FLUSHING: Fun Times Edition!
by Heidi Ran Chen
A Guide to Flushing: Fun Times Edition
Flushing, that mythical land of the Far East(ern Queens), may exist only in the imagination for all but a few adventurous Manhattan/Brookynites. And to be fair, it’s pretty far. From Times Square (hop on) to the Main Street stop (hop off) at the end of the world 7 line, the ride alone will take half an hour. But once you step off the subway, a world of “exotic” pleasures await you. And it looks it. With a scale and cultural/linguistic steadfastness that dwarfs the charmingly narrow and bilingual streets of Manhattan’s Chinatown, Flushing offers a rare glimpse of what the loaded metropolises of Asia, specifically China, might look like.
Mostly clustered around the broad Main Street, its coronary side streets, and nearby Murray Hill (of the non-bro persuasion), Flushing’s Asian culinary offerings are boundless, dense, and uncontestedly more authentic than anything the flashier boroughs can provide. And there’s plenty of fun stuff to do in between your daily recommended intake of nine Flushing meals. Below we’ve got the most trip-worthy eats and activities that will make you a Flushing die-hard or, at the very least, an in-the-know food & fun hero for your less enlightened friends. (Read Part 2 Here)
Part 1: Where to Have Fun Like a Champ
You’re gonna wanna fit as many meals in as you can on this glorious day of nom’ing but how should you be spending your digestion time? Is Flushing a food oasis but fun desert? It is not. From mega spas to karaoke, museums, parks, to botanical gardens, Flushing will help you spend those calories and justify all the meals.
For the Hedonist
131-10 11th Ave, College Point
This 24-hour, Korean-style mega-spa is a bit out of the way but worry not: they offer free shuttles every hour to 30 minutes to and from Main Street. You can also catch the Q25 bus and fully milk the exorbitant cost levied on us mortals by the MTA.
Unlike your average spa, Spa Castle is a palatial playground for your body. $40/$50 (weekday and weekend, respectively) gets you a full day access to various types of indoor and outdoor pools - like a “hydrotherapy foot spa and body massage pool” or a classic, Japanese-style “Hot Event Tub” using pine and mineral water) - and saunas built with Himalayan salt, jade (real), and gold (also real), and a slew of others. I mean, lying in a gold plated room being caressed by restorative heat? That’s swank. (Apparently, according to the site, “gold is found to comfort sore limbs and assist in reaching the perfect balance in your mind, body and soul.” Not surprising, considering it’s literally $$.)
There are a bunch of other amenities including a traditional “bath house” on the first floor, a sleeping room, a gym, sundeck, etc (and that’s a loaded et cetera). If you’re feeling extra fancy, there are also additional services like massages, body scrubs, hot stones situations, that you have to pay for. Restaurants serving Korean and Italian (why) fare and a bar serving beer and wine, rounds out the whole sensory experience. So, roll deep with your crew to Spa Castle and roam around the premises, try out all the spa/pool/sauna offerings, chill in the resting areas, take a nap, eat something - it’ll be an adventure in leisure well worth the trip.
The Real KTV
136-20 Roosevelt Ave, Fl 3, Downtown Flushing
Life, career, relationships, karaoke - all important subjects for one of life’s greatest questions: what is real even? Here in Flushing Queens, you can check off at least one (or more) of these burning inquiries, thanks to The Real KTV. Enter the ambitiously named establishment (you have to cut through a huge dimum restaurant on the third floor of the New World Mall) and what is immediately apparent about this karaoke club (yep) is that it’s totally crazy. Perhaps you’re a mainstay at your local bar’s Tuesday karaoke night, or maybe you’ve been to the private rooms in Koreatown or St. Marks where you pay $8-$10 an hour per person. This is not that.
Like Chinese karaoke establishments in actual China, The Real KTV will dazzle your eyes and confuse your sensibility with its flashy, golden, over-the-top Rococo style decor. The rooms themselves range from Mini, Small, Medium, Large, “Luxury”, VIP, and “Presidential” with corresponding levels of bling design (we’re talking tufted velvet sofas, huge chandeliers, glass mirrors, leathers, neon underlighting, the works) rivaling the most poppin’ nightclubs in the city. All of this, including the fact that there’s even bottle service (lol!), will make a lot more sense considering these karaoke clubs are the indisputable champions of East Asia’s nightlife culture, far outpacing your familiar bar or club scene. The rooms are priced according to size: from the $40/hour Mini’s - which fit 3-5 people - to the VIP suites - upwards of 25 people - at $120. (Tip: go during the day for half prices.) Sounds a little egregious? It’s actually not.
One of the most fortunate eccentricity of these kinds of karaoke places, besides its lol interior, is that all of the room fees are redeemable for food and drinks. That means if you spend 2 hours in a mini room, paying 80 bucks in room fees, you can order up to $80 in food and alcohol without paying any extra. (As can be imagined, this feature can sometimes get a little too fun - it’s like the alcohol is FREE, you know?) There are lots of English songs for everyone to sing, a touch screen input system that you’ll have to ask the waiters to switch to English, and plenty of pretty delicious food and alcohols to consume. Coupled with the absurdly swanky environment and you’ve got a true experience.
