FMTC Affiliate Disclosure: Blond Wayfarer contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I earn a commission at no extra cost to you. This disclosure pertains to all affiliate links.
If you have extra time, even as a traveler, then I recommend taking the subway to Queens. You’ll encounter incredible neighborhoods, eat at unique and diverse restaurants, and see world class sites without the insane crowds of Manhattan.
In particular, I want to talk about Astoria. Although it has changed a lot, Astoria is still a multiethnic middle-class neighborhood where you’ll discover an abundance of Greek tavernas and great views of Manhatten’s sleek skyline.
And yes, if you’re traveling solo in New York, Astoria is also very safe for you to explore without a map.
Are you sold on visiting and need some fabulous things to do in Astoria Queens? Awesome! You’ve come to the right place. Astoria’s a great neighborhood with a lot of attractions to offer travelers visiting New York City.
First of all, I think it’s great that you’re taking your New York City trip beyond Manhattan. As much as I love Manhattan, a true trip to New York takes you to the other four boroughs. I’m embarrassed to admit that I visited Queens for the first time this year. I know, I know. Shame on me. But better late than never!
Astoria’s a wonderful place to “dip your feet” into a different part of the city due to its convenient location to the subway and Manhattan.
My Experience in Astoria
As regular readers of my blog already know, I absolutely love visiting New York City, because roaming new neighborhoods expands my horizons. Seriously, I think New York is one of the best places to visit for when I can’t travel too far. It’s so unbelievably diverse and interesting.
Unsurprisingly, I thought Astoria was a really great neighborhood to explore (and eat my way) through for many reasons.
Like I mentioned, Astoria felt very safe to walk around alone and with friends. Actually, the most dangerous part of the day was a pesky squirrel getting way too close to my feet, as I relaxed on a park bench near the tennis courts. Scary, huh?
Another reason to visit Astoria is because there are plenty of top notch eating establishments for a reasonable price. New York City isn’t a cheap date. Actually, the Big Apple is notoriously expensive, and I’d be the first person to admit it. My credit card definitely doesn’t like New York as much as I do. However, I thought it was easier to eat on a budget in Astoria than other New York City neighborhoods. You just gotta know where to look.
And, finally, I liked Astoria, because the streets weren’t packed with tourists. I’m not knocking big attractions. As you know, walking around Central Park is one of my favorite activities in the world, but it was refreshing to stroll through the tree-lined streets and feel like a local rather than an observer.
Astoria Travel Tips
How to Get to Astoria
Penn Station is a major hub for travelers in New York City. It’s not my favorite place in the world, but whatever, haha. Penn Station is located at 34th street in Midtown located smack in the middle of Manhattan.
In order to reach Astoria, you need to leave Penn Station itself and walk to 34 Street – Herald Square Station, which services the IND Sixth Avenue (orange) Line and BMT Broadway (yellow) Line. You want to catch the northbound N train toward Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard. Take an express or local, though be warned that the express only stops at Astoria-Ditmars. The subway ride from 34th street to Astoria takes about thirty minutes or so.
A final word of caution. The NYC subway is notoriously slow and bad on weekends. Use your phone to check the schedule so you’re not chilling on the platform for over twenty minutes with nothing to do.
Taxi and Ride Share
Sometimes the subway is unpredictable on weekends and weeknights.
If you have money to spare, then I don’t blame you for utilizing a ride share app to go to Astoria. New York has plenty of Ubers available, and the cost is usually much less than a traditional yellow taxi.
Of course, as a visitor, you might want to spend more of the classic taxi experience and I don’t blame you! All yellow taxis take major credit cards.
Where to Stay in Astoria
There are so many things to do in Astoria Queens that it’s actually a little overwhelming, especially for those of you planning on spending a single afternoon.
If you want to “dive deep” into Astoria (and Queens as a whole), then you might want to base yourself near in the neighborhood! This general area of Queens has a lot of fun and affordable accommodation!
Here are a couple of my personal recommendations:
- Boro Hotel: This hip hotel is located in Long Island City and is a quick walk from the subway station. Only minutes from the Museum of the Moving Image. (see prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com)
- The Collective Paper Factory: Want something different? This highly rated Queens hotel is located inside a 100 year-old paper factory! (see prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com)
- Hilton Garden Inn Long Island City New York: This wonderful chain hotel is located close to Queensboro Bridge, which makes visiting Manhattan very easy! (see prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com)
My Favorite 7 Things to Do in Astoria Queens
Time to take notes, kids.
First, the bad news. You can easily spend an entire day in Astoria. There are so many cool things to do and see, and the vibrance of this neighborhood will eat up an afternoon if you’re not careful. I actually spent two days in Astoria to compile all this information, so prioritize and take your time rather than rush through the streets like a crazy person. Accept you won’t see everything.
For simplicity’s sake, I’ve narrowed this post down to my favorite seven things to do in Astoria Queens. As always, you’re more than welcome to adjust my list to better suit your own interests. Enjoy!
If you need more information, then I highly recommend bringing Lonely Planet’s New York guide with you on your trip. Lonely Planet produces my absolute favorite guidebooks! I always think they are well worth the small investment.
The Museum of the Moving Image
Astoria’s most popular museum is, without a doubt, the Museum of the Moving Image. I think anyone who has a strong interest in film should visit this attraction for an hour or two. It’s interesting, (relatively) inexpensive, and a ton of fun! Admission is $15 for adults.
The “Behind the Screen” permanent exhibit teaches visitors all the techniques that go into creating moving images. I thought the historic television and film cameras were fascinating, as well as the sound recording equipment and costume displays. Another cool permanent exhibit is the Jim Henson exhibit. The exhibit has over 300 props, puppets, and other items from The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Labyrinth, and more! You will find the Museum of the Moving Image on 36-01 35th Ave in Astoria.
