It’s Saturday morning and you’ve just discovered your pitiful checking account balance has an ugly little hyphen in front of it. But it’s summer. The sun is out and there’s no way you will settle for being cooped up in your house or apartment all day.
Luckily, the borough boasts a multitude of inexpensive and free sightseeing excursions that are great for both adults and youngsters, will keep you out of the house, inspired and far from the path of an ATM.
Located on the Atlantic Ocean from Beach 9th Street to Beach 149th Street, Rockaway may seem far removed from the rest of the borough. But the largest urban beach in the country offers a bevy of summertime activities meant to attract beachcombers city-wide.
Summer events include multiple movie nights, canoeing, Boogie Woogie Weight Loss, Dancing Under the Stars, skateboard demos and the Rock-n-Skate rollerskating event, which will be held on Thursday, June 25 from 6 to 9 p.m. Artists and non-artists alike can bury their worries in the sand at Rockaway’s annual sandcastle contest, which will take place on Sunday, July 26 from noon to 2 p.m. at Beach 117th Street.
And for those who know the difference between a tri fin and a funboard, Rockaway boasts two surfing beaches: the ever-popular expanse between Beach 87th Street and Beach 91st Street and a newer stretch located between Beach 67th Street and Beach 69th Street.
King Manor Museum
Located in King Park, on Jamaica Avenue between 150th and 153rd streets in Jamaica. (718) 206-0545. Guided tours are offered on Thursdays and Fridays from noon to 2 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.
Once the home of Rufus King, an author of the U.S. Constitution, King Manor has been a museum since 1900. Apart from holding the distinction of being one of New York’s first state senators, King was also an outspoken opponent of slavery, a fact that has secured the yellow mansion’s status as an established site on the New York Underground Railroad Heritage Trail. Admission is free for children under 16 and King Manor members and adults are asked to make a $5 donation for the pleasure of helping to preserve history.
Summer’s events include a once-monthly “Hands-on History” workshop: a series of family-friendly stories, crafts and other activities. Learn more about the Manor and its events by visiting kingmanor.org.
Home to the second-largest Chinatown in the city, downtown Flushing buzzes with cultural diversity. Wear your most comfy shoes and prepare to explore everything from Asian groceries and eateries, Chinese bakeries and bookstores and herbal medicinal emporiums to Indian restaurants, fashion boutiques and shops that carry nothing but quirky toys and collectible items. The perfect excuse to sample your first or 31st bubble tea.
Louis Armstrong House
34-56 107th St., Corona. (718) 478-8274. Open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Tours start every hour, on the hour. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and free for members and children under six.
The Louis Armstrong House Museum is a national historic and New York City landmark and a veritable time capsule of the jazz legend’s life and career. Built in 1901, newlyweds Louis and Lucille Armstong purchased the house in 1943 and lived there together until Armstrong’s death in 1971. During that time, they acquired a personal collection of 1,600 recordings, 659 home recorded reel-to-reel tapes, 86 scrapbooks and 5,000 photographs, all of which make up just some of the treasures on display at the museum. For more information, visit louisarmstrong.org.
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Located on Cross Bay Boulevard, about one mile past the Joseph Addabbo Bridge at the traffic light. (718) 318-4340. Refuge trails are open daily from sunrise to sunset. The visitor center and parking lot is open every day, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
With over 330 species of birds, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest bird sanctuaries in the northeast. Thousands of feathered friends rest and feed at the sanctuary during migrations along the Atlantic Flyway, making it a perfect spot for both birdwatching and relaxing.
In addition to offering free walks and guided tours, the Wildlife Refuge’s headquarters often displays educational exhibits that highlight the rich animal and plant life of Jamaica Bay.