Lonely Planet, a company full of great travel advice, has named Queens, N.Y., as the No 1. travel destination in the United States. As a resident of the borough for close to a quarter of a century, the designation made me cringe. Although New York City’s only airports (LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International) are in Queens, I advise that when you get off the plane, you get right into a cab and head to Manhattan or possibly Brooklyn. There’s nothing for you to see in Queens, really, nothing. I promise.
I mean look at the other places that scored well with Lonely Planet. Second place went to Western South Dakota for God’s sake. South Dakotans don’t even go there. They are called the Badlands of South Dakota for a reason. Ninth place was Duluth, Minn., or as the locals in the Iron Range call it “Daloot.” They have two seasons there: winter and the Fourth of July.
“With microbreweries springing up, new boutique hotels, a reinvented seaside at Rockaway, a world-class art scene, and a truly global food culture, 2015 is the year to try Queens,” Lonely Planet said of my borough. Well, yeah, but why would you want that when you can experience the same thing in Manhattan and spend 10 times as much? Who wants to visit New York and say how reasonably everything was priced?
And Brooklyn, right? When I first moved to New York, I got a place in Brooklyn. Everyone does. Brooklyn is hip, trendy, cool, even the Europeans know that. Brooklyn has a professional basketball team; Queens just has the Mets, an occasionally professional baseball team. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Brooklyn, not Queens. Why would they? Bill’s granny is THE QUEEN. Celebrities are naming their kids Brooklyn, not Queens.
When you come to New York as a tourist, one of the things you want to do is ride the subway, right? Well, the 7 train doesn’t go underground until you’re almost in Manhattan. Ditto for the J, M and Z. If you want to ride an elevated train, shouldn’t you be in Chicago?
And if you do ride the 7 train, you’ll be shortchanging yourself on future vacations. Sunnyside has its Irish pubs, and as you travel east, you pass through a large Filipino neighborhood in Woodside. In Jackson Heights, you’ve reached the Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi part of the borough. Continuing on, you come to the Latin American districts. Pass Shea Stadium (it will NEVER be Citifield), and you reach Flushing, aka Chinatown. Now, why jam all that into a single ride, when you can spend years scrimping and saving to do each spot on the globe separately? Who would want an Irish full fry up for breakfast, chicken vindaloo for lunch and beef enchiladas or kung pao chicken for dinner without leaving the area code?
Diversity, thy name is Queens. 48 percent of the borough was born outside the US — 200 languages are spoken. My kids’ schools would send home notes to parents in English (well, American, anyway), Spanish, Russian and Chinese. Bengali is gaining on them though. The UN has fewer languages and far less diversity when it comes to class. And who needs to see all this when Disney’s Epcot can sanitize it all and give it that special strip-mall feeling?
As for the arts, please ignore the Museum of the Moving Image. Nothing interesting about a museum dedicated to the one art form that has spread American culture around the world (well, that and music) and that remains commercially viable. Also, skip PS1, the Museum of Modern Art’s rather edgy exhibition space. The usual Impressionists in Manhattan are what you came to see, trust me.
Theater? Well, Queens has some, like the Titan Theatre Company, Afrikan Poetry Theatre, the Black Spectrum Theater Company and Thalia Spanish Theatre. It’s considered off-Broadway, of course. What would you tell your friends? You didn’t take your shoes off at security and deal with a snarky flight attendant to see an off-Broadway play, did you? Not when there is a revival of an Rodgers and Hammerstein musical you were in during junior year for only $150 a seat.
I could go on and on, but the point is, when you plan your trip to New York, make sure you spend all of your time in Manhattan and Brooklyn. If you must take side trips, visit Staten Island or the mainland (the Bronx). They have great shopping malls in Northern New Jersey, just like back home.
Just don’t come to Queens. I don’t want to share.
Jeff Myhre is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.