A New York native, Isis-Maya spent most of her professional life working in TV production until a vacation whisked her away to Central America. After three months of backpacking and surfing through Nicaragua she fell in love, both with surfing and the traveling lifestyle. Today she resides in Canada with her Nicaraguan puppy.
It’s sad but true that most tourists only ever see Queens on their drive to the airport. However, it would be a shame to end your discovery of New York City without visiting this overlooked borough. Just a short subway ride away from Manhattan is one of the city’s most vibrant and emerging neighbourhoods: Long Island City (LIC). The once barren and industrial neighbourhood has recently transformed into a mecca of art, culture and amazing food.
If you’re ready to see what lies beyond the city that never sleeps, here’s how to have the perfect day in Long Island City, Queens.
A perfect day begins with coffee and there is no better place to get your caffeine on than Sweetleaf. The cafe not only features some damn good coffee, but serves it in a quaint atmosphere where antiques from Paris are side-by-side with records ranging from Metallica to the Clash. Fuel up for a day of adventure with their famous Rocket Fuel drink, a delicious blend of cold brew coffee, chicory, maple and milk. They also have a range of delicious pastries and snacks with gluten-free and vegan options available.
With the glorious nectar of cold brew pumping through your veins, step out of your comfort zone and try your hand climbing at The Cliffs. The space is, simply put, one of the most epic indoor rock climbing facilities you’ll ever see. If you’re a beginner, a simple 1.5-hour intro class will cover everything you need to get started, including harnesses, knots and belays. For the more experienced there are plenty of other classes, clinics and even a full fitness centre to get your adrenaline pumping.
After working up an appetite with all that climbing, refuel and reward yourself with a special treat from Doughnut Plant. Doughnut Plant offers all-natural doughnuts made from high quality ingredients (organic when possible) in unique flavours such as Matcha Green Tea, Chocolate Chip Cookie with pecans, and our favourite: peanut butter and blackberry jam.
Before you get ready to delve into the art world of LIC, relax and unwind with a drink and quick lunch at a local favourite, LIC Market. Featuring a varied menu of local artisanal fare made with the freshest ingredients, you really can’t go wrong with any of their superb sandwiches, soups or salads. Standouts include sublime tomato soup with ricotta and their roasted chicken sandwich. If you’re able to make it to the market by 3:30 though, make sure to take full advantage of their tasty (and affordable) happy hour specials. But, if craft beer is more your scene don’t fret. Our local Urban Adventures guides can take you on a NYC Brewery Tour, which ends at the neighbourhood fave Rockaway Brewing Company, where all beer is served with a side of reggae and surfer vibes.
Although you could easily spend your time simply eating and drinking your way through LIC, their world-class art should not be missed. In fact, LIC has among the highest concentration of art galleries, art institutions and studio space of any neighbourhood in New York City. Soak in some contemporary art (and prepare for some epic Instagram posts) at the famed offshoot of MoMA, MoMA PS1. Although related in name, MoMA PS1 differs in that it is an exhibition space, featuring some of the most experimental, edgy art in the world. Previous exhibits have included the works of such influential conceptual artists as Dennis Oppenheim, Judy Rifka and Peter Young. If you’re visiting during the summer, check out their special events, including the Warm Up series. This outdoor music fest is a great place to scope out some up-and-coming talent so keep your eyes peeled. Past series alum have included Cardi B, Solange and Jamie XX.
Socrates Sculpture Park
With daylight waning, take a romantic stroll through the Socrates Sculpture Park, which is open 365 days a year from 9am to sundown. This beautiful outdoor museum (and public park) features an ever rotating array of sculptures and multimedia installations, not to mention a killer view of the NYC skyline.
After a day of adventures in Queens, nothing quite compares to the simple pleasure of slurping down a bowl of piping hot ramen. Treat yourself to an unforgettable dinner at Mu Ramen, heralded as the best ramen in New York City. All of their ramen is fantastic, with standouts including their otherworldly tonkotsu broth and signature ‘Mu Ramen’ soup. Don’t skimp on the appetisers either. The U&I (uni and ikura) as well as the okonomiyaki scallion pancake are all dripping with flavour and worth a try. Tip: Mu Ramen doesn’t accept reservations, so plan accordingly.
Full of comforting carb goodness, roll yourself onto the 7 train and take a minute to reflect on all that LIC has to offer. More than just a suburb of Manhattan or a desolate industrial site, this thriving neighbourhood has learned how to buck all of its previous incarnations. From delicious food to inventive beers, beautiful parks and a buzzing contemporary art scene, LIC has truly reinvented itself.