How to Spend a Day in Long Island City, Queens

These restaurants, attractions and shops are well-worth your time.

Long Island City’s hodgepodge of buzzing restaurants, avant-garde museums, cool watering holes, specialty shops and playtime venues is only a single stop from Manhattan on the number 7 subway. If you are visiting New York City, you don’t want to miss out on what is considered one of the coolest cities in the borough of Queens, which also boasts more art galleries, art institutions and studio space than almost any other neighborhood in New York City.

Time to eat? Whether the goal is white-tablecloth Italian or saucy K.C. barbecue, the theme is always affordability. Hit Casa Enrique—New York City's only Michelin-starred Mexican restaurant—for margaritas and mains, then head over to Tournesol to finish up with tiramisu and some French red wine. If barbecue is what the family wants, then Kansas City barbecue at John Brown's Smokehouse is what the family will get. This no-frills joint has a plethora of craft beer available on tap to wash down its extensive selection of big portions of meat, and tourists and New York City natives alike come from far and wide to try the burnt ends. Romantic, waterfront views aren't out of the question either; Maiella offers breathtaking sight lines alongside housemade pasta dishes in an elegant setting. 

Tournesol Car Outside of Tournesol restaurant

Now, you're full... very, very full.

Stroll to the Long Island City waterfront and make your way to Gantry State Plaza Park, where 12 acres of riverside land—with basketball courts, playing fields, playgrounds, picnic tables and fishing spots—can help the adults and the kids rediscover their energy levels after a big meal. And if a playground can't quite tame your tireless little ones (or wake up the ones who've fallen into a food coma,) you can bet that the folks at Indoor Extreme Sports Paintball & Laser Tag will get their blood levels flowing, stat.

As for the adults who want to play, the billiards tables, ping-pong tables, foosball, arcade games, darts and basketball hoops at Break ought to satisfy that competitive itch. Weekend warriors can dance Saturday afternoon away at contemporary art venue MoMa PS1 during the Warm Up series, a weekly dance party with rotating DJs running from 3-9 pm, starting July 1.

It's time to drink (more). Cold craft beer complements any long day of exploration, especially when it’s poured straight from the tap; there is no shortage of that in this neighborhood. Next door to Tournesol—where you may or may have not begun with a glass or two of wine—find the cozy, dimly lit Domaine bar a vins, with an extensive list of wines by the glass and oysters from which to choose. Down the block and around the corner sit 28 craft beers on tap, as well as a full bar and kitchen, in a wood-finished room with very high ceilings, at Alewife. Come here for game nights (Bingo Mondays, Trivia Tuesdays) and get to the bar early to take advantage of the happy hour, beginning at 4:20 pm daily. If 28 draught beers (including Alewife's own brews,) don't suit all of your hoppy needs, go straight to a true local source at LIC Beer Project. This brewery opens its doors to the public at 4 pm during the week and at 1 pm on Saturday and Sunday, and pours all of its signature and specialty brews straight from the taproom.

For the ones who've been waiting for the oenophiles to finish their wine and for the craft beer aficionados to put down their pint glasses, patience is a virtue that is meant to be rewarded. And at Dutch Kills, your trust in the bartender is to be rewarded as well. Craft cocktails are made from scratch, designed by the bar staff from your description of the sorts of drinks and tastes that tickle your fancy. Come between 5 pm and 7 pm during the week (except Fridays) and get the bartender's favorite cocktail for $8.

Now, you've done a lot today. Maybe you feel inclined to treat yourself with a little shopping. You've earned it; why not? Small businesses focused on local art and distinctive, often handmade goods run the gamut in Long Island City. Walk along Broadway slowly or you'll miss the street wear and lifestyle brand retailer, LIC Kleaners—it's outfitted in an old dry cleaners' shop. If your Dutch Kills cocktails have you feeling generous, the gift and thrift shops on Vernon Boulevard offer a variety of unusual and collectible items; Matted LIC sells local artwork and offers custom framing, and nearby consignment shop Just Things has items ranging from antiques and jewelry to books and clothing.

You're full, you've had a few drinks, you've broken a sweat, and now you've got bags full of gifts to lug back. Hop onto the 7 subway, take a cab into the Midtown Tunnel or walk right back to your hotel room. The only thing is; with all of the restaurants, stores and bars that we didn't get to mention here, good luck leaving the neighborhood any time soon.

Daniel Fridman
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