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Astoria movie nights
Photograph: Courtesy Central Astoria Local Development Coalition

Seven secrets of Astoria, Queens

Put your knowledge of Astoria to the test, and see if you know these neighborhood secrets

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver
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You can live in New York for years and still not know everything about its vibrant neighborhoods. Sure, we know the best New York attractions, the best parks and our favorite restaurants, but the city is still full of surprises. That's why we love it.

We named Astoria one of the 50 coolest neighborhoods in the world in 2019 and its 30th Avenue the coolest street in NYC in 2021 and while certainly earned it because of its laid-back vibe and identity as a beautiful melting pot with incredible restaurants and bars, it also has character you can't find anywhere else.

Below, we're spilling six Astoria secrets so you can examine some lesser-known aspects of this outerborough enclave.

RECOMMENDED: Astoria, Queens neighborhood guide

  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
  • Astoria

Not a lot of people know that Astoria is home to bustling TV and film studio. Kaufman Astoria Studios has been here since 1920 when it was built as the original film hub for Paramount Pictures. More than 100 silent films were made on its stages, as well as our favorite shows and movies from today, including Sesame Street, Orange is the New Black, The Path, The Irishman and The Bourne Legacy. While you can't go into the sound stages or backlot, you can see a glimpse of it from 35th Avenue.

You'll find an incredible street art display
Photograph: Archer Lewis

2. You'll find an incredible street art display

The Welling Court Mural Project bills itself as "one of the best collections of contemporary street culture on earth." That's a big claim, but we're pretty smitten with it. Since 2009, the Project has put up some 140 murals by artists from around the world. Covering a multi-block section along Welling Court, the Project is a collaboration between the Ad Hoc Art Collective of Bushwick and the local community. The artists on view have spanned a total of 50 years of street art history, from such graffiti pioneers as DAZE and CRASH to the members of youth development organization Cre8tive YouTh*ink.

If you’re interested in checking it out, you can learn more here. 

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Astoria

In 1986, artists and activists created this 4.5-acre city park over a landfill. Now, it hosts large-scale sculpture exhibits year-round, and is one of the few locations in the city specifically designated for artists to create outdoor works. The splendid Queens space looks out over the Manhattan skyline and is open 365 days a year, offering music and dance performances, movie screenings, yoga and more.

There's a "Little Egypt" to explore
Photograph: Archer Lewis

4. There's a "Little Egypt" to explore

"Little Egypt" is the name given to the stretch of Steinway Street, from 28th Avenue down to Astoria Boulevard, that is an enclave of hookah bars, halal markets and Middle Eastern cuisine.

It comes alive at night for those seeking kebabs and a smoke and on Friday afternoons when Muslim men go for prayer at the Al-Iman Mosque.

Not sure where to start? You have your pick of Egyptian, Lebanese, Palestinian and Moroccan foods, but Mombar's food is an Astoria favorite.

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  • Sports and fitness
  • Gyms and fitness centers
  • Astoria

Astoria actually has the city's largest pool at 330 feet long—that's because it was built as a model for 10 other NYC pools under the Robert Moses administration. It was also used by the U.S. Swim and Diving teams during the 1936 summer Olympic Trials and again in 1964. There are two fountains at the east end of the pool that spray water 25 feet in the air that were uses as Olympic torches then. The pool lies in the shadow of the midtown skyline—the RFK and Hell Gate Bridges tower can be seen from here—but because it was designed to hold 3,000, it can get a little bit crowded. It is, as always, free to the public. When you're there, check out its Art Deco facilities, decorative glass block, deco-style steel railings, and Art Moderne style ticket booth!

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Astoria

While the existence of Astoria Park isn't a secret, its history and incredible scenic views are. The 60-acre park, which boasts tennis courts, a track, walking trails, basketball courts and multiple playgrounds, is right on the East River. That means it has incredible views of the Manhattan skyline and the Triborough/RFK Bridge. Aside from its pool being used in the 1936 and 1964 Olympics, it has a rich history. In its beginning, it was home to a Native American settlement, which fished from the waters of Hell Gate and harvest oysters and clams there, according to Untapped New York. The park's land later became home to wealthy families like the Barclays, Potters, Woolseys, and Hoyts. 

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There's a sign marking the location of a disaster
Photograph: Shaye Weaver/Time Out New York

7. There's a sign marking the location of a disaster

You might miss it if you aren't paying attention along your Astoria Park stroll. On the esplanade along the East River, there's a sign that tells all about the General Slocum Disaster that claimed the lives of 1,021 people—the biggest death toll in NYC until 9/11. A lot of people don't know about the tragedy, so let us inform you. On June 15, 1904, the ship carried 1,358 passengers and crew from the German-American community of the Lower East Side as part of a cruise to the North Shore of Long Island chartered by the St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church. The ship made its way up the East River for about 30 minutes (just as it was passing Randall's Island) until a fire somehow broke out and spread rapidly, causing panic among the passengers. Those who died drowned or were burned alive on the ship. You can see the spot where the ship began to burn from here.

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