Don’t be fooled by the name – Long Island City isn’t actually in Long Island. It’s actually a city in Queens, and it’s located just across the East River from Manhattan, which is why it’s such a desirable neighborhood for young families and young professionals looking for an easy commute into Manhattan without having to pay an arm and a leg for a tiny apartment. When a recent business trip brought me to Manhattan, I ended up with an extra 24 hours to kill, so I decided to hop across the river to Queens and explore an area I had never been – Long Island City.
To make my quick 24-hour adventure in Long Island City a reality, I had to find a place to stay for that night. Fortunately, I was able to book a great last-minute Long Island City hotel in minutes thanks to HotelTonight. So with my hotel room waiting for me across the river, I packed up my bags and headed to Queens.
I wanted to start my day in Long Island City with a view of Manhattan’s iconic skyline, so I headed to Hunter’s Point South Park. This waterfront park has recently been revamped into an attractive, open outdoor space that boasts a bikeway, a playground, a basketball court, a dog run and plenty of green space. Naturally, this park is a hotspot for locals, as it’s a great open space for exercising, relaxing and briefly escaping the hustle and bustle of city life.
Vernon Boulevard feels like the Main Street of Long Island City, with its historic brick and clapboard buildings and its small boutiques and family-run shops. This street is lined with great stores and neighborhood mainstays that locals love, and there’s certainly a sense of pride here in Long Island City that you don’t feel in Manhattan. As I ate lunch at one of the quaint cafes on Vernon Boulevard, I was told by a local that residents of Long Island City try to avoid going into Manhattan if they don’t have to – they love their own waterfront city much more than the busy, crowded borough of Manhattan.
Chances are, you’ve seen the Queensboro Bridge before – if not in person, then certainly in photos or in movies. This iconic bridge connects Queens to Manhattan, and it also provides a great pedestrian walkway that both locals and visitors love for its sweeping views of the East River, Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Long Island City. After lunch on Vernon Boulevard, I made my way to the Queensboro Bridge so that I could see what it was like for locals to commute into Manhattan by foot. The walk was fairly easy and picturesque, but also a bit blustery. Even though I had just spent nearly a week in Manhattan, I crossed the bridge and arrived in the Upper East Side, because I had a big item I wanted to cross off my to-do list: Roosevelt Island.
Roosevelt Island is located in the middle of the East River, right in between Manhattan and Queens. There are several ways to get to Roosevelt Island, but I chose to travel to the island by tram. The Roosevelt Island Tram station is in the Upper East Side, and it’s a quick 5-minute tram ride to this small island. I didn’t know exactly what to expect of this island, but I was certainly glad I visited. Roosevelt Island is calm and free of the pushy crowds of Manhattan, and it almost feels like a forgotten neighborhood of New York. Because it’s not swarmed with crowds, it feels peaceful, and the island offers plenty of great open spaces to explore, which is a rare thing to find in a city like New York.
If there’s one thing you can’t miss during your stay in Queens, it’s Gantry Plaza State Park. This waterfront park provides one of the most breathtaking, expansive views of Manhattan’s skyline you’ll ever see, and it’s especially beautiful after dark, when all of the city lights sparkle on the horizon. I took a long, leisurely stroll through Gantry Plaza State Park and spent every minute admiring the city views, which I felt was the perfect way to end my stay in New York.
When most people visit New York, they tend to stay in Manhattan or even Brooklyn, while poor Queens is often overlooked. Queens, however, has a flavor and excitement of its own, and I quickly fell in love with Long Island City, which offers a much different vibe than Manhattan. I was glad I was able to spend even 24 hours in Long Island City, and I’m grateful that HotelTonight made it so easy for me to plan my last-minute mini Queens adventure.