Flushing Queens Travel Guide
- Flushing Queens Travel Guide
- Chinatown in Flushing
- Flushing Town Hall
- Flushing Main Streets and Shopping
- Green Spaces and Landmarks
- Restaurants and Food Vendors in Flushing Chinatown
- Shops in Flushing Chinatown
- Flushing Boundaries
- Flushing Transportation
- Flushing History
- Crime and Safety in Flushing
- Flushing Neighborhood Basics
Downtown Flushing is the largest urban center in Queens, and home to the second-largest Chinatown in New York City. Step into the masses after exiting the LIRR or the 7 train at Flushing Main Street. People of different nationalities, especially Chinese, but mostly East Asians, throng the downtown sidewalks. Chinese signs are at least as noticeable as English ones. However, this Chinatown truly reflects American fusion. From McDonald’s to Chinese seafood restaurants to street sellers selling fried noodles, there are many options for food. Irish pubs, Starbucks, and bubble tea shops are available for libations. Old Navy and Benetton are the two main retailers, but there are also Chinese bookstores, herbal medicine stores, Asian grocery stores, and music businesses that carry the newest Shanghai hits.
Flushing defines north-central Queens. The historic neighborhood core is the largest urban center in the borough, and it’s the wealthiest and the largest Chinatown in New York City. Since the economic blight of the 1970s, Flushing has changed dramatically. Increasingly prosperous Chinese and Korean communities have grown to be the dominant groups. The downtown, a transportation hub, is now the busiest shopping district in Queens, with big money pinned to planned real estate developments.
Chinatown in Flushing
Chinatown in Flushing is wealthier than Chinatown in Manhattan and is home to a thriving middle-class and blue-collar community. Flushing was primarily an Italian and Greek neighborhood up until the 1970s, but the economic instability of that decade shook the downtown. Flushing’s population declined, and home prices fell. Chinese and Korean immigrants first arrived in Flushing in the late 1970s, and they have dominated the community ever since the 1980s.
Flushing has had a large influx of Chinese immigrants from Taiwan, Southeast Asia, and even Latin America (from earlier immigrant groups). Because of the presence of the larger Chinese community, Flushing offers some of the most delectable dining options.
The Chinese shops and eateries in downtown Flushing are the main emphasis of this tour. The intersection of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue, which stretches for many blocks in all directions, is the area’s business hub. (On Main Street further south, the majority of the businesses serve the South Asian residents of Flushing, including the Pakistanis, Indians, Sikhs, and Afghans. The Korean community has gathered on Northern Boulevard, which is east of Main Street.)
Flushing Town Hall
137-35 Northern Boulevard, Flushing, NY 11354; 718-463-7700
Flushing Town Hall is the premier venue for music and arts in northern Queens. The Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts runs a tight ship with local artists in the gallery, jazz and other music concerts in the Great Hall, and special family programs and festivals. It’s all housed in a beautiful building that’s Victorian-era on the outside, but new, or at least 1980s, on the inside.
Queens Jazz Trail
Of special note is Flushing Town Hall’s commitment to Queens’ jazz legacy. Hundreds of jazz musicians lived in the borough during the music’s heyday, including Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie. The Town Hall runs a Jazz Trail bus tour to see the homes of the jazz greats, especially Louis Armstrong, on the first Saturday of the month. An accompanying map of the homes is beautifully illustrated. On display in the Town Hall’s staircase is a small but rich collection of jazz memorabilia.
Events and Facilities at Flushing Town Hall
The Art Gallery stages exhibits throughout the year, often featuring local Queens and New York artists. Live jazz concerts and cabaret performances are in the Great Hall, a state-of-the-art theater that can be converted between typical auditorium seating and cabaret-style tables. Regular Saturday-morning art workshops for children bring families to the Town Hall. High school students also work on performance.
Flushing Main Streets and Shopping
Main Street puts most Main Streets to shame with its range of shops from Benetton to Chinese herbalists, from Starbucks to dumpling stands. The heart of downtown–Main south from Northern to Kissena–is a barrage of restaurants, signs, traffic, and people. Don’t miss the bargains or noodles at the Flushing Mall (39th Ave at Prince St).
