I’ve never taken the groundhog’s shadow seriously, especially when late March gave us cold rain and wind with temperatures that were hovering close to the freezing mark. At the same time, there are signs of optimism in the cherry blossoms blooming next to the New York State Pavilion in Flushing Meadows, a long-neglected World’s Fair structure that is undergoing a restoration: better weather, reopened museums, and restored landmarks. If you’re home for Pesach or visiting family members in the suburbs, there’s plenty to see around the city and its vicinity.
Museum of the Moving Image
36-01 35th Avenue, Astoria
Located on the same block as the active Kaufman Studios, this museum is filled with film technology artifacts going back more than a century. Aside from a century of film technology, the museum is popular for its ongoing Jim Henson exhibit that includes props used for the Muppets and Sesame Street. At this time, the exhibit Deepfake: Unstable Evidence on Screen is worth a look. It explains the popularity of manipulated moving images that put words into the mouths of famous people to distort their message. On display through May 15.
New York City Building
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Located inside a building designed for the 1939-1940 World’s Fair, its top attraction is the Panorama of NYC, the largest architectural model in the world. If you have relatives coming in from out of town and there is no time to take them on a tour of the five boroughs, the Panorama will suffice. I’ve done this for my family members. Instead of sitting in traffic to visit Manhattan, your Panorama visit should be followed up with a group photo with the country’s largest globe, the unofficial symbol of our borough.
New York Hall of Science
47-01 111th Street, Corona
When the New York Hall of Science closed last Sukkos as a result of flooding from Hurricane Ida, Queens residents had to find a family-friendly science center outside the borough. With most of the facility reopened, The Happiness Experiment is still on exhibit, where visitors ask what makes them happy, and the answers can be surprising. Inside the historic Great Hall, the interactive Connected Worlds feels like an indoor park with virtual plants and a waterfall that move with your hands.
Louis Armstrong House Museum
34-56 107th Street, Corona
This museum defines the term “neighborhood celebrity.” From 1943 until his death in 1971, this townhouse was home to the world’s leading jazz musician, one who gave free lessons and bought ice cream for local children. The inside is nearly untouched from the day of his death. A guide pushes a button and Satchmo’s voice gives you tidbits on his life along with a few tunes from his cornet. It’s as if he never left the place.
Across the street from the historic house is a wall of undulating glass that will be completed this fall. Behind it is a museum expansion that will host exhibits, events, and archives.
Queens County Farm Museum
73-50 Little Neck Parkway, Floral Park
Sure, our borough has plenty of green rooftops, community gardens, backyard plots, and windowsill spices, but the largest and last true farm in the borough is in Floral Park, taking up 47 acres. In operation since 1697, this farm has livestock, heavy farm machinery, planting fields, and a vineyard. Events on its calendar include a children’s carnival, antique motor show, and a Native American pow-wow.
The newest item here is the Con Edison Reading Room, which transformed a storage shack into a one-room schoolhouse filled with books on farming and gardening and a few toys for the youngest visitors.
King Manor Museum
150-03 Jamaica Avenue
In the heart of downtown Jamaica is one of the oldest mansions in Queens, home to a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The park surrounding the King Manor is a 12-acre remnant of a 160-acre farm that belonged to Rufus King, the Senator, diplomat, antislavery activist, who died in the 50th year of this country’s independence. The interior takes us back to the late 18th century, when Rufus King lived here.
37-01 Bowne Street
The oldest standing dwelling in Queens, it dates to 1661, when Quaker colonist John Bowne settled in Flushing. He famously stood up for religious freedom, when fellow members of his faith authored the Flushing Remonstrance addressing the Dutch authorities. Nine generations of Bownes lived in this home, until it became a museum in 1945. Visitors can experience how they lived with period furniture and guides explaining what Flushing was like as an outpost - unimaginable in the dense neighborhood that it had since become.
Lewis Latimer House
34-41 137th Street
Imagine a self-taught genius born to fugitive slaves who worked in the labs of Alexander Graham Bell, Hiram Maxim, and Thomas Edison. Lewis Latimer’s name did not appear on their patents, but he made their world-changing inventions possible. When he wasn’t tinkering with inventions, he painted, wrote essays, and lived in this Flushing house that was preserved and relocated to a park.
Fort Totten Park
A pristine peninsula at the borough’s northeast tip surrounds a preserved Civil War fortress. Feel the breeze of salt air from the Long Island Sound as you walk through the tunnels connecting the fortress with the park. As the park still shares the peninsula with a National Guard Reserve base and a Fire Department training academy, you may still pass by companies of young recruits jogging to humorous rhymes barked out by their drill instructors.
169 State Rd, Breezy Point
Amid the wild dunes that appear as hilltops are concrete installations that were designed to protect New York during both World Wars and the Cold War. Decommissioned in 1974, Fort Tilden is a unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area, a series of federally administered parks ringing the city’s oceanic shores. Along with vacant military structures, Fort Tilden has a pristine beach filled with seashells and wildlife.
