For the second of our bitesized guides to New York City's boroughs we head to Queens, the largest and most ethnically diverse of all five boroughs. It's also home to the tallest tree in the New York metropolitan area, and the highest skyscraper in NYC outside of Manhattan.

Why go?

Queens is the most ethnically diverse 300 sq km (115 sq miles) on the planet. Nearly half of all residents are immigrants, meaning you can experience Greece, India, Spain, Peru, Puerto Rico, Israel, Malta, Japan, Colombia and Ireland, to name a few, in some way or another all within a relatively small area. It's also a hotspot for cutting-edge art, and natural wonders sit side by side with architectural spectacles, such as the 201m (658ft) Citicorp Building in Long Island City.


PS1 Contemporary Art Center
More of an exhibition area than a gallery of collections, the PS1 Contemporary Art Center displays some of the world's most experimental art. Affiliated with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), PS1 is one of the world's largest and oldest centres devoted to the advancement of contemporary, cutting-edge art. Exhibitions change frequently and there's a thought-provoking surprise to be found in every nook and cranny of this Romanesque Revival former public school building.

Bowne House
Located in Flushing, the Bowne House, built in 1661, is the oldest building in Queens and one of the oldest in NYC. It played an important role in establishing America's principles of religious freedom and has been designated a National Historic Landmark. The house, a mix of Dutch and English architectural styles, was built by John Bowne, an English immigrant whose actions lead to the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution.

Museum of the Moving Image

Currently undergoing expansion (due for completion in winter 2009/10), the Museum of the Moving Image aims to educate and enhance the public's appreciation of all things celluloid. Every aspect of film and TV production is covered, from techniques, filming and promotion to the history of movie-making right up to and including the digital era. A few hours spent with the hands-on exhibitions and demos will pass shockingly quickly for adults and kids.

5 Pointz

An entire block of Queens is devoted to graffiti, or aerosol art as 5 Pointz calls it. Far from being a scruffy free-for-all, 5 Pointz is a commercial factory building curated by Meres One. As well as the impressively decorated building to look at, there's always something else going on in the vicinity, from break dancing, photo shoots and filming to artists exchanging ideas and signing autographs. The art is allowed to exist thanks to the goodwill of the landlord and the hard work of volunteers so donations are always welcome.

Aside from being the tallest tree in New York City, the Queens Giant is probably the oldest living thing in the area too. Over 40m (134ft) tall, the tree is 350-400 years old, with some sources citing nearer 450 years. It's something of a secret amongst New Yorkers and finding it is no easy task. Head to Alley Pond Park in northeast Queens and look for a dizzyingly tall tulip tree surrounded by a protective metal fence.


Flushing Meadows Corona Park
The largest park in Queens has a zoo, art museum, botanical garden, science museum, numerous sports facilities and the Shea baseball stadium, home to the New York Mets. Derogatively described as a "valley of ashes" by F Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby, Flushing Meadows Corona Park has since risen, phoenix-like, to become one of New York's flagship parks.

Bay Wildlife Refuge
Covering an area almost equal to Manhattan, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is a wetland estuary boasting hundreds of species of fish, butterflies and birds. It's one of the most important urban wildlife refuges in the United States. You can explore the salt marshes, islands, fields and woods by foot on one of the many nature trails, by kayak (if you have your own) or on horseback. Try the Jamaica Bay Riding Academy for trail rides.

America's longest municipal beach offers a complete break from the manic bustle of New York City. At the end of the A Train, it's easy to get to and the journey will reward you with a clean boardwalk, big waves and, of course, vast expanses of sparsely populated beach. You can make your visit as secluded as you like - take a picnic and walk until you can't see anyone else, or enjoy the food and bevvies on offer in the small town of Rockaway Beach. It's also New York's only surf spot, so don your wetsuit and hit the waves.

Sculpture Park
Located on the East River waterfront and transformed from an illegal dump and landfill, the Socrates Sculpture Park is both a public park and an outdoor exhibition space. In summer, there's an outdoor cinema and a free international film festival and there are always new exhibitions and community projects going on, making the park an essential and vibrant part of Queens, and NYC, life.

Getting there from Downtown

Journey time: About 30 minutes from Times Square to Flushing Main St.
Subway: A, L, J, M, Z, G, F, G, R, V, E, C or 7.

More NYC transport info

Did you know?

If Queens was an independent city, it would be the fifth-largest city in the USA.

Check back next week to read our bitesized guide to Brooklyn.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.