It’s good to be the king. All the world lies before your gaze, waiting to be discovered. You entertain visitors from far-away lands. Someone is ready with refreshments whenever you desire. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Then we suggest on your next trip to New York, you stop in Queens, home to an area little-known to tourists called Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
Corona Park is staring New York visitors in the face every time they visit, yet most don’t even know it. Ever been to Shea Stadium or to the National Tennis Center for the U.S. Open? Corona Park is literally across the street. Caught a flight at LaGuardia Airport? Those crazy looking towers you saw on the highway are part of Corona Park.
Yet this little known attraction is jam-packed with enough crazy monuments, open green space and hidden Summer fun to ensure the royal treatment for just about any visitor. This is an area, after all, that’s been home to two World’s Fairs: one in 1939-40 and another in 1964-65. Did we also mention it was the temporary home for the United Nations from 1946 to 1950? AND it has two museums and its own zoo? To top it all off, Corona Park is increasingly an area that’s home to a diverse patchwork of immigrant communities, each showcasing its own unique culinary pride – who could forget to mention the self-proclaimed “King” of Lemon Ice?
Have you ever wanted to feel like king for the day? This week is your chance. Come along as Undiscovered New York takes you inside the amazing ruins, interesting museums and lush greenery of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
New York State Pavillion and Unisphere
Two giant landmarks dominate visitors’ view of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park: the New York Pavillion and The Unisphere, both remnants of the 1964-65 World’s Fair. It was one of the largest World Fairs ever organized, boasting an early version of Disney’s famous “It’s a Small World” ride, a showcase of Michelangelo’s Pieta on loan from Italy, and a life-sized robotic Abraham Lincoln among its exhibits.
Though the exhibits have long since packed up and been moved back to Italy and Orlando, you can still get a sense of the site’s greatness and scale. The giant Unisphere rises 140 above the park, still a popular meeting place for park explorers and local skateboarders. Looming nearby is the ominous New York State Pavillion. The modernist structure was designed as a showpiece of local culture, including a huge mosaic map of the state of New York, three observation towers and a theater called “The Circarama,” showing a 360 degree film. Today the entire structure sits decayed and rusting, a lonely ghost of a future that never came to pass. Haunting and beautiful.
Museums, Zoos and Halls of Science
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park isn’t just a place to dig up the glories of the past. It’s also the site of some great Queens-based culture. Onsite at the park are great local institutions like the Queens Museum of Art. The museum, which was the temporary home of the United Nations from 1946-50, houses works of art by Salvador Dali as well as an amazing Panorama of the City of New York composed of over 890,000 scale-size buildings.
If you have any kids, make sure to stop by the New York Hall of Science. In addition to two huge rockets donated by the U.S. Space program, the museum contains around 400 hands on exhibits focusing on physics, chemistry and biology. After all that if you’re still looking for things to do, check out the Queens Zoo featuring a collection of animals native to North America and a geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller.
The Lemon Ice King of Corona
Word has spread far and wide of Queens’ reputation for delicious, unique food. In addition to an amazing selection of delicacies from across South America, Corona Park also boasts an establishment better known as the Lemon Ice King of Corona. The famed Benfaremo Family, who started their local business more than 60 years ago, churns out the most refreshing Italian Ices this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Each paper cup is scooped full of one of the Lemon Ice King’s 30 plus flavors, each made with real pieces of fruit. It’s a refreshing treat to finish any hot summer day, one that is best enjoyed on a bench in the nearby park watching old gentlemen hurl Bocce on the local court. It’s exactly the kind of unique New York experience you’ll find in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park – a wealth of options fit for a king.