15 Best Things to Do in Long Island City

Long Island City
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While it’s still technically a city, today’s Long Island City is a posh neighborhood in New York City’s borough of Queens.

Many people live there, and the place also attracts lots of tourists because of its commercial spots and tourist destinations.

Long Island City became an official city in 1870, where the seat of government of the town of Newtown worked.

It stayed that way for nearly thirty years before the city became part of the Greater City of New York in 1898.

Flash-forward to the 21st century, and you’ll see that Long Island City has become the center of rapid growth and economic development.

Visit the neighborhood to find a rich and humming hive of artistic and cultural activity.

For example, you’ll see various art galleries there, plus art institutions and studio spaces.

The waterfront parks also provide a chill respite from exploring the big city.

Who said you couldn’t relax in the big city?

In New York City, no less?

Do you want to know more about Long Island City, NYC?

Here’s a list of the best things to do in town:

Spend the Day at Gantry Plaza State Park

Sunset behind gantry plaza bridge.
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An oasis in the heart of the skyscrapers, the 12-acre Gantry Plaza State Park provides an afternoon’s relaxation and spectacular views of the riverside for the curious tourist.

Bring out your camera and snap some shots of the iconic Manhattan skyline, sweeping across the Empire State Building and the United Nations headquarters.

During your visit, you can take a stroll along the piers and gaze at the river.

Colorful flowers at gantry plaza.
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Likewise, you can admire the manicured gardens and the mist fountain.

Don’t forget to take photos of the restored gantries, the crown jewels of the park, and its namesake.

These gantries helped dockworkers unload and load rail car floats and barges.

Today, they symbolize the industrial progress of the United States.

Skyscrapers view from the gantry plaza.
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Admire the Historic Long Island City Courthouse

Exterior view of the long island courthouse.
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Between 1872 and 1876, the Long Island City government built the courthouse, whose construction encountered its fair share of delays, controversies, and budget issues.

However, the French Second Empire-style building became one of Queens’ most important buildings.

George Hathorne designed the courthouse, coming off the heels of designing the largest building on the Amherst College campus, Walker Hall.

In 1904, a fire nearly razed the building, and the prominent Long Island City architect, Peter M. Coco, got tasked to redesign it.

Front exterior view of the courthouse and a fountain.
Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com

He transformed the building dramatically, turning it into the neoclassical structure we know today.

The Long Island City Courthouse has also entered the public's imagination through the sensational trials, including the trial of notorious bank robber Willie Sutton.

When they asked him, “Why do you rob banks?”

Sutton answered, “Because that’s where the money is.”

Likewise, the courthouse also appeared in Cecil B. DeMille’s classic Manslaughter and Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man.

Check Out Masterpieces of Modern Art at the MoMA PS1

Exterior view of the MoMA PS1 building with colorful wires on the street in front of it.
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Inside a brick building on a corner in Long Island City sits the Museum of Modern Art PS1, one of the biggest art galleries in the country devoted only to contemporary art.

There’s no better place to go if you want to check out the next steps in modern art.

Expand your mind and broaden your horizons with the avant-garde and experimental works displayed inside.

Likewise, you might think that the museum building is a work of art in its own right.

MoMA PS1 concrete wall with entrance.
Massimo Salesi / Shutterstock.com

Why?

Did you know that the museum was once a public school?

It transformed into a venue for thought-provoking art installations, experimental video, and inscrutable performance art.

In 1997, the PS1 opened its galleries after linking up with the MoMA and receiving an 80,000-square-foot expansion.

It became known as the MoMA PS1 in 2010.

Concrete wall with the name MoMA PS1.
Osugi / Shutterstock.com

Marvel at the Figures in the SculptureCenter

Exterior of the red colored sculpturecenter building.
Michael Moran, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1928, the SculptureCenter went by the name of The Clay Club, standing just across the street from the Brooklyn Children’s Museum.

The sculptor Dorothea Henrietta Denslow founded the club, which she used as a studio and shared with local children and other artists.

SculptureCenter moved to 8 West Fourth Street in the West Village four years later.

After nearly twenty years, the center moved to a carriage house located at 167 East 69th Street on the Upper East Side.

It also opened a school for artists, teaching clay modeling, stone carving, wax modeling, wood carving, welding, figure painting, and portraiture.

The school and studio closed in 2001.

