It’s always fun taking the time to play tourist at home. With so much to check out, see and do in and around New York City, we’re pretty lucky.
A great way to explore places not usually accessible is during Open House NY weekend. I’ve done stays (on rare occasion) in Manhattan to get a better feel of what it’s like to be a tourist (like the time we stayed at the Omni Berkshire Place). During that visit, we had a chance to Visit the Cathedral of Commerce- The Woolworth Building.
When I was invited on a tour that claims to be “the ultimate anti-tourist tour of NYC’s burgeoning boroughs“, I took BQE Tours up on their offer.
Kim and I took the Long Island City Tours: Queens Cool Uncovered option. We chose this tour since it is the area (from which they offer tours) which we knew the least about.
BQE Tours offer small group walking tours where you’ll walk a couple of miles, getting a chance to get a good feel for the neighborhood.
Besides an interesting itinerary, one of the best things about the tour was our guide, John a native New Yorker, raised in Queen, now a Brooklyn resident. John isn’t just one of the guides, he is also a co-owner of the company. You could definitely see his passion for showing people around and sharing his knowledge of the area. I also have to say that within minutes of meeting John, we felt like we were spending an afternoon wandering around with a friend.
Here are some of the things that we experienced and tasted during the tour.
Some of the best views of NYC might just be from LIC.
We stopped at Gantry Plaza State Park to take in the views and also saw how this once run down area is now a beautiful park surrounded by massive buildings behind it.
One of the highlights was seeing the famous Pepsi sign up close. We also learned that when Pepsi sold their factory, it was agreed upon that the sign would stay, thus influencing the architecture of the buildings behind it.
We stopped by the studios of two local artists to learn about the local art scene which neither Kim nor I knew existed in the area.
I was most impressed by sculptor Daniel Sinclair’s works made from old tools. Check out the sawblade combo which make up the piece above.
Later on in the day we got to visit sculptor Glenn Marlowe’s studio. From what I recall, his works are in the Renaissance style. Many of his sculptures were quite large and interesting.
I was surprised to find out that homes from the 1860s and 1870’s still existed in LIC. The home above had a plaque outside from the Queens Historical Society. I’m also pretty sure the house along with 3-4 others next to it were landmarked and couldn’t be torn down. They were surrounded on each side by newer, larger buildings… Good to hear that some history was being saved.
Another highlight was stopping by the LIC Flea & Food market. There were different things for sale (can’t say I looked closely) as well as lots of food vendors.
We sampled the amazing Lumpia Shanghai (Filipino egg rolls stuffed with pork) from the Lumpia Merienda stand. The sweet chili and vinegar sauces added a nice touch. Kim and I had tasty Thai icicles and we would’ve tried more item if we were actually hungry! We also bought some hand-crafted syrups (to mix with seltzer) from Drink More Good to make a healthier soda at home.
Across the street from the LIC Flea is the home of Rockaway Brewing Company. Yes, they now call LIC their home. We tried a couple of beers which were solid and also had a quick brewery tour. I love checking out breweries so it was fun checking out this one.
While walking around, we stopped in at Manducatis Rustica to try some gelato (I recommend the stracciatella) and also saw some photography hanging on the walls from famed photographer Tony Vaccaro. This was definitely an interesting restaurant.
We ended the tour with incredible views of NYC (& LIC) from the Z NYC Hotel Rooftop Bar.
I wasn’t sure if the views could get better than those at Gantry Plaza State Park but I think the Z NYC wins the battle! However, if you want to be in a picture, then it would be much better at the park.
When Kim and I were done with the tour, we felt that we now knew a lot more about an interesting area that we had never really explored before.
If you’re interested in getting away from the typical NYC tourist attractions and would like to explore one of the out boroughs, I’d suggest checking out BQE Tours.
BQE Tours start at $65 per person. Tours are offered in DUMBO & Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Long Island City which is in Queens.