Queens Pride in Jackson Heights

New York City is quite the destination during gay pride season, seeing as there’s not only a pride festival for each individual borough, but also Harlem as well. My personal favorite is Queens Pride, since not only is it in my all time favorite NYC neighborhood but it’s a very unique setting. Jackson Heights masters the art of gay neighborhood bars and clubs, with a really fun-loving Latino crowd. I’ve been going to these gay bars since 2008, and it’s one of the few places that haven’t been tainted by gentrification, brunch culture, and circuit parties in NYC. That is not to say that it doesn’t get crowded and crazy, I’ve had many fun nights here partying. But the people who go are what really make it special. It’s a mainly low-key Spanish speaking crowd in bars that have drag shows in Spanish, and all types of Latin music. It’s definitely fun to check out if you’ve never experienced it before.

My husband & I at Queens pride

My husband & I at Queens pride

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Various hilarious and creative costumes in the parade

Take the E,F,M,R, or 7 train to 74th Street and Roosevelt Avenue to arrive in Jackson Heights. The pride festivities consist of:

  • a parade (that marches down 37th Avenue, 1-2 blocks north of the subway),
  • two main stages with drag shows, dancing & singing performances, and a ton of street carts and vendors (concentrated on 37th Road, 1 block north of the subway),
  • the bars and clubs are spread out but mainly on Roosevelt Avenue in a 12 block radius.

In the parade there are familiar faces (the famed Miss Colombia who appears at just about every parade in NYC), local politicians, and various cultural groups from all over the city – many catering to different groups of color (LGBT North Africans for example), The choices for gay bars include Hombres Lounge (younger crowd, hookahs available), Friend’s Tavern, The Music Box, True Colors (all neighborhood bars, the first 2 having outdoor space), and Club Evolution (3 bars and ample space to dance and socialize). Besides the gay choices, there’s tons of Latino sports and dive bars to hang out at, all very reasonably priced. Queens pride tends to get crowded, but nowhere near as crowded as Manhattan and unlike on Christopher Street there’s much more space for movement in Queens.

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Perfect plumage

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The famed Miss Colombia

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Eat your heart out Lady Gaga circa 2010 #queenswhorecycle

Where Carinval meets Pride!

Where Carinval meets Pride!

And don’t get me started on the food. Jackson Heights is the most diverse zip code in the world, the population being mixed Latino from the Caribbean, Central America, and South American, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and a sprinkling of old-school Italian and Russian communities. Needless to say, it’s a festival in one of the most ethnically blessed neighborhoods ever, the options are unlimited. Colombian empanadas, tacos, momos, curry kebab, rice & beans, and Thai fried rice are just some of your choices here. These are some of the many reasons that I’m proud to show off Queens, and I’m ok with most people living in NYC thinking that it’s lame here since it keeps a more authentic feel to what it means to be from Queens.

Have you been to Jackson Heights? What about Queens pride?

Way uptown: the unknown part of Manhattan

I’m a New York native, which in NYC is hard to come by. I’m from a boring suburb on the Queens/Long Island border. What I find to be the best part about this city is that you can go to a wide variety of different neighborhoods depending on what you’re in the mood for in terms of vibe, food, nightlife, or anything really. You can go months exploring what the different areas have to offer.

An area of the city I enjoy but don’t visit enough is way uptown in Manhattan. Spanning the area of 155th to 220th street, you have the areas of Washington Heights and Inwood. Washington Heights hails the biggest Dominican population of the city, and also being the area with the highest foreign-born residents in all the five boroughs. Inwood is a much quieter area at Manhattan’s northern tip with a mixed Dominican and Irish population.

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Beautiful apartment building in Inwood

A trip all the way up the A or the 1 train rewards you with fine Dominican cuisine, world class museums, rowdy Dominican bars that party hard, tranquil nature, unbelievable views of the Hudson River, The Bronx, and New Jersey.

I visited The Cloisters a few weeks ago, which is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art perched atop a hill with excellent views over the Hudson River. The museum is dedicated to medieval art and architecture, and it’s quite a collection. The admission is suggested, so you can give what you wish and there are also packages you can buy with tickets to the regular branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and other NYC attractions.

The Cloisters

The Cloisters

The Cloisters

The Cloisters

Afterwards, my companions and I had a nice feast at Dyckman Express Restaurant, a no-frills Dominican restaurant right off of the 1 train stop for Dyckman. Top-notch quality Caribbean food which is very fresh and the price is right. The cheese and crab mofongos are delicious and the perfect texture. For those you don’t know what mofongo is, it’s a Caribbean (mostly Puerto Rican) masterpiece of mashed plantains with spices and either a tomato or garlic sauce. The avocados, fried cheese, sweet plantains, cassava, fried, rice, and beans are also big winners. There are also plenty of other options on this street as well as further down Broadway in the 160s.

cheese mofongo & fried cheese

cheese mofongo & fried cheese

Finally, we strolled down Broadway uptown to Inwood Park, a magnificent park that shows the true diversity of New York City since it’s nature with a much quieter atmosphere than Central Park. The views from Inwood Park are not juxtaposed by tall skyscrapers, but rather a creek and a bridge that takes you from Manhattan to the Bronx. The only sound you’ll hear in certain parts of the park are the gentle glide of traffic over the bridge, and in other parts you can almost achieve perfect silence. Kind of eerie thinking you’re still in Manhattan. In fact, one of my best friend’s grandfather experimented with sustainable living off of nature in this very park and managed to do so for about 6 years without rejoining the rest of society. A true example that a New York City experience can be anything you choose.

