Forest Hills, a relaxed but busy upper-middle-class neighborhood in Queens, offers a variety of experiences for visitors, including shopping on pedestrian-friendly Austin Street, strolling through the century-old residential area of Forest Hills Gardens and hiking in the large and woody Forest Park. Forest Hills isn’t shiny or trendy, but its welcoming charm makes for an enjoyable afternoon visit.
The neighborhood was originally settled at the beginning of the 20th century, when developer Cord Meyer bought up local farms and named the area Forest Hills. Forest Hills Gardens was built around that time, too. As the subway expanded, the rest of the neighborhood grew. For most of the 20th century, it was home to a large Jewish community. It has recently become more diverse.
Austin Street, between Yellowstone Boulevard and Ascan Avenue, is the main commercial drag in Forest Hills. It’s busy day and night and filled with everything that residents need. Shops include both national chains and independent boutiques. Many cuisines are represented at its restaurants. Nick’s Pizza, at the east end of the strip, on Ascan Avenue, is a local standout for its buffalo mozzarella pies and cannoli. Nightlife leans toward Irish pubs and sports bars that show Yankees or Mets games. Austin runs parallel to Queens Boulevard, a monster 12-lane road. There, and on the streets connecting Austin and Queens Boulevard, you’ll find additional dining options. The area north of Queens Boulevard is primarily residential, with large apartment buildings.
Metropolitan Avenue, at the southern end of Forest Hills, is more workmanlike and less trendy than Austin Street, but contains some gems. Among these are Wafa’s, which serves Middle Eastern food, including stuffed grape leaves and chicken shawarma. For dessert, try a massive ice cream sundae topped with thick hot chocolate fudge at Eddie’s Sweet Shop. A landmark for nearly a hundred years, this classic ice cream parlor recalls the beginning of the 20th century far more than the 21st.
Forest Hills Gardens, situated south of Austin Street, is Queens’ only private community, and one of New York’s most architecturally distinctive residential areas. It’s designed to look like a traditional English village; Tudor- and Georgian-style houses and small apartment buildings topped with red-shingle roofs line its winding streets. This is some of the most expensive housing in New York City. On 71st Street, you’ll find Station Square, a scenic redbrick plaza with a couple of restaurants and the Forest Hills Long Island Rail Road station. To the south of the community, is 538-acre Forest Park, which lives up to its name — it’s woodsier than many of New York’s other showcase parks and provides opportunities for hiking as well as horseback-riding.
Union Turnpike and Forest Park separate Forest Hills from the similar middle-class neighborhood of Kew Gardens. Woodhaven Boulevard and Yellowstone Boulevard are the western border, where Forest Hills butts against Rego Park. The northern border is the Long Island Expressway; Corona is on the other side. To the east is the massive Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The E, F, M and R subway trains stop at the Forest Hills-71st Avenue station, at the corner of Continental Avenue and Queens Boulevard. This intersection is also the best place to catch a cab. Forest Hills is a safe neighborhood, and there’s foot traffic on Austin Street (one block south of the subway station), well into the evening.