*By Jessie Festa. A big thanks to Hostelworld for sponsoring my stay. Note that this post contains affiliate links to trusted partners I think you’ll love!
Looking for the best things to do in Long Island City, Queens?
Then you’re in the right place!
As a native New Yorker who is obsessed with my home city, I try to explore new local places as much as possible.
Which is why when Hostelworld invited me to stay at one of their Long Island City (Queens) properties, the artsy Q4 Hotel, I jumped at the chance.
I’d only been to the Queens hood a handful of times, and the stay offered me the opportunity to make local discoveries from a hip home base full of fun yet non-touristy things to do in New York City.
I share these in the below travel guide — as well as fun things to do in Long Island City that I’ve discovered since my stay (because, yes, I enjoyed it so much I’ve gone back numerous times).
😍 Long Island City Top Picks:
Short on time? Some of my top recommendations for Long Island City NYC include:
🏨 Accommodation: Click here for a full list of Long Island City hostels & hotels. The map will allow you to easily compare your different options based on price and location.
📸 Long Island City Photoshoot: Want beautiful photos taken of you in scenic New York spots like Long Island City? Book a private NYC photo tour or opt for a styled, custom shoot that tells your unique story through an NYC Influencer Shoot or Professional New York City Shoot. Email [email protected] with inquiries.
💸 Save Money: Save money while exploring top attractions in Long Island City and the rest of NYC with a New York CityPASS or a New York Explorer Pass.
☔ Safety: While Long Island City is safe, it’s still smart to pack travel safety essentials. One top pick is the She’s Birdie Personal Safety Alarm, which is TSA-approved and can help scare away potential attackers. Other recommendations include Clever Travel Companion Pickpocket-Proof Garments and Speakeasy Travel Supply Hidden Pocket Scarves.
Explore Long Island City & Beyond [Free NYC Guide]
But first, before we dive into our list of Long Island City attractions, I invite you to grab a copy of my NYC Top Picks From A Local Guide. The printable PDF guide takes you beyond the popular attractions to uncover a more local and lesser-known side of the city.
- Where to get creative java drinks and delicious dishes from unique NYC restaurants
- How to discover opportunities for exploring nature in New York City
- Ways to get off-the-beaten-track to discover a side of the city many tourists miss
What Is The Difference Between Long Island And Long Island City?
Despite the name, Long Island City is Queens’ largest neighborhood, though was historically part of Long Island, which, by the way, offers some of the best places to hike in New York.
Anyway, Long Island City was also its own city until it became a part of New York City in 1898.
Today its borders are the East River on the west, Newtown Creek on the south, 36th Avenue on the North, and Van Dam Street on the East.
That being said, like all NYC neighborhoods there are blurs to the borders, especially as neighborhoods like Astoria, Sunnyside, and Hunters Point are debatably sub-neighborhoods of Long Island City.
According to Queens West Villager, when the Dutch came to Long Island City in the 1630s the area was used for farming due to the healthy soil.
Eventually, it became an industrial area and then a haven for people wishing to escape the bustle of Manhattan, but still wanting access to what it has to offer.
In my opinion, Long Island City still offers this today, though it is also rapidly growing in its own right.
First of all, wherever you are in Long Island City you almost always have a prime view of the Empire State Building, best seen from the waterfront with its stunning skyline views. If you’re wondering why NYC is so popular, these views will quickly answer that question.
There’s easy subway access to Manhattan, or you can walk over the Queensboro Bridge to arrive between 59th and 60th streets in Manhattan.
The place is also undergoing a massive rezoning, with former factories and warehouses being turned into living spaces.
This means it can be tricky to simply wander without a plan, though not impossible. To help, I’ve mapped out most of the suggestions below so you have an idea of where to go before you set out.
You’ll find the map in the Things To Do In Long Island City section.
Where To Stay In Long Island City: Q4 Hotel
Despite being in my 30s, I do still stay in hostels.
The trick to hosteling as you get older: get a private room.
