I’ve always been fascinated with Queens. Maybe it’s the terrifying memory of driving to LaGuardia for the first time. Or the proverbial hope that comes with being a Mets fan, and the tinge of sadness I feel when I see exit 22A today and can tell that the words “Shea Stadium” exist under the “Citi Field” placard. Driving along the LIE over a lifetime of 26 years brings up questions like: What lies beyond LeFrak City?
As 2014 faded into 2015, popular travel guidebook Lonely Planet confirmed my suspicion that Queens is cool, naming the borough as the No. 1 place to visit in 2015. Who knew that those planning their exit strategy from a Hamptons winter should consider taking one off the western reaches of the expressway? I downloaded the free Queens chapter (available at lonelyplanet.com) and started planning a day trip filled with craft beer and hipster beach living. Until I realized the striking parallels between Queens and the Hamptons.
The guide starts off with, Assuming it’s not Tuesday or Wednesday (when many galleries are closed), start with a day in Long Island City, home to contemporary-art hubs MoMA PS1, Sculpture Center and the Fisher Landau Center for Art.
Assuming it’s not Tuesday or Wednesday (when some area businesses close, in the offseason), start with a day in Southampton Town, home to art hubs the Parrish Art Museum (Water Mill), Tripoli Gallery (Southampton), Southampton Arts Center (Southampton) and Mark Borghi Fine Art (Bridgehampton).
It continues, Watch the sun set from Gantry Plaza State Park, and sip-and-sup on neighborly Vernon Boulevard.
Watch the sun set from The Surf Lodge (Montauk) and sip-and-SUP (that’s stand up paddleboard) on Mecox Bay (Water Mill).
Spend a day or two exploring neighboring Astoria, taste-testing ethnic eateries, sipping local brews and checking out the Museum of Modern Art. If it’s summer, catch an al fresco film at Socrates Sculpture Park.
Spend a day or two exploring the neighboring North Fork, taste-tasting the 40-plus wineries, sipping local brews and checking out the multitude of shops along Love Lane in Mattituck. If it’s summer, catch an alfresco film, live theater or art festival at Mitchell Park in Greenport.
Immortalized by the Ramones’ 1977 song “Rockaway Beach,” America’s largest urban beach—and New York’s best—is just a $2.50 trip on subway line A.
Immortalized by the Rolling Stones’ 1976 song “Memory Motel,” Montauk, the East End’s most hipster hamlet is just a $3, inter-Hamptons trip on the LIRR.
Less crowded than Coney Island and famed for its surprisingly natural scenery and surf spots, Rockaway Beach is also home to a burgeoning summertime scene of hipsters, artists and locavore food options.
More crowded than Coney Island and famed for its unsurprisingly natural scenery and surf spots, Montauk is—much to the dismay of locals—also home to a burgeoning summertime scene of hipsters and locavore food options. (The artists were always here.)
At the heart of the [Rockaway] revolution is the banging taco shack Rockaway Taco; its guacamole-topped fish tacos alone are worth the trip out here.
At the heart of the [Montauk] revolution is the banging taco option “Blackened Local Fish Montaco,” with homemade mango salsa and creamy coleslaw, at 668 The Gig Shack.
(Tip to Rockaway Taco: “Tacaway” would be a great name.)
So, is the moral of the story that Queens really is the Hamptons in disguise? Cheers to having an adventure while figuring that out.
The Jitney stops at exit 23 off the LIE. The Montauk Branch of the LIRR requires a transfer in Jamaica, Queens, and for those Hamptonites who have learned to drive on four-lane highways—I don’t include myself in this category—there’s obviously direct access via the Expressway.