It took thirteen years to renovate and expand the SculptureCenter.

Today, its exhibition space spans 6,700 square feet.

It has also hosted noted artists, such as Turner Prize winner Charlotte Prodger, Sanford Biggers, and the Hugo Boss Prize winners Anicka Yi and Simone Leigh.

Gaze at the Manhattan Skyline at Hunter’s Point South Park

Hunter's point view of a river and buildings.
quietbits / Shutterstock.com

If you want to fill your camera roll with panoramic shots of the Manhattan skyline, visit Hunter’s Point South Park.

It’s the park’s main attraction, after all.

However, if you still need something to do after that, you can walk around the park and see what catches your eye.

People playing at the hunter's point grounds.
Mr.Emre.B / Shutterstock.com

Bring your kids to the kids’ playground or your dog to the dog run.

You can also bring friends to play sand volleyball.

Otherwise, you can just pick any benches or chairs and relax with a book or a sandwich.

A shed at hunter's point.
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See Offbeat Art at the Flux Factory

A man explaining the art of flux factory.
Arts Practicum, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Inside a disused greeting card factory in Long Island City sits this enclave of outsider artists called Flux Factory.

This artist-run collective designs all its activities according to its goal of being a lab for artistic experimentation.

Over the years, they’ve held unique activities, lectures, performance art, and annual group shows.

They also invite artists for residency programs.

They also organized offbeat events like the “Long Walks on the Beach,” where they gathered a group of strangers to meet up for a stroll along the Rockaway Beach.

Likewise, they started the “Seaworthy” series, where they asked artists to build boats for the New York waterways.

They also had artists lead bus tours for the event called “Going Places (Doing Stuff).”

If you want to experience art outside the gallery setting, go to the Flux Factory and join their shenanigans.

Visit the Green Side of NYC at the Queensbridge Park

Fall colored trees at queensbridge park.
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If you’re a fan of Simon and Garfunkel, you might have heard their hit song Feelin’ Groovy.

If you have, you’ll recognize the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, which they featured in the song.

This same bridge also lends its name to the nearby Queensbridge Park.

In 1939, New York City bought the land that would make up Queensbridge Park.

Benches around the queensbridge park.
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They bought it in two sections.

Today, the park features several amenities for guests.

For example, you can play baseball, soccer/football, basketball, volleyball, and handball there.

Your kids will also have a blast running around the playground with its swings and jungle gyms.

Wooden benches with the river view.
James Andrews1 / Shutterstock.com

Take a Groupfie below the Pepsi-Cola Sign

Far view of the pepsi-cola sign.
John Penney / Shutterstock.com

This rebuilt Pepsi-Cola sign is one of the popular landmarks in Long Island City.

You can find the sign at Gantry Plaza State Park, which reminds people of the neighborhood’s industrial past.

In 1940, the General Outdoor Advertising Company built the sign for PepsiCo, holding the honor of being the longest electric sign in New York State.

Near view of the pepsi-cola sign.
Oliver Foerstner / Shutterstock.com

Its original form had a 50-foot rendition of a Pepsi bottle, but it got replaced in the 1970s.

In 1993, the Artkraft Strauss Sign Corporation rebuilt the remaining lettering of Pepsi-Cola.

However, the Pepsi facility in Long Island City closed down in 2003, prompting the relocation of the sign to Gantry Plaza.

In 2016, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission named the Pepsi-Cola sign a city landmark.

They had begun talks about the matter in 1988.

Night view of the pepsi-cola sign.
Felix Lipov / Shutterstock.com

The things we consider art also exist outside the art galleries and museums, grouped under the label “outsider art.”

These are the pieces you usually don’t see inside a posh swanky gallery or museum.

Likewise, these pieces prove that you don’t really need to study art at university to become an artist.

In 2017, the American Folk Art Museum recognized the value of outsider art to American culture by opening the Self-Taught Genius Gallery.

This gallery showcases 8,000 artworks from truly singular self-taught artists spanning 300 or so years.

During your visit, you’ll find more than 50 artworks by self-taught artists.

These works include Anna Mary Robertson “Grandma” Moses’ “Dividing of the Ways” (1947), and the iconic Quaker artist Edward Hicks’ “The Peaceable Kingdom” (1845).

Start Living Healthier with Brooklyn Grange

Aerial view of the brooklyn grange rooftop crops.
TaniaGustave, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that the largest rooftop farm in the world is in Long Island City?