Take A Boat From Queens
If you are not comfortable taking the subway to Manhattan, and the expansion of bike lanes means fewer parking spots in the city’s business districts, you can take a boat for the same cost as a bus or subway. It’s an affordable, outdoor, and scenic way to get around the city. NYC Ferry has docks in Astoria, Hunters Point South, and Rockaway Park, connecting to Roosevelt Island, 34th Street, East River Park, Wall Street, and Brooklyn Bridge Park.
My favorite route runs from Rockaway Park to Wall Street, which runs past Coney Island, below the Verrazano Bridge, and past the Statue of Liberty on its way to the Financial District. At the tip of Manhattan, one can ride the Seaglass Carousel in Battery Park, where marine life takes the role of sculptural horses. Across the street from this park is the free-admission Museum of the American Indian, where displays relating to indigenous Americans coexist with beaux arts architecture from the turn of the 20th century.
West Side Highway at Gansevoort Street
Within walking distance of the High Line and the Whitney Museum is a privately-financed concrete island elevated on pilings above the Hudson River. It offers winding trails with unique views of the city, but more likely it is a place to see the fashionable crowd of Manhattanites and foreign tourists excited about the city’s newest green spot. From the southern tip of Little Island, one can see construction on Gansevoort Peninsula, a former sanitation garage that is also on its way to becoming a park, the latest addition to the ribbon of green spaces on the Hudson River on Manhattan’s west side.
34th Street at Hudson Boulevard
Accessible by the 7 train at its 34th Street-Hudson Yards terminus, this is Manhattan’s newest neighborhood. Predictably, the honeycomb-shaped staircase tower known as The Vessel is closed on account of too many tragic incidents that took place there, but you can pose for a photo below this 16-story sculpture.
More creative in its design is The Shed, a performance space with a retractable wall and roof that moves on rails. A couple of blocks north of 34th Street, Hudson Yards Park, recently renamed after local politician Bella Abzug, has a postmodern-style playground and park landscaping by Michael Van Valkenburgh, the architect whose other post-millennial works include Brooklyn Bridge Park and Teardrop Park. This new neighborhood of glass box towers and condos connects on its south to the High Line, and one can then walk a mile downtown above the streets without leaving the park.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
One of the world’s greatest art museums has something for everyone. Among the masters of Western Art, Jacques Louis David stands out as the artist of the French Revolution and the neoclassical genre that depicted the final years of the French monarchy, followed by the revolution, and then the Napoleonic period. The exhibit Radical Draftsman is on display through May 15.
Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum
Two E. 91st Street
Across the street from Central Park is a Gilded Age mansion-turned-museum that celebrates graphic and industrial design. The story of its transformation from a residence to a public facility is told in the exhibit titled Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum, on view through Oct. 10. Concerning the pandemic, it’s not too early for museums to exhibit creative masks and distancing signs, among other paraphernalia. Such items can be seen in Design and Healing: Creative Responses to Epidemics, on view through Feb. 2023. Across the street from the museum is the Russian consulate. Expect tight security and demonstrators on this block.
Moynihan Train Hall
Eighth Avenue at 33rd Street
This project was a dream of its namesake, the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who sought to restore the grandeur of Penn Station that was lost in the 1960s when competition from automobiles and the construction of Madison Square Garden infamously doomed the palatial station. Taking up vacant space inside the Farley Post Office, this train hall features a soaring skylight, sculptural clock and murals that honor the city’s architecture. Gradually, retailers are moving in, and Midtown has its newest indoor place to meet.
Battery Place at West Street
Battery Park City
Battery Park is filled with monuments documenting the city’s 400-year history, such its explorers, builders, immigrants, and heroes. It also has a lawn, garden, and carousel - enough things to see that one may miss the boat to Liberty Island. At the corner where Battery Park meets Battery Park City is Pier A, the long-neglected former fireboat station that marks the point where Hudson River flows in New York Bay. Inside the restored pier are long hallways decorated with nautical charts, images of grand cruise ships, and other maritime memorabilia. The furniture and design of the interiors brings to mind a transatlantic ship from a century ago, when this was the only way to cross the ocean. After a visit to the nearby Museum of Jewish Heritage, with its Holocaust history, this pier offers a contrasting narrative of giving thanks for readers whose ancestors fled Europe and arrived here safely before the genocide took place.
A thin sliver of land between Queens and Manhattan, Roosevelt Island is a former asylum and hospital campus transformed into a neighborhood of residential towers, parks, technology campus, and a scenic state park at its southern tip. Take the F train to the Roosevelt Island station, then the Tramway cable car to Manhattan’s Upper East Side. This two-mile island that is only 800 feet in width is ideal for biking and jogging, with Manhattan island on one side and Queens on the other. The newest artistic feature on this island is The Girl Puzzle, a sculpture on Lighthouse Point honoring muckraking journalist Nellie Bly, who famously snuck into the asylum on Roosevelt Island in 1885, documenting its horrible conditions.
New York Public Library
Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street
At long last, one can take in the beaux arts architecture of New York Public Library’s flagship building, where the reading room hosted generations of New Yorkers seeking to study in an inspiring quiet space. The library’s Dorot Jewish Division is a rich trove of Judaica, literature, and genealogy resources.