Many hostels offer them today, and you’ll be able to partake in the budget prices and social activities that make hostels so awesome while retaining your privacy.
With this in mind, the Q4 Hotel, which is also a hostel, was a great place to stay. I actually brought my husband Andy along for the fun, and we loved having this hostel as our base.
It’s located in Queens Plaza, near a ton of Long Island City attractions and experiences (listed below) as well as subways for accessing other parts of NYC.
They offer a mix of 2-to-8-person dorms as well as private rooms with en suite bathrooms.
We loved the hostel’s funky art theme — there are a lot of Keith Haring-style murals — and the nightly events like Drink & Draw on Mondays and comedy shows on Wednesdays in their basement game room and lounge.
They also provide a towel and earplugs, which come in handy due to the hostel’s proximity to the above-ground subway (it can get quite loud!).
Other Long Island City Stay Options
Looking for other Long Island City accommodation?
Prefer self-contained stays?
➡️ Click here to check out unique local rentals! The map is currently set to Court Square, but you can easily change it based on your specific Long Island City location:
And if you’re interested in living in a hotel in New York City, there are numerous extended stay hotel options too!
What Is Long Island City Known For?
Today, Long Island City is known for being a hip area with an industrial vibe.
Amidst old factory buildings, you’ll find luxury apartment complexes, stylish restaurants and bars, trendy cafes, and art offerings like the MoMA PS1 Contemporary Art Center and the Dorsky Gallery.
Moreover, you’ll find the LIC Piers and waterfront parks offering stunning skyline views.
Best Things To Do In Long Island City, Queens
So what exactly makes this neighborhood worth leaving Manhattan for?
In fact, after our weekend exploring things to do in Long Island City NY, Andy and I actually started a discussion about how cool it would be to move there.
Will this Manhattan lady turn into a Queens gal?
Maybe in the future.
For now, I plan to return regularly to re-visit the following unforgettable Long Island City activities, which are some of the most fun things to do in Queens.
1. Book a private NYC photo tour or custom shoot
Shameless plug! I own a photo experience company called NYC Photo Journeys that offers private NYC photo tours, professional NYC photo shoots, and private NYC influencer shoots that can absolutely visit Long Island City.
For the tours, you pick a route and get a tour led by a certified guide and photographer, leaving with professional photos from the day to keep.
With the photo shoots, we’ll go over exactly what you’re looking for to come up with a concept and locations that bring your vision to life.
Below is a shot from a recent Influencer Shoot. You can can see more examples here on Instagram.
2. Rock Music & Bulletproof Coffee At Etto Espresso Bar
Wondering what to do in Long Island City?
This cozy coffee bar sources premium java from places like Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia, offering cold brews, slow drips, and creamy art-adorned lattes laced with caramel, mocha, and white chocolate.
If you’re visiting Etto Espresso Bar in the morning, don’t miss the healthy fat-filled bulletproof coffee made with Kerrygold Grass-fed Butter and brain oil that will leave you extra alert.
If coffee isn’t your thing, unique iced teas like Black Pear Gunpowder and Arctic Raspberry — along with fresh sandwiches — are also on offer.
Sip along to music by the Arctic Monkeys and other upbeat rock bands.
3. Get Active At The Cliffs At LIC
For those who think you can’t rock climb in NYC, the Cliffs at LIC will prove you wrong.
Andy actually climbs at this indoor rock gym and I’ve gone with him before. In fact, he actually rescued a wounded kitty in their parking lot years ago, and this kitty is now our sweet little furball, aptly named Cliff.
As you can see, I share a certain affinity for this spot, though I think many would agree it’s one of the top Long Island City things to do — and also a great option if you’re looking for rainy day activities in NYC.
It’s enormous with tons of route options, and there are auto belays if you’re on a solo trip to NYC.
Also check their fitness class schedule for yoga, Pilates, and AcroYoga.
Afterward head to John Brown Smokehouse, a popular food spot for climbers after a workout.
4. Go Shopping In LIC
If you’re looking for great shopping in Long Island City, you won’t be disappointed.