That’s right.

It’s the Brooklyn Grange rooftop farm, a global leader in the rooftop farming industry founded in 2010.

Who says you can’t lead a sustainable lifestyle in the middle of the sprawling metropolis?

Brooklyn Grange grows fresh produce on their rooftop farms, whose total land area spans 5.6 acres.

Closer view of the rooftop of brooklyn grange.
Joe David, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

They also cultivate a 135,000-square-foot area that annually produces more than 10,000 pounds of organic produce.

After harvest, Brooklyn Grange ferries their vegetables to market, where they sell them through retailers or their CSA program.

Brooklyn Grange also sends 30% of its inventory to people with limited means and free through collaborations with community organizations.

Get Physical at The Cliffs at LIC

Who says you can’t get physical in the modern metropolis?

In Long Island City, the Cliffs debunk that idea through their passion for climbing as a community experience.

They offer the best indoor climbing experience in Long Island City.

If you’re tired of living in the grind, you can let off some steam by facing the challenge of their climbing walls and routes.

Likewise, the Cliffs also do their part in making the neighborhood a better place.

They have established initiatives to promote diversity, inclusion, and equality so more people can join their climbing community.

It’s not just a place to work out, but it’s also a place to make new lifelong friends.

See an Artist’s Life-Work at the Noguchi Museum

The genre-defying Japanese artist Isamu Noguchi capped off a legendary career with the 1985 founding of the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, now simply the Noguchi Museum.

What makes this museum stand out among the crowd of galleries in Long Island City?

While he was still alive, Noguchi designed and built the museum to showcase his own work.

White lanterns inside the noguchi museum.
Torstenkunz-Germany, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This act made the museum the first of its kind in the United States.

In 1988, Noguchi passed away, leaving this singular legacy behind.

Besides Noguchi’s works, you’ll also find his archives, catalog raisonnê, and his possessions.

Try Craft Beer at the Rockaway Brewing Company

After visiting all the parks and galleries in Long Island City, cool off with a glass of ice-cold craft beer at the Rockaway Brewing Company.

Their beers are unique because Ethan and Marcus themselves brew their beers by hand in their Long Island City brewery.

Before the brewery, they brewed beers at home in Far Rockaway to have something to drink after surfing.

Today, you can try their handcraft beers all over Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan retailers.

You can also visit their brewhouse for a glass or a growler.

Likewise, you can tour the brewhouse while jamming to reggae.

Check Out Public Art at the Socrates Sculpture Park

Three men sitting on a bench near the river.
Massimo Salesi / Shutterstock.com

The visionary sculptor Mark di Suvero had the brilliant idea of creating a space for the Long Island City community to display and admire their artwork.

In 1986, this idea became the Socrates Sculpture Park, an area for the community to produce and display public artworks.

In 1998, the New York City government named the Socrates Sculpture Park a public park, protecting the property for generations.

A big goat head sculpture.
MDLR Media / Shutterstock.com

It has also become a cultural beacon in Queens.

You can see various pieces of public art displayed there regularly.

Likewise, the park programs its exhibits to attract diverse audiences and interact with the five-acre waterfront property.

The park also stays open before, during, and after the exhibition’s installation.

What does this mean?

Guests can observe the entire process of creating art ad get a glimpse into the actual work producing art entails.

Women admiring a piece of art.
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Bring Your Kids to Court 16

You might not know this, but tennis can be highly demanding.

You run around the court for an hour or more, using every muscle in your body.

This level of activity means tennis can help people achieve physical fitness.

So, if you want your kids to start thinking about their health, bring them to Court 16.

This Long Island City Court wants to promote tennis to kids by establishing a new way for kids to play.

They accept kids from all backgrounds and of all physical abilities.

Your kids will learn to play tennis in a safe space made especially for them.

Besides inclusion, what makes Court 16 unique?

For one, this court is the first tennis court in the world to use LED-lighted courts that are also fully customizable.

Everybody can play in these courts; you simply have to adapt them to the players.

Final Thoughts

Long Island City offers a sophisticated tourist experience for everyone who visits the neighborhood.

Likewise, the place fits the itinerary of people who want to immerse themselves in arts and culture.

After going to the museum, you can also knock back a few beers with friends.

What’s not to like?

Book your Long Island City trip today!