Imagine having a neighborhood named after you that you’ve never even been to. Such is part of the great history of Astoria, the evolving Queens neighborhood located on the borough’s northwestern edge, along the East River. The area’s original name was Hallett’s Cove, named by Stephen Halsey, a wealthy fur merchant, who founded the neighborhood in 1839. Halsey is the same person who later petitioned to change the name to Astoria, after John Jacob Astor, America’s then wealthiest man, in the hopes that he would be persuaded to invest in the neighborhood. Though he never actually set foot in Astoria, the name lived on, and the area has evolved into a lively, desirable spot to both live in and visit.
While gems can be found throughout the neighborhood, there are several main drags dotted with bars and eateries of all cuisines and price points. One of these is the stretch of 30th Avenue roughly between 31st Street and Steinway, offering popular restaurants like Sugar Freak and Via Trenta Osteria, and creative cocktail bars like The Shady Lady and Sweet Afton. Over on Broadway, just two blocks south, local favorites include tapas wine bar Botte Bar, rustic-chic Sek’end Sun, and The Highwater, a tropical corner spot with a popular happy hour. Further north, Ditmars Boulevard is its own restaurant row, with acclaimed Greek eatery Taverna Kyclades, Martha’s Country Bakery, and The Ditty, a casual pub with small bites and craft beer.
It’s easy to stumble upon cultural establishments while exploring the neighborhood, as notable museums and parks showcasing various media are found throughout. Must-visit spots include the Museum of the Moving Image, dedicated to the art, history, and technology of film, television, and digital media. Closer to the water, the Noguchi Museum was founded by Isamu Noguchi, an internationally-renowned American artist, and displays examples of his life’s work. Visitors can explore indoor-outdoor galleries and an outdoor sculpture garden with exhibition space spanning two floors. Another outdoor art venue, Socrates Sculpture Park, is just across Vernon Avenue, home to multi-media installations that are produced and then presented in this waterfront landscape. Intended to be an accessible studio, the Park allows passersby to watch creations come to life.
The Day-to-Day Life
In terms of residential options, Astoria has something for everyone. Newer buildings like 30-50 21st Street and 11-15 Broadway offer luxury apartments with lengthy amenity packages, including conveniences like fitness centers, 24-hour attended lobbies, landscape rooftops, and on-site parking. Single- and multi-family brick homes can also be found throughout the neighborhood, in addition to larger pre-war co-ops buildings. For wellness-focused amenities outside the home, locals flock to Astoria Park, positioned along the East River waterfront between the Triborough and Hell Gate Bridges. In addition to being known for its spectacular views of Manhattan, the Park has plenty in the way of activities, including tennis courts, a track, trails, and the city’s largest swimming pool.
When it comes to traveling in and out of the neighborhood, you’ve got options. On clear days, the ferry is a particularly lovely mode of transportation. From the Astoria ferry landing at 3-10 Astoria Boulevard, the ride to East 34th Street in Manhattan is approximately 20 minutes—just enough time to enjoy the approaching NYC skyline before it’s time to disembark. If you prefer a subway route, the N/W lines stop at the Broadway, 30th Avenue, and 36th Avenue stations along 31st Street, and the R/M trains are accessible at the Steinway and 46th Street stations. At many of these stations, you’ll find a lot more to look at than just the digital timetable indicating the next approaching train. After being closed for renovations, the 30th Avenue, Broadway, 36th Avenue, and 39th Avenue stations reopened to reveal improvements, repairs, and upgrades, including eye-catching laminated glass artwork breathing new life into these stations.