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Socrates Sculpture Park
Photograph: Courtesy Jeffrey Gibson/Socrates Sculpture Park/Scott Lynch Jeffrey Gibson, 'Because Once You Enter My House It Becomes Our House'

Six secrets of Astoria, Queens

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

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 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

Kaufman Astoria Studios
Kaufman Astoria Studios
Photograph: Archer Lewis

Movies and TV shows are filmed here

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.

Wellington Court Street Art
Wellington Court Street Art
Photograph: Archer Lewis

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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Socrates Sculpture Park
Socrates Sculpture Park
Photograph: Courtesy Jeffrey Gibson/Scott Lynch/Sikkema Jenkins & Co./Kavi Gupta/Roberts Projects

There's a sculpture park overlooking the East River

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.

Mombar Little Egypt Astoria
Mombar Little Egypt Astoria
Photograph: Archer Lewis

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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Astoria Park Pool
Astoria Park Pool
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Young Sok Yun 윤영석

Astoria's public pool was used during two Olympic game trials

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!

Astoria Park Hell Gate Bridge
Astoria Park Hell Gate Bridge
Photograph: Archer Lewis

Astoria Park has incredible views and a long history

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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