When you live in Brooklyn and work in Manhattan, going to Queens is terrible. It involves multiple subway lines, or, probably (I’ve never tried it!), multiple buses. But there are a couple places I’ve been to in Queens that make the effort absolutely worth it—even if I do try to time my visits to when my family (or friends), who have a car, are in town.

One of my favorite places in Queens is the Queen Museum (formerly the Queens Museum of Art). The original building was erected in 1939, for the World Fair, to house the New York City Pavilion, and the museum, which opened in 1972, just finished a two-year expansion. It reopens on Saturday, November 9, after closing for a few months to finish up construction, making this the perfect time to visit and check out its most famous exhibit, the Panorama of the City of New York.
The Panorama has to be one of the neatest pieces of NYC history that exists. Built for the 1964 World Fair, it is a scale model of the city of New York and includes every single building in the five boroughs that was constructed before 1992, when the last major update was made to it. The model sprawls across 9,335 square feet and is surrounded by a raised walkway. Visitors can walk around the outside of the model to view the city from different angles. The model’s lighting has been redone recently to once more fade from day to night, and tiny airplanes on wires take off and land at JFK and La Guardia airports.
A great part of the fun of the Panorama is looking for familiar landmarks. It’s easy to spot the big ones: the Empire State Building, Central Park, the Twin Towers, the Statue of Liberty, even. But for those of us who live here, it’s also neat to look for where are offices and apartments are and try to decide if the model accurately reflects them.
I first learned of the Panorama in Brian Selznick’s beautiful book Wonderstruck, in which the Panorama, and another of my favorite places, the Natural History Museum, play important roles. I thought the model looked lovely in the book’s black-and-white drawings, but it’s even more gorgeous in person.
The Panorama isn’t the only exhibit at the museum, and I’m excited to visit again to see what changes the recent expansion has brought. But the Panorama alone is worth the price of admission (which is a suggested donation of $8) and the hassle of getting there.
Have you been to see the Panorama? Which buildings did you (or would you) look for?