Long Island City; Unmissable Experiences (Queens NYC)

Long Island City (LIC), a part of New York City’s borough of Queens, is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be explored. The neighborhood is much more than its famed views of the Manhattan skyline; it’s a cultural hotbed teeming with green spaces, contemporary art, and unparalleled cityscapes. Here’s your ultimate guide to the must-see spots when you visit Long Island City.

In the 1970s Long Island City, a manufacturing hub descended into drugs and prostitution. It wasn’t until the opening of the 42-story Citylights Building in 1996 (when a one-bedroom condo could be had for $16,000) that this beleaguered section of New York City began to turn around.

Pepsi Cola Sign on East River, Long Island City

Now, the borough of Queens is experiencing a renaissance. Long Island City – one subway stop across the East River from Midtown Manhattan – is leading the way.

Not only are the views of NYC’s famous skyline second to none, but the area has once again become a center for moviemaking, television production, and the arts.

Long Island City Luxury High Rises

As with any emerging area worth its visitors, there are excellent restaurants and growing number of hotels. Come to Long Island City, Queens, to stay and play.

Where Is Long Island City

Long Island City, often abbreviated as LIC, is a neighborhood located in the borough of Queens in New York City. Situated on the western edge of Queens, it faces Manhattan across the East River. Long Island City is a vibrant area that has undergone significant redevelopment in recent years, transforming from an industrial landscape into a hub for arts, technology, and modern living.

Well-connected by public transit, including multiple subway lines and ferry service, the neighborhood is just minutes away from Midtown Manhattan. LIC is known for its eclectic mix of old and new architecture, waterfront parks, and a thriving cultural scene that includes museums like MoMA PS1 and a variety of art galleries.

Things to Do in Long Island City

Theater, Museum of Moving Image, Astoria, NY

GO: Museum of The Moving Image, Astoria

On my latest visit to MOTMI, I had to literally tiptoe around the galleries. IBM was shooting an ad, featuring author Stephen King, throughout the various halls and theaters. And so, to quote a certain cartoon character, I had to be vewwy, vewwy quiet. Apparently, this kind of thing goes on quite often at the world’s top museum devoted to the moving picture industry.

Movie Cameras Timeline, MOTMI, Queens NY

The Museum of the Moving Image, renovated and expanded in 2011, is not only a repository of everything to do with movie-making –  its history, representations, and interactive exhibits –  it’s an in-the-now movie set harking back to Astoria’s past.

Astoria, Queens has been home to filmmaking since technology imbued a series of still photographs with the illusion of movement. The museum’s history is tied to the next-door Astoria Studios, which opened in 1920 and became Paramount Picture’s East Coast facility.

The Marx Brothers W.C. Fields, and Valentino starred in movies that were filmed here before Paramount moved completely to Los Angeles in 1933.

Silvercup Studios Long Island City

In the ‘40s, The U.S. Army used the studios to make instructional films, but moved out in the mid-1970s, leaving 13 buildings in a decrepit state. The Motion Picture Guild expressed interest in bringing the movie biz back to Queens.

Astoria Studios Reborn

Taking up the charge in the early 1980s, developer George Kaufman bought and refurbished the studios, naming it Kaufman-Astoria Studios. Orange is the New Black, Sesame St., the Borne movies, and dozens of other shows were produced here.

DIY Animation, Museum of the Moving Image, NY

You’ll want to spend the better part of a day exploring multiple galleries and theaters, which, in addition to spectacular interactive exhibits, offer a range of programming.

These include the introduction of Indie films (500 screenings/year from classic to experimental), Major Motion Picture previews featuring Q&A’s with star actors and directors, and discussions covering all aspects of the movie industry, in a brand new 267-seat theater.

Video Games, Museum of the Moving Image, Long Island City NY

Discover artifacts and information from the birth of moving pictures to the advent of the internet. One well-trafficked exhibit focused on the popularity of Cat Videos, Though the delivery devices have changed over the years, the process of creating moving images has not.

