Fort Totten Park
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids New York City (AMC Books)
Address:Weaver Road and Totten Avenue, Queens, NY
Hours:6 A.M. to 9 P.M. daily; battery hours vary (call 718-352-1769 for availability)
Fee: Free
Bathrooms: At pool; next to the visitor center
Water/Snacks: Water fountains at pool and at visitor center

Located on a high peninsula, the Fort Totten fortress was originally planned by Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Today the fort offers visitors an opportunity to walk through Civil War history.

The historic Officers' Club at Fort Totten.
Photo by: Elipongo via Wikime

A notable trope in the nomenclature of New York City parks is the word “fort.” Fort Greene, Fort Tryon, Fort Totten—these names raise the question, Why are parks so often built where once there was a fort?

The geography makes sense: High points provide a panoramic view of a surrounding area, which is ideal for defense purposes, and such stunning vistas also work well if you’re looking for dramatic scenery to picnic near. Forts also had to be isolated from population centers to best serve their purpose. This criterion is evident in all fort entries, with the notable exception of Fort Greene (Trip 35), where the city has grown up around it.

At Fort Totten, head first to the visitor center, which doubles as a museum of Civil War naval history. Exit the center downhill to your right to enter the fort remains. After passing through a tunnel that provides the perfect environment for teaching your children about echoes, you arrive at the lower interior section of the old fort. A period cannon resides here in a room overlooking Little Neck Bay.

Ascend the staircase, which will put you in mind of a medieval castle. On the top level, the roof is gone, providing a wide-open view of the bay, far different than the sight provided from windows below. From here, you can teach your kids about perspective.

While the fort was never used for its intended purpose—to defend New York Harbor—the peninsula was an outpost for a range of military activities for more than a century. A network of paved paths take you around the 60- acre park, passing many historical buildings such as the Commanding Officer’s House and the castlelike Officers’ Club, which now houses the Bayside Historical Society. The pool complex, which has a shallow wading pool and a larger pool with a diving area, is located near the middle of Shore Road, at the intersection with Story Avenue, overlooking Little Neck Bay.

Remember: If you’re planning to swim, be aware of city pool regulations.

Plan B:

Return to Main Street in Flushing to visit Kissena Park (Trip 47) to walk within a historical arboretum, or Flushing Meadows Corona Park (Trip 45) to take in some outstanding World’s Fair sites.

Where to Eat Nearby:

Food and ice cream vendors may be in the parking lot. Otherwise, return to Main Street on the Q16 or Q13 for many restaurants and convenience stores.


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