Love thrift stores? The neighborhood is home to the Goodwill NYNJ Outlet Store & Donation Center, as well as the more local Just Things LIC, which sells everything from tie-dyed shirts to antiques and beyond.
If you’re looking for local boutiques or the best places to buy souvenirs in New York, a few recommendations include:
- Long Island City Kleaners, a streetwear and creative lifestyle shop that looks like a dry cleaning spot.
- Matted LIC, a frame shop that also sells unique gifts.
- Slovak-Czech Varieties, where you can shop for Czech and Slovak products.
- The Brass Owl, an adorable boutique selling clothing, accessories, beauty supplies, and gifts in the adjacent Astoria neighborhood.
5. Shop, Eat & Play At LIC Flea & Food
LIC Flea & Food is a seasonal outdoor market with vendors selling handmade goods, antiques, food, and drinks.
In addition to the market, LIC Flea & Food hosts events and concerts.
If you are hunting for some vintage pieces or unique gifts, it’s the perfect place to shop, but the real standout is the food, with dozens of local vendors offering cuisine from around the world.
And if you need to cool off after a hot summer day, there’s also a craft beer garden.
LIC Flea & Food is situated close to the waterfront, just a few blocks away from Gantry Plaza State Park which offers incredible views over Manhattan.
6. Enjoy Free Things To Do In LIC
Surprisingly, Long Island City is full of greenspaces situated along busy streets.
Right outside the Q4 Hotel is a lovely 1.5-acre Fresh Kills Green with some short trails and wooden benches, while across the street is a beautiful stone garden.
You’ll also find a bike trail that starts at LIC’s Pulaski Bridge and takes you on a scenic ride all the way down to Manhattan’s Lower East Side, with beautiful skyline views mixed in.
Cycling is a great way to feel the beat of a city. Plus, it’s budget-friendly as CitiBike offers passes for $15 per day or $185 for the year.
7. Drink For Dirt Cheap At The Shannon Pot
If you’re looking for fun things to do in LIC, this divey Irish pub fits the bill — while keeping your bill small with cheap drinks.
The Shannon Pot‘s big plates of food are budget-friendly. Order the hot wings, fish and chips, or shepherd’s pie.
8. Take In Views Galore By Walking The Queensboro Bridge To The Roosevelt Island Tram
Riding the Roosevelt Island Tram allows you to take some in some of the beautiful places to see in Long Island City and the rest of NYC from above.
Here’s how I recommend enjoying this excursion:
From Long Island City, you can do the scenic walk over the Queensboro Bridge — which offers incredible views of the Manhattan skyline from Queens!
You’ll snag vistas of the East River, One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, and the Chrysler Building from the bridge.
When you exit on the Manhattan side, you can enter the Roosevelt Island Tram with a subway swipe.
Try to go in last so you can get close to the window (vs being pushed into the middle of the car).
This way you’ll get to really take in the aerial views.
Roosevelt Island itself has walking and cycling paths along the water, so you can take pictures under the Queensboro Bridge and get the Long Island City skyline, too.
This is definitely one of the top things to do in Long Island City if you love taking photos!
9. Visit the Museum of the Moving Image
Long Island City plays a big part in the film and television industry in New York City. It’s home to a number of production studios, including Silvercup Studios with its iconic red sign and 23 shooting stages.
So it’s no surprise that the Museum of the Moving Image is located in Long Island City. This museum celebrates the past, present, and future of film and television through engaging exhibitions, film screenings, and other special events.
10. Learn The Art Of The Cocktail At Dutch Kills
Talk about great Long Island City places to visit!
Dutch Kills is a craft cocktail bar started by Richard Boccato and Sasha Petraske of Milk + Honey fame. It’s one of the top places to go in Long Island City if you’re looking to imbibe.
If you’re feeling sleepy after a day of exploring, order one of their hot coffee drinks laced with liquor.
Or, if you’re in an adventurous mood, opt for the bartender’s choice — as in, simply give them a few keywords about your preferred flavor profile. From there, your mixologist will mix and muddle away to create something uniquely tailored to you.