Roosevelt Avenue also bustles, but with less foot traffic. It’s an extended Koreatown strip that stretches east through Bayside and into Nassau County.
Green Spaces and Landmarks
Lovely Kissena Park (Oak and Rose Aves) has a lake; playgrounds; basketball, bocce, and tennis courts; wide paths for strolling; a golf course; and even a Velodrome. Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is a big hop over College Point Boulevard. Queens Botanical Garden is a small oasis south of downtown. Small Bowne Park (29th Ave and 155th St) is cool with a pond.
Flushing Town Hall isn’t a town hall, but a great spot for local art and music. Historic Bowne House (37-01 Bowne St) is closed for repair.
Restaurants and Food Vendors in Flushing Chinatown
Flushing is a mecca of Asian dining, especially Chinese and Korean, and it’s not as well-known as it should be for Indian food. Spiced and priced for local residents, Flushing restaurants are a foodie’s delight. Make sure to try bubble tea and Chinese bakeries.
As in most Chinatowns, there are restaurants on nearly every street in downtown Flushing, but one strip holds my attention. On Prince Street between 38 Avenue and 39 Avenue, around the corner from the Flushing Mall and a couple of blocks from Main Street, a few excellent eating establishments rub shoulders. How or why this block has produced so many delicious meals, I cannot explain. I restrict my pondering as to which one I should pick for lunch today.
Gum Fong (136-28 39th Ave) serves dim sum by day and Cantonese dishes in the evening. Next to a Hindu temple, Dosa Hutt (45-63 Bowne St) is the best place in Queens for the quintessential south Indian snack/meal of dosas.
Green Papaya Thai Cuisine (38-12 Prince Street, 718-353-1888) serves excellent Thai food. See a full review of Green Papaya.
Pho Vietnamese Restaurant (3802 Prince Street, 718-461-8686) has tasty pho beef noodle soup and other Vietnamese dishes. It’s one of the best deals on Prince Street for price and quality. See a full review of Pho Vietnamese Restaurant.
Laifood (38-18 Prince Street, 718-321-0653) is highly recommended for its Taiwanese food, especially for rice sausage and oyster pancakes.
Penang Malaysia Cuisine (718-321-2078) serves delicious Malaysian food. Definitely try the sate, especially if you’re with a child or children. Grilled chicken sticks are a hit at any age.
For vegetarian Chinese food (also kosher), it’s hard to beat Buddha Bodai, which is several blocks south of the heart of Chinatown (42-96 Main Street, 718-939-1188). There are no animal products used in the cooking. See a full review of Buddha Bodai Vegetarian Restaurant.
Downtown Dumplings: Street Food in Flushing
There are many places to get a quick, cheap bite to eat in downtown Flushing. Just below the LIRR tracks, there’s always a line at a window counter for fried noodles. Walk a couple of blocks in either direction and you will find several small restaurants and street vendors serving up filling portions fast. (Bubble tea cafes and Chinese bakeries are covered on the next page.)
The pick of the litter is the Dumpling Stall on 41 Avenue (across from a Starbucks). At four dumplings for a dollar, you can’t go wrong. The dumplings are pan-fried and big enough to fill your stomach but not the floppy puddles of dough found at too many Chinese restaurants. There are also soups, fried noodles, and other quick dishes for sale. Nothing costs more than a couple of dollars. Get yours to go from the window on the sidewalk or step inside to claim one of the few stools.
Don’t get the wrong impression that Flushing is only about Asian food. There are diners, a McDonald’s, and pizzerias, like most places in Queens. Because of the sidewalk traffic, hot dog and kebab vendors do great business. The two most popular carts are at the corners of Main and 38 Avenue and 39 Avenue, just outside St. George’s Church. For $1.50 you can’t beat a chicken kebab, seasoned with lemon or hot sauce, served on a stick with a piece of Italian bread.
Shops in Flushing Chinatown
Downtown Flushing has it all—from Old Navy to Chinese herbalists—and they’re all practically next to one another on Main Street. For the most action, wander north and south on Main from the shopping epicenter at Roosevelt.