To feel like a consummate city insider, the MTA recently opened a new transfer tunnel between the Sixth Avenue subway line and the Times Square station containing mosaic art by Nick Cave. The tunnel opens into the redesigned shuttle platform, where the peculiar two-station line connects Manhattan’s two busiest stations.
200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn
The beaux arts landmark has its permanent collection of ancient historical art from around the world, a colonial Dutch farmhouse transported inside the museum, and its ancient Egyptian collection. On display through June 19 is a unique take on one of the greatest American artists, Andy Warhol: Revelation, which offers a religious angle to the iconic pop artist. Raised as a churchgoing Catholic, Warhol used Renaissance imagery in his portraits of famous people. The masters of early modernism appear in the exhibit Monet to Morisot: The Real and Imagined in European Art, on display through May 21. Their art took place in a time of societal and artistic transformation, when artists experimented with light and color to create new genres in art that straddled the distinction between realistic and abstract.
Museum at Eldridge Street
12 Eldridge Street
The historic synagogue of the Lower East Side reopened last summer with its stunning architecture and exhibits relating to life in the immigrant neighborhood. On display at this time is Pressed: Images from the Jewish Daily Forward, containing plates used for printing the nation’s oldest Yiddish newspaper that show daily life and important events from the early 20th century. The museum has a visitor’s guide for children where they can search for hidden stars and other imagery in the building’s detailed interior.
Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street
This center hosts five vital institutions that document the stories of Jews in America through art, artifacts, and literature: American Jewish Historical Society, American Sephardi Federation, Yeshiva University Museum, YIVO, and Leo Baeck Institute, each with their own exhibits and opportunities to research our past. The Yeshiva University Museum has an exhibit on Israeli artists titled From (A)gam to Z(aritsky), on display through Feb. 2023.
Beyond The City
American Dream Mall
One American Dream Way
East Rutherford, NJ
After hearing about it from her classmates in school and bunkmates in camp, my family took the trip to the American Dream Mall in the Meadowlands. Even when it’s not Chol HaMoed, this destination mall is filled with frum families eager to taste popular American foods with a hechsher, and satisfaction that this mall was built by the Ghermezian family, whose philanthropy sustains many educational projects in the Jewish community.
Did we feel like paying for an indoor amusement park when it is sunny outside, or a water park that is only a fraction of Mountain Creek and Splish Splash? Nor did we feel that the novelty of an indoor ski slope was worth the price when we could wait a few months until the slopes of the Catskills and Poconos reopen.
For a family on a budget seeking unique thrills, the indoor skating rink, mini-golf, and candy store would be worth experiencing. If you have friends in Lakewood, Monsey, or west of the city, this mall could be a good place to meet up and have fun. Last year, this mall had a sukkah on site, and I expect one this year, considering its popularity with Orthodox Jews.
Valley Stream Historical Society
143 Hendrickson Avenue, Valley Stream
At the southern tip of Valley Stream State Park is a historic mansion that predates the suburbanization of Long Island, when the Village of Valley Stream had a rural appearance. The Pagan-Fletcher Restoration contains old maps of the area and other displays relating to the history of this village and its surroundings. The state park outside this mansion is one of the smallest, with a playground, picnic area, and paths through a dense woodland.
Cradle of Aviation Museum
Charles Lindbergh Boulevard, Garden City
A former hangar transformed into a museum of air and space technology. Between April 14 and 20, its lobby is hosting a model train show by the Long Island Garden Railway Society. Usually one sees model train shows during the winter holiday season. For the child who likes trains, it’s a welcome sight to have such an exhibit in a different season.
InfoAge Science and History Museums
2201 Marconi Drive, Wall Township
On the drive to Lakewood, there’s a museum on a former military base that shows how radio technology developed, including radar, military communications, and satellites. The museum complex also has exhibits on shipwrecks, computers, battlefield dioramas, and model trains.
Edward Hopper House Museum
82 North Broadway, Nyack
On the drive to Monsey is the picturesque town of Nyack, which has the look of an artist’s village overlooking the Hudson River. The most famous painter that lived in Nyack is Edward Hopper, the realist master of subdued drama. On display are his early works, scenes of Nyack from his lifetime, and furniture from his time. The museum is a short bike ride from the new Tappan Zee Bridge, which offers overlooks and informative signage along its 3.1-mile stretch.
2245 Broadhollow Road, Farmingdale
I have not visited Adventureland since I was in summer camp. Long Island’s longest operating amusement park struck me as a street fair permanently moored in place with rides that are standard across the country, such as a swinging pirate ship, carousel, and log flume. I had no idea that in 2015, it welcomed Turbulence, a new roller coaster that has become its star attraction. This new ride serves as an extra reason to revisit this blast from the past.
American Airpower Museum
1230 New Highway, Farmingdale
Within a ten-minute drive from Adventureland is the American Airpower Museum. If you live on Long Island and have been to Cradle of Aviation too many times, this former airport-turned-museum is the local alternative. More than a dozen fighter aircraft and parts can be seen at this museum.
By Sergey Kadinsky