Visitors take pictures at the Unisphere, which was built for...

Visitors take pictures at the Unisphere, which was built for the 1964-65 World’s Fair, in Flushing Meadows -Corona Park. Credit: Linda Rosier

On a recent spring evening, two men caught fish from Willow Lake, sea lions splashed at the Queens Zoo and tennis enthusiasts played into the night at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Perhaps best known as the home of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park boasts attractions that extend beyond its storied past. The Queens Night Market, which opened for the season earlier this month, has grown since it started with $5 servings of food in 2015. Each April, the ground under the park’s Okame cherry trees resembles a pink carpet. And worshippers gather regularly to pray to the Virgin Mary at the former site of the 1964 fair’s Vatican Pavilion.

“It’s really a magnificent space,” said park administrator Anthony Sama. “People are discovering it more and more.”

Named for its neighboring Flushing and Corona communities, the 897-acre park is just 11 miles from the Nassau-Queens border. It was created for the 1939 World’s Fair over a 19th century coal ash dump. Then Robert Moses, the parks commissioner at the time, unveiled plans to create a “Central Park” on the site as well as the two roadways that now cradle it, the Grand Central Parkway and Van Wyck Expressway.

For many, the park’s highlights have long been the World’s Fair monuments, such as the 140-foot-tall steel Unisphere and the New York State Pavilion’s towers, which moviegoers may recognize from “Men in Black.” The Queens Museum was originally the site of the 1939 fair’s New York City Pavilion before it became the United Nations headquarters; it now houses local art and The Panorama of the City of New York, a model of the metropolis.

The green space boasts many kid-friendly options, including a skateboarding park, the Unisphere’s spray jets and eight playgrounds. The New York Hall of Science showcases two real NASA rockets outside. The Flushing Meadows Carousel features 64 jumping horses from two Coney Island carousels.

Perhaps the park’s best-kept secret is the Pat Dolan Trail, named not for the Newsday owner but for the woman who founded the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Conservancy. This path, along Willow Lake’s south tip, has been a haven for ospreys, herons, red-winged blackbirds and eagle pairs.

For the park’s fans, the place combines the thrills of the past and the future.

“This particular park, being home to the world’s fairs, carries a lot of great stories and memories that people hold dear to their hearts,” Sama said.

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park can be reached by car via the Long Island Expressway or by taking the Long Island Rail Road’s Port Washington branch to the Mets-Willets Point station. For more information, visit

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