One of the longest-established herbalists in Flushing is Shun An Tong Health Herbal Co. (135-24 Roosevelt Avenue), just west of Main Street. You can watch the herbalist prepare remedies from ginseng, mushrooms, shark fin, and other traditional medicines.
Bookshops and Stationery
Flushing Chinatown boasts a number of Chinese bookstores.
- Chung Hwa Books on Roosevelt is convenient for cafes and bakeries for adjourning after finding a new read (135-29 Roosevelt Avenue).
- World Book Store, on the other side of Main Street, has the better selection (136-19 38 Avenue). The first floor and basement are devoted to books and magazines. Make sure to check out the new glossy magazines coming out of Shanghai. There is a good selection of children’s books and games in Chinese. The second floor is devoted to stationery, gifts, and toys, both Hello Kitty types for kids and fewer fun knickknacks for grown-ups.
Toys and More
Magic Castle should not be missed (136-82 39th Avenue). This is a Korean pop culture store that sells toys, stickers, and much more emblazoned with cute characters like Hello Kitty, Kogepan, Pucca, Dragonball Z, and San-X. They also have pop music hits from Korea on CD. They carry low-priced jewelry, hair clips, and more for teenage girls. (Magic Castle is part of Opane, with another store in Manhattan and a great website.)
On Prince Street, south of Roosevelt, Star CD (40-09 Prince Street) has the latest Chinese pop music. That means a lot of dance and club music as well as ballads.
There is an Old Navy at the intersection of Main and Roosevelt, just outside the 7 subway (136-02 Roosevelt Ave). Across the street, a Benetton Outlet sells fashion at a discount (40-06 Main Street, 718-461-7777).
Household Goods and Chinese Imports
The Double Star Trading Company (135-05 Roosevelt Avenue) stocks hardware and household goods, including woks and cooking implements at decent prices. Most fun are the Chinese import items in the back of the crowded shop, like incense and specialty paper goods. There are bundles of money for sale: currency issued by the Bank of Heaven or the Bank of Hell for burning at funerals.
The Flushing Mall
This indoor mall has lots of small shops, that sell everything including Hong Kong fashion, jewelry, art, toys, and cell phones. Plus there is a food court and offices for community organizations. There are bargains to be found at the Flushing Mall, though the real appeal of the mall is convenience. With so many retailers in one location, it is easy to shop and browse with friends and family and get a lot done in a short time. Although people from all over the shop at the mall, the main clientele is Chinese. Many stores stock items from East Asia, or clothes tailored for East Asians. Loudspeaker announcements are in Chinese. However, there is no need to be intimidated. If a clerk doesn’t speak English well, there is sure to be someone else in the store who does. (For a list of all stores, see the website for the Flushing Mall.)
For stationery, stickers, and toys marked with Korean, Chinese, and Japanese cartoon characters, check out Joyce Shop (718-359-4678) on the second floor. They stock all sorts of Chinese pop-star items for the teenybopper crowd and at good prices. If you’re searching for the waving cat (a.k.a. the beckoning cat or maneki neko), he is also available in a sparkling gold variety, battery-powered for $10.
Do not miss the True Love Wedding Center (718-321-3666), a huge wedding photography studio on the second floor of the mall. The display photos of preening brides and grooms are a delight!
Several of the restaurants in the food court have earned praise. The best places serve dumplings, noodles, fried rice, or hot pots, nothing too fancy, but done right.
The Post Office says Flushing is all of central Queens from Maspeth to Whitestone. But the neighborhood of Flushing is really between Flushing Meadows Park and Utopia Parkway (Auburndale). To the north, the Whitestone Expressway and Bayside Avenue separate it from College Point and Whitestone. The LIE is the southern border (Kew Gardens Hills). In the more suburban outskirts, east of Main Street the enclaves of Murray Hill and Flushing-Broadway (north of Northern Blvd).
Flushing is a 30-minute plus commute on the #7 subway to midtown Manhattan from the Main Street terminus. The LIRR also runs from Main Street to midtown—17 minutes.
Buses 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20A, 20B, 25, 27, 34, 44, 48, 65, 66, and QB1 serve Flushing. The QM2 runs express to midtown.
