Expansive and diverse (much like Queens itself), Flushing Meadows Corona Park is arguably the main family attraction among many in Flushing. With so much to see and do here with kids—including the New York Hall of Science, the Queens Museum, a zoo, a botanic garden, a carousel, an amusement park, and multiple playgrounds, plus the famous Unisphere fountains—it's more than a single-day excursion. So pick out a few things to do and save the rest for next time. My family has explored the park time and again, and there is always something new to see and old favorites to revisit.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park has seen more than 100 years of exciting historical evolution. The area was an ash and refuse dump in the 1910s and the inspiration for The Great Gatsby’s “valley of ashes.” Reborn as the magnificent centerpiece of the 1939 World’s Fair, since then the park has been home to the United Nations, the 1964 World’s Fair, the U.S. Open tennis championships, and endless family events, children's activities, and attractions. A note on accessibility: Given its size—nearly 900 acres—it is best to drive and park by your area of interest. The park is accessible by the No. 7 subway train, the Long Island Rail Road's Port Washington branch, and a number of city buses.
1. Take the kids to one of eight playgrounds, including the Jurassic and Triassic dino-themed jungle gyms.
2. Play basketball, baseball, football, soccer, volleyball, and more. The park has a field, space, or court for all of your sports needs.
Arthur Ashe Kids' Day. Photo courtesy of the USTA
3. Speaking of courts, whether you play tennis yourself, or are a fan of the pro tour, visit the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. In August, it hosts the U.S. Open , including the popular Arthur Ashe Kids' Day. The rest of the year, you can book time on these pro-level courts.
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The iconic Unisphere greets park visitors. Photo by Francisco Anzola / CC BY 2.0
4. Stroll past the 1964 Worlds Fair's Unisphere, one of Queens' most iconic attractions.
5. Get out of the sun and ogle the Panorama of the City of New York at the Queens Museum.
6. Pedal your way around Meadow Lake. Whether you go on land or by boat, Wheel Fun Rentals can hook you up with bikes, surreys, and pedal boats.
7. Prefer to set off on foot? Hike your way along the Willow Lake Trail.
8. Dust off your model airplane and take it for a spin at the model aircraft field.
9. Tweens and teens who have taken to wheels will appreciate the Astral Fountain Skate Park, designed by pro skaters, it replicates many city landmarks where skating is off-limits.
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Giddyap on the historic carousel, which is on 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, plan to play at the surrounding Fantasy Forest Amusement Park, with rides and games perfect for those under age 12.
Explore lights, technology, space, and more at the New York Hall of Science. Photo courtesy of NYSCI.
12. Visit the New York Hall of Science and explore interactive exhibits and perhaps enjoy a round at Rocket Park Mini-Golf.
13. Speaking of golf, take to the greens at Flushing Meadows Golf Center.
14. Have a permitted kayak or canoe? Launch it at the World's Fair Marina.
15. Stake out a table near a grill and stage a barbecue for the perfect summertime celebration.
16. Bring your fur babies along for the fun; the off-leash area allows your four-legged friends 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 Flushing Meadows Corona Park Pool.
20. If you're looking for something chillier, visit the World Ice Arena for some skating.
21. Tour the grounds of the Queens Botanical Garden, where a jam-packed events calendar ensures there's always something to do.
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. Explore the North American habitats at the Queens Zoo, which welcomed an adorable Andean bear in 2017. The adjoining petting zoo lets you get close to goats, sheep, cows, and rabbits.
The Queens Night Market. Photo courtesy of the market
24. Feast your way through hundreds of affordable food vendors at the Queens Night Market from May through October, or bring cash and grab a hot dog or a snow cone at one of the many food carts.
25. Although technically outside of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, who can ignore the close proximity of Citi Field, home of the Mets? Catch a game and maybe even some fireworks.
Top photo: Climb into an eagle’s nest at the Queens Zoo. Photo by the author.
A version of this post was published in 2017; it has been updated for 2019. Jody Mercier contributed additional reporting.