When we talk about paths and itineraries in New York we almost always think about one or a half day tours on foot from Upper Manhattan as far as Midtown or from Lower Manhattan as far as Brooklyn Heights.
We often ignore – due to lack of info or time – some areas of Bronx, Brooklyn itself, Staten Island or Queens, almost always particular and curious, rich in history, nature and unusual locations to discover and explore.
Like Forest Hills, a wonderful “village” with redbrick Tudor style dwellings, tulip trees, English gardens, vintage stores and restaurants where life goes by slowly and measured just like it happened in the early 1900s.
An era where the entire area was planned and then built with the aim “to give a consistent number of people more healthy and proper houses” following an ideal urban community model – the neighborhood unit – and a city garden very popular right in that period.
A surprising fragment of New Yorker history, evolution and local life.
“New York was an inexhaustible space, a labyrinth of endless steps and no matter far he walked,
no matter how well he came to know its neighborhoods and streets,
it always left him with the feeling of being lost.”
Forest Hills is – incredibly – a neighborhood of Queens.
Walking through its parkways, through the access streets enriched by vintage stores, pubs and restaurants and among the huge stone and redbrick dwellings you’d say almost to be ended up suddenly in some bucolic small town of the English countryside.
Do you want an unselfish tip?
Give yourselves a half day – or even more if you have time – in one of the most suggestive and eclectic places of Queens.
Stop and taste the milkshake, Eddie’s Sweet ice creams and sweet things (in full ‘50s mood) or the superlative pizza at Nick’s Pizza, get lost among the trinkets, the old comics and the vintage jewels of the little stores in Austin Street.
You’ll find out that right here John Lennon and Yoko Ono loved to spend their free time, that Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel started to write and compose music together, that in the near West Side Tennis Club – where then The Beatles played and Woody Allen and Barbra Streisand performed – the US Open Tennis Championship was created and opened.
And that Stan Lee, the mythical Marvel comic writer, placed Peter Parker’s home – Spiderman’s protagonist – right among the redbrick buildings near the elegant Tudor style neighborhood.
A little perfect world that still keep living following its own rhythms, exactly like once, despite the untiringly, chaotic and really close – little over 15km and 6/10 subway stops – Manhattan.
Arrived to the Forest Hills-71 Ave subway station, cross Queens Blvd and take Continental Ave, the beating and lively heart of Forest Hills.
Colored houses, markets, cafés, diners and restaurants offering – besides the local products – the most different ethnic cuisines, odd vintage and antiques stores extending as far as the whole Austin Street.
My tip is to have a quick look at it and keep going on, leaving the exploration of this area at the end of the tour and maybe decide to stop right here for a bit of shopping and – a very recommended experience – for lunch or dinner.
Keep going along Continental Ave as far as taking the underground passage (rich in very beautiful murals tied to the neighborhood evolution) of the Forest Hills railroad station. Find here further historic info about that.
It’s a classic – and very beautiful – vintage redbrick building, famous to have been the location chosen by the USA President Theodore Roosevelt for its statement “100% American” on July 4th 1917 and for the great costume ball in 1919 to celebrate the end of the Great War and the return home by train of the American Soldiers.
Through Tennis Pl and Dartmouth St. come back to Continental Ave and walk all along – enjoying the parkways and the wonderful Tudor style houses – as far as Metropolitan Ave.
A stage that cannot be missed is certainly the old Eddie’s Sweet Shop at 105-29, Metropolitan Ave. Working since 1920 –and practically unchanged – this shop with a vintage savor – pay attention to the cash register and the soda machine, both dating back to the 1930s – serves really good cakes, ice creams, milkshakes, banana splits, candies and several delicacies.
Left Eddie’s Sweet, after have had a look at the windows of the near antiques stores and at the ‘50s sign of the old Cinemart Cinemas, turn on the right in Ascan Drive and going all along – enjoying houses, gardens and views – as far as reaching again the heart of Forest Hills, Austin Street.
For lunch or dinner you can choose to taste the delicious pizzas cooked in the traditional brick-oven at Nick’s Pizza or the fabulous tacos at Burro Café’s. While waiting I recommend you to have a look at the craft workshops and at the antiques stores in Austin Street. You’ll certainly find something fit for you.
Before coming back to Manhattan don’t forget going to Kinsh Nosh at 10030, Queens Blvd. It’s an historic bakery dating back to the 1950s, always run by the same family – bulwark of the Jewish community of the area – producing fabulous knish stuffed with meat, cheese and vegetables.
It’s really very easy arriving to Forest Hills.
From Manhattan you can choose to take even four subway lines: M, R, F, E.
The first two lines (M, R) have right the Forest Hills 71 Ave as terminal. The lines E and F (express) have less stops so are the quickest ones and those highly recommended to reach Forest Hills in the least time.
Anyway, reckon at least 30 minutes travelling from Midtown.
Forest Hills can be visited easily on foot. It’s an extremely safe area, don’t be afraid to move alone.
The tour expects about 4/5km path, stops at the locations quoted included.