The Whitestone Expressway connects Flushing north to the Bronx, south to the Van Wyck to JFK, and to the Grand Central and LaGuardia. Northern Boulevard and Main Street are big commercial streets.
Driving Directions to Flushing
Driving to Flushing is quite simple, but parking and traffic in the city center can give you headaches. The two busiest streets are Northern Boulevard and Main Street. At Northern Boulevard, leave the Whitestone Expressway (I-678/Van Wyck). Alternately, take Main Street exit off the LIE (I-495) and head north for about a mile.
Parking in Downtown Flushing, Queens
There is a large municipal lot at 37 Avenue and Union Street. The price is right at this two-level garage. There is a smaller municipal lot next to the LIRR at 41 Avenue, just west of Main Street. Another small lot is on Prince Street, between 38 and 39 Avenues, which can often be a nightmare to navigate.
There are several private parking lots, like the one across from the Flushing Mall at Prince and 39 Avenue.
On a weekday, your chances of finding a spot on the side streets near the Flushing Mall are better. Street parking is more likely to be available the further west on Main you travel toward College Point Boulevard. Parking restrictions frequently apply to residential streets like those to the east of Union. Parking on Main Street is only available to the fortunate and the adventurous. Keep an eye out for double parkers!
Dutch colonists in the 1620s bought land from the Matinecocks. The colonists signed the Flushing Remonstrance in 1657, petitioning for, and later, securing religious freedom, which foresaw the freedom of religion in the U.S. Constitution. The tongue-tied English took control in 1664, and renamed Vlissingen, the original Dutch name, to Flushing.
A town in the original Queens County, Flushing grew rapidly after joining New York City in 1898. By the 1950s it was Queens’ largest commercial district.
Crime and Safety in Flushing
Flushing is generally a safe neighborhood. Prostitution is a problem in the downtown and even on residential streets. The industrial zone on both sides of Flushing River, especially Willets Point, are not places for walking alone or at night.
Flushing Neighborhood Basics
- Flushing Problems: Traffic, congestion, and overdevelopment are community concerns. Pollution cleanup and development of the Flushing River and Willets Point Iron Triangle are continually advanced.
- Famous Residents: Actress Fran Drescher and singer Paul Simon grew up in Flushing.
- Queens College: South of the LIE from downtown, Queens College is one of the more highly regarded CUNY institutions (63-50 Kissena Blvd, 718-997-5000).
- Library: Flushing Branch, 41-17 Main St, 718-661-1200
- Parking: Avoid Main Street. Side streets are tough. Parking lots in the downtown are your best options. The sprawling Flushing #1 Municipal Parking Field is the best bet (37th Ave at Union St).
- Post Office: 41-65 Main St, 11355
- Flushing Hospital Medical Center, 43-40 Parsons Blvd, 11355, 718-670-5000
- New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens (formerly Booth Memorial Hospital), 56-45 Main St, 11355, 718-670-1231
- Movies: National Amusements College Point Multiplex Cinemas, 28-55 Ulmer St, Whitestone, NY 11357, 718-886-4900
- Police Station: 109th Precinct, 37-05 Union St, 11354, 718-321-2250
- Community Board 7: 133-32 41st Rd, Suite 3B, 11355, 718-359-2800
- Local History: Queens Historical Society, Kingsland Homestead, Weeping Beech Park, 143-35 37th Ave, 11354, 718-939-0647 x17
- Business Organizations:
- Flushing Chamber of Commerce and Business Association, c/o National Bank of NY, 138th St & 38th Ave, 718-358-3200
- Flushing Chinese Business Association, 135-12 Roosevelt Ave, 3rd fl, 718-353-2320
- Flushing Local Development Corporation, PO Box 520089, 718-460-6658
- Banking: Find local and national banks on Main and Roosevelt. Queens County Savings Bank (156-18 Northern Blvd) started in Flushing and is part of New York Community Bank.
- Health Club: The Flushing Y has a gym and classes but its pool gets packed (13846 Northern Blvd, 718-961-6880).
- Zip Code: 11354, 11355, and parts of 11358, 11365, and 11367