1 hour to kill | 2 hours to fill | 4 to enjoy
Suggestions for a Queens layover
1. INTERFAITH ALLEY
Religious chapels are becoming more common in airports. The first airport chapel in the US opened 60 years ago in Boston. Today, there are hundreds of chapels in airports all around the world. In JFK four sit side by side on “Interfaith Alley”: a Jewish synagogue, a Protestant chapel, a Roman Catholic church, and an Islamic centre. The chaplains who preside at Kennedy are a one-of-a-kind team available to serve the spiritual needs of travelers as well as about 37,000 JFK employees. Located pre-security on the departure level of Terminal 4. Whatever your faith or otherwise these four designated rooms represent the most peaceful spaces in the airport.
2. HEALTHY FOOD
JFK is a big airport. The biggest international gateway into North America. It is spread over six passenger terminals, so any advice on where to go to eat depends on which terminal you are in. If you are in Terminal 1, for example, your best bet might be Starbucks for an oatmeal or fruit & yogurt parfait. CIBO are great for grab-and-go healthy fare at a reasonable price. Typically they have fruit, hummus, veggies, wraps and fresh salads. You’ll find a CIBO market in terminal 2, terminal 5 (between gates A and B) and terminal 8 (gate 7). For a sit down meal in terminal 4 the seared salmon and chopped salad in Uptown Brasserie is a good option. Terminal 5 also has a Jamba Juice and good quality sushi in Deep Blue, and if you’re in terminal 7 go for the frozen yogurt at Red Mango. Lots of options. Keep your eye out for the new trend: airport takeaway delivery services. Soon you will be able to have your food delivered to you at your gate from any corner of the airport. No excuse then not to seek out the healthy food.
Airport terminals are like busy warehouses. They echo with announcements. They smell of luggage. Anything that can be done to block out the chaos and to calm the nervous system is welcome. Services such as Be Relax and XpresSpa help to ease the stresses of travel but you can never quite forget where you are: trapped in the terminal. Relaxing music aims to drown out the din but the hustle and bustle always bleeds in. However there is an alterantive. If you have more time explore the hotel spa alternatives with Sanctifly.
4. IDLEWILD PARK
JFK International Airport is famous for being located in something of a wasteland. Twenty miles from the city that never sleeps, you might say that around JFK the city never wakes! Still there are options and, of course, a walk in the park is always an alternative. Fresh air ain’t too exciting but it’s free. Perhaps the nearest place for a nature walk is Idlewild Park. You can arrive there in 8 minutes via taxi. This 160-acre preserve is nothing spectacular but if all you have in mind is a natural environment for a stroll, it does the job. Part green spaces, part saltwater marsh. You might see canoes and kayaks at times but there’s not a whole lot else going on. Idlewild is not such a well known place these days but back before JFK died in 1963 Idlewild was the name of the airport. Today it's nothing but marshland, open space and open air.
Eleven miles from the airport concourse is Long Beach. The beach itself is 3.3 miles long and has a newly rebuilt 2.2 mile long boardwalk. Be aware, enjoying Long Beach comes at a price. €15 to be precise, for a beach pass. On a fine day the walk along the boardwalk is worth it. The area is pleasant and trouble-free - no animals, no barbeques, no alcohol, no rollerblading. So you'll have nothing to worry about it as you stroll the promenade, soak up the atmosphere, smell the sea spray, and feast your eyes on the ocean. Half an hour in a cab. One of the best beaches near the city.
Smile of the Beyond - established in 1972 - is New York City’s first vegetarian diner. Located at 8614 Parsons Boulevard in Queens this long-standing institution is owned and operated by students of the spiritual teacher and philosopher Sri Chinmoy. He lived just half a mile away from the restaurant and continues to inspire the wonderful food and meditative atmosphere to this day. Great, fresh juices and smoothies, burritos, salads and veggie versions of breakfast and lunch classics. Sky blue seating booths and colorful, simple artwork on the walls complete the experience in this popular neighbourhood diner. Promises to fill you up and put a smile on your face.
7. BOTANICAL GARDENS
Queens Botanical Gardens is nestled 25 minutes by taxi from JFK on 39 acres of land near Flushing Meadows. 39 acres sounds big but you can stroll it easily in about one hour. Nestled in one of the city’s most bustling and diverse neighbourhoods the Gardens are an urban oasis where people, plants and cultures are celebrated. The lovely sights and smells of trees and flowers are a welcome respite from the city surroundings, never mind the corridors and walkways of the airport. In the warmer months there is an admission fee of $6 and although these Botanical Gardens are considerably smaller and arguably less impressive than those of Brooklyn they are half the distance away. Every season has its charms but naturally it’s not the same scene in the winter. Perhaps that's why it is free from November to March.
Kissena Park Golf Course is quite a short course yet challenging for the recreational golfer. It is located on Booth Memorial Avenue in Fresh Meadows and you can get there in a taxi from the airport in about 25 minutes. Clubs are available to rent for €22 and an early-bird 9-hole round costs €18 on average. Bear in mind that in the summer months it can be busy but if you are lucky enough to get a tee time then you will enjoy a nice little course with lots of par 3 holes and a few tricky hills. Winter months can be much quieter when you may even find yourself alone on the fairways. There is also a links course a little further away near Long Beach but they don’t rent clubs. Either way you’re gonna need a long layover to squeeze in a round. Especially if the course is busy.
9. FLUSHING MEADOWS
The city’s second biggest park has a huge selection of attractions. If you happen to visit in early September you would have the opportunity to experience the atmosphere of the US Open Tennis Tournament. Outside of that window there are still a host of other reasons to make the journey to Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The rolling green fields encompass a zoo, a boating lake, a skate park, barbecue areas, the New York State Pavilion and the New York Hall of Science. The park’s most enduring icon is the Unisphere, a mammoth steel globe created for the 1964 World’s Fair. Flushing Meadows is a great spot, full of life and variety. Taxi is a 45 minute round trip.
10. GANTRY PLAZA STATE PARK
It's a long way to go but it's all about the view. Gantry Park in Queens is one of the best places from which to observe the splendid Manhattan skyline. From a distance, on a sunny day, the Big Apple looks shiny and ripe. At night it lights up like a starry sky. Listen carefully and you can hear Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue on the wind that blows in off the East River. I don't care what anybody says, it's really a knockout! Take the AirTrain and change at Jamaica Station for Gantry Plaza State Park. It might take you over an hour to get there by train, but once you are sitting down and taking in the view you might even feel glad that your flight was delayed.
Look out for our LaGuardia Top Tips coming soon when we reveal how to kill, fill and enjoy the hours on a Manhattan layover.
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