Living Like a Local in Queens

Calen Kurka shares his favourite spots in this NYC borough


New York City’s outer boroughs have plenty to explore. Just ask Calen Kurka, owner of Pushing Progress Contemporary Dance. He moved to Queens 13 years ago after coming to NYC to pursue his dream of becoming a professional dancer. Here are some of his favourite spots.

Favourite Activity 

“I love running in Astoria Park; in the summer, it’s filled with people sunbathing, walking their dogs and exercising. I’m also a fan of karaoke, and Karaoke Shout has private rooms for singing.” 

For an Art Fix

Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria is fun and interactive, and the Queens Botanical Garden curates several music events and art installations. I’ve also enjoyed several shows at the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center—there’s always something wonderful on their roster.”

For a Sweet Treat

Martha’s Country Bakery is a perfect end to a night out in the Ditmars area, with a huge array of desserts. The cheesecakes are deadly.”

Where to Shop 

“Steinway Street has an eclectic array of shops, restaurants and bars. Many of the smaller clothing boutiques can be very European, but also carry [more local] designer brands. There’s a little something for everyone.” 

Where to Drink 

“I’m a big fan of Sweet Afton, with its laid-back crowds, brick walls and bench-lined tables. Try the Bourbon Pickle Back shot and signature cocktails. There’s also Dillingers Pub and Grill. It’s a little off the beaten path, but well worth the hike to 30th Avenue and 47th Street. It feels like family, with staff that really take an interest in the customers.”

Where to Dine

“Queens is known for its diverse ethnic food. In Astoria, there’s Pachanga Patterson, a Mexican restaurant with a seasonal menu and a homemade hibiscus margarita to die for. I start with their guacamole and homemade chips, and end with the fish tacos.”

For Something Different 

“The Thirsty Koala is another favourite restaurant of mine. It serves Australian/Los Angeles fusion. I love to go there on Sunday nights and sip cocktails over their gluten-free calamari and a kangaroo burger.”

Great Neighbourhood

“Long Island City. I just love this part of Queens! It’s on the west end and has really grown in the past few years. It feels a little more like Brooklyn, only with highrises, and it’s a cute area to visit and walk around for an afternoon.”

Highlight of the Borough 

“What makes Queens special is its cultural diversity and how it feels like home when you walk the streets. It’s close enough to Manhattan to feel its electric energy, but far enough to recuperate at the day’s end.”

Getting There: WestJet flies to New York City 48 times a week from Toronto and once a day from Calgary.