For those who love cheap things to do in NYC, Dutch Kills offers a great happy hour: $14 craft cocktails Sunday through Thursday from 4pm to 6pm.
That being said, for those wondering what to do in NYC after midnight, this bar is also open late!
11. Explore Socrates Sculpture Park
Speaking of creativity, why not soak up some more art in Long Island City at Socrates Sculpture Park?
Located just one block from the Noguchi Museum (discussed below), this park is the perfect complement to the museum. Located on a former landfill site, the space has now been turned into a beautiful waterfront park.
Along with scenic river views, visitors to the park can explore large-scale outdoor sculptures and multimedia installations from modern artists.
It’s totally free to visit Socrates Sculpture Park, and it’s a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch after a morning of exploring the neighborhood.
12. Dine At One Of The Best Places To Eat In LIC At BLVD
Andy and I stumbled upon this place after trying to have dinner nearby at Blend on the Water, but the place was packed.
We were pretty disappointed because I wanted to eat on the water with a view of the Manhattan skyline; but it all ended up for the best when we discovered the cozy BLVD Wine Bar, one of the most aesthetic restaurants in NYC.
This wine bar and restaurant is also on the water.
Surprisingly, we got a table right away, despite it being 8pm on a Friday.
The food was phenomenal, from the lobster mac and cheese to the squid ink risotto to the bowl of mussels (we actually drank the broth like soup – it was so good!).
Paired with a $30 bottle of wine, it couldn’t have been a better meal.
Bonus: they often host live music, too!
If you’re looking for the best places in Long Island City for food, you must add this spot to your list.
13. Get In Touch With Your Creative Side At Q.E.D.
If you’re looking for a truly local experience, Q.E.D. Astoria is a must.
This cozy bar and performance space offers a rotating schedule of comedy shows, live storytelling, poetry readings, movie screenings, theater performances, and creative workshops.
Come to watch, or get on stage during one of their open mic nights.
14. Inspire Your Creativity At PS1
One of the top places to visit in Long Island City is MoMA PS1, a satellite operation of the world-renowned MoMA, showcasing thought-provoking contemporary art.
Instead of stale polished walls, you’re roaming around a weathered hundred-year-old Romanesque Revival school building, which gives a laid-back feel.
When we visited we saw everything, from dystopic multi-dimension depictions of bodies under duress to themed showcases of “found memories” that make you ponder recent transitions in technology.
There was also a LED light-outfitted sunroom that unintentionally acted as positive light therapy for me.
Make sure to check out their calendar as MoMA PS1 constantly puts on events and programs.
For instance, in the warmer months don’t miss their crazy popular Warm Up series, where you’ll drink and dance to outdoor live music and DJs.
There are many other galleries to put on your list of things to do in Long Island City, too.
A few include:
- Local Project
- BrickHouse Ceramic Art Center
- The Fisher Landau Center For Art
15. Dig Into Unusual Burgers At The Baroness Bar + Kitchen
The Baroness Bar + Kitchen is one of many burger joints in Long Island City, though they take a quirky approach to their recipes.
First of all, you can choose between beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, seared ahi tuna, or veggie before picking your toppings.
Recommended burger: “The Marilyn” featuring a beef and bacon patty stuffed with macaroni and cheese and pancetta crumbles, and wrapped in peppered bacon, Vermont cheddar, beer cheese, and spicy bacon ketchup on a potato bun.
The burger-themed “Quinn” featuring a seasoned patty with an egg cooked inside. From there its fixed with bacon, American cheese, hash browns, and spicy ketchup on an English muffin.
Make your meal even more exciting by participating in their Champagne sabering where you chop off the neck of a Champagne bottle with a saber!
16. Have A True Diner Experience At Court Square Diner
New York State is full of classic diners, though in the city itself these are harder to find.
Walking into Long Island City’s Court Square Diner, we were immediately enveloped by the familiar aromas of ketchup, eggs and French fries, reminding me of childhood road trips with my family.
The portions are large and inexpensive, just like diner fare should be.
