When caught up in the constant hustle and bustle of city life, it is easy to crave a visit to a welcoming, laid back, and cozy place. The more busy and populated parts of the city tend to lack a personal or scenic touch that is commonly found in small town locations. Luckily, there are places in New York City where you can still find stores run by families instead of corporations and streets lined with uniquely built houses instead of large glass towers. Check out our list of ten places where you can find this kind of experience with just the swipe of a Metrocard!
1. Forest Hills
Early 1900s architecture and brick lined streets at the Long Island Railroad’s Forest Hills stop.
Located in central Queens, Forest Hills is home to many picturesque streets with beautiful residential homes and a very welcoming small town feel. The laid back nature of the area makes it a great spot for a walk with friends, or a jog through quiet scenery. If you’re looking for a casual spot to hang out, Austin Street provides a wonderful and varied selection of small restaurants and bars that serve all sorts of food from Greece, Thailand, Cuba, and more.
The Queensway, a 3.5-mile path stretching from Rego Park to Ozone Park, runs through Forest Hills. This path, which also cuts through the neighborhoods of Glendale, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park, used to be part of the old Rockaway Beach Branch, but has been abandoned for over fifty years. Over the past decade, a community led group is working to turn stretch of abandoned railway into into a family-friendly park and cultural greenway.
The stores along 18th avenue have a range of authentic Italian and Asian restaurants and stores.
Located in southwestern Brooklyn, this neighborhood is one of the more interestingly diverse areas in the borough. Bensonhurst is home to the Little Italy and Little Hong Kong of Brooklyn and as a result, has some of the most authentic food in the area. One of the more notable cultural landmarks is Lenny’s Pizza, a restaurant made famous by John Travolta in the movie Saturday Night Fever, that is still serving up fresh slices.
To get the most of your visit, take a walk along Bay Parkway and 18th Avenue, where you can find a plethora of restaurants and bakeries that offer a unique mix of delicacies. Bensonhurst is the perfect place for an Instagram-worthy food tour.
View of 79th Avenue shows a typical street lined with multi-family houses.
Tucked away in the western-central portion of Queens is Glendale, a quiet and mostly residential neighborhood that features varied architecture, with some buildings dating back to the late 1800s. The most well known attraction is The Shops at Atlas Park, a former warehouse district turned shopping mall, with a mix of mainstream and unique shops, restaurants, and bars.
Additionally, the area is home to Italian and German groups that run numerous family owned traditional bakeries and eateries along Myrtle Avenue, many of which retain old world styles of cooking that have been passed down from generation to generation. A visit to Glendale is surely a unique one, and is most certainly worth the trip.
4. Marble Hill
The intersection of Marble Hill Avenue and 228th Street contains the remnants of the old Harlem River
Bridge and unique mix of architectural styles seen throughout the neighborhood.
At the northernmost tip of New York County, physically located on the southern tip of the Bronx, Marble Hill is a neighborhood with a unique history. In the late 1890s, Marble Hill was separated from Manhattan Island by Spuyten Duyvil Creek and the Harlem River Ship Channel, making it an island until 1914 when part of the creek was filled in, joining it to the mainland. The history of the area can be clearly seen in the northern part of Marble Hill Avenue, where one of the original bridges that connected the island to the mainland can still be found just under the pavement, since it was not removed during the landfill.
Additionally, the tiny neighborhood is a great place to take a walk through New York City’s architectural history due to the area featuring many detached houses with lawns and yards, next to Art Deco and urban renewal style apartment buildings. There are also stunning views of Manhattan, the Bronx, and the Harlem River that can be seen as soon as you step off the 1 train. A visit to Marble Hill is one for the history books.
“Welcome to Bayside Village” signs along Bell Boulevard change with the seasons.
Another neighborhood located on the outskirts of Queens, this area is home to many interesting landmarks and recreational spots, along with a thriving nightlife scene. Bayside consists of many micro-neighborhoods such as Bayside Hills, Bay Terrace, and Oakland Gardens, each with their own unique charms.
The most interesting spots to check out throughout Bayside include Fort Totten, a Civil War era fort in Little Neck Bay, Valentino’s on the Green, a restaurant that was formerly the home of actor Rudolph Valentino and mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, as well as Little Bay Park, a beautiful place for picnics and relaxing in the spring and summer. The lively scene along Bell Boulevard is thanks to many small bars, clubs, and restaurants that are very popular with locals from all over Queens. Bayside is a great destination for an all-day and night adventure.
6. City Island
Sitting in Eastchester Bay in the southern portion of the Bronx, City Island is a prime destination for those looking for a great seaside experience. Once the home of a thriving oyster fishing and shipbuilding community, the area is now the ideal place to find some of the city’s best seafood restaurants and fun boating and fishing excursions.
Some notable locations on City Island include the City Island Nautical Museum, and 239 Play!, a store that sells unique vintage curios. The old-town style architecture is also ever present as most of the original buildings from the 1800s still stand today. City Island is the perfect spot to visit for a summertime seaside getaway.
The architecture of shops on Douglaston Parkway and Northern Boulevard is a trademark of the area.
On the outskirts of western Queens, right on the border of Nassau County sits Douglaston, a quaint little neighborhood with a very unique old town setup. Many of the houses in this area are large and were built in varying styles over the course of the neighborhood’s history. Some of the more notable areas include Alley Pond Park and Little Neck Bay, both of which are beautiful to explore and relax at.
In terms of recreation, the neighborhood features Douglaston Golf Course and The Douglaston Plaza Shopping Center. With the very nostalgic feeling of an old town vibe, Douglaston is a fantastic place to unwind and get a way from it all.
8. Marine Park
The Lott House is one of the many historical finds in Marine Park.
If you’re looking for a beautiful and friendly place to explore some New York City history, look no further than Marine Park! The neighborhood has an extensive past that holds everything from connections to the Underground Railroad, to an Olympic medal for urban planning.The friendly and small town feel can be found along Flatbush Avenue, where family run stores line the blocks and have histories that are entirely their own.
One of the more notable attractions of the area is Marine Park, the neighborhood’s namesake. The park features extensive grassland and protected salt marshes in addition to a golf course, bocce and basketball courts, cricket fields, and more. Marine Park is the place to be for a wonderful historic excursion.
9. Howard Beach
Welcome to Howard Beach Sign by the Belt Parkway and Cross Bay Boulevard
Howard Beach is a mostly residential neighborhood in southwest Queens that is known for its very beautiful large houses. Much of the community consists of families that have lived there for decades, which gives it a very small-town feel.
The area features the large and beautiful Spring Creek Park, which is a perfect place to be during the warmer months! Be sure to check out the lovely small Italian restaurants along Cross Bay boulevard, many of which are known for their own signature dishes. Howard Beach is a great spot for a day trip.
10. Spuyten Duyvil
Henry Hudson Park is both a recreational and community center for the neighborhood.
Last but not least is the quiet neighborhood of Spuyten Duyvil, located right by Marble Hill in the Bronx. The main attraction of this area is the gorgeous Henry Hudson Park, the home of a massive bronze statue of Henry Hudson that is surrounded by lush greenery and a stunning view of the Spuyten Duyvil Creek. The park is also the place to be for community events that bring residents together.
The neighborhood is host to many small, locally run cafés and restaurants that have a decent mix of Asian and Latin food. This tiny spot is the perfect place to head for a quiet day away from the hustle and bustle of everyday city life.
Next, check out 5 Spots to Enjoy Some Quiet in NYC