, let’s say along Roosevelt Avenue, which the seven train runs elevated along Roosevelt Avenue and you see a Bolivian restaurant across from a Tibetan restaurant. And then you see, let’s say a Colombian restaurant. And just everything…you’re kind of…it’s like sensory overload and that’s something else where, you know, I don’t think you see that to the same extent as in Manhattan and it could be tough. If you’re not like me and you don’t sometimes go there with what you want to do in mind, just what Queens offers kind of makes up your mind for you I could say.
Chris: Okay. And if you had to summarize Queens in three words, what three words would you use?
Brian: Green, international, and delicious.
Chris: Our guest, again, has been Brian Cicioni. Brian, where can people read about your travels?
Brian: You could check out my blog. I’m on Twitter and Instagram. It’s “B” as in “Brian, “C” as is “Cicioni” bc21578. Something else I really enjoy is National Geographic Your Shots. So if you just go Google Brian Cicioni National Geographic Your Shot. And my favorite pictures, I tend to post on there. Those are the best ways to find out about my travels. And if you feel like going on my travel blog and posting some comments, I’m also starting to do…I do my first bus tour which is actually, a majority of it will be in Queens. I’m doing my first bus tour next Sunday, the 27th. So that’s how you’ll find out about my travels.
Chris: Brian, thanks for coming on The Amateur Traveler and sharing with us your love for Queens.
Brian: Oh, hey, thanks. You’re welcome. I’d love to be on the show again.
Chris: I’m going to skip the news of the community this week because I am still traveling. So with that, we’ll bring an end to this episode of The Amateur Traveler. If you have any questions, send an email to host at amateurtraveler.com or better yet, leave a comment on this episode at amateurtraveler.com. You can also follow me on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram as chris2x and as always, thanks so much for listening.
Transcription sponsored by JayWay Travel, specialists in Central & Eastern Europe custom tours.