We opted for the veggie-stuffed garden omelette with toast and a baked potato, and a fluffy stack of maple syrup-soaked pancakes with sausage.
With our two coffees the meal came to $23.03, including tax.
It’s truly a hungry budget traveler’s dream!
17. See The Manhattan Skyline From Gantry Plaza State Park & The LIC Piers
Want the best NYC views for free? Looking for the top things to see in Long Island City?
This 12-acre riverfront park is a gorgeous walk both during the day and at night, though especially at sunset.
From Gantry Plaza State Park you’ll get prime views of the Manhattan skyline and all its popular landmarks.
There are also tons of benches and Adirondack chairs for sitting, beautiful gardens, four piers you can fish off, and sports fields for playing.
The park is actually named after the restored gantries that once loaded and unloaded rail car floats and barges.
Andy and I spent a lot of time wandering through this park and simply enjoying the scenery.
In my opinion, this is one of the most Instagrammable places in NYC!
18. Snap a Photo of the Pepsi-Cola Sign
You can’t miss the bright red Pepsi-Cola sign in Long Island City. Visible from Manhattan, this massive sign dates back to 1940.
It originally adorned the roof of a Pepsi-Cola bottling plant in the neighborhood and was relocated to its current spot in Gantry Plaza State Park in 2003 after the facility closed.
In 2016, the sign was officially designated as a New York City historical landmark!
Now, it’s a cool spot to snap a photo, before enjoying the waterfront views at Gantry Plaza State Park (mentioned above!).
19. Try The Atypical Beers At SingleCut Beersmiths
This Astoria brewery is super laid back; the type of place where you can play board games all day while sipping their delicious craft beers.
SingleCut Beersmiths does a lot of interesting beers, too, like a “Kim Hibiscus Sour Lager” (it’s even pink!) and a number of India Pale Lagers (IPLs).
After a day of exploring, make this your last stop.
20. Do The LIC Brewery Trail
Speaking of beer, SingleCut is hardly your only option. Right in Long Island City, you can do the LIC Brewery Trail — which features at least six unique breweries within walking distance, including:
- Fifth Hammer
- ICONYC Brewing
- Rockaway Brewing Company
- Big aLICe Brewing
- LIC Beer Project
It’s a great way to sip some local culture in Long Island City!
21. Check Out the Noguchi Museum
One of the best Long Island City tourist attractions is the Noguchi Museum. Created by legendary Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi, this museum is dedicated to his legacy and his works.
Strolling through the museum, you can admire Noguchi’s mixed-media sculptures in a tranquil indoor and outdoor space. Noguchi was known for his blend of abstract and surrealist sculpture combined with traditional Japanese art styles.
It’s a calming experience to wander through the museum seeing how each sculpture-filled room flows into the next one.
Tickets to the Noguchi Museum cost $12 for adults and $6 for seniors and students. Admission is free on the first Friday of every month.
22. Get Sweet At Martha’s
If you’re not good at making decisions then you may want to ask a server to choose from their enormous selection for you.
Along with the standards — Andy loves their carrot cake — you can opt for their quirky fare.
Picture Sour Cream Apple Pie, giant Kitchen Sink Cookies, Banana Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding, and Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate.
This is New York, so the classic Egg Cream is also a great choice, made with neither egg nor cream!
Long Island City Travel Insurance
While you hope everything runs smoothly, sometimes travel just doesn’t go according to plan.
This is why I recommend always purchasing travel insurance. The scary truth is it only takes one bad accident to lose everything — or be thankful you were covered.
Personally, I use SafetyWing, as they’ve got a large network, offer both short-term and long-term coverage (including limited coverage in your home country), are budget-friendly, and offer $250,000 worth of coverage with just one low overall deductible of $250.
What would you add to this list of best things to do in Long Island City, Queens?
Enjoyed this post on the best things to do in Long Island City New York? Pin it for later!
Want to live your best life through travel?
Subscribe for FREE access to my library of fun blogging worksheets and learn how to get paid to travel more!