It was hot and steamy here in New York City this weekend, as it has been almost since summer began a few weeks ago. Tired of staying inside in air conditioning, and feeling a bit of cabin fever, my husband and I decided to take a drive to Flushing Meadows Corona Park in the borough of Queens, New York. This 1,255-acre park has historical, recreational and environmental significance as it was created as the site of the 1939/1940 New York World's Fair and also hosted the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair.
Queens is the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world with a population of over 2.2 million, 44% of whom are foreign-born, representing over 100 different nations and speaking over 138 different languages. It seems so suitable that this iconic Unisphere, a leftover from the 1964-65 World's Fair is the centerpiece of the park. The monumental stainless steel globe, standing 140 feet high, 120 feet in diameter and weighing 700,000 pounds, was built and presented to the 1964 World's Fair by United States Steel. It was "dedicated to man's aspirations towards Peace through mutual understanding and symbolizing his achievements in an expanding universe."
Most of the prior World's Fair pavilions and exhibit halls have been dismantled and some moved to other locations across the United States, but a few other remnants remain. The New York State Pavilion--the tall space age looking buildings seen in the top left and lower left in the photo collage above--have more or less been abandoned to a state of disrepair, but are sentimental icons of the park. The pavilion's old "Theaterama" portion, seen in the upper right of the photo collage, is home to the Queens Theatre, a performing arts center which produces and presents theatre and dance, as well as children's and cultural programming. The New York City building, seen in the lower right of the photo collage above, was constructed for the 1939 World’s Fair. It also hosted the United Nations General Assembly 1946-50. In 1972, it became The Queens Museum of Art. The museum is open, but is also undergoing extensive renovation and expansion. It houses the well known Panorama of the City of New York, a scale model of the five boroughs built for the 1964 World’s Fair, which I will be showing in a future blog post.
Below is a video slide showing some of the highlights of the 1964 -1965 New York World's Fair that I found on YouTube on this link:
I have many fond memories of visiting the 1964-1965 World's Fair with my parents and siblings when I was young. It was as spectacular to me as Disneyland might have been if I were lucky enough to have been able to visit that as a child. In fact, Disney did have the same "It's a Small World" ride and exhibit on display at the NY World's Fair (click on the highlighted words to see a video of Walt Disney narrating the ride at the World's Fair). It was one of my favorite exhibits! I also remember riding the large Uniroyal Ferris Wheel and visiting the GM "Futurama" exhibit (click the highlighted link to watch a video of that). The Vatican Pavilion at the fair displayed Michelangelo's stunning "Pieta" statue, which attracted millions of visitors. Usually on display in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Italy, it had never been taken from the Vatican until Pope John XXIII, before his death, granted permission for it to be brought to the fair. Pope Paul VI agreed with his predecessor to allow the statue to travel to New York in 1964. You can see how the statue looked in the World's Fair exhibit on this link.
Some of the World's Fair statuary and fountains also remain in the portion of the park that was once the fair's grounds, although none of the fountains were working the day we visited, including the fountain that surrounds the Unisphere.
There were also some beautifully landscaped areas in this area of the park, including this small poignant circle of flowers in memory of those who lost their lives in the earthquake and tsunami of 2011.
On the hot steamy day of our visit we saw many people enjoying the cool shade of the trees in the park, having picnics, or swinging from hammocks that they had the foresight to bring along. Flushing Meadows Corona State Park offers plenty of space for whatever your recreational desires may be--fields are available for baseball, soccer, tennis, cricket, etc. It now includes a stunning park pool and ice rink recreation complex, a zoo, six playgrounds, a botanical garden, a science museum,
...... Citi Field baseball stadium, where the National Baseball League New York Mets play their home games. Click here if you'd like to read more about Citi Field I wrote a previous blog post.
US Open photo taken by me in 2011
The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (NTC), home to the US Open is also located in the park. The NTC is open to the public throughout the year, offering three stadiums, plus 22 outdoor and nine indoor courts. Its centerpiece, Arthur Ashe Stadium, is widely-recognized as one of the world’s greatest sports and entertainment venues. Click here if you would like to read about my visit to Arthur Ashe Stadium last year for the US Open men's semi finals.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park is definitely a jewel in the NYC borough Queens crown, and worth a visit!
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