Galleries and Interactive Exhibits at MOTMI

Sports Real Time Editing, Museum of Moving Image, NY

File through a series of galleries, starting with The Hall of Cameras through the ages. See costumes, licensing merchandise from the ‘20’s, first video games, and celebrity “life masks.” These were done to create life-like prosthetics, employed for special effect.

But the most popular areas of the museum are interactive. You can appear in your own flip book.

Make a short stop-motion animation video which you can then email to yourself. Rehearse and then dub over and record dialog from a classic movie.  And insert your own sound effects into dramatic scenes – the sillier the better.

Tut's Theater, Museum of Moving Image, Queens NY

Along the way, you’ll learn about the complex editing involved in a typical sporting event.  Director Bill Webb uses a “Mets Vs. Padres” game as an example to show how he puts together a game in real-time from 14 feed.

You’ll also learn how some of the more befuddling special effects are accomplished.  For example, Natalie Portman’s neck expanded via a hydraulic pump and rubberized prosthetic “life mask,” in Black Swan.

End your visit in the old-fashioned arcade where you can play games of Pong, Packman, and Space Invaders on original machines.

Noguchi Museum, Long Island City NY

VISIT: Noguchi Museum – Astoria

Sculptor/designer Isamu Noguchi moved to Queens in 1961 due to the accessibility of professional stonecutters. He eyed an abandoned photo engraving plant, junkyard and gas station across the street from his studio as a potential location to showcase his designs to patrons.

In 1974, Noguchi purchased the buildings and renovated them into a zen-like series of galleries. In 1985, these galleries were turned into a museum of his work.

Noguchi Sculptures, Long Island City NY

Noguchi was born in Los Angeles in 1904 to an unmarried Irish mother and Japanese father. Curious about his Japanese heritage, he visited Japan and was transfixed by the traditional lanterns produced in his Father’s hometown of Gifu.

In the 1950’s he riffed on these lanterns, producing the “Akari Light Sculptures,” which to this day, along with his iconic tables and couches, remain his most popular designs.

Noguchi Museum Gallery, Long Island City NY

Until his death in 1988, Noguchi was an experimental and prolific artist, working in stone, ceramic, wood, metal and large-scale landscapes. The courtyard garden, featuring Japanese flora (Cherry Blossom Trees) mixed with American plantings (Birch and Magnolia trees), is the museum’s most beloved space.

Noguchi fashioned set pieces for Martha Graham and Eric Hawkins Dance Companies, built public playground equipment, and created furniture through Herman Miller and Knoll. You’ll find all of these works here, as well as architectural models and drawings.

The museum, consisting of ten indoor galleries on two floors, and the acclaimed outdoor sculpture garden, has been renovated several times since 2004. Fortunately, designers overseeing each renovation kept the integrity of the building and Noguchi’s original intent in mind.

Noguchi Museum Shop, Long Island City NY

The Gift Shop is chock full of Noguchi designs, from lanterns to the iconic paisley-shaped coffee table ($1,250 by Herman Miller).

As part of his estate (Noguchi had no children and never married), sales of his designs, still in production, help support this museum.

PS1 MoMa, Long Island City NY


Set inside an 1890’s school building, this contemporary art museum is The Museum of Modern Art, Manhattan’s much edgier sister. Three floors of thought-provoking and experimental exhibits, videos, and other installations will keep you busy (and sometimes scratching your head) for a couple of hours.

Plan to have a beer or a bite to eat in the Café set up like a classroom with desks facing the open kitchen.

Sculpture Center, Long Island City NY

VISIT: Sculpture Center

Founded in 1928, Sculpture Center is the only contemporary art museum in New York City dedicated to sculpture, though it embraces other forms of related art as well.

Moving over the years from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side and finally to this former 1908 trolley repair shop (still featuring tracks and pulleys in a soaring ceiling) in 2001, Sculpture Center houses dynamic works from emerging and underrepresented artists.

Interior, Sculpture Center, Long Island City NY

The space was renovated to the specs of designer, Maya Lin in 2002. It’s expansion and renovation by Andrew Berman Architects in 2014 retained the integrity of the trolley workshop while creating a stunning environment for contemporary artists to best show their creations.

Sculpture Center Long Island City

Themed shows change every four months, integrating video installations and live performances around innovative works of art. $5, Thus-Mon 11am-6pm.

Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City NY

WALK: Socrates Sculpture Park (one block from the Noguchi Museum) Long Island City

Next door to Costco on Vernon Blvd. in Long Island City, this small urban park fronts the East River. It’s a favorite with dog walkers and art aficionados who prefer their river views backed by Manhattan skyline. It is also the only public area in the city committed to providing large-scale artists a chance to showcase their work. Open 10am to dusk daily, free.

Hudson River Ferry, Long Island City NY

DO: East River Ferry from Hunters Point Park, Long Island City 

Take the New York Water Taxi to Manhattan, or just go along for the ride.  Afterward, stroll the Park’s East River Esplanade.

Long Island City Restaurants

Sweetleaf Coffeehouse, Long Island City NY

COFFEE: Sweetleaf

An early pioneer of “hipster” LIC, Sweetleaf coffeehouse was the brainchild of two heavy metal rockers about 15 years ago.

Though other outposts have opened, be sure to visit the original Sweetleaf on Jackson Ave. It’s got cool antique counters, pressed tin walls and ceiling, and distressed seating. The baked goods are so incredibly decadent, lines form out the door every morning.

EAT: Café Henri

Sister of local Michelin-starred, Casa Enrique, this tiny French spot puts one in mind of a classic Left Bank café. The rosemary-herbed Croque Monsieur is a lovely fragrant twist on the traditional.

Long Island City Hotels

STAY: The Boro Hotel

For travelers seeking a blend of industrial chic and modern comfort, the Boro Hotel in Long Island City is an ideal choice. The hotel offers striking views of the Manhattan skyline, easily one of its selling points. The minimalist design of its rooms is elegantly offset by touches of wood and exposed concrete, offering a cozy yet contemporary ambiance.

With its convenient location—just a short subway ride from Manhattan—the Boro Hotel serves as a fantastic base for exploring both Long Island City and the iconic sights of the Big Apple. Adding to its allure are the in-house restaurant and rooftop bar, where you can savor quality cuisine and cocktails while soaking in panoramic views of New York City.

More New York City Getaways:

All articles belong to Getaway Mavens LLC, and all photos belong to us as well, unless otherwise noted. It’s all copyrighted. Please don’t repost anything elsewhere without asking us first. All rights reserved. This site uses cookies to enhance your experience.

We make no guarantees of any price listed on our site. We’re not responsible for content on external websites linked to ours, including linked resources, an external blog post, any partner site, hotel property sites, or affiliate sites. We only write about places we have vetted, but can’t guarantee that your experience will be exactly the same.

Posts may contain affiliate links at no cost to you. Several of our trips are also compensated by the respective tourism boards for the city or state we are visiting. This never impacts how we share the destination with you – opinions are always our own and we pride ourselves on that. We do not sell links or accept unsolicited guest posts under any circumstances. Don’t even ask.

United States Copyright, Getaway Mavens, LLC


  • Malerie Yolen-Cohen

    Malerie Yolen-Cohen is the Author of the cross-country travel guide, Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3562 Miles of Transcontinental Route 6. She contributes frequently to Newsday, with credits in National Geographic Traveler, Ladies Home Journal, Yankee Magazine, Shape.com, Sierra Magazine, Porthole, Paddler, New England Boating, Huffington Post, and dozens of other publications. Malerie’s focus and specialty is Northeastern US, and she is constantly amazed by the caliber of restaurants and lodging in the unlikeliest places.

5 thoughts on “Long Island City; Unmissable Experiences (Queens NYC)”

  1. Very true, Blav. In the 1600’s it was part of what we now know of as Long Island. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. Hi Carlos – yes, if you want to get technical, both Queens and Brooklyn are on what we know as Long Island. But for the purpose of travelers coming from other states and countries, most guidebooks refer to Suffolk and Nassau Counties as “Long Island” with Queens and Brooklyn as separate entities. I live in the area, with a great many maps, and look at them all 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting – Malerie

  3. Got it and made the change. Thanks for pointing that out (though when I was there, Vernon appeared very close!). Malerie

Comments are closed.