Most tourists come to New York City and spend all of their time in Manhattan, seeing famous sights like the Empire State Building and Times Square. But once you’ve been-there-done-that, I recommend veering off the beaten path with a trip to Brooklyn or Queens. The distinct and eclectic neighborhoods you’ll find are destinations all their own. Plus, from across the river you can take in one of NYC’s most famous attractions: its skyline. Long Island City is the perfect place to do just that.
Once a semi-sketchy area filled with industrial buildings, Long Island City is sprouting high rise, luxury apartment buildings that are quickly filling up with young professionals who want a stunning waterfront view and top notch amenities for a (slightly) more affordable price tag than Manhattan.
LIC is just a hop, skip and a jump over the East River from Manhattan. Take the 7 train one stop from Grand Central to Vernon Blvd-Jackson Av and exit onto 50th Ave to begin your adventure.
Weekend days in New York City should always begin with brunch in my book, and one of my local favorites is Cafè Henri (1010 50th Ave). The cozy + cheerful French-inspired spot boasts one of the best egg benedicts in the hood and is mere steps from the subway station. If you’re feeling up for something boozier, head over to Dominie’s Hoek (48-17 Vernon Blvd), a casual bar in Long Island City with a backyard patio that serves up unlimited mimosas for just $12.
After you’ve finished eating (and/or drinking), burn off all those calories with a brisk walk along the waterfront in Gantry Plaza State Park. Take in what is arguably the best view of Manhattan’s East Side and don’t miss seeing the iconic Pepsi-Cola Sign, a symbol of LIC’s industrial past, up close.
Tired or chilly? Warm up and recharge at Sweetleaf (10-93 Jackson Ave), a cool espresso bar beloved by locals where you can sip freshly brewed Verve or Stumptown coffee and munch on giant chocolate chip cookies. There’s even a “record room” in the back where patrons lounge and play real vinyl records.
Once sufficiently caffeinated, the next stop is the MoMA PS1 (22-25 Jackson Ave), a contemporary experimental art space that offers constantly rotating, always interesting exhibits. Set inside an old school, the MoMA PS1 repurposed classrooms into gallery spaces that showcase works from lesser known contemporary artists. As with all modern art, it can get weird but it always makes for good conversation. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, and free for Long Island City residents.
Continue your exploration of LIC’s art scene around the corner at 5Pointz (Jackson Ave at Crane St), an outdoor exhibit space / graffiti mecca where street artists from around the world have added their own colorful touches to to the walls of a 200,000 sq ft factory building. It’s definitely a don’t-miss sight, but if you don’t go soon you just might miss it: the building is sadly scheduled to be torn down soon to make way for a residential project. [Sad news as of 11.19.2013, 5Pointz is no more. The building was painted over by the owner during the night and all the grafitti is gone. More details here.]
You might be surprised to know that in addition to unique art, Long Island City has a budding comedy scene. The Laughing Devil (47-38 Vernon Blvd) offers $10 shows on weekend nights, and free open mic nights with half priced drinks on Wednesdays. Another option is The Creek & The Cave (10-93 Jackson Ave) a comedy club slash Mexican restaurant. The food is affordable, many shows are free and while the comics might be VERY green, that’s half the fun!
Once you’ve had your fill of laughs and eye rolls, top the evening off with a delicious, expertly-crafted cocktail at the speakeasy-like Dutch Kills (27-24 Jackson Ave).
The word "winery" conjures images of spacious vineyards somewhere far away from the bustling city, perhaps in upstate New York...