After a long ride from Manhattan, most get off the 7 train to catch a baseball game at Citi Field, but there are things to see if you walk in the opposite direction too. Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, is only one of many attractions in Flushing Meadows, a huge public park built for the 1939 World’s Fair.
Developer and urban planner Robert Moses oversaw the creation of the 897-acre park on a dumping grounds in Queens—labeled by F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby as the “valley of ashes.” In preparation for the 1939 World’s Fair, the first of its kinds to use “the future” as its theme, dozens of buildings and structures were erected, many of them experimental in design.
In 1964, the park hosted another World’s Fair. As was the case after the ‘39 exposition, many of the structures were dismantled when the fair closed (several rides and attractions, including It’s a Small World, ended up at Disneyland) , but the New York State Pavilion is still here, an unused and vacant reminder of the futurist architectural style that dominated the fair. The flying saucer-shaped Pavilion, with its trio of observation towers hovering above, is one of the most iconic images of the park
Another famous icon of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is the Unisphere, a “12-story high, spherical stainless steel representation of the Earth,” the world’s largest globe structure. Three metal loops encircle the giant globe representing the paths of “Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, and Telstar, the first active communications satellite.” It was designated a New York City landmark in 1995.
The Panorama of the City of New York, an amazingly accurate scale model of the city, was one of the most popular attractions of the 1964 World’s Fair. After a refurbishing in the early 90s, the model was updated to include every New York City building constructed before 1992. Today, the Panorama is on display at the park’s Queens Museum.
Although the World’s Fairs have long ago come and gone, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is still a vibrant urban oasis for the local community. Besides Citi Field and the Queens Museum, the park is home to the USTA National Tennis Center, which hosts the annual U.S. Open tennis tournament, the New York Hall of Science, the Queens Zoo, and more.