Queens may be a Big Apple borough, but in many ways it’s very much like Nassau and Suffolk counties, with wide-open spaces, family-friendly venues and natural beauty. It also shares aspects of the grand New York City arts and museum scene, making Queens the perfect mix of things to explore. You can go via Long Island Rail Road or the LIE, making a day trip to Queens a worthy — and fairly easy — trip to take this summer.
QUEENS COUNTY FARM MUSEUM
A city landmark, this 47-acre working farm dates to the 17th century. Kids can meet-and-greet with the resident animals, take part in scavenger hunts and go on tractor-pulled hayrides. Look forward to special events like the farm’s annual Thunderbird American Indian Powwow come July 29-31, a celebration of Native American culture — and the yearly Queens County Fair come Sept. 9-11. Admission is free except for special events; hayrides are $5 per person. Tickets to special events must be purchased online in advance.
INFO 73-50 Little Neck Pkwy.; 718-347-3276, queensfarm.org
ROLL-A-RAMA AT THE RUNWAY RINK
This spot was built from the original TWA terminal building at Kennedy International Airport, families visiting the TWA Hotel at JFK can check out several pop-up historical exhibits, play wall-to-wall Twister in a room dedicated to the classic board game, and dine at one of its eateries. For a unique experience, all can roller skate on an outdoor rink (weather-permitting) repurposed from the hotel’s tarmac, and in the shadow of a 1958 airplane-turned-cocktail lounge. Open weekends (Fridays 4 to 8 p.m., Sat-Sun noon to 8 p.m.), skaters can glide to the sound of retro music until Nov. 1 on a first-come, first-served basis. Skating sessions are 50 minutes each at $20, $16 for children 11 and younger; four-wheeled quad skate rentals are included, but guests may bring their own skates.
INFO 1 Idlewild Dr.; 212-806-9000, twahotel.com
The beach has lifeguards in season and is the city’s only legal surfing beach (surfing takes place between Beach 67-69 and Beach 87-92 streets), and has a boardwalk where walkers, runners and cyclists can wander. There are also several playgrounds and concession stands plus restaurants nearby, and an events calendar with occasional free kid-friendly movie nights. Parking is free on public streets in the area.
INFO Beach 3rd to Beach 153rd sts.; 718-318-4000, nycgovparks.org
FLUSHING MEADOWS CORONA PARK
Most notable as the site of two World Fairs, the park also features trails for hiking and biking, lake views and open spaces. Family-oriented events are also held here, such as free movie nights (upcoming screenings: “Encanto” July 20, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” Aug. 3 and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” Aug. 9).
INFO 111th St. and 49th Ave.; 111th St. and 49th Ave.; 718-760-6565, nycgovparks.org
The Queens outpost of NYC’s iconic Museum of Modern Art, PS1 is focused on contemporary art. The museum also hosts projects and performances intended for attendees of all ages. The 2022 summer programming includes “Life Between Buildings”: an exhibition exploring how artists have turned city spaces like vacant lots, traffic island and even sidewalk cracks into places for art and creativity (through Jan. 16) and “No gods only flowers,” a piece by the Poncili Creación art collective that will use large puppets and live music in a performance take on the process of photosynthesis (July 29 at 7 p.m., July 30 at 4 p.m.). $10, ages 16 and under in free. Timed tickets available online in advance.
INFO 22-25 Jackson Ave.; 718-784-2086, momaps1.org
NY HALL OF SCIENCE
Current exhibits to explore include the “Happiness Experiment” (uses movement, color and sound to teach about emotions) and “Connected Worlds” (shows how ecosystems develop), and visitors can check out the 3D film “Wings Over Water,” which follows the lives of three bird families. The museum’s Rocket Park mini-golf course will also be reopening in July, as will its patio, which features large-scale Lego block building, swirling chairs and picnic space. General admission is $14, $11 for ages 2-17; 3D movies and mini-golf require extra fees.
INFO 47-01 111th St.; 718-699-0005, nysci.org
GANTRY PLAZA STATE PARK
Sitting across the East River from midtown Manhattan, this 12-acre waterside retreat has four piers, a pair of playgrounds, basketball courts and places for picnics. The park also features a variety of free environmental education programs, and anglers of all ages can try for a catch off the park’s fishing pier. Families can expect happenings like bird walks, arts-and-crafts opportunities, puppet shows, free concerts and even Shakespeare in the Park this year.
INFO 4-09 47th Rd.; 718-786-6385, parks.ny.gov
An 18-acre menagerie, animals to be seen includes bison and bears to sea lions and pumas, as well as unusual breeds of domestic animals, like four-horned sheep and giant rabbits; for families who’d like to see the sea lions in action, daily feeding times are at 11:15 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
INFO 53-51 111th St.; 718-271-1500, queenszoo.com
MUSEUM OF MOVING IMAGE
Visiting youngsters and nostalgic parents alike can see “The Jim Henson Exhibition,” a look at how the iconic Muppet master’s career and its impact and among the items to see are several of his famed characters (including Kermit the Frog, Elmo, Big Bird and Miss Piggy), as well as photos, scripts and other pieces representing Henson’s work. The museum is also bringing back its annual “See It Big: 70mm!” summer fest (Aug. 5-Sept. 4), which features films shown in 70 mm format, including Disney's “Sleeping Beauty,” and “Tron” (starting Aug. 26). General admission is $15, $9 ages 3-17; admission is free Thursdays 2 to 6 p.m. Tickets to “See It Big” are an additional $20 and can be purchased in advance.
INFO 36-01 35 Ave.; 718-777-6800, movingimage.us
JAMAICA BAY WILDLIFE REFUGE
A great place to bird watch, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge provides a place to explore ponds, marshes, woods and other natural settings. Run under the auspices of the National Park Service, families can look forward to free educational “Junior Ranger” programs on July 25, Aug. 1, Aug. 15 and Aug. 29 (3:30-4:15 p.m.) and “Ranger’s Choice” programs on select Saturdays and Sundays throughout July and August. All events require advance registration by phone.
INFO 175-10 Cross Bay Blvd.; 718-318-4340, nps.gov
QUEENS NIGHT MARKET
This Saturday night gathering is a food fest that includes merchants vending food and drink native to countries from around the globe, as well as from Queens open 5 p.m. to midnight through Aug. 20. Clothing, accessories and other items will also be available for purchase, and each event will host live entertainment.
INFO Flushing Meadows Corona Park: 47-01 111th St.; queensnightmarket.com