Flushing Meadows Corona Park is one of the most famous outdoor locations in New York City outside of Manhattan. The park has a rich history spanning two World’s Fairs, hosting numerous U.S Open tennis tournament championships, and rapid building projects that have made the park a haven for families. Flushing Meadows Corona Park currently boasts many places to go and things to do including a zoo, a farm, a carousel and two museums. There is also an indoor pool and ice skating rink on the grounds and plans to build a soccer stadium in the near future. The Citi Field baseball stadium, home to the METS, is also associated with the park.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park was not always a pleasant site. In the 1930s, the 1,255 acre area that would become the park was a dumping ground known as a “valley of ashes.” The grounds looked like a wasteland but, thanks to preparations for the 1939 World’s Fair, the area was transformed into a lush green landscape. At the time Robert Moses was the Parks Commissioner and he saw potential for the land and he quickly made his vision a reality. By the time the 1939 World’s Fair opened, the park was a beautiful place to take a walk with no trace of its former gritty history.
The 1939 World’s Fair was a marvel to behold. Pavilions were set up to introduce visitors to art, science, and predictions for the future such as improvements for cars and household appliances like pencil sharpeners. At the time, all of these creations were innovative new concepts. One of the most impressive displays was GM’s “Futurama” that promised visitors a bright future filled with effective roadways and transportation and treated them to a film where they felt as if they were on an airplane (something that very few of the audience members had ever actually experienced given that the fair was held during the Great Depression when money was in short supply). The 1939 World’s Fair also included a planetarium, information about other countries (including the troubles in Europe that was going through WWWII), and introducing visitors to new concepts like nylon, air conditioning, color photography, and fluorescent lamps. Considering the fair’s overall theme of progression and future possibilities, the 1939 World’s Fair is also accredited as being the site of the first Science Fiction Convention. A more complete history and overview of the 1939 World’s Fair can be found here: http://www.1939nyworldsfair.com/worlds_fair/index.htm
The 1964 World’s Fair was even more impressive than its 1939 predecessor. The 1964 World’s Fair was the occasion for which the giant globe sculpture called the “Unisphere” was created; it is still standing as the park’s centerpiece and is widely featured in New York City media such as postcards. The 1964 World’s Fair was a fanciful spectacle with a lot of emphasis on space exploration topics and industry. GM once again showed off cars at their pavilion and a lot of emphasis was put on exploring other countries. Most nations had pavilions and live entertainment shows connected to them; the popular Disney ride “It’s a Small World” was also presented to visitors. The 1964 World’s Fair left a lasting legacy on both Flushing Meadows Corona Park and the city as a whole. Aside from the now-famous landmarks of the Unisphere and the New York State Pavilion, the New York City Panorama, located in the Queens Museum of Art, is still on view and beloved by New Yorkers. The panorama was commissioned by Robert Moses specifically for the 1964 World’s Fair. Much more can be said about the 1964 World’s Fair and the wonderful sites it contained and its history can be further explored here: http://www.nywf64.com/
Currently, Flushing Meadows Corona Park is home to a number of cultural and recreational establishments including a theater. Some areas, like the Terrance on the Park restaurant and the Queens Museum of Art (home to the aforementioned extraordinary panorama of New York City) are housed in buildings originally used for one of the two World’s Fairs. Additionally, the Queens Zoo and Farm are on the grounds of Flushing Meadows Corona Park and the zoo’s impressive dome aviary was originally used as the Winston Churchill pavilion. The giant globe sculpture known as the “Unisphere” in the center of the park’s largest working (and occasionally lighted) fountain is a remnant of the 1964 World’s Fair as is the remains of the New York State Pavilion that, despite falling into disrepair, was featured in the 1997 hit film “Men in Black.” The Hall of Science is also on the grounds and it is one of the most highly recommended educational museums for children in the city.
Currently the park has added a golf course and a miniature golf course in addition to several gardens, sitting areas, playgrounds, and even a carousel. There are still many remnants of both the 1939 and the 1964 World’s Fairs that can be seen on the grounds, including mosaics and time capsules located near the park’s main entrance via the train. There are also annual cultural events, like the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Races that are held every August.
Although it is no longer the site of World’s Fairs, Flushing Meadows Corona Park is a wonderful place to explore and there are many culturally enriching activities within its grounds. Parents who homeschool should consider this park as a field trip in which history can be taught as well as a lot of fun had at the museums (with special emphasis on science and art) and zoo. It’s a great part of New York City that should be explored and enjoyed by anyone who is lucky enough to live near to it.