Without a doubt, the Museum of the Moving Image is one of my favorite things to do in Astoria Queens.
You walk a lot in New York City. Seriously, whenever I visit, I walk well over 5 miles. Probably closer to 10. You want to give your poor feet a rest.
Astoria Park is an absolutely lovely place to relax with a blanket and a picnic basket. There are great sweeping views of East River and Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, and plenty of trees giving abundant shade to visitors and locals.
Bring a bathing suit if you want. Astoria Park is home to the largest pool in New York City. I didn’t go swimming, although I’m sure it’s great in the summer months when heat and humidity swallows the city like a plague. Admission to the pool is free – which is even better!
Plenty of Authentic Greek Food
After World War II and throughout the 1960s, there was a huge influx of Greek immigration to Astoria. Today Astoria still has the highest concentration of Greeks anywhere in the city. What does this mean for you? Incredible food. I drool just reminiscing about it.
As for me, I had the pleasure of trying two different food establishments on my recent trip to Astoria.
The first place is a causal cafe called Leli’s Bakery and Pastry Shop. Grab some savory spinach and cheese pastries on the go, or enjoy breakfast outside. They serve breakfast all day. You can find Leli’s Bakery and Pastry Shop on 3514 30th Avenue.
The second place is a Greek seafood restaurant called Taverna Kyclades. This lively eatery is located right on Ditmars Boulevard. Their grilled calamari is to dieeeeeeeeeeee for. I don’t know how they made the squid so tender and smoky, but oh man, I wish I could devour a huge plate of it every single day.
Taverna Kyclades doesn’t take reservations. Be prepared to wait for a table on a Saturday afternoon. We were super lucky and got seated immediately, but a lot of people had to stand outside and hang around til their names were called. You can find this restaurant on 3307 Ditmars Boulevard.
A Traditional Czech Beer Garden
Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden is the oldest beer garden in New York City, making it one of the coolest things to do in Astoria Queens.
In the late 1800s, many Czech and Slovak immigrants came to New York and found a home in Astoria. Bohemian Hall was opened in 1919 to give these immigrants a place to come together as community. Crazily enough, the beer garden survived Prohibition and is a popular spot in the neighborhood today!
I’d especially recommend Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden on a sunny day. However, keep in mind seating is limited. Check in advance if an event is scheduled, because you don’t want to stand the entire time. For example, when we went to watch the Liverpool Game, we had to come to the hall at least two hours early to get a seat.
On a lovely sunny day, don’t skip Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden. Even if you don’t drink, the Central European fare is filling and tasty. Perfect for sightseeing.
Kaufman Astoria’s Film Studios
Do you like Netflix’s hit series Orange is the New Black? Did you (ahh, nostalgia) watch Sesame Street growing up as child? Are you a fan of old gangster movies such as Carlito’s Way and Goodfellas. Then you should take a walk by Kaufman Film Studios – which is located in Astoria and houses the Museum of the Moving Image.
However, this iconic sign is right near the entrance of the Museum of the Moving Image. Go outside and check it out!
Now for some history. Kaufman Film Studios was constructed in the 1920s. After Paramount Pictures moved their studio operations to California, Kaufman Studios was turned over to independent film producers. Eventually the property was registered to the National Register of Historic Places.
Oh, and there are also adorable red phone booths, just like the ones in London, on the same street as Kaufman Film Studios. Strike a pose, and take some cheesy pictures.
Robert F. Kennedy Bridge
I’m kinda sorta obsessed with bridges. Don’t ask me why. I just think smooth archways soaring over water is aesthetically pleasing in photographs. After going to Astoria Park, you can take a walk and snap pretty pictures of Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. The bridge has historical significance too, opening in 1936.
Are you feeling particularly adventurous and ready to leave Astoria? Then take a walk on RFK Bridge to nearby Randall’s Island Park. Enter the walkway from Hoyt Ave North at 27th Street. If you have a bike, you need to walk it over the bridge for safety reasons – which makes it easier for pedestrians than, say, the Brooklyn Bridge (where I almost got hit a million times, haha).
Make sure to pack extra comfortable shoes if you plan to cross over the bridge. This isn’t the time for adorable high heels, my friends.
Streets with Pretty House Gardens and Porches
Finally, the architecture in Astoria is sooooo different than the typical high rises and brownstones that I see on a regular basis in Manhattan. You feel as if you’re in an entirely new city.
My advice is to take a stroll on a residential street and see the delightful gardens. I couldn’t believe the amount of red and pink roses I saw on my trip to Astoria. Let’s not even mention the abundant vines climbing up the homes, and the herb gardens hanging from pots next to the front doors. I was so jealous and wanted my own little garden. Maybe one day in the future.
A lot of these houses have been in the same family for years, which is also super cool to think about, especially given how rapidly Astoria is gentrifying. However, please remember that these homes are privately owned, and therefore you need to be respectful taking photos. Don’t snap pictures of families enjoying their afternoon without express permission. Not cool.
Bonus: Long Island City in Queens
Do you want to branch out your visit from Astoria and go to other parts of Queens? Not a problem!
Luckily for you, Astoria is close to several other fantastic neighborhoods. For example, it’s an easy subway ride away from Long Island City, which is also located in Queens and on the same subway line. Going there is a piece of cake.
My favorite thing to do in Long Island City is take in the spectacular views at Gantry Plaza State Park. You have a totally unobstructed picture of Manhattan’s skyline. Don’t forget to snap a photo or two of the famous Pepsi-Cola sign, too.
I hope you enjoyed my post about cool things to do in Astoria Queens! What advice would you add to this list? What’s your favorite neighborhood in Queens? Share all your thoughts in the comments.