Boating and Dancing in Flushing Meadows Park
July 10, 2013

Deep in central Queens, tucked between the Van Wyck Expressway and the Grand Central Parkway, is the 93-acre Meadow Lake—the largest lake in New York City—which connects by a small tributary (that runs under a cloverleaf) to its smaller sibling, Willow Lake. At Meadow Lake’s boathouse, you can rent pedal boats, and once you head out on the water you’re treated to dramatic views of the unique artifacts left behind after the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs: the New York State Pavilion and the Unisphere.

If you enter the park from the south—between Meadow and Willow Lakes—the site of these hulking monuments will inevitably draw you deeper into the park. On a summer day you will pass crowds of picnickers sitting around BBQs, flying kites, or playing every variety of outdoor sport (cricket was notably popular). Though getting there by public transportation is a bit of a journey—it’s a 2-mile walk from all the nearest subway stops—it is one worth doing if you like vibrant outdoor spaces that at draw a very diverse crowd. Our 7-year-old daughter Halina, for one, kept stopping to break and groove to the great variety of music that pumped from picnic blankets across the landscape.

Once you arrive at the northern section of the park you will find yourself beneath the remains of the 1964 World’s Fair’s New York State Pavilion, which almost seems lifted from the scenery of a science fiction film. The Pavilion consists of the infrastructure of the “Tent of Tomorrow,” “Observation Towers” and “Theaterama. The “Tent of Tomorrow” was once covered by the largest cable suspension roof in the world, covering a large-scale highway map of New York State. All that is left today is the concrete shell, hovered over by the flying saucer-like “Observation Towers.”

Continuing on you will encounter the Unisphere—a breathtaking metal globe and map of the world. You and your kids will almost certainly not be able to resist the temptation to walk around beneath it—and we highly recommend you give in to temptation because the site is spectacular. From the Unisphere you can also visit a number of other interesting sites in the park—such as the Rocket Thrower and Free Form sculptures—which were also created for the 1964 World’s Fair.

Boating Logistics and Getting There

On Saturdays and Sundays from 10 A.M. to 8 P.M., the boathouse rents pedal boats for up to three or five people for $20 and $25 per hour respectively, and $9 and $12 for each additional half hour. Both cash and credit are accepted and life preservers are included.  For more information, call (646) 229-4470 or visit:

To get there, take the E, F, R, V or G to Forest Hills and 71st Avenue.  Exit the station to the left, and walk one block to 69th Street.  Turn right on this house-lined road (apartment dwellers like us may have to keep reminding themselves that they’re still in the city!) and follow it to Grand Central Avenue.  Cross over Grand Central on the left side of the street walk over the bridge that spans the Grand Central Parkway.  On the other side, follow the path through a collection of baseball diamonds and onto the paved promenade that leads to the Meadow Lake Boathouse on the eastern shore.  

To enter the park near the Unisphere take the 7 train to 111st Street and 40th Street, and walk south past the Hall of Science to 49th Street.


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