Queens Fun With Not 4 Publication
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
A week’s respite from politics - which to this writer is fun - in favor of sharing some highlights of memories and enjoyment of Queens over nearly five decades, is well, to sum it up . . . fun!
The Tribune’s second annual “Fun Guide” is being readied for press and I sat down with its editor Josh “I come from Oklahoma” Parish and Managing Editor Brian “all I knew were music and shows” Rafferty to review the book. And although I worked with them from the beginning, I never ran down my list of the fun things in Queens and they’ve left some out.
The Fun Guide will produce hours of enjoyment, like taking your daughter to a Mets game or your kid or grandkid outside, Spalding (Queens pronunciation “Spaldeen”) in hand, and teaching them a game of our youth - box baseball was my favorite. But without my personal quickies below, recalled from an era before Game Boy, when you made your own fun, you’ll miss some of the borough’s best.
Nothing in Queens or maybe New York City, beats the Hall of Science which, of course, is included in the staff’s impressive tome, I’m not comparing. I’m just sharing.
Here’s my Top Ten list of fun things to do in Queens, not selected to be included by the kids who had fun creating this guide. They’re arranged in order of activities for the young to the young at heart.
1)Forest Park Carousel: It’s too new for my youth. This rare D.C. Muller hand-carved wooden Carousel which was brought to Forest Park in 1973 will bring back memories to those of us who have, and introduce your youngsters to what seems to be a fading fantasy. They’re just not making them anymore like this beautiful one built in 1910 and relocated from Darcut, Massachusetts. Near the entrance to the park at Forest Park Drive off Woodhaven Blvd, last we checked, you could bring back youth and ride to music on one of the glorious 54 horses, menagerie animals or chariots, and go up down, for only a dollar.
2) Jahn’s: Jahn’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor was originally part of a chain which began in the Bronx in 1897. The last remaining one is a Richmond Hill favorite eatery, operating since 1923 at 81-04 37th Ave. (718-651-0700). Many of the original items from the early 1900s are still on display as is the still working nickelodeon piano. This real treat, in my youth, were the free sundaes on your birthday. My new diet has kept me away too long to know if you can still celebrate there for free. However, I’m told that the mother of all sundaes, “The Kitchen Sink” with 22 flavors and 11 toppings, is still available. Oh, bring the kids.
3)Ice Cream Man: Ah yes, I remember it well. The ring of the bell, the strange, catchy tune, the kids in the street, running quarters (or less) in hand to meet the ice cream man. The recognizable trucks of old: Good Humor, Bungalow Bar and Mr. Softee provided us hot sweaty kids playing in the street with our afternoon treat and ruined an occasional dinner. Next time you hear the distant but familiar sound, take your favorite kid - young or old or both - and try an Éclair, Sno Cone or Malt Crunch Bomb!
4)Airport: It’s not done anymore, but my memories of dinner at the airport and then watching planes take off is one of those indelibly etched pictures of wonder and awe. The entire family would spend an evening at the airport and go out on the observation deck to watch the planes. Security and general lifestyle changes seem to have made this wonderful evening of family fun and togetherness a thing of the past. LaGuardia or JFK, I still think it’s a lot better than eating at the local Chinese restaurant then going home and watching TV. With careful selection at the airport, you can still find good food and perhaps a window through which you can see the planes. As an alternative, after dinner, find a parking place - with or without the kids - from which you can watch the nighttime airport sky. From the World’s Fair Marina you have a breathtaking view of one La Guardia’s runways - we hear the food is outstanding too.
5)Steve Brill: Speaking about eating . . . go along on a park foraging tour with the “Wildman.” This ecogenius takes scheduled tours through our parks, stopping along the way to snack on what nature provides. For a kid’s birthday party or sharing a new type of cuisine with grandma, Steve Brill should be your guide. Check out his schedule at www.wildmanstevebrill.com.
6)Panorama: You haven’t seen Queens until you’ve been to the Panorama. This huge model of New York City depicts all five boroughs, their parks, streets, buildings, airports, and more. Visitors walk above the model built for the 1964 World’s Fair, on a ramp that circles it. The lighting changes to show the progress of “day to night.” It was refurbished and updated in 1993 and more recently adjusted to memorialize the Twin Towers. Located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park inside the Queens Museum (718-592-9700), in the old NYC Building from the 1939 World’s Fair, it is an unforgettable and breathtaking experience for children of all ages.
7)Magic: It’s top on this kid’s list of things to do that I’ve not yet done. As a sucker for magic, magic shows or anything that confounds on first glance, I’ve been meaning to go to see a Saturday night magic show at Rogue’s Magic and Fun Shop, 85-08 Queens Blvd, Elmhurst (718-505-0316). I’ve read about it in the Trib, been told about it by friends, but have yet to watch one of the top performers who amaze audiences from the small stage in the rear of this magical place. Maybe I’ll see you there.
8)Ethnic Eating: It’s got to rank at the top of Queens activities. The variety of quality ethnic foods available in Queens can match any place in the world. With authentic Chinese food in downtown Flushing, a variety of Latino cuisine along Roosevelt Ave. in Jackson Heights, Korean on Northern Blvd, Queens is a wonderland of multi-cultural dining. You name the region of the world, Queens has the cuisine. Take your favorite person, take the family, take someone who loves to eat and start anywhere. Or check out a recent Trib list at:
9)Romance:For this one, don’t take the kids. As a matter of fact, you’re not supposed to - at least not here. But the Douglaston waterfront remains the most enticing and romantic spot in the borough. Back in my college days, no one ever bothered you there. You could walk out on the pier and pass the night in a gazebo on the water out of sight of the rest of the world. Today, with a neighborhood association trying to protect their lovely shoreline, couples have taken to the back seats of cars, in spite of the signs chasing non-residents away. If you’re with someone to love, any Queens Waterfront spot might do. For us, Douglaston is magic.
10)Nude Beach: I admit it, I’ve never been there. But I have this vision . . . It’s not official, but Queens insiders know. In Gateway National Recreational Area at the far western end of Rockaway’s Jacob Riis Park - named for the crusading journalist who battled for better housing and recreation facilities - is a quiet, less built-up beach, mostly because the subway doesn’t go there. Reachable by car, or take the Q22 from Beach 116th, historians always cite the influence Robert Moses had on the area and its character, but that’s not what interests us purists. In the eastern corner of the beach, nude sunbathing and swimming is tolerated (if not officially allowed). It’s on Federal property and City puritanical regs have taken a back seat to Federal Case Law. So if you can bare it, do!
If you take any of our suggestions this summer, please e-mail your reactions and pictures to us: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com.