For the Sightseer
Queens Botanical Garden
43-50 Main St. Flushing
Wash down your mouth feast with a visual feast at the Queens Botanical Garden, which will cost you only $4 ($0 in the winter months) and an 8 block walk from the 7 train stop. There are a full 39 acres of gardens, woodlands, wetlands, and meadows - MEADOWS - to help you digest/pretend like you’re a sprite in the forest. Of course, spring and summers are better for botanical gardens (science) and you’ll get to see cherry blossoms, magnolias, and all kinds of beautiful flora whose existence you’ve all but forgotten, sitting there in your “cozy” apartment with a view of the next door building wall. Even in the winter, perennials bloom and birders will have a particularly good time catching sight of everything from red-tailed hawks to warblers. Bonus: it’s just out of the way enough that you won’t be accosted at every turn by a marathon-trainee or parties (illegally) drinking wine - looking at you, Central Park. Nature is truly amazeballs.
Voelker Orth Museum
149-19 38th Ave, Flushing/Murray Hill
Pop in to this adorable “museum”, which is really a single-family home with surrounding properties that has been turned into a super pretty, Victorian garden. At only 10 blocks from the Main Street stop, the Voelker Orth Museum is totally walkable but those more frail of constituion can also take a quick MTA bus ride down.
The grounds are a faithful replica of Victorian-era domestic greenery, displaying plants and flowers that were popular during that particularly romantic period. The house itself dates back to 1891, with very little changes to the present day, and you can walk through (house tours are on a drop in basis) to look at some very cool throwback settings including Wardian plant cases, a Victorian library, etc. The museum is simultaneously a bird sanctuary and its flora attracts butterflies like monarchs and swallowtails and birds like hummingbirds orioles. Look out for those if you’re visiting at the right time but the museum also holds special exhibitions and workshops on garden/horticultural related topics, if that’s more your jam.
(Honorable Mention: Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. It’s close to the Queens Botanical Garden in an attraction-dense area of Queens that also contains the Queens Museum, New York Hall of Science, and the Queens Zoo. Suffice to say it’s got a lot of competition for your attention and probably would only succeed on the basis of the iconical Unisphere structure that was created for the 1964 World’s Fair.)
For the Activity/Culture Enthusiast
170-20 39th Ave, Flushing/Auburndale
There aren’t too many archeries in NYC - the only other notable one being Gotham Archery in Gowanus - which comes somewhat as a surprise because if not here then where?! But though Gowanus is (questionably) more accessible than Flushing, Queens Archery is cheaper and more popular amongst the archery community/Groupon enthusiasts. It is a bit of a ways out, about 2 miles due east of the Main Street stop, but there are quite a few buses you can take, and you’ll have an awesome answer when your coworker asks you what you did this weekend (“Archery. Literally, BOWS AND ARROWS”).
If you have your own equipment, you’re a very special individual. Also, it’ll cost you $15 per hour to play with the bow and arrows, which you own, personally. With equipment rental, $25 per hour. Seems a petty price to pay to shoot perfectly streamlined stick weapons of death at targets, and get better at it too. But if you’re imagining Robin Hood situations that look like this, you are in for a treat. Not to worry, if you’re a novice, you can (and should) take lessons, which are free for first timers with the $25 rental. Even if you’ve done it a few times, maybe still go ahead and take a lesson? It’s like some old guy said, with great power comes great responsibility.
New York Hall of Science
47-01 111th St, Flushing Meadows
Located off the 111 St stop on the 7, two stops back from Main Street, the New York Hall of Science is the only hands-on science center in New York, for the enjoyment of your inner/actual child. It has more than 450 interactive exhibits (including Rocket Park which allows you take a look inside two real NASA rockets and other spacecrafts), a 60,000 square-foot Science Playground, Design Lab, and rotating exhibits (like the Robots 3D exhibition which talks about robotics and showcases some of the latest developments in the field).
It costs $8-$11, depending on which stage of life you’re in. And yes, it’s often billed as a children’s museum which means, full disclosure, the risk of running into throngs of children - one of the greatest fears mankind has ever known - is high. But if science is your thing, and touching things is your thing, then take an excursion to the NYSCI. Worst case scenario, you’ll have some young-at-heart fun, get flustered by the small humans, and retreat back to Flushing and eat away your distress. Doesn’t really sound all that bad does it?
(Honorable Mention: Queens Museum. Not to knock the “diverse collection of art” at the Queens Museum, but probably the only thing here that’s worth the trip is the Panorama of the City of New York, Robert Moses’ scale model of all five boroughs. It’s big, it’s intricate, and it’s pretty pretty cool.)