Inwood Park

Spuyten Duyvil creek at Inwood Park

Other points of interest in the area include the oldest house in Manhattan, the only lighthouse on Manhattan isle, and a bar with a relaxing atmosphere on the river. The Morris-Jumel Mansion is open to visitors Tuesday-Sunday; it’s the oldest house in Manhattan on Jumel Terrace in between 160th and 162nd streets. I have yet to visit, but it’s on my list. Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse, aka the little red lighthouse, is in Fort Washington Park almost directly below the George Washington Bridge in the heights. It’s a nice, short hike down to the river to see the lighthouse, you can’t go inside but it’s a pretty sight when placed next to the bridge. Finally, go on a hot summer evening and enjoy the ambiance of La Marina, a bar and restaurant with outdoor seating with great views of the river and the George Washington Bridge in the distance. It is located at the west end of Dyckman Street on the Hudson River, drinks and hookahs are available.

Little red lighthouse under the bridge

Little red lighthouse under the bridge

Have you visited Inwood or Washington Heights? What did you like when you went?

Why I want to be a blogger

Hey guys I’m going underway with this blogging101 course and I wanted to tell you more about myself and my blog’s purpose.

I’m completely obsessed with travel. I’m constantly researching destinations that range from domestic to international, exotic to plain, cities to nature. And I love spreading the positivity with others who love travel or want to travel more. I’m blogging publicly to gain that sort of contact. I would love to connect with others blogging about travel or those who need advice and tips about how to travel more efficiently.

At the MOMA in New York City

I hope to accomplish a lot with this blog.  I want to bring that extra piece of inspiration for the curious person to choose a more obscure destination. I want to get and give recommendations and discuss them. And perhaps most of all I want to be able to blog full time and build a meaningful connection with an audience. And after completely today’s assignment of looking through other blogs it’s interesting to see everyone else beginning their creations as well and I understand the importance of reaching out to others so that you can participate in the community in a better way. Feel free to leave me any comments or questions and do follow! I’ll check out your blog as well.

Happy wanderings!

Long Island Gold Coast Part 2

Sticking to the Gold Coast theme, I also had the pleasure of visiting Oheka Castle about a month ago in Huntington, NY. It is the second largest private residency in the United States at an impressive 115,000 square footage. It is no longer a residency, and is now converted into an upscale hotel and as a site to host special events such as weddings (Kevin Jonas and Joey Fatone both had their weddings here). Scandalously enough, I learned after my visit that the owner of the castle, Gary Melius, was shot 3 times in the parking lot a mere 3 days before my visit.

I have lived on Long Island for the majority of my life, and have been around the area of these 2 estates several times, but never made it. Now I’m glad that I was able to put aside some time to explore my area more, which enriches my understanding of the history of Long Island and how it forms such a unique culture. Long Island is in the shadow of New York City, yet life remains very suburban and simple despite its proximity to the city. The island is massively overcrowded and traffic is an accepted reality of everyday life. The population is steadily on the rise, and in a place so starved for space it’s interesting to see the wide open acreage of estates such as this.  

 

Long Island Gold Coast

We all want to be able to travel more, but what to do when we’re in the stages of saving money to travel again? Well I like to look for adventure locally in the meanwhile. I’m blessed to be from the New York City area, so there’s are plenty of options in such a small area. Many may not be as fortunate. However, adventures are what you make it and there’s always a place that you have overlooked for years or just postponed going to. On your days off when you don’t have anything to do, try and do one of those things! I made a list of places that I’ve been putting off for years and have been slowly checking them off.

So yesterday I did one of those things and I drove a whopping 17 minutes from my house and went to the Old Westbury Gardens here in Long Island, New York. I even went for free thanks to a pass from my local library. The OW Gardens houses a rather large mansion known as the Westbury Mansion which is a legacy of the Gold Coast era that developed in the late 1800s and peaked during the 1920s on the 16 mile stretch on the north shore of Long Island from Great Neck to Huntington. You may be familiar with this era through the classic book, The Great Gatsby. It is also the filming location of many famous films such as North by Northwest and Cruel Intentions.

The mansion was gorgeous, filled many lavish pieces from the time period. What struck me as something peculiar was in this mansion-turned-museum they had mannequins in every room dressed as the previous owners would have, adding a more visual dimension to how these people lived in their wealth. The estate is a vast 160 acres and it has its very own lake and also many beautiful, expansive gardens. It boggles my mind that I was born and raised only 17 minutes from this opulence, but at the same time I could drive 17 minutes and be in the worst neighborhood in the South Bronx. Only in NYC my friends.