Are you looking for a peaceful and serene setting to spend your summer weekends? Don’t worry about your gas mileage; these top five getaways are right here in Queens!
1. Gantry Plaza State Park
(Long Island City)
If you love to witness extravagant views of the midtown Manhattan skyline, illuminating the Empire State Building and more, Gantry Plaza State Park is the local getaway for you. The 12-acre riverside oasis is the perfect spot to stroll along the park’s four piers or get in touch with nature at its beautiful gardens and mist fountain.
Visitors may also appreciate the park’s classic centerpieces — restored gantries — that were once used to pack and unpack rail car floats and barges. How about watching a fun-filled concert with the skyline as your background? Stay fit at Gantry Plaza’s recreational facilities that include basketball courts, playgrounds, handball courts, and a fishing pier with its own cleaning table.
Pet owners are allowed to walk (and clean up after) their leashed dogs in the garden area near the South Gantry, at the Plaza area from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. A dog run is available on the corner of 48th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard, but some areas are inaccessible. Cooking grills are always prohibited from the park.
2. Queens Botanical Garden (Flushing)
Get away from the everyday hustle and bustle by visiting the Queens Botanical Garden (QBG) in Flushing. The extensive oasis connects people, plants and cultures through intriguing gardens, creative educational programs and demonstrations of environmental stewardship.
The elaborate outdoor space offers 39 acres and indoor facilities, where visitors can celebrate: wedding ceremonies and receptions, bar or bat mitzvahs, birthday or graduation parties, baby or bridal showers, cocktail parties and other events while capturing precious photos.
Looking for some educational activities for your children this summer? QBG’s Gardening Programs for Kids teaches children from ages 2 to 14, who reside in New York City, how to appreciate seasonal, hands-on learning and gardening experiences year-round. Sign up for one of the summer sessions, which begins on July 6.
3. Socrates Sculpture Park
(Long Island City)
Celebrate Socrates Sculpture Park’s 30th Anniversary this summer, with a fun-filled variety of activities at this outdoor museum and public park in Long Island City.
The 30th Anniversary LANDMARK exhibition will be on display from now until Aug. 28, where viewers can see the projects of eight artists who emphasize evolution and places that are closely tied to social and ecological structures. The exhibit also addresses the ideas of maintenance and stewardship plus historic transformation.
In the mood for an outdoor movie? Socrates Sculpture Park and Film Forum are collaborating with Rooftop Films to present the annual international film festival that kicks off each Wednesday evening between July 6 and Aug. 24. The outdoor cinema features a different country or culture each week, focusing on this year’s theme of The River in celebration of the 30th anniversary and LANDMARK exhibition. Live international music and local food vendors representing each week’s featured country of origin will accommodate the film.
4. Alley Pond Environmental Center (Douglaston)
Those of us who are environmentally friendly will truly appreciate the beauty of this Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC) in Douglaston. The center is a nonprofit environmental education organization that educates children and adults in the New York metropolitan area. This summer you can learn how to protect and preserve Alley Pond Park and frolic in its open spaces, lakes and ponds, while advocating for sustainable environmental policies and practices.
The weekly children’s program and weekend classes are educational and fun services to enroll your kids in! For more information on the academic sessions that APEC offers, visit their website.
5. Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
If you love animals and nature, interact with birds at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Far Rockaway. The refuge, a part of Gateway National Recreation Area, is considered one of the most significant bird sanctuaries in the northeastern United States. Here’s your chance to observe migrating species, with more than 330 bird species that avian enthusiasts have enjoyed spectating for the last 25 years.
In addition to birds, the refuge houses a vast array of native reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, over 60 species of butterflies and one of the largest populations of horseshoe crabs in the Northeast. This summer, you can participate in several ranger-led nature hikes, bird watching sessions and more!
Visitors will enjoy a salt marsh, upland field and woods, fresh and brackish water ponds and an expansive bay area. Feel free to partake in ranger- and partner-led programs offered throughout the year, consisting of presentations on seasonal wildlife, sunset tours, hikes, boat trips, family programs and lecture sessions.