Like many parts of Queens, Flushing Meadows Corona Park has seen more than a hundred years of exciting historical evolution. The area was an ash and refuse dump in the 1910s, the inspiration for The Great Gatsby’s “valley of ashes.”
Reborn after years of toil, it rose into the magnificent centerpiece of the 1939 World’s Fair. Since then the park has hosted the original location of the United Nations, the 1964 World’s Fair, the U.S. Open tennis championships, and endless family events, children's activities, and attractions. It's arguably the main family attraction among many in Flushing.
My family has explored the park time and again. There is always something new to see and favorites to revisit. Expansive and diverse with attractions, Flushing Meadows Corona Park is more than a single-day excursion. So pick out a few things to do and save the rest for next time.
1. Take the kids to one of EIGHT playgrounds, including the Jurassic and Triassic dino-themed jungle gyms.
2. Basketball, volleyball, baseball, you name it. Flushing Meadows Corona Park has a field, space, or court for all of your sports needs. Sign up for a soccer lesson, or just kick around the ball on one of the park's many fields.
3. If soccer isn't your thing, perhaps a game of tennis will impress; in August attend the U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Arthur Ashe Kids' Day is traditionally held on the Saturday before the opening day of play.
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The iconic Unisphere greets park visitors. Photo by Francisco Anzola / CC BY 2.0
4. Stroll past the 1964 World Fair's Unisphere, one of Queens' most iconic attractions.
5. Just a few steps from the museum, get out of the sun and goggle the Panorama of the City of New York, the ongoing exhibit at the Queens Museum.
6. Rent a tandem bike, surrey, or paddle boat and set sail on Meadow Lake.
7. Or set off on foot, taking on the Willow Lake Trail.
8. Dust off that model airplane and take it for a spin at the model aircraft field.
9. For tweens and teens who have taken to wheels, let them skate to their hearts' content at Astral Fountain aka Maloof Skate Park—a 16,000-square-foot area designed by pro skateboarders for the best ollies and heel flips.
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Giddy'up on the historic carousel, actually named to the National Register of Historic Places. Photo courtesy of Fantasy Forest Amusement Park.
10. For younger kids, hop on the Flushing Meadows Carousel, created for the 1964 World's Fair.
11. After the carousel, you won't be able to ignore Fantasy Forest, with rides and games perfect for those younger than 12.
Explore lights, technology, space, and more at the New York Hall of Science. Photo courtesy of NYHS.
12. Want something more educational? Visit the New York Hall of Science and explore hands-on experiments and perhaps enjoy a round at Rocket Park Mini-Golf.
13. Speaking of golf, take to the greens (or mini golf greens) at Flushing Meadows Golf Center.
14. Launch your permitted kayak or canoe into the World's Fair Marina.
15. With barbecue grills and picnic tables, the park is the perfect spot for a summertime celebration.
16. Don't leave the fur babies at home. Off-leash areas allow for your four-legged loved ones to roam free.
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Root for the rowers at the Annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival. Photo by the author.
18. If the dragon boats are on hiatus, Meadow Lake is still open for fishing.
19. When the heat strikes, take a dip in the indoor pool at Flushing Meadows Corona Park pool and rink.
20. Or if your looking for something chillier, get out to the World Ice Arena for some skating.
21. Tour the grounds of Queens Botanical Garden, where year-round activities entertain families, from Halloween festivals to Mother's Day brunches.
22. Stop to smell the cherry blossoms in mid-April during the annual Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival, which includes Japanese music and performances.
23. My son can't miss the Queens Zoo and the adjoining petting zoo with goats, sheep, cows, and rabbits.
24. Bring cash and grab a hot dog or a snow cone at one of the many food carts.
25. And although technically outside of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, who can ignore the close proximity of Citi Field, home of the Mets?
Because of its large size, it is best to drive to Flushing Meadows Corona Park; park by your area of interest. If you can't drive, the park is accessible by the No. 7 subway train to the Mets-Willets Point Station, the Long Island Rail Road's Port Washington branch, and a number of city buses.
There are restrooms at the indoor attractions and throughout the park and playgrounds.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park is one of Queens' crown jewels. It's not to be missed!
Top photo: Wonder at an eagle’s nest at the Queens Zoo. Photo by the author.