Queens-ing Out: Exploring NYC's Royal Borough

3.25.2014

By Tyler Curry

Manhattan and Brooklyn get all the love, but Queens has lots to offer for LGBTs looking to get off the beaten path in New York.

We started on the boardwalks of Gantry Park (4-09 47th Road), a stylish homage to the industrial history of Queens with monuments of loading docks once used for rail car floats and barges. We meandered through a variety of tree-filled city parks, including one with a futuristic playground (which we had a little too much fun at). Then we ended our city expedition at the Socrates Sculpture Park (32-01 Vernon Boulevard), an internationally renowned outdoor museum filled with large-scale exhibits and multimedia installations. Oh, and a healthy amount of gays to boot.

Whereas Long Island City has an eclectic and industrial feel that nods to the gay consumer, Astoria has developed into an unexpected homo hang-out. Historically, the area was known for its strong Greek influence and blue-collar appeal. But a lot has changed in the past decade. Before the conservative vibe would have scared off many of gay men and lesbians from showing outward affection. But today, LGBTs are running amuck, hand in hand, hitting up Astoria’s newest gay clubs, world-class museums, and inspired bistros.

This is where you will find Museum of the Moving Image (36-01 35th Avenue), a one-of-a-kind peek into the history of visual media. Located on the edge of Astoria and L.I.C., this is the only museum of it’s kind that is devoted the art of film, television, and digital media. And there is enough gay-related nostalgia and interactive play in the MMI to keep all of your senses satisfied. Here, you can gawk at the get-ups worn by Sarah Jessica Parker and marvel at the wig worn my Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra. Don’t worry, butch gays, there is plenty here for you, too.

Just down the street from MMI, we found quite possibly the best place for contemporary comfort food in the entire city. The Queens Kickshaw (40-17 Broadway) is a relatively new establishment that caters to the serious foodie who has a palate for fancy beer and an affinity towards skinny jeans. Their menu features specialty coffee, fancy grilled cheese sandwiches, scratch cooking, craft ales, and ciders from around the world. And any gay man or women will appreciate the effortless style and ambiance that TQK has to offer. The one thing that did scare me on the menu was the kimchi lasagna. Now, this curiously contrived menu item is all I can think about a week later. 

 
Astoria’s newest gay bar, Icon (31-84 33rd Street), is also probably the best of its kind in Queens. It manages to be both open and intimate and balances the glamour of an upscale lounge without the bother of a dress code. We chatted for a while with the owner, a delightfully eccentric New Yorker who created the club so that the people in his own neighborhood wouldn’t have to trek over the river to find a good gay bar. The bartenders are hot, the décor is fun and the attitude is close to none. This is a far cry from some of the other places in Chelsea, and that’s a good thing.


Jackson Heights also boasts a huge appeal for the LGBT traveler. With the second largest gay population in New York, this neighborhood’s nightlife has all the energy of the gay bars in Manhattan but with a Latin flare and rhythm all its own. When we ventured into the Music Box (4008 74th Street), one of Jackson Heights' longest running gay establishments, we didn’t quite know what to expect.

The door opened and we were immediately greeted with the music of Thalia booming throughout the place, a shirtless bartender greeting us is Spanish on a microphone and two hot dancers bouncing up and down on the bar. Once we gained our bearings, we ordered a strawberry hookah (conveniently delivered by a cute, shirtless boy), ordered a drink and took in the ambiance of the Music Box.

The neighborhoods that can be found Queens are distinct in their flavor and unique in their appeal. But LIC, Astoria and Jackson Heights share the common thread of progress, culture, and inclusion. A trip to Queens may not always be at the top of your list when concerning your next NYC trip, but it should be.

 

TYLER CURRY is a Dallas-based writer, photographer, and founder of the Needle Prick Project. Follow him here.

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