By Victoria Merlino
We tend to take for granted the destinations right in our own backyard, seeking history or novelty in farflung locales. Sometimes we ignore the amazing places that are just a subway ride away
From movie studios to stately homes, Queens has a long history that’s easy to access and, in some cases, completely free to experience. Here are five interesting places to get you started:
Forest Park Carousel
Take a spin on this historic carousel, located in Woodhaven’s Forest Park. One of the last two existing carousels with figures carved by master carousel craftsmen D. C. Muller & Brothers, the Forest Park Carousel has beautiful detailing on its wooden horses that dates back to 1903 or 1910, according to the report produced by New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. It was named a landmark in 2013.
The carousel is located in the Forest Park Carousel Amusement Village, which has free admission. To take a ride on the carousel, tickets are $3.50.
The Louis Armstrong House
See how jazz great Louis Armstrong lived in his modest house in Corona, purchased by Armstrong and his wife Lucille in 1943. Armstrong, lauded as a great trumpet player and a African-American pioneer, lived in the house until he died in 1971.
Now home to the Louis Armstrong House Museum & Archives, the house has many of the same furnishings and charm that it did when the Armstrongs lived there. The museum offers viewings of the house through 40-minute tours that start every hour, and includes a look at the Armstrongs’ Japanese-inspired garden. The house was designated a landmark in 1988.
The house is located at 34-56 107th St. in Corona. Tickets range from $7 to $12.
Poppenhusen Branch of the Queens Public Library
This hidden gem of Classical Revival architecture has been a College Point staple since its opening 1904. The Poppenhusen branch stands as one of the last five libraries in the QPL system that was built with the $5.2 million steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie donated to help build a public library system throughout the city. It was designed by architectural firm Heins & LaFarge, who also designed the first New York City subway stations and buildings in the Bronx Zoo. It was designated a landmark in 2000.
The library is located at 121-23 14th Ave.in College Point.
Shining out like a red beacon across the East River is the 50-foot high Pepsi-Cola Sign, a staple of the Long Island City waterfront since its debut in 1940 on top of the Pepsi-Cola bottling facility. After decades of deterioration, it was rehabilitated in 1993, and moved within feet of its original location after the bottling factory was demolished in 2004, and since 2009 it has glowed out over Gantry Plaza State Park. Visitors of the park can walk right up to sign, and it's a popular photo spot during the day and at night.
While Long Island City has moved in recent years to become more residential, the sign remains a window into the neighborhood’s more industrial past. The sign became a landmark in 2016.
Astoria Park Pool and Play Center
Originally opened in 1936 at the height of the Great Depression, the Astoria Park Pool has served neighborhood residents well ever since. Something of a pet project of controversial city planner Robert Moses, the Astoria Park Pool and its 11 sister pools built in the same timeframe utilized technical innovations that set standards in pool construction, such as scum gutters for the sunlight to help kill bacteria and a footbath area with a foot-cleaning solution that bathers were forced to walk through to get to lockers.
The pool is known for its large capacity — 54,450 square feet and 330 feet in length — but even those who aren’t swimmers can admire the sleek Art Deco and Art Moderne designs of the pool and its surrounding facilities. It was designated a landmark in 2006.
The pool is free to use and located at 19th Street and 23rd Drive in Astoria.