Jackson Heights in Queens, NYC is a cosmopolitan neighborhood known for its food, boutiques, and culture. Walking through the area is a real treat for people who like to explore customs and traditions from around the world.
There are large Indian, Korean, and Mexican communities in Jackson Heights. And as a result, you can explore the very best these wonderful cultures has to offer. You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to exciting things to do — but here are seven of the most popular.
1. Sample Food from Around the Worldon Roosevelt Avenue
Jackson Heights has a nationwide reputation for street food. And if you want to be at the heart of the culinary action, head straight to Roosevelt Avenue. Particularly at night, this part of Queens comes to life in an explosion of gastronomic joy.
You’ll get the opportunity to taste a huge range of Hispanic classics, from the likes of Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic. Look out for made-to-order tortas and tacos. And you can’t visit Jackson Heights without sampling a gordita (a sandwich with a distinctive Latin American twist).
Look for the “7” train line when you arrive. You’ll find most of the culinary action directly underneath the tracks. This is also where you’ll find many of the area’s top nightspots. And when you’re done for the evening, you’ll find street vendors serving quesadillas, tamales, and roast pork until the early hours.
2. Learn About the LGBT Community at Queens Pride House
New York City has always been home to a vibrant and forward-thinking LGBT community. Every June, thousands of people gather in the local streets for Queens Pride Parade & Multicultural Festival. However, the city’s wondrous celebration of all things LGBT isn’t just for summer.
On 37th Avenue, you’ll find Queens Pride House. This is a type of community center that opens its doors to people of all backgrounds and sexual persuasions. There’s a continual celebration of gay culture, as well as various educational and historical events and exhibits.
And once you’ve taken a look around and met some of the local community, enjoy a few cocktails at one of the many gay bars and nightclubs in the local area. This is one of the most open and welcoming communities in New York. It doesn’t matter what time of the year you visit, there’s always a lively celebration to enjoy. Combine a little history with a wild night out at Friends Tavern on Roosevelt Avenue — said to be the oldest gay bar in NYC.
3. Dance All Night at Terraza 7
Terraza 7 is one of the most famous nightspots in Queens. Located on Gleane Street, this lively nightclub regularly hosts DJs, musicians, and concerts. The vibe is predominantly a mix of African, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern, but there’s an international flavor to proceedings every night.
If there isn’t a lively music act on stage, don’t worry. Terraza 7 often plays host to movie screenings, open mic nights, and poetry competitions. There’s a laid-back, welcoming atmosphere throughout the week. And if you’re there on the right night, you might get the chance to perform on stage yourself.
4. Shoot Some Hoops in Travers Park
The heart of Jackson Heights is arguably Travers Park. This is where local people meet to socialize, exercise, and have lots of fun. If you’re a stranger in town, you won’t feel like one for long. Through the day, there’s a positive energy about the place — and absolutely everyone is able to join the fun.
Bring some sports equipment and a picnic to this wonderful park, and you’ll be able to enjoy a full day out. There are tennis, basketball, and handball courts, which are all free. If you have kids, take them to one of the park’s several playgrounds. Or if you need to cool off in the hot, summer sun, splash about in one of the spray showers.
This is the perfect place for a family day out. You’ll often find kids playing soccer or softball on the grass — and anyone is free to join in. There’s even a space devoted to roller hockey. Or if you simply want to enjoy a leisurely stroll, head to the beautifully landscaped gardens.
5. Go Shopping
There are countless shopping opportunities in Jackson Heights. Whether you’re looking for fashion or ethnic foods, the items on your shopping list will never be far away. For a specialty market with a difference, head to Patel Brothers on 74th Street. Here, you’ll find everything from whole-wheat chapati flour to Madras curry powder. If you love Indian food, this is the place to go for your groceries.
Walk along 74th Street, and you’ll see a wide range of wares for sale. Everything from homemade clocks to prayer mats are available. Just make sure you’re ready to haggle for the best possible price.
6. Immerse Yourself in Classic Architecture
Jackson Heights in Queens has a look and feel all of its own. And that’s mostly down to the area’s distinctive architecture. Simply walking down the street and admiring the structures that surround you is an experience on its own.
While there is eye-catching architecture at every turn in Jackson Heights, the European Renaissance inspired the neighborhood’s most iconic structures. Ornate chimneys and mansard roofs characterize The Chateau on 80th Street. And The Towers, also on 80th Street, is a beautiful example of Italian style. The red-tile roofs and belvederes of The Towers look a little out of place in this part of New York. But the juxtaposition magnifies the building’s beauty.
7. Visit the Famous Scrabble Street Sign
An out-of-work architect from Jackson Heights invented the world-famous board game Scrabble. In an effort to make ends meet, Alfred Butts created his word game in his fifth-floor apartment. He first called his invention Lexiko, inspired by the word “Lexicon.” Over the next decade, Butts and his business partner refined the rules, and eventually rebranded the game as Scrabble.
Head to Butts’s old haunt on the corner of 35th and 81st streets, and you’ll see the famous Scrabble street sign. It’s the only one in the city that’s brown. And each letter in the address has a word score underneath it.
Jackson Heights isn’t always thought of as a tourist hot spot. But this diverse, multicultural area of Queens